Thursday, February 26, 2004

The Passion of the Christ

I just returned from experiencing the Passion of the Christ, the film by Mel Gibson. This is much more than a film. Typical movies are about the susension of disbelief. The only disbelief to suspend in this film is the extent to which Jesus loved--and suffered--for (and because of) all of us--Jew and Gentile. The movie makes the point, in excruciating detail, how far God's love compelled Him on our behalf; something that's just hard to believe...but so true!

If you're anything like me, I nearly run out of the theater after most movies--trying to get ahead of the crowd to the bathroom. This was eerily different. It was as if an invisible hand held the audience in their seats after the movie was over. No one moved. Sniffles and sobs could be heard throughout the audience. I was literally numb.

I was just faced with the sickening reality that Jesus clung to His cross because of my sin. This film wasn't about blaming any one group of people for the death of Jesus. The blame was placed squarely on the shoulders of all humanity, since Jesus took the stripes for, and experienced the ignobility of, death for each of us. It blamed us all.

But the film ultimately wasn't about blame. It was about divine love. It was about forgiveness. It was about the worth that God places on all us fallen humans--Jew and Gentile. It was about the God of the universe facing Satan as a vulerable human being and embracing all that it meant to be human. He refused not to die. He refused to die before His passion was completely experienced.

As I write these words with my cheeks still stinging from the tears that flowed down my cheeks, I couldn't help but think about my Christian life. How I'm often more concerned about my creature comforts than carrying a cross. Forgive me Jesus! It further placed all the current wrangling over how to do church in proper perspective. It's time for God's people to hit their knees before the crucified One. There, in all it's tragic glory, will we learn what it truly means to be a community of the cross.

The film is brutal. It's graphic. From my studies, it's all too consistent with the Roman form of flogging and subsequent crucifixion. I know that, from this point forward, the words "And they crucified him there," will take on new meaning.

I don't know how to recommend this movie. Not sure where the age cut-off should be. But, I think it's a film that needs to be experienced...especially in these times.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Ancient Future Worship

In the January/February issue of Worship Leader, Robert Webber, well-known for his work in thinking about worship in our postmodern culture, described his experience at Mars Hill Bible Church, a megachurch that engages in "Ancient-Future worship." The following is what Webber considers to be the difference between an ancient-future service and a Boomer contemporary service.

"First, it was not a Boomer seeker service. That kind of service is designed not to confront people with truth. The idea is to interest them in faith so they will come back for more or ask questions of friends who are Christian. The new generation has abandoned the "seeker notion." Yes, seekers are there in worship. But instead of hearing "tid-bits" of the Christian faith, they hear the whole thing.

"Consequently, the truth of God's work in Jesus Christ to rescue the world was proclaimed in word, enacted in the Eucharist and sung in the great hymns of the church. The old way was to make worship a show to watch; the new generation way is to immerse the congregation in truth through participation.

"The singing was noticeably different. No choruses sung again and again in endless repetition. Instead, hymns of great depth were sung with deep emotion as people moved forward (no plates sent passively around) to take bread and wine and receive Jesus.

"These changes sound simple, but they are profound. Mars Hill, like many others churches pastored by a new generation of leaders, are paving the way for the recovery of the old! Where are you headed?

As many churches struggle to become "contemporary," being driven by "seekers," I wonder if we aren't simply rushing to join the sidelines with other churches? Are we at a point where we need to rethink completely our worship paradigm? Is it time to actually trust that if we bodly "lift up Jesus," God will draw all people to him? Yes...where are we headed?

Monday, February 16, 2004

The Music Won't Last

As we struggle with the fast-pace of our over scheduled lives, perhaps we all need to re-think our priorities. The following poem Titled Slow Dance (author unknown), powerfully demonstrates how our frenetic life styles can distract us from the true joys of life.

Have you ever watched kids on a merry-go-round
Or listened to the rain slapping on the ground?
Ever followed a butterfly’s erratic flight
Or gazed at the sun into the fading night?
You better slow down – Don’t dance so fast
Time is short – The music won’t last

Do you run through each day on the fly
When you ask “How are you?” do you hear the reply?
When the day is done, do you lie in bed
With the next hundred chores running through your head?
You better slow down – Don’t dance so fast
Time is short – The music won’t last

Ever told your child, “We’ll do it tomorrow”
And in your haste, not see his sorrow?
Ever lost touch, Let a good friendship die
‘Cause you never had time to call and say “Hi?”
You better slow down – Don’t dance so fast
Time is short – The music won’t last

When you run so fast to get somewhere
You miss half the fun of getting there.
When you worry and hurry through your day,
It is like an unopened gift… Thrown away…
Life is not a race. Do take it slower.
Hear the music, Before the song is over.

As the last stanza of this poem suggests, we all likely have plenty of gifts left unopened. This afternoon, why not take the time to open a few. Toss a ball. Shoots some baskets. Have a pretend tea party. Take a walk. If none of these things can fit into our hectic schedules, maybe we need to slow down, hear the music...before the song is over!
Worship Here And Now

Last evening, February 15, LifeSong, the music ministry at CrossBridge, debuted its third CD. While the evening celebrated the culmination of months of work, its ultimate purpose was to usher people into the presence of God. And, that's exactly what occurred.

