November 21, 2011


I've been asked to be part of the Common English Bible blog tour over the next 3 months entitled "Thank You - Come Again - I Promise." With that being said, I used the CEB in my sermon this past Sunday for the first time. I taught from Luke 12:35-40 and it seemed to go over well, which is interesting considering the use of "Human One." Here is an explanation of the CEB's use of this phrase in place of "Son of Man."

If you want to learn more about the Common English Bible translation, be sure to check out their site and see why it might be a meaningful translation for you. If you have any thoughts on the translation let us know.

November 14, 2011

Is NOT tithing realistic?

My Twitter friend @PeteThePlanner just dropped a great post on tithing that you should check out here before reading some of my thoughts below.


Tithing can be such a touchy subject, mostly because it deals with our money. Generally, we like our money and work hard to get it. We also don't typically like other people telling us how to spend our money let alone spend it. Tithing is hard and can seem overwhelming, as Pete mentioned but I wonder, as a Christian, is it realistic not to tithe?

Jesus talks about money a lot but he doesn't talk about tithing specifically much at all. He calls the Pharisees out for focusing on the percentage but neglecting the people. Jesus says that's not cool.

One of the fascinating things to me about Jesus is his ability to address issues and make them heart issues, which he does with money. When he says things like, "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:19-21) and later, "we can't serve two masters," (Matthew 6:24) he's making our pocketbook a matter of the heart. I don't think the focus is as much on a percentage as it is a heart willing to serve, which means some of us may be called to give more than 10% and for others the sacrifice might be less. That's what makes it such an important heart issue.

Giving (tithing) to the Church is a way to establish priorities, grow in faith, and be used by God. It is a practical way to live out our discipleship, which I'm not sure is real without it.

What do you think? Feel free to add your questions or thoughts to the conversation. I look forward to hearing from you.

November 2, 2011

Take Control

I just recently had a conversation w/my friend @sssemester on Twitter about the topic of control. Are you someone that has to be in control? How do you deal with things that are beyond your control?

This idea of control got me thinking about its relationship to faith and trust. Are faith and trust lacking when control becomes an issue for us? Perhaps there is no relationship at all. What do you think?

October 13, 2011

Hoarding Grace

Grace is confusing, amazing, free but not without cost, life-changing, outward focused, messy, borderline illogical, _________ (fill in the blank), etc.

Webster defines grace (n.) as: a : unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification b : a virtue coming from God c : a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine grace. I would describe it as "unmerited favor." 

A small phrase from Jesus in Matthew 10 caught my attention, "Freely you have received; freely give." This sounds like grace becoming a verb.

Do we hoard grace for ourselves? It seems so easy for us to desire grace (what we don't deserve) for ourselves and justice (what they deserve) for others. If it were not for the grace we have freely received, the justice we deserve would destroy us.

Receive grace, receive life.
Give grace, give life.

October 11, 2011

Giving at a Distance

In my area there are a couple of Fall fund drives that are taking place right now on the radio and I started to wonder...

How often do we invest in our various charitable organizations so we don't have to invest ourselves into the lives of others? Even through our giving we can keep the sick, the lonely, the broken, the poor at a safe distance.

October 5, 2011

A Magic Bullet?

You don't have to look far before reading something about the need, desire, or drive to get more young adults in church. As a young pastor in the UMC, I recognize the need as obvious yet I began to wonder, do we view the young adult demographic as some sort of magic bullet that will kill this downward trend the church finds itself in?

Speaking as a young adult, I believe we need to target my demographic because many of "us" are looking for a faith community to call home. My fear is we end up going to another extreme focusing on one particular demographic at the expense of the others.

How are we being intentional about engaging the Boomers? More and more I see the gap widening between students/young adults and the grandmas and grandpas. Where are the 40-55 year olds? It seems that many of them are becoming disengaged as they struggle with either being too young or too old, and we have struggled to figure out how to bridge that gap.

It seems that focusing on a specific "magic bullet" may not be the best way to create disciples, but perhaps I'm wrong. What do you think?

September 22, 2011

Can You Hear Me Now?

I read this quote the other day

We listen foremost in order to hear the other into speech...
Lately I've been trying it, listening others into talking. Not only have individuals begun to talk but they open up to the point of truly sharing. It has been fascinating. Perhaps you and I could be a little quicker to listen and a lot slower to speak?

September 20, 2011

Well Hello There

I know, I know, it's been awhile since I've dropped a post. Sorry about that. "Blogger's Guilt" (not sure if that is a real term, if not, I got dibs) has certainly been gnawing at me. The past month has been jam-packed with lots of life, school, and ministry making it difficult to blog regularly. So, here's what I'm thinking...

1. Connect with me on Twitter if you haven't already. It's quick, easy and I'm on it just about all the time. You can find me at @mattlipan.

2. I'm going to blog more but for the next couple months I anticipate that my posts will be fairly short and sweet. Which could be pretty cool and possibly even encourage you to engage more often and even connect with each other. That could actually be pretty fun, so maybe it's worth a shot?

Having said all that, let me know if you're still out there and we'll connect soon!

