Three Taverns Church


Leave a comment

Be The Loving Memory People Never Forget

As I was leaving my chiropractor’s office yesterday the doctor asked me, “So, you’re feeling better?”

“Oh yeah,” I said, “When I came home last night my two youngest kids ran to the door to meet me. We wrestled around on the ground for a few minutes…we had an awesome time.”

Then I paused for maybe half a heartbeat and, starting to tear up, I said, “Not to get all emotional in your office, but I didn’t realize until just now that it’s been almost six weeks since they’ve run to the door to see me. Ever since I got that herniated disc I haven’t been able to play with them, and they kind of just quit being interested in me when I came home. But now Dad is back (no pun intended) and I could see how excited they were to play with me again!”

Oftentimes when things go wrong in our lives, it’s a long, slow decline into pain and suffering. Moments of shock and trauma are thankfully rare; it’s much more common to wake up one day having forgotten how good things used to be. In my story above I had forgotten that my kids and I used to wrestle and laugh together, and I’d only been injured six weeks! I have friends and family who have been hurting a much longer time. Their slide into suffering was so slow that these days they don’t even realize how much they are hurting; they’ve forgotten what “normal” feels like.

How many of us know someone living in an abusive relationship who thinks it’s “normal” to be emotionally or physically abused? How many of us know someone slaving away for an awful boss because he assumes, “That’s the way it is,” or know a homeless woman who thinks she’ll be on the streets forever, for the exact same reason? How many of us know a family member who’s given up the struggle against age and physical illness because the pain has been present for so long?

Do you want to help people remember what “normal” really means, to recognize life when they see it?

Be the loving memory people never forget.

If you know someone in an abusive relationship, be the love that will open her eyes to just how wonderful human companionship is supposed to be!

If you know someone in a job he hates (or someone dying for any job), be the love that helps him re-discover his hopes and dreams, and the purpose he was put here for!

If you know someone in the final stages of life who has given up, be the love that reminds her of all the good things in life, and the hope she can have in the future.

Be the love that becomes someone’s most treasured memory, something they will never forget.


Leave a comment

Christianity As Consulting

41041“Each of us learns and uses information in different ways. It is often difficult for managers to accept help and be publicly open to suggestions. Privately they may be strongly affected by our work, and we may never know it. Pressuring clients to feel we have immediately helped them can be a tremendous obstacle to the learning we are trying to promote. If we can stay focused simply on the way we are working with clients, we will avoid compulsively pressuring the client, and the results will take care of themselves.”

Flawless Consulting by Peter Block

I’m reading Flawless Consulting at work (one of the perks of my job — free access to hundreds of electronic and audio books!) and I came across this great quote by Peter Block. It struck me that in addition to great consulting how-to advice, Block’s words are also relevant to the Great Commission. Follow with me line-by-line as I compare this paragraph about consulting to Christian proselytizing!

“Each of us learns and uses information in different ways.”

This is as true of consulting as it is of the Christian walk. How many times have you gone to church with someone who heard a completely different sermon than you did on a given Sunday morning? How often have you rolled your eyes at someone’s ‘revelation’ from a daily devotional, or had your own ‘revelations’ met with dull, blank stares? Each person has their own unique blend of learning styles, and one of the miracles of Scripture is its ability to effectively deliver its message in so many ways to so many people. As with consulting, Christians must be sensitive to the learning and information-processing preferences of their audiences.

“It is often difficult for managers to accept help and be publicly open to suggestions. Privately they may be strongly affected by our work, and we may never know it.”

Let’s be honest: Most people don’t want you to know how much they’re hurting because they perceive pain as weakness. And often the greatest pain in a person’s life lies at the heart of their deepest, darkest secrets. The last thing people want is for someone to publicly call them out and proclaim their sin (and the corresponding cure). Instead, as the Apostle Paul claims in the New Testament, viewing our lives as a living sacrifice is the most effective evangelical tool out there. People are watching us. Do we do what we say others should do? Are we interested in responding to Jesus’ demand for self-sacrifice, or only making others live that way? Have you ever had someone tell you they’ve been silently watching you from the wings, and the way you live your life has influenced the way they live theirs? If so, you know exactly what this quote is talking about.

“Pressuring clients to feel we have immediately helped them can be a tremendous obstacle to the learning we are trying to promote.”