Under the gifted leadership of Greg Miles, all of the LifeSong singers, in choir fashion, lead us in moving worship. One of the most moving moments occurred when our children participated in the song, "Here I Am To Worship." There's nothing like witnessing the innocent hearts of children singing praises to their Creator! Thanks to LifeSong for such a wonderful evening in the Lord.

If you are interested in purchasing a CD, you can find out more information at our website: While there, you can hear samples from this great CD.

To God be all the glory.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

My day’s schedule was all arranged. My wife, kids and I were taking a trip to North Carolina to visit a good friend in the hosptial. Before I could make the trip, I had several deadlines, and a few appointments to meet. Since our older two kids had to be at the office at 6:00 a.m. Thursday to leave on the youth trip to Six Flags, I took that as an opportunity to get an early start on my day.

While driving to the office, I sipped coffee from my special travel mug and mentally organized the tasks I would perform. Becoming increasingly pleased with my plans, I felt confident that reality would completely correspond to my mental images. But, when I got to the office, our Youth Minister gave me the sickening news—our power was off. It appeared that all other offices had power but ours. After I did my own electrical investigation, and found no apparent problem, I made the call to Alabama Power.

“Now what should I do,” I wondered. With no computer, no lights, and too early to make any calls, I was stuck. I admit, I was becoming annoyed and mentally agitated. Needless to say, my enthusiasm for the day plummeted. Since our reception area had a wall of windows, enough natural light spilled into the room to allow for some reading. So, in the dimly lit room, I opened my bible to James and began reading.

It was hard to keep mentally engaged as I constantly glanced through the windows, praying to see an Alabama Power vehicle drive up. As my eyes flashed from the text to the parking lot and back, the verse arrested my attention: “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you don’t even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that’” (4:13-15).

I literally laughed out loud at myself. I had planned out the day very well, but I had no power (literally) to carry them out. I was reminded of several things. First, we really have very little control over our circumstances. Second, our very lives—and plans—are in God’s care, not ours. Third, when our beautifully-crafted plans fail, that puts us, maybe even forces us, into the position of self-examination. Finally, and upon such self-examination, our sense of self-importance is put into proper perspective when we realize that our lives are like a “wisp of fog, catching a brief bit of sun before disappearing” (The Message). The next time you experience a power outage, think about the meaning—and true Source—of your life.
The Servant: A Simple Story About the True Essence of Leadership

I just completed reading a book whose title appears at the head of this blog. Written in conversational tone, this book offers compelling insights about effective leadership. Unlike typical treatises on managment philosophy, this books shoots right at the heart of the leader. In short, James Hunter, author of the book, presents a servant leadership model that calls for deep commitment, and sacrifice on the part of the one who dares to lead.

I recommend this book to anyone who is in a position of leader. Particularly, I think leaders in the church will be blessed--and challenged--by its content. In a time when positional power no longer carries the day, we are searching for relational authority in which we can influence people to accomplish the call of God in their lives. This book speaks to that point.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Tangle With A Treadmill

Treadmill. For me, the word itself sounds uninviting at best, torturous a worst. Someone with a sadistic streak must have invented this miserable device. No matter how long you walk or run, you never go anywhere. And, you never really can win when doing battle with a treadmill. It has too many speeds and can outlast the Energizer bunny!

Sometimes treadmills can be just plain dangerous. I was with a close friend several years ago when he tangled with a treadmill that left both his body and ego badly bruised. We were in an exercise room, not for a serious workout, but just to kill some time. This facility had state-of-the-art weight machines, bicycles and, you guessed it, treadmills. Just for fun, he jumped on a treadmill to give it a whirl.

His treadmill of choice was extremely high-tech. It had a heart monitor, distance meter, speedometer, and kept a running total of how many calories you burned. In addition to these electronic gadgets, this treadmill had inclining capabilities. My friend got a kick out of seeing how steep of an incline he could negotiate. He did pretty well, I might add.

After returning to normal elevation, he did something pretty stupid—he attempted to walk backwards on the treadmill. What happened next was unbelievable. Because he could not keep pace with the treadmill’s speed, my unsuspecting friend shot off the treadmill with such a sudden stop that he sat down on the moving belt. As if an invisible hand grabbed the seat of his pants, the treadmill flipped him onto his back and hurled him across the tiled floor. He landed with feet in the air against a nearby rowing machine! I still get a chuckle when I think about my friend’s stunned look as he picked himself off the floor.

That humorous story, however, can have a somber application. If we approach Christianity from the perspective of performance-based acceptance, our religion can become like a merciless treadmill. When we think that everything depends on us—even our salvation—we fall onto a treadmill that inevitably leaves us on our backs and badly bruised. In contrast, God reminds: “The people who trust the Lord will become strong again. They will rise up as an eagle in the sky; they will run and not need rest; they will walk and not become tired” (Isa. 40:31; NCV). Now that’s good news for weary souls!