Tag archive for "God"

Inconsistent

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Inconsistent

4 Comments 17 July 2012

 

I am inconsistent.

Sometimes I do really well. Sometimes I don’t.

For example, this blog. I intend to write content every week. Sometimes that happens. Sometimes it doesn’t. For several weeks. In a row. To the point I’m a bit embarrassed to start again.

But this isn’t about writing. In every part of my life I’m inconsistent. Sometimes I’m really present for those I care about. Sometimes I’m distracted and oblivious. Sometimes I do the things that help me feel close to God. Sometimes I don’t.

And sometimes, I just get addicted to saying “sometimes.”

I wonder if inconsistency is just part of the frailty of being human. According to Genesis, we’re equal parts eternal breath of God and humble dust of the earth. Maybe this is the dust part.

And here’s something curious I’ve noticed about being inconsistent – it means being consistently tempted to judge.

When I’m doing well, I am quite confident I’m a fantastic human being. But I’m not so sure about everyone else. When I’m not doing well, it’s the reverse – I feel like a failure while everyone else seems flawless in comparison.

Arrogance and insecurity seem opposite, but I’ve found them again and again to be seat-mates riding in my heart. They may take turns driving, but they’ve conspired together.

And what is the conspiracy? To convince me that my perception of my performance equals God’s perception of my worth. That’s the battle within and once it’s lost it matters little whether arrogance or insecurity pops up first. The other one will be along shortly. Because I’m inconsistent, the consistent temptation is to equate performance with worth.

The Bible’s singular response is this – God is love. There are many words used to describe God but only this one to define Him. He is love. Love is not a trait that he possesses – sometimes more, sometimes less – it is his essence. There is a heartbeat of eternity, and it pulses “You are loved. You are loved. You are loved.”

Our worth isn’t like a stock that rises and falls according to last quarter’s performance analysis. No, it is fixed, determined solely by the one who loves underperformers and overacheivers alike. You could say that God is like a Father who has two sons. One, motivated by insecurity, worked furiously for approval and the other, in arrogant defiance, took his inheritance and ran. But of course, Jesus has said that.

Perhaps the most powerful story ever told, the point still moves me – I am inconsistent. God is love.

 

Tim Tebow and God’s Involvement in the World

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Tim Tebow and God’s Involvement in the World

No Comments 09 January 2012

 

I found this article, written by one of my former grad school professors, both interesting and helpful in sorting out all of the Tebow love/hate going around. As I’ve said before, when we think about God’s involvement in the world, there are two extremes to avoid.

The first sees God as the cause of everything…EVERYthing. As in, “God just completed Tebow’s pass!” It seems to me that this is the view non-Christians, with good reason, find so troubling (“Why does God find time to help famous Christians complete passes and get good parking spots when he can’t find the time to cure cancer or keep children from going hungry?” they ask.)

The second sees God as completely divorced from the world and its goings on. This is a god who might be acknowledged, but never loved, a cosmic, absentee landlord. This one is the more subtle of the two, but you hear it in statements that begin “God doesn’t care about…”

Somewhere between those two extremes there’s an understanding of God as intimately involved in the events of our lives but not hijacked for our personal agendas. I’ll stop there and just point you to the link. John Mark Hicks has done a lot of thinking about God’s role in our successes, our pains, and everything in between. He’s a faithful guide in this quick article.

 

The Temptation Behind The Temptation and the Meaning of Christmas

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The Temptation Behind The Temptation and the Meaning of Christmas

No Comments 23 December 2011

 

You may know that the first story the Bible tells about humanity (after creation) involves a man, a woman, a serpent, and a piece of fruit. It would be merely a silly story if we couldn’t all relate to it so well. Eating a piece of fruit – could anything be more trivial?

But the brilliant storyteller behind Genesis 3 makes sure that we understand it’s about more than fruit. There’s a temptation behind the temptation.

Pride. Autonomy. Idolatry. Ego. Self Reliance.

It goes by many names, but it is the temptation behind every temptation. It’s a thought that runs something like this:

“Maybe life would be better if I go my own way.”

“Maybe happiness can be found apart from God. Maybe, instead of living as part of his story, I can write my own with Go din a supporting role.”

