Posts and Politics

No escape it seems, from the politics of the time. Can be discouraging, downright discouraging. Naturally, we measure candidates, issues, and reactions to the words of Scripture. It's our guide as disciples. To not submit them for measure would seem strange, even an abandonment of values and beliefs. 

It's hard to assign such priority, as if we were the ones enthroned to do the assigning, but nonetheless it is hard to give God's voice such weight, because it leaves all our submissions pitifully unequal to expectations.

What do I do when reality is discouraging and the prospects unpromising. I do what believers have been doing for centuries in a variety of cultures and political systems. "I walk by faith, not by sight." Close your eyes and take a step. He's got this!



The Pause

As we prepared for worship at CoastPointe this past Sunday, the unfolding events of violence and hate in the news put a pause on the plans and called us to a different place, a place of penitence and prayer. The two go together, neither is adequate in the absence of the other. So Sunday morning we lived in the pause as we opened the words of Psalm 34, a psalm of lament, and allowed the writer to lead our hearts toward God.

Our worshipped leader preceded my message, with a song that spoke to and for our thoughts, "Break Every Chain." Read the lyrics and imagine the moment of worship pause that we were experiencing.  

"Break Every Chain"

There is power in the name of Jesus [3x]
to break every chain, break every chain, break every chain. [2x]

There is power in the name of Jesus [3x]
to break every chain, break every chain, break every chain. [2x]

There's an army rising up. [3x]
To break every chain, break every chain, break every chain. [2x]

There's an army rising up. [3x]
To break every chain, break every chain, break every chain. [2x]

I hear the chains falling.

There is power in the name of Jesus
to break every chain, break every chain, break every chain.

The feel was electrifying as I shared the following insights on "Mending Brokenness."

Embracing Praise as the Path to Healing

vs. 1-4

David is in a time of conflict and must choose how to respond. Denial, anger, resentment, are all likely responses for today. He chooses something different. He chooses praise.

Praise needs to be in my voice. It reflects an understanding that I trust God with my conflict, James 1:2; and I trust God to do something beneficial in my life with my conflict, Hebrews 12:3-11 and Romans 5:3-5.

Praise needs to be part of our congregation. In other words, my response needs to inspire praise in others who believe.

My praise is both an acknowledgement of my suffering and of His ability to help.

Embracing Protection as the Promise to Those Who “respect up”

vs. 5-7

God has a proven track record of being there for His people. He also has a track record of being there again for His people even when they have failed Him. His reappearance should be preceded by penitent hearts, something that is a recurring theme in Judges, and something demonstrated by Nehemiah who returns from captivity to help Israel rebuild their wall.

His protection arrives for the dependent. So, I need to ask myself, “Am I looking to Him for protection?” How can I know? How about listening to the language of my prayers for the answer? Prayer is both the voice of and the betrayal of the intents of the heart.

His protection arrives for the seeking. I may want God’s help, but am I asking for it? Again, I can survey my prayer language to see.

Seeking God’s protection is what believers do. Respect for God’s holiness is what believers offer.

Embracing a Risk Worth Taking

vs. 8-10

Life is filled with risks. They are unavoidable. The Psalmist argues, not for a painless risk or for one that is not difficult, but for one that makes sense. He risks everything on God.

This type of risk is the one played out in the ministry of Jesus as disciples leave all to follow Him.

Embracing an Obedient Heart as the Path to Divine Nearness

vs. 11-18

Our obedience invites God’s presence into our lives. The psalmist illustrates this presence through God’s features: eyes, face, and ears. He is near enough to see every concern and hear every cry of uncertainty. 

It takes faith to believe this when life seems irreparably broken. It takes a faith in an unusual God.

Embracing a Turnaround God.

vs. 8-10

         To believe in this kind of God is to believe in one who cares. One              who is close enough to hear and see.        

         To believe in this kind of God is to believe in one who is able. The            story of the Gospel is about a God who is both willing and able.                Today, in the midst of a broken society where violence, hatred, and          racial strife fill the news, the Gospel offers the permanent solution.            It is the cross of Christ that brings us together in penitence and                reconciliation. It is the cross of Christ that transforms people who              label others, into people who wear a kingdom label. “His, You, Me,            Us.” We bleed the same: His blood.



The Forgotten Story

For some, Easter is a time to buy new clothes for church and eat chocolate. Bible and church, much less THE story, are really incidental to the whole affair. In the tradition of my youth that was sorta ok. Not knowing the precise date of His resurrection, the Scriptural approach, we were told, was to avoid any particular religious attachment to the holiday. So we wore new clothes, opened Easter baskets before worship, and went to hear the preacher proclaim the truth while taking great pains to either avoid the subject of the resurrection, which was the normal topic the other 51 Sundays, or preach a message on why we do not celebrate Easter as THE resurrection day.

