Integrity

I took our car into the dealership this morning because the rear lift gate would not open. It is an all electric operation with no manual release which is a really cool feature until it totally stops working. My experience perfectly illustrates why people hate taking their car to the dealership for repair issues.

Let’s call the service representative that I dealt with “Vinnie” because I want to protect his true identity, and after the way I was treated I’m thinking this is a more appropriate name anyway. Vinnie comes in after about an hour and proceeds to go over the written estimate to repair the lift gate issue.

Apparently there had been water leaking from clogged sunroof drains that built up in the spare tire compartment frying the module that controls the lift gate operation. I was told that I really should have had my drains cleaned out to prevent this expensive issue. Total cost: $2,261.01.

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Needless to say I sat in a state of shock, and probably didn’t breathe for a couple of minutes, while Vinnie slithered around in the chair across from me. He patiently waited to see if I would approve the repair so he could get his technician working to fix this problem, which was apparently my fault. But, I’m not your average car owner. I’m Vinnie’s arch enemy. I’m a do-it-yourselfer! I left with estimate in hand and went in search of options after paying Vinnie’s dealership $150 for all that hard diagnostic work they did.

After about 3 minutes of searching I discovered that the fried lift gate module is a common problem on these cars due to a faulty design on the drain tubes that the manufacturer refuses to acknowledge. I easily found simple instructions for fixing the issue. You access a manual open lever from inside the rear compartment and order a new module that installs with 3 simple plugs. Total cost: $150.00.

Now, I have not told Vinnie of my discovery yet because I need to wait until my blood pressure returns to normal levels. Vinnie, the technicians, the dealership owner, and probably the CEO of the car company know of this problem with these model cars. Vinnie knew what the problem was before I even took the car in for inspection. Yet, he chose to present the estimate to me as if it was the first time they had ever seen this occur.

I don’t know if Vinnie has a relationship with Jesus or not. I do know that Vinnie and many others who work in that industry have a serious issue with integrity. As followers of Jesus we are expected to operate with the highest standards of honesty, work ethic, grace, love, punctuality and integrity. We should shine in the workplace environment even in the darkest of situations.

I pray that when you are faced with a crisis of integrity you have the courage to stand with Jesus where the Father will get the glory for your choice. We often have little impact on our salary, working conditions, shift hours, or job descriptions. Yet we always have the choice to maintain our integrity. Don’t be a Vinnie.

Access

Our world is shifting more and more to online-based interaction for everything that we do. In order to make purchases, download new software, give donations, join a forum of like-minded people, download music, complete our tax returns, select our favorite YouTube channels, or complete online banking operations we have to set up an account. That means a username and password for every single entity that we are interacting with online. Insane.

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Some of us use the same username and password for everything, which totally destroys any sense of security for our vital information. Others have a different username and password for each account with a supplemental spreadsheet to keep track of all of them. Many in the middle of the two extremes have a few different options that they rotate around and generally have no clue which one is correct for a specific account. This scenario usually involves getting repeatedly locked out of the account for too many incorrect login attempts. Ultimately, all we want is access.

Recently I entered into a discussion with a group of pastors from other churches in our area. The conversation directly focused on leading our congregations to become disciple-makers. The challenge is the same as working in the online marketplace. We need access in order to truly make a difference.

Church leaders need access to disciples in order to be able to equip them for the mission of Jesus’ followers. Disciples need access to individuals living empty lives apart from God. Jesus gave himself on the cross so that we all could have access to the Father. The rest is up to us.

Disciples need to be committed to give themselves to the call for equipping and the challenge of building relationships that lead to salvation for those who are lost. At Quest that involves passionate attendance on Sunday mornings, engaging in a Connect Group community of believers, finding an Affinity Group to empower learning relationships, and working with the church to connect with our community through missional projects.

We will be working hard throughout the summer and beyond to gain access into the lives of those in our community who need a relationship with Jesus. We will meet new people through our missional projects that will give us access to their spiritual needs. As individuals we each currently have access to lost people at work, in our neighborhood, at school, an in our extended family. Access leads to activity and interaction. Our goal as a church should be to leverage our access to eternally impact the lives of others.

