“The Main Thing”

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** This blog post is not my own creation… this is a passage from a sermon by John Ortberg.  PLEASE check out his teaching at mppc.org sometime.  

The name of this sermon is called “The Main Thing”. It claims that the main thing for churches, our ultimate mission is to “present everyone mature in Christ.” And I agree. Young & old, new Christian & veteran Christians, men, women, … everyone.

Sermon Scripture: 

“To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.”    Colossians 1:27-29

On television over the last several years there have a number of shows about what are called makeovers…extreme makeovers. Did you ever see any of those? They can actually be surprisingly moving because they usually involve not just like new makeup jobs. They’ll take people who have features for which they have been ridiculed, felt embarrassed since they were kids, and then people go through a process. It might involve surgery, reconstruction, diet, exercise, some processes that might be fairly costly or painful to do a makeover.

These show are watched by millions of people, and it’s swamped by folks who would like to be a part of something like this. Everybody wants a makeover. I’ve seen the before and after pictures and it’s amazing how dramatic the changes are. You’ve probably seen similar shows and photos. After seeing them you can’t help but think, “I would never would have guessed that the person in the “AFTER” picture is the same human being as the one in the “BEFORE” one.”

Typically the climax of the whole makover process is when the “new you” gets presented. Everybody who loves you is gathered there…spouse, friends, relatives, workers. Then there is this unveiling. “Now I present”… and this made-over person comes out. Very often they’ll look in the mirror and they’ll just be in tears because you know what’s on the outside is what we really long for is to be remade on the inside. The friends, when they see them, they can’t believe the difference.

Now one other thing we all need to know about these shows, and you’ll know where I’m headed with this…the people who go through this process, they actually expect to be transformed. Like if they didn’t look any different at the end of the process than they did at the beginning, they would want to know what went wrong. They would want all that money and effort back. They assume transformation is normative. It is expected.

Now how about us as Christians? Just take one statement from the apostle Paul. Paul says to the church at Philippi, “Do everything without complaining or arguing.” …  How is that one going for you? Should we really aim for that? What do you think?  I’m serious about this. Let’s say somebody has been around a church for five years. Do you think they really should have made some progress in that department? Should we all expect if somebody is following Jesus, getting to know people who love them, learning to live in His presence, studying the Scripture, praying, should we really expect that people are progressively growing in their ability to do life without complaining or arguing, or is Paul just talking to hear himself talk?

Is it all just a bunch of religious language? Is what we’re really expecting for people is to go to church and be kind and respectable and do the obediant church thing… and hope they end up in heaven when they die? Quite often it seems that we really don’t actually expect for everyone to progressively be growing toward being presented mature in Christ. But, That’s the main thing! It boggles my mind how people can go to church and think that it’s about doing certain kinds of services or perpetuating certain kinds of traditions, or engaging in certain kinds of programs, and nobody is actually expecting that people are really genuinely becoming the people God created them to be.  

The main thing for a church is not just to put on great services, not just to attract a whole bunch of people, it’s to actually help people become mature in Christ and it ain’t easy. But then Paul finds this strange thing right in the middle of all that difficulty, labor, and reality and sin and junk and habit, I find it’s not just me at work. Everywhere I turn there is God at work. I labor struggling, but not just with my power, with His energy. Over and over, I actually experience this, you will too. There He is. His energy that works, not just works, that so powerfully works in somebody like me.

The main thing is to present everyone mature in Christ, and maybe the most important two words are in Christ. See that is Paul’s signature phrase. He uses it scores of times. The reality in which we’re to be immersed, to live, the way that a fish lives in water, the way that we’re surrounded by air, the spiritual reality that is more important to us than air is to be in Christ and for Christ to be in us, to be connected to Him….

… The sermon goes on, and it’s VERY good.  If you have time, you can check it out here: http://mppc.org/series/john-ortberg/main-thing

I hope to post “my own” blog entry soon, but I just wanted to share this with all of you!

Unsettled

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Recently I saw this image online…

I must say… at first glance one may choose to re-post this to their Facebook wall or tweet it to the world in order to help us all realize how messed up our society is. It’s a powerful image… but I have a problem with it. It was unsettling… and I tried to figure out why. Why THIS image more than others like it… why did this strike a chord with me?

As a Christian I am told to mourn with those who mourn. I am called to love and serve the poor, the marginalized, the oppressed. I am commanded to consider others better than myself. I see, at the heart of this photo, the desire to raise awareness of the needs in this world. The photo succeeds in this effort… but In this photo, I also see a few problems.

The glaringly obvious one is the saddening photo on the right of the starving children, a photo that I know breaks the heart of God. It’s a photo that should affect everyone who sees it. The person who created this image is right – our society is messed up. The fact that we live in a world where we (collectively) have allowed this kind of pain and suffering to be so widespread is a tragedy. And I’m grateful for the organizations, churches, and people out there doing something about it. Organizations like UMCOR.org and rootawakening.org are examples of this.