I could be critical of my childhood church's stance, but I'm not sure many of us do much better today. While we approvingly nod to the empty tomb, we too are more interested in the secular accoutrements like new clothes, candy, egg hunt, and family festivities. As for churches it has almost become a day when we rev the engines to compete for the crowds. Needing an ethical excuse we talk about what an opportune time it is because people are more willing to go to church on Easter than any other Sunday of the year. So, we need to celebrate it with bells on the ankles, or more precisely with art, drama, egg hunts, and yard signs announcing the big day at our place.

To put my criticism in perspective, I'm all about the big day. Eggs, bunny, chocolate, family meal, yard signs, all of it. Go for it! We at CoastPointe will be! However, in the process of planning and enjoying the day, as Christians, we must remember THE story. It is the story of the resurrection that offers not just the excuse to celebrate, but the call to remember. It is in remembering, sincerely, reflectively, intentionally remembering that we are changed, transformed into a new creation. It is in remembering the story that we are liberated from the failures and weaknesses that have taken a strangle hold on our lives. It is in remembering that the tragedy of the moment is liberated by the hope of the future.

Easter was never intended as a pause to relax, but a moment to find new hope.




After Shock

The political season is filled with the unexpected. Pundits are describing it as without precedent. The establishment, whoever they may be, in either party, are sweating behind closed doors. And here we are, in churches, and around the world, turning our attention this month toward the resurrection.

For some evangelicals, again whoever they may be, and other Christians the Easter season will be a welcome relief from the tyrrany of politics, political pundits, and politicians filled with promises. But, hopefully, it will be more. It needs to be more. The story of the resurrection is not intended to be a distraction from life, but a refocussing of life, the measure of hope in the wake of disappointment.

This search for hope in the story has led me into, and methodically through the Gospel of Mark. Opening with the words, "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God," and closing with the words, "so then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God..." reminds me that in a world filled with shattered expectations and unyielding demands, the Gospel offers healing hope. Yes, the fractures of failure penetrate the foundations of our homes. The winds of the unexpected rearrange our ordered lives. The hurricanes emerging from warm expectations drive us to evacuate our places of security. But the good news of an empty tomb, the gospel hope, remains. Prevails. Delivers. 




"Relationship Stuff"

Working through Mark 8 in prep for a sermon on relationships this Sunday, 5 Jesus' tips seem to rise to the top. One caveat, these are not tips straight out of the chapter, but more like resting on the foundation His ministry of power lays. 

1). People do not need to deserve your friendship, but they do need to deserve your intimacy

2). People will expect no more out of you than you expect out of yourself.

3). Failure is neither a badge of honor nor a fatal fall.

4). Forgiveness is the most difficult chapter in the course of life.

5). Relationships are built, even when you are the only one in the room.

These 5 are straight talk. They are necessary talk. We sometimes construct and subsequently nurture relationships where the soil is soft, easy on the feet, and able to comfortably cradle a reclining frame. We do this when we hold back on what we believe, what we think, feel. This sets us up for denial of reality and friendships that falter when the storms come, and they will come. A big decision with a difference of opinion. An ill-spoken word, out of anger.

Jesus demonstrates relationships that are built upon a solid foundation of truth with God, self, and others. Five tough tips. One strong relationship.






Life-Giving Relationships

What do we all want? We long for relationships that are life-giving rather than life-taking. But having such relationships is hard work. It requires an attitude of selflessness in a self-absorbed world. And it requires resilience in a one and out society that believes weakness overlooks the injustice, while strength demands restitution and settles for nothing less than painful penance.

Resilience and selflessness both find a model in Jesus. He encounters opposition from friends and neighbors, the very ones we might think would be pulling for His success. Yet, He remains focussed on a mission that calls all–critic, consumer, and confessor to a kingdom breaking into the world. What resilience! Choosing Divine winning over human whining He also relegates self to second naming others, me, and you, FIRST. 

This kind of resilience and selflessness makes space for several qualities in building strong relationships, whether speaking of marriage, dating, friends, or even with the cranky neighbor. Here are a few:

  1. Forgiveness in spite of monumental failures
  2. Mercy that provides a second chance for third time offenders
  3. Love that is given before performance is offered
  4. Joy that refuses to fade in the face of disappointment
  5. Peace that performs even while the smoke of chaos lingers in the air

Life-giving relationships demand that we lift our expectations for self. Make good choices. But, we have a model. Receiving begins with giving, being the life giver. I've heard it said that one person can change the relationship. Be the resilient one. Be the selfless one. Watch your relationships go to the next level! 





