Life and Aging in the Church

This opened my eyes today, hopefully it will for you as well.

The truth is we get beaten up by life. We get betrayed, divorced, abused, fired, forgotten, abandoned, we had big plans and they didn’t follow through, we made some tragic mistakes and now we’re living with it. Then what sometimes happens is we loose that buoyant, joyous, creative, optimism about life. It starts to sort of ebb over the years. Our idealism takes a couple of shots to the jaw.

So we begin to sort of tone it down and if often takes years, it’s not just one day we decide, “I’m gonna kind of check-out somewhere deep in my heart”, but the truth is for many of us, that’s what happens. And so we stop being renewed day by day and we lose that thing that we used to have. So our marriage had this sort of ahhhh, but now it has this, ughhh or this “just getting by”, or our job or that particular thing that we’re involved with. Because we get beaten, we get bruised, knocked around a bit, we’ve taken some hits. The biblical vision of aging is that those things that happen to us would not make us cynical or bitter. Our heart would not develop a sort of shell around it. But that we would stay fresh and green.

So what God asks of us is to be renewed day by day. So the ways that we have been hurt, the deep weeds we’ve gone through, the ways we weren’t prepared, the times we didn’t know what to do or how to do it….what God wants to do is heal all of that so that we with great joy, will be able to walk along side of people to the bright, glorious, joyous, buoyant future that He has for each one of us.

Because what happens is we get burned, we get criticized, we get misunderstood and something happens in our heart and what it does is that it affects those around us. We get the idealism beaten out of us, our sense of joyous revolution takes a bit of a hit and so we back off and we get a little cynical and we get a little skeptical, “okay, it’s nice now cause you’re in the honeymoon phase, but wait till your 3rd budget meeting, blah, blah, blah.”

What God wants to do is renew each of us day by day and to take those hurts and to take those dreams and those visions and those plans and those awkward periods and those desert experiences and the time you felt like you were the only one and the time that you felt betrayed and the time that you felt that no one understood it and the time that you felt, “if only people could just see” and all that…..He wants to take it and He wants to heal it, so that we would be new again and new again and new again and new again.

So we wouldn’t be the old crusty, brittle person shooting down everybody’s dreams but that we’d 98 years old with a hammer going, “I wonder what we’re going to make today.”

Jesus says in Matthew: “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”

Is there anyone reading this who your idealism has been beaten out of you, you’re tired, you set out with great plans for your ministry, marriage, family, work, dreams, goals, adventures, trips and somewhere along the way it got beaten out of you? And you’re tired?

So today, you give that tired heart to God. And you’re given a new one.

Is there anyone reading this who has become cynical?

You loved and the love was not returned. You gave and it just sort of disappeared. You spent yourself and no one noticed and it just kind of fell to the ground and there’s a profound sense of, “Why do that again?”. You gave everything you had to this person and you handed them your heart and they took it and stepped on it, so why love again? Why love again?

Don’t lose heart, because we are being made new again everyday. On the inside, where God is making new life.

Is there anybody reading this who you have gotten older? But the problem is, in the process of getting older, you’ve gotten older. The Jesus vision is that you’d be getting older and you’d be getting fresher and greener and younger, the exact same time that your experiences’ and the wisdom that comes from getting kicked around would be melded with youthful innocence and wonder and that those impulses together would create true wisdom, you would be the village elder, because you would, somehow, have been through it all and yet you would be more alive and expectant and assuming that God is in the midst of doing greater things than ever.

In Ephesians it says: “…Now to the God who is able to do immeasurably more, than all we ask or imagine, according to God’s power that is at work within us.”

One of the things that happens over the years, is we stop asking and imagining. Saying, “Asking and imagining is for kids who don’t realize how hard life is.“

Are you in a rut? Do feel like, “Well I’m old”…No, it’s doesn’t matter how old you are. Do you today, need to ask God for the imagination for a whole new tomorrow? Is there some country that you want to swim to? Are there some trees your supposed to chop down? Are there some kids that you’re supposed to invite into your home and you are supposed to re-parent them? And it doesn’t matter if you’re 80. It’s been done. People in their 80’s take people into their homes. People in their 70’s go out into the desert and build mind-blowing compounds. People in their 60’s swim to other countries, people in their 50’s make boats out of trees…….none of those excuses work.

Or have you somewhere deep in your heart “checked-out”? At the moment at which your community needs you more than ever. So we ask God to us a new heart and give us new things to ask for so we can imagine a new tomorrow. So that we would not lose heart, but be renewed day by day.

— God we bring before You our tired, weary, cynical, skeptical hearts, bring before You all the ways we’ve bought into that “new” is better in our culture, in the world and in ourselves that when you’re old, you’re old.
We want to be younger as we’re older, we want to be greener, fresher, like a tree by living water, that bends in the breeze. We ask right now that You would show us the next risk, the next adventure, that you would blow apart all of the myths we have bought into about our relevance and role.

