Have you ever been in the situation where you found out you brought to much stuff…or maybe didn’t bring enough? The first year we went to Mountain TOP with the youth I brought three personal toolboxes full. I pretty much emptied my shop into those boxes I didn’t use that much of it. This last year I brought 1 toolbox and used every bit of it.
When I was younger and really active in Boy Scouts I went to Philmont, a scout ranch where groups hike anywhere from 50 to 103 miles in around 12 days. You carry everything you need with you. I went several times. After the first time you rate your personal priorities on what you need and want. The last couple of treks I carried 2 tshirts and 12 pairs of underwear….it’s all about priorities.
Before you left a staff member conducts a “shakedown”. You take out everything from your pack and they help you evaluate what gear you are carrying. They help you get your pack down to a manageable weight, shooting for around 50 lbs or so. If you were a big guy like I was…a solid 180 back then it was not that bad. If you were little….it would be a long 2 weeks.
I did 3 treks. My favorite part was going gear shopping on the trail. You see, no matter how well people planned and did a good shakedown, they would get out on the journey and realize they had some things with them that simply weren’t essential and weighed them down. The usual solution was to ditch them on the side of the trail. You could find some good stuff!
If something isn’t essential to the mission at hand, how often do we have the courage to chuck it aside?
We have to cast things aside in order to move forward.
The story of Hezekiah and his religious reforms during his reign gives us a great example of forward vision.
Hezekiah son of Ahaz began to rule over Judah in the third year of King Hoshea’s reign in Israel. He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. His mother was Abijah, the daughter of Zechariah. He did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight, just as his ancestor David had done. He removed the pagan shrines, smashed the sacred pillars, and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke up the bronze serpent that Moses had made, because the people of Israel had been offering sacrifices to it. The bronze serpent was called Nehushtan.
Hezekiah held fast to the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before or after his time. He remained faithful to the Lord in everything, and he carefully obeyed all the commands the Lord had given Moses. 2 Kings 18:1-6
Holding fast is what gave Hezekiah the courage to remove anything that kept the people of God from regaining a clear focus on their life, their mission, with God. They had always had the job of pointing the nations to the reality of the Living God and to do that they needed to have a clear picture of who he was. This snake was no longer essential.
Holding fast is means clinging too, physically joined to an object. Sailors picked up the term back when ships had sails. The phrase was used to describe when they would cling to ropes to not be thrown overboard. Their life depended on holding tight…holding fast.
We can learn a lesson from Hezekiah. We need to hold fast to what we know is certain in the Lord and allow him to show us the non essential things in our life.
I would love for you to come and be part of our worship Sunday and this discussion about forward motion. See you there!
Have you ever felt like you bumble through prayer or are dissatisfied with your prayer life? One of the keys to the Christian life is understanding how prayer builds a big vision of who God is.
This week we look at the Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6 and find out how it helps us build a great prayer life.
*What is a sermon preview? Sermon previews are released on Friday’s. They are to give YOU a short glimpse of what the conversation is going to be like on Sunday morning. On Monday, the preview is updated with some discussion questions, scripture guide and an mp3 of the sermon. I do these for 2 reasons. The first is so God can continue working in your life throughout the week. The second is for you to share this with a friend. I invite and encourage you to share the preview on Facebook/Twitter and through email.
Earlier this year I asked this question on Facebook and got around 200 comments. I love the question. It tells me so much about a person and their musical taste and preferences.
Good questions tell us so much more than a simple answer.
I wrote a piece on Why I became a Methodist. In the article, I mentioned one of the primary decision points being my belief in the effectiveness and necessity of Wesleyan discipleship.
Part of historic discipleship and formation (growing closer to Christ) in the Methodist tradition is the act of asking questions. We ask them to ourselves in our own personal devotion. We ask them to others we are in accountability with. This was important in the Methodist movement and I feel a recovery of the asking of questions will be a key thing to any spiritual development in our world now.