So often church is a place to laugh, celebrate, and dream. But, can it be more... Can it also be a place to search, wobble, and even mourn? 

CoastPointe hosted its first "Service of Remembrance" last night to walk with people through the memories of friends and families whom they have lost. It was a walk of faith, but also of tears, hugs, disappointments, and hope.

Our goal at CoastPointe is to build a faith community that is more than one dimensional. One that joins people in the storm and helps them as their grief finds companionship with gratitude, knowing that the alternative is grief imprisoning life.

The premise is simple. The God whose eyes produced laughter also produced tears. And His church, too, knows the stain of a tear following the crevice of pain etched in the face of the broken.

Hear my prayer, O Lord, Let my cry come to youl (Psalm 102:1)




Reaching Your Potential

Reaching Your Potential! Its the goal in business and relationships. It is also the goal for disciples who value a relationship with Jesus. The Point is not, however, to achieve that potential in order to feel better about self. That would be an idolatrous pursuit. The objective is to honor Jesus.

We honor Jesus when our life grows in increasing ways characteristic of His attitude and actions toward God, self, and others. What is critical to this happening is a good view of Him. In the Gospel of Mark we are invited to come close and listen in as He speaks and acts.

One way we can come close is by employing the senses as lens through which to fully invest in the scenes. Spectacles that will equip us to see the depth of His heart and the breadth of His love. And adjustable tint to see with clarity in the brightness of the day and the darkness of the night. 

As the Gospel of Mark opens the sound of preaching, the splashing of baptism's water, and the proclamation of a coming kingdom calls us to decision about who He is and the cost of following HIm. Discipleship is no walk in the park. Adding to the sounds of mercy, He gives us vision to see beyond our circumstances, achievements or lack of achievement, and even the controlling religious strategies that often restrict rather than motivate faith. For instance, there is nothing wrong with fasting and Sabbath, but they can become practices that are life-taking rather than life-giving.

Discipleship can be summed up as a journey into life-giving practices with the one who is the source. The senses, the ones named and others, when used to engage the unfolding events allow us to experience with greater clarity the moments we spend with our teacher. Reaching Your Potential begins and ends in His classroom. 




The Season

We are entering the season of Advent when believers around the world begin the formal journey toward the arrival of the Christ-child. There have been years in which I walked through the season with weekly intentional emphasis on the approaching Manger scene. Last year was such a year here at CoastPointe. Our first year, we were staking out in remarkable fashion what the season said to and about our faith. Then, there have been other years where I gave less weekly emphasis and yet paused to celebrate the event when it happened on that first Christmas Eve. This year will be one of those years at CoastPointe. While we are not lighting candles every week we are lifting up the Christ-child, and especially on the Sunday before Christmas when I will bring the message "The Arrival" and on Christmas Eve when we will light candles and imagine what the moment was like when a manger was Christened with the presence of God.

The Season is a special time of year when we annually experience the breath of God uniquely animating life all around us.



110 Years of Marriage and Counting

In a recent series on dating and marriage, terms that are not mutually exclusive, I asked two of our families that had logged over 110 years of marriage between them, what they would say to our church. The following is their advice on building a successful marriage.

  1. Make sure that you have a church family and that prayer is a part of everyday

  2. Never expect marriage to be 50/50.  Be prepared to give more than your share..

  3.  IF  you have a family at home, supper together is a must.

  4.  TALK, nothing should be off limits.

  5.  Take time to do family retreats, or a marriage encounter.  Love & respect is a good choice.

  6.  Realize that the person you married is not perfect, nor am I.

  7.  Relish the good time together and be thankful for weathering the tough times.

  8. There are always two sides to every story.

  9.  Love her and respect him. 

 10.  Laugh together

 11.  Finally, to reemphasize, spend TIME together. There is no substitute.

I'm sure both couples would be the first to admit they do not have the market cornered on marital wisdom. That being said, when you have been married for 60+ years and 50+ years, you probably have something to say to those of us whose marriages, by comparison, are still in infancy. I'M LISTENING!



Not So Boring

I admit it, Proverbs has been the occasional pit stop in preaching, but on the whole a rather boring side venue from more exciting places in Scripture, at least to me. That's changed! I decided to make it the base for the current preaching series on relationships, you know that thing preachers "get on" occasionally and start telling people how to date and have great marriages. 

So I began to read it through repeatedly, some days two or three times. I found the tidbits on marriage I was looking for, but I also found a lot more. The greater discoveries were not the preacher pivot points, but the personal pivot points. Here are a few of my discoveries.

