Monthly Archives: March 2015

Struggling in the Aftermath

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the crown of thorns of Jesus Christ and a nail on the Holy CrossThe disciples of Jesus had a horrible day the Saturday after the crucifixion. We view it as the period between the cross and Easter, but they didn’t see it that way or understand what we know in hindsight.

The Jewish Sabbath was typically a day of rest, but this Sabbath was a time of gut-wrenching heartache. The disciples’ teacher, Rabbi, Lord, and closest friend was lying dead in a cold tomb. Their dream of a Messianic-led rebirth of Israel was crushed. All their hope for a Jewish revival was now completely shattered and abandoned.

Yesterday, the Friday of His crucifixion, they had run away, they had denied their beloved, they had watched from a distance in horror at what was being done to him, and they wept in agony. Today, they lived in shock, in dread, and in dark corners of deafening silence.

The disciples feared for their own lives as they cowered in an upper room somewhere in the city of Jerusalem. Overnight they had become religious outcasts among the very people who once had sung the praises of Jesus and his motley crew.

These men and women who loved Jesus experienced a dreadfully dark and demoralizing day. In their minds, he was gone forever and they were failures.

Remember, they did not understand the promise of Easter or the hope of the resurrection.

Not yet.

Not on that Saturday.

It was the second worst day of their lives, and from their limited perspective, they believed that they would never have a good day again.

Distressed woman

I wonder how many of you are in a similar place?

Something, or maybe even someone, in your life has died. You’ve lost a dream, a relationship, a job, a friend, and you’re exhausted. In fact, you’re an emotional and physical wreck. Numbness surrounds your heart, mind, and soul like a dense winter fog. You can’t even think about the future. The misery of yesterday and the emptiness of today have stolen from you any joy or hope for a better tomorrow.

If that’s you, please listen to these words: God knows where you’ve been, where you are, and where he will take you. He understands the crushing anguish of the cross, but he also knows (far better than you do), that Sunday is coming, and it’s a brand new day. A sunrise of hope for your future is on the horizon.

So hold on.

Stay true.

Don’t despair.

Sunday is just around the corner.

Empty tomb

“I am the resurrection and the life.

The one who believes in me will live,

even though they die;

and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.”

John 11:25-26 (NIV)

 

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16 Responses to Struggling in the Aftermath

  1. it is with great relief to read these words..I KNOW i am truly very hard on myself…I needed to hear these words..God is here for us…I just have to continue to BELIEVE and be patient…HOLD ON…

    • Hi Kelly, thank you for being so real and vulnerable. We do tend to be the hardest on ourselves. Hold on to Him and His grace… You are loved.

  2. Thank you again Kurt. Just when the darkness tries to creep back in you shine the light right where I need it. God has something special planned for me soon, I am sure of it.

  3. My dearest brother, thank you. I couldn’t find the words, but you did. It was the second darkest day of my life, My confusion and heartache seem to exceed my ability to believe that any good can come of this.
    However, as much as I don’t understand Gods way or plans, I’ll trust and wait.

    Tat

  4. Being in a dark place can be frightening. Turning on the Light of Jesus makes the darkness flee. He never said all this will be easy, He just said He will always be here. Holy Spirit come!!! You have such a wonderful way of reminding us that we are not alone, Kurt!!! Love you!!!

    • If a writer/blogger can have a favorite post, this would be one of them for me. Thanks, Jim. I’m with you, “Holy Spirit, come!”

  5. Great post Kurt. This my first time reading you and I loved it. I especially love your perspective on this Saturday. I usually have to force myself to step back and look at whatever Bible story I’m reading without the privilege of knowing how it ends. It’s easier to be brave as Shadrach, Meshach and Abedenego if you know God will deliver you from the furnace. It’s something altogether different if you don’t know how it ends. I’ve always loved their example: “…but even if He does not (deliver us), we still won’t bow down to you or your statue…”

    Thanks for the encouragement as we celebrate this hope-filled weekend.

Shortest Post Ever (About Worry)

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Life is too short to worry about too much in the hope that you too will find peace in things that matter too little.

So just live today. Live in trust. Live on purpose. Live in Him.

Daddy’s got this . . .

Father and Son Air Vertical

“Worrying does not do any good;

who can claim to add even an hour

to his life by worrying?”

Matthew 6:27 (VOICE)

 

PIAD Front PanelIf you like short insights, check out my devotional called: Perfectly Imperfect: A Devotional for Grace-Filled Living. Find it here.

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One Response to Shortest Post Ever (About Worry)

The Bride: Beast, Beauty or Both?

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Amsterdam hooker.“The Church is a whore, but she is my mother.”

The first time I heard those words out of Tony Campolo’s mouth, I was shocked. Did he just say what I think he said? Seriously, you’re comparing the Bride of Christ to a slut? What-ev! 

