Archive for the ‘Community’ Category

“I love the church!” Isn’t it a profound thing to say. It seems like such a given, right? Yet today, it seems that more than ever the church is under attack from even her members. Perhaps, I should qualify this and say, the church in America is under attack even by her members. Things like, the problem with the church is… Or if I had it my way, I would…

Truth is, I have been one to have speak in less than honorable ways about the church as well. Now, I want to confess and say I am sorry to all who listened to my moaning and groaning, as though I knew the direction better than those called to cast vision and move the church into Christian formation. To my youth ministers, I am sorry for thinking you didn’t know what you were talking about, though I chalk that up more to, my teenage mentality. To the ministers overseeing the Seekers class at University CofC in Abilene, to the shepherds and ministers (and my mentor, Doug Peters) at North Davis CofC in Arlington, to my professors/shepherds at Minter Lane CofC and finally to the Singing Oaks shepherds and ministers, though only with you for a short time, I AM SORRY FOR MY ARROGANCE AND LACK OF HUMILITY. I was seeking to manage the unmanageable. For Christ gave up His power, he relinquished his equality with God. While, I sought to bring it to success. The notion is laughable considering the two thousand years of growth and survival.

Please pray for your family at VineLife for God is moving powerfully among us and yet the evil one is seeking to destroy what God has already set in motion. I believe he has a plan for this body that is huge and magnificent but evil is lurking around every corner. May we not succumb to the management of Christ’s body, for He has had a plan since the beginning of time. I believe that in the management of the body we are serving the destructive ambitions of the evil one. May we all remember that when we speak ill of the body and it’s members, we speak ill of Christ, himself. In Matthew 25.31-46 Jesus says…

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,  43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Our goal is not the management of the body of Christ. Our job is to live as Jesus out loud and for the world to see. To submit to His love so that we may love. To grow in his image so that others may see Him. To see in others the face of Christ, who was born of a virgin, lived among us, died on a cross and was raised to the newness of life so that we may enter into His glory by the power of His Spirit Holy. When we speak against the church, we speak against Christ. When we speak or tear down our brothers and sisters, we in turn are crucifying our Savior yet again. But when we build up the body and serve the “least of these” we in turn serve Christ himself. I long to hear our Savior say to his church, “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Won’t that be a grand and glorious day.

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So I want to begin a discussion on what is radical living. However, the word radical is not in the Bible and I think we must deal with the reality of this first and foremost. There are many synonyms for radical that I think might give insight to what we mean by radical but for the sake of discussion I will merely list a few and then tell you what I believe is the root of this radical life. Some synonyms are…basal, basic, foundational, fundamental, original, primary, underlying, drastic, extreme, fundamental, heretical, heterodox, original, primitive, revolutionary, thorough-going, unconventional, unorthodox, conservative, derivative, moderate, slight and trifling. However, words such as extreme, drastic, revolutionary are not words used in the Bible but at best are merely alluded to in notions of extreme love, faith, hope, care and ideologies compared to the context of Judaism and Roman ideals. So my argument is that it is virtually impossible to live a radical life in and of itself but that radical can only be the adjective describing something done radically. So what is it in light of scripture. Well, I dare not take the space to prove it now, time does not permit. But, at first glance, one might consider faith, hope and love but the greatest of these is love. So in light of a Savior who dies on a cross and has the last words offered to our Father of “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” The question I pose is, What is radical love look like in the following arenas?

1. Christmas

2. Service

3. Discipleship

4. Work

5. Giving

6. Equality

7. Community

8. Other

We speak regularly of this love and our upcoming wedding (with the Christ God) at VineLife. I wonder if true Love is so foreign to us that we cannot even read the poetic words below and relate. Please share your reactions, feelings, desires regarding the thoughts of St. Bernard. (No comments about his name, lol)

Love is sufficient of itself, it gives pleasure by itself and because of itself. It is its own merit, its own reward. Love looks for no cause outside itself, no effect beyond itself. Its profit lies in its practice. I love because I love, I love that I may love. Love is a great thing so long as it continually returns to its fountainhead, flows back to its source, always drawing from there the water which constantly replenishes it. Of all the movements, sensations and feelings of the soul, love is the only one in which the creature can respond to the Creator and make some sort of similar return however unequal though it be. For when God loves, all he desires is to be loved in return; the sole purpose of his love is to be loved, in the knowledge that those who love him are made happy by their love of him.

The Bridegroom’s love, or rather the love which is the Bridegroom, asks in return nothing but faithful love. Let the beloved, then, love in return. Should not a bride love, and above all, Love’s bride? Could it be that Love not be loved?

Rightly then does she give up all other feelings and give herself wholly to love alone; in giving love back, all she can do is to respond to love. And when she has poured out her whole being in love, what is that in comparison with the unceasing torrent of that original source? Clearly, lover and Love, soul and Word, bride and Bridegroom, creature and Creator do not flow with the same volume; one might as well equate a thirsty man with the fountain.

What then of the bride’s hope, her aching desire, her passionate love, her confident assurance? Is all this to wilt just because she cannot match stride for stride with her giant, any more than she can vie with honey for sweetness, rival the lamb for gentleness, show herself as white as the lily, burn as bright as the sun, be equal in love with him who is Love? No. It is true that the creature loves less because she is less. But if she loves with her whole being, nothing is lacking where everything is given. To love so ardently then is to share the marriage bond; she cannot love so much and not be totally loved, and it is in the perfect union of two hearts that complete and total marriage consists. Or are we to doubt that the soul is loved by the Word first and with a greater love?

