Archive for the Theological Category

God views the heart

Posted in Reflections, Theological with tags , , on August 17, 2009 by joetheyouthpastor

The sermon this week focused on Solomon and how he pursued wisdom. Something else jumped out at me, though. It’s an affirmation of something that we all know in terms of head knowledge, but fail to turn into heart knowledge oftentimes: God cares more about your heart than he does about your actions.

An insincere heart would read that statement and think, “So I can have a heart devoted to God, and still do whatever I want… Awesome.” That, however, would betray the heart as insincere. A heart devoted to God will not seek to do whatever it wants, but will seek to do what God wants. The intention will be there, even if the proper actions aren’t. Like in this story of Solomon from 1 Kings 3:1-14.

At this time. the Israelites were worshiping at the ‘high places’, altars to foreign gods that had been built on hills and plateaus in the past. Israel had strayed from God for so long that many people no longer knew that, according to God’s law, the only proper place to offer a sacrifice to the Lord was in Jerusalem. Solomon was no different. For much of his life, everyone had sacrificed to God at the high places. Why should he do any differently? Yet, because his heart was so sincere, this passage tells us that God looked at Solomon and was pleased with the intention of his heart, even though, according to the letter of the law, Solomon had sinned by not sacrificing in Jerusalem.

The moral of the story – don’t get hung up on what’s “proper”. When your actions are governed by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, there is no law against them.

Peace.

Sudden Death and Wisdom

Posted in Reflections, Theological on August 10, 2009 by joetheyouthpastor

Wow, first post in forever!

I was doing some research today for our upcoming worship service, and ran across a verse that I must have read before – Psalm 90:12 – but never thought about as an answer to one of life’s tough questions. Whenever there’s an unexpected death (an accident, sudden illness, disaster, etc.) someone always asks the ‘why?’ question; why did this happen?, why did this person have to be the one?

As I was reading through some scripture today, Psalm 90:12 jumped out at me – ‘Teach us the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.’ That says to me that sometimes people we care about die so that we have the opportunity to gain wisdom by recognizing how fragile life is and how much we need to rely on God.

Maybe that will give you some hope and some answers if you’ve experienced a loss recently.

Peace.

Culture Corner – Here we go again…

Posted in Culture, Theological with tags , , , on April 30, 2009 by joetheyouthpastor

Well, here we go again… If I had a Christian newspaper, the headline this morning would be ‘Well-Meaning Christians Make the Rest of Us Look Like Idiots’.

You may remember Carrie Prejean, the California representative to the Miss USA pageant this year, and outspoken Christian. There was controversy surrounding her and the pageant after she answered a judge’s question about gay marriage by saying that she believed that marriage should be between a man and a woman. The initial media reaction was incredible. Hollywood stars fell all over themselves to speak out in favor of gay marriage. The news media was all over the story. Prejean had appearances on most of the morning shows. The end result of all of it was that Prejean herself came out ahead and looking pretty good. After all, she was just the beauty pageant contestant who answered a question honestly and got lambasted for it. Right…?

Then this morning she was back on the Today Show, taking advantage of her 15 minutes – by speaking out publicly against gay marriage. I watched the interview and heard her utter phrases like, ‘You know, Matt, I’m just here to protect marriage,’ ‘whatever it takes to protect marriage,’ and my personal favorite, ‘We just need to respect each other, even when we disagree.’ I should point out that she delivered all of this charming mantra with about as much conviction as Bobby Jindal defending the Republican party’s position in a news conference a couple of months ago.

The sad truth is that Miss Prejean has allowed herself to do what so many Christians do. Namely, she has allowed herself to be completely defined by one single issue. I am aggravated at the way Christians are portrayed in the media, but I can’t say I blame them when all we seem to want to talk about is gay marriage and abortion. Prejean said in today’s interview, ‘I’m just here to protect marriage.’ No, Miss Prejean, you’re here on this earth to bring God glory. I fail to see how stoking this controversy brings God glory. Instead, you’ve simply become another talking head on the news, saying the same thing that all the other self-appointed ‘protectors’ of marriage are saying.

As Christians, we should be bringing God glory by expressing His love to those around us, by caring for them, by showing mercy, compassion. In Dan Kimball’s book They Like Jesus but not the Church, he interviews several non-Christians and asks them what words come to mind when they think about Christians. One of the top responses was ‘anti-homosexual’. We have allowed ourselves to be defined by that issue alone. When non-Christians think about Christians they should use words like ‘loving’, ‘caring’, ‘genuine’, ‘the nicest people I know’. They don’t because we aren’t.