Perspective on The Shack

The movie The Shack has been in theaters for about five weeks and has grossed nearly $53 million. It still lags way behind the 2014 film Heaven is for Real which has grossed nearly $92 million. I’m still waiting for the sequel, Hell is for Real. I would guess that wouldn’t draw the same kind of crowd even though scripture is clear on the issue. Facing the reality of a place of eternal punishment just doesn’t feel nearly as good as believing in a place of eternal fellowship with God. Heaven is for Real is not based on biblical truth and should be tested against what God actually tells us about eternity and the places for the dead in his Scripture. So, how should we approach a movie like The Shack?

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The movie is based on the 2007 best-selling book by William Paul Young which he wrote in a flurry of creativity as a Christmas gift to his children. His desire was to give them a glimpse of how he viewed God. The Shack in book form sold over 20 million copies and was read by many people who have never read the Bible. The movie will be seen by people who will never engage Scripture on their own or get involved in an evangelical church family on mission for God. So what’s the big deal?

For those who will view The Shack, or Heaven is for Real, and see them as authoritative voices on what we should think, feel, and believe about God, then the danger is great. God has given us the Bible for the specific purpose of removing our speculation about his design for humanity and the wealth of his love for us.

Scripture is powerful, challenging and encouraging while showing us God’s wrath for our sin and the miracle of his grace. Biblical views of God should not be compromised in art and seen as foundational truth for us to build our life on. In the proper perspective we can always enjoy it for what it is. Without a worldview grounded in the text of the Bible we can easily find ourselves creating our own view of God. That has always been called idolatry.

The Shack has moments that would certainly line up with Scripture and offer help and encouragement for some who might be going through suffering initiated from the fallen nature of our world. But, it also has elements that cannot be backed up with a thorough reading of the Bible. If seeing the movie will drive more people to seek God through his Word then that would have tremendous value. The problem is that many will watch it and allow the scenes and conversations within to be the authority for how they view God.

The Shack will move you if you go see it. My prayer is that it moves you to go to the Bible to test what the movie teaches about the trinity and God’s view of our sin and our suffering. Watch it for what it is: one man’s perspective on God as a gift to his children. Then go read the gift Scripture that the Father gave to his children to get the only authoritative view for who God is as Father, Son, and Spirit.

We Sing

I have often wondered about the human ability to sing. Why would God build into us a way to express ourselves at a level far beyond what the spoken word can accomplish? Too often we spend time criticizing people for their inability to sing well. In actuality what we are saying is that their pitch may be on the struggle bus, but that doesn’t mean they can’t sing.

I find it interesting that singing is prevalent throughout the Bible and yet the ability to sing “on pitch” is never mentioned. In every case you find someone who is in a situation where simply speaking will not be able to communicate what their soul is experiencing.

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When you read about Moses standing on the top of Mount Nebo looking into the Promised Land you should be able to identify with what he must be feeling. He has provided leadership for the Hebrews for over 40 years through difficult times all to bring them to this point. As he looks out across the land of God’s covenant with Abraham he also feels the sense of regret that he will not be able to enter it with them. So, overwhelmed with emotion, Moses sings.

When do you sing? What do you sing about? What is it that truly moves you to sing?

When the church gathers on Sundays we sing praises and scriptural truths to God. That time should be an expression of our deep personal relationship with the Father. When we sing together on Sundays we should be experiencing a musical surrender of our soul to the lordship of Jesus. The Holy Spirit brings us into deep fellowship with the triune God through the collective rising of our voices toward heaven.

Chuck Lawless recently published a list of six ways we can more effectively participate in the act of congregational singing:

Pray as you enter the Worship Center

Sing because God commands us to sing

Push beyond your personal preferences

Really pay attention to the words

Sing as your proclamation of the gospel and your praise of the Redeemer

Remember that many believers around the world must sing silently

So I encourage you to sing in the shower, belt it out in the car, lose yourself in song when you are home alone, and surrender yourself to worship when the Quest family gathers this Sunday!

 

We Pray

As the people of a loving, gracious, merciful, powerful God we have been given the tremendous blessing to experience the gift of prayer. We don’t have to navigate our way through this broken world alone. Even if all the people in our lives abandon us, we still have access to the unwavering presence of the Father.

