Tag: Burden (page 1 of 2)

Loved People, Love People. (2015)

loved people love peopleI messed up. When I wrote Monday’s post, Loved People, I was supposed to stick to the idea that although God loves everyone, as Christians we’re aware of this truth and we can find wholeness and peace in that. I didn’t. Instead, I went off on a tangent about how because we know we’re loved and we’ve experienced the joy of that, we ought to be compelled to love others. That should have been this post. But, I’m not sorry. Over the last few years I’ve gotten to a place where I can’t separate the two. In this post I’ll just expand on Monday’s.

The thing about love is that humans have turned it into a feeling. I’m convinced it’s not. Inarguably there are feelings that accompany love, but as a feeling all it’s own, that doesn’t do love justice. I say that for a couple reasons. The first is found in how feelings surrounding love change. The love I feel for my wife now, as opposed to when we first met, feels totally different. When I look at her now my love has solidarity and carries the weight and depth of years of struggle and success. I look at her differently. We talk with each other differently.  Our love for each other is more mature, though still maturing further, but it’s far more mature than it was on our wedding day. The second is that feelings ebb and flow based on circumstance. If love was simply a feeling, the cross might have looked different. But, for Jesus to still display love, while He hung there, torn to shreds, dying, surely that is more than a feeling. At the least, it was a conscious decision and the most, it’s something we can’t even understand, but still get to experience. I’ll agree that love is in part a collection of feelings, albeit different ones at different time, but what makes love actually love, is the action that accompanies those feelings.

In the Kingdom of Heaven, love begets love. If we are a loved people, and we know that, we have to love others. There’s no exception; Jesus doesn’t leave room for it. For those that are business, or even process minded, think of it in terms of Vision | Mission | Strategy.

Vision: 1 Timothy 2:3-4

“This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

Mission: Matthew 28:19-20

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

Strategy: Matthew 22:37-39 & John 13:35

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

If God desires all to be saved and Jesus commissioned us to make disciples of all nations, teaching them all He commanded, so that they’ll teach it, then the strategy that He developed around that is love. His strategy is not just drenched in love, it is love. All that He taught revolved around healing, caring for others, turning the other cheek, goodness toward our neighbor in spite of their intent. And all of that requires love as the plan of action. What Jesus introduced was higher level thinking in the area of glorifying God. It revolved around acknowledging our inability to make good on our sins and instead reoriented our attention toward relieving the burden of others, through acts of love. It’s the only reason we’re still here and He hasn’t returned; that all might be saved.

Love is the foundation of Jesus’ ministry.

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You can argue theology. You can twist scripture to support what and who you think God hates. You can even put your own spin on what is required for salvation (but, to be clear, it’s by grace through faith alone, both a gift from God). But, you cannot argue that Jesus was not a minister of love. If God is love and Jesus is God and Jesus is the cornerstone, then love is the cornerstone. Love is the foundation of Jesus’ ministry. As a Christian, it’s also yours. As a loved people, you’re expected, and ought to be compelled, to love people.

Loved people love people.

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3 Things the Gospel Isn’t

FalseThis blog has been around for a few years. During those years, the structure and my writing style has change a few times but my heart for why #ApproachGod exists has remained the same. But, it wasn’t until recently that I started really being able to articulate what #ApproachGod is for. Here it is: I want #ApproachGod to encourage conversations that will help build communities that cultivate love, so that people can see that they’re invited, through Jesus, to approach God the Father. The most important part of building communities that reflect Jesus, is the Gospel Message. Actually, without understanding the Gospel Message, a love cultivating community that is pursuing Jesus, doesn’t exist. I think that a lack of understanding the Gospel is one of the main barriers keeping us from having genuine communities where people are loved to Christ.

I could just tell you what the Gospel message is, but where’s the fun in that. And, I’ve written that so many times (I’ll also include it at the end of this article). Here’s three things that we typically twist the Gospel message into, but that it is most definitely NOT

A Means to Condemn Others

We’ll start here, mainly because I constantly see articles and stories with Christians shouting about what others are doing that doesn’t line up with scripture. Right off the bat Jesus said, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” In that passage of scripture Jesus is explaining God’s great love for the world and how He fits into it. He does say that those that don’t believe in Him are already condemned. The implication is that all of us are already condemned, but those that chose to believe that Jesus is who He said He is, can be saved. The point is, Jesus came to save people out of condemnation. Is it important for people to understand the link between their condemnation and the salvation Jesus offers? Yes. But, our commission wasn’t to condemn people’s sin. In being Jesus’ witnesses to a dying world, we’re to address their unbelief of Him, that is their primary sin. Conviction, not condemnation, for any other sin is the job of the Holy Spirit.

