A Bible Study on Prayer

Here are some Bible verses on prayer. I will let them speak for themself.

When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” Matt 21:20-22 (ESV)

In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. John 16:23-24 (ESV)

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! Matt 7:7-11 (ESV)

And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:

Our Father in heaven,  hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,  your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,  but deliver us from evil.

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matt 6:5-15 (ESV)

You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. James 4:3 (ESV)

By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us. 1 John 3:19-24 (ESV)

O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name. Dan 9:19 (ESV)

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. 1 John 5:13-15 (ESV)

Leading, It's All About God

Church leadership is not about making everyone happy, doing "church the way they want, or pleasing people. It's about ushering people into the presence of God, leading the way to being His people, and doing His will. That's going to make some people unhappy, but it's not about them. It is about God.

Why Do A Sunday Morning Worship Gathering If It Is Not Really Church?

Recently, I have been in a conversation with a brother in Jesus who does not like the Sunday Morning Worship Gathering, Sunday Service as many call it, or pageant as he calls it. It made me work through the reasons I organize one week in and week out.

Our church still does the traditional gathering, albeit in a modern style, but we also have a meal every week. I strongly believe that the meal is the real church gathering. During it, friendships are developed and relationships nurtured. The disappearance of the fellowship meal in the modern church is a disturbing thing. I wrote on that once: The Disappearance of the Fellowship Meal.

Yet we still provide a typical worship service, although I call it a worship gathering because I don't want to confuse service with sitting and listening and standing and singing. We try to provide real service opportunities that go way above and beyond sitting in a worship gathering. The Sunday morning gathering is really giving the people what they expect. If they expect a circus and peanuts, I'll give them it wrapped in a package that I hope will show the true intention of Jesus. I have no problem doing something that is not outlined in Scripture if it is effective at doing what we are called to do and isn't contrary to Scripture. It's like Paul going to teach in the synagogues. During that time I urge the people on toward greater fellowship and deeper discipleship. I would be remiss to ignore the fact that something happens to a lot of people in a large, group corporate worship. I remember when I wasn't a Christian and a girl brought me along to one. God did something in me during that time. Providing a worship gathering, which I think is not church, might be an area where I fall into disagreement with both groups of people, people who are in "traditional" settings and people who are more "organic" settings. I do struggle with whether giving them what they expect distracts them from really experiencing God. So far it seems to be an effective tool that funnels people into deeper fellowship, something they want but just don't know how to go about acquiring.

When I was part of our house church, we struggled to grow numerically. We were in deep fellowship with one another, living our lives together daily. And they still are today.  Some have even moved into the same houses together. But many house churches are just smaller versions of the typical church. That is disappointing. After our experience planting the house churches in Lansing, we came down here exciting about that format of church. Then I realized after encountering a few house churches that it wasn't the format we liked; it was the deeper commitment to fellowship and service. I have tried to bring those into our larger church experience because those are elements that should not be exclusive to a small group.

And I must admit, our larger church experience is small. Our house churches had around thirty people when we left. The current church that I minister at had a little over fifty yesterday.

But going to a church gathering centered around a meal at a house is intimidating. The potential new people almost have to be fully committed disciples before taking that step. The worship gathering, despite being a farce of what church is, allows new relationships to be built with people who are already in fellowship with one another. It's almost like a first date that allows a message to be shared that could challenge them to a deeper faith and provides worship to be participated in through which they might encounter God. There is a reason that the spoken word and corporate worship are effective tools. It also allows absolute strangers to take a leap and experience God in ways they might not normally experience Him. Some of our most committed people were strangers prior to coming to an event or Sunday service. I would hate to lose that outreach.

The Sunday Worship Gathering does take a lot of time and energy, but it has proven itself to be the most effective tool we have. Now, that does not mean that we don't do loving acts. Currently, we have activities that are collecting books for prisoners, replenishing the town's food pantry, giving clothes to the needy, organizing a fundraiser for the new Christian youth center and the community baseball association, and planning a music festival to raise money for an organization providing safe drinking water to Liberia. What I have found is that doing loving things like these need to be part of who we are, but the loving actions, despite my desire that they would, are not all that effective at bringing in new people. Loving actions can be just manipulative evangelism if our motive is wrong. Our wrong motives can turn something beautiful into a polluted goal. We just provided a family who had both members released from prison with many of the household items they need. They haven't visited our church; I doubt they will, although I hope they do. But we will gladly bring our church to them. Loving actions should be an outgrowth of who we are, but they don't seem to grow the church. I have found that the Sunday worship gathering does, and I would hate to discard it.

We can sing songs to God on our own. We can listen to sermons, especially with the internet, on our own. We can serve others on our own. The one thing we can not do on our own is encourage one another. If church is not a place where encouragement happens, then it is not the church.

We do have people who remain on the fringe who just come to the worship gathering, and they are welcome to do that. Most of the fringe are the people who were already part of the church I minister at. The new people have really caught on to community. Some more so than others. But we are on our way to being a better reflection of Jesus' intentions. Still a long way to go, but it's a way I want to go.

A Reexamination of the Church Building

In 2004, a long time ago and what seem like a galaxy far, far away, a stranger named Regan wrote a few posts expressing his views on the church building. Recently, in discussions on Facebook, discussion over the building resurfaced. After rereading this writings from 2004, I think my views are a little different than Regan's.

Here are the posts from 2004:
The Chain that Keeps the Church from Flying
Questions concerning abandoning the sanctuary

I still struggle with a church owning a building. In our leadership meetings, we have even discussed in about selling our church building with the intention of moving our gathering to the school auditorium or in one of the storefronts downtown. In the end, the financial savings would not be all that much. Either we would have to become smaller and meet in various houses or we would need a rich homeowner with a lot of room in his home to provide us with a place to gather. The baffling thing is that we would probably lose at least one family from doing that. I would hate to see that. To illustrate the point of the role of the building in some people's view of church, the last two summers we moved our gathering to the park for three Sundays. A family silently protested our gathering in the park and did not come to worship with us. As for our church, we only have eight years left of paying the mortgage and we are in the clear.

