Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I Love My Church - part 4

The 'church' isn't supposed to be a place where we come to rest and then leave to go about our own business. It is a place where we come to find rest and renewal and then go out to do God's work in the world.

At Live Oak, we want to be a place where people can come to worship, pray, have fellowship and then be sent out into the world to be the hands and feet of Christ. We want to live out our call as God's people on a daily basis, not just a few times a year or once a week. To that end, we are encouraging folks to see themselves as people who are 'sent' by God into the world. It is not just the 'pastors' who are called and sent by God but everyone who believes in God. Everyone who professes themselves to be a Christian is called and sent by God into the world to do ministry.

We will talk more in depth about it but for now, look over the following acronym (BELLS) and start praying that God will help you incorporate it into your daily life. These practices will help you intentionally bring the grace of God into your life and the lives of those around you.

Bless - bless someone three times during the week through a phone call, note, or a kind word. One person in the Christian community, one non-believer, and a spare.

Eat - Go intentionally into three meals this week to share some aspect of God's redemptive love. Your family dinners might be a good place to start for one of them. Again, one person within the Christian community, one non-believer, and a spare.

Listen - Spend one hour a week listening for God's call on your life.

Learn - Read and learn during the week about something that will enrich your life and your walk with Christ.

Sent - Remember that you are sent by God. Each day ask yourself these questions: "Where did I see God working and join with Him today?" "Where did I see God working and ignore Him today?"

I am looking forward to seeing how BELLS changes me and the way I interact with people in my life. If you have a great experience with this, please let me know!



Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I Love My Church - part 2

What exactly is the Church anyway? Is it a building where people go to hang out on Sunday morning? Is it a group of people who care for each other and try to help those in need? Is it a place where you can get a quick nap in during the sermon?

It is all and none of these things at the same time. The physical church building you walk into, whether it is a cathedral or a portable building, is just a building. Yes, it is a place that was built in the hope that we would meet God there, but God isn't just in our self-titled churches. God is present throughout his creation. Our job as His "Church" is to meet Him and engage with Him.

When we gather together for worship (no matter where or when) God is present in our midst but we have to choose to engage. We have to pray that God would open us to His message for us. We have to do more than make our to-do list in our head during the sermon. You might make excuses by saying the sermon doesn't speak to your situation or the preacher is boring, but it is God who is using that sermon and preacher to speak to His people. This is not something to blow off - there is something that God wants to tell us in every worship service we attend and we should be attentive to that belief.

The Church is also the 'body of Christ'. We are here on earth to do God's work for Him. The local church we belong to gives us the strength and energy to do that. The fellowship of believers renews our hope and strengthens our call to help those in need. From the energy we gain in worship and study with other believers, we are then sent forth as the "Church" to be God's hands and feet in his world.

Again this requires engagement. Being a member of a church isn't something you just add to your resume and then walk away. Being a member of a Christian church means you belong to something that is bigger than yourself and that you are led by the God who created you and everything else in the cosmos. Being a Christian means that you engage in the word (Scripture) and use that knowledge to engage the world.

Our churches are places where we go for clarity and wisdom, to be strengthened in our faith, and to hear and follow the call God places up on our private and public lives.

The church building is an important symbol, but the people who gather within it make it live and give it relevance.



Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I Love My Church - part 1

The world is full of sadness, despair, violence, and tragedy. It is just a part of being in the midst of a world that has fallen into sin.

When disaster strikes who helps? When your family is falling apart, who do you call? More often than not, it is the Church and its members who respond in times of crises.

In the recent wildfires in Central Texas, it is the local churches who have been providing food, cothing, and shelter to those who have been displaced. In the midst of the cultural challenges we currently face, it is the local churches who offer parenting classes, support groups,clothes closets, school supply drives, after school tutoring for at-risk kids, and places for organizations such as Alcholics Anonymous to meet.

Yes, other non-profit organizations help meet these needs as well. But even most of those were founded by Christians who wanted to make a difference in this world.

The Church offers hope to a world that is torn. The Church is a place of sanctuary for those who are displaced, abused, addicted, and hurt. The Church is a place of safety and peace for those whose homes are filled with conflict. Where, other than the Church, are people hired full time for the sole purpose of providing physical and spiritual care for free to anyone who has need of it?

Our churches do great things every day and can do still greater things tomorrow and in the future. Our churches need us to love and support them with our time, our God-given talents, and our finances.

The church is not just a social club where we go to see and be seen, perhaps getting a spiritual shot while we are there. The Church is a place where people come to be healed and made whole through the redeeming power of Jesus Christ. Never forget that your local church is bigger than you and the people who make up its congregation. The Church is God's physical presence on earth and it is through the Church and its members that God's love is shared and His healing power is manifested.

Love your church! Care for it (it's staff, members, and missions) as if lives depend on its continuing presence - because they do.


Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
- Ephesians 3:20-21


Monday, September 5, 2011

Dirty Church Words - Judgement

When we think of judgement in relation to Christianity, most of us think of hellfire and brimstone. But what about the idea that when God judges the world, he will set all things right? Instead of just thinking about the negative side of judgement, what if we thought about the positive side? The side in which God's judgement of something sets in motion the ability for things to be made new and whole?

We are not supposed to 'judge' each other. We can point out actions that might be leading our loved ones astray (sin), in order to set them on a path back towards God (repentance), but it is not our place to condemn another person. Neither is it within our power to change that person and set them on the right path. That is God's job. He might use us in that change, but we are not the ones causing the change.

How would the earthly face of Christianity change if we stopped 'judging' each other? What if we simply loved one another as Jesus loved? It doesn't mean that we condone everything. It doesn't mean that we agree with everyone. But it does mean that we share the grace and forgiveness that has been given to each one of us, with each other.


-For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Matthew 7:2

-He has shown all you people what is good. And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly[a] with your God. Micha 6:8