Please rescue us from any view of the world that says, ‘there’s nothing more to contribute’, there’s nothing more to paint, there’s nowhere left to swim, nothing left to build, nowhere left to sail. Rescue us please, from any of these lies, with a vision of what it means to be renewed on the inside day by day. So that we might continue to partner with You in making a whole new kind of world.

Thank you for Jesus, who has died, was resurrected, who gives us life, the kind of life that spills over. In the name of Jesus. Amen.

– A talk by RB.

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New Christians

When someone decides to follow Christ at your church or in your ministry, what’s next? Do you hand them a Bible and recommend they join a small group? Do you give them some CDs to listen to and a copy of Mere Christianity to read? Do you task a mature believer with regularly checking in on the new believer? Whatever your next steps, I’m sure you have some.

LifeChurch.tv has a kit, called the What’s Next Kit, and Tony Steward reports they’ve been shipping it around the world to people who come to faith through LifeChurch.tv initiatives. And as you might expect from LifeChurch.tv, they recently took their What’s Next Kit online. WhatsNextKit.tv invites new believers to begin engaging and exploring the Christian faith in four areas: Community, Bible, Prayer, and Baptism. Each area includes an introductory video, helpful resources, and an invitation to go deeper.

It’s an intriguing development in the world of online church and digital discipleship, huh? (Though I don’t imagine it’ll assuage the critics of online church who worry about the implications of discipleship and the sacraments.) Whatever your stance, be sure to read Tony’s post for the LifeChurch.tv perspective and tips of the hat to those whose contributions made WhatsNextKit.tv a reality.

So going back to the  earlier question: When someone decides to follow Christ at your church or in your ministry, what’s next?

Church….Does it still serve a purpose? It Sure Does. (In response to an atheist’s view of church)

I go to church regularly. Not because I’m made to, or because I feel pressure to…I go because I love Jesus. He’s been and is working in my life. I have felt His presence and He is very real.
The church I go to is made up of “worshippers”, people who love the Lord and each other. It’s like family.
Serving each other and the community, just loving people and helping others. Through a foodbank, homeless shelter and help provided in many other ways for people.

To name just a few things. But of course it’s not about the action, it’s about the people.

It’s about reaching out to people and just loving them as well as the relevance of the bible and how it applies it practically to our lives.

Peter Was Just Like Us, Wasn’t He?

I just got back from small group tonight and I know that it was no mistake in going tonight. You know, sometimes you just want to sit at home and just veg out? You know what I mean. Well tonight I really felt like I needed to be there, just this strong desire to go. 

So, I went…and wow. God really spoke to me tonight, in lots of ways. One that stands out to me though is how important it is to be paying attention to what His word says and to be listening intently to His voice!

It’s so easy to miss things isn’t it? Like to only hear or read what triggers a strong emotion or thought…and take only that….

Like in Matthew 16, when Jesus tells His disciples about His death and resurrection…RESURRECTION. It seems to me that Peter only hears the part about Him dying and his emotion takes over. He tells Jesus that, “He can’t die” and “Never”…that’s when Jesus rebukes Him. Did he not hear that he said He’s coming back in three days! 

So I pray that this week we can all be sensitive to His voice, to be listening for the details.

Because He wants us all to be living our lives to the full and we don’t want to miss a thing.

Grace,

Josh

Tozer Gut-Punch

I want to bring you one A.W. Tozer quote that appears in the issue. In his book Whatever Happened to Worship, Tozer writes:

“Oh, brother or sister, God calls us to worship, but in many instances we are in entertainment, just running a poor second to the theaters. That is where we are, even in the evangelical churches, and I don’t mind telling you that most of the people we say we are trying to reach will never come to a church to see a lot of amateur actors putting on a home talent show.”

Um … ouch.

How do you navigate the line between entertainment and worship?

NOOMA

nooma_logoThe only thing flannel boards of our childhood and Flannel, the media production company, have in common, other than their names, is the ability to tell stories. However, the method Flannel uses to tell stories is quite different. The most widely known example is their popular video series, NOOMA, which features pastor Rob Bell of Mars Hill Bible Church. Taking its name from the phonetic spelling of the Greek word pneuma, meaning “spirit” or “breath,” NOOMA tells stories in a way that is visually stunning and emotionally compelling. The donor-supported company located in Grand Rapids, MI has been in media production since 2001, and for two years running, they’ve won the COLLIDE Reader’s Choice Award for Best Church Media Producer. We asked Flannel’s executive director, Steve Carr, to share his thoughts on NOOMA and the creative process behind the series. Continue reading