One difference I have noticed from when I gathered with Christians in houses to now is that random people never popped into a house gathering. They all have to be personally invited. There is an advantage to that, but there is a great disadvantage. The advantage is that the church is based purely around relationships. The disadvantage is that the church would not get strangers who become friends through them seeking out a place to belong. Invited friends are more comfortable (and more as meaning "still not that comfortable") checking out a church in a church building than in a house. The building is an outrageously expensive tool, but it does seem to work at opening the door to share the Gospel and get people connected with other believers despite all of my arguments against it.

Although I approve of buildings now (not that they needed my approval), buildings should not be our default position. It's often like, "Ooh, we are a church. Now let's build a building to be official." But we don't need a building to be official. The negatives of church buildings can outweigh the positives. They limit the size to which a church can grow. They create a mindset that God is more present there than where we eat, work, play, and sleep. And a multitude of other problems.

Then I come back to the situation I find myself in. The situation in which I believe God placed me. Probably to stretch me along with others. In this situation, it seems unwise to get rid of the building, so we are trying to make sure that we give God glory through His building not being empty throughout the week. We changed the name of our building away from the name of the church (the building is the Riverside Family Center and we are the Riverside Christian Church) because we want it to be a blessing to the community rather than just our church's building. We view it as a missions center rather than a sacred place.

I also understand Ken Williamson's (an article entitled "My Next Church" that I discussed yesterday in my post "Toward a Better Church") comments about the division over things in our building. The church I am a pastor at has been here forty-nine years now. The building was build just a few years after that start. Unknowingly, I created a lot of controversy when I rearranged the stage. I didn't know that it hadn't been rearranged except for weddings since it was set in that place over forty years ago. Since then, we have sold the pews and communion table - creating controversy, but we thought it was worth it (I had been making and living through decisions like that). Selling the pews did not go over well, but it allows the gathering room to have other uses beside the one hour it is used on Sunday mornings. That room is pretty expensive to be used only one hour a week.

When we received our nearly $800 air conditioner repair bill the other week, it definitely made me rethink the building. But I just concluded that was an expense to help the daycare exist. The organization running our daycare had been looking for a home for years. Antwerp does not have a licensed daycare, and there was no place working out. The over year long process should be rewarded with a license on Monday! When I came here, we started discussing using the building for other purposes throughout the week, and we connected with the daycare. Hopefully, it will be a blessing to the community. Hopefully, we can find other uses for our building to be a blessing to the community.

What I see as a problem from the organic church crowd (and myself from 2004) is that they just disregard the  building entirely, but I am learning to see that God can use a building for His glory. We just need to disregard our conceptions of what the uses of the building should be. I anticipate that I will get a complaint today because we have a lot of sorted clothes from our Kid's Clothes Closet in the back of our worship gathering room (for lack of a better word because I don't want to use "sanctuary") waiting to be hauled away. But I am fine with that. I will emphasize that the gathering room is a mission station. Sometimes things get messy when we are doing the work of the Lord.

I have wrestled with the building many a time, and I am sure that I will continue to wrestle with it in the future. Not only does it take financial resources, it also takes mental resources and physical resources through thinking about what needs to be improved and through actually maintaining it. May we all be willing to use our building in whatever way God calls us to despite our preconceptions.

Toward a Better Church

‎Recently I was directed to "My Next Church" by Kent Williamson. It's an article expressing what Williamson views as the ideal church and all of the faults in many churches. Faults most of us can relate to.

He proposed an admirable goal for his next church:

My next church will actively engage the culture. It will not wait patiently for seekers or the lost to wander through it’s doors. No, instead it will prayerfully seek them. It will not abandon the arts, but instead will actively pursue them, both in creating them and experiencing them. It will attempt to live culturally relevant lives, not to be seen by the world around us hip or in, but in an attempt to become all things to all men so that more may come to know Him.
Finally and probably most importantly, my next church will be about the great commission and the greatest commandments. It will actively pursue making disciples (not merely converts) of all men. It will actively be about loving our neighbor as ourselves. And it will actively attempt to love the Lord our God with all our heart soul and strength. The message of my next church will not change, but it’s methods will."
That is what church is about, but the ideal church he projects gets distorted in the midst of pointing out his many frustrations with the church. He wrote that his next church "will discourage argument for arguments sake over the finer points of theology that have divided so many for so long."

Will it not have enough time to talk about finer points of theology because it will too busy dividing and condemning others on finer points of ecclesiology? I'm not picking on Williamson. I believe that he expresses thoughts that many discouraged and disillusioned Christians have about the church. But in barraging the church with such vitriol, people who desire the church to be more than it is substitute one poisonous, divisive fruit for another. It is just as detrimental to divide over lesser points of theology as it is to divide over lesser points of church structure.

Williamson writes:

My next church will meet in the community. It may gather at a coffee house, a restaurant, or a neighbors yard today, and a playground, a theatre, or a parking lot next time, but the focus will not be on meeting to cloister ourselves from the world. 
Williamson would have to meet at an everchanging venue to find his goal of a church being about the great commission and the great commandments. Having an established building to gather in rather than a mobile, spontaneous gathering is irrelevant to us reflecting the Kingdom of God and being the people we are called to be. The Church can be found in a mega-church, a small rural church, and a group of Christians that don't want a formalized community and choose to meet in a coffee house one week and a parking lot the next. Praise God for His diversity and glory in His victories all around.

I hope that Kent Williamson finds the Church, but I also hope that he hasn't missed the Church around him because of his strict ecclesiology.

What I see in a lot of the "sanctuary church is evil" conversation is that the argument is based on an ideal structure that is not given in Scripture. 

The hermeneutics that would be needed to state that a church should not have a building is the same hermeneutics that leads some groups to think that baptism is essential, participating in the Lord's Supper must only be on Sunday, and instruments cannot be used in the weekly worship gathering. It is the idea that if something is not explicitly stated in the New Testament or wasn't in practice with the early church, then it cannot be implemented today.