This is the part where people expect others’ lives to change dramatically, even supernaturally, as a result of receiving the Gospel. It’s the stuff that baptism videos are made of! We get a friend to come to church a couple of times, then act shocked when we see them behaving badly Monday morning. The kind of results-oriented pressure some folks place on seekers and newcomers to the faith is all but guaranteed to stunt real life-change in the long run. Do you want God to save peoples’ lives? Good, so do I. Now get out of the way and let Him do His job.

“If we can stay focused simply on the way we are working with clients, we will avoid compulsively pressuring the client, and the results will take care of themselves.”

And this is the part where we’re supposed to love others as we love ourselves. Instead of pressuring people into listening to our sales pitch, we should focus on how we treat other people. Love God, love others, and the rest takes care of itself. You don’t have to worry about winning souls if you focus on the way you work with others; people will naturally respond to your unique method of consulting with them in their lives. Instead of dreading those water-cooler talks with you, people will smile when they see you coming!


3 Comments

Good Or God?

FaithHopeLove

Is “good” good because it’s inherently good, or because God says it’s good?

It’s a question C.S. Lewis raises in his book “Reflections On The Psalms”, and I think our answer to this question has significant implications towards the way we see the world and the way we live our lives.

If “good” is only good because God declared it so, it’s possible that what we consider “evil” might instead have been named “good” by God. Instead of extolling the virtues of faith, hope and love, Christians today might laud hate, anger, and selfishness. Perhaps the “holiest” among us would be sociopaths and psychopaths. It’s really not a far stretch to imagine a world like this, if God is the one who declares and defines “good”. This leads to relativistic world views where what is “good” is defined by what we believe “good” to be. It means each system of belief can define for itself what is “good”. It means you can justify hurting people who don’t follow your system of belief because they are against what is “good” according to your worldview (think: ISIS).

On the other hand, if “good” is good because it’s inherently good, then it is good independent (if such a thing were possible) from God. This means that even if there were no God (if such a thing were possible) then those things we consider “good” would still be good. It also means that any “god” or system of belief which espouses anything other than what is inherently “good” must be wrong, but we are not released to attack those who follow such beliefs lest we risk contradicting what is “good” ourselves. If “good” is good regardless of God, then it never changes; it is eternal. Who I believe God to be today will not influence what is “good” if “good” is independent from God.

I think this is why the Bible says things like, “God is love.” It is not possible to separate the Creator from the Created, but if it were, love would be the preeminent virtue of what is “good” in this world. And because love is inherently “good” regardless of which faith system I fall into, God must be love because love is inherently good, and God cannot be “evil”.

If I follow this thought down the rabbit hole a bit further, I see that by affirming the inherent “goodness” of certain things I must simultaneously relinquish my monopoly on God. If “good” is good independent of God, then those people who fall outside my belief system, even those who don’t follow my God (or should we say ‘MY god’), may still be “good”.


Leave a comment

“Why Do Bad Things Happen To Good People?”

When people ask this question, what I think they mean is: “Why is this bad thing happening to me?”

We don’t stress much when bad things happen to “bad people”, or when good things happen to “good people”. It’s the sense that a bad thing has happened to us (and of course we always “good”) that bothers us so much.

Below are a handful of theories we have on why bad things happen to good people:

  • It gives us a chance to love one another: This isn’t really a reason why bad things happen to good people; it’s really more of a result of the tragedy. God, or the Universe, or whoever doesn’t cause bad things to happen just so we can love one another. But we do get the chance to love one another in the midst of tragedy, and that is a tremendous gift.
  • There are really no “good” people: This theory seeks to strike at the heart of our dilemma by arguing that because there are no “good” people (consistent with Scripture), bad things only ever happen to “bad people”. That may be true, but it sure as hell doesn’t make us feel any better! Even if we agree with Jesus that “no one is good, but God alone”, we still want to know why we have to endure pain and suffering.
  • Everything belongs to God, so we don’t get a say: Another theological argument that fails to address real human pain and suffering (and you wonder why I don’t care about theology!), this theory tries to argue that because God created Creation, everything in Creation is His. Thus the clay (that’s us) has no right to say to the Potter, “What makest thou?” This argument would work great except for a few minor flaws: 1) I’m an American and I always get a say in my self-determination; 2) God created me with free will, so He must want me to have a say; 3) If God didn’t care about human pain and suffering why did He bother to send His Son for us?
  • There is no God: Getting angry at God for the tragedies of life, and denying He exists as a response, is about as mature and thoughtful as my toddler falling and scraping his knee, then popping up and denying the existence of gravity.
  • God isn’t loving, so I don’t want anything to do with Him: This theory is at least more honest than the previous one. People who reject God because of human suffering don’t deny His existence; they just don’t want to be in a relationship with a Being they perceive to be a Tyrant.

