Why resurrection matters, not just the cross

Recently I was asked the question, "Why does the resurrection of Jesus matter?"

Before I continue on I want to ask you to take a moment and ponder that question.

Go ahead. I'll wait...

Thought about it?

Here's what I said...

If Jesus didn't rise there is no hope. Nothing matters. Life is in vain. Death still conquers all.

But, since he did rise there is hope. Everything matters deeply and eternally. Life has a purpose. Death has been conquered.

If Jesus doesn't rise from the dead than all we know is that sin still brings about death. Even if Jesus carried all of our sin to the grave with him, death would still have the final word for one and all.

But, since he did rise we have hope of life without death, new life. Not that our hope resides in a fairytale of physical immortality, but that our hope resides in our souls, our beings, coming to experience the vitality of life. Jesus said, "I have come that you might have life, and that you might have it super-abundantly.

Many of us, apart from new life in Christ, know in our deepest recesses of our being that something is missing. We spend our life search for that thing. Some find it, but most fake it.

The resurrection of Jesus is an invitation to each one of us to find life, to find that thing our inner being longs for, to find life as it was meant to be lived... "Alive to God."

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Community 6,000 miles from home

Community is a super trendy word around churches. Our church lexicon is filled with community phrases: community groups, missional community, gospel community, meaningful community, life giving community, the community of faith, etc. Interestingly community is a word only used once in the New Testament.

Festus said: “King Agrippa, and all who are present with us, you see this man! The whole Jewish community has petitioned me about him in Jerusalem and here in Caesarea, shouting that he ought not to live any longer. ACTS 25:24

After a week Tomorrow our mission team takes a 4 hour bus ride to catch a 4 hour flight home to Oregon from Salamanca, Mexico. Yet again we were able to share in another GREAT week together. In shared experiences we have created what many in the church talk about, community. It may have been large number of medical emergencies, or the "mucho tacos," or the completing a project by serving together, or by sharing good food and drinks together, or the man who ate a balloon at a stop light, but somewhere in all this this team, as in years past, created a community. Community is really that simple; sharing life together.

Each of us longs for and is built for community. We all know we want it. So let me ask, who are you sharing life with? Step out. Take a risk. Work together with others. Share life. Be honest. Laugh together.

Maybe...

Just Maybe you'll find what you've been yearning for, community.

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Illness is normal

It seems that no one can summarize my feelings on this issue as concisely as Rick Warren, so why not simply let him speak.

If my liver doesn’t work perfectly and I take a pill for that, there’s no shame in that. Why is it that if my brain doesn’t work perfectly and I take a pill I’m supposed to hide that? – Rick Warren

My life is inseparably intertwined and enriched by a host of friends and family (none of which I will name, because that is their story to tell in their time) who have endured the struggles of mental illness; and I'm sure your's has too. (Whether you know it or not.)

We could take the remainder of this blog (and countless more) to explain the foolishness of the archaic and unbiblical thinking that mental illness is a sign of weak or unsure faith, but I would rather encourage rather than correct today.

As someone who has not yet had to endure the pain and fear of mental illness myself I want to say that I can not imagine the pain, frustration, fear, sorrow, confusion, and, even sometimes, shame that comes along with this struggle.

I want you to know that there is no shame in struggling.

You are no less of a person.

It is not your fault.

You will not and you should not feel responsible to simply, "snap out of it" or "get over it."

Those around you love you and want to walk with you through this.

If there are meds available that will help, with a glad heart thank God for the common grace that you were born in a nation and a time that affords you that great blessing from God.

It is time that we, as the church, stand vocally with those whose life has been altered by mental illness of any kind and to any degree!

It seems fitting to end with a quote from Rick Warren's wife:

People with depression have something very valuable to teach us – how to live when it doesn’t ever feel good. – Kay Warren

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In the face of the different

As of today we've all made it to Mexico.

It is a beautiful country. Not always for it scenery (as we look upon on of the largest refinery in Mexico) but for its people, it's culture. It's a country rich in heritage and tradition. The magnificent churches that dot the city are a small sign of the ethos of this place.

For all its beauty, fun and depth, if I'm going to be honest it can feel a bit odd at times. It can feel...wrong.

And that is just my point. Each of us are so steeped in a way of doing things, in a way of seeing things, that often the unfamiliar feels wrong. It becomes easy for us to talk in terms, then, of cultural issues as right and wrong.

However, I think when we think about it, wrong isn't what we mean. We don't mean to imply there is a moral value difference if you eat tacos on the shoulder of the highway or at Taco Bell; if we drive between the lines or if we drive on roads void of paint for decades. What we mean is that it's not like us.

And that's ok.

In fact it's more than ok, it is life giving.

When we experience life outside of our normal experiences we find a greater fullness of the human experience. Senses are stimulated that had become numb in our routine. Emotions become vibrant that once laid dormant in the mundane.

So next time you get a chance, press in to the discomfort. There you might find a part of life you'd been missing!