August 15, 2011

Bottom of the 9th

Yesterday was my 9yr anniversary (which is sort of a long time) of being on staff at Castleton UMC here in Indianapolis so I thought I would take a quick look back.

In my 9yrs at the church, God has allowed me to:

-move my office at least 5x
-lead mission trips to: Dallas, TX; New York, NY (2x); Obion, TN; Frakes, KY (4x); Marion, VA; Hayesville, NC; Baldwin, LA; Grand Rapids, MI; Quito, Ecuador (5x); San Andres, Guatemala
-see at least 8 individuals pursue full-time ministry
-work under 1 senior pastor the entire time
-be a part of becoming a multi-site church and lead the Sunrise Campus (our 2nd site)
-hold 3 different positions on staff: Director of Student Ministries, Director of Young Adult Ministries, Pastor of Family Ministries & Sunrise Campus (associate pastor under appointment since Nov. '08)
-witness the building of a new sanctuary
-witness our church reach the community in countless ways
-go from being "undecided" about the UMC to being "in process"
-start and nearly complete my Master of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary (2012 graduation)
-launch a new Saturday evening contemporary service called "Renovate"
-say, "I'm sorry" and "my bad" plenty of times
-be blessed to be able to say "thanks" quite a bit as well
-change, and hopefully mature in my ministry and thank CUMC for putting up with me as I continue to grow

It's crazy to think how long 9yrs is and how fast they went by. I am excited to see what God has in store for this 10th year of ministry and beyond. Thanks for joining me as we journey together.

July 23, 2011

Looking In to Reach Out: Inside Looking Out

Part 4 of my "Looking In to Reach Out" sermon series.

"Looking In to Reach Out: Inside Looking Out"

"Setting the Table" - Part 1
"1st Time Eyes" - Part 2
"Messengers" - Part 3

Recently Google released something called Google+, which some have called “Google’s version of Facebook." Inside Google+ individuals have the ability to place people in various circles depending on the nature of the relationship.

Think of the various relationship circles you have and how they were formed. Some are the result of time, expertise, blood (family), commitments, etc. and we do things to protect and maintain these circles don't we? Not unlike the religious leaders of Jesus’ day...

Sometimes when I read the Bible, I end up with more questions than answers and sometimes when I write a sermon, I find myself asking lots of questions. This is one of those times. Please feel free to join the conversation here or at

Luke 11:37-46

Do we get caught up in the "hoops?"
-The Pharisees created "hoops" people had to jump through to be considered religious. Is the Church guilty of the same thing?

What happens when people don’t know or follow the “rules?"
-The Pharisees made up rules people had to follow to be welcomed in the church. God's command to “keep the Sabbath holy” turned into: don’t walk more than a certain distance, don’t carry more than a certain weight, don’t tie a certain kind of knot...

Does our church only look welcoming/inviting from the outside?

Do we use our “perks” to invite in or keep out?

Do we create burdens or carry them?
-Are we making it easier or harder for others to connect with Jesus?

*Bring on the answers!

Looking In to Reach Out: Messengers

Part 3 of my "Looking In to Reach Out" sermon series.

"Looking In to Reach Out: Messengers"

“Setting the Table” – Part 1
“1st Time Eyes” – Part2

Think of all the ways you, text, Facebook, Twitter, instant message, email, face-to-face, etc. Now, think of all the messages you encounter on a daily basis and how many of them you simply ignore because they are not worth your time?

Acts 1:1-8

Know the message
-Luke clarifies the foundation of the message, Jesus is alive and believers are empowered by the Holy Spirit
-“many convincing proofs” = it was undeniable that Jesus was who he said he was and in fact had risen from the dead (vs. 3)
-The message is one of: victory over evil (Col. 2:15; 1 Peter 3:22), forgiveness and holiness for sinners (Rom. 3:21-26; Heb. 9:11-12; 10:10), participation in the Kingdom (Matt. 19:24-26; John 3:3), and salvation through repentance and trust in Christ (Matt. 4:17; John 14:6; Acts 8:12)
-Help people recognize the message you have to share is worth hearing

Be able to share the message
-1 Peter 3:15 tells us to “always be prepared" to explain our reason for hope
-People aren’t simply looking for answers, they are looking for authenticity
-Your story is your best bet

Find those who want/need to hear the message
-Matthew 28:16-20
-We can’t passively wait for people to come to us
-Start near, go far…like ripples in a pond (Jesus mentions Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria (hostile land), and then the ends of the earth). There are surely people you know who are just waiting to hear this message.

Looking In to Reach Out: 1st Time Eyes

Part 2 of my "Looking In to Reach Out" sermon series.

"Looking In to Reach Out: 1st Time Eyes"
John 9:1-12

Can you imagine what it would be like to see things for the very first time? My 7 month old is reminding me what that must have been like. Here we read a story of Jesus healing a man blind from birth, giving him the opportunity to see the world through "1st time eyes."

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to see the Church for the very first time? Imagine walking into your church and seeing the space and the people for the very first time...

