My Jesus experiment has a very clear hypothesis. Jesus Christ gives a rich and satisfying life to those who follow him (John 10:10). Borrowing the words of author, Rob Bell, “Jesus mastered the art of living and invites anyone who would follow him to do the same.” Over the past several weeks, we have been exploring and testing Jesus claim starting with the concept of abiding. It is only through abiding in Jesus that our lives become fruitful. Apart from Jesus, we can do nothing (John 15).
A rich and satisfying life requires that we stay connected to Jesus, his teachings and practices. First, we stay connected through fostering a vibrant prayer life. Jesus always stepped away from his public ministry to pray, to talk with God. He understood that cultivating relationship with God was an essential life source. Secondly, Jesus’ vibrant connection to God empowered him to face his fears. Daily, Jesus walked by faith trusting God’s promises and provisions, whether it be for daily bread, a roof over his head or protection from his enemies.
Today, we learn from Jesus how to overcome temptation or evil. The scriptures say that after Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist (officially beginning his public ministry) he was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. It was in the wilderness that Jesus was tempted by Satan three times and found the strength to persevere. First, Jesus (having not eaten in days) was tempted by Satan to turn stones into bread. This is the temptation to meet a legitimate need in an illegitimate way. Our emotional, financial, food or relational needs cannot be met with quick fixes. Though our feeble attempts fail, God meets our needs at the source.
Secondly, Jesus is tempted by Satan to throw himself off the highest point of the temple so God would be forced to save him. Essentially, Jesus’ actions would force God to serve his purposes. Most of us are all to familiar with attempts to manipulate God’s action for a desired outcome. God cannot be manipulated or obligated to bless our plans. Rather, we must always seek humility to entrust our plans to the wisdom of God. Thirdly, Jesus is offered authority over the world by Satan for the small price of his worship and allegiance. Most of us experience temptation to want it all and want it now. We want to be successful professionally, financially, maritally, socially, emotionally and even spiritually… and we want it now. That is not how life or faith works.
Jesus displayed the singular focus of aligning his life with the will of God. Though tempted to compromise along the way, he trusted the promises and provision of the God that he knew. How did he do this? His public life as fueled by a deep, abiding relationship with God. Jesus calls out to his followers, “Abide in me.” Consider, how can you take a step deeper this week?
There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out all fear. 1 John 4:18
Only a few times in my life have I felt completely terrified. One time that comes to mind was when I was high school and decided to go spelunking with group of friends. Spelunking is basically when groups of people explore deep, dark caverns and caves with only guide ropes, headlamps and a compass for orientation. Our group was 90 minutes into our descent when I slipped, loosing grip of the guide rope and slid down a ledge and off into a dark abyss finally landing in some water. My headlamp immediately went out and I found myself alone treading water in the complete dark. Quickly, panic set in and I started to hyperventilate. The next few moments were the longest of my young life, until I finally heard the voices of my buddies and saw the beams of light piercing the darkness.
Again and again throughout the Scriptures, Jesus asks different people, “Why are you so afraid?” Most of us can identify, for fear is part of life influencing us all in different ways. In America, the top 5 most prevalent fears are: 5) needles/blood, 4) drowning, 3) bugs, 2) heights and 1) public speaking. As a person of faith, how do you find freedom from the binding grip of fear? How does Jesus guide us to, by the power of love, drive out all fear?
Jesus did not speak of fear as someone without experience. He understood the fearful prospect of venturing out into the wilderness for 40 days without food or any provisions. In his weakened state, he would need to summon the strength to face down the tempter. Jesus would travel from town to town healing and teaching the good news without the security of a place to lay his head. As an uneducated man, he would stand and speak in front the the highest courts of the land. Finally, he would willingly enter a city brimming with powerful men hellbent on seeing him arrested and executed.
Yet, Jesus was able to draw his strength to endure from a greater promise expressed in 1 John 4. Far greater than any fearful circumstance is the power of love. Love drives out all fear. This quote from Richard Rohr has been a game changer for me. There is no time, to place, no circumstance in which God is not loving you. Allow the power of that statement to wash over you. God does not promise protection from all adversity, but is faithful to love us through it all… come what may. That is how love sets us free from fear. Next time that fear creeps into your heart or spirit, claim this verse or Rohr’s quote as your own. When fear seeks to bind us, God’s love is more than able to set us free.