Personally, I wish the church where I was a pastor at didn't have a building, but we have tried to transition the building into being a missions center for the community rather than a place that is only used on Sunday mornings. We now house a Kid's Clothes Closet to provide clothes to children in need. We have invited in a daycare that will be able to provide childcare to families in need and also help pay for the building. We are open to more uses of the facility that can bring God glory. A building is a big expense. We must realize that it is only a tool. It is an expensive tool, so we better get a great use out of it for Jesus' glory. We must never forget that it is just a tool, neither moral or immoral by itself. It's moral or immoral based upon what we use it for. 

The hermeneutics that are against having a paid minister goes contrary to Scripture. I was an anti-paid minister person for a while. It was something I had to wrestle with when I felt God calling me back to the ministry for my livelihood. I didn't want to do it because I strongly felt that ministers shouldn't be paid. That was me forcing the Scriptures to say something that it doesn't say because I wanted the church to be something other than what it was and is. Once we start forcing the Bible to agree with the pain in our past from abusive Christians, we can miss the bigger picture. Let us not fool ourselves. These abuses can occur in the institutionalized church or in a freer form of church. 

A clear church structure was not given in Scripture. I would presume that was intentionally done by God because we would get legalistic and divisive over our interpretation of it. Instead, we are given the Holy Spirit who guides us and works all things for the good of those who love Jesus, the head of the church. The key for a healthy local church is to have the people who gather together living with Jesus as their head. When that is the case, the arguments over structures become meaningless. Hence, a local body can be mega, mini, transient, or some other structure.

We see through the epistles that God works locally. This means that what would be a vibrant community in one area might not connect with the people in another. The church cannot be cookie cutter, but it must be diverse. There are some elements that should never change from church to church, but most of what a church appears as is cultural. Cultural elements can change. It is essential that each local church is under the Lordship of Christ, or the church will just become a comfortable club (usually not social). I am happy to see people connecting to God in exciting ways in different settings. All believers are God's people no matter what structure or non-structure they find themselves living in community with other believers in.

We could have the best structure or non-structure in the world, but without the people who call themselves followers of Jesus really surrendering to His Lordship, it would all be meaningless. It is through surrendering to Jesus and living radically that lives and institutions, including faulty churches, will be transformed into His image. Let's get to surrendering.

My Brothers and Sisters in Jesus, Be Careful of Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand has been growing in popularity in recent years through economic conservatives latching on to her teachings of self-reliance and individualism, views that seem to run contrary to the teachings of community and love for others in Scripture.

Ayn Rand in a 1965 Playboy Interview
“My views on charity are very simple. I do not consider it a major virtue and, above all, I do not consider it a moral duty. There is nothing wrong in helping other people, if and when they are worthy of the help and you can afford to help them. I regard charity as a marginal issue. What I am fighting is the idea that charity is a moral duty and a primary virtue."
Jesus in Matthew 25:37-40 (ESV)
"Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’"
Excerpts from Mike Wallace's interview with Ayn Rand in 1959.
Rand: “You love only those who deserve it.”
Wallace: “And then if a man is weak or a woman is weak he is or she is beyond love?”
Rand: “He certainly does not deserve it. He certainly is beyond it."
Wallace: “Isn’t it possible that we all believe in it [collectivism] because we’re all basically lonely people and we all understand that we are our brothers’ keepers?”
Rand: “You couldn’t really understand it because there is no way in which you could justify, nobody has ever given a reason why man should be his brothers’ keeper, and you have every example, and you see examples around you of men perishing by their attempt to be their brothers’ keeper.
Wallace: “What’s wrong with loving your fellow man? Christ, every important moral leader in history has taught us that we should love one another. Why, then is this love in your mind immoral?”
Rand: “It is immoral if it is placed above love of oneself."
The Apostle Paul writing about Jesus in Philippians 2:3-8 (ESV).
"Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." 
You decide. Do the teachings of Paul and Jesus line up with the teachings of Ayn Rand?

Is Lady Gaga Right?

Lady Gaga has another runaway hit with her song “Born This Way.” The song was the fastest song to reach a million sales on iTunes, and the album had the best opening week of album sales since 2005 with 1,108,000 copies sold in a week.

In the pre-chorus, Lady Gaga sings, “I’m beautiful in my way. ‘Cause God makes no mistakes. I’m on the right track, baby. I was born this way.”

Is that true? Is the way we are born the way we should live? Are we completely beautiful from birth without any mistakes in who we are?

For Catholics, this is an easy one. The concept of original sin would state that we are born in a sinful state, that is a state of marred beauty. In it, we are born flawed into a sinful world.

From our church’s perspective, Lady Gaga is still not expressing good logic. Although we believe children are conceived without sin, babies are immediately brought into a fallen world that tarnishes them. We are born children of God, but we have become children of this world. Again, we are people of marred beauty.

In the end, the result is the same. Flaws, whether we are born with them or not, need to be conquered. If I had a tendency like Jeffrey Dahmer’s and desired to eat people, that would not make eating people the right thing to do despite being true to my fallen self. That might be an extreme case, but the logic of indulging the tendencies we have will lead us to extreme distortions of what humanity should be. Just because we have had an inherent tendency since birth does not make following through with that impulse a right course of action.

I am not joining in on the original sin debate here. It’s periphery to this discussion because both sides agree on the practical implications with this issue. The one side believes we are born in sin; the other believes that we are not held accountable for our sin until we reach a certain age. In both views, there is sin present in life from birth. Sin that mars us from being the perfected image of God.

God has a plan for us, but we all have tendencies, desires, and actions in our lives that are distorted from what we should be, from that ideal plan. However, we are called to join in with Jesus on the restorative process he is doing in us and through us.  The idea that we are perfect the way we are will allow us to indulge in sins that come naturally to our sinful state.