It didn’t work. It doesn’t work. God predicted, back in Genesis 3, that the path the man and woman were choosing would not lead to happiness but instead to conflict, pain and disappointment. Now, with millennia of history in the rear view mirror, we know his prediction to be true.

What we think will bring us lasting happiness cannot. Be it a purchase, a promotion, or a person, it will, sooner rather than later, crumble under the weight of our expectations. C.S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity, wrote that much of what we call history, “Money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery” is really the “long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”

But there’s one more character in Genesis 3. Besides the man, the woman, and the serpent, there is God. For just a moment, put yourself in his shoes. He knows that there is no such thing as happiness apart from himself. Love, joy, peace, and all such things are not external and separate from him. They are fruits of his very spirit. They are integral and internal to God.

So, when these children of yours choose, whether in Genesis 3 or yesterday, to walk away and go their own way, your heart breaks and your options are few. Only two really.

You can abandon them. Leave them to the darkness and brokenness. It is, after all, the path they chose.

Or…

You can go to them once more. You can reach out, risking rejection once more, but it will be no small risk. Though the first pursuit was in a garden paradise, this second pursuit will be in a world of sin and agony and injustice, the kind of world that invents wooden crosses and crowns of thorns.

It is the riskiest of plans that God chose.

And that is the meaning of Christmas. When we chose our own path, one of darkness and brokenness, God was so committed to his relationship with us that he chose that path too. He reaches out to us, not only in a comfortable paradise but also in a world of hellish evil.

El Shaddai, God Almighty, preferred to be Immanuel, God with us. In temptation, we went our own way. In love he came for us. He is wonderful, isn’t He?

Merry Christmas.

 

Five Unoriginal Lessons from My First Year Leading a New Church

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Five Unoriginal Lessons from My First Year Leading a New Church

No Comments 07 December 2011

 

Whenever a church planter/leader’s blog goes silent for a while, you can bet that things are either going really well or really poorly. In this case, thankfully, my unintended blogging break is evidence of things going really, really well.

Now, to get the ball rolling again, I’d like to share some of the lessons God’s taught us since ClearView Church launched. I wish I could say they’re original, never-before-thought nuggets of theological brilliance. Alas, they’re not. Maybe next year I’ll come up with something catchier – The Unicorn Principle, perhaps???

1. There are seasons.
Remember when you were a kid and you’d hit a growth spurt? You’d be the same height for a while, and then all of a sudden your shoe size would jump, then your arms and legs would seem to grow independent of the rest of your body, and then – and only then – the rest of your body would seem to clue in, stretching and filling out accordingly.

Growing isn’t smooth and it rarely seems coordinated, though of course it is. That’s how it is with growing a young church too. A more congenial metaphor is the idea that there are different seasons of growth. One week there aren’t any babies in the nursery. The next week there are 6. You can’t predict it, but you try your best to be ready in anticipation.

We’ve been through a season where only young singles seemed to be finding us. Then a season where no one was finding us. Then a season where families with kids, etc., etc., etc.

There are seasons where everyone who comes your way needs help, and you wonder if you can serve that many needs. And there are seasons where everyone who comes is looking to help, and you wonder if you’ve got enough spots for everyone to serve. It’s funny. The key is to remember that a season is only a season – enjoy it or survive it because tomorrow could be different.

2. Risk is a good thing.
Starting from scratch, there’s no alternative but to risk. So we’re trying to make it part of our DNA that we stay risky, that we lean toward faith, not sight.

Has everything we’ve tried been a homerun? No. But a lot have been, and the lesson in that is that not all mistakes are created equal. It’s far better to swing and miss than to not swing at all. (Unless your church thinks faith is overrated.)

This personal lesson led to the teaching series “Hey Buddy, It’s Green!”

3. Choose health over growth.
Growth is a result of health. If you’re pressuring folks into roles of service or leadership because you need to fill those roles in order to grow, you’re actually limiting, not facilitating, growth. Ministries, programs, and groups are helpful only if they’re venues of health. More than once we’ve slowed down or scaled back to make sure that those leading in a given area were doing so out of a place of spiritual health. Church members should think of their involvements as joys, not obligations.

4. You’re only as good as your relationships.
I don’t have anything profound to say here. It’s just true. You need good relationships among leaders, among church members, with guests, within small groups, with neighbors, with unchurched folks, and with other churches, non-profits and community groups.

