Saturday, March 28, 2009

Be Careful Little Eyes...

Many of us remember the song, "Be Careful Little Eyes What You See". If you have a minute I'd like you to watch this video and then I'll make a few observations of my own.

video

Pretty interesting phenomenon isn't it? I think there is some application from this exercise we need to make regarding our experience in Churches of Christ.

I wonder what we might be blind to on Sunday mornings? Most of us who grew up in Churches of Christ were taught about the "5 Acts of Worship." And that for worship to be Worship, it must include Singing (with the emphasis on acapella), praying, preaching, The Lord's Supper and giving.

The phenomenon illustrated in this video may explain why many of our struggles today continue to be centered around what and how we do what we do on Sunday morning "during worship." If we are busy counting the elements of worship with a particular emphasis on how they are done, I can see why many become upset when someone suggests there is something deeper about worship that is being missed. Many of us are no longer content to accept as meaningful worship just going through the motions of the "5 Acts." We can do these and still miss the reason of worship: a meaningful experience with God and his church. I for one want to be moved emotionally as well as intellectually through the experience of our assembly worship. What we do on Sunday mornings should be a spiritually transforming experience, not simply counting the number of elements.

I think even beyond our worship, that in many areas where our restoration roots have focused (with good reason I might add), the unfortunate outcome has been that we failed to see other equally, if not sometimes more important, truths of being a Christian.

The good news is that more and more are clearly seeing the "big gorilla" right in the middle of everything. For those who are still victims of 'tunnel vision' this can look like an abandonment of the truth. It's not; we are just stepping back and trying to look at the whole picture of God's truth and applying it to our lives.

I want to encourage you to step back from time to time and look with fresh eyes, from a different point of view and see if what you see is really all that there is to see.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Mere Men!

I will admit it. I am a fan of 'Super-Heroes'. I like Batman and Spiderman, and my favorite: Wolverine. I know what you might be thinking... and as my boys would say, "Dad, your inner Dork is coming out." My wife wouldn't let me go to the Comicon that was hosted in Phoenix last year. She was trying to protect me from myself. (If you don't know what the comicon is just google it.)

Most boys my age, grew up reading comic books where super-heroes were always fighting the bad guys. And most of us secretly wanted to posses some kind of super-power. (I actually did possess the power to transform my mother into a highly agitated dynamo of discipline; unfortunately I was usually on the receiving end of that discipline. Too bad I couldn't find a radioactive spider for a more productive super-power... But I digress.)

To only be Peter Parker, Clark Kent, or Bruce Wayne (Billionair Playboy notwhithstanding) without any superpower might have been tough. But it would be more than acceptable knowing they were only the front for their alter-egos just waiting for the 'bat-phone' to ring... then da, da, da daaaaa, the Super-hero comes out to save the day.

What we imaginative boys didn't want was to be mere mortals. To live normal, routine, obscure anonymous lives without a super-power was not our dream.

But here I am, in pretty good shape for a man my age; yet I have to wear glasses to read, I creek a bit in the morning, and have to watch what I eat, and I nap. No super-powers. I am living the life of a mere man. And that's where it gets dicey. It is a problem because the real truth is I am NOT a mere man.

In Christ I am something more. I have been empowered. God's Spirit lives in me, enabling me to be, to do more than I am humanly possible. And if you are in Christ, you also are empowered. And we don't even have to wear spandex tights and a cape. (OK, maybe that's just TMI - but you get the point).

We (well I shouldn't accuse you. I for one anyway) don't always live up to the power that is mine. Paul had to chastise the Christians in Corinth for the way they were living; arguing, sinning, fighting, dividing... He asked that when they were doing all that, "Are you not acting like mere men?"

We who follow Christ sometime forget the "supernatural power" that is ours through the Holy Spirit. We are like Clark Kent who can't find a phone-booth. So we just stay in 'mere man mode'; arguing, sinning, fighting, dividing...

Well no more! I'm going to start living like a supernatural man instead of like a mere man. I hope you will too.

"Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given
for the common good."

