we always think that size determines our success or ability to influence. but it’s not necessarily true. i’m in the midst of reading and studying the book of James and he reminds us that destructive power is beheld in this tiny entity called the tongue. remember when we were kids and chanted the mantra, “sticks and stones will break our bones, but names will never hurt me!” i’m not so sure about that. i think that physical pain heals, but emotional scars can last a lifetime. i still remember when someone took a shot at my preaching by saying that “a dog could preach better.” i brushed it off, but it hasn’t left my memory. it’s a remark that somehow enhances an existing insecurity and makes it all the more difficult to move forward and grow. i also remember when a teacher long ago told me that she saw incredible success in my future. these words embedded hope and inspiration whenever i feel like a failure. words are absolutely powerful. they can inspire us to accomplish more than we ever imagined possible or they can kill our spirit to a point where we are physically immobilized. what words do you speak? do you give life? or do you destroy life? james calls us to tame our tongue. he questions how we bless God and yet curse people who are made in His likeness. And he tells us that this should not be so. know that your tongue has great power – power to kill or power to heal. and, know that what you speak changes our world!!!
as i’m continuing to study the book of james, i realize more and more the connection between what we believe and our day to day actions. james goes so far as to say that the lack of an outward expression of our faith makes our religion worthless!!! (1:26) in fact, we deceive ourselves if we think that don’t live what we believe. i was reading an excerpt from ReJesus where it talks about Shane Claiborne (author of The Irresistable Revolution) taking a survey of a group identifying themselves as “strong followers of Jesus” and asking them, “Did Jesus spend time with the poor?” 80% of the group replied “yes,” while 20% responded “no.” The more baffling and humbling statistic is when the same group was asked if “they spent time with the poor,” only 2% responded that they did. I think that James would call their religion useless. sounds harsh doesn’t it? but it’s truth. even if they were some of the nicest people on the planet, their lack of action makes their religion worth nothing at all.
so… what happens when we read the Bible? do we read it as if it were an entertainment magazine? do we read it to stimulate our minds? or do we know it as the breath of God that gives us life and directs our life? it makes all the difference in the world! it may be the difference between true religion and one that’s worthless. it may be the difference between life and death!
next week, i’m going to be sharing a new initiative that i’m starting over the summer called the “manna” project. if you have been reading my blog and are interested in being a part of changing your community and living our your faith, then stay tuned next week and please invite everyone you know to connect with me here!!! 🙂
i was reading an book on raising infants and it raised a really interesting and insightful truth. why do we refer to babies as “good” or “bad” when it comes to their actions? if a baby cries, doesn’t sleep, and is unconsolable we refer to him/her as a “bad” baby. but if he/she eats well, sleeps well, and rarely cries, we refer to him/her as a “good” baby. interesting… how does that make them good or bad?
i’m wondering if we start redefining things in our lives when things don’t match up. and then i’m wondering if we take these new definitions and use them to evaluate everything… even God. for instance, a “good” baby is one that doesn’t disrupt our lives and makes our lives easy. so now, a “good” God is one who doesn’t disrupt our lives and makes our lives easy. hmmmm… that’s maybe why we ask ourselves the questions, “why would God do this?” “if God is good, why would he make me suffer?” “how could a good God allow pain in my life?” So, is God good? if we define good as not interrupting our lives, not transforming us, not helping us, and making our lives as easy and as comfortable as possible, then maybe not… So, maybe it’s time for us to look to Him to our definition of good and to see Him as truly God. Maybe we should approach God with humility and brokenness so that we can be formed and informed by Him.
The Truth: God is a never changing constant and He is always good.
Our church is launching a new teaching series on ‘Fear’. As we launch this new series, we’re asking people that we connect with over the internet to join us in the conversation. We’re hoping to hear your visions and dreams that are lying dormant because of fear and we’re also hoping to name the fears that are preventing you from living out those dreams. You can join in here at my blog by posting comments, our facebook group, or follow us at twitter. Either way, I hope you’re willing to join us as we discover our fears as well as discover what the Scriptures say about dealing with them.
So, to get things kick started, I thought I’d share a fear of mine that prevents me from being free with my thoughts, words, and ministry. I have a dream of this church (convergence) and in my journey to plant this church; I’ve encountered my own fears of criticism and rejection. My fears of rejection actually prevent me from writing, talking, and broadening my communication of this message that I believe that God has given me. It’s so crazy. I sometimes catch myself deleting words that I’ve written for blogs, sermons, and other communication because I feel like “It’s not perfect enough” or because I convince myself that it won’t amount to much.
my dream is for a church that reflects our city (Oakland) in all of its diversity. my hope is for a community of faith that would seek Christ with every ounce of its being. i imagine a community that serves their city and emanates the compassion, mercy, and justice of Christ.
what are you dreams? what are your fears? let’s help one another live the life that God calls us to live. let’s serve one another by breaking down the barriers that prevent us from living our fullest life. let’s be liberated and liberate!!!
as a pastor, one of the burdens of my heart is the prayer life of my church. so, in an effort to grow in this area, i thought i would teach our core team this spiritual discipline over the course of four weeks. when i began to think about how i would teach this, i had to ask myself an even more basic question: what would make me feel like my church was prayerful? unpacking this quite a bit, i realized that deep inside, there’s a need for people to pray like me. i wanted people to be eloquent (ok, i may not be that eloquent, but enough to pass in a group prayer), comfortable praying in public, and sharing their prayers. but, is this what it’s about? i thought about my own journey and remembered a season when i wanted to listen and hear God. I remember being at a prayer retreat trying to listen to God when a 1st generation korean woman (these women are true prayer warriors) came up behind me and told me that i needed to start praying. i thought in my head, “but i’m listening for God.” she kept pounding my back and egging me on to pray. so, in a moment of frustration, i shout out, “God, IS THIS WHAT YOU WANT FROM ME???!!! IS SHOUTING OUT TO YOU WHAT MAKES MY PRAYERS EFFECTIVE???!!! IS THIS WHAT MATTERS MOST???!!! THEN I’M TRULY LOST!!!” the woman looked at me said, “good… keep going…” i felt completely empty at that moment.
i realized that we enter into prayer in different seasons of life and in different ways because we’re in different places in our faith journey. i realized that we have different needs, different backgrounds, and different degrees of education. so would we or should we all pray the same? maybe as a leader, pastor, and teacher i’m called to help people find their voice in prayer. maybe i’m more of a barrier breaker than a method maker. maybe we’d all be more honest in prayer if it reflected who we are… have you found your voice?