Monthly Archives: April 2012

Money Does Buy Happiness (just not the way you think)

I love TED. This video is done by Michael Horton, and his premise is that we have all heard a million times that money can’t buy you happiness. That’s wrong. And I agree with him. He’s a professor of business at Harvard University, and he is spot on. The thing that we forget about money is that, at least according to Jesus, money is not just some neutral commodity. It is a principality and power, and it can be used for great good or great harm.

This is at the heart of the counter-intuitive nature of the Kingdom of God. There is a powerful bent to serve ourselves. So we spend and spend and accumulate more and more, and we are more miserable than ever. This is the secret of the Kingdom Jesus’ preached. It’s not that God doesn’t love rich people, or that God is secretly on the side of socialism…it’s that God knows what we tend to forget. The promises that our “stuff” makes, are impossible to keep.

That T.V., that bigger house, that newer car, may serve a purpose, but it will almost always leave you feeling a little less full of life than you thought.

Just this morning, I was driving to work thinking about this. We give a fair amount to church, non-profits and individuals, but really our giving is disproportional to the amount we have. That is, we give just enough to feel good about being generous, without the sacrifice that is needed to actually become more generous. I was rolling all of this around in my head this morning, and had a few ideas about what our next steps should be. We have cable in our home, way too much cable in fact, we have more channels than anyone could ever watch. And let’s be honest, there’s only so many reality tv shows about people making cakes competitively that a person can stand.

But that’s kind of indicative of our culture. Whenever we have “extra” money our natural bent is to expand our lifestyles. So we eventually have jobs we don’t like to buy junk we don’t need.  And it all promised to make us more happy, but for some reason it all feels so empty. But the way of Jesus is very different than that. It says that the more you share your resources and means with others, the more satisfied and content you are with life. The more you sacrifice, the more you realize that it was no sacrifice at all.

I’ve noticed the difference between money our family spends to be generous to others, and the money we spend on ourselves. There is a sense in which the money we spend internally has a very short-lived life-span. We spend the money on the movie tickets…and then 2 hours later that’s it. We rarely reflect back on that wonderful time we went to Red Lobster, but generosity….that’s something that we will talk about forever.  Continue reading Money Does Buy Happiness (just not the way you think)

A Restoration Movement

So this past weekend at the Highland Church of Christ, we talked about the vision for Highland for the next 10 years of her existence. It was the product of 18 months of the staff and shepherd praying, fasting and discerning what we would be about of the next decade. It was one of my favorite weekends in ministry so far. We plan to adopt a housing first model to address the disproportional amount of homelessness in Abilene, we plan to adopt a local at-risk school, develop two community centers in lower socio-economic areas of town, host service events on our campus a few times a year, get into micro-financing, water-wells, church planting and triple the amount of money that goes out externally.

You know the basics.

And we are doing it all to partner with God in his dream of Restoration. We’re calling it A Restoration Movement.

It’s new, and it’s old, it’s ancient/future. And we believe it’s from God.

But we are also hoping that it will be a Restoration Movement which means we believe that there are other churches that are out there who might be interested in how to go about creating, casting and implementing a vision for their church to become externally focused. And if we can, we’d like to help you get there. We are still working out the kinks on what that might look like, but I would imagine if your church is interested in something like this we can give you study resources, suggested reading lists and conversation partners, and more.

In the words of Jerry Taylor, “The Restoration Movement hasn’t restored very much, and it hasn’t moved anywhere in a long time.” But the language that we have used is great! It’s the language of the younger emergent Jesus followers, and the language of their parents and grandparents, and even better…it’s the language that is old as the Christian story itself. It’s God dream of Restoring, and the church is called to partner with this dream.

I believe that in the 70’s and 80’s people looked back on the churches of their past and asked, “How could we have been so racist?” I believe that in the 2000’s people stared looking back and asking, “How could we have been so patriarchal? or Sectarian?” And I believe that the next question we are going to (and already are) looking back and asking is, “How could we have been so selfish?”

Why do churches spend so much money on themselves? We spend over 90% on our church budgets devoted primarily to meeting the needs of the people who are in the buildings that we worship for one hour a week in. That’s ungodly. It’s time to do something about that. It’s time for churches to move toward blessing the communities and world around them.

It’s time for a movement. Continue reading A Restoration Movement

The War in Heaven

So the last time we talked about Revelation, we were in Chapter 11 and talking about the way God triumphs over the Beast, but then in the very next chapter we find out that there is a war in Heaven itself…between Michael the Angel, and the Dragon.

Now it’s at this point that you would think that Keana Reeves would show up. But the story gets more bizarre than a Hollywood script could cover.

We read about how the Dragon is faced off with not just Michael but with a woman great with child. And right as this woman is about to give birth the Dragon goes into for the kill. Now on a lot of levels, I think that this is the Christmas story, just on a Cosmic level. The woman is going to give birth to a great ruler, he’s going to face immediate danger and he’s going to have to run away to the wilderness to escape.

But remember John is also using the Exodus story as a backdrop for a lot of what he’s doing in Revelation. And that’s a story that has a very similar plot to the Christmas story, just with a whole lot more people. God brings His people out of slavery in Egypt and saves them through the Wilderness. But he doesn’t just save them so they can sit around and talk about how great it is to not have to build pyramids anymore. He saves them to partner with him in the world. He doesn’t just save them from slavery…He saves them for service. Continue reading The War in Heaven

Memento Mori

So when I was a junior in college, Leslie, some friends, and I got a chance to study in and travel around Europe. One of the last stops on our trip was in Rome. It’s by far my favorite city in the world, it was like stepping into a giant museum that doubled as a city. Everywhere you went there were places that were rich with Christian history. Catacombs that the earliest Christian martyrs were buried in. Great statues, that were hundreds of years old, done by incredible artists littered the street. St. Peter’s and the Vatican had the Sistene Chapel and the bones of the man who walked on water with Jesus.

But by far, the most disturbing, and memorable stop in that city was the Capuchin Crypt. It was a monastery that began in the early 17th century. And it was filled with art, but the art was made of the bones of the monks who had died there.

It was a little dark.

Actually, it made Saw IV look like Bambi. And at first we didn’t get it. It was so morbid and disorienting. Our tour guide explained that after a monk would die, they would keep his body buried for 30 years, just long enough for the body to fully decompose. And then they would exhume him and use his bones to add to the sculptures. And the question we were asking was, “Why would anyone ever do this?”

It was by far the darkest hour of our time abroad…and we had toured Aushwitz. Toward the end of the tour we came to a room filled with 3 very dead, yet fully dressed monk skeletons, and there was a placard right in the center of them. It simply read, “What you are we once were, what we are you soon will be.”

Needless to say, we chose not to buy anything from the giftshop.

So we are entering into the end of Holy Week. It’s the time when Christians all over the world are remembering what Jesus has done and is doing in the world. When we remember that Jesus laid down his life on the Cross. It’s when we remember when God died.

And the temptation, like always is to rush ahead in our minds to Easter, to try and push ahead past all the grief and suffering that we try to ignore so much. But historically the Church has refused to let us do that. Throughout the ages, the Church hasn’t just celebrated Easter, it’s also emphasized Good Friday. It’s forces us to remember that death is also a part of the story of God. It’s just not the final chapter. Continue reading Memento Mori