The concept that God does not make mistakes should not empower us to indulge in all of our natural impulses. We are called to join in with Jesus, through the work, guidance, and strength of the Holy Spirit, in perfecting ourselves and the world around us. The very concept of transforming ourselves and the world into the image of God means that it is currently tarnished. To live by the principle that an impulse should be gratified just because it is an instinct will lead us to living a life outside of the fulfilling life God has planned for us.

In the end, this is why we need Jesus. His death on the cross brings forgiveness to our sins. His life that he lived shows us that there is an ideal we need to strive for. His resurrection brings victory. To say that we are fine the way we are is to reject Jesus’ sacrifice and plan for our lives. May we learn to live humbly, to recognize the sin in our lives, and strive, through Jesus, to be who God destined for us to be.

Ice Cream Grace

In Tony Campolo’s recent book, Stories That Feed Your Soul, he shared a story about when he was asked to present to a university class “how Christianity could be a movement that would foster positive and radical social change.” 

Campolo passionately told the students how Christianity could solve the world’s problems. The students were enthralled. They wanted that world that following Jesus could bring. But then the professor, who had invited Tony, interrupted him and shouted, “Tony! Tony! Be sure to tell them the cost! Tell them what it will cost them if they become the kind of Christians that Jesus expects them to be. Explain to them the sacrifices that they will have to make if they are to be true followers of Jesus.” In explaining the cost, Campolo lost the crowd. They wanted all of the benefits, but none of the cost.

So what is the cost to follow Jesus?

We have a tendency to confuse undeserved forgiveness with free forgiveness. We must realize that none of us can ever do enough good works to deserve forgiveness for any of the wrongs we have done, are doing, and will do in the future. None us can abstain from enough sins to cover up any of the times we have missed, are missing, and will continue to miss opportunities to love the people around us. Since we cannot pay the price, we do not deserve forgiveness. That is why it is a gift. But being a gift does not mean that it is given without cost.

I have fantasized about telling my kids that the ice cream truck was the boogey man truck. This way they would hide and cower behind the bushes, terrified of the music and the truck rather than ask me to buy them ice cream at the truck’s siren call. But I digress.

The other day, we were sitting outside at the lake with my aunt and uncle. The hypnotic music of the ice cream truck could be heard coming closer and closer. My aunt, upon hearing the noise, wanted to buy my kids ice cream, so she did. My kids were happy. My aunt was happy. Everyone was happy. And my kids became messy enjoying their ice cream. We wrongly visualize an image similar to this, where God is like my aunt and we are like my children, when we attempt to understand receiving God’s grace. God wants to give us grace, but there is a cost. It isn’t just us running happily to an ice cream truck.

Jesus taught, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” [Matthew 16:24-26 (ESV].

This is death imagery. It would be like Jesus saying, “Deny yourself, climb into your electric chair, and follow me.” The cross was a disgraceful, humiliating execution device.

The cost to follow Jesus is everything. It’s not going through a confirmation class. It’s not raising a hand in response to a commitment call. It’s not going to the altar. It’s not being baptized. It’s not saying a specific prayer. It’s not most of the things we confuse it with. The cost to follow Jesus is everything. It’s not attending Sunday morning gatherings, taking the Lord’s Supper, giving in the offering plate, or some other religious ritual. It’s everything.

It’s the giving of your whole life, everything from your time at work to your time in the neighborhood. From your time with family to your time entertaining yourself. God’s grace, given to us through Jesus’ death on the cross, is not a cheap grace, it’s an undeserved grace. It’s an expensive grace, freely given.

When young people are asked what they think of Christians, the first thought that comes to mind is that Christians are judgmental. Something is drastically wrong when followers of Jesus are known for a trait that was not modeled in the One they claim to follow. Christians suffer an image problem in our culture.  This is an inevitable result of watering down Christianity from a teaching of costly grace to one of free benefits. When our churches are filled with people who want the benefits of following Jesus without the cost of following Jesus, we will exhibit a Jesus who is selfish rather than serving.

There are great benefits to being a Christian, both on a personal and on a societal level. However, these benefits cannot be received until we give ourselves completely to Jesus. We must stop living for ourselves and start living for others. In doing so, we will find the grace that God provides through Jesus. The benefits we receive might not look like the benefits we wanted when we were living selfishly, but they will be the benefits we and the people around us need. May we find the strength to climb into our electric chair and follow Jesus.

Removing a Special Needs Boy from the Church Gathering

Special Needs Boy Removed From Church

This article tells the story of a special needs boy who was removed from the Easter Service at Elevation Church for being too loud. Elevation is the church where Steven Furtick is the pastor. Furtick is known for planting Elevation and writing Sun Stand Still: What Happens When You Dare to Ask God for the Impossible.

In this article, we are not given the details of what the distraction consisted of or of where the family was escorted to to "watch" the service.

The approach that Skye Jethani, the author of the article, used in a church plant he was participating in appears to be a good approach.
When this boy [a special needs boy in their church] was in attendance a worship leader would often let the congregation know at the beginning our time together. And he’d inform visitors that, "If he makes any loud noises during our time, rather than allowing it to frustrate you, use it as an opportunity. His presence with us, and the noises, remind us that we are all welcomed by God no matter who we are."
In saying that is a better approach, I must be careful because I do not know all of the details of what went down at Elevation on Easter Sunday. Elevation could have done the right thing. Without being there, we don't know how much of a distraction the boy was being. Jethani talks about the conflict of "entertainment versus hospitality." But what would it look like if the people with the distracting child were focused on hospitatlity to their neighbors rather than their own entertainment? Would they allow their child to be a distraction? Or are all distractions just supposed to be accepted by the gathering as the life of the church?

The family with the special needs child obviously wanted to stay, worship, and hear a message from Pastor Furtick. In attempting to do so, they were causing those around them to not worship as they intended, nor to hear the message. Maybe people shouldn't have an expectation of worshiping God through song and hearing a message from the Bible when they gather together. Maybe they should just go with the flow.

