Feb 22, 2010

A Congregation in Transformation

Transformers, more than meets the eye.

Transformers, robots in disguise.

One of my four-year-old son's favorite toys is transformers.

The thing I find so intriguing about Transformers is that you can take an ordinary thing like a car, or a plane, or truck and turn it into something quite extraordinary. And the craziest thing about this whole transformation is that nothing at the core has changed. In its core, its still the same car or plane or truck, but by merely reorganizing what's already there, something extraordinary shows up.

I think that's what happens to congregations. When God is at work, God can take whatever is already there, and when that congregation gives herself over to Jesus Christ, God can do some pretty extraordinary things through that congregation.

What's different about a congregation going through transformation is that the things that move and touch the heart of God become the primary focus of that congregation.

For me, the things that move and touch the heart of God begin with the great commission in which God calls the church to:
1) Grow new christians - Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit,
2) Grow faithful disciples - teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

A congregation who makes growing new christians and growing faithful disciples its priority is one that is growing in numbers:
1) in new members
2) and in members committed to growing up as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.

While you cannot say one's attendance in worship, Bible study, small group, or one's commitment to tithe their time, talents, treasures, and a host of other spiritual disciplines necessarily equates to spiritual maturity, you can say categorically, that if a person is not committed to daily time in God's word and in prayer, to worship, tithing, etc. that person is not a maturing disciple of Jesus Christ.

One of the simplest ways that we can "see" a congregation going through transformation is a congregation that is growing in new Christians and in the numbers of those Christians engaged in the ministry and the mission of Jesus Christ.

Feb 18, 2010

The Church - Far from Perfect, but Ain't No Better Place for a Sinner Like Me and You!

Eugene Peterson writes in Practice Resurrection, "Many Christians find church to be the most difficult aspect of being a Christian."

I share this quote for a couple of reasons.

First, because it is a true statement. Who of us, who has spent any time in church, can deny the truth of this statement. Most of us still carry around the scars and wounds from our time in church.

Second, I share this quote as an encouragement.

Encouragement? How is this word encouraging?

I'm glad you asked.

The church is far from perfect. And the good news is that the Bible never said that the church would be a perfect place. The only thing that God promised in giving to us the church was that the church would be a place where selfish sinners can gather to belong, to work together for a common cause and goal, where when the church begins living as she has been called to live, can be a light in a dark world.

There is no better place for folks like you and me to be than in a church that is practicing resurrection life together. And as long as we are pursuing the goals and vision of Jesus Christ - as long as it's not the pastor's vision, or the elders' or deacons' vision, or the goals of any particular individual or person - as long as it's Christ's vision and mission, that church is salt and light.

But that's the key isn't it? It's got to be Christ's agenda. It's got to be about the ministry and the mission of Jesus Christ.

So what is Jesus all about?

Jesus is all about reconciling sinners to himself. And reconciliation happens in two primary ways:
1) as sinners become Christ-followers - Growing new Christians
2) as Christ-followers begin resembling Jesus - Growing faithful disciples of Jesus Christ

The church never claims to be perfect. The church will never be. At least not until Christ returns.

But, when the church starts growing new Christians and growing faithful disciples, and makes this her only priority:

  • people get saved
  • people start growing up
  • people start serving
  • people start living life with purpose and passion
  • people start healing up
  • lives get changed
  • the world gets changed
And through all this God gets the glory!

No. The church is far from perfect. But, there is no better place for sinners like you and me to gather. Because when we're all about the ministry of Jesus Christ to Grow new Christians and Grow faithful disciples, the church begins breaking through the darkness to start shining the light of Jesus Christ.

Thank God for the church.

Feb 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday and it marks the start of the 40 day Lenten season. This is the time Christians remember and share in the suffering and the passion of Jesus Christ.

While it may seem somewhat morbid to think about suffering for 40 days, in reality the opposite is the case. As we remember the suffering and the sacrifice of Jesus, it helps us to be even more grateful for all that we gain as a result of Christ's sacrifice, and as a result, we can learn how to truly start living. What's more, we gain a new found appreciation for the glory of resurrection on Easter morning.

Most Christians practice some form of fasting during Lent. This is a needed and beneficial discipline of the Christian discipleship.

This year, as you consider fasting from Lent, I would like for you to also consider these two things.

First, consider giving up a vice for Lent. Many give up a favorite food for Lent. This year, consider giving up anger, hatred, gossip, negative attitude, jealousy, etc for Lent. By Easter, you just have be a different person, and the people around you will not be able to help but see Christ in you.