In the interest of full disclosure, here’s my position on gay marriage. From a scriptural perspective, I totally agree with Miss California. I believe that God has ordained that marriage should be between husband and wife. And that’s the real difference between marriage and ‘civil union’ for me. A civil union is an act of the state. If states want to pass measures to allow civil unions and grant benefits like the ability to visit their partner in the hospital, that is fine with me. I disagree with homosexuals’ lifestyle choices, but then again I disagree with some of my own lifestyle choices, too. Marriage, on the other hand, is not an act of the state but a sacrament of the church. I would argue that any church that would allow same-sex marriages has moved away from scripture, and therefore away from God’s will. Regardless, we should always be compassionate and caring towards all of God’s children, whatever their choices.

Peace.

Paradigm shift

Posted in Theological with tags , , , on April 29, 2009 by joetheyouthpastor

I had an amazing week preparing for last Sunday’s lesson. I was focusing on Matthew 4:17 and the core of Jesus’ message. To be honest, I went into my preparation expecting to teach about love. I can’t even remember how many times I’ve read that Jesus preached on love more than any other topic. It may be true that the word ‘love’ appears in Jesus’ quoted teachings more than any other topic in the Gospels. But, as I learned, love was not at the very heart of Jesus’ teachings.

Matthew 4:17 says – “From then on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.'” This verse seems to indicate that Jesus’ main message was that we should repent. All of his teachings about love, sin, money, grace, hell, etc., come in the context of repentance.

It was a paradigm shift for me. Plus, it totally threw off my plans for this month’s message series. Thanks, God…

Peace.

Countdown

Posted in Theological with tags , , on March 30, 2009 by joetheyouthpastor

The short countdown has begun. Michelle and I leave VERY early Thursday morning for a weeklong mission to Haiti. Seriously, we’re leaving so early it might as well be Wednesday night.

Our goals include delivering rice, beans, peanut butter, and other food stuffs to an orphanage in Jacmel on the south side of the island; delivering mattresses to the same orphanage (most of the kids sleep on boards laid across the bedframe); packaging food for a program to feed elderly Haitians who can’t provide for themselves; and building a chicken coop to hold more than 400 chickens for food, eggs, and profit for the Christianville mission. Not bad for a week’s work, huh?

Not bad for the couple from our church who put all this together. They have a cool story. The wife had heard about the conditions in Haiti from a friend (Haiti is, by a comfortable margin, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere), and convinced her husband to go down for a short term mission. They were so moved by what they saw that they started Haitian Christian Projects, and they have taken anywhere from 3-6 short term trips to Haiti per year for the last several years. And that’s why their story is cool to me – they’re not big time, fully-church-sponsored missionaries. They’re normal people. The wife doesn’t work, but devotes nearly all her time to planning and organizing trips to Haiti. The husband manages a small golf course near here. Normal people. People who are doing something great for God’s kingdom.

And I guess that’s where I’m really going with all of this. You don’t have to be Billy Graham to make a difference. This couple from our church just went to Haiti, saw a need, and began making phone calls to see who they knew that could help, or had friends who could help. And because of their care and concern, there are nearly 100 children in orphanages in Haiti who get food every day, who have shelter to sleep in, and most importantly are being taught the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Where can you make a difference?

Worship

Posted in Reflections, Theological with tags , , on March 25, 2009 by joetheyouthpastor

Here are some thoughts/reflections from a discussion with some middle schoolers that I was a part of last week on worship.

Worship – ‘The declaration of what you value most’ (this from another youth pastor)

                     – ‘Worship is everything you’re about’ (from a student)

                     – ‘Worship is more than just singing songs’ (from a student)

My favorite definition of what worship is comes from a message that I heard Louie Giglio deliver several years ago (summer of ’03, I believe). He said, ‘Worship is what you see when you see me.’ What he meant was that we ‘clothe ourselves in’ whatever we worship. When people see us, do they see a sports addict, a doting parent, a media-monger, a driven worker, etc.? Obviously as Christians we are called to clothe ourselves with Christ (Rom. 13:14). People should see Jesus when they see us.

The discussion turned, at one point, to something that really convicted me – the things we substitute and fool ourselves with in our worship of God. As a worship leader, it is exceedingly easy for me to fall into the trap of worshipping the ‘kumbaya’ feeling of a body of people moving together instead of directing my worship towards God. Worship leaders love it when people engage, when they sing loud, clap strong (and preferebly on-beat), when they are expressive. It’s all too easy to make that kind of worship environment the end instead of making it what it is – the means to achieve an end. And the proper end? Being in and experiencing the presence of God in a meaningful way.

How’s your worship?