Most of us can relate to children. Most of us with children can relate to having an uncontrollable child.  Most "hospitable" parents would take their kid who is crying uncontrollably into another room to calm them down. Jethani seems to make the case that a person should not desire to have a distraction-free worship experience, as if having a distraction-free worship time is an unholy desire. Is it? What if that is one of the purposes of the gathering? Is that an evil purpose? Is it wrong to for a church to provide people with that experience?Should a church not provide a gathering time where the people are there to encounter God through worship through music? Is providing that wrong?

Not attacking the family because I don't know the situation, but Elevation might not be the evil culprit that Jethani makes them out to be. In our church, we do not currently have a nursery. Unfortunately, we have had friends who have not come back to our gathering because of that. I struggle with whether it is better to have a nursery (we did it for a few months but have since stopped) to allow the parents to focus on worship and hear the spoken good news or to alienate parents who don't want their children in worship because WE like families worshiping together.

At times, I have explained at our gathering that we love to hear the cries of children during our service. The cries remind us of life and vitality, but if a kid was crying uncontrollably for a while, that love might dwindle because I didn't gather together with other believers to hear a baby crying uncontrollably. Listening to a baby cry uncontrollably for a half hour might be a good exercise, but most of us try to avoid that happening. We take our baby out and calm the baby down. There is a responsibility for the parents of an uncontrollable kid to calm him down or to go to the provided nursery. Maybe there is never a case where a family with special needs children should excuse themselves from the service. The struggles and blessings of raising a special needs child is foreign to me, so I don't know for sure.

The dilemma a family with a special needs child has is that they do not have the hope that the crying will stop some day. We know that the crying baby is just a phase that will progress into an ornery kid into a well-behaved child who participates in the gathering like everyone else around them. With the case of a special needs child, they do not have that hope. Their child will always cause distractions to those around them. Most of the time, those distractions are probably just things that the congregation can overlook. But what happens if the distracting noises and actions get out of control? Should the family expect to draw all of the attention onto themselves or take their child out of the room?

One of the commenters on Jethani's post stated, "I wonder how many followers Jesus would have had if he had focused 'on worship, not ministry'." I wonder how many followers Jesus would have had if nobody could hear Him. Furtick and Elevation know that some of the people in that congregation might be hearing the good news of Jesus for the first time. They don't want to provide a distraction. But is removing a special needs child who is a distraction a contradiction to that good news? I don't know if it is as simple as Jethani makes it out to be.

Guerilla Loving

I am looking for help here. 

Below are some of the Guerilla Loving Assignments from Vince Antonucci.  He wrote Guerrilla Lovers: Changing the World with Revolutionary Compassion, and it inspired me to encourage some guerilla love at Riverside.  But I am looking for more ideas because some of his ideas just don't work in Antwerp.  Anyone out there have any ideas. They don't have to be great. Just share it. It might prove to be better than you think. 

While you are at it, maybe you would like to choose one of these and do it yourself next week.

These are all lifted from various entries at the Guerilla Lovers blog.  

Choose one of your neighbors who could use some encouragment. Give them a call and let them know that you're delivering pizza for dinner. You can have it delivered to your house so you can pay for it. But then walk it over to deliver the goods.

Identify a charity, and GO SERVE THERE! If you can't find a charity, pick the dirtiest park or roadside and clean it up. But even more... invite other people who DON'T go to church or have a relationship with God to come with you!

The goal is to visit someone who doesn't get many visitors and bring them a balloon or flowers. You may not know anyone in the hospital, so you'll have to talk with a nurse and ask them for permission to do this. Just explain that you want to show some love and compassion for someone who is hurting.

Make cookies for your garbage man. You have until next Monday to complete this mission.

Take the next 7 days and give away a certain amount of money each day. It could be $5, $10, $20 or even more. But as Guerrilla Lovers, we have the capability to impact other people's lives with our generosity.

Take the furthest parking spot away from the door... every single day this week. The goal here is to not only let other people take the closer spots, but to spend your walking time praying for those people. Usually, we fight with everyone else to get the closest parking spot, but this is an opportunity to be selfless.

Tip the dishwasher. The next time you visit a restaurant this week, bring a generous tip ($10, $20) and ask to visit the kitchen after your meal. They might give you funny looks, but go with it! Work your way to the kitchen where you can tell the dishwasher how much you appreciate them. Explain that you like to show people God's love in ways like this. You'll make thier day. If you can't get to the kitchen, then bring a back-up envelope to hand to the wait staff. Ask them to pass it back for you.

This week, sit down and write a meaningful letter to someone who has impacted you in a positive way. It could be someone from your childhood or, even better, someone you know who doesn't know Jesus. But don't settle for a five-word note. Take the time to write a substantial letter.

Pick-up a phone card for $10 or $20 and give it to a homeless person. If you don't know where to find someone who is homeless, give it to someone who could use it the most. This card could make it possible for that individual to do something they couldn't otherwise do.

Go out to dinner! But rather than being served by our waitress or waiter, Vince wants us to look for ways to serve them! This might be through laughter, kindness, encouragement - whatever you think might work. But take this opportunity to make a difference in their lives! And then... when you're ready to go... leave them the biggest tip you can afford. It'll take some sacrifice, of course, but it's what Jesus asked us to do.

More Than the Hall of Justice

On Saturday Mornings in the 1980s, I used to watch the Super Friends starring the Justice League of America versus the Legion of Doom.  Flash, Green Lantern, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and other awesome superheroes would go around the world saving the day.  

The thing I loved most about the Justice League was their headquarters, the Hall of Justice. Many of the episodes would begin with the Justice League receiving a distress call at the hall.  They would conclude with some witty moral statement by one of the Justice League members, usually Batman, back at the hall.  Everything centered around The Hall of Justice.

My mom and dad even bought me a Hall of Justice toy and Justice League action figures.  After that, I could conveniently reenact tales of great superheroics where the Justice League of America would stop the evil plans of the Legion of Doom. Those action figures would even take baths with me. Those were good times. I would pretend, like in some of the episodes I saw on TV, that the bad guys would come in and take over the Hall of Justice.  In the end, the good guys always won or the bad guy turned good.