Blessings on your week, -Chad
I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the son also does. For the Father loves the son and shows him all that he himself is doing. John 5:19-20
So I have started into a new experiment. Jesus made the claim, “I have come that you might have abundant life (or fullness of life).” As discussed previously, Jesus was not talking about the afterlife, but finding fullness, abundance in our earthly, everyday lives. That is quite a claim. As Jesus followers, do we believe and practice it? So, with The Jesus Experiment by Bill Perkins as my guide, I want to test Jesus’ claim. The Bible encourages us to “examine spiritual claims and hold fast to what is good” 1 Thes. 5:21. This is the hope and intention behind my experiment.
Today, I want to examine the truthfulness of this proposition. What we do in private informs who we are in public. Do you agree? Time and time again, this premise is proven true. Sooner or later, the guiding beliefs, principles and practices unseen and private will find healthy or unhealthy expression in the public sphere.
The life of Jesus provides example. Little is known about the first 30 years of Jesus’ life, but it is safe to say that the unknown relationships, principles and practices that guided Jesus through childhood, adolescence and young adulthood were foundational for the ministry years that followed. It was during those unknown years that Jesus developed a deep and abiding connection and dependence on the Father. We know this to be truth because throughout the gospels Jesus would again and again withdraw from the crowds (and even his disciples) to pray and be alone with his Father. Clearly it was during these times “away” that Jesus nourished his relationship with God and cultivated a strong, abiding connection that served as lifeline throughout his ministry.
Jesus claims, “Truthfully, I can do nothing without my Father. So I look around and seek to join in what my Father is already doing.” I think that his statement is directly connected to our experiment. Part of finding “abundant life” here and now involves three things; 1) realizing that apart from God, we (like Jesus) can do nothing (of real consequence), 2) developing spiritual practices that nourish relationship and cultivate dependence, and 3) seeking new eyes to identify where God is working so that we can join in.
According to Jesus, seeking and finding life with God starts with what we do in private. I invite you to experiment with prayer and meditation. Perhaps, you can take the passage above (John 5:19-20) or John 15:1-5 and prayerfully meditate on its meaning for your life. Journal about your thoughts, or discuss them with a friend. My prayers are with you as we live into this experiment together.
In one of the most intriguing verses in the Bible, Jesus makes the claim, “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy, but I have come that you might have abundant life (or fullness of life)” John 10:10. His claim sounds pretty good. I mean who isn’t looking for a full and abundant life? Our culture clammers for the “good life,” a life that overflows with goodness and satisfies our deepest yearnings. Apparently, Jesus understood this yearning and pursuit common to all people, and offers to help us find it.
Jesus’ claim to offer “abundant life” can be interpreted in many different ways. Some say that Jesus is talking about the afterlife, a heavenly home that awaits all people of faith after their death. This interpretation is unlikely as the vast majority of Jesus’ teaching is grounded in and responds to a specific context, problem or question Jesus is addressing in this life. If the “abundant life” Jesus talks about is not found solely in heaven, then it must be available for us here… in the life. So the question becomes, “How do we find this life here and now?” This is the objective of my experiment.
One clue about Jesus’ claim can be found in the verses that follow it. He goes on to describe himself as a “good shepherd,” one who loves and lays down his life for his sheep. The sheep know his voice, trust him and follow him. In light of this passage, we understand that Jesus invitation into abundant life is directly connected to listening, trusting and following. That is what my Jesus Experiment is all about, taking Jesus at his promise and exploring my hypothesis: Jesus give s a rich and satisfying life to those who follow him.
I invite you to come along for the ride. For the next 12 weeks, I will use this blog as my journal chronicling the adventures of the previous week. Our guide along the way will be a book called The Jesus Experiment by Bill Perkins. You are welcome to pick up a copy and join in. Blessings on your week. -Chad
Have you seen any good movies lately? Amber and I saw some really extraordinary movies this summer… and some real stinkers as well. It it hard to define exactly what makes a movie “good” or “bad,” but it seems we all have an opinon when the credits role. I am always surprised to find that a good film holds the power to stir my soul and touch my heart, while a bad film can cause us to question, “What purpose did that film achieve?”
Without question, filmmaking is about communication. Each filmmaker aspires to communicate an overarching moral, idea or philosophy to the audience. The audience receives this message and is left to decide if we are buying what Hollywood is selling. Over the past several months, I have observed multiple films venture more overtly into arenas of God and faith. These inspiring films tackle important philosophical topics like success and failure, inclusion and prejudice, ability and disability, and compassion and hate.
For this reason, we are claiming August as a month devoted to finding “God in Film.” Each Saturday evening at 7pm in the Fellowship Hall, we will host a viewing party for the film of the week. On Sunday morning, we will use the sermon time to explore the central themes of the film (and related Scriptures) and ask, “Where does God show up and what can we learn?”
