Our church this past Sunday started a series based upon the book by Robert Schnase entitled The Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations. In conjunction with the sermon series our Sunday morning class is studying through the five practices that Schnase talks about as well. The topic for this past Sunday was "Radical Hospitality". Over the next few weeks you will see posts talking about these five different practices as we discuss them in class. Feel free to share your thoughts, questions or comments as we go.
Schnase talks about hospitality as a distinguishing mark of a disciple of Christ. It would be hard to deny the outward focus of Jesus' hospitality. You don't have to look far to see example after example of this throughout the Gospels. My favorite story of this is when Jesus interacts with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-26), what an incredible picture of hospitality.
"Jesus' example of hospitality demands an unceasingly invitational posture that we carry with us into our world of work and leisure and into our practice of neighborliness and community service" (Schnase, 14). As a Christian, we are required to be hospitable but never as an end in itself. Hospitality is simply a means by which we might help connect people to the person of Jesus. See, it's by being hospitable that helps others see that you and I are not only approachable but actually care about them. This gives us the opportunity to build relationships, relationships which can lead people to begin a relationship with Christ.
This book is targeting congregations and suggesting five different things they might practice in order to be fruitful. What I am hoping to do is make these five practices extremely personal. My thought behind this is that if you and I practice these things as individuals, for example when we are hospitable, our churches can't help but be places of hospitality because it's a part of who we are. We have got to help people see that they are not in this alone. With all of the mess so many of us must deal with in life, imagine how much of a difference it can make for someone when they realize there is a community waiting to invite them in.
September 29, 2009
September 25, 2009
This is the final post in "The Beatitudes" series.
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God." (Matthew 5:9)
The thought of being a "peacemaker" (or a "repairer of the breaches") is both exciting and humbling to me. Exciting because it means that I can really make a difference by the way I treat others and humbling because at times it seems nearly impossible to think that I could ever bring about peace. Chances are not likely that I will bring about world peace but that doesn't mean I can't bring about peace in the little world that I live in. Paul talks about this in Romans 12:16-18 and even says, "as far as it depends on you" which means that though I can't control other people, I can control what I do when it comes to making peace.
In what ways can you bring about peace in your world? Who do you need to repair the breach with?
"Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:10)
The first thing we need to take note of is that the persecution comes "because of righteousness" not because we are jerks, judgmental, or condemning. The reason for the persecution is critically important. This is persecution that comes as a result of trying to follow Jesus, nothing more and nothing less. Like when following Christ goes against the grain of society, culture or even our family and friends and we catch flack for it. Jesus told us it would be like this because it was like that for Him and to think that He was persecuted but we won't be is naive. It is hard to follow Jesus, to believe otherwise is misguided but blessed are those who continue to try even when it hurts for the gain is great.
September 23, 2009
Our culture provides us with so many ways of dealing with stuff before we end up leaning on God. It's as if society wants to keep us from realizing our desperate need for God and make fools of us by tricking us into thinking that we can somehow take care of things on our own.
Take the whole concept of "self help" for example. I mean, if you really think about it, it doesn't even make sense. The idea that we can somehow help ourselves get out of the mess that we more than likely created in the first place but didn't help ourselves get out of before we realized we could "self help" ourselves out of is absurd.
Even when we look at the two words separately...
Self - What would ever make us think that we would have the ability to get ourselves out of certain situations, habits, patterns, etc.? We've already seen what happens when it depends on us, we end up in some sort of messy situation, habit, pattern, etc. When left to our own devices, we're only going to experience despair, frustration and sorrow.
Help - Isn't the very notion of 'help' getting assistance from somewhere or someone else other than ourselves? Otherwise we wouldn't need 'help' in the first place. If we truly think we can help ourselves than we're only going to experience disappointment, confusion and pain.
I don't think it's until we realize that we can't make it on our own, that the only thing we really have to fall back on is the strength and grace that God provides, that we'll begin to experience the kind of help that will make any sort of difference in our lives.
September 22, 2009
Pearl Jam just released their ninth studio album entitled "Backspacer". As some of you might know, I am a fairly big fan of PJ and have seen them live a total of six times (so far), the most recent in Chicago a few weeks ago with my brother (@JLipan). Despite all of this, I would like to think my review of their most recent effort will be fairly objective but I guess you can be the judge of that.
The first few tracks on the album come with a distinctively upbeat feel to them with a hint of punk which seem to echo band frontman Eddie Vedder's lyrics, "I'm gonna shake this thing, I wanna shake this pain before I retire" from the first track Gonna See My Friend. This followed by Got Some and The Fixer, both of which I got to see performed live at their Chicago show. The energy is high right out of the gate and the music is in your face without being obnoxious.