We can’t be hell fear mongers and hope dealers at the same time.

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How many people do you think actually turn to Jesus by being told, by a stranger, that they’re a horrible sinner? If you do a quick Google search for statistics you’ll see that the declining numbers in the church suggests that technique works on very few people. What does work is loving and serving people. It’s the reason that Jesus acted and taught the way He did. It’s why He said he came to serve not be served, told us to love your neighbor and your enemy and to pray for your persecutor. It’s why He begged God to forgive those that were crucifying Him. He knew that love was a far better invitation than fear. Oh, and that’s why John said that there is no fear in love. We can’t be hell fear mongers and hope dealers at the same time. When we use Jesus, the cross, or the bible as a means to generate fear in others, you’re not teaching the Gospel.

When it comes to unbelievers, they need to see Christ acted out and active in our life. It’s for that reason that Peter reminds us that we ought to honor Christ in our hearts and be prepared with an answer for the hope that is in us. He was saying that people will see and ask. When that happens, the focus for Christ’s goodness ought to be by the word of our testimony for what He’s done in OUR sin filled life. Then we can talk about how that translates to humankind. It isn’t our responsibility to identify the sin in an unbeliever’s life. 1 Corinthians 5:13 relieves us of that responsibility. For the believer, if we’re in relationship with them, the Gospel is still meant to draw them to God, because we’re still “being saved.” If we’re in community with them, we’re called to loving correction, not chastising condemnation.

A Way to Excuse Your Behavior

I think this gospel is for many Christians, the preferred one. I know that it used to be mine. I used to hinge my entire religious experience on the idea of God’s good grace. Honestly, it was the only reason I walked into church after a weekend of partying and drinking. I had this illusion that I could choose to act however I wanted and God would forgive me. While it is true that God forgives all sin, choosing to sin and expecting forgiveness is actually an abuse of grace and not at all what it means to follow Jesus.

When the religious leaders brought the woman caught in adultery to Jesus, He not only made the point that her condemnation isn’t theirs to deal in, He told her that He doesn’t condemn her, then said “go and sin no more.” After extending His mercy, He offered her grace and expected that if she decided to receive it she would need to stop doing the very thing that landed her at His feet. But, it wasn’t an expectation that she’d simply change her behavior, it was an expectation that His response to her need for love would so impact her heart that it would change her understanding of how that need was to be met.

The Gospel is not our get out of jail free card. The simple fact that you said a prayer (me included) at some youth event when you were 12, doesn’t give you carte blanche to act however you want. Following Jesus is the continued submission to the pressing of the Holy Spirit on your mind and heart. The Gospel played out in your life is the continual acknowledgement of God’s love for you, thorough the daily confession of Jesus, by the repeated submission to the Holy Spirit. The Gospel isn’t meant to provide you with a way to live any way you feel like, it’s meant to provide you with a way to live better than you can imagine and in a way that invites others into the same joy.

A “To Do” List

It just isn’t this. The Gospel isn’t a list of correct ways to behave. It isn’t behavior modification. The message of the Gospel is not “do this, this and this and you can get into heaven.” It’s about heart transformation. It’s the shedding off of the old you and the putting on the new you, through the work of the Holy Spirit. I used the word shedding intentionally. If you’ve ever observed a snake shed it’s skin, then you know it’s a slow process. But, as the old skin comes off, the skin under it is new and so much more vibrant. It’s the same with us. As the Holy Spirit brings conviction in a particular area, we begin the process of shedding it off. It isn’t without difficulty, and sometimes pain, but the new underneath is so much more vibrant. So much so, that it’s actually life-giving; others are moved toward Jesus by the change that the Holy Spirit prompts in us.

If the Gospel is anything close to a “to do” list, there’s only two things on it: Believe and confess. If we believe in our heart that Jesus is Lord and confess with our mouth (and this isn’t just the “sinner’s prayer,” it’s so much more, but also another blog), we’re saved and we can start the process of being saved and living in His kingdom. When we simply make the Gospel a list of ways to behave, we burden ourselves and others with the same thing that Jesus accused the religious leaders, of His day, of doing. We make following Jesus too burdensome and heavy. But, Jesus said that His yoke is easy and His burden if light; so we ought not add anything to that.