A few months later, I was sitting at a round table in a room filled with pastors, priests, and even a few politicians. Represented was a large cross-section of the Church. Liberals. Conservatives. Pro-life. Pro-everything and anything. Men. Women. Rob Bell devotees and Johnny McArthur disciples.

At the time, it was both fascinating and disturbing to me. Once again, from my right-thinking-sound-doctrine-I’ve-got-it-all-figured-out position of superiority I thought, the Church is messed up! And instantly I heard the Holy Spirit say in my heart, “This is my Church.”

Of course, I knew I was a part of the Church, but I wasn’t so sure about the liberal woman minister with the priest’s collar who believed it was okay to be gay. I had some serious doubts about the guy with a Brian McLaren book sitting on top of his new age looking bible (is that a flower on the cover?). Anybody with any true understanding of the bible knows that McLaren is a false teacher. Duh!

But those words keep ringing louder and louder in my head, “This is my Church.”

Okay, God. I guess if they love and believe in You, then they belong to You, but there’s a right and wrong. Surely somebody has got to take a stand for sound doctrine. Maybe those Bell-McLaren-Campolo lovers are going to make it to heaven (even if they don’t believe in hell), but they’re embarrassing the Church (and me).

“This is my Church.”

Yeah but Jesus, didn’t Paul warn us against heretics and those who abandon sound doctrine (it’s found in 2 Timothy 4:3 just in case you forgot the reference, Lord)? Aren’t we supposed to caution those who “gather around them a great number of teachers who say what their itching ears want to hear”?

“This is my Church.”

Chapel next to big tree on top of a grass hill - B&W

Beets! Have you ever tried to have a theological argument with God? It’s frustrating. He lands on facts but refuses to forsake love. He cares about truth, but He keeps wrapping it up in grace.

My problem: I often use truth (at least my perception and understanding of truth) to beat the crap out of people God apparently loves.

Ouch, could I be a modern-day Pharisee?

Do I make being right more important than being relational?

Truthfully, I’m never going to be a progressive liberal Christian. But have I built my faith on a “solid foundation of doctrine” while ignoring what Jesus said was most important?

While addressing the “religious” of His day, Jesus said in Matthew 22:37-40 (NIV), “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Love. Everything hangs on love for God and love for others. Everything that’s been taught to us, and all the sound doctrine in the world hinges on one thing: love.

In another place, Jesus spoke these words that haunt me when I think about my occasionally self-righteous, theologically-angry heart, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35, NIV).

Businessman Showing Puzzle Piece with Unity Text

Pop quiz: How will the world know we belong to a good, merciful, and gracious God? How will they know that Jesus lives?

Answer: If we love one another.

Could it be that simple?

Does sound doctrine matter? Of course, it does. (I’m not suggesting we embrace atheists as brothers or Buddhism as just another way to God.)

Shouldn’t we be aware of false teachers? Yes.

Do the orthodox tenets of our faith matter? Absolutely. (We must proclaim one God revealed in Three, one Savior crucified yet alive, one way to the Father and one Church.)

But maybe I’m not as theologically sound as I think I am. Maybe I’m going to get to heaven and find out that some of the distinctives I held to so dearly are not so important in the end. Maybe there will be some folks standing next to me in heaven that I judged unworthy but Jesus embraced as His.

For my ultra-conservative friends (who are desperately looking for the unsubscribe button right now), relax; I’m not suggesting you embrace some willy-nilly free-for-all belief system based on tolerance or compromise. Seek, teach, and stand on truth, but please do so in love. Is it possible you don’t have it all figured out?

For my ultra-liberal progressive friends (who feel validated and are eagerly looking for the share button), practice what you preach—be tolerant of those who judge you—and please do so in love rather than disgust. Maybe you don’t have it all figured out either.

Confessional

One last confession . . . 

I used to despise the word ecumenism. I saw it as a weak attempt to unite the Church in an all-embracing, all-inclusive pseudo organization. Let’s get everybody in a circle, hold hands, sing Kumbaya and try to find our lowest common denominator as a point of unity. To me, it reeked of compromise.

I’ve changed.

Now I see ecumenism as unity around a central Person and preeminent theme: Jesus and love.

Sadly, too often the Bride of Christ acts beastly toward one another. And tragically, a watching world thinks, You guys can’t even love each other! Why would I ever want anything to do with you? How that must break the heart of Jesus.

Tony might be right. Perhaps the Church is a whore, a beast or even worse, but She is my mother and my sister and all Her children are a part of me. Even the Christians I strongly disagree with are forever connected to my life. Go figure.

