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Archive for May, 2009

What Are You Doing Here?

May 26th, 2009 No comments

He went … to Horeb the mount of God. At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there. Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
1 Kings 19:8-9

Do you ever wonder what you’re doing here? I do.

The story of the prophet Elijah begins in 1 Kings 17, during the reign of the evil king, Ahab. Ahab adopted the religion of his foreign wife Jezebel, and suppressed the worship of God in Israel. In the next chapter, Elijah sends a message to King Ahab, proposing a contest to prove whose religion is authentic and whose is false. Ahab agrees, and summons all Israel to Mt. Carmel to watch. On Ahab’s side were hundreds of prophets in the cults of Baal and Asherah, pagan deities imported to Israel by Jezebel. On the other side, Elijah. The prophets of Baal spent the whole day crying out for a miracle from Baal. Elijah spent it taunting them with coarse humor, saying they should shout louder, in case Baal was in the bathroom relieving himself. At the end of the day, Elijah offers a single prayer to God, and fire falls from heaven, proving to Israel that God is real and Baal false.

Then, astonishingly, having triumphed over the forces of Baal, Elijah flees into the wilderness to escape from Ahab. It is in the wilderness that Elijah hears this question from God: “What are you doing here?” (1 Kings 19:9)

“What are you doing here?” Elijah needed to be asked, because he forgot what God was doing and neglected the work God had assigned to him. He had to be asked because what he had achieved for God in the past did not automatically ensure his future success. It’s a good question for churches to ponder, too.

What are we doing? Is it what we ought to be doing? Our Book of Order speaks of “The Six Great Ends of the Church”-proclaiming the gospel, spiritual nurture and fellowship, divine worship, and so forth. Which of those ends are we advancing? Are we neglecting any? Why? Should we be neglecting some of them?

Who are we? What unique experiences has God used to shape who we are? What gifts and talents has God blessed us with? Are we using them effectively to advance the great ends of the church? Who are we becoming? Elijah thought he was the only one in Israel still faithful to God, but God knew there were seven thousand who had not worshiped the Baals. Who is God calling us to reach? How will they become part of us?

What are we doing here? What are we doing here in Yucca Valley? Why has God brought us here? Why are we here now?

Desert Hills has a worthy history of ministry in and to the Morongo Basin. Our history might not be as illustrious as Elijah’s — Elijah was, after all, the greatest prophet in the Old Testament, after Moses, with whom he appeared when Jesus was Transfigured (Mark 9:2-8) — nevertheless, we have been faithful and, I think, effective in our ministry here. Even so, it’s still worth asking these questions about what we’re doing here.

So that’s what we’re going to be doing this summer. We’re going to conduct a study of our church to answer these questions about what we’re doing here.

You’ll be hearing more about this process in the next few weeks. We’ve asked our Presbytery’s Congregational Nurture Team to help us get started. In the meantime, let me invite your prayers as we get this effort underway.

Nobody’s making us do this. But if we go about it prayerfully and sincerely, I’m confident that God will show us the answers to these questions. God will tell us who we are and who he wants us to become. God will make it more apparent why we’ve been brought here to the high desert right now. And God will enable us to discern what we should be doing here.

Let’s talk about it.

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Public Witness How-To’s

May 25th, 2009 No comments

Several local groups of Christians participated in the Grubstakes Parade in Yucca Valley this weekend.

Christians at the Grubstakes Parade
Joshua Springs Christian School Pep Band.

Joshua Springs Calvary Chapel operates a Christian School. They sent their Pep Band. As it went by my position, they were playing the James Bond theme. Very nice.

Christians at the Grubstakes Parade
Yucca Valley Nazarene Church Worship Team

The Nazarene church sent their worship team. The music wasn’t anything I recognized, but it wasn’t obnoxious, and the singer was pleasantly enthusiastic. Another winsome entry.

Then came these people:

Christians at the Grubstakes Parade
Anonymous Kooks

Why are they? I don’t know who these people were, or if they’re associated with a local church, but they should be ashamed of their witness. If this is how they want to present the Good News to people, they should go read how Paul did it (Acts 17:16-23). Or even Jonah (say, Jonah 3:4,5,10; 4:1-2).

Finally, this.

Christians at the Grubstakes Parade
Handing Out Tracts

A guy walked the route passing out tracts. Fine. But look what it says: “Your Parade Guide.” I’m sure that it seemed clever to whoever wrote it — I’ll guide you toward a decision for Christ, which is more important than this parade. But this is worldly cleverness, the kind used to write TV commercials. It’s fundamentally dishonest, because it pulls a bait-and-switch on the reader.

Mechanical Bible Study

May 22nd, 2009 No comments

On a lark, I just posted an item about a search I did for all the verses in the New Testament that matched certain criteria. I’m posting this note because it might not be obvious that I’m aware of some dangers inherent in a too-mechanical study of the Bible.