In my mind, this is perhaps the most significant blog on this pointlesblog.com site. Please don’t readily dismiss on account of its challenging words. Love is challenging. Read it again. Dwell in it’s richness.

As we move to the second part of our prayer, we move into a very counter cultural form of prayer, confession. Oh how we don’t like this section very much. It goes against a world that basis life on what feels right in the moment, what pleased the flesh. It intrudes on our perceived freedom and choice and asks us to seek something longterm, beyond the moment. It demands that we judge ourselves and to define boundaries for what is beneficial and good for us in the long run as well as what is good and beneficial for those we share community with. It demands an account of our participation in something larger than the simple me and seeks accountability to a social structure of our humanity that we cannot deny. In other words, it forces us to judge our life styles as those seeking to promote or restrict the quest of humanities ultimate end and for Christians, the pursuit of God’s kingdom reign. It forces us to see ourselves in light of the whole of creation and in light of God as creator.

However, it is truly the only place to go after adoration. How in the world can we stand before the creator, who set the earth spinning on the perfect tilt, precisely to the centimeter or better in range of the suns warmth (a cent. closer we become BBQ brisket, a cent. further we become frozen otter pops). As such, God doesn’t expect perfection, in fact, he expects that we will need him but it is only in our acknowledgment through confession that we humble ourselves and remind ourselves that God is God and we are the creature. While very good, still in need of his grand hand to bring about our redemption.

Please feel free to leave very personal confessions and to do so anonymously or you can email me directly if need be at les@vinelifechurch.com.

Starter Questions:

1) Where in your life do you keep struggling? Ask God to forgive you in your desire to control your destiny.
2) Have you spoken ill of a boss, a friend, a coworker? Ask God to forgive you and ask him to empower you to confess to those you have spoken ill of.
3) What habits, addictions or obsessions do you claim? Have you ever asked yourself the question, “I wonder if my [insert habit/addiction/obsession] is a problem?” In asking the question, you’re gut is speaking truth in areas that you need to confess.
4) How have you abused power or claimed power that did not belong to you?

Last night, I met with the lead church planters and some of their key ministers in our area for a little get to know you powwow. It was quite refreshing. Conversations were edifying and encouraging as each revealed their passion, focus and desire to reach people for God and to participate in the redemption of the lost sheep of His pastures. I think what I appreciated the most was the intention of all at this meeting to truly seek to partner in ministry together. Now, I know that there are many churches and pastors/ministers out their who get together regularly and seek to unite in prayer and devotion to God however, an understanding of true partnership is substituted for an attitude of self promotion. On the other hand, I also know of many stories where churches were strongly divided and truly believe that it is their job to convert Christians from one way of church to another. Yes, I used the word convert. (more…)

What a holiday! I am glad it’s over. Anyone else glad it’s over?

Sure, it was a blessing to see old friends and family but the occasion seems often too contrived and lacking in authenticity. Don’t get me wrong, not everyone gives for selfish or contrived reasons. Many who give year around love the excuse to give even more and do so with genuine and without expectation of receiving hearts. To you, I applaud and thank you. Moreover, I deeply love my family, I love seeing old friends and I love being around those that I only see rarely and sometimes even once a year, to learn about how God has worked over the last year, to rejoice in the success and to suffer with those who are recovering from difficult times in life. To be sure, there is a truly genuine side to our gathering but…

…then comes the gift giving. Perhaps, I am cynical because when it comes to gift giving I don’t like to give because of a season, Personally, I like to give when it is unexpected, truly from a gracious stance and selfless (though the debate of such viability is long). Why does it take birthdays, Valentines, anniversaries, or insert any other special occasion to show our love and appreciation.

Now, please don’t mistake my cynicism for a lack of appreciation. To be sure, I felt greatly honored this Christmas to receive from the servants at VineLife a grandiose gift of the infamous iPhone. I was blown away and completely not expecting that our group would rally together, take up a collection and then buy me a gift of gratitude. I was truly humbled by the gesture.

Yet, at the same time as I reflected on the moment, I was deeply saddened that gifts of equal magnitude could not be shared by the true workers of VineLife like; Logan, Katie and last but definitely not least my wife. Oh and I don’t want forget the whole slew of people who give countless hours to setup and tear down of our Portable Church (4-5 hours). Many of which went from not even attending a church, to full blown ministry of set up and tear down 4-5 hours per week. Hence, my deep humility in receiving such an awesome and unexpected gift.

That said, however, my point is furthered, are we really so self focused, busy and/or self indulgent that we must have days, if not, entire weeks and months set up to focus on others. Like the unexpected nature of the gift (iPhone or other) given in surprise and without an expectation of return, can we begin to think more often of ways to share the graciously given gifts we have received from the Father. Is this not the life Christians are called to?

My hope and my dream for my family, both church and biological, is that we may grow into giving hearts that seek to give out of gracious and humble hearts. To give out of season is to give without expectation, with love, with thoughtfulness and contrived only by the overwhelming sense of humility resulting in a recognition of God’s display of affection through the gift of His Son. May we stand out in holiness through our gift giving and proclaim the Good News until he comes.