The Church today – Christlike or Phariseelike?

I have been doing a great deal of thinking recently about the church in America and its reality.  Not what we say it is, not what we want it to be, but what it really is.  If we Unknown-2were to strip away the mask, and the cute phrases, and the nice sounding mission statements and looked at the reality of what is left what would we find.

Now, mind you I am not naive enough to say this is everyone everywhere and yes I am making some generalizations.  I am very well aware that there are MANY great Christians and “churches” that live it well.

However, I am coming to the conclusion that the “church” and “Christianity” in North America looks far more like a movement of Pharisees than it does a movement of “littlepharisee Christ’s” spreading across our cities.  To be a “holy” people is not to be a “holier than thou” people but to be a people who look like Jesus, act like Jesus, love like Jesus, serve like Jesus, go where Jesus went, and be Christ-like to the world around us not just to those within our faith family and for those who are like us.

The Pharisees were all about keeping the rules and staying away from certain groups of people.

Jesus was known as a friend of sinners and came eating and drinking with sinners and tax collectors.

Pharisees made laws to protect the laws.

Jesus was known for “breaking the laws” for the sake of loving the world around him.  Jesus loved and accepted people in spite of their behavior.

Why is it when we talk about “Holiness” do we automatically go to “not sinning” instead of being like Jesus.  If we are going to be like Jesus don’t we automatically have to look at who we are friends with.  Our church culture has used words like “sanctification” and “Holiness” to separate us from the world around us and therefore make us more like Pharisees than like Jesus.  “Sanctification” and “Holiness” should be calls to enter relationships with the very people who need to see the Love of Jesus not the judgement, condemnation and laws of the Pharisees.

I would love your feedback to this question…

When you look at the church (generally speaking – from your perspective and connections) how would your rate the church on the scale of 1-10… 

(1) Looks like Jesus………………………………………………..Look like Pharisee (10)

(Non Judging, Friend of Sinners) …………………. (Separateness, judgment)

(Relational) ……………………………………………………………………… (Legal)

pharisee Unknown-2

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Choose Your Own Adventure

“What is your story” is a question I have been asked and am asking a lot lately. I have come to realize more and more that we are simply in the midst of a story that is being written. A great story that has many chapters before our character came on the scene. It is a story written by the Author of life and is filled with drama, excitement, adventure, redemption, reconciliation, pain, suffering, relationships, emotion and all those other elements that make for a perfect story.

But more than anything I am realizing the importance of our story and its significance. I am a character in the plot of a broader story which will interact with and have impact on other characters as my personal plot unfolds and intersects with others.

Have you ever thought about the “random” encounters you have in life as a chance for your story to intersect with another character and at that point become a part of their story potentially even changing the outcome of their life story?

Do you remember those books where you get to choose your adventure? They were popular in the 80’s and gave kids an opportunity to make choices that determined different outcomes for the story.

As my wife and I sit in this coffee shop talking about these stories and their relevance to our lives we are struck by how our choices impact the outcomes of someone else’s story. For example, as I was hiking in Yosemite last weekend we met a team of hikers on the trail. As we began to interact with them their story began to change and have options for different outcomes in their life. Our interaction automatically introduced new characters into their story. We talked about human trafficking, child sponsorship, Mt. Kilimanjaro, and opportunities to change the story of a child forever.

We are now friends on facebook and their story has the possibility for new directions, as does mine.

The major question ringing in my ears as we talk about this is, what if we had chosen to just walk on by and not interact with our fellow hikers? Their options for different routes in their story only came through our choice to engage in meaningful conversation and open the door for relationship and opportunities.

Each of us has an incredible story.

What is your story and what are you doing with it? Your story could be the connecting point between someone else’s story and God’s story of redemption. Your story has been impacted by other characters who have intersected your path and were willing to share their life and story with you, giving you the opportunity to make choices that change the outcome of your story.

So now it is your turn to “choose your adventure.” What will you decide?

No risk requires no faith

I have been pondering the thought… “no risk requires no faith

I’m confronted with my own reality in this at times and wonder if maybe I have redefined “risk” to make myself feel better when in reality I have not really taken much of a risk.

Here are some questions I’m pondering….

Is our faith in direct proportion to our level of risk?

Is faith a trust issue attached to our jumping in with both feet when the outcome is left in the hands of God?

If my decision is based on my “doing the math” and knowing I have the ability before I take action is the act an act of risk which requires faith?

