the church Jesus goes to


I know where Jesus goes to church. Without a doubt. He goes to the church that lives deliberately, boldly, and consistently …

pursuing peace and reconciliation. Though it lives in a world saturated with anger, disrespect, snarkiness, and insult, with a will it refuses to go there. It’s done with living by rage, choosing righteousness instead. It’s not defined by its own insecurities and its ability to utter barbed wit in retort to those who mock it, but by its humble confidence in its Christ and its dependence on the provision of God’s Spirit in every situation, no matter how dark or difficult. Imagine: a church made distinctive to all by not being abrasive and hard to live with.

unruled by its wants. Though surrounded on every side by people chasing after every kind of lust and sanctifying all sorts of unfaithfulness in every relationship, it isn’t seduced to do the same. It doesn’t seek its own will, but whatever God’s will is for it. Instead of searching for meaning in whatever it perceives as sexy (not just sex itself, by whatever is “sexy”), it finds its meaning in its Lord and Savior, for he is enough, and more. Picture this: a church known to the world for its contentment and reliability.

by its words of honesty. Though the culture in which is resides is given over to dishonesty and deception, it quietly walks its talk. It practices what it preaches, not merely what’s “practical” in the moment. Its ways aren’t determined by always choosing what works out for its own best interest, but by going after the truth that true love can truly rejoice in always. Capture this vision: a church perceived as genuine and true by all who care to truly engage it.

extending mercy generously. Though its world is largely driven by retaliation and payback, fueled by fear and the never ending yearning for hard justice, it walks by faith on higher ground. It thrives on the Spirit of compassion, not the spirit of competition. Its life map is not of doing whatever would instill fear in others of it, but to do whatever would help install faith in others in the God it follows. Draw it in your head like this: a church characterized by selfless giving and costly care.

loving the unlovable. Though seemingly all of society continually calls it to elicit indifference, ill will, hate, or anything and everything else that dehumanizes, it chooses to love with the love of the divine instead. By so doing, it traffics in forgiveness, not fierceness or fighting. This is because it seeks its definition not in its enemies, but in him who allowed his enemies to spike him to a tree. Place this before your eyes: a church that will mount the cross with its Lord, and die with him. Daily.

After all, what else could a person honestly conclude after reading what Jesus candidly said in Matthew 5.21-26,27-32,33-37,38-42,43-48?

And so, I have to ask: what might a church become if it understood and made these matters its chief means of worshiping and following Jesus Christ? In a week? A month? A few years? Over the course of a lifetime? Or after several generations?

Would it not become more and more like the One it worshiped? And wouldn’t that be what both the Lord, and they, wanted most of all?

Let’s find out. Let’s go to church with Jesus!

this went thru my mind


Facebook: Wash Your Facebook Page

“Facebook gives you an unfiltered platform to say whatever you want. That sort of freedom opens you up to posting things you might want to forget later. That’s not even mentioning the bizarre things your friends might post. Wiping those from your Facebook page takes plenty of time and effort. Facewash can do the work for you, though. It combs your Facebook page for questionable posts and status updates and then deletes them with one click.”

Honesty, integrity & justice: Ivan Fernandez Anaya, Spanish Runner, Intentionally Loses Race So Opponent Can Win

“I didn’t deserve to win it. I did what I had to do. He was the rightful winner. He created a gap that I couldn’t have closed if he hadn’t made a mistake. As soon as I saw he was stopping, I knew I wasn’t going to pass him.”

Small groups: Are Churches Overcomplicating Small Groups?

“… you have too much stuff going on at one time. … the longer you have been a church, the harder it is to take it back to square one.”

Vision: Presidential Inauguration Prayer Service

[Listen to Adam Hamilton's sermon. It starts at 53:45 and runs thru 70:10.]

golden nuggets from Sirach (4)


Every few days I’m posting five passages that have jumped out at me as I read through Sirach (aka: Ecclesiasticus) once more. Enjoy.

One is better than a thousand, and it’s better to die childless than to have ungodly children. (Sirach 16.3b)

A person’s acts of charity are like a seal with him [God], and he will treasure a person’s generosity like the apple of his eye. (Sirach 17.22)

… whoever neglects the little things will fail little by little. (Sirach 19.1)

Have you heard some word? Let it perish along with you. Have courage! It won’t make you burst. (Sirach 19.10)

“A thief is preferable to someone who continuously lies, but both will inherit destruction.” (Sirach 20.25)

this went thru my mind


Atheism & morality: Good Minus God

“I gather that many people believe that atheism implies nihilism — that rejecting God means rejecting morality. A person who denies God, they reason, must be, if not actively evil, at least indifferent to considerations of right and wrong. After all, doesn’t the dictionary list ‘wicked’ as a synonym for ‘godless?’ And isn’t it true, as Dostoevsky said, that ‘if God is dead, everything is permitted’? Well, actually — no, it’s not. (And for the record, Dostoevsky never said it was.) Atheism does not entail that anything goes.”