5. God is good.
Something that’s often repeated in Scripture and around ClearView is this: “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. His love endures forever.”

I’m so grateful that in this first year, I’ve seen God’s goodness again and again. The more you see it, believe it, and hang on to it, the more you’ll trust, the more you’ll smile, and the more you’ll lean into relationships. This sounds lofty and nebulous, I know, but we’ve come to discover that it’s as practical as it gets.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve only got a year to figure out what unicorns have to do with church leadership.

 

ClearView: A By-The-Numbers Glimpse

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ClearView: A By-The-Numbers Glimpse

1 Comment 02 November 2011

 

I owe all of you an update on ClearView. We recently celebrated ONE, the first anniversary of our launch. After deciding to call the event ONE, we thought, “Why not use numbers to tell the story?”

Sometimes churches seem scared to talk about numbers, like numbers are inherently unspiritual. I would just point out that the Bible isn’t nearly as timid about numbers. It tells us that there is “one God and Father of all” (Eph 4:6) and that “about three thousand were added” to the church in Acts 2. So while it’s true that not all of what God is doing can be quantified, some of it can be. And it should be!

So with the understanding that it is God “who makes things grow” (1 Cor 3:7), here’s a by the numbers glimpse of what God has done in the first year of ClearView Church.

 

122 - Launch Day Attendance (Oct 2010)

We asked each of our 40 core-team members to invite two people because we knew we had room for 120 chairs. This is what happened.

 

125 – Friends’ Day Attendance (Jan 2011)

We asked everyone to try and top Launch Day. This is what happened.

 

623 Loads of Laundry

One of our home groups decided to begin Laundry Love, a ministry where folks show up once a month at laundromats and offer to provide quarters and soap. You wouldn’t believe the friendships being formed. In the first 5 months, we’ve washed and dried 623 loads of laundry for 165 families. Go to facebook.com/laundrylove to find out more or get involved.

 

6 First-Time Commitments to Christ

We’ve been privileged to walk with 6 people as they made a first-time commitment to Christ. We’ve also seen dozens of others make next-step commitments in their relationship with Jesus.

 

1000 Donuts Eaten

We provide donuts, coffee, and other delicious things before and after our Sunday gatherings. No one add up the calories, okay?

 

$3000 to the Penny.

This summer, after one of our young adults returned from a 6-month engineering project in Africa, we committed to raise $3,000 over a 3 week period to construct a clean water well that would complement that engineering work. After just 2 weeks, the total given was exactly $3,000. Coincidence? We think not.

 

250 First-Time Guests

We believe that what matters most to God is relationships (Matt 22:34-40). So, we’re thrilled to have met 250 new friends through our Sunday gatherings during year one.

 

We first compiled these numbers, and many others, for a book we distributed during our ONE celebration. (And I’d be happy to send one your way if you like!) I wanted to share some of them here because the prayers and support of those who read this blog have meant the world to me. Thank you for sharing this God-sized adventure with me and with all of the ClearView family! May we always remember that behind all the numbers there is ONE.

 

Remembering the Step We Took: ClearView Turns One!

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Remembering the Step We Took: ClearView Turns One!

1 Comment 21 October 2011

 

Remember the detail in the story of the Israelites crossing the Jordan River that the priests carrying the ark of the covenant had to step into the river? They couldn’t just walk up to the edge of the river. They had to get their feet wet (and risk looking mighty foolish) before God would do the rest, cutting off the flow of the river to create a clear path.

Flashback a generation. When Moses was leading the Exodus, he didn’t have to get his feet wet! All he had to do was raise his staff and the waters of the Red Sea parted ahead of him.

Now, back to the Jordan and the priests with wet feet: What do you think they felt taking that first step? They know, of course, that God could have dried up the river a mile and a half ahead of them if He wanted to, but instead, He said this,

“When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river.”

Sometimes, like in the Exodus, God parts the waters before you. Other times God says, “You go first. Then I’ll show you what I can do.”

Another detail to notice: the Bible tell us that “the Jordan is at flood stage.” Why does it have to be at flood stage? God understands the water cycle. They’ve been waiting 40 years! Surely he could have timed this better, right?

Yet here they are, taking a step into a river that has never seemed so big.