The Story (a few things we can pull from the biblical story)
-The cause of the man's blindness is not the main focus
-Jesus heals physical needs as well as spiritual needs
-The man was physically blind as well as spiritually blind
-Jesus, as the Light of the world, is able to heal both physical and spiritual blindness

For Us (what some of this means for us today)
-We consistently have new visitors choosing to worship with us
-This means people are consistently seeing us & our church as something they have never seen or experienced before with "1st time eyes."
-People have baggage. The baggage people bring with them to church doesn’t matter because people have baggage, which includes you and me.
-Christ invites us to “bring sight to the blind” along with him. Not because we're anything special but because he is.
-Some people are responding to the need to be in church, and can't really explain it, so don't make them. Whatever reason brings people to church is second to the fact they are there and must be welcomed.

Looking In to Reach Out: Setting the Table

This is the first sermon in a series I have been preaching over the past few weeks. The purpose of the series is to spend some time taking a look inward as the Church in order that we might make a concerted effort to reach out in the Fall.

"Looking In to Reach Out: Setting the Table"

Most of us like being invited to parties, most of us like going to parties, and some of us even like hosting parties.

Think of the last time you entertained someone in your home…

And all of the things you did to prepare for your guests to come over…

Why did you do all of this?

We want to make sure people feel welcome, comfortable and at ease when they come over, right? If we don’t have things to accomplish this, we go and get it…food, drinks, furniture, etc.

Matthew 25:35-40

Preparation leads to hospitality
-Preparation provides us with something to give
-Preparation provides freedom

Inside and outside
-Hospitality on the street leads to hospitality in the home
-If I’m not nice to you ‘out in the world’ why would you want to come to my house for dinner?
-Christians must demonstrate hospitality outside the church if we hope to invite others in

We’ve all been there
-Don’t forget (Deut. 10:19)
-As disciples, hospitality happens without even recognizing it

July 1, 2011

The Theology of K-LOVE

I like music, sort of a lot. I especially like live music and going to shows. I also like to think I have a decent ear for good music and that is partly why I have never been a big fan of contemporary Christian music.

So, over the past few weeks I have been making a concerted effort to listen to more Christian music, which has meant a considerable amount of time with the nationally syndicated station known as K-LOVE (WKLU 101.9 FM in my area). Overall the music has been fine, at times I might even say good but my biggest struggle has been the seemingly shallow theological message that is being communicated.

I understand K-LOVE's message of being "positive and encouraging" but it seems as though this station, with its millions of listeners, has the potential (and arguably responsibility) to establish deeper theological roots. Of course individuals can find encouragement from the message of the Gospel but to fail to mention the call of discipleship to service, suffering, and sacrifice does not convey the whole message. Without a proper understanding of these components of a relationship with Christ, the message teeters on the 'prosperity gospel' cliff.

*If you or someone you know works for K-LOVE or has some connection with the station and believe I could help in any way or want to talk more, feel free to contact me.

June 29, 2011

Church Renewal

I was asked by my twitter friend Ben Simpson (@bsimpson) to share a guest post on his blog. Feel free to check it out and join the conversation. Hope to see you over there!

June 19, 2011

Thoughts from a Noob Dad

Happy Father's Day to all of the dads out there. This happens to be my 1st Father's Day as an actual father. Our son is now 6 1/2 months old, which makes me still very much a noob (newbie) but I thought I would share 3 perspectives I have gained since becoming a father.

Me as a father.
Becoming a dad has been, without a doubt, the most emotional thing that has ever happened to me. I use to look at other dads and think to myself, "I won't be like that, I'll be pretty chill as a dad." I think I'm still somewhat chill (though certainly not as much) but find myself having to "be chill" while wiping away tears looking at pictures or hearing a story about some child or dad on NPR.

My dad as a father.
I am beginning to see that parenting isn't easy. I am extremely grateful for my dad and the example he continues to be for me. Of course, he's not perfect but being a dad myself has given me a better appreciation of all the ways my dad has cared for me and made me realize there were plenty of times when I was punk. Thanks dad for putting up with me.

God as Father.
The amount of love I feel for my son is really sort of bizarre. One minute he wasn't here and the next he changed everything. There is absolutely nothing he has done in his short life to earn my love and yet... I am just now starting to catch a glimpse of the significance of God as Father. Unfortunately, I am not and will never be, a perfect father. Neither was or is my dad. One way or another we have or will fail to love our children perfectly but not God. God's ability and willingness to love us, His children, so perfectly leaves me humbled, grateful, and speechless.

Give thanks for your dad today. Know that if you can't count on your father, you can always count on the perfect Father.

I'm curious, what has your father or fatherhood taught you?

June 14, 2011

3 Proven Ways to Waste Your Time: Worry

A recent 3-part sermon series. This is part 1.

"3 Proven Ways to Waste Your Time: Worry"

How many of you would consider yourself to be a “worry wart”? How many of the things that cause you to worry are things you can’t actually do anything about?

Read Matthew 6:25-34. Notice that immediately preceding this passage Jesus tells us not to store up treasures on earth (6:19-24). There are a few things we can pull from Jesus' words teaching us not to worry...