Benevolence: The Gleaners: Giving More Than Food to the Working Poor

“‘We’re a hand-up, not a handout,’ … ‘It’s 90 percent about the people and only 10 percent about the food.’”

Birth of Jesus: When a Poor Baby in a Manger Overthrows an Empire: The First Christmas

“May your Christmas be a time when you ponder the summons of a subversive kingdom. May you choose to peacefully follow the baby in the manger to the cross and through resurrection, proclaiming with the angels that a new era has begun; an era when the people of God can undo the works of oppressive ‘empires.’”

Christianity & militarism: The Christian Industrial Complex

“I went into a Christian bookstore the other day and was surprised to see some of the most prominent display space given over to military flags for the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. These flags, and a vast assortment of Americana merchandise, were on sale for the holidays.

“A part of me ached because I know how difficult it must be to run a little Christian bookstore these days. But I winced as I heard the manager fatalistically confess that he resorted to selling military merchandise to ‘make it.’ It is a sad day when we sell our military banners next to Jesus’ enemy-loving cross to make it in a financial recession. (Before long we’ll be pushing posters of scantily-clad women accompanied by a verse from Song of Solomon).”

Bible interpretation & creation: If God had explained the origin of the universe to Moses in technical language it may have looked like this

“… God’s inspiration is not divorced from the language and concepts of the humans authors.”

Culture: When Bedford Falls Becomes Pottersville

It’s a Wonderful Life is a fitting metaphor for a nation absent Christian belief. Jesus Christ said that his followers were to be like “salt”; that is, a people whose presence is felt for the good that they do. As a man or woman’s evil nature is gentled and restrained by the grace of God, there is a corresponding outward transformation of society.”

Generations: Connecting 20 Somethings to Older Generations by Matt Dabbs

“20s and 30s have a deep need for relationships. Once you start a ministry to this group one of the things that happens is they tend to become isolated from the rest of the congregation because they develop such close bonds with each other. That is not all bad and is really to be expected. However, I think it is important to be intentional about getting them to form relationships with older Christians as well.”

Civility, gossip & politics: A Serial Husband: New(t)s or Gossip?

“President Obama may be more of a plodder than a doer when it comes to his leadership style, but you have to hand it to him, Obama is no gossip-monger.”

Handicaps & deformities: Augustine on the Monsters Among Us

“No matter how different in appearance, a being that descends from humans is human. And no matter how great the deformity, in their uniqueness and peculiarity, that person contributes to ‘the beauty of the whole.’”

Parenting & faith: Honesty in the Journey (or On the Raising of Young Heretics)

“We construct many reasons for maintaining a posture of dishonesty. For many, the failure to utter before God where we really are and what we are real think reflects a lifetime of corrupt spiritual teaching: God went through a lot of effort to save you, so the least you can do us have your act together so as not to disappoint him.”

Santa Claus (Saint Nicholas): * In Search of the Historical Santa * Real St. Nicholas: Persecuted, Jailed Christian

“Saint Nicholas of Myra was a 4th century Greek Christian bishop of Myra in Lycia (Turkey). From an early age he devoted himself to the Christian faith. As a Bishop he was famous for his work amongst the poor and needy. There are stories of him raiding the church’s kitty so that he could leave coins in the shoes of those who were struggling. His acts of generosity were legendary. However, of all the stories known about him perhaps the most reliable and best known is the gift he gave to a father which saved the man’s three daughters from being sold into prostitution.”

Persecution & self-defense: Church Leaders Debate Self-Defense

“Church leaders in Nigeria are sharply divided over how to react to a surge in violent attacks against Christians and churches in the country’s Muslim-majority north. Hundreds of Christians have been killed and churches burnt in regular attacks launched this year by Fulani herdsmen in Jos and members of the Boko Haram terrorist sect in Kaduna, Borno, and Niger states.”

Trends: Barna Reveals Top Trends for 2011

“Every December, a tradition at Barna Group is to compile some of the most important trends of the year. We invite you to check out the six major trends that our team explored in 2011.”

this went thru my mind

Bible translation: The King James Version celebrates its 400th year of existence this year (1611-2011). The story of how that translation came about is one worth retelling again and again. Leland Ryken does a fine job of doing just that in his recent, brief article in the Wall Street Journal entitled How We Got the Best-Selling Book of All Time.

While we’re talking about Bible translation, one of my “heroes” died this week and he was a fellow native of Oklahoma: Eugene Nida. Many of you reading this will think to yourself “I’ve never heard that name before.” Let me just say, if you can readily read and understand virtually any modern English Bible translation today, you have Nida to thank for much of that privilege. His dynamic-equivalence theory of translation (aka: formal equivalence) literally revolutionized Bible translation work across the world, not just here in the U.S. and not merely directly through the Today’s English Version (aka: TEV; Good News Translation) and CEV (Contemporary English Version). Happening across some of his work while I was just starting out in preaching school, I came to devour several volumes in his Translator’s Handbook series (such as this one on John’s Gospel), something that would help me immensely later in graduate studies. I had still rather read the Proverbs in the Good News or CEV than any translation out there. Words simply fail me as I attempt to convey how much encouragement I have received through the years from this man’s work. Rest in peace, Eugene Albert Nida.