Portrait of young female nerd looking upI recently had a conversation with an author and a young woman who wrote about her spiritual journey. I read her book, and her pain and pursuit of God moved me. In many ways, I identified with her questions and struggles because I once wrestled with them in my life. The book is incredibly well written and destined for the New York Times bestseller list.

However, I was bothered a bit by her theology. It seemed she was an Omnist (one who believes all religions and all faiths are equal in value and all lead to God). After reading the final chapter, I wondered if she knew and loved the Jesus I know and love. Unfortunately, I was ready to write her off as another confused thirty-something who wanted to define God in her terms rather than His.

Then we spoke.

And to my surprise and delight, she loves Jesus. She’s a Christian, and I have no doubt we will spend eternity together. Her book is simply a story of her yet unfinished journey of faith. (By the way, aren’t we all unfinished and in process?)

After we hung up, the Holy Spirit whispered to my heart again, “It’s my Church, and it’s filled with people who haven’t figured it all out yet . . . just like you, Kurt. Will you love my Bride?”

With eyes filled with tears, I cried, Yes, Father, I will.

May I pray for you (and me)? 

Jesus, forgive us for our spiritual arrogance. Forgive us for the times we have lobbed grenades at others in Your Church all in the name of sound doctrine. As You promised, lead us by Your Holy Spirit into all truth, but help us walk in humility. Remind us frequently that, at best, we only know in part. And let us be shining lights of glory that point a dark world to You as we are brought to complete unity in Your name. Amen.

Road trip concept and sunset

 

I have given them the glory that you gave me,

that they may be one as we are one—

I in them and you in me—

so that they may be brought to complete unity.

Then the world will know that you sent me

and have loved them even as you have loved me.

John 17:22-23 (NIV)

 

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If you’d like to read more of Kurt’s insights about life, the church and culture, please check out his books here.

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7 Responses to The Bride: Beast, Beauty or Both?

  1. Wow! Pastor Kurt,
    I would view this entry as the best thing you have written. a mini book in itself. Having gone through hating my son for hiding from us that he was gay, having to repent for that hate, loving my son allover again and hearing him tell us in the middle of the night that he has repented of sins and asked Jesus into his heart, the words you have written here have really touched my heart. You are right. Who are we to say who loves God and who doesn’t? Only He knows that. The “Key” word here is LOVE, Thank you!

  2. Gee, writing about something we all do subconsciously ought to stir things up. Thanks for making us think! We tend to forget what is most important and what our calling is.

    Love you Kurt.

    Ps- where is that unsubscribe button? 🙂

  3. This is a concept that I am still learning to wrap my head ( and heart ) around.
    I have been so indignant with doing things the “right” way for so long that I have truly lost that loving feeling. OR perhaps, never really had it in the first place. I’m seeking a new, more loving, lifelike, & honest (mostly with myself) approach.
    YES, you can pray for me.

  4. This is the third time I have read this Kurt, and it is bringing tears to my eyes. You have a ways with words, and that is another of God’s gift to us. I have always said you can say anything to anyone as long as you say it with Love and Respect. You keep writing, I will keep reading, and learning!!!

Church Shopping?

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leaving-home cartoon

Should Sheep Shop?

Guest Post by Pastor James Emery White

I was recently asked by another pastor how he should feel about all of the sheep swapping going around in his city.
 
In the Bible, those in Christ are often referred to as “sheep,” and pastors as “shepherds.”
From this, there have come all kinds of catchphrases in regard to church life, most notably “sheep swapping,” which is when people move from one local church to another.
So, is that ever a good thing? 
 
Always a bad thing?
 
Something in between?
 
Yes.
 
Five good reasons to shop around:
 
1.   Teaching veers away from historic orthodoxy.
2.   Leadership consistently lacks integrity.
3.   Community is infected with habitual disunity.
4.   Mission has no focus or clarity.
5.   Finances lack necessary accountability.
 
These are good for one reason: they are substantive issues.
 
Five bad reasons to shop around:
 
1.   You don’t like long check-in lines and parking/exit hassles.
2.   You don’t like capital campaigns for buildings.
3.   You don’t like the influx of new faces and new staff.
4.   You don’t like finding your favorite seat taken.
5.   You don’t like having limited personal access to the pastor.
 
These are bad for one reason: they are all about not liking growth.
 
Five really bad reasons to shop around:
 
1.   You want to gravitate to the “next, next” thing out of spiritual insecurity.
      And then the “next, next” thing after that…and after that….
2.   You are fleeing the community after being exposed and admonished for serious, unrepentant sin.
3.   You voted on a non-doctrinal, non-substantive matter and it didn’t go your way.
4.   Your toes were stepped on in regard to a lifestyle or obedience matter that, in truth, the Bible is clear on.
5.   You got “offended” by someone, but never practiced Matthew 18:15 to try and resolve the offense.
 
These are “really bad” for one reason: they are rooted in sin, or at least immaturity.
 