As we grow up, we put away our Halls of Justice. We put our toys in the closet and move on, and our eyes are opened to viciousness of reality.  We see that bad guys do win at times only to die in their expansive mansions built off the hard work of others. We see that crooks, who are smart with the law, can be corrupt but get off Scot free. We imagine that our reality could use a good dose of the Justice League and the Hall of Justice.

Our desire for something better causes some of us to keep pretending.  We like to pretend that the church building is some religious Hall of Justice. When in actuality, the building is only a tool. Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman were heroes whether or not they had the Hall of Justice. When they saw someone hurting, they would help. When they saw evil taking over, they would stand up for what is right. 

We need to realize that there is a Church whether or not there is a church building. Those of us who have surrendered our lives to Jesus, live in relationship with one another, and long to bring God’s reality into our reality are the Church. If a storm came into town next week and destroyed our church buildings, as we have seen happen throughout this nation this year, we would still have the Church. We would just no longer have church buildings. That’s a huge difference. One that we would benefit to realize without the destruction of our church building.

When we realize that the building is only a tool, it should help us to bring about God’s will in our lives and in our communities. If our building is not doing that, it should be discarded or reinvented. My father-in-law collects a lot of old tools. Many of the tools have been supplanted by tools that are more useful at getting the job done faster and more accurately. Other old tools stand the test of time. When a tool loses its usefulness, we replace it. It’s almost too obvious to write, but a tool is only as useful as its usefulness.

So what makes the church building a useful tool? If it is not being used as a missions center, then it is not a useful tool. If we are too worried about it looking spotless that we cannot use it to love the poor, then we have fallen in love with the tool rather than its intended purpose. If we spend all of our finances on the tool rather than on its purpose, then it has become an idol.  If we think that going and looking at the tool is our purpose, then we have lost our focus on Jesus. We need to never keep a tool after it has lost its usefulness, even if the nostalgia of the tool makes us more comfortable.  That’s not the purpose of a tool. A tool’s purpose is to help get a job done.

Church is not a building.  It is not a Sunday service.  If you took those things away, would you still be part of a church?  Or would your church experience disappear? If it would disappear, then the stark reality of your church life is that you are not currently part of the Church. You are just part of a social, or anti-social, meeting that happens on Sunday mornings. You are just going to church when God wants you to be the Church. God has so much more in store for you. May you find the strength to go after His will. The world would benefit from a Batman, Superman, or Wonder Woman, but they are just pretend. It is time to stop pretending. What the world really needs is you, empowered by the grace of God through Jesus. That is the tool that will make a difference.

Revisiting the Church Music Debate

A few years back I wrote Repetition of Phrases in Modern Praise Songs Compared to some of the Good Old Hymns.  I counted repetition in lyrics because someone was criticizing the new music we were introducing at church as being too repetitive.  My conclusion was, "Repetition is not a question of new songs versus old songs. It is more of whether it is a repetition we are used to and like compared to a new repetition."  Things seem to be going much better at our church in recent times, and the focus is, hopefully, more fully on Jesus now.

This was all brought to mind once again when an internet visitor named Jay posted a comment that stirred the pot the other day.  Jay wrote:
Well, your post does not tell the whole story. Just google any of the Hymns you listed and you will see a pattern of Stanzas and Refrains (Choruses). Most of the Hymns have 3 or more Stanzas and they read more like Bible Doctrine whereas many Modern Day Praise songs are repetitive choruses or 1 or 2 short stanzas with Very little doctrine. Some of them just come across almost like a Mantra more than anything.
I posted a link to the original post on Facebook to see what my friends thought.  I received many insightful comments, but one was like lightning in a bottle.  Delivered with more vitriol and passion than I can muster, Brandon Caroland replied to my post and others' comments.
God only likes 19th century adaptations of contemporary secular songs, and some negro spirituals like Amazing Grace. He doesn't really like much music from the 14th century. But He does like some stuff from Martin Luther in the 16th century. But not the German Versions. Only the King's English. Actually God only likes music without royalties. Public domain stuff.

Actually he only likes music that comes from hymnals, because they kinda look like Bibles. Actually my hymnal growing up had some David Meece songs in it. He was contemporary in the 80s. Maybe God only likes music that predates the my high school graduation. I know its something arbitrary and senseless. God is obviously arbitrary and senseless. He only likes music that White people sing from books printed in English between 1800 and 1990. He Leadeth Me is a pretty fluffy song. God likes it though. More than something like God of this City. Both are corporate songs sung to each other. Neither one has any doctrine to speak of, but both challenge the listener to take their walk more seriously. Which is stupid. Learning is all anyone does.

Like Regan said. We all like what is familiar and what touched our hearts. Jay if you like hymns because they challenged you once, you should pay more attention to what is connecting with young people. they are the future. you'll never get the kids to like classical music. sorry. Hymns are great for what they are. classics. nostalgia. great writing. great music. born of great stories, told at a great time. but since that time, new stories have been told, history hasn't repeated itself. the music was written to appeal to a time before the blues and ragtime. before jazz. before rock and roll.

I'm sure Luther would have freaked if he heard Amazing Grace. What? NO IAMBIC PENTAMETER? You can't chant that!

In conclusion. most of these debates are meaningless. Chasing after the wind. At what age do people stop being rational and start thinking crazy thoughts like "hymns have more doctrine"? I can't think of a more ridiculous argument. Probably the same people that want to fight about putting up flags in the church. Probably the same people that want you to type a bulletin on a typewriter. Probably the same people that love you deeply, as long as you don't cross em. Probably the same people that think Sara Palin is smart. Probably the same people that paid for me to go to church camp and underwrote my first year of Bible College. I love them and I hate them They move the kingdom forward while holding it back.
 Thanks to Brandon for sharing and allowing me to repost as a guest blog post.

Links to Articles on Annihilationism and Hell

Working on a sermon on hell.  Thought I would share some links to some good articles that I have found.  Sharing the link does not mean that I agree with the content as I am working my way through these subjects.