Bible translators have to make some tough decisions sometimes as to the Biblical text. Bobby Valentine’s piece entitled J.W. McGarvey’s Evolving Relationship with Mark 16:9-20 not only illustrates the development and growth in understanding in the mind of the leading scholar in our heritage from over a century ago on a very well-known passage among us, but also speaks to other matters of consequence as well. Fascinating.

American culture. So let me get this straight: the South is the most “churched” portion of the U.S., but it is also the segment with the highest divorce rate. Hmmm. You can read something about such in the news here, but take the time to peruse the report the news is based on here. Note the chart on page three of this report and you’ll be able to see the divorce rate of all fifty states. Which state now leads the U.S. in divorce? Arkansas (26.4%; over 1 in 4). What about Texas? Not much better (21.5%; over 1 in 5). Which portion of the country has the lowest divorce rate? The Northeast (Maine – 13.1%; Massachusetts – 15.8%; New Jersey – 14.8%; etc.). The South can’t begin to compare (Alabama – 20.2%; Georgia – 22:1%; Louisiana – 20.6%; etc.). Think about it.

Discipleship: If you click on no other link today here, watch this seven minute video excerpt of Francis Chan speaking at Catalyst East 2010 about what it means to think Biblically and truly live with commitment to Christ. You will be challenged and blessed. “What if you heard about the way we do church now fifty years from now, and that’s stuck in these pages [of the Bible]?” “What is ‘weird’?” “I want my life to fit in this book one day.” Wow.

Fauna & flora of the Bible: I get a kick out of quality photography. Since I first read the Bible, I’ve had an interest in the references to nature in Scripture (as did Solomon, I might add). And perhaps its because my name is “David” that I pay a little closer attention to the words of King David than I do others. Tie those three interests of mine together, bearing in mind King David’s having grown up working closely with nature, as a shepherd, and what comes to your mind? One that comes to my mind is David’s statement to the prophet Nathan: “Look! I’m living in a cedar palace, but God’s chest is housed in a tent!” (2 Samuel 7:1-3) And that’s surely why this brief post and couple of pics on “the cedars of Lebanon” caught my attention. If you enjoy trees, you’ll enjoy this.

Spiritual growth & maturity: Joe McKeever’s post entitled 10 Ways to Know You’re Getting It Right came at just the right time this week. It not only fits like a hand in a glove with my sermon tomorrow morning, but goes extremely well with our upcoming study of the letter of James.

love busters (4)

Radical honesty is complete honesty about one’s feelings, past experiences, present activities, and future plans. It is essential in marriage because it provides a clear road map for marital adjustment, meets an important emotional need, and prevents massive Love Bank withdrawals.

There are four types of dishonesty in marriage: (1) protection, (2) looking good, (3) avoiding trouble, and (4) compulsion.

Honesty is not a Love Buster. When thoughtless behavior is revealed, it’s the thoughtless behavior, not honesty, that causes unhappiness.

Avoid wrapping the Policy of Radical Honesty in the Love Buster’s of selfish demands, disrespectful judgments, or angry outburst.

Encourage your spouse to be honest by valuing honesty consistently and by avoiding punishment of honesty.

Remember to reveal to your spouse as much information about yourself as you know: your thoughts, feelings, habits, likes, dislikes, personal history, daily activities, and plans for the future.

Love Busters: Overcoming Habits That Destroy Romantic Love by Willard F. Harley, Jr. (Revell, 2005), p.130

this went thru my mind

Bible: Bobby Valentine has only published part one of his series entitled The ‘Enjoyment’ of Scripture, but I can see right now this series will be good stuff.

Google+: I’m anxious to receive a Google Plus invite and to give it a go, especially after reading Eric Dye’s How Churches Can Make the Most Out of Google Plus.

Honesty & lyingWhy Casey Anthony Lied by Karen Zacharias Spears.

Humor: Dilbert on Smartphones.

Money: 7 Habits of Highly Frugal People.

NationalismA Flag in the Auditorium: Restating the Question by Jay Guin.

Singing, congregational: Kevin DeYoung’s two-part series entitled Ten Principles for Church Song is definitely worthwhile. Here are links to part one and part two.

South Sudan: This week we have witnessed the birth of a nation. Pray for the people of South Sudan. These two links will help you do just that: Christians rejoice as South Sudan celebrates independence and Sunday worship in South Sudan.

Space: We witnessed the last Space Shuttle launch this week. I was on the eve of graduating from college when the first one launched. This infographic on the Shuttle is interesting: Bye Bye Space Shuttle. And while we’re on the subject of space, note The Surprising History of Prayer in Space.