What It Is

It’s John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” The Gospel turns hearts to loving God, loving our neighbors and loving each other. The Gospel is God’s love poured out, in the person of Jesus, so that we can be with Him. It’s meant to heal the one relationship that matters above all else, so that we can be vehicles for healing others’ relationships with Him. We use the Gospel to introduce people to the One that closes the gap between them and their Father.

*I‘d love to dialogue with you. But, I want to dialogue with you only if you’ve actually read what I said. If you chose to comment, please start your post with “Timey Whimey” Thanks.

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The Grinding Gears of the Church Machine

Church Machine

Lately I have had a number of conversations pertaining to the difficulty of working inside the Church “machine”. I have always felt as if we over complicate “taking” the Gospel to those in need. That feeling always made it difficult to reconcile how we “do” church with the light Yoke Jesus spoke of. Then a friend said something that helped close the gap. He said, “In order to ‘do’ church the way we’ve always done traditional church, you just have to be okay with it chewing up and spitting out members of your congregation.” He suggested one in every twenty church volunteers will be used to exhaustion, experience burn out and leave church. Typically they will leave jaded, cynical and hurt.

His point was that if you plan to run your church the way “we always have,” then you have to be “okay” with that consequence as a part of the business of church. Obviously a pastor would never verbalize it that way, or even go into starting a church with that mentality. But there is an underlying and unconscious acceptance that it is going to happen and you have to be fine with it.

If Pastors Burn-out

To be fair, i was not able to validate the 1 in 20 statistic. What I was able to find were numbers for Pastor “burnout” rates. Multiple articles stated that 1500 pastors leave their ministries every MONTH due to burnout, conflict or moral failure. If that is the number of pastors, think about the number of congregants that do a lot of the ground level production work on any given Sunday. With those pastor numbers and their ratio to the number of volunteers, 1 in 20 does not seem so absurd. Even without the reports and statics, my anecdotal evidence to support that assertion is based on watching so many people leave the church, hurt, tired and jaded, because they felt like The Church only wanted to use them for their own agenda. The collective feeling is that the church exploited their talents and willingness to give to and serve.

Jesus’ Yoke

Surely this is not how it was meant to be. Every time I think about this, I am drawn back to what Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” 

This is not an invitation to come and do nothing. This is an invitation to those that have been trying to be good enough. It is an invitation to those wearied by religious work; to those who are heavy burdened from having labored in the function of religion. This is not an invitation out of work, but rather one into better, more life giving work. Jesus is talking about putting on a yoke, which has everything to do with work. He is telling us that His ministry and His work, though it requires much of us, is nowhere near the burden we are experiencing inside of the system of religion we have built.

Work of the Ministry

I think many of us have misinterpreted what doing the “work” of ministry really is. Historically the Church has required much in the way of “task completion” from its workers. Often times that expectation is to the point of over-working the saints. To me it seems clear that the yoke Jesus was talking about comes in the form of life spent together with others. Living with people is hard. It draws out every emotion and requires much of our time and resources. But living with people is not “work” in the way that the Church has defined it. Instead, it is Gospel work and is far lighter a burden than perfectly executing a weekly program that 3000 people depend on.

Do Church or Be Church

Please do not think that I am throwing out traditional or institutional church, I am not. I am for the communal gathering of the Saints. And, I believe that there are those that God has called to fulfill specific pastoral offices and even lead those communal gatherings. Gathering is both biblical and vital to our relationship with each other and God. However, I do not think our Sunday productions are what Jesus was talking about when He said “light burden.” Right before Jesus talked about His easy yoke, He talked about knowing the Father. That is the work He was talking about, the work of introducing people to Him so that they would know The Father. This is done in community with others. This is done by being in the world. When we live among and love and serve our neighbors, as Jesus commanded, we are doing His work. He calls us to put on His light yoke because we were built for a ministry that is focused on loving each other, loving God and loving our neighbor through relational living. As we pour into other Saints, and allow them to pour into us, with the love of Christ, we tend to stay more full. In that way we are far better equipped for the work of the ministry.

Some Are, Many Aren’t

Again, I am not suggesting that God does not call some to work in church buildings on Sunday mornings. But we ought to be careful in billing this as THE main avenue for service or doing the work of Jesus. While God may call some Saints to “work” on Sunday mornings, so many more are not. Looking over the church landscape, convinces me more and more that we have complicated the burden and yoke of Jesus to the point of exhausting the workers. Surely Jesus did not intend for His followers to burn-out in their carrying of His Gospel. Because that would go against His promise of abundant life (John 10:10) and easy yoke. In the end what remains is the guarantee that when we figure this out, we will have healthier disciples. And healthier disciples means a healthier church. 

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