Last Sunday we came to Ephesians 5:18 in our summer long series on Ephesians and its famous command to “be filled with the Holy Spirit.” In simple terms, here’s what that means:
When your pastor goes out of town on vacation, is it okay to cheat on him and visit another church? I’ve had a unique experience the past two weeks at Mt Vernon. I guess it’s a summer thing. I met a very nice lady two weeks ago who said this was her first time at our church. She went on to say that her pastor was out of town that Sunday so she wanted to come check us out. Her church was more traditional and she likes contemporary, but she feels obligated to her home church. But once the pastor left, she split and came over to ours for a Sunday. Then this past Sunday I met another couple who said this was their first time at Mt Vernon. They told me they’ve been in Columbus for years, and they just seemed to ooze “churchiness,” so I went out on a limb and asked them, “Is there a particular pastor in town I don’t need to tell that you’re here today?” They sheepishly looked down and said, “Well actually, we go to So and So Church here in town, but wanted to try Mt Vernon.” They sat on the back row so that if they saw anyone they knew that would rat them out they could bail.
I guess it’s part of our church shopping culture today. Visiting another church when you’re in a committed relationship with another is like cheating on a loved one. The funniest part about the whole thing was that I saw the lady from two weeks ago the following week in town. We immediately recognized each other, and there was this awkward moment where we had to decide whether we would acknowledge each other in public. She checked to see if anyone from her home church was around. It was as if we were two people from a spiritual one-night stand unsure how to speak to each other the next morning.
Now in all honesty, it felt pretty good to be the pastor of that church that other people wanted to come and check out. That is, until, I got on Facebook later on that day and checked my newsfeed. One of the families who has been coming to our church the past several months (but who had missed the past few weeks) had just posted, “Loved the service and can’t wait to go back!” — at [Another] Church. Thank you, humility.
QUESTION – Have you ever cheated on your pastor when he went out of town?
The mood was set perfectly as I stood up to preach Sunday. We’d just been led in worship and our hearts were ready. Bob (our worship pastor) had prayed a beautiful prayer and the bumper video set a solemn, reflective mood as we were about to dig into the book of Ephesians. And then I forgot to take my microphone off mute, leading to those few awkward seconds when no one can hear you.
Realizing that I just broke the mood with my mess up, I had three options:
1. Blame it on the tech guys. Never a good option.
2. Try to pretend it never happened. Only it did happen, and everyone knows it. Pretending like it didn’t makes things weird.
3. Own it. Get them to laugh, even at your expense, reset, and get right back up on that horse.
Here’s my mess up, in all it’s glory:
I should probably put something sentimental here, something like ‘there’s always peace and joy in the house,’ but that would be a misrepresentation of reality. I’ve got four kids ages 7 and under. Sometimes there’s more crying than joy (especially when more than one of them gets going at once!). To be completely honest, parenting four young kids is exhausting. I love it and wouldn’t have it any other way, but my kids wear me out. Robin and I try and trade off nights to actually sleep (one of us gets to sleep, the other gets up with the kids if needed). In reality, Robin gets up a lot more than I do. Last night was my night to stay up. It was a typical night, getting up four times (three times with our infant Elle and once to stop a four-year-old trying to sneak into ‘mommy’s bed’). It can be exhausting at times, but I wouldn’t trade my life for anyone else’s. I love how my life has unfolded.
Here’s the greatest thing about having four kids: you get over ‘you’ real quick.When you’ve got four young kids, the amount of ‘you’ time is laughable. I used to play golf a lot, then I had kids. I used to be able to watch whatever I wanted on tv. Now it’s a steady diet of Barney and The Wiggles. Robin and I used to be able to go out and eat whenever we wanted. We laugh at the thought now.
Our schedules revolve around nap time and bedtime. Even something simple like getting the family dressed and ready for church is a herculean effort. There is always another kid who needs something from the refrigerator, another diaper to change, another baby to be held. By the time we’ve successfully run the gauntlet and gotten the kids tucked in for the night, Robin and I usually fall down exhausted, coveting a full night’s sleep, knowing that one of us won’t get it.
Parenting four young children (simultaneously) is stretching, demanding, all-consuming, exhausting. And yet in the midst of this I find joy. I realize I don’t have to focus on myself to find happiness. As I empty myself out for the good of others, I discover a God who is ready to fill me up with a joy that never runs out. Once I get over me, I’m in a position to receive the blessings and joy and fullness that God promises me in Scripture. The trick is to remember that joy at 3 am when I’m changing a diaper while half-asleep.