 

Ever have one of those “wet feet” moments? A moment where you know God is with you but it’s still terrifying to take that decisive step?

For me, it was launching ClearView Church. One year ago (how time flies!) we stepped into the water. And since then? God has indeed shown us what He can do.

There’s so much from this first year that I want to share with you. I’m planning posts on the milestones we’ve reached, the ones we’re eyeing currently, and the lessons we’re learning along the way. But I want to hold off on those until after I have a chance to share some at our ONE celebration this weekend.

For now, let me just say two things

First, if it’s even remotely possible, please come worship with us this Sunday. (YMCA Camp Forbing at 10 a.m.) It’s going to be an amazing celebration of God’s goodness among us. I am so excited to share what God has done through ClearView this first year and anticipate what He’ll do in year two. If this is the first time you’ve visited, please read this open letter I wrote before Launch Day a year ago. It still expresses the community God has called us to be.

Second, the next time you come to a “wet feet” moment, go for it. Faith is more than just intellectual belief. It’s an active trust that God is present, active, and gracious. It’s about taking steps, one at a time, only to discover that you’ve journeyed farther with God than you ever imagined you would.

You go first. God won’t leave you wondering what He can do for long.

 

God Is In the Clear

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God Is In the Clear

No Comments 20 July 2011

 

This week my blog turns a year old. (That’s seven dog-years and about a million internet-years). Guess it’s time to tell you why it’s called God in the Clear.

 

A few years ago I read a book that begins this way: “Imagine God thinking about you. What do you assume God feels when you come to mind?”

Recent studies have confirmed that we are just as likely to imagine a god filled with anger and disappointment as one filled with love and joy.

Let’s push further still. Call to mind your biggest screw-ups: times you’ve disappointed others and yourself, times you’ve acted and reacted in ways you just can’t believe, times when you’ve let sin claim large territories of your heart.

With all of your weaknesses, addictions, and flaws called to mind, picture God once more. How in the world will He react to people with the capacity for sin and betrayal like us? We are his children, sure, but we are also train-wrecks. “Surely, there’s a limit to his love,” we begin to think, “a breaking point for his patience. And if so, surely, I’ve reached it.”

The first time we (and I use we in a loose sense) reached this “breaking point” was Genesis 3. Adam and Eve have surrendered to temptation, beginning (as it always does) with the acceptance of a less-than-stellar conception of God. In a sudden wave of awareness, they can think of nothing but their sin and shame (nakedness).

Their hearts, for the first time, know a reality other than the love of God. They now know fear, suspicion, regret, and they know them intimately. They scramble to assemble a cover for their nakedness – which was the ancients’ beautiful way of expressing our intense desire to be able to fix our own brokenness – but, alas, it is completely, ridiculously inadequate.

At that exact moment, they hear God walking toward them.

What a curious time for God to show up.

Adam and Eve (i.e. humanity) hide. Besides the “I can take care of this myself!” reaction, this is the other devastating reaction we have to our own sins. We shrink. We look for the darkened corner. We get out of the clear.

But not God. Where is He at the precise moment his children need him most? Where is He when they’ve done their worst, when they’ve painted black where he created white? Where is He when they (we) are utterly convinced He’ll want nothing more to do with them?

God is in the clear. Looking for his children. Calling out their name.

Can you hear him? “Where are you?” He asks. It is, as the ancients told the story at least, the first question God ever asked. Until this moment, he has spoken decisively, using his words to shape the world. Now, he pauses and waits for our reply.

His presence in the midst of our sins, his question in the midst of our confusion – They compel us to come out of hiding. They convince us that our distorted view of God was exactly that. They let us know, from the beginning, that there is nothing we can do to ever make him be anything other than love.

God is in the clear.

Are there consequences to our sin? Absolutely. Abandonment? Never.

God’s not hiding, not recoiling from our brokenness. No, he’s coming for us.

One day that even meant putting on flesh and walking among us (again). Nowhere do we see God’s heart more clearly than on the cross, but He’s been revealing it to us ever since He stood in the clear.

 

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C.S. Lewis on God and Happiness

No Comments 05 July 2011

From Mere Christianity:

 

God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way . . . God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.

 

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Furious Love. Crazy Love.