Our first movie selection showing Saturday, August 4 and then exploring August 5 is “The Last Jedi.” I know it is a year old, but I could not resist. Plan to join us for this fun, summer series.
When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new. -Dalai Lama
Over the past several weeks, I have sought out the opportunity to sit in many of your living rooms for conversations. Each conversation was different. Some conversations took place in the morning and others in the evening. Some were set in a more formal living room over tea or coffee. Others took place in a more relaxed setting like the den or around the kitchen table. My goal in each conversation was to ask good questions and listen more than I spoke (quite a challenge for a preacher). In each conversation I rediscovered beautiful a gift… you. By setting aside time in a comfortable space, looking you in the eyes and listening to your thoughts, feelings and concerns for an hour or so, God gifted me with a renewed appreciation of just how extraordinary each of you are. And I owe this gift to the simple, but seldom practiced art of listening. Thank you for the good conversations.
The fact is that we have a lot to talk about. The world around us seems to be getting more and more absurd every day, nationally, globally, socially, religiously, environmentally, and politically. We are tasked with discerning what it means to be a follower of Jesus, to take on the agenda of Jesus in these challenging times. Collectively, we must decide what it means to be the church that Jesus imagined amidst our fractured religious landscape. What is God calling Kingwood Christian Church to be and do for and with our community? This was essentially what I was listening for in our living room conversations.
What did I hear? I heard a diversity of ideas (surprise, surprise). Passionately, you spoke of dreams for discipleship (new efforts to grow deeper in faith), missions and outreach (new efforts for justice and service), worship (new expressions for all generations) and evangelism (fresh efforts to invite and welcome new friends into our church family). I was delighted to see that God was stirring among you. inspiring you to dream new dreams and see new visions for our future. Creativity of expression and Openness new adventures are the fingerprints of the Spirit at work and hallmarks of vital, growing congregations.
So thank you. Thank you for your devotion, your faithfulness, your passion, your ideas and support of OUR church. Thank you for your support in stepping out and planting a new worshipping community in The Table. We will launch October 7 in the Fellowship Hall. The service time will be planted concurrently at the same hour as the traditional service (details attached below). Our New Service Planting Team looks forward to presenting another layer of our vision on August 5 after worship. Please plan to stay and keep this important conversation going.
With Great Love, -Chad
New Service Times.pdf
This morning, I woke up in one of the most beautiful places in the world, the Central American paradise of Guatemala. Our team, led by Cheryl Rowan and including Dana Rowan, Dave Walis, Anne Amis, Dennis cook and myself, arrived yesterday after a short, two and a half hour flight from Houston. We were greeted with hugs (and kisses) by our hosts Emerson and Susanna from CEDEPCA, the Protestant Center for Pastor Studies in Central America. It is impossible to enter the Guatemalan culture without immediately feeling an outpouring of warmth and hospitality.
The afternoon (as chronicled on our KCC Facebook page) was filled with engaging conversations and ended in a tour of the CEDEPCA campus and an introduction to Guatemalan history by Rev. Dr. Hector Castaneda. CEDEPCA is an organization that feels called of God to bring transformation to the stagnant Guatemalan culture through four distinct programs. The Intercultural Encounters program welcomes groups like ours from the USA and Canada, and ushers them into transformational experiences of encounter, reflection, dialogue and mutual service. The Disaster Relief program is a first responder of hands on aid when extreme events like hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes or tropical storms occur. The Woman’s Ministry program seeks to empower women through education and theological experiences grounded in feminist studies. Finally, the seminary is committed to transforming lives through educating a new generation of pastors to thoughtfully interpret the Scriptures and discern theologically what it is to be a follower of Jesus in this moment in history. The seminary is the definition of diversity training 183 students from over 15 denominations and boasting a 48% male to 52% female student ratio. That is simply unheard of in Latin America.
In the coming days, we plan to visit more with the staff and faculty of CEDEPCA as well as travel to some of the ministry centers in the surrounding areas. God is doing some amazing things in and through our wonderful group. Don’t miss our daily updates and pictures on the KCC Facebook page. Please continue to pray for our group as we travel and explore this beautiful country and return to Houston on Wednesday, June 27.
Sometimes God speaks to me through my kids. The other day as my family rushed out the door going the “next” thing my daughter commented, “Daddy stop! Why are we always in a hurry when we never go anywhere really important.” Intuitively, she picked up on the fact that hurry, the sheer pace of life got in the way of what was really important. Life is to precious to miss, and the faster we go the more likely we are to miss what really matters.