Worrying is a waste (vs. 27)
-Worry does no good & changes nothing
Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it gets you nowhere.” ~Glenn Turner
-Worry as anti-faith; worry is the opposite of trusting God, which creates a lack of faith
-vs. 30: unwillingness or inability to trust God; faithless
I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.” ~Mark Twain
-Peter tells us to cast our anxieties on Him because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7)

Life consists of “more” (vs. 25)
-Things like food & clothing are not the end in themselves, life consists of “much more”
-The assumption that God’s people are more important to Him than the rest of His creation provides the basis for a parent/child type of trust
-Worry about tomorrow and sensible planning for tomorrow are not the same
-God provides food for the birds but He doesn’t drop it in their mouths
-The promise is for survival, not affluence
-We are reminded the life of a disciple is not a picnic

Look expecting to find (vs. 33)
-vs. 26: “look” in order to learn, not simply see
-Make it your priority to find
-Philippians 4:6-7 says we can know a peace that doesn't make sense
-God’s people should be different when it comes to dealing with worry

June 12, 2011


The 2011 Annual Conference of the Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church took place from 6/8-6/11 on the campus of Ball State University in Muncie, IN. There were nearly 2,000 lay and clergy members representing the roughly 1,187 UMC churches in the state that participated in the 4 day conference of meetings, worship sessions, voting, etc.

I had the opportunity to attend as a clergy member and thought I would share some of my experience with you.

-#inumconf11 was the Twitter hashtag used for the conference. You can see a list of the #inconf11 tweets here. I am a big fan of Twitter and was excited when our conference publications talked about it being used a source of sharing information and connecting with others, though I was disappointed to see the small number of us who actually used it.

-I thought Marcia McFee did a very nice job of providing practical ways to create and practice passionate worship. She reminded us to expect that God will show up in our worship and allow His Spirit to lead. I would have enjoyed hearing more of her teaching on worship.

-I believe there should be more "teaching" and provided opportunity for workshops or breakout groups. If it weren't for the connection I made with others via Twitter, it would have been easy to get lost in the crowd.

-We talk a lot about being a "connectional" church but I'm not sure I saw much of that outside of a few conference reports. Imagine what we could do if we didn't care who, or which church, got the credit.

-This was the 3rd Annual Conference I have been to and my most enjoyable so far. Not sure if it was because I knew what to expect or knew more people or maybe both but I found it to be alright.

-The "dashboard" for Vital Congregations was previewed in our clergy session. Roughly 72% (803) of our churches in Indiana have an average weekly worship attendance of 99 or less. I pray the average weekly worship number doesn't carry too much weight in defining vitality.

-There are a lot of churches within our conference that have a ton of potential, this makes the idea of revitalization really exciting to me. How are we intentionally bringing up leaders and providing them opportunities to make this happen?

-God is big and God is present. This provides all the hope needed to be about the work of creating disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world. This is the first time in over 30yrs that our conference has seen growth in membership and average weekly attendance, let's make sure we maintain this momentum by staying out of our own way and keeping our eyes focused on the Author and Perfecter of our faith.

Those are just a few of my thoughts. If you attended, what did you think? If you didn't, what do you think?

June 2, 2011

Growing Pains: Part II

Growing Pains is a 2-part blog series dealing with church growth within a smaller congregational setting. This is part 2, sorry it has taken so long to get posted.

Come One, Come All?
Something happens when your small church family experiences growth, new people show up and want to get involved. When new people get involved, things begin to change. It's not so much that the new people are wanting or trying to change anything, it simply happens because they are new and aren't familiar with "the way things have been."

People react to change in different ways, so do small churches. I am going to suggest a couple ways smaller congregations can react to growth and change: die, survive, or thrive.

Die: When a small congregation fights to maintain the various levels of membership, the new person feels not only unwelcome but incapable of finding ways to engage in the life of the church. This inevitably leads to frustration and confusion on the part of the new person, causing him or her to search for another church family. The congregation is left without new people or ideas and minus these things, the life of the congregation quickly (sometimes painfully slowly) fades away. Change is feared and avoided in a dying congregation.

Survive: This tends to be a more passive approach to maintaining membership levels. New people are allowed in just enough to keep them involved but only a few end up sticking around. It's not so much that the church is growing, it is simply replacing those who have left or passed away so that it continues to survive. Change is viewed with skepticism and needs to be controlled in a surviving congregation.

Thrive: When a congregation is willing to fully welcome, accept, and include new people, significant growth can occur. This requires all levels of membership to have open access, so much so that membership levels practically cease to exist. This is a church family that desires to see their family grow by bringing new people into the life of the church. A congregation like this recognizes the energy and ideas new people can bring to their church but doesn't stop at welcoming those individuals, they intentionally seek them out and look for ways to get them involved. Change is embraced but not forced, it is seen as necessary for growth in order to engage the lives of new people in a thriving congregation.

Have you witnessed a dying, surviving, or thriving church? What do you believe made the difference? Are there other ways growth impacts a congregation?

May 11, 2011

Growing Pains: Part I

Church growth is exciting as well as challenging. How members of the congregation deal with the addition of new people can be just as varied, especially if the church was smaller to begin with. Growing Pains will be a 2-part blog post discussing some of things around church growth as it specifically relates to smaller churches.

