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Church clothes

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(image credit to Tyler Bennicke)

 

Put on your Sunday best.

When I started attending church as a teenager, I went out and bought new clothes. I don’t have any church clothes, I thought, so I went to procure some so I’d be able to dress properly for church.

I look back on teenage me now, and I realize just how little I knew about what ‘church’ really was. That church that I started attending wound up being absolutely foundational to my growth as a Christian, and God used the people in that congregation to dramatically change the course of my life.

But it wasn’t about my clothes. Those people, whom I love dearly, didn’t invest in my life because I wore the ‘right clothes’ (heck, with my fashion sense, those two words almost never go together anyway!); they weren’t nearly as concerned with what was on the outside as with what was on the inside.

These days, while people have a great many different views on what appropriate attire is for Sunday worship, there’s one outfit that remains unfortunately consistent — let’s call it ‘our Sunday best.’

It’s the idea that when we go to church, everyone is on their best behavior, puts their best foot forward, gets their best ‘I’m doing great’ smile and tells everyone how awesome everything is going.

This is a far bigger issue than clothing will ever be, and it’s one of the greatest battles the church faces. As long as people believe that being a Christian means having their lives in order, they’ll keep pretending that they do, hiding the fact that they need healing as much as the rest of us do.

Many churches already recognize this, and are taking steps to care for those who are taking care of the people who are hurting, but they can only care for those who are willing to admit when they are hurting. It’s only the people who are willing to show their insides who can be best served by the church.

But here’s where it gets a little more difficult — it’s the people who have opened up and been willing to receive help with their hurts who are best able to serve those who are taking the step to open up and expose their own hurts.

It’s that cycle of growth that’s what the Church needs to truly be effective in our world, but it takes more people who are willing to step up and admit that they’re not perfect, that they don’t have it all together, and that they need others to help them experience God’s healing.

What hurts are you holding on to that can only be healed in community?

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He sees you when you’re sleeping
He knows when you’re awake
He knows if you’ve been bad or good
So be good for goodness’ sake!

So, I know it’s not anywhere near Christmas, and I actually have a rather unhealthy dislike of this song, but I’ll readily admit that I’m the guy who hears it and thinks, “hey, that line describes our relationship with God!”

God already knows all our faults — He knows the secrets, the lies, the hurts, the sorrows that cause us to keep the walls up around others.

We don’t need to pretend with God, but we forget that because we grow accustomed to pretending with everyone else (after all, aren’t we all taught as children that the appropriate response to “How are you?” is “Fine, thanks. How are you?”).

Let me pause for a moment to say that I’m as guilty of this as anyone. I’m really good at keeping secrets and really bad at opening up to people, and it all boils down to fear and pride.

We’re scared of what people will think if they see how broken we really are, and we’re too proud to ask for help. If we’re really honest with ourselves, this is the very thing that keeps us from opening up to God as well, and letting Him do His work in us.

We bury our true feelings so that no one will see, and we think that God won’t see either. Oh, we say that we know God sees our hearts, but we don’t live like it. We bury our sins so no one will see, and because we know that we’re forgiven, we don’t deal with the heart issues that led us to that sin in the first place, and before we know it, we’re caught up in the same sin again.

“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” (James 5.16)

When we choose to live inside out, we’re choosing to show others our dark side so that we can have help and support in overcoming it. Opening up allows others to walk the road with us, to encourage us, and to challenge us, so that we can grow together in community.

You’ll find that the support of a community is worth overcoming the fear of confession.

What secrets do you keep that you’re scared to let others in on?

Inside Out?

The world sees the part of us that we choose to show off. We tend to be defined by our actions, because that’s what people can see.

“People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

This is, quite simply, a statement of fact. Human beings can only see the outside, and (let’s face it) we’re quite talented at hiding what’s underneath.

But…

What if others COULD see beyond our words and actions, look beyond the masks we wear, and see our hearts?

What if people could see in us what God already sees?

Scared yet?

This is the experiment I’m proposing:

Live life inside out

Choose to show others what’s really going on inside you. Be honest in every aspect of your life, and take off the masks that keep your heart hidden from others.

For many of us, we’re so used to hiding our true selves from the people we meet that we can’t fathom being that honest with anyone.

“It would be a big mess. No one would want to be around me if they knew what I really thought.”

That’s where everything starts to change. We start to become more conscious of our motives when we’re inside out. We start to think more clearly about attitudes that hurt others, and hopefully, those attitudes begin to change.

Ultimately, though, we’re still broken people — it’s just as likely that this could be an experiment in how to lose friends and alienate people. But the bigger story is this: that deep down, we all desire to be better people, to be more than we are.

God already sees what’s going on in our hearts. If we let others see inside, then the importance of our attitude becomes that much more real, and we get the opportunity to grow into the person that we’re meant to be.

