Month: April 2014

Elephants and Discipleship

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Image borrowed from www.nhm.org
Image borrowed from http://www.nhm.org

I came across an interesting article the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. The article was talking about a public television special about elephants.

In an attempt to thin out the local herd, the authorities killed off a number of the older males and moved a group of females and young bulls to another area. Before long, white rhinos in that area were being killed, not by poachers, but by the young bulls who were trying to prove their elephant-manliness. One elephant even organized a gang of fellow delinquents and began leading attacks against tourist buses.

The authorities shot some of the troublemakers but then came up with a better solution.

They released a few old males from another area into the troubled neighborhood. The older males immediately began to bring the young bulls into line. They took them on in tusking matches and bested them. They didn’t shed any blood or harm them. They just deflated their pride and taught them that you don’t have to kill rhinos to prove you’re an elephant, just play the majestic role God has assigned to you. Peace soon returned to that part of the bush.

Christian discipleship is a lot like that.

  • You don’t ever become a maturing Christian in isolation.
  • We need people who model what faithfulness looks like.

How do Christians learn how to trust God when things are hard? How do Christians learn to give and serve even when they are in need and hurting? How do Christians learn to live with joy even in the midst of suffering?

All these things are learned as we observe more mature Christians living out the Christian faith through the highs and lows of life.

One final note, this is the reason why the Little Church on the Prairie intentionally is intergenerational in our ministries. We believe we learn better how to live out the Christian faith when the generations live the faith together.

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The Resurrection and the New Testament

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Do you want to believe in the Christ? We may believe in him only if we believe in his corporeal resurrection. This is the content of the New Testament. We are always free to reject it, but not to modify it, nor to pretend that the New Testament tells something else. We may accept our refuse the message, but we may not change it.

Karl Barth

Easter Reflections on Death and the Resurrection

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Screen Shot 2014-04-21 at 9.46.27 PMDeath has always freaked people out.

The death of Jesus was no different. Mary and the disciples were there. No matter what they hoped for on that Passover night, the enemy that had consumed all humanity since the beginning of time would claim its latest victim on that afternoon of Good Friday.

  • Jesus died.
  • They were there.
  • They saw it with their own eyes.
  • The death of Jesus was indisputable, undeniable, irrefutable.

Just as death had always done, death won on that Friday afternoon and claimed its prize…death had swallowed up Jesus.

  • Jesus died.
  • They were there.
  • They saw it with their own eyes.
  • The death of Jesus was indisputable, undeniable, irrefutable.

I remember the first time I saw death. I was in Jr. High school when I went to my first funeral.

I couldn’t articulate it. I knew Christians were promised eternal life. I knew that Christ had won the victory. I knew that death shouldn’t scare me. But it did.

Staring at death face to face was eerie. I didn’t like it. Truth be told, death scared me.

Of course, this is nothing new. Human beings have always dreaded and feared death. Because death is a harsh reminder of our finite-ness…of our common end.

Death is always the end.

To say that death is un-natural is kind of stupid. Everyone we know, everyone that’s ever been, everyone that ever will be dies.

Yet we live as if death were un-natural. And we’re surprised, taken aback when death does indeed come.

Because of unknown-ness of death, societies have removed death as far away from daily life as possible. Ancient cities even built places far removed from daily life to house the dead – necropolis – the city of the dead.

Death always wins.

Death always claims its victim.

Until that day after the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, when Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

That day, resurrection day, on that Easter morn, the tomb could no longer hold what it had always held.

There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it…

The stone wasn’t rolled away to let Jesus out for he was already gone. The stone was rolled away so that Mary and the disciples could see that the tomb was empty!

You see, he is risen! He is risen indeed!

And just like that. Death no longer reigns supreme.

Just like that. To all who declare with their mouths that Jesus is Lord, and believe in their hearts that God raised him from the dead, they too will never die but have eternal life in Christ Jesus.

Just like that. The curse of death is broken.

All because of what happened “After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week…” (Matthew 28:1)

Making Kids Go to Church?

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“I don’t want to force my kids go to church. I want them to chose for themselves.”

Oh, really. Do you make them go to school? Or do you give your children the option to chose for themselves whether they will go to school or not?

“Of course the kids don’t have a choice about school. They have to go to school.”

How come?

“Because going to school is important for their future.”

I see.

I see.

Really tells you a lot…

Inoculated from Faith

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Modern medicine is a beautiful thing.

I would not be alive today without the modern medicines to reduce my cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and triglycerides.

Because of modern medicine, in the western hemisphere, we’ve been able to rid our society of measles, chickenpox, polio, and a host of other diseases that used to devastate people.

I am no doctor or chemist, but I do believe the way our vaccines work is by injecting small doses of the actual disease so that our bodies can build an immunity against those diseases.

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 8.48.34 PMI think this is happening with the Christian faith. We are giving our children just enough faith to prevent them from ever experiencing the full affects of Christianity.

We want our faith to be safe, comfortable. We don’t want faith ruling over our lives. We just want just enough faith to keep us safe and comfortable. We want all the good stuff of faith without having to deal with all that obedience stuff and changing our life stuff.

So we inoculate our children with just enough faith so they won’t ever be infected with the full on Christian faith.

We wouldn’t want them to be crazy about Jesus or anything like that…

Rejoice in the Lord Always! And Again I will Say Rejoice!

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Always…

Always?

Yes, always.

Like, when ________

Yes, even then.

But what about ________

Then, too.

But surely not ________

No, even then, as well.

Always.

From “To Live is Christ to Die is Gain” by Matt Chandler

“Going to Church” to Becoming a “Going Church”

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The Barna Group, a Christian polling organization, asked American adults “What helps you grow in your faith?”

Americans responded by listing prayer, Bible reading, family, friends, even having children.

But you know what was missing? Church.

In fact, going to church didn’t even crack the top 10.

Only 49% of Americans said that church attendance is “somewhat” or “very” important. 51% say going to church is “not too” or “not at all” important.

The older you are, the more important church attendance is. Only 2 in 10 adults under the age of 30 believe church is important.

Most importantly, a third of those who say church is not important take an anti-church stance.

This is clearly demonstrated in that those who used to consider themselves “regular” church attenders went to church three to four times a month.

Today, those who attend church once every four to six weeks consider themselves “regular” church attenders!

Two thirds of all young people who grew up in our churches have dropped out of church.

So, how do we get them to come back?

That’s the question today’s churches are wrestling with.

I think this is the wrong question. I don’t think those who have an anti-church stance are ever going to come back to church. Those who believe church is a waste of time, totally irrelevant to their daily lives aren’t coming back to church.

I believe the question we in the church need to be asking is “How do we take the church to them?” How do we take the gospel, the good news, to places where people are. Instead of being a church that’s about “Going to church” I believe we need to figure out better ways to be a “Going church” to the places where people need Jesus.

Jesus didn’t wait for the people to come to him. Jesus went to the places where the people needed to hear the good news.

I believe this same Jesus is inviting us to do what he did. Go and make disciples.