I actually love that last theory because it gives me the perfect segue to what I think is the real answer to our question. People shouldn’t want to be in any kind of relationship with the Tyrant who’s responsible for human suffering. The only problem is, his name isn’t Yahweh. It’s Satan.

I believe that bad things happen to good people because of Satan’s treachery in the Garden of Eden and the resulting Fall of Man. Bad things happen to good people because that’s just the way the world is.

What seems to be the Biblical truth: Even though bad things happen to good people because of The Fall, God can and will be glorified in the aftermath.

Whenever I encounter tough questions like the one we’re discussing today, I’m always reassured when I find stories in the Bible of people who struggled with the same question. It makes me feel less of a fool (or at least a unique fool) and it gives me hope that there is hope to be found. In the case of today’s question, one need look no further than the story of Lazarus.

I’m going to zoom right in to John 11:32-44 because I think that’s where the answer to our question lies:

Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

Pause here, because we’re about to hear our “question of the day” from Jesus’ contemporaries. That’s right! We’re going to hear 1st century Palestinian Jews ask each other, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”

But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”

Bam! There it is! When we ask, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” we already know the answer is, “Because that’s the way the world is.” We’re not kids. We understand natural consequences, life and death, etc. When we ask our question, we’re really asking why God lets bad things happen. Right? If God is really all-knowing and all-powerful and all-present, why doesn’t He stop bad things from happening to good people? And that’s what the Jews surrounding Jesus were asking as well: “This Jesus fellow supposedly opened the eyes of a blind guy. If he’s so great and powerful, why didn’t he stop his friend from dying? Maybe he’s not who we thought he was after all…”

And so our crisis of faith begins.

But the story isn’t over yet, and God isn’t done explaining His side of the story.

Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”  So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.  I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.”
Bam! Again! There it is. Beautiful.
When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.”  The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
Bad things happen to good people because that’s the way the world is. But despite the brokenness of our world God comes to the rescue and repeatedly uses the terrible things that happen as opportunities to heal us so that we can come to know Him and love Him.

Is this easy for us to accept? No. Do we like this answer? Not really. We’d much rather the world be about rainbows and lollipops than rape and murder. But does this answer give us hope? Yes, definitely. The answer, and our only real source of hope, is Jesus.

In the midst of suffering we can have hope because God can use our pain, if we let Him.

What is one thing amazing thing that could come out of your current struggles?

Three Taverns Church 2-23-14

Leave a comment

Today was a quick but powerful message on John 19:30 & Hebrews 10:10,14, and what it meant when Jesus said “It is finished.”

I loved this topic…after the message I wanted to spend another hour at Frank’s Place to talk with folks and really dig into the implications of these verses on our daily lives.

I want to apologize for the background noise. What can I say; it’s the risk you run when you’re in a location you don’t control.

See you next week!
Stephen


Leave a comment

(Fin)ished

the-crucifixion-3

Do you want Jesus to pay for your sins, or do you want to try to pay for them yourself?

I once heard a story I’d like to share with you. The story is about a very wealthy man at the turn of the twentieth century. He had started his own company, which had grown significantly over the years. He was a multi-millionaire back when a million bucks was a big deal. As often happens with successful people, he was interviewed by a local newspaper to discover his secret to success. When asked how he had grown his business so effectively and become rich, this is what he said:

“Have you seen my herd of antelope? It’s one of the rarest animals in the world. This particular species is only found in a small region in Kenya. For years hunters had traveled across the globe to try to find them for their hides and antlers, but the animals are so rare and elusive that most men returned home empty-handed. I heard about the animals and knew immediately that I wanted them for myself. So I came up with a plan to capture them.

“I traveled to the region of Kenya where they lived and set up a base camp many miles away so they wouldn’t feel threatened by my presence. One night I traveled to a field, put some of their favorite food on the ground, and placed a single fence post in the ground nearby. I watched from a distance as the herd came into the field, ate the food, and left. A few nights later I repeated the process: I left some of their favorite food in the middle of the field and placed a second fence post. The herd returned that night and once again ate the food I’d left.