The remaining tracks on this album sustain the level of energy but seem to really showcase Vedder's vocals, not unlike his solo work for the soundtrack "Into The Wild". This sounds especially true on the tracks Just Breathe, Amongst The Waves, Unthought Known and Speed Of Sound. These tracks are intermixed with songs like Supersonic and Force Of Nature which lean back to the punk/rock side of things.
Overall I have really enjoyed the album, apart from the album cover art. I was honestly not expecting to like this album very much but am finding the more I listen to it, the more I really like it as a whole. Of course there are some songs I like much more than others but there isn't one on "Backspacer" that I particularly don't like, which is cool. I think it really has "play all the way through" value. I'm having a hard time deciding whether Just Breathe, Amongst The Waves or Speed Of Sound is my favorite track on the album so feel free to help me out by giving this album a listen. I would recommend checking it out.
September 20, 2009
"Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy." (Matthew 5:7)
Like forgiveness, mercy is one of those things that if we're honest, we want and even expect people to show us unconditionally but then when it comes to us showing mercy to others, we like to hold onto it like we have the power to give or take. It becomes pretty clear throughout scripture that if we want to be shown mercy, showing mercy to others would definitely be in our favor. James 2:12-16, 1 John 3:16-18, Matthew 6:14.
I think the James passage gives an interesting perspective on showing mercy. So, what opportunities do you have to show someone mercy? Family, friends, co-worker, neighbor, stranger...? If you expect to receive mercy, can people expect to receive mercy from you?
"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God." (Matthew 5:8)
First, I've got to ask what "pure in heart" means to you? Is it even possible? In the discussion about this Beatitude in our Sunday morning class someone brought up the thought of being "of one substance, not a mixture or contaminated." A pretty powerful description if you think about being one in will, purpose and desire with Christ and not allowing ourselves to be "contaminated" by other things.
Feel free to share any thoughts, questions or comments you might have on "Beatitudes Part 4".
September 15, 2009
"Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth." (Matthew 5:5)
Webster's Dictionary defines meek as: "1. enduring injury with patience and without resentment; 2. deficient in spirit and courage; 3. not violent or strong". None of these sound particularly attractive. The word that is used in the Greek is 'praus' which is a "mildness of disposition" or "gentleness of spirit", which sounds much better than a deficiency of spirit if you ask me.
What does meek look like to you? The idea of being meek flies right in the face of current culture and yet it seems like there might be some wisdom in Jesus' idea of having a gentle spirit. How often have you and I wished that some of the people we have encountered had treated us with a gentle spirit? How many times have you and I had the opportunity to treat others with gentleness but instead acted selfishly one way or another?
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." (Matthew 5:6)
While I'm on the Greek kick...hunger = 'peinao' as a metaphor means "to seek with eager desire" and thirst = 'dipsao' figuratively means "those who painfully feel their want of, and eagerly long for, those things by which the soul is refreshed, supported, strengthened."
I can't help but look at these definitions and think to myself if I am really seeking with eager desire those things that will refresh and support my soul. I believe that it is only Jesus that can refresh and support my soul and so I must make it a point to desire Him. Do you and I have such a thirst for righteousness that nothing will quench it apart from spending time in God's Word, on our knees in prayer and in community with the Body as we strive to be the hands and feet of Christ to a world that is feeding its appetite with things that will only make it sick?
Jesus tells us that if we seek, we'll find (Luke 11:9-10)...so for the sake of those we encounter we must continue to seek Him and nothing less.
September 11, 2009
I was on my way in this morning to play basketball with some guys (at 6am! if you know me, you should be impressed by that...i'm just sayin') and saw a sign that was hanging off one of the overpasses on I-69 that read, "All gave some, some gave all." with the date 9/11/01 in the middle.
I'm wondering now 8yrs later, how we have changed as Christians and as the Church. Like other times of crisis in our lives did we fall on our faces before God seeking His presence and guidance only to have Him see us through so we could get back to "our" lives? The Church was reminded of its relevancy by people who were in need and despair. The need and despair still remains, does the relevancy of how we meet those needs and calm the despair?
I would be curious to hear about how the events of exactly 8yrs ago from this morning impacted your faith. Are there stories of how your faith was shaken or strengthened as a result? Did it cause you to have feelings of doubt and despair? Or was your faith solidified because you were able to see God's presence through it all? I think it could be meaningful and helpful for others to hear how the tragic events of 9/11/01 have impacted your faith, possibly even still today 8yrs later. Thanks for sharing!
September 8, 2009
Paul tells us in his letter to the Ephesians to “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” What if we rethink:forgiveness in a way that sees it as something to receive and give. Have you ever taken a moment to think about what it really means to forgive “just as in Christ God forgave you”?