Members Only
Right or wrong, good or bad, one of the things that happens in smaller churches is the creation of a membership level system. Think of it as different levels of membership such as platinum, gold, and silver members each with its own responsibilities and privileges. Your platinum members are the ones who have been a part of the congregation from the beginning, or near it. They have seen it through the "ups" and stayed with it during its more recent "downs." The level of ownership with platinum members is extremely high, mostly because if they didn't make it happen, it didn't happen. Along with this comes a sense of entitlement which includes privileges such as having a set of church keys, knowledge of "how things work," etc.

Gold and silver members are similar but with less time invested in the congregation and as a result, their responsibilities or privileges are not as large. Some work hard to achieve platinum level while others work just hard enough to maintain whichever level they have reached. These members recognize the different levels and respect those "above" them.

Church growth messes with this membership structure. New people are excited to find ways to get involved in the life of the church and grow in their faith but find themselves running into different levels of membership they didn't know were present. They ask to serve in a particular area without realizing one needs to be a gold member, at least, to volunteer be continued.

Have you witnessed anything like these different levels of membership within the Church? Your church? What was that like?

May 5, 2011

The Disease of the UMC

In a recent blog post, Dr. Timothy Tennent, president of Asbury Theological Seminary, discussed the decline of "mainline," "evangelical" churches in the U.S. He writes:

Mainline churches are in decline because these movements reached a critical mass such that sufficient numbers of bishops, pastors, elders, deacons and laypeople lost, forsake or otherwise failed to remember the true marks of the church. The church is one, holy, catholic and apostolic. When the church becomes divided, unholy, parochial and forsakes historic orthodoxy, then it will decline.
As I was reading his post, I was especially struck by his words concerning the UMC:
The United Methodist Church has spent tens of thousands of dollars promoting the smart marketing byline: “Open hearts, open minds, open doors.” But all this “smart marketing” does is underscore the United Methodist disease. This marketing line says nothing about Jesus Christ or the apostolic faith. It actually communicates the very blandness which is the problem when a denomination loses its center.
Could it be that the decline of the UMC is related to the "blandness" of our message as Dr. Tennent suggests? That by saying "Open hearts, open minds, open doors" we aren't saying much of anything and the very message we thought would attract individuals, especially younger ones, is lacking the substance so many are desperately looking for.

Individuals want to know what the United Methodist Church stands for and stands on. I believe we will continue to struggle as a denomination if we lose our connection to the Gospel and fail to "market" that connection to the world around us.

What do you think? Does the UMC (or your church) have a disease? How would you label it?

April 6, 2011

A Little Bit Different

I have been given the opportunity to be a part of the Common English Bible's Lenten Blog Tour as 1 of 41 writers sharing thoughts on various passages throughout Lent. Checkout the blog tour site to follow other great posts happening during Lent.

Matthew 3:1-6
"In those days John the Baptist appeared in the desert of Judea announcing, "Change your hearts and lives! Here comes the kingdom of heaven!" He was the one of whom Isaiah the prophet spoke when he said:

The voice of one shouting in the wilderness,
"Prepare the way for the Lord;
make his paths straight."

John wore clothes made of camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He ate locusts and wild honey. People from Jerusalem, throughout Judea, and all around the Jordan River came to him. As they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River."

As we continue our journey through the Lenten wilderness we come across a figure that the passage from Matthew's gospel tells us is John the Baptist. His job was to announce (or herald) the coming salvation through the person of Jesus by urging the people to return to their true allegiance through confessing their sins and being baptized.

One of the things I find fascinating about John the Baptist is that he's just a little bit different. I mean think about it...a guy comes rolling on the scene from the desert, calling people out for their sins, and telling them the kingdom of heaven has come near all while wearing camel hair and eating grasshoppers. The other fascinating part to me...THE PEOPLE RESPONDED!

I can't help but think that perhaps, just maybe, those of us who call ourselves Christians should be just a little bit different. I'm not suggesting that we wear crazy clothes or yell at people about their sins. I am suggesting that there should be something different about the people called Christians that causes others to respond. I would argue there has to be. Something different about the words we use, the way we spend our time, and the way we treat people. If not, it seems as though we might be missing something.

March 31, 2011

Four Month Old Dad

I have only been a dad for 4 months but the emotions are starting to catch up with me. I did not expect or have any idea of how emotional becoming a dad would be. It is easily one of, if not the most emotional thing that has ever happened to me in my life.

I’m sure some of this has to do with the fact that I am currently leading a mission team in Guatemala and have to be away from my family. I think the other part of it comes with feeling a sense of inadequacy, unworthiness and failure mixed with feelings of joy, humility and excitement. It’s as if looking at my son pushes me to be a better disciple, better husband, and better dad while also reminding me of the times when I have failed as all 3.

I am not perfect. Actually, I’m pretty far from it and yet I want to be for my son’s sake. I want to be the perfect example for him and know while I write this I will fail on a regular basis. Not only do I feel those other things I mentioned earlier but looking at my son also always me to see God’s grace, His hope, and His love.