So, this marks the beginning of an experiment, and this blog will be home to my thoughts on its development.

Feel free to journey with me on it.

What do you think? Is living life inside out worth trying, or is it a recipe for disaster?

I’ve written another guest post over at Easter Challenge 2012, this week it’s on Matthew 9-12.

Easter Challenge 2012

It always amazes me the breadth of different things that stand out in scripture every time you read through it. As I read, I remarked other things I’ve taken notice of in the past, but as I looked at my notes, there was one theme that seemed to stand out to me this time around:

Words.

This intrigued me as I looked over the verses I had highlighted, but it’s true:

Jesus made a big deal of words.

“For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?”

The Gospel writers were very deliberate in their recording of Jesus’ words. They wanted to make sure that Jesus’ teachings were as clear as possible for their audiences, and not hindered by details that didn’t fit with their message. That’s why there are differences in the Gospel accounts—each author sought to distill the story…

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Acts 5-8

I wrote a guest post for the Bridgewater Young Adults Group’s Easter Challenge – Check it out here.

Movember Approaches

This might be a bit of a departure from my ‘usual’ writing topic, but I think it’s something we can all take part in, and change the face of men’s health!

*Quoted from movember.com:
It’s Movember, the month formerly known as November, dedicated to growing moustaches and raising awareness and funds for men’s health issues, specifically cancers affecting men. Please support my efforts by making a donation at http://mobro.co/neverdar/d.

We only have a month to grow and support these Movember moustaches, so please come along for the ride.

Thank you for donating at http://mobro.co/neverdar/d and for helping me change the face of men’s health. Go the Mo!

Lots more information is available on movember.com, as well as info on how you can join in and grow your mo for men’s health!

Enter Diligence

So earlier this spring, I spent two months blogging daily (elsewhere) and thoroughly enjoyed the discipline (although it was difficult at times).

In the process of such diligent writing, it occurred to me how much I had been neglecting my own blog space over the years, and I determined that I would write more often and with a clear goal in mind.

So, on that note, I’ll be walking through the book of Proverbs over the next several weeks, and posting short devotional thoughts every couple of days or so.

Part two of this grand adventure will be to return to participation in Sunday Setlists over at theworshipcommunity.com

At some point, this blog may evolve into something with a little more purpose, but for now, if you’re reading, I appreciate any feedback you’d like to offer.

Here’s to diligence.

What are we about?

Yeah, okay, so I know it’s late and I have to get up for work in the morning, but I felt compelled to write something down tonight.

In the wake of the disaster in Haiti, which I’m we’re all reeling over, there’s been another issue come up that seems to be stealing our attention away from the needs of the Haitian people, and provoking great anger among both Christians and non-Christians alike.

A certain televangelist (who I shall not name, as this post is not about him) made some rather unfortunate comments about the situation in Haiti, which has led to a rather large outpouring of unfortunate comments about this particular televangelist. Many of these responses and comments have left me with one question in my mind:

As Christians, what are we about?

My hunch is that, no matter who long or short your answer might be, there’s one word that rings common across the board:

love

We love because he first loved us (I John 4:19). It doesn’t matter from what denomination you hail, or what your theology is, you can’t argue that at the very core of the Christian faith is this one simple word.

love

I’ve seen the statement. What’s missing?

love

I’ve seen the responses. What’s still missing?

love

This issue is one of the very few things in this world that makes me truly angry. I know that we’re all in the process of regeneration and that we all have sin in our lives that we continue to deal with on a day-to-day basis, but there comes a point where we all have to agree to work on this one thing, and make that the thing that the world sees.

Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13.35). If we want to be known as disciples of Christ, we need to start with one simple command:

love

There are a great many issues that the secular world has with the Church, and I guarantee you that nowhere on the list is, “those Christians are just too loving!” More often than not, the issue is exactly the opposite. We’re often seen as judgmental, as bigoted, as downright hateful, and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is saddened by that fact.

So, let’s start to change that. Let’s start in our homes, in our churches, in our neighbourhoods. Let’s deal with others with love and respect, especially those with whom we disagree. Let me be clear on this: we don’t have to agree with or condone the actions of everyone to love them. God does not love anyone any more or less than anyone else. Neither should we.

Let’s show the world that we belong to Christ. Let’s love one another, the way that God loves us. Let that be what makes headlines. Let that be what people think of when they think of the Church, and not the unfortunate comments of one man.

IMG_9398.jpgWell, it’s been QUITE some time since I last wrote here, but you all know by now what a terrible blogger I am, so I won’t dwell on that, but to say I’m going to be making a concerted effort to begin blogging far more regularly, if for no other reason than it’s good for me.