Perhaps you have experienced this as well. We can get so busy doing “urgent” things and so preoccupied with what comes next that we do not experience the now. It is almost as though in our fear of being late, we rush from the past to the future and miss the gift of the present. We do not get to our futures faster if we hurry and certainly do not become better people in our haste. More likely than not, the faster we go the less we become. As followers of Jesus, that is a shame.
Slowing is the way we counter our culture’s mandate to tend to the bottom line, to move it or lose it, to constantly be on the go. In Mark 6:31, Jesus observes a frantic crowd coming and going without taking time to rest and eat, so he says, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” The invitation always before us, yet slowing does not happen automatically, but with great intentionality. It is a way to honor our limits and the fact that God is found in the present moment.
As some of you know, my family will be on vacation for the next two weeks spending time with family in Missouri and Florida. Admittedly, our family tends to pack so many things into our vacations that we need a few days to recover upon our return home. My intention is to make this vacation different, to incorporate a slower rhythm to our days, to enjoy longer coffee times in the mornings, to concede longer naps in the afternoons, to linger at dinner table conversations and to stroll longer in the woods or on the beach.
So, how will you choose to slow your pace this week? How about driving in the slower lane, speaking more slowly, eating more slowly or pausing to look people in the eyes. Let us covenant to slow down my friends that we may find God in each other and each moment.
As most of you know, I am a third generation pastor’s kid. My dad was a pastor his whole career, as was his father (and my uncle as well). Some might say that any pastor’s kid is a long shot to turn out normal, much less the son of a pastor who was the son of a pastor. Perhaps it is becoming more and more clear why your pastor (me) is such a piece of work.
There are some advantages though. I grew up in the church. 365 days of the year, my family was at the church, serving the church, loving the church, celebrating and crying with the church. You might not know, but after a few years a pastor’s heart beats with the church they are serving. We feel the joys and pains, the highs and lows, the peace and restlessness of the church.
This past Sunday when I stood before you, I felt something that broke my heart. I felt a spirit of anxiousness and unhappiness, as though some of you were hurting. It wasn’t what anyone said or did, but simply a sense or spirit that I picked up on. On Sunday evening at the Board meeting, the cause became abundantly clear. Over the past few weeks, a rumor started among a few groups within our congregation that the times for the new worship service, scheduled for September 9, 2018, were already decided and that the time for the traditional service time was changed.
First and foremost, this is completely untrue. Sunday night’s meeting was the first time that the Board discussed any proposals from the New Service Planting Team concerning the new worship service, and no proposals were approved.
Secondly, I have to say that several revelations brought forth in the meeting broke my heart. It broke my heart that unconfirmed information was shared as though factual. It broke my heart that no one immediately sought to confirm the information with me or a Board member before spreading it. It broke my heart that many congregation members were hurt deeply by this misinformation. But mostly, it broke my heart that anyone in our congregation could believe that your pastor or Board would make such a significant decision in such an uncaring way without seeking to hear from you… our church family.
Friends, your pastor and Board love you and respect you. We would never make a decision like shifting the whole Sunday morning schedule without consulting you. To be clear, the Board is empowered by the congregation to make important decisions pertaining to church life, but rest assured that we represent you and seek your consultation so that we can make key decisions wisely.
And so, we must all claim this as an opportunity to learn and grow, to pray and evaluate how we can better honor each other and protect the treasures that we hold dear in Kingwood Christian Church. We must all seek ways to foster greater trust believing the best in each other. My vow is that I will try to do a better job of communicating and updating the congregation when big decisions, like those pertaining to the new service, are on the horizon. May we covenant to make every effort to grow our trust in Christ and each other as we move forward together.
For the record, there is no way to improve on Margaret’s sermon this past Sunday. She did a fantastic job of giving voice to the absent “mother” in the Prodigal Son story of Luke 15. For me, it was as though Margaret’s retelling brought completion to an unfinished story, one missing a character key to the plot line and lesson Jesus is offering.
In the Luke account, Jesus makes very clear that the forgiving Father represents God. And yet, if we believe all people are created in the image of God – “Male and female, God created them”- then half of God is found in the male gender and half is found in the female. Anybody who only gives you only half that truth is only representing half the mystery of God. Is Jesus guilty of this? I don’t think so.
The father that Jesus described and knew looked amazingly like what most cultures would call mother. While likening the “father” to God, Jesus portrays him as a complex blend of the traditional patriarch… and matriarch. The God of Jesus’ parable is soft and hard, grace-filled and accountable, freeing and responsible, vulnerable and empowered, an optimist and realist, and both traditional and egalitarian.
Do you see it? God’s image is only fully represented in our beautiful diversity, “both male and female.” God is revealed in the collective masculine and feminine together, and to portray God any other way is an injustice.