J.I. Packer's Evangelical Annihilationism in Review

In this article, Packer makes four points against annihilationism. They all seem easily debunked by an annihilationist. 

I appreciated his last paragraph.  I think it sums up my thoughts well.
It is distasteful to argue in print against honored fellow-evangelicals, some of whom are good friends and others of whom (I mention Atkinson, Wenham, and Hughes particularly) are now with Christ, so I stop right here. My purpose was only to review the debate and assess the strength of the arguments used, and that I have done. I am not sure that I agree with Peter Toon that discussion as to whether hell means everlasting punishment or annihilation after judgment . . . is both a waste of time and an attempt to know what we cannot know,”36 but I am sure he is right to say that hell “is part of the whole gospel” and that “to warn people to avoid hell means that hell is a reality.”37 All who settle for warning people to avoid hell can walk in fellowship in their ministry, and legitimately claim to be evangelicals. When John Stott urges that “the ultimate annihilation of the wicked should at least be accepted as a legitimate, biblically founded alternative to their eternal conscious torment,”38 he asks too much, for the biblical foundations of this view prove on inspection, as we have seen, to be inadequate. But it would be wrong for differences of opinion on this matter to lead to breaches of fellowship, though it would be a very happy thing for the Christian world if the differences could be resolved.

Alan Gomes' Evangelicals and the Annihilation of Hell .

Gomes describes annihilationism negatively as a "kinder, gentler theology." That argument is weak.  First, I don't know if it is kinder or gentler.  Second, whether it is kinder or gentler is irrelevant to whether it is true.  Stott and the other evangelical annihilationists are not annihilationists because they want a kinder, gentler God.  They are annihilationists because they think that is what Scripture teaches, along with an eternal torment seems irrational to them.

Gomes rightly notes, "While it is true that the doctrine of endless punishment for the wicked is the position traditionally held by the church throughout the centuries, this in itself does not make it correct."  This truth should be applied to all areas of teaching and not just to to the question of hell.  All too often, church tradition gets exalted above Scripture and squelches real, genuine, and honest Bible study.  Although we think it is arrogant and prideful that someone in the 21st century (althoughy Gomes was writing in the 20th century) could properly understand Scripture better than some of the heavyweights of the past, we must realize that this is a possibility.  Many theologians vociferously propagate their teachers views rather than wrestle with the subject on their own.  Due to this, the traditions of the past might just be the regurgitation of a prominent Christian's view throughout history rather than fresh examinations of Scripture.  However, in swerving from the powerful stream of church tradition, one must be assured that the Scripture teaches the fresh stream they are sailing down.  Gomes concluded his thought with, "Of course, the fact that the church historically has interpreted the Scriptures to teach the doctrine of endless punishment ought to make us think long and hard before setting the doctrine aside. But when all is said and done, it is the teaching of Scripture that is determinative."

Gomes uses Matthew 25:46, just like Packer in the article above, to argue against annihilationism.  [v. 41] "Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire [to pur to aionion] which has been prepared for the devil and his angels....' [v. 46] And these will go away into eternal punishment [kolasin aionion], but the righteous into life eternal [zoen aionion]."  After a brief, cursory phone call with an annihilationist friend, I received an answer that would suffice.  The punishment, destruction of one's soul, is an eternal punishment, meaning that one's soul is destroyed for all eternity.  That explanation seems to suffice.  The fire is always ready - it is eternal - to incinerate another fallen soul.  Gomes wrongly juxtaposes punishment against cessation of one's soul.  An annihilationist would just say that the cessation of one's soul is a punishment that has eternal consequences.  Gomes noted, "One could argue that annihilation might be the result of punishment. But the Scriptures say that it is the punishment itself which is eternal, not merely its result."  Well, I think he missed my annihilationist friend's point. 

Then he does deal with Revelation 14:9-11 and 20:10.  20:10 is a really disingenuous verse to use.  It is clearly stating that eternal torture is for two entities, the beast and the false prophet. 

And now we are left with one passage of Scripture - just one - that promotes a torment without end.  And that passage is in the context of the prohphetic language of Revelation.  It is not a place that I would want to get my theology from and read the rest of Scripture through the lenses I develop from this section.  The obscure sections of Scripture should be read in light of the clear teachings of Scripture.

On Frank Viola, Church Structure, and the Thought That Our Way of Doing/Being Church is the Best Way

A friend of mine posted a comment about Frank Vola.

I made the comment:
I still think Viola uses Scripture to argue for a church model that is not clearly defined in Scripture. Without it being clearly defined, we have the liberty to be different.

I once did church thinking I was being church better than everyone else because the structure was "more biblical." I don't want to go there again. Maybe it's my fault, but Viola's teachings (and those of other house church/organic church leaders) lead to that prideful thinking. When I look back, at least from my faulty perspective, God has impacted people through His ministry through me more in a "corporate" setting than in a conversational, mutual ministry setting.

And when it comes down to it, structure doesn't matter. Fruit, especially love, is what it is all about. And Viola always leads people to argue about inessentials.
My friend and his wife - another friend - both then shared replies explaining things.  I do not feel comfortable sharing their replies here.  But I will share my reply back to them.

I appreciate the beauty of your journey and the inspiration Viola has been to you, yet I find his teachings dangerous - not in that good, radical follow Jesus way, but in that divisive, church is better the way I do/be it way. Now, I do think that we all should be doing/being church the way that we feel best. If not, we need to change.  But we don't have to come across that our way is the only way.

I did read the article, 10 Straw-Man Myths About “Pagan Christianity” & “Reimagining Church." Twice. To see if I missed him addressing my main thought about him. And I don't think he did address my complaint.  Maybe he did in a roundabout way but not in a way that satisfied me. Why is church structure an essential? 