March 30, 2011

Mission Guatemala 2k11

I've been leading a mission team from my church for the past few days down here in Panajachel, Guatemala working with the UMC mission organization Mission Guatemala (checkout their facebook page and give them a "like" while you're there). Stop by our team blog to keep up to date on what we're up to during our time here. You can also follow me on twitter to see updates as well.

I hope your week and your journey through Lent is going well.

March 10, 2011

Love Does Win

As some of you have heard, there is controversy brewing over Rob Bell's upcoming book release, "Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived." There are some who are labeling him a heretic because they believe he is teaching the doctrine of universalism.

I honestly debated whether to write anything about this or not as I have not read the book and therefore feel as though labeling him a universalist is not fair. I will say however that Scripture seems pretty clear in regards to the existence of heaven and hell but that's not what I want to discuss.

Throughout this whole controversy I've found myself thinking a lot about the idea that "Love Wins." Chapter 4 of 1 John tells us that God is love. This does not mean that God does things that are loving, it means that everything God does is the very definition of love. And in this way I agree with Bell, Love does win.

I wonder though, is it possible that God's love is so profound, so infinite, so mysterious, so vast that we might not fully understand the ways in which He loves His creation? So much so that even the very existence of hell is loving? I'm not saying this necessarily makes sense but when did we ever think we could fully understand God. If we believe the words of Scripture, then we know that God wins and if God is love, then it looks like Love does win.

March 9, 2011

Lenten Blog Tour

I have been given the opportunity to be 1 of 41 bloggers participating in the Common English Bible Lenten Blog Tour ( starting today and going throughout Lent. Make sure you stop by the blog to check it out or checkout the Facebook page when you get a chance. I hope you can join the conversation.

The Wilderness of the Soul

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. A time when Christians reflect on the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness fasting and being tested (Matthew 4:1-11) before beginning his public ministry. This draws an interesting parallel to the 40 years the Israelites spent wandering in the wilderness before entering the land God had set aside for them. I'd like to spend just a moment reflecting on the idea of wilderness if I may.

Throughout Scripture, wilderness carries with it a connotation of solitude and desolation. A place where one might feel alone, intentionally or unintentionally. I would guess that most of us, at one time or another in our faith journey, have felt as though we have been lost in the wilderness. Perhaps not sure on how we got there but certainly struggling to find our way out. Some of you may feel as though your soul is lost in the wilderness right now.

Looking back at Jesus' time in the wilderness, don't forget that sometimes God leads us into the wilderness. The wilderness proved to be a time of preparation for Jesus, maybe your time in the wilderness is preparing you for what God has planned next? Or maybe this season of Lent can be a time of allowing God to help guide your soul out of the wilderness it finds itself in? Regardless, I encourage you to spend the next 40 days as a time of being in fellowship with God and each other, waiting to see where He might lead you.

March 8, 2011

Messy Spirituality || A Love That Won't Go Away

Here is the 5th and final part of my sermon series inspired by the book of the same name, "Messy Spirituality" by Mike Yaconelli. As always, I enjoy your feedback.

Check out part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4. For this final sermon in the series, we are going to take a look at 3 different passages and see what they have to say about God's seemingly annoying love for us.

Matthew 20:1-16
-notice the master went himself
-he made multiple trips throughout the day
-the first workers were paid an “agreed term”
-the remaining workers got paid “whatever is right”
-at the end of the day, the last shall be first
-vs. 10: grace that can be calculated and “expected” is no longer grace
-the early ones were frustrated by the late ones being made “equal”
-the early ones received the agreed upon wage and yet…
-who are we to question God’s generous love?

Luke 26:26-43
-Jesus tears down the fences
-the perceived “unfairness” of God’s grace makes us uncomfortable, especially when we’re expected to extend it to others
-“All the persons of faith I know are sinners, doubters, uneven performers. We are secure not because we are sure of ourselves but because we trust that God is sure of us.” ~Eugene Peterson

Romans 8:37-39
-you cannot escape God’s love
-there is nothing you have done or will do that can keep God from loving you
-“He loves us when we don’t want him to love us. He loves us when we don’t act like Christians. He loves us when our lives are a mess. His love is sticky, resistant to rejection, aggressive, and persistent.” (Yaconelli 124)

March 7, 2011

Messy Spirituality || The Inconsistent Disciple

Here is part 4 of my sermon series inspired by the book of the same name, "Messy Spirituality" by Mike Yaconelli. As always, I enjoy your feedback.

Check out part 1, part 2, and part 3.

Oh Peter, talk about an inconsistent disciple. You can read a few examples in Matthew 16:13-25; 26:31-35, 69-75. A couple things we might be able to take away from this.