1 Corinthians 12:7

It's Spirit Man... da da da daaaaa

Monday, March 9, 2009

John Wept

What are we going to do about all the bad news we are hearing these days? We could stick our head in the sand, or panic, or point fingers of blame... Or do you weep in despair?

John wept! John - the Apostle - lived during a time of 'bad news' that makes our current situation look like a walk in the park. And what made it worse was that the only real solution seemed a dead end.

And what was the solution? God's will for the church in the present darkness. It was right in front of him, the book (Revelation 5:1-3), the book that would reveal God's will for his people, provide hope and a way to go forward when it looked like they were in a dead end - with the emphasis on dead! But he couldn't open it.

So John wept! What else could you do when you know there's a solution, but you just can't see it.

John wept, but the Angel spoke. He said look! 'See the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.' (Revelation 5:5).

So John looked, and he stopped weeping. Are you looking? Many of us are looking for answers to today's dilemmas. In particular many of us are looking for answers to the problems in our churches. We've been informed that Churches of Christ are in decline. I can't disagree. And we aren't the only ones. Just today another survey reported that religion in general is in decline in America.

But where are we looking? The angel announced, 'See the Lion of the tribe of Judah.' A symbol of strength & power. A truly powerful creature that could tear the enemies of God apart.

But look again. The Lion was announced, but John saw... a lamb! A symbol of weakness. A truly powerless creature whose purpose is to redeem the enemies of God.

Maybe we need to refocus our search. Do we tend to look for 'powerful' techniques and strategies that can turn around declining churches and 'make' them big & influential? Maybe we should look again to an unlikely source of help. True strength is found in a slain lamb.

“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth." (Revelation 5:9-10)

Stop weeping and start singing the new song, the song to a lamb that was slain.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

THINGS IN DECLINE

It seems like everyday now, we are hearing about things in decline. Is it really that bad? I suppose it depends on your perspective. Think about these things in decline:

In Decline: Vinyl Records, 8-Tracks, Cassettes; all gone, with Compact Discs probably to follow soon. They are being replaced by Digital formats like MP3.

In Decline: News Papers, Paper Phone books, Multi-Volume Encyclopedias and the like. They are being replaced by the Internet; Bloggers, Yahoo, Google, Wikipedia, etc.

In Decline: The Standard Home Phone (land-line). They are being replaced by Cell Phones.

In Decline: VHS, Laser Discs (anyone remember those), Block-Buster and other video rental stores. They are being replaced by DVDs, TiVo, DVR, NetFliks, Online Movies, Hulu.Com etc.

In Decline: Main-Stream Churches. Both The Christian Chronicle and The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life have recently reported this trend . They are being replaced by... we'll that would depend on who you ask.

And we worry about the decline of these things, especially if we happen to be personally invested in any of these things.

But I want to remind you of something:
Even though there is decline in all these things we cannot afford to miss what ISN'T in decline.

Records may be gone,
but MUSIC IS STILL AS POPULAR AS EVER.
News Papers may be going,
but INFORMATION IS STILL AS IMPORTANT AS EVER.
Land-Line Phones may be going,
but COMMUNICATION IS STILL AS POPULAR AS EVER.
VHS may be gone,
but MOVIES ARE STILL AS POPULAR AS EVER.
Main-Stream Churches (including Churches of Christ) may be in decline,

but THE GOSPEL IS STILL AS POWERFUL AS EVER.

None of these other things have died simply because the method of participation has changed, and our Congregations don't have to die either. Unless of course, we are so committed to the method of how we are 'doing church' that we cannot change. We have got to pay attention to our changing culture around us, and begin to rethink the how of much of what we are doing. And to do that DOES NOT mean we abandon the gospel. Musicians haven't stopped recording songs simply because the digital age has left analog in the dust of history.

And Christians shouldn't stop 'being' the church simply because the way we are currently 'doing' church isn't working like it used to. We must find a way of doing church, of living the gospel, and sharing the love of God that is more effective to a world that just doesn't find the main-stream model relevant anymore.

Some things decline and disappear, but the things that matter won't.