Definitions attached to the word risk include “a chance of loss, injury, hazard, or danger”. The very nature of risk taking is intentionally putting one’s self in the possibility of a harmful or negative outcome.

If risk and faith are attached then what does the text in Hebrews 11:6 mean when it says, “without faith it is impossible to please God”?

How are you living a life of faith that pleases God?

Are there areas in your life where you need to take a risk?

Is it possible to have faith in one area but need to grow in another area?

Just pondering…

Think about it. Would love to know your thoughts.

Let’s Climb!

19,340 feet… It gets cold on the summit of mount Kilimanjaro.  I know that.  I have the facts.  Rongai route approximately 50 miles up and down.  Elevation gain approximately 13,000 feet.  Altitude sickness can kill you. 6 days… 4 up 2 down.  5 climate zones… Gonna get hot,  gonna get wet, gonna get cold…  The mountain is in Tanzania Africa.  Malaria, Yellow fever etc.  I have read all about it and know most of the facts.

I have read the packing lists, and there are a lot of them and many different ones. (part of the problem)  It is amazing how much head knowledge we can have about something and still be overwhelmed by the unknown.

This dawned on me when I was attempting to purchase all my equipment.  Obviously I am on a TIGHT budget and am trying to figure out what I have in my closet already that “will work”.  If I had all sorts of money I could read the list and just get all the “recommended” brands and items.  Of course every recommended item is the top of the line and WAY outside my budget.

Enter the overwhelmed feeling with the unknown.  What I am discovering is that there is a big difference in head knowledge and experience.  I can read the facts about Altitude sickness but the reality is I have never experienced high altitude hiking.  I can read about the temperatures on the mountain at midnight at 14 thousand feet but I have never experienced 0 to -15 with my current sleeping bag or my clothing.

Will this outer shell, these two fleece jackets one light and one heavier and this thermal base layer work or do I need a $300.00 parka.  I have even talked to people at REI and am still overwhelmed by the unknown.  I have the factual knowledge about the mountain but I lack the practical experience to have the confidence that my gear is right.

However, if I had an experienced guide in my life who was simply providing me with the perfect gear I would not question his or its ability to do the job required to reach the summit and my overwhelmed feeling would shift to something else… probably my physical ability.. which I am responsible for not a guide or outfitter.

This has made me think about other areas of my life…   I can have all the knowledge about the Bible and God and Jesus.  I can sit in church week after week after week and gain more facts and knowledge about the word of God and God’s call for me to go and make disciples.  But I am overwhelmed as soon as I walk out the door due to lack of experience in the application of that knowledge and the use of the equipping I have received and am compelled to go get more knowledge.

However, we have the perfect experienced guide who has provided and equipped us with the perfect gear and everything we need for the mission we have been challenged with.  

I don’t need more knowledge about the mountain.  I need to put my clothes on and climb.  I need to test my boots.  I need to try on the gear and then I need to trust it and go stand on the roof of Africa.

I must say, even writing this down doesn’t remove the elements of fear and uncertainty.  Those will only disappear in the act of climbing.  However, Im compelled by the mission to climb.  The mission is more compelling in my life than the fear of the unknown.  

What unknowns out there are overwhelming you and keeping you from stepping out?  

What keeps you from climbing your Kilimanjaro?  

Chances are they will only disappear in the act of climbing?    

Im having to figure out my gear… Spiritually we have the perfect outfitter who has equipped us with everything we need to fulfill the mission to which he has called us.

Put on what you know, take your equipment that God has provided for you (it is guaranteed to be top of the line perfect for your mission) and Go make disciples.

Let’s Climb!

What is your Kilimanjaro?

SUCCESS – When does it occur

In John Bowlings book, “Making the Climb”, he states, “more than 60% of those who attempt this climb have to turn back. Only a few stand at the summit and look down on the clouds that shelter the vast plains. Soon I will see if I have what it takes to reach the top of the mountain. Either way, it will be all right. I DO NOT HESITATE FOR FEAR OF FAILURE! To make the attempt is to succeed already.

In a conversation with a medical dr on a plane (see blog coincidence or divine encounter) I was talking about how bad I wanted to summit on Kili. He looked at me and said, “no you don’t”. I was a little taken back and said, “that is why I’m climbing, of course I do.” Then he said some profound words, “then you will miss it”. “miss what I enquired”. “the journey” he said. “if you are so focused on submitting you will not have eyes to see what is all around you.” He began to tell me about all the major mountains he has climbed and when he changed his views on submitting. He helped me see that this climb was never about submitting anyway but about the journey and the joy of the journey and the personal growth and life change along the way.