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A cancer we tolerate

Yet again I, as a church leader, had an all too common conversation. A conversation about division in a local church and the cost it had had on the people, the leaders, the mission of the church, and its reputation among nonchristians. Division is never good and it's always costly!

Division is the antithesis of the gospel.

The Gospel is about restoring relationships between us, God, and each other.

The Gospel is about actively and continually extending grace.

The Gospel is about receiving and extending forgiveness.

The Gospel is about peace.

The Gospel is about walking with a humble heart.

The Gospel is about diversity.

Division actively, progressively, and destructively pursues the opposite of all this.

When we pursue, engage in, or allow division we, for the desire to be right, pay a huge cost.

Whether arisen form heartache, hurt, misunderstanding, divided vision, or offense scripture allows for no accommodations that justify us having any part in division within the church.

So here's some practical thoughts:

has someone hurt you? Go directly to them, express your heart and offer forgiveness.

Do you disagree with the leadership? Pray that God would give you humility in this matter then go directly to them and speak honestly, humbly, and respectfully.

Are you unable to resolve an issue with another believer, leader, or pastor? Pray for them. Be humble, submit to their leadership and seek unity, even in the midst of disagreement.

Has that issue developed to the point in which you believe you can not worship with that other believer, submit to that leader, or be lead by that pastor? With humility, quietly remove yourself from that body. Find another church. Commit to yourself and your spouse (or one friend that will hold you accountable) that you will speak only positively of that person and church.

Division is a BIG deal. There is NOTHING God honoring in division. May we be humbled today as we remember that just moments before being hung on a cross for our sins our unity was on Jesus' mind; "I pray that they might be one." May we pursue forgiveness for any division we have caused.

"Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." Ephesians 4:3

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It's all about relationships

It's 5:30 AM. It's raining, because it's Oregon. I'm driving sparsely populated roads on my way to PDX. Today will consist of several hours in a car and thousands of mile by plane. Where I'm going is set to be in the 80s all week.

It's a missions trip and I'm excited

But not for the reasons you may think.

I'm excited because I get to go visit some friends with friends.

Missions should always be about friends. Ministry itself should always be about friends.

The bible begins with God, or as the author of Genesis says, "us." God is not alone. God (or as theologians say, the Godhead) is one, but three distinct persons. They existed in perfect community before anything was created. This, he built us the same, to be friends. In fact, he evens invites us to be friends with him. Jesus says, "I call you friend."

It really is all about relationships; about friendships. This whole thing is about redeeming and restoring broken relationships between us, God and others.

Sean Bitzer Lead pastor Monmouth Christian Church

You can change the future

I almost continually astounded by the weight our life has on the future of others. Whether it is in raising kids, or within your immediately family or through friends or even through unplanned moments of time like a car accident we have the ability to alter the future of other humans. You will leave an indelible mark on the lives of other humans. You, with your life, intended or not, has the ability to alter the future of generations yet to be born.

WOW!

II Corinthians 7:14 says, "you have been given the ministry of reconciliation."

I have told often before a story of a couple that by a crazy series of events unexpectedly ended up in our Small Group. While attending that small group they experienced two life alter events. They accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior and they had a son. It humbles me to imagine that that boy will grow up in a completely different home, in part because of their involvement in our Small Group. 

You have the ability to bring good, hope, joy and a future with your words and actions for men and women today and for generations to come.

...Or, to bring death, brokenness, bitterness and heartache.

Which will you choose?

Effect or Affect of sin

Confession time. I can never remember the difference between effect and affect. I know one is the result and the other is the result on, but I never remember which is which. (If you're like me you are now googling the difference.)

A phrase I intend to use this Sunday is, "you never sin in isolation." In this our sin has both an effect and an affect; it has a result and a result on.  Here is an earnest plea I hope to make clear this Sunday. Your sin as an effect on those around you and the affect of your sin can be crushing. We do not get to determine the boundaries of the effects of our sin. Leaders of Israel and Judah both saw that. 

Be somber.

Walk humbly.

Your choices will ripple throughout the lives of those you love most.

A challenge...

Seth Godin is a prolific blogger. He began as a best selling author and has again gained recognition as a blogger; one of the most read in the world. In a recent podcast he challenged everyone to write a blog post every day. He contended that it is not for "them," but for you. In formulating 200-300 words a day of written text you will become a more articulate, and clear person. So, I am beginning that journey. It is my intention to spend a few minutes each day writing in this blog. 

Some Pastors set out sermon prep days. I'm not one of those Pastors. It may be a discipline that I someday learn, but it is not in line with the rhythm of my life now. Instead I do "buffet prep." I spend 30 minutes one morning prepping, then 2 hours the next afternoon. I sprinkle my prep throughout the week. It allows me to chew on a thought and come back at it fresh the next time. It also allows me to sprint for a short period of time in focussed study. With that, it is my intention to spend a little bit of time each day sharing a brief thought I have had in my sermon prep for the day. It may be helpful for you or just me. Either way...here it goes.