Christianity is an equal opportunity faith.
-God chose us first, which creates a place for those who have no place
-I wonder how many of us have given up on being spiritual because we don’t seem to fit?
-There can be freedom in the inconsistency because we know it will come
-we encourage people to grow knowing they will fail
-Discipleship is a journey, which makes spiritual growth look different for each of us

Lessons from being stuck.
-Getting "stuck" reminds us of the need to slow down
-“Spiritual growth does not happen by running faster” (Yaconelli 96) or by “inviting Jesus to speed through life with us” (Yaconelli 97)
-Learn to rest means realizing how unnecessary we are
-Jesus came to give us rest (Matthew 11:28)
-Sometimes 70% is 100% of what we have to give
-“The spiritual life is not a life of success; it is a life of faithfulness” (Yaconelli 110)
-As long as we want to grow, Jesus will show up

Discipleship as imbalance?
-Redefining “balance” (Matthew 16:24-25)
-Do our attempts at seeming "all together" polish the life right out of the Church?
-Being a disciple means we should be a little odd; the world should notice we're a little different shouldn't it?

March 2, 2011

Messy Spirituality || What It Really Means To Be Spiritual

Here is part 3 of my sermon series inspired by the book of the same name, "Messy Spirituality" by Mike Yaconelli. As always, I enjoy your feedback.

Checking out part 1 and part 2 of the "Messy Spirituality" sermon series may help part 3 make more sense...or not.

A couple general thoughts:
*DISCLAIMER: any time I use the word "spirituality" I am using it in relationship to the person of Jesus Christ

-Anyone can be spiritual. (Luke 18:35-42)
-Spirituality begins now, in the mess of our lives. Don't wait until you're "fixed." (John 8:1-11)
-Jesus cares more about desire than competence.
-Spirituality requires authenticity.
-Spirituality requires trust.

Spirituality is not legalistic, but does require discipline
-“Spirituality is not a formula; it is not a test. It is a relationship. Spirituality is not about competency; it is about intimacy. Spirituality is not about perfection; it is about connection.” (Messy Spirituality pg 13)
-“We stumble into a party we weren’t invited to and find the uninvited standing at the door making sure no other uninviteds get in.” (Messy Spirituality pg 47)
-It takes work to grow spiritually and time spent in study, prayer, service, etc.

Spirituality isn’t about perfection, but pursuing it
-“Spirituality is anything but a straight line; it is mixed-up, topsy-turvy, helter-skelter godliness that turns our lives into an upside-down toboggan ride full of unexpected turns, surprise bumps, and bone-shattering crashes. In other words, messy spirituality is the delirious consequence of a life ruined by a Jesus who will love us right into his arms.” (Messy Spirituality pg 17)
-Don't get obsessed with perfection or depressed when you miss it, because you will. Keep pursuing it.

Spirituality isn’t about self, but community
-There is an important distinction to make between spirituality and self-help. In my opinion, the biggest distinction comes with the idea that spirituality is not about self, whereas self-help is all about self.
-To be truly spiritual means to look outside yourself and into the community. It may be a community of believers or neighbors down the block, regardless, it is about serving others.
-Being spiritual necessarily means thinking of others first and through that recognizing one's own spirituality.

February 28, 2011

3 Months of Fatherhood

My son turned 12 weeks old last week, which I think is the same as saying 3 months?? (I'm still learning the whole weeks vs. months age thing) So, I thought I would share a couple things I have learned after 3 months of fatherhood.

One of them deals with love. It is unexplainable why I love this little boy so much. He has not done a single thing to earn, let alone deserve the amount of love I have for him and yet, I would do anything for him. This got me thinking...I have read, studied and talked about the love of God for years but it has not been until recently that I have gained a better understanding of what it means to be loved as a child of God. When I think about it like this, it seems to make a lot of sense; God loves us as His children despite the fact that we have not and cannot earn His love. He just simply loves us a lot!

Another one deals with patience. I’ve realized how important it is to have patience. In those moments when he is upset and seemingly inconsolable, somehow, someway, patience shows up. I know we can all think of times when we failed to show someone patience; maybe it was a child, a friend or a co-worker, but for whatever reason, we missed the opportunity. I am thankful for the many times that others have been patient with me, especially the patience God shows me on a daily basis.

The last one I'll share right now has to do with saying 'no.' I am quickly realizing the need to say 'no' to things that keep me away from home. Meetings, events, working late...NO! It has already happened too often that I have come home to have my son already down for the night. Getting home late combined with leaving before he gets up in the morning makes for an entire day without me seeing him or him me. I am not ok with this as a "normal" thing. I can tell it's a slippery slope and am determined not to fall down it.

I didn't even get into things like taking a ton of pictures, starting to use cloth diapers or skyping with grandparents. I'll save those for another time.

February 25, 2011

Messy Spirituality || When Jesus Meets Our Mess

Sorry it's been so long. Here is part 2 of my sermon series inspired by the book of the same name, "Messy Spirituality" by Mike Yaconelli. As always, I enjoy your feedback.

Remember from part 1 that life is messy and sometimes we make the mess and other times we don't. We try desperately to clean-up the mess but it just doesn't seem to work. We can't get it figured out on our own despite the fact that we're all a bit messy (Romans 3:10, 23).