A little history…
Wesley organized his folks (you couldn’t really call them a formal church yet) into 3 groups. From largest to smallest; the Societies, The Classes and The Bands. Part of the fundamental design of the two smallest (classes and bands) was a series of questions designed to keep each person in forward motion towards Jesus Christ. The Class met as a mixed group of sexes and ages. When they met, these questions formed the main conversation points. They got SERIOUS!
When the Bands met, the questions got even more in depth. They also centered on this small group (usually no more than 5-6 and same sex) really keeping each other on track. You gave the others the permission to get into your business.
These questions matter. They help us to be real and honest with each other. One of the best small group experiences I have ever had focused on asking a few of these questions every week. This isn’t casual discipleship. It is changing and transformational discipleship. It is the kind of spiritual relationships each Christian needs to have in their life.
Several groups have done a great job trying to incorporate these classic notions of discipleship into current life. Most of them are going really well. What I really appreciate are the attempts to quickly get the emotive qualities of these HUGE lists into a few simple questions. You can answer them openly, in front of people you know and don’t know. You can be asked them by people who know you really well. The most important quality is these questions are approachable. It is frightening allowing others into what most modern Christians consider to be pretty private. Here is a listing of the ones I have found, liked and used.
1. Are you growing closer or further away from God since the last time we met?
2. How do you see God moving in your life right now?
3. How is your life in God?
Lately, I have a new one I have been thinking about, asking myself and asking others. It comes from my own personal conviction and values.
How have you allowed God to change you lately?
This question tells much more than a simple yes or no. In my own examination it causes me to think about my openness to Christ, my expectation of his presence and activity, how my false self is being broken down, etc, etc. It is great and broad.
Self-examination has long been part of Christian tradition. It helps us to make the points in which we have grown closer to God, progressed in our sanctification, won victory over things controlling us or simply mark our maturation in Christ.
So friends, How have you allowed God to change you lately?
The Walking Dead season four premiere is in just a few short days. I am just one of the many people eagerly anticipating what this season will bring. I won’t bore you here, but I am sure this won’t be the last time you hear about The Walking Dead around these parts.
The popularity of zombies is without question. I love zombies because they give us a different narrative in which to think about the world. Wrapped up in the idea of the zombie apocalypse is social narrative and critique. Zombies are a uniquely western look at how society thinks the world has and hasn’t worked. The story of the zombie apocalypse also gives an amazing metaphor to evaluate how we act as a culture and as individuals. I wrote about much of this in a previous post: 3 Reasons the Church should Understand the Zombie Apocalypse.
What I want to offer you today is a companion piece. If we know Zombies are coming, how can we get ready for the apocalypse? Not literally, although I have been in some churches that would make wonderful safe houses and barricade zones. I’m talking about understanding the rise of a completely different set of behaviors, values and idea of life. An apocalyptic situation is one where life can be dated before and after. The world has completely changed in the last 10 years. We have entered an apocalyptic transition and are now in a new world.
How can we bring the gospel into this new world? How can we bring the life giving power of Christ to a culture bent on self consumption?
How Churches Can Anticipate the Zombie Apocalypse
1. Realize Things Are Different. Are people around you behaving differently? I would say yes. While they might not be eating brains, stumbling about and making weird noises, things are different. No matter what the industry, leaders are talking about how much we have changed in a post-9/11 world. The millennial generation is coming of age and influence bringing a different set of values than we have seen in the last 60 years. Fast Company calls this Flux. Stanley Hauerwas and Will Willimon wrote about this years ago in Resident Aliens. Things are different and they won’t ever be the same again.
2. Identify what has to change.
When the times are changing we must start looking at methods. What worked wonderfully for years will soon cease to even bring results. This could mean armored school buses or it could mean radically different strategies of evangelism and discipleship. In the zombie apocalypse, everything has a purpose. The end goal is realized. When we as leaders and churches best understand what absolutely needs to be done we can adapt and create new ways to talk about Jesus.