“This process went on for many weeks. Every third or fourth night I would come to the field, place food in the center, and add another post. Once all my posts were in place I started adding fence slats, a few every night. After many weeks I had a large enclosure built with only a gap where a gate should be. I’d built the enclosure so slowly the antelope hadn’t noticed the fence being built around them. On the last night I returned to the nearly-completed enclosure and placed the food as I always had. I hid in the trees and this time, when the herd came into the enclosure to eat the food, I rushed in and put a gate in place to trap them inside. I had captured one of the rarest and most elusive animals in the world!

“I tell you this story because you can trap men the same way I trapped these animals. If you provide them safety and security, if you provide them a steady stream of income so they can provide for themselves and their families, they will do anything for you including giving their working lives to you. You can build an empire on the backs of men this way.”

This is an approach to Christianity we see all too often.

Churches and Christian leaders entice us with a little bit of grace and hope, just enough to get us coming back week after week. All the while we ignore the fence being built up around us, until it’s too late.

Until one Sunday we wake up and realize that while our priests and pastors were tempting us with grace and hope, they were building up a fence of religion around us. A fence built out of rules, laws, commandments, obligations, responsibilities, tithing, serving, volunteering, obedience, Christian disciplines, good behavior, church attendance, and theology.

We feel safe and secure with this fence of religion built around us. We like being surrounded by religion. We have check lists. We think we understand everything there is to understand about God. We hate gray areas and ambiguity, we hate feeling uncertain and off-balance, so we come to love our religious fences. The fences make us feel like we are in control. Like we’re God. But we’re not God. We’re never in control. We’re only trapped in our ideas, our obligations, our theology.

This is what Jesus came to destroy.

Jesus came to tear down the Jewish fence of religion and re-establish a relationship between God and man. A relationship built on love, not a fence of obligations and expectations.

Consider two passages:

“And by (God’s) will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:10,14, ESV)

“When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:30, ESV)

The sacrifice of Jesus body ‘sanctifies’, or frees from sin, once and for all.

“Teleo” is the Greek word used in John 19:30 that translates as “It is finished.” Christ satisfied God’s justice by dying to pay for our sins. These sins can never be punished again. That would violate God’s justice. Your sins can only be punished once, either through a substitute or by yourself.

Said another way, if you believe Jesus is the Son of God and the Messiah, then He gladly takes the punishment for your sins. If you reject Jesus as the Son of God and Messiah, you’re on your own to pay for your sins, which requires your life.

But we have to believe Jesus is the Son of God. Otherwise Jesus was just some guy, some sinner like you and me, who died on a Roman cross. That’s not enough to take away all sin forever. Which means you and I still need to find a way to deal with our sin.

This is where we come up with the “law” according to Christians. We’re trying to find ways to eliminate our sin on our own, according to our good works, church attendance, worship, tithing, dress code, beliefs, Bible study, etc.

Will you turn to a religion, any religion, to follow their rules and “earn” your salvation?

Or will you try to ignore Jesus, pretend “sin” isn’t real, pretend that you’re a “good person” (or at least ‘good enough’), or hope “the Universe” is going to accept you the way you are? That sounds like an awfully anxious way to live. How will you ever know if you’re “good enough”?

Maybe we’ve forgotten that the “gospel” of Jesus Christ is supposed to be the “good news” of Jesus Christ. Not good news that we can trade in being Jews for being Catholics or Southern Baptists or Mormons or whatever. The “good news” of Christ is supposed to be just that: Good news that we are free from sin and the Law.

Good news in recognizing that Jesus paid for sin, once for all, so we can stop trying to pay for it ourselves.

Good news that I can love God free from resentment over a debt I can’t pay.

Good news that I can love my neighbor and myself because we’re not just sinful scumbags.

Good news that we can choose who gets to pay for our sin: Us or Jesus.

But it is our choice to make.


1 Comment

You Don’t Worry About What You Don’t Have

Worry

You don’t worry about the things you don’t have. You just don’t.

  • I don’t worry about cancer because (as far as I know!) I don’t have it
  • I don’t worry about my Lamborghini Diablo because my only car (a Honda Odyssey) is running just fine
  • I don’t worry about the million bucks I don’t have, I stress about the few thousand I do
  • I don’t worry about my wife discovering the mistress I don’t have
  • I don’t worry about my financial holdings, my future at my company, or my reputation in my community because I don’t have any of those things
  • I have hopes and dreams, but my worry extends only as far as the limit of those dreams

You don’t worry about the things you don’t have. You worry about the things you do have. Which leads me to an interesting question:

If we only worry about things we already have, why do we worry about our salvation?