First, as I considered the problem, I realized it is a hard thing to describe grammatically. For example, my original search was for 2nd-person verbs. But that’s not enough, since many commands or promises or reassurances are issued to a third person yet have implications for the hearer (John 3:16, for example: “everyone who believes … may have”). If I spent any more time, I’m sure I could come up with other examples.

Second, I didn’t (initially) make it clear that the list is not the end. The list of matching verses is rather a starting point for further study. For example, the first result is from Matthew 2:20, where the angel says to Joseph: “get up” and go to Egypt with the child and its mother. This is obviously not a command to all future Christians, because it is directed at a specific person in a unique circumstance. The software can’t figure that out, but a reader can.

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What Should We Do?

May 22nd, 2009 No comments

Have you ever wondered what the Bible says that we are supposed to do? Or what we are able to do? Or what we will do? Here’s your answer: Read more…

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More Catalyst Nuggets

May 12th, 2009 No comments

I continue to be impressed with the quality of the material at Catalyst West 2009.

I wasn’t able to carpool today to Presbytery due to a scheduling conflict that made it also my day as chaplain at the local hospital. But the upside was that, when I did drive to Presbytery, I got to listen to 1.5 hrs of Catalyst (actual Origins labs) material. Here’s a pithy quote:

All we need to help somebody find God is already inside them.–Erwin McManus

(Beside Erwin McManus, I also heard an excellent discussion of entrepreneurial leadership from his associate Rick Yamamoto, and another discussion by Dan Kimball about having a missional posture in your life (and therefore in your church).

On the way home, I took a break from Catalyst stuff and listened to a sermon by Jim Burgen of Flatirons Church. (Podcasts are how this pastor hears sermons. I don’t know what I did before I got my iPod, but I must have been one miserable pastor.)

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Catalyst Conference Morsels

May 8th, 2009 No comments

I like this:

“We’re educated way beyond the level of our obedience.”

That’s Mark Batterson, of National Community Church, speaking at the Origins labs the day before Catalyst West Coast 2009.

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Financial Update

May 7th, 2009 No comments

Income (YTD) $44,852
Expenses (YTD) $56,358
Bank and investment accounts (5/3) $64,663

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On Judging

May 1st, 2009 No comments

Do not judge, and you will not be judged.
Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.
Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
Give, and it will be given to you.

—Luke 6:37

In April, a woman named Susan Boyle appeared on a reality television show called Britain’s Got Talent. What happened next made her a sensation, and as a result, probably many of you have heard her story.

If you saw her at the grocery store, Ms. Boyle would be utterly unremarkable, but on television, she stands out. Although she is not ugly, she is overweight. Her hairstyle is unflattering and her clothes are plain. When Ms. Boyle first came out on stage to announce her song, the three judges and the audience were uniformly skeptical about her. There was open derision when she spoke of her goal to have a singing career like Elaine Paige. All that changed when Ms. Boyle began to sing. Only seconds into her performance, the audience began to applaud. When she finished, the judges not only praised her talent but also apologized to her for prejudging it on the basis of her appearance.

In the brief time since her appearance on Britain’s Got Talent, Ms. Boyle has appeared on several TV morning shows here in America. Copies of her performance quickly became the “most popular” videos on YouTube, racking up, as I write, an astonishing total of more than 100 million views. (Compare that to 50 million viewers for the final episode of M*A*S*H, or less than 40 million for a typical Super Bowl broadcast.)

Also in April, the columnist and TV commentator George Will wrote an opinion piece entitled “Blue Jean Nation.” Briefly, Mr. Will said it is a bad thing that so many people wear blue jeans today. I wasn’t convinced by Will’s argument. I’m sure that, 200 years ago, people looked at Beau Brummel’s suit and tie, only to wonder at the depths to which culture had sunk. That’s not to say I would encourage anyone going to a job interview to wear blue jeans, unless the nature of the work required them.

I’m interested, nevertheless, in Will’s column, coming as it does the same week as the lesson in judging (or rather, not judging) people by their appearance came to us from Britain.

(There’s an old joke about a man whose clothing weren’t up to the standard of the church he visited. The pastor encouraged him to “talk to God” about what sort of clothing would be more appropriate. Next Sunday, the man was back again, dressed as shabbily as before. The pastor asked him if he’d spoken to God about it, and the man replied, “Well, Pastor, I surely did, and God told me it had been so long since he was here, he wasn’t sure any more what sort of clothes you were wearing these days.”)

Do we judge people? Is clothing more important to us than it is to God? How about other aspects of someone’s appearance, like tattoos and body piercings? What about their age? Do we look at people with white hair and wrinkles, and assume there’s nothing for them to do but run out the clock?

Our Creator has given each of us wonderful gifts. When we look at people, do we see them according to the world’s standards, or God’s? Do we see every person as infinitely valuable and uniquely talented?

And what about ourselves? Are you and I living up to our God-given potential, or do we allow the world’s expectations to shape us?

In fact, Scripture teaches us not to judge. As Susan Boyle’s story reminds us, only God knows how far any one of us can soar.

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