The problem I have with this image isn’t that its core message is terribly wrong or that I think highlighting the fact that the needs in this world go largely unnoticed my many people is unimportant. My issue is with the use of Mr. Jobs’s death as a springboard for this agenda. Overall, I do not believe there is a good/fair reason to tie these two statements together (millions cry vs. no one crying). And, might I add… claiming that “No One” is crying or weeping for these starving kids is very misleading and inaccurate. To me, this is a really slanted image. Do we as a people (Christian and non-Christian) overlook the poor and oppressed and marginalized? Yes. It is a tragedy that more attention and love isn’t directed at those in this world that need it most? Yes. However, should we have a problem with millions of people mourning the loss of Steve Jobs? No.

When I asked a friend about this image – his comment reflected the very first thoughts that I had when I saw it. If I hadn’t hesitated for that brief moment, I may have just re-posted it immediately after seeing it and never thought of it again… thus, contributing to the “messed up society” we all live in where we’re inoculated to and numb to the suffering of our fellow man. The society where we often know all about the desperate needs around the world, yet often do very little to affect them or to help in any way. Ultimately, I’m glad that I didn’t re-post. And I am glad to have had the dialogue with my friend. At one point he told me (paraphrasing), “I have no problem with people mourning Mr. Jobs’s passing… by posting this I’m just noting the opportunity there is to “do good” for those who could use some good in their lives.”

Yes, I agree with the want to highlight opportunities to do good for others. Absolutely. However, this opportunity to do good is always there for us every day, is it not? Here’s where my problem with this photo lies… I find it unfortunate that in this photo the death of Mr. Jobs is trying to be used as a guilt inducing motivator – exploiting someone’s death for the benefit of an agenda (however good the agenda may be).

Part of the reason I chose to write about this today is that I have found myself strangely effected by the passing of Steve Jobs. I didn’t cry, hearing the news didn’t ruin my day, but it did make me think about a lot of things. I chose to search YouTube for a while and ended up watching/listening to his Stanford commencement speech and some old interviews and keynotes… I find him a fascinating person. Days later I still find myself reading articles about him, his life, his visionary leadership, his faults, his success, and his death. Many good conversations are being had about hope and life, technology and humanity, and other things because of his passing. One of my favorite articles to read can be found here: http://on.wsj.com/mPS7RX

On a separate note: as a youth worker, I cannot deny the enormous impact that Steve has had on the generation of students that I get to teach. Many are iPod and iPad owners. Many own a Mac computer, have iPhone, grew up watching Pixar, and many have never been to a record store. All they know is iTunes and Amazon. And then there’s my own life… it has become painfully obvious this past week how much my life and the life of my family has been impacted (for better or for worse) by Steve and his “magical” products.

If millions mourn for Steve, as Christians we are supposed to mourn along with them. And indeed, our society has some major issues. I certainly contribute to them. Today I became very aware of how easy it can be for me to see something interesting/moving like this photo, and instantly think to click a button to share it to “the world”… and realizing the chances of me ever really thinking about it deeply again are slim to none. I thank God that He slowed me down today, caused me to think, and allowed me to consider what was happening in my soul. I saw this photo and was unsettled for many reasons… but mainly, I think it is because (upon further inspection) it exposed something really messed up about me.

The Bullying Ends Now

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http://www.thebullyingendsnow.com

I was made aware of this website today, and I’m so glad that things like this exist. As teens, I know that this issue is HUGE. Bullying is traumatic and cruel, and often bullies have been bullied by other kids in the past or by adults in their lives. So, if you find yourself being bullied, or you yourself struggle with how you treat others, remember this link. And remember to pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:44 NIV “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”)

Raising awareness and talking about this important topic is necessary, and I’m glad to see that this blog exists! It was created by a Junior High age student from Arizona. Yes! Junior High! She just started her freshman year of high school this past month and I really hope her blog and her movement grows! I look forward to hearing how God uses her and her church to be a light in this world.

The Facebook fan page can be found below if you want to “like” it. 🙂

https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Bullying-Ends-Now/176236865726658

So this student decided to put her passions to work and to create this site to aid people who struggle with bullying. What movement might God be asking you to begin? What motivates you and what would you like to see change in your school? Your family? Your community? Your world? Maybe you are sickened by the suffering that is taking place in Africa right now. Maybe you are moved to try to do something about he homelessness and poverty in your own town. Maybe it’s something else entirely… but maybe God has plans for that in your life. Maybe God is looking for someone JUST LIKE YOU do step up and decide to take action. You should ask Him about it. 🙂

Crew 8

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This crew worked on a home that had a major leak in the roof, and over time this leak caused a ton of water damage in their home. So they fixed the roof, and completely re-insulated and drywalled the wall that had water damage.

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Crew 7

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Crew 7 “straight from heaven” has been their battle cry all week! Serving our resident Guadeloupe, they re-roofed her home & did some drywall patch work inside one of her bedrooms. They displayed some excellent teamwork since many of them had not ever roofed before 🙂 They did am excellent job!

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Crew 6

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This crew has the honor of serving two kings this week. Jesus, the King of Kings – and also the King of Rock & Roll himself, Elvis! (AKA, their resident Claude who is an Elvis impersonator)

This crew installed a new front ramp to his front door and completely re-roofed his home. He and his wife are wonderful, and we’ll sways remember them … and the excellent concert he performed for us!

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