Or said another way:

The moment I worry whether or not I have salvation through Christ, I have confirmation that I’m already saved.

What are your thoughts?


2 Comments

10 Things You Can Do Tomorrow To Be More Like Jesus

As a Christian I believe I should try to live my life the way Jesus lived His. Heck, even if I wasn’t a Christian I’d have to admit Jesus did something right; we’re still talking about Him 2,000 years later! Of course, He was the Son of God, and that’s a hard act to follow. But today’s list isn’t about perfection or being Jesus, it’s about trying to live like Jesus and observing the process and results.

Without further ado, here are my ten suggestions for how each of us can live like Jesus tomorrow:

    1. If you get mad at someone, forgive him or her right away. Do this as many times as necessary.
    2. Leave your TV off all day. Don’t listen to the radio. Don’t check Facebook. Don’t even read this blog. Whenever you have a quiet moment, instead of distracting yourself with noise or busyness, reflect and pray.
    3. Look up to heaven and say a quiet “thank you” every time food or drink touches your lips.
    4. Let at least two people go in front of you at the checkout line.
    5. Look everyone in the eye and smile at them.
    6. Pick a charity and decide on an amount to donate. Double that amount. Donate.
    7. Be honest with everyone, especially yourself and God.
    8. Take responsibility for all of your attitudes and actions.
    9. Pay for the drive-thru order of the person behind you, regardless of the amount or the brand of drive-thru.
    10. Set aside time to pray for the person in your life who gives you the most heartache. Ask God to help you love that person.

I’d love for you to come back on Saturday and let me know which suggestions you followed and how things went. Good luck tomorrow!


Leave a comment

Little Children, Love One Another

The little church is dim and filled wall-to-wall with disciples. At the front of the room is a small clearing, empty for now. Expectation hangs thick in the air.

Suddenly, outside, a murmur starts to rise, and the those waiting inside know he is coming. It’s always the same: He is carried in on a palette and set down in the small clearing at the front of the church where he delivers his message.

What will he say today? This is the question on the minds of everyone in the room. Some have made pilgrimage from hundreds of miles away to hear him, the last surviving Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ.

One particular young man waiting near the back of the church has been here for weeks, fasting with the other brothers and sisters, and singing hymns with them. It has been a wonderfully joyous time, but he’s noticed the Apostle’s been repeating himself. Every message has been the same short statement repeated daily. The first few days he was here the young man tried to be patient, waiting for the man to preach something more profound than his simple message. But he hasn’t, and it’s been weeks. The young man is starting to wonder if the Apostle is perhaps succumbing to old age. The Apostle is, in fact, the oldest man he has ever met.

Now people near the entrance to the dim interior are shuffling and the disciples inside know the Apostle is almost here. Heads turn and eyes lift from prayer toward the door, waiting, waiting.

And then he is there, at the door, being carried in on his palette. The last living person to have seen the Lord Jesus in the flesh.

His palette is laid gently in the clearing at the front of the church, and it seems all breath has paused. Every eye is on him, all attention fixed upon him, but he shows no sign of knowing it. His head is bowed in prayer, and to the disciples in the room it seems as if time itself is standing still, with all of creation waiting for this man to speak.

The Apostle John lifts his head, gazes across the room with eyes dulled from age, and says so quietly that any noise would’ve drowned him out: “Little children, love one another.”

His head drops again in prayer, and this is the cue to his palette bearers to lift him gently again and move slowly back toward the door. All eyes are fixed with awe on John, all but the eyes of the young man. Sure enough, this is the same message he’s heard for the last few weeks. His disappointment boils over; has he traveled all the way from Spain to hear the same five words repeated daily? No, he’s had enough. As John’s palette nears the door the young man stands boldly and demands to know: “Father, why do you repeat the same thing every day? Isn’t there more you can teach us? You are the last man alive who met the Lord; isn’t there more you will say?”

Now the eyes of the room are fixed on the young man; some in anger, some in shock, but some sympathetic. Many people have traveled far to hear John speak, and their hearts have become restless as well.

John, for his part, is not surprised or taken aback. He motions for the palette bearers to stop, and the room is whisper-quiet again. He gazes in the direction of the young man, whom John cannot see with his aged eyes, and answers the demand: “By loving one another we please the Master and complete all the commands the Lord Jesus gave to us. There is nothing else to say.”

With that the palette bearers resume their slow march to the door, and he’s gone.