Second, consider adding a virtue. Instead of thinking about only the things we have given up for Lent, consider adding one of the virtues of the fruit of the spirit:
- love
- joy
- peace
- patience
- kindness
- goodness
- faithfulness
- gentleness
- self-control

Pick one.

And then during these 40 days of Lent, make it your spiritual habit to practice the virtue of fruit of the spirit you have chosen for Lent.

I'd love to hear stories of how God is blessing your life during your Lenten journey.

May God bless you and those around you during this Lenten season!

James <><
twitter @JamesKimLCOP
Sent via BlackBerry

Feb 16, 2010

Internet Accountability - Covenant Eyes

The psalmist wrote: I will walk in my house with blameless heart. I will set before my eyes no vile thing. (Psalm 101:2-3)

The internet is one of the most useful and necessary tools for people today.

However, the internet has become one of the greatest tools for dealers of pornography. We will not know the full impact of porn on our culture, but one thing is for sure - no Christian man should be taking this journey alone. The temptation is too strong and to fall is too easy.

One of the best tools I have found on the internet - is Covenant Eyes http://www.covenanteyes.com/

They offer both a filtering software and an accountability software.

The accountability software does not filter any web pages, but it monitors the web surfing activity and reports to your accountability parter (someone you trust and someone you have chosen) the history of your web activity.

I have found this to be wonderfully freeing. It has freed me from dealing with the temptation of wanting to "see". Just knowing that my accountability partners will be receiving this report is exactly what I need to ward off this temptation.

If you have teenage boys in your home, I recommend that you install the filtering program as well. Parents, we have the responsibility to protect our children.

If you have any questions about how this works, check on the link above or feel free to drop me a comment and email.

Men, let us walk worthy of the high calling of being servants of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Feb 10, 2010

Tim Tebow's Superbowl Ad - This Was What All the Uproar Was About?


So this was what all the hoopla was about?

Are you serious?

The Tim Tebow ad sponsored by Focus on the Family was dubbed, "offensive".

Terry O'Neill, the President of the National Organization for Women, said of it, "I am blown away at the celebration of the violence against women in it."http://www.latimes.com/news/nation-and-world/la-na-tebow-abortion8-2010feb08,0,1153376.story

Well, check out the ad for yourself and see what you think?

I don't see how this could be dangerous to women. I am a dad to three daughters and I don't find anything offensive at all. All I see is a humorous and loving ad celebrating life and celebrating family.

Say What? God Wanted to Kill Moses?

"At a lodging place on the way, the Lord met Moses and was about to kill him. But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son's foreskin and touched Moses' feet with it. 'Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me,' she said. So the Lord let him alone." (Exodus 4:24-25).

Say what?

This is one of the nuttiest passages I've seen.

This little snippet is right in the middle of a conversation between God and Moses. Moses just agreed to go back to Egypt to confront the Pharaoh and God was telling him how the Pharaoh's heart would be hardened so God's glory can be demonstrated.

And then, out of nowhere, BAM! God was going to kill Moses.

But, God doesn't because Moses' wife cut off their son's foreskin and touched Moses' feet with it?!!!

What in the world is going on?!!!

And then, as if nothing happened, the bible just picks up the narrative.

Alrighty then. I have no idea what to do with this passage.

Why did God want to kill Moses? God told Moses that he would be used to deliver the Israelites.

How did the foreskin of his son touching his feet change God's mind?

Well, I wish I had answers but I don't. Just lots of questions at this point.

That's the thing about the Bible - it never ceases to amaze me.

Feb 9, 2010

The Church in a Post-Christian World

"It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God" (Acts 15:19).

I wonder if there are things that the modern day church is doing that make it difficult for today's Gentiles from turning to God. As the first Christians were trying to establish the church in a non-Christian majority world, today's church finds itself in a world that is far from being Christian. Particularly in an area like The Little Church in the Pacific Northwest, Christians are in the minority as we only represent a single digit portion of the population.

In a setting like this, what is it that the church must be about that paves the way for folks to turn to God? What are the things that we must destroy and uproot in order so that the church doesn't make it difficult for people to turn to God?