             1).   I do some really smart things.        "This excited me to know."

             2).  I do some really dumb things.        "This, I could have gone without knowing."

             3).  People who talk a lot, say little.      "This gets rather personal for a preacher."

One more...

             4).  God doesn't drop wisdom out

                    of the sky, He cultivates it

                    within a faithful heart.                     "The drop out of the sky tactic is, however, a more

                                                                               convenient method."

These were a few of the things I learned. My suggestion? All believers need to spend more time walking slowly through the Proverbs like a training lab for life. Whether it's business, ministry, or offers wisdom...advice that can change you... actually, will change you. Just get ready to be offended!




Workout for it to Work Out

I'm dispensing with the litany of statistics that always dot the landscape of articles on marriage. We all know many marriages fail. In fact, if we haven't personally experienced the demise, we have a relative or close friend who has. No, no stats, I'm jumping to a message from God's heart. He loves marriage and He hates divorce. Does he tolerate divorce? Yes, but He expects an attitude of respect to prevail, even then. Does He redeem the broken? Absolutely! There is only one sin that places a person beyond the flow of His forgiveness, and it isn't divorce. However, my concern in this post is the work involved if I don't want to step from the marriage altar to the divorce court. Here are a few significant ideas.

Marriage takes work. I have to be selfless. I have to be committed. It's not hard to find an excuse to call it quits. In Jesus' day, there was a school of thought, among the Jews, permitting divorce if the wife did something as seemingly incidental as burning the toast. On the one hand, that almost seems laughable, and yet, quite frankly, there are marriages today ending in divorce that have little more to contend for "ending it," than such light weight discontent.

Marriage takes forgiveness. Since when did staying mad and holding a grudge become our right. Trumping such rights, true or false for believers, is the call to forgiveness. Jesus forgives us when we are active enemies. Where do we get off holding out on reconciliation until our partner deserves it? 

One final thought...

Marriage takes maturity. I see many people waiting longer to get married today, and yet the incidence of divorce is not declining. One would think it would, that is if waiting longer means two people are more mature, and better prepared. Apparently, that's often not the case. Age does not translate into maturity. And knowing each other longer does not necessarily equate to the ability to have a stronger marriage. Ultimately, regardless of what age you get married, or how long you know your partner before you walk down the aisle, it comes down to you and how you handle yourself, and how you both handle the relationship. So, let me suggest that marriage is not for the immature anymore than it is for the selfish. Do marriages survive where spouses are selfish or immature? By the grace of God, many do. However, divorce is so acceptable in our society that it stands to reason, most won't.

We have to get over this idea that marriage should come easy. It doesn't. It takes work, and we shouldn't be surprised. If we want to build muscles, we hit the gym. If we want to build mental abilities, we read, memorize. If we want to make our marriage stronger, we hit the relational gym. We read helpful books. We pray together. We go to conferences on marriage. We talk, yes talk. We date. We form friendships with other people, particularly couples, who have committed marriages. We plug into a church, so we can consistently diet on spiritual truths. These are a few of things that take us to the relational gym. If we want it to Work Out then we have to Workout!



Jesus not Religion

There he is marching back and forth along a shopping center sidewalk holding a sign reading, "Jesus, not religion!" What's the point, I wondered? Is he on a campaign against organized Christianity because of a personal scar? Is he trying to get attention for his church? I have to admit, as a new church planter, when this question crossed my mind, I wondered if it could be an effective tactic. Although, I've never been much of a sign carrying, protest activist. And yes, I know this is cynical, but I thought, is he thinking clearly, seems a little crazy. Yet, as crazy as such strategies seem to the average person, I am aware the prophets in the Old Testament were known for flamboyant behavior. 

As I drove on with the sign carrying image in my mind, the thoughts ran from what is his motivation, which I will never know, to the truth of the statement. Let me suggest a couple.

1) Yes, we sometimes push church and not Jesus. It's not helpful for building disciples, and it often turns the church into an institution, at the expense of its spiritual life presenting and instilling qualities. Jesus is interested in relationship, not just going through the church motions.

2) To pit Jesus and religion as hostile to each other, fails to understand both Jesus and religion. Jesus is the head of the body, the church. His teaching, and the practices of faith it creates and prompts, is represented by the church before the world. In representing His teaching, the church demonstrates how to be reconnected to God, which is what Christian religion is about. Religion literally means "to tie back." Jesus performs a religious function in tying us back to God. To put them on opposite sides of the spectrum of faith is to misunderstand both.

"Jesus, not religion" is a catchy sign, but it's really not very helpful to a life of faith. These are some of my thoughts. What do you think?



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