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As we learned in the previous message series we pray…

To connect to the Father

To praise God

To repent of our sins

To ask the Father to take action against injustice

To question the Father’s will for us

To receive a revelation from the Father

To intercede for others

This week we have all been called to our knees to pray for Lorie Lines in deep intercession as we beg God to heal her. We are drawn to this action because of our love for Lorie and our belief in the power of God to heal. We will continue to pray as Lorie continues to fight to live.

We should never take for granted the gift that we have to be able to enter into the presence of the Father with our petition. We should take full advantage of the Father’s desire to operate in intimate relationship with us. Are we pouring ourselves out before him in prayer for those who are lost? Are we petitioning his mercy and favor over the work of our church in our community and abroad?

We are family, children of God with a mission of love to each other and the world. Prayer is the primary tool we have for what God has called us to be together. We must continually be a praying people.

Known?

Recently I had an opportunity to attend a meeting where a communication specialist was discussing social media strategy in relation to the mission of the Church. It proved to be an enlightening meeting in many ways and got me thinking about how our presence on social media intersects with who we are as followers of Jesus.

The numbers are fascinating. 87% of people in the U.S. are on some form of social media while over half of them spend an average of 16 minutes per hour engaging this realm in some way. It’s not just for the Millennials and Generation X either. The fastest growing demographic on social media is those who are over 65 years old. We are a culture that has a growing obsession with social media.

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Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are the primary places where social media activity is found. On these platforms participants have the ability to engage many people with a few words typed on their smart phone or with a creeper image that they surreptitiously took of someone doing something goofy. Culture is being shaped toward social media in fascinating ways.

I think that what drives participation the most is our innate desire to be known. We want others to acknowledge that we are good. We desire to be connected and embraced. We are all seeking something  that lies seemingly beyond our grasp. We look for things to post to drive others to our content so that we can receive a specific response.

Sometimes we have important statements to make, or information to share, on social media. Occasionally we sincerely need help or encouragement. Often we are looking to promote events that will positively impact others, or to share ideas that will make life easier for those in our social media world. But, mostly I see a hunger to be known.

The awesome truth for all of us is that we have a Father who knows us with the deepest intimacy imaginable. We are eternally known by the creator of everything. How amazing is that?! I feel that if we can truly grasp the relational connection offered us through Jesus’ sacrifice then the game changes. Our focus shifts from seeking to be known by others to working to make God known.

Passionate, devoted followers of Jesus seek to live through their faith in every avenue of their existence. Faith in Jesus will begin to influence our thoughts and actions. Our motivation for our social media activity will morph to reflect the desire for others to know our story and find their own peace in Jesus.

Followers should be the most fun, uplifting people in the social media realm. We should be encouraging others and looking to build up while never tearing down. Posts that could incite or draw others into conflict have no place on the social media platforms of believers. Here is the baseline question we need to ask in order to examine our motivation: “Am I seeking to be known, or am I seeking to make Jesus known?”

Back Pain

We live in a decaying and dying world. Part of that decay is evident in my body, specifically my lower back at the moment. I evidently injured it in some phantom way near the end of last week. I began to experience a growing discomfort in my lower back throughout Saturday and Sunday. Monday came with an increase in pain. By Wednesday I found myself searching for any position to relieve the agony. So I went home and rested.

Thursday morning brought a little relief so here I sit in my office trying to be still while I type. The worst part of back pain is constricted mobility which severely limits your actions. Things that would normally be done without thinking become arduous activities done with great patience and care. Pain becomes a limiting factor.

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We see the same truth reflected in our souls as well. Life in a broken world brings us emotional hurts and grief. People we invest in relationally betray us. Those who are supposed to be our caretakers abandon or abuse us. Institutions we commit to end up taking more than they give. Over time many layers of internal suffering lead us to begin to shut down and become severely closed off from others. Pain becomes a limiting factor.

We need to look for healing. We need some path to freedom from the pain in order to operate with openness that reflects the original intent for humanity. Jesus offers us the one true hope. He lived, grieved, suffered, died and rose again so that our struggle would not consume us. In him we have the ability to find release for the pain of our lives that seeks to hold us back. We need to rest in him so that over time pain loses its hold on our hearts.