Our messiness causes us to play all sorts of different games with ourselves and each other. I'm going to highlight three:

The Games We Play
-At some point we have to say enough with the pretending
-Authenticity is synonymous with spirituality

-We compare what we know about ourselves with what we don’t know about others
-So often we think no one else is struggling like we are or that there isn't anyone as messy as us. We must realize that Messy Spirituality is for the rest of us who thought there wasn’t a “rest of us"

-We deny the presence and power of God’s unconditional love & grace in our lives
-We end up paralyzed by feelings of inadequacy, unworthiness, insecurity, self-doubt, insignificance and guilt
-When we play the denial game, we miss the rest of the passage…Romans 3:24
-2 Corinthians 12:9a

Working through some of the different games we play leads us to wonder what happens When Jesus Meets Our Mess:

He shows up!
-The mess does not disqualify you from knowing Jesus
-“Jesus is not repelled by us, no matter how messy we are, regardless of how incomplete we are. When we recognize that Jesus is not discouraged by our humanity, is not turned off by our messiness, and simply pursues us in the face of it all, what else can we do but give in to his outrageous, indiscriminate love?” (Messy Spirituality pg 17)

It isn’t about being “finished,” it’s about trusting God in our "unfinishedness"

It’s not as if Jesus is waiting for you to get your stuff in order, He wants to help put it back together

We must admit we're messy…that each of us is a “work in progress” as we try to follow Jesus

February 8, 2011

Wesleyan Perspective on Justification

My twitter friend Jay Miklovic (@jmiklovic) is doing a 4-part series on justification from 4 different perspectives: Confessional Lutheran, Reformed, Wesleyan, and "Outlaw Preacher" on his blog. He asked me to write the Wesleyan perspective, which I invite you to check out and the 3 other perspectives and share your thoughts, either here or there. Let us know what you think.

February 5, 2011

Messy Spirituality || The Messiness of Life

This is part 1 of my sermon series from the month of January inspired by the book of the same name, "Messy Spirituality" by Mike Yaconelli. As always, I enjoy your feedback.

Regardless of what anyone says, life is messy and we all have messes in our lives. Anyone that tells you otherwise is in denial and/or a liar. Sometimes the mess is one of our own making through something we did or didn't do, said or didn't say. Other times we are thrust into the mess by the actions or inaction of someone else. Either way we find ourselves faced with the messiness of life and how to deal with it.

More often than not we try to manage the mess ourselves and at times fail miserably, making it even worse. We attempt to pickup pieces that have been scattered on the floor and put them back together but can't seem to make them fit. Many of us struggle with being too busy. We lose our focus on the things that matter by allowing ourselves to be distracted by things that matter less and the next thing we know, we find ourselves with a mess. Broken relationships, failures at work, a spiritual life that seems non-existent...just a few of the messes we might be experiencing.

The good news is the messiness of life does not disqualify you from being spiritual. It's not as much about perfection as it is about connection. Jesus gives us the example of perfection knowing that we fall short of it on a daily basis and still invites us into relationship with Him. Think for a second about the people Jesus hung out with, it seems as though the implications of Jesus' ministry is that anyone can be spiritual, regardless of their mess.

Is it possible the first step to an authentic spiritual life is admitting the mess? What if the messiness of life is the place where this authentic spirituality is shaped and practiced? Could it be that following Jesus is messy?

January 20, 2011

Your Year for Social Media?

Have you started "tweeting" yet? What are you waiting for? Perhaps 2011 will be the year you look to engage the wonderful world of social media. A couple thoughts on that...

Social Media (aka "SM", might include sites like: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Myspace, YouTube, Digg, blogs, etc.) is everywhere and used in lots of different ways. Whether you're a grandparent or a '20 something', use it for business or personal, these are 3 tips I suggest keeping in mind when engaging social media.

1. Be Yourself
a. Don't try to be someone or something you're not.
b. Strive for authenticity & genuineness.
c. If you're not an expert, don't feel like you have to be one (or worse yet, claim to be one).

2. Be Social
a. The point of social media is connection so don't be afraid to engage the content of others, you get out of it when you put into it (my dad use to tell me that when I would whine about church growing up).
b. Try to avoid being a "lurker" (one who follows or reads other people's tweets, blogs, facebooks, etc but never interacts).
c. Remember, quality over quantity. Don't sweat it if you only have a few Twitter followers or a handful of LinkedIn connections. Having quality people interact with your content is key and in turn can create quality social networks.
d. Provide content that others will find interesting or want to engage with...but don't force it!
e. Depending on what you are looking to get out of social media, try to be disciplined in providing content on a regular basis...but remember, (c.) quality over quantity.

3. Be Smart
a. This should be a "no-brainer" but NEVER post things like social security numbers, passwords, etc etc.
b. Avoid engaging the content of others that you in turn do not wish to engage your content.
c. Social media can, at times, be somewhat addictive. Establish boundaries to keep it from replacing face-to-face relationships.
d. Some people are very open and vulnerable in their interaction with social media, which in itself is fine. However, don't ever post anything, whether personal or business, that you do not want to be read by your boss, parents, friends, co-workers, church, etc. Social media can be personal but it is not private. For example: 1 time I had a post from my twitter account (@mattlipan) that was published in the magazine "Family Circle" (8/09 issue) that I was not aware of until one of my co-workers pointed it out after reading it. Post and engage content with the mindset that it will be read by the world, because it's better to be safe than sorry.

What tips do you have or use for engaging social media?