We could all be going to churches that are structured correctly. Whatever that means. And that would not matter. The problem with church is not the structure; it's the lives of the people outside of the structure.  I agree that some structures are more conducive to inspiring people, but that structure changes culturally.  For me to be dogmatic about the way I connect with God and expect that to be the structure would cause the church to stagnate once the culture I am ingrained in has passed society by.  This has been one of the greatest problems facing the church.

There are people called to church leadership. There are leadership positions clearly established in Scripture. Everyone wanting to be church leaders or theologians makes an unhealthy church. Not being a leader does not make anyone less important. It actually makes everyone the part of the body they should be. What makes a healthy, vibrant church is everyone living out the faith in their homes, their communities, and their workplaces. We might disagree, but I think mutual leadership is more of an appeal to the Thoreauish individualism of America than to the early church.

I used to be overly cynical about the traditional, sanctuary church and its leaders. But now serving as a pastor, I know I don't want people to just show up, eat up, and leave on Sundays. But I also don't believe in open leadership. I want people to come, be involved in one another's lives, encourage one another, and go out and live the faith in a radical way that makes them shine the light of Jesus in our culture. Open leadership really is irrelevant to that happening.

There is a reason you find people to minister to who are burnt out from institutional church.  That's because we serve a great God who knows who to send people to to minister to them, and you and Eric are great ministers.  But the danger we face in ministering to people who have been turned off from the same things that we have been turned off from is that cynicism can flourish.

I think it is fine and great to do church differently. I am happy Viola invigorates you and others. But I would hope that there would be enough grace to not tear down different expressions of the faith. Just like you don't like the traditional, sanctuary church acting like they are the only game in town, I think nobody should act like they are the only game in town. The kingdom is big and expansive, and once we get dogmatic on structure we lose some of our witness.

I am not so kind to say that I am not trying to convince you. I would love to convince you, Eric, and the whole world that the church can be a megachurch with 50,000 people and it can be a group of three worshiping in a clearing in the woods. It can have top-down leadership; it can have mutual leadership. It can have worship leaders with a planned, rehearsed, and flawless presentation; it can have a lady who brings out her guitar and sings spontaneously. I have seen empty, passionless Christians in churches of all varieties, from organic churches to megachurches. I don't think the structure is the issue.  Total surrender to Jesus is.

As a minister - as every minister I know has been - I am inflicted with tremendous pain by the body of Christ at times.  I understand hurt.  Maybe yours has been more extreme.  But I also see tremendous beauty.  It's amazing.  As Tony Campolo said, "The church is a whore but she's my mother."

I view Facebook as a place of conversation, more of like saying something publicly so that other people respond with their thoughts. If that is not what Eric and you want with it, let me know. Because I still want to be your friends on here, but I don't mean to upset you.  I post on Facebook to hear what others think of what I think or am experiencing. I just assumed others do too.  After Eric's last refusal to comment, I did quit commenting on his posts for a while. But what sort of friendship is it that does not talk about different ideas and disagree at times? Personally, I am not just engaging in mental sparring. Although you are probably not intending this, stating that is my motive is a way to dismiss my thoughts and not consider them. If there was any evil in my comment it was to arrogantly hope that Eric would consider what I wrote initially: "When it comes down to it, structure doesn't matter. Fruit, especially love, is what it is all about. And Viola always leads people to argue about inessentials."

To sum up, I don't think the problem is institutional versus organic versus house or versus some other kind of church.  The problem is bad church versus the kingdom.  The kingdom can manifests in all sorts of believers, no matter how many they are or how they are structured.

Who Will?

On March 13, 1964, Kitty Genovese drove home from work, parked her car, and began to make the short walk to her apartment.  All of a sudden she was attacked by Winston Moseley.  Winston stabbed her multiple times but stopped when a neighbor yelled from a window, “Let that girl alone!”  Winston fled the scene, but nobody came to help Kitty.  She tried to get into the building but found herself unable to.  Ten minutes later, Winston Moseley returned to the scene to finish his crime.  He proceeded to rape and kill Kitty Genovese.  Nobody came to help.

This story encouraged psychologists to study the psychological phenomenon named the bystander effect.  It is the idea that the presence of other bystanders decreases the likelihood that an individual will stop and help.  In the case of Kitty Genovese only one person called out of their window and nobody came to help.

In being used by God to bring about His will into our communities, neighborhoods, workplaces, sphere of relationships, and families, we often fall prey to the bystander effect and end up doing everything for ourselves and nothing for God.  We think, “He’s God.  He doesn’t need to use me.”  Or we presume, “John and Jane down the street will do that.”  In the process of making up excuses to not follow God and continue living for ourselves, we miss out on the blessing of bringing God’s reality more fully into our reality.

Maybe you know a neighbor who is lonely.  Your neighbor needs someone to be her friend.  Knowing the situation, you also know that your neighbor has made all the dumb choices and that her loneliness is her own fault.  Being a pragmatist, you know that being a friend takes time and can be an inconvenience.  But someone needs to be your neighbor’s friend.  Who will?

Maybe you go to church outside of the community you live in.  You must realize that your church will not have the mission to make a difference in your community.  They are called by God to make a difference in their community.  That’s why God has put them where they are.  But somebody will have to answer that call to serve in your community.  Who will?

Maybe you know a teen who needs some attention and help so that they don’t make destructive decisions that will cause long-term damage to their life.  Being a realist, you know that you could invest plenty of the time and see no positive results.  But somebody has to take this kid aside and mentor him.  Who will?

We know all sorts of people that are in need of help.  And somebody needs to help them.  Who will?

Who will?  It’s easy to say that someone else will, but I hope that you will.  When God asked, “Who shall I send?  And who will go for us?” Isaiah replied, “Here am I!  Send me.”  May we have the same willingness to do God’s will.  God partners with us to bring about His will.  If we aren’t willing to surrender and bring His will about, then He will wait.  It hurts for Him to wait, but it doesn’t hurt Him.  It hurts us.  May we learn to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, stop selfishly living for ourselves, and start living for others.  By surrendering our lives, we will find ourselves right in the middle of God’s will.  We can be a bystander that makes a difference.