Not to get political but . . .

I’m really glad that I’ve been unable to watch the news for the past few weeks.  Because when I turned it on, all I saw was hatred from both parties thrown back and forth.  I’ve seen religious discimination lauded as a conservative american value.  I’ve seen the parody that is the Colbert Report come true.  This breaks my heart as a Christian and as an American.

First of all, my heart breaks as a Christian because I see these conservative voices, who claim to be Christians, asserting that America is essentially God’s chosen Country, and they pledge allegiance to the flag instead of the Cross of Christ.  That’s a problem Christians.  Wake Up!  America will not save your soul.  America will not rescue you from your sins.  America is just as broken as every other nation in the world because America is made up of broken sinful people.  So please conservative pundits STOP equating America with the Gospel.  The Gospel of Jesus is so much bigger than America.  You cheapen the Gospel by your actions.  (I say all of this as someone who is fairly conservative).

Yesterday I talked about idolatry (it will be up shortly at thecreeksidechurch.org if you are interested).  I think our devotion to american nationalism (on both sides of the political spectrum) is one of the most pervasive forms of idolatry that the church has to deal with.  Jesus is so much greater than America, and I don’t really think that America is his ultimate plan for redeeming the world.  Rather he wants to use the church and individual Christians throughout the world.  But we cannot be so tied to our American Values that we loose sight of our Gospel Values.

These are the equations that American Christians need to decide upon

America > Christianity

America = Christianity

America < Christianity

Choose.  Truly evaluate you beliefs.  If you choose the first, I have bad news for you.  You are not a Christians.  The two cannot be equals, and the country must be secondary to the faith.  And you might believe the third to be true but you may be acting like the first two.  Check yourself.

All of these things I’m saying are my own opinion, they do not reflect the opinion of Creekside Church or the leadership of Creekside Church.  I’ve just been removed from the news for a bit and I had to get this off my chest.  So that was point one, written as a Christian, who is generally conservative in social issues.  I am not apolitical.  I think it’s good to vote your conscience and to do your civic duty.  But I’m tired of Christian Conservatives being manipulated as a voting block to promote fear and hatred.

That being said, lets talk about the Mosque.  One of the reasons that white Europeans came to the Americas was to escape religious persecution.  That’s one of the reasons.  But it has led to religious diversity in America as a right for all Americans.  Now, do I think putting a Mosque in that location is a good idea?  No probably not.  But should it be denied simply because it’s a mosque?  Well that’s pretty un-american.  Or is it only white Europeans who get to practice religious freedom?  As an american I feel like this discrimination is simplistic, reductionist and moronic.  Because as a Christian, I celebrate the same freedoms that Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Scientologists, NASCAR fans, and Oprah viewers all celebrate.

It’s a complicated world that we live in, and America has a cultural value on religious liberty for all not just the white Europeans.  I believe that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the truth, and it’s the only way to find forgiveness from sins and to have relationship with God.  And I’m raising my children in the Gospel, and I hope to be a Gospel influence to my neighbors and my community.  But as an American I cannot enforce my faith on someone else.  I cannot legislate faith.  And I don’t want people to take away my rights to religious freedom.  If this mosque is denied simply because it’s a mosque and not a church, then it’s only a matter of time before I lose my religious freedoms.

So is it a good idea to put a mosque there?  Probably not.  Do they have the right to pursue putting a moque there?  Yes.  Just like I have a right to put a church in downtown Seattle.  This is a conservative battle for religious freedom.  The ideology behind my faith is fundamentally different than that mosque but we both want the same freedoms. And America has stood for those freedoms for all of it’s existence.  So if you are a conservative, and you want to conserve the American way and the Constitution then you cannot oppose this mosque because it’s a mosque.  It’s probably a bad place for a church as well, just saying.

So please American Christians, stop putting America on par with the Gospel.  And Conservatives, stand up for religious freedom for all americans or else its only a matter of time until the white Europeans lose their religious freedoms as well.

This is what I know, no one in D.C. wakes up and says, “well how can I destroy America today?”  Everyone is trying to make america better.  But when we treat people who are opposites on the political spectrum like they are Satan’s spawn then everyone loses.  So stop shouting at each other.  Everyone is trying to make America a better place to live.  So please let’s treat each other civility.  We can be passionate without being jerks.

I hate getting political on my blog, but I saw all this and got angry.  Had to get it off my chest.  I welcome conversation but I will not reply to hate speech.  And again, this is my opinion.  Not the opinion of Creekside Church.  I know some people think that everything I say is the opinion of the Church, but that’s pretty simplistic thinking, (I’m not the Pope).  If I can’t disagree with other Christians on political issues and still be considered faithful to the Gospel then there is something much more troublesome happening.

A Month of Preaching

August at Creekside usually means that Don, our lead pastor, is travelling.  He is an avid fisherman, and he uses August as a month to go and wrangle some fish.  For the past few years I have been picking up the majority of the Sunday morning preaching.  This year I’ve had all of August to write and preach every Sunday.  Two services. 35-50 minutes, talking, and hours of prep-work before that.

It takes a lot out of you.  It’s hard to stay creative for every sermon.  It’s really challenging to keep the sermon fresh for the second service.  It’s really challenging to meet my deadlines for our pre-preach.  It’s also a challenge to balance all of that preaching and prep-work with my normal responsibilites.

This month has just reminded me that I need to stay to keep control of my calendar or else I will be pulled by other people’s plans.

I’ve also been reminded that Creativity is a discipline that can be developed.  The people who make a living on their creativity to not wait for their creativity to strike, instead they put creativity on the calendar and make it work for them.

I’ve also seen that you don’t have to preach the same way everyone else preaches.  Take some risks.  Have fun.  If you are bored as a communicator, guess what, your audience is even more bored.  Try something new, add a new element to your sermons.  Bring in other voices.  Mix it up.

This month has been challenging but incredibly rewarding for me.  I have one more Sunday and then I’ve got a good long stretch off.  I better go start my research and prep.

Gospel Urgency & Gospel Patience

Yesterday was a great day at Creekside. I got to preach about Livin’ Single, (not the tv show) and I got to play a bit of Pomplamoose’s cover of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” which is probably one of my favorite songs. I’m not even ashamed to admit that. Pomplamoose’s arrangement is amazing and totally creative. Love it!

Between services we had the opportunity to gather some of our group leaders and potential group leaders and start to talk about our fall goal of launching 40 groups.

I was reminded of something after the service that. I had to share.

We should live with a gospel urgency. We need as many people to hear the gospel as possible. The gospel has the power to transform lives and to transform the world. The church, every single christian, is tasked with Sharing the gospel, both in words and deeds.

But as we do this we need to balance gospel urgency with gospel patience. We need to be sure to do the work that God has called us to do. But we also need to trust God and his timing. Whether we are developing leaders or systems in the church we need to be mindful that Jesus took three years to train 12 guys. He took a long view at what these 12 guys could do and invested in a few instead of trying to gather masses of people and training them poorly.

I think too often I want things to just work and have everybody do them and the system to be perfected so I can move on to the next goal. That’s the urgency in my heart. But I need to be sure to model Gospel Patience, and not push people before they are ready or require that every e be at the same place so we can keep moving.

It’s a lot harder than it seems to balance Gospel Urgency with Gospel Patience but if we look at what Jesus did, it seemed to work really well.

What if churches didn’t add any new initiatives for a year and just developed what they had and built a system that could be expanded.

Just some thoughts. I had to get off my brain