No Comments 22 April 2011

G. K. Chesterton, in speaking of the intensity of God’s desire for a relationship with us, used the phrase, “the furious love of God.” Brennan Manning, who often repeats that line, also quotes a French phrase, “L’amour de Dieu est folie!” meaning, “The love of God is folly!” Most recently, Francis Chan’s wildly popular writing debut was titled, simply, “Crazy Love.”

Today is Friday, the one often called “Good Friday.” It is the day associated with Jesus’ willing surrender of his life for us. Whatever you call a love like that, the fact remains, it does not make sense.

Romans 5 talks about how stingy we can be with our love. For example, we might be willing to die for someone…if we had time to really weigh it out (How good of a person are we talking about? How well do I know them? Etc.) The point behind the text is that we are rational creatures, weighing out our decisions in terms of cost versus benefit.

But you can’t apply cost/benefit analysis to the cross. God demonstrated his love for us by sending his son to die while we were still sinners. John, in one of his letters, poses a question appropriate in light of such a fact:

How great is the love that the Father has lavished on us?

It’s a great question, isn’t it? How great is God’s love? What was he willing to spend? When he sent Jesus, what did it cost him? What did he think we (the sinners) were worth?

In 1934, the winner of the first world-wide yo-yo contest, Harvey Lowe, insured his hands against injury for $150,000. I guess yo-yo-ing was like being in the X-Games back then!

What were Jesus’ hands worth? If you were to insure them, what would their estimated value be? His hands touched the untouchable. They lifted the lame to their feet, brought the outcasts back into community, and healed the sick. What price would you put, just on his hands?

Silent movie-star Ben Turpin was famous for his crossed-eyes and had them insured for $20,000.

What worth would you assign to Jesus’ eyes? His eyes were always full of compassion and mercy. They managed to spot just the right person in every crowd. What would they have been worth?

Finally, Bruce Springsteen has insured his voice for $6 million. Which raises the question, “If something terrible were to happen to Bruce Springsteen’s voice, how would we know?”

What about Jesus’ voice? Think of all the words he spoke: words of wisdom, power, forgiveness, and life.

We do not know what it cost God Almighty to give up his son. When Jesus laid down his life, as a willing sacrifice, he was laying down eyes, ears, hands, feet, a mind, a spirit, and a heart like the world had never known before.

We can have confidence of this: we will never overestimate the love of God.

In the language of Philippians 2, the one who was equal to God became nothing and died on a cross for us. This is not a stingy sacrifice motivated by a God who wants to do just enough to bring us home.

This is an over-the-top, radical, unmistakably costly, extravagant act of love, sufficient not just to save us from our sins but to change our hearts forever. Seeing this sacrifice, we know there is no more powerful force in all the universe than the love of God – nothing that could separate us from God, nothing that could claim the final word again, nothing that could ever mean so much.

Call it folly. Call it crazy. Call it furious. For such is the love of God.

Rob Bell on Suffering and Creativity

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Rob Bell on Suffering and Creativity

2 Comments 15 February 2011

On the topic of God and suffering*, there are two extremes to avoid.

The first is the view that sees God as the actor behind every disaster and loss. Essentially, when things go bad, it’s because God is sending us a message. An example of this view would be those who said Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment on the city of New Orleans.

The other extreme is the view that sees God as completely detached from what happens here on earth. God is the clock-maker who wound up the universe but has since stepped out to lunch. Essentially, when things go bad, there’s no point asking why. God’s just not involved.

In between those two extremes, there’s room for some really fruitful thought and discussion. Essentially, the middle ground positions understand God to be in a genuine relationship with his world, because of which his involvement in times of pain and disaster defies either of the simplistic explanations.

Today’s link is a recent contribution Rob Bell wrote for CNN. It’s a personal reflection on the strange connection between suffering and creativity (something about which he’s also written a book, now in paperback). It’s also a great example of the middle road, a person trusting that God is neither vindictive nor absent when pain becomes personal.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

*The academic term for this is theodicy. If you’d like to kill the conversation at an otherwise pleasant get-together, this vocabulary word will totally do the trick.

About

John Hawkins There’s nothing better than seeing what God can do with a human life. That’s why I’m the lead minister for the new ClearView Church in Shreveport, Louisiana, and that’s what this blog is about. Welcome, friend.

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