Five “gray” reasons to shop around:
 
1.   Your new address makes it too far to drive.
2.   Your teenager wants to go somewhere else.
3.   Your age group or “stage of life” group is under-represented.
4.   Your philosophy of ministry is different, or has changed.
5.   Your passion in ministry isn’t offered or enabled.
 
These are gray for one reason: sometimes they are legit, sometimes they are not. Sometimes they should be “catered” to, sometimes they should not. In truth, most of the time “not.”
 
Five reasons used most often for shopping around:
 
1.   I’m not being “fed.”
2.   I’m not being “fed.”
3.   I’m not being “fed.”
4.   I’m not being “fed.”
5.   I’m not being “fed.”
 
So is being “fed” good, bad or gray?
 
Yes.
 
In most cases, it’s bad. The apostle Paul talks about those who still want to be “fed” as akin to a middle-age man sucking on a baby bottle. Most of us already know more at this moment than we will ever act on. We don’t need to be fed more – we need to live more. And if anything, feed others.
 
Being “fed” is often a euphemism for any and all disagreements that desire a spiritual smokescreen for departure. The irony is that I have dialogued with many of the leading teachers of our day – those who write books, have radio programs, have hundreds of thousands of podcasts downloaded (the teachers of the teachers) – and even with their qualifications the #1 reason people give for leaving their church is “I’m not being fed.”
 
Go figure.
 
The bottom line is that continually shopping around as a sheep, as a rule, is not best. What is best is to find a church home, be loyal and committed to it, and to work to make it all that it isn’t with a servant’s heart.
 
There will always be more
 
…convenient churches
…hotter churches
…newer churches
…better stage-of-life churches
…hipper churches
…larger churches
…smaller churches
 
But there will only be one that is your church.
 
Like a marriage that goes the marathon, there is a depth and sweetness to staying in a community year after year, decade after decade.
 
Knowing the stories, the people, the milestones.
 
There are people at Meck who have been with us since the earliest of days. Some since the very first year. Some since the very first service.
 
To a person, they would tell you that it is among their most precious investments and realities.
 
Why? It’s their church.
 
The one that God called them to.
 
That’s not something you shop for and buy.
 
It’s something you make.
 

Note: This is a guest post, used by permission, of pastor and author, Dr. James Emery White. To read more of his blogs, go here.

PIAD Front PanelIf you’d like to read some things Kurt wrote regarding the Church and faith, please check out his recently released book: Perfectly Imperfect.  

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10 Responses to Church Shopping?

    • Actually, Theodore, I would encourage you to go back and review this passage, in context, and to take a closer look at the early church history. It says in Acts 2:46, “They worshipped together at the Temple each day…” and they met in homes to share a meal and the Lord’s Supper. Your suggestion that this somehow encourages “church hopping” is biblically and historically incorrect. Church shopping/hopping is a relatively new experience in our modern culture that is the result of a consumer mentality far to prevalent in the Church. That being said, thank you for sharing and adding to the conversation.

  1. Giod article. I think it’s easy for us to think that this is the church “we chose” to go to, and give less importance to the fact that God has placed us there. When we realize that, (assuming all doctrine and teaching is Biblically sound) church becomes a much more special place.
    David knew that God had chosen him to be king of Israel, but it took time, a lot patience and faith and trust before he took his position. But he knew it was Gods plan. Finding your place in a church can be much like that. It’s an amazing thing when we are able to trust God’s will, and not assume we need to fit His will into our plans. God always blesses faithfulness.

  2. Really good entry. People are fickle, for sure. A few weeks back I shared a bit of my story of considering “shopping” last summer. So this all fits the thoughts I had. Mostly the bad reasons and gray! Lol. And the “not being fed”. But the irony about that is that mostly I wasn’t being fed cuz I wasn’t showing up. Truth. I’m home at Eastpoint. They love me and I love them. It’s my church.

  3. This is a really great article. Whenever I start to feel “I’m not being fed”, I really have to search my heart and ask God to reveal my discontent, which turns out to be my issue, not the church, nor God’s. So, now the first thing I do if I have the urge to “wander” is to ask myself “has God shown me a reason to leave”….Nope…God still has something for me to learn and something to give at EP. 🙂

  4. Great article Kurt. I am back for the summer, or at least most of it. I will see you Easter Sunday. I have watched sheep shop, settle, then shop, then settle, then shop instead of asking God where to join, be and own.

    The only times I have “shopped” have been when I changed communities and had to be placed in a new fellowship. Now is difficult for me as I do not have my earthly life partner with me and I am not sure where I live except where my 5th wheel is parked at the time. Anyway, God sustains me and always brings the fellows into the ship with me, or places me into a “ship” with other fellows. See you sunday.

    gary

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