Here are some things that come to mind:

  • Be all about the love and the grace of Jesus Christ. When most people think about the church, one of the first things they think about are the commands, the rules of the church. But what is amazing about this is that less than 10% of the Bible is commands. Most of the bible is narrative. Most of the Bible is stories, poems, and illustrations of how much God loves a fallen and broken world and how this God pursues this world with absolute abandon. That's the story of the Bible. 
          The travesty is that the church somehow has taken the incredible grace and love of Jesus Christ and turned it into a bunch of rules. So much so, that when people think about the church today, they first think of rules rather than experiencing the grace and love of Jesus Christ.
  • Stop with the infighting amongst Christians within the local church, and amongst denominations. How can we talk about the peace and the love of God when such peace and love is so absent in our churches? This doesn't mean that we just get all lovey dovey with one another and water down everything so we don't offend one another. By no means. In fact, in order for love and peace to be present, it means that the church has to get absolutely clear about why she exists - to grow new Christians and to grow faithful disciples - and be ruthless about rejecting practices and habits that prevent the church from accomplishing its main objective.
  • We've got to be a church that is impacting the community as we are committed to maintaining orthodoxy - Our orthopraxi must be consistent with our orthodoxy. The people around us don't care about what we believe. What they want to know is, "Is God for real? Can God really make a difference in my life? Can God really bring change and transformation to our world to make it a better place?" These are the questions people are asking. And these are the questions that the church must be able to answer through our deeds in order for us to be heard about what we believe. We live in an age where the church has to earn the right to be heard. And the way we earn that right is through our good deeds. Jesus said, "Let your light so shine before others so that when they see your good works they will glorify the Father in heaven" (Matt. 5:16).
There are many more that I could mention. But I think these are a good start. The modern day church has no choice but to get better at being the church. Our other option is an unacceptable option - death.

Feb 4, 2010

After Two Years...

"After two years passed..."

Those are the opening words of Genesis 41. Joseph had been sold into slavery by his brothers out of jealousy, unjustly accused of attempted sexual assault by Potiphar's wife, wrongly imprisoned, left and forgotten in jail to rot away.

While in jail, Joseph interprets the dreams of two prisoners - one the chief baker and the other the chief cupbearer. Joseph predicts that the cupbearer will be restored to his position while the chief baker would be executed by Pharaoh. And things come to pass just as Joseph predicted it would. The chief cupbearer promised that he would remember to mention Joseph to the Pharaoh when things came to pass. But once again, Joseph is forgotten.

"After two years..."

It's just three little words.

But just think about the enormity of those words. It's two more years of rotting in jail when God had promised to bless Joseph. It's two more years of suffering the injustice of being wrongly accused. It's two more years of wasting away. It's a total waste!

But for whatever reason, God used those two years to prepare Joseph for his promised future. If those two years were not necessary, God would not have allowed Joseph to be imprisoned.

This much I know - God has great plans for each and every one of his children. If you too are going through a season of waiting, don't give up. Keep doing the best you can to love God, love others, and serve the world that you find yourself in. Because this is exactly the things God will use to train you for greater things waiting for you in the future.

No matter what you are going through, never give up on God's promises for your life.

Feb 2, 2010

God Could but Instead Chooses to Use Us

As I read the Biblical accounts one of the things that amazes me every time is how God seems to go out of his way to use human beings to accomplish his will.

I have been reading through the Exodus account again and am amazed by this reality.

For instance Exodus chapter 14 is the account of the Israelite crossing the Red Sea. In a dramatic moment as the Israelites cry out to God for deliverance from the Egyptian army, God could have easily parted the sea on his own to deliver the Israelites. But God goes out of his way to tell Moses to "Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground."

Isn't that amazing?

Here's the thing: God could do all the cool amazing stuff of ministry to touch hearts and transform our world, but God chooses to go out of his way to include you and me to be a part of God's awesome activity in the world. God wouldn't want it any other way.

And the reason why God does this is the same reason why I want my children included in my life - because I love them. Their presence and their partnership makes everything even better. God wants you and I to engage because when we get used by God to do his kingdom work, it makes everything better.

But there's a danger in this too. Had Moses not deflected the glory of victory and salvation to God, people could have easily assumed it was Moses who delivered them.

And that is the same with us. Every time we serve, give, minister, if we are not intentional about pointing to God, it is too easy to think that we are some hot shots for doing all this stuff.

The next time you are tempted to think that, just remember that we GET TO be a part of God's work. It's only because God's chosen to include us that we get to be a part of the most awesome work in the world called the ministry and mission of Jesus Christ.

So get out there where God is at work and join him in that work. And remember to always be intentional about pointing back at the source of all good things.

Let's have some fun doing God's work!