It was just before he boarded the flight and this conversation began that I had read Bowlings words and now realized that I succeeded the day I took my first step. Success isn’t the final step but the first step. Many people miss a successful journey because they never take the first step. The first step isn’t the first step toward success but first step of success. Success is a journey of one success step after another and if in each of those steps we learn, grow, impact the world around us, enjoy the vistas and take another step we have been successful even if we don’t reach the summit.  I also wonder how many people have unsuccessfully stood on top of Kili having missed so much along the way.

But you say, “the summit is the goal and the reason for the climb.” and now I would say, “no Petro and the approximately 70 other children I have helped to sponsor was the reason for the climb and all that God wanted to teach me along the way.” If it ended today and I never boarded the plane for Africa, I would certainly be sad, heart broken and disappointed, but it would have been worth taking that first step. And if I get part way up the mountain and realize that I can’t go on, it will be disappointing but NOT a failure. I have already successfully conquered mount Kilimanjaro. Not by my picture on the summit because fear of failure did not stop me from taking that first step.

I wonder how many mountains win because we are afraid to simply take the first step.

What is your Kilimanjaro?

Coincidence or divine encounter???

On a flight a couple weeks ago I had probably one of the most significant divine encounters on this Kilimanjaro journey.  It was an encounter filled with unbelievable “coincidences” some would say.  I don’t believe it was a coincidence that the man who sat next to me had climbed Kili.  I don’t believe it was a coincidence that he was a medical dr who had answers to many of my questions about mountain climbing. I don’t believe it was a coincidence that he was investigating faith in christ and reading a book given to him by a friend about this.  I don’t believe it was a coincidence that I know his friend and that he is a Nazarene medical dr.  And that he attends a church nearby where i live.  I don’t believe it is a coincidence that he needed me and I needed him on that flight.  I believe it was a divine encounter.  God brought two lives together for each of our growth.

Out of this encounter children will be sponsored and their lives forever changed.

Out of this encounter I was educated on Kili, climbing, altitude sickness

Out of this encounter he received answers to many of his questions on faith

Out of this encounter he made some connections about human trafficking, and the difference he can make

Out of this encounter passion was stirred to make a difference here in USA as well

As our families have dinner together next week it is my prayer that what God started on a plane will move beyond us to our wives, children and ultimately to the world around us that others lives will be impacted and God will receive honor and praise.

I know this, he is excited about sponsoring some children and impacting his world and deepening his pursuit of God because of an encounter on a plane.

When was the last time you had a divine encounter?

Divine encounters are becoming a regular occurrence in my life.  I think it is because I expect them now and am always watching for them.

Thank you Jesus for showing up on airplanes and for another divine encounter.

WHAT CAN I DO?

What can I do? This is a question I am regularly asked when I teach about human trafficking and poverty in our world? What I am discovering is, many who say this really don’t want the answer?

The issues touch the heart of emotion but often times go no further than feelings of anger or sorrow for those involved.  People with these feeling will say, “I want to get involved and make a difference but what can I do?” it amazes me how many of these folks take no action beyond that conversation.  Even when given simple practical things that could make a real tangible difference.

I wonder what the sticking point is?

Would the response be different if they woke up and discovered that it was their child who had just been trafficked and was being raped 15 -20 times per night? Would their action and response be different if it was their child who faced daily poverty and vulnerability?

It is my bet, and personal experience, that action is often attached to proximity of pain.  We tend to change everything when the reality hits home.  Finances seem to no longer be an excuse, time no longer stands in our way, fear of speaking out no longer chokes us up, when it is our daughter.

Often times now when people ask me what they can do to make a difference my answer is simply, “if it was your daughter what would you want someone else to do? Do that.”

If your daughter was vulnerable would you want someone to give to reduce the vulnerability…  Then Give

If it was your son or daughter and you knew that 35 dollars a month would reduce your child’s vulnerability, provide him/her with an education, provide him/her with clean water and medicines, would you pray for someone to do that…

Someone is praying that prayer!  Will you do for one of these kids what you would want someone else to do if it were your son or daughter.

For $35 per month you can do just that. www.teamworldvision.org/Kilimanjaro

Please don’t ask, “what can I do and then do nothing.” and if it is not this find something and make a difference in your world.