We have to have conversations about what is absolutely essential. When Earnest Shackleton led his crew off their ship and across over 600 miles of Antarctic ice he only allowed them 2lbs of personal gear. Only what was absolutely essential. When we enter into conversations filled with prayer about what is absolutely essential we are able to realize what might be holding us back. We can lighten our loads and better discern the best way to follow Jesus in faithfulness. God gives us unique missions only we can carry out. We just need to find out what the best tools are for our mission.
3. Adapt to thriving in a new environment. If we do these first two steps we will see change, in both our churches and among the people God has called us to minister too. What was once foreign is now familiar. Just realizing things are different and understanding what we needed to change will allow adaptation to this new world.
The driving force in our current age is context (I wrote about context and how it affect evangelism here). Context was the driving force behind John Wesley and his adaptations to the zombie apocalypse in 17th century England. It took him from the classrooms to the fields. If we study the early church and the movement of the Holy Spirit in Paul’s ministry we see adaptation to context. Context is everything.
If we want to thrive in the middle of a zombie apocalypse, we need to do these three steps. Our world needs us to understand how things are different, what the Gospel looks like in this different world and the kingdom example of thriving.
One of the tasks I have to work really hard on is volunteer coordinating. It is a skill that doesn’t come naturally to me. My wife absolutely rocks at it (and does it for a living). I also have amazing volunteers at church who give of their time to help lead others. Luckily, I am surrounded by great people who assist me in the process and offer me grace when I fail at it.
Any skills I have learned about volunteering come from The Rocket Company. I talk (and tweet) about The Rocket Company a bunch because they have helped me out a bunch. Whether it has been preaching, leadership or organization…they are amazing.
They are launching a terrific new coaching platform Volunteer Rocket this month! They are also offering some great free events and resources this month to get the word out. I highly recommend you take a couple of hours and beef up your own knowledge and jump start your own volunteer ministry.
A few years ago I was asked to teach a confirmation class on the three ways Wesleyans understand grace. After much thought I began to understand how Hollywood offers us an example lesson in the movement of grace in the lives of every Christian.
How Hollywood Teaches Wesleyan Grace
Methodists understand grace as acting in three major moves, in a progressive (we are Wesleyans after all!!) manner. The initial goal was to get 6th graders to engage a concept I have been asked about in almost every oral examination on the process to ordination. A tall task indeed! I used this analogy of Hollywood and the film industry to help them understand more about their faith. I have since begun using this illustration in many other settings.
is often like a movie trailer. It exists before and gives experience, making us familiar with the story and exciting us about the actualization in an encounterable manner. Trailers make us want to see the movie.
Prevenient grace is the free gift of God to all men and women tugging their hearts towards a saving relationship with him.
brings us to the moment in the movie theater. You can call it an opening night gala. What can be known minutely beforehand is now actual experience. The trailer worked and drew us into the physical event. A person is now truly experiencing the story for the first time. Where it once existed only in brief and broken ways, the full story is made known.
Justifying grace marks the awareness of sin and the need for a recognition of Jesus Christ. In justifying grace, each of us truly experience the depth of Christ and His love for the first time. We are assured of our status of belonging with God.
seats the DVD in our permanent collection. It is the special collectors edition with all of the extras (But not those horrible Star Wars editions that change the whole thing…those DVD’s totally blow the illustration). It doesn’t change the story, but presents the permanent and ongoing fulfillment of both the trailer and the original theater viewing. The DVD purchase brings the movie into the home, where we own it and are able to continuing experiencing the story in new ways. We learn the story word for word and can repeat it anywhere through constant viewing.
Sanctifying grace brings us closer to holiness. It is the constant move of God in our lives as we pursue Jesus Christ more and more. Through sanctifying grace we are continuing to experience the transformative power of God in our lives.
I find this threefold expression of saving grace helpful because it is hopeful.
God moves in each of our hearts, edging us towards saving and justifying grace. If and when a person makes the decision, they are not abandoned. Grace continues, always changing us. May God be changing each of us as we read these words.
Chad Brooks is a United Methodist Pastor serving in Louisiana. Married to Meredith, he is currently starting a new church in northeast Louisiana. Host of the Productive Pastor Podcast and lover of motorcycles, Chad would love to find Bigfoot one day.