Forgiveness is such an interesting thing. On the one hand we want and need it for ourselves and on the other we can find ourselves not wanting to forgive someone for the hurt they have caused us. When I rethink:forgiveness in light of the forgiveness I have been given in Christ, I am struck by the responsibility I have to forgive those who have hurt me. Not only that but as I read Jesus’ words in John’s gospel, “If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (20:23) I realize the weight of deciding to forgive or not to forgive. Jesus also said, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matt. 6:14-15).
You and I have the power to forgive because we have been forgiven, so why don’t we more often? If I hear Jesus’ words correctly, we’ve got to forgive if we want to be forgiven. We have got to rethink:forgiveness to the point of seeing that we have no place to condemn and instead are called to forgive.
To forgive, really forgive, means convincing ourselves deep down that we merited the wrong done to us. What is more, it is good to suffer in silence. Jesus taught that the beatitude is reserved for those who are persecuted for the sake of justice.
~From Letters from the Desert by Carlo Carretto
I'm not sure how many years my friends and I have been doing this fantasy football league but I know it started while we were still at TU (Taylor University), which has been almost 10yrs now for some of us. We have 10 teams in our league and got together 2 weeks ago to do our annual live draft. I won the league last year for the first time and am hoping to repeat with the 2nd pick overall in this year's draft. We play that a team starts 1 QB, 1 RB, 2 WR, 1 RB/WR, 1 TE, 1 D/ST, 1 K each week.
Here's the team I drafted by position with the one's I'm leaning toward starting listed first. Let me know what you think.
QB - Peyton Manning, Ind
QB - Carson Palmer, Cin
RB - Michael Turner, Atl
RB - Thomas Jones, NYJ
RB - Le'Ron McClain, Bal
RB - Earnest Graham, TB
WR - Anquan Boldin, Ari
WR - Eddie Royal, Den
WR - Kevin Walter, Hou
WR - Deion Branch, Sea
WR - Roy E. Williams, Dal
TE - Owen Daniels, Hou
TE - Zach Miller, Oak
D/ST - Vikings
D/ST - Cowboys
K - Rob Bironas, Ten
September 3, 2009
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:3)
The consensus of our class last Sunday was that "poor in spirit" was another way of talking about humility. This could be a humility that realizes one's need and dependency on God for everything, including admittance into His kingdom but it could also be a humility that forces us to look outside ourselves and be willing to serve others. Or maybe both? It does seem that in order to experience the "kingdom of heaven" I must come to the conclusion that life is not about me.
Or maybe I'm missing it altogether and Jesus is simply saying that despite how incredibly lacking my spirit is, God demonstrates His mercy, love, forgiveness, grace, etc. by allowing me, even me, the chance to enter into His kingdom.
"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." (Matthew 5:4)
Two thoughts emerged around this verse, one being that when we realize our dependency on God because of our sinful nature we begin to mourn over the sin in our lives. The other had more to do with the idea that God was going to make things fair (as best as we can understand "fair") for those who's lives have not been. Another way of saying this might be to say that those who have been struggling to get by, to make ends meet, you have felt alone, abandoned and abused their whole lives will find comfort from the One who called the Prince of Peace.
Any thoughts, questions or comments you have on either of these two Beatitudes? Feel free to share them with us.
race from race,
class from class;
and lays waste to earth;
homeless and the refugee;
the bodies of men and women;
ourselves and not in God;
~Prayer at the altar of Coventry Cathedral
September 1, 2009
I've been thinking about this for a while, saw a friend do this on his blog and with social media being all the craze I thought it could be interesting to take this opportunity to connect with you. Whether you are a frequent reader of A Journeyman's Catalog or just passing through, it could be a chance to connect.
Feel free to hit me up on:
Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
If you happen to have a blog of your own, I would love the chance to check it out. Leave a comment with your blog's address or any other ways we might be able to connect with you.
I know that the thought, idea or even the word “evangelism” can freak people out, that’s why I’m suggesting we need to rethink:evangelism. If evangelism is something missionaries do in a far off land amongst an indigenous people group OR the crazy guy on the corner that yells at you when you walk by then take a moment to rethink it.
The idea behind evangelism is simply to proclaim some good news and after we took some time to rethink: Church and rethink: Grace we quickly realized we have some good news to share with people. When we look at the difference Jesus and His grace has made in our own lives and can make in the lives of others, we have to share this good news. This is good news for people who are broken, lonely, wounded, guilty, afraid, questioning, doubting or confused. This is news for all of us to share. News we must share.
So many of us think to ourselves that we are not good at evangelism, that we don’t know what to say or when to say it. What if we rethink:evangelism not in terms of the words we use but rather in the way we live our lives? The things we do, the way we interact with people, our actions and reactions, these become the way in which we proclaim the good news of Jesus. The greatest evangelism tool you have is your own life and the ways in which Jesus has changed you. Allow the transformation Jesus’ grace has brought about in your life speak to the transformation it can bring to the lives of others.
“Preach the Gospel always, if necessary use words.”
~Saint Francis of Assisi