Anyway, at this point, we’ve been back from Korea for a little over two months, and we do indeed miss the Community of Joy and all its members, but it’s been great to be back home as well, and re-experience North American worship services with the knowledge that we gained from our time overseas.

This Sunday, I departed a little from my usual plan, and went to the 11:00 service at Allison Church rather than the 9:15 which is closer to home for me. I had a couple of reasons for this, both involving my plans to get involved in Allison’s music ministry since it looks like we’re in Moncton for a little longer than we had initially hoped (but that’s a story for another day, and probably isn’t why you’re reading today’s post).

This Sunday, being the third week of Advent, was the third week in Allison’s ‘Christmas with Izzy’ series, where we talk about the relevance of Isaiah to the New Testament, specifically the Christmas story. We were also treated to a presentation by the children’s ministry, with fairy tale characters talking about the Christmas story.

For this week’s chapter in the Izzy saga, Dave looked at Isaiah 40, leading us from the point of Isaiah saying, “The King is coming” to saying, “The King has come”. One of the most thought-provoking points that Dave brought up (that also happens to be the one that’s far to easy to leave at church and not take home with us) was that God calls us to SHOUT. ‘Shout for what?’ asks Isaiah. “HERE IS YOUR GOD” (see Isa 40.6-11). Dave makes the point that we find it so easy to shout at sporting events or at the visit of celebrities, but we seem to have a problem shouting for the King of kings. We don’t hesitate to shout our excitement about earthly things, but we often pause when it comes to shouting about the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us (see John 1.14).

We certainly need always to be willing to give an answer for the faith that we have, and this time of year is among the best times to do that, which is exactly why Dave said that Allison is doing multitudinous Christmas Eve services at both campuses.

For the music this morning, John and his team led, putting together a great blend of music that I know I appreciated. The list went something like this:

Opening music:

  • Meet With Me (Ten Shekel Shirt)
  • It Came Upon a Midnight Clear (with an extra chorus that I wasn’t familiar with)
  • Emmanuel (Hallowed Manger Ground) (Tomlin)

Next came the Children’s presentation, followed by a baby dedication, and the congregation joined the kids in singing their song.

Then, before the sermon, we sang Silent Night, after which Dave shared with us, and we closed with the chorus to Emmanuel as we had sung earlier.

Please feel free to head on over to Fred McKinnon’s blog and share about your worship services as part of his Sunday Setlists blog carnival. You don’t have to be a worship leader to participate, all you need to do is blog about the church service you attended this week.

Cross-post: We’re Coming Home!

This is a cross-post from The Nevers’ Adventures.

Alright, so there’s really not much to say beyond the title, but I’ll tell a little bit of the story.

We had been a little confused about our end-date, so we met with our boss two weeks ago to discuss the matter. At the meeting, she said that, based on the current enrollment, they were going to be downsizing a little and replacing me and Shannon with only one foreign teacher. She also said that, provided they could find someone to replace us, we would be completing our contract sometime in October. We said, ‘okay’, and went on our merry way, still wondering when exactly we were going to be heading home.

Fast forward to this week, and I’ll map this out for you a little bit.

Monday – I decide that I need to start emailing some people to let them know that we’re going to be coming home a little sooner than anticipated.

Tuesday – We get to work, and our other boss comes in to meet with us, tells us the new guy’s paperwork is almost done, and asks us when we’d like to go home. We say, ‘Whatever’s going to be best for you,’ so he replies by saying that THIS weekend is impossible, because it’s a major holiday in Korea this weekend (Chuseok, but we’ll have more on that later), but NEXT weekend should be alright. Shannon and I are in a little bit of shock, but we say, ‘okay’ and go on our merry way.

Wednesday – We look at possible flights and compare what we’ve found with what our boss has found, tickets are purchased, and we’re set to go, followed closely by tickets being purchased for the new guy. Shannon and I are still in shock, but we now have our tickets in hand, so we need to start making arrangements.

Thursday – We go to the post office to send a bunch of our stuff home, which we had been planning to do anyway, but now there’s a sense of urgency to it, because there’s a good chance we’re going to beat our stuff home, now. We send numerous emails to people, making last minute arrangements for the end of our time in Korea.

So, at this point, we’re still trying to figure some things out, but one thing we do know for certain: we’re leaving Korea at 5:20pm on Sunday October 11, and landing in Halifax at 1:45am on Monday October 12 (and if you’re following the time zones, that means that we’re going to be in transit for 20 hours, and yet only 8 hours will have passed on the clock).

We still don’t completely believe this is happening, but we’re excited to be coming home and we’re looking forward to seeing all of you for whom we’ve been writing this blog over the last year. So, as our second-last week winds to a close, we ask for your prayer as we get ready for the journey home.