QUESTION: How has parenting your children been a blessing to you?
Here’s the latest installment of our sermon series on Ephesians. Enjoy!
Balancing Justice and Mercy in Immigration Reform – A great perspective on this divisive topic.
Catalyst’s Brad Lomenick on Secret to Success – Great interview with the guy who helped build the Catalyst Conference, a conference I look forward to going to every year.
The Road to Jericho & the Border Crisis – Another strong perspective on the border crisis from the top Baptist mind on the subject.
The Pastor’s Wife Who Went Crazy – Amazing first-person perspective on mental illness.
Why Are So Many Christians Afraid of Hollywood Bible Movies? – With more and more Bible epics coming out, this is a good word.
BONUS Video – For the guys, a history of hair fashion over the past 100 years.
Watch this short clip to see Ephesians 4:20-24 illustrated as yard work can teach us an important lesson about our faith.
I give online to my church twice a month, and I wish I could say giving online was for a more spiritual reason. Growing up in the church, I’ve always known what the Bible taught about giving a tithe (10% of your income, off the top, to the church), and there’s never been a time where I’ve really disagreed with it. It’s not my money, it’s God’s. I get that. God’s trying to break the power of greed in my life. I get that. The money I’m given is to be used to invest in the Kingdom both here and for eternity. I get that. I’m all about storing up for myself treasures in heaven.
And yet it took years for me to give faithfully, even after I became a full-time minister! Why? The power and lure of money was just too strong. There was always one more thing I wanted to buy. I obligated myself to a lifestyle beyond my means. Since giving online is a relatively new idea, for years I did it the old-fashioned way: drop a check in the offering plate when it came by. But that didn’t work for me. I never carry a checkbook with me. I’d wait till the end of the month to get all my other purchases out of the way, and would always find that I ran out of money before I ran out of month. Pretty soon I’d be six months behind on my tithe, and if I wrote a check to catch up it would bounce. All the while, I felt guilty because I knew better and wanted to be better.
And then online giving came along, and it’s been a salvation to me. This is why I give online: accountability. I need it for me. I get paid twice a month, on the 1st and 15th. I’ve got an automatic debit set up to give to my church twice a month, on the 2nd and 16th. The first thing that gets paid is my tithe. If I miss a week of church, it still comes out. It may not sound super spiritual, but I need that accountability to hold my feet to the fire and honor God the way I know I should.
And guess what? I’ve been faithfully tithing for years now, and I still have a nice house, still have cars and computers and toys, and our family still gets to go on vacation every year. I honor God with my tithe, and He’s been more than faithful to me. And online giving is how I’ve been able to do it.
Maybe you did it Sunday. Woke up, got the kids looking decent, scrambled out the door a little late, snuck into the church service a few songs into it, but at least you didn’t miss the main part (the sermon). Maybe you stay for the last song, maybe you sneak out early to beat the traffic (or just to avoid another awkward conversation with “Sister Betty”). In and out. Smooth. Clean. Hazardous to your health.
I would make the argument that attending church can be hazardous to your spiritual health. You attend shows. You attend ball games. You’re not supposed to attend church. When you attend something, you sit and watch as a spectator. If you like it, you offer some applause, perhaps you pay to get in or make a donation, but that’s as far as your involvement and commitment go.
The picture we see of the early church is just the opposite. They didn’t just attend church services, they did life together. They broke bread in each others homes. They got involved in each other’s lives. They gave to those in need. They sacrificed for each other. They practiced biblical community. They were the church for each other.
There is a difference:
- Attending church is about you. Being the church is about us.
- Attending church is about getting. Being the church is about giving back.
- Attending church is about meeting your needs. Being the church is about also meeting the needs of others.
- Attending church is about being entertained. Being the church realizes that you’re not the audience, God is.
- Attending church stays skin deep. Being the church goes deep into the lives of those around you.
- Attending church will eventually dry up your soul. Being the church will enrich your soul and those around you.
- Attending church is easy. Being the church takes work.
- Attending church is optional. Being the church is not.
Don’t settle for attending church this Sunday. Be the church.
1). Set your alarm (or set your alarm 30 minutes earlier). If your morning is a frantic last-minute race to get out of the house to get to work, or if you have the mornings off and like to see how long you can sleep in, change things up. Get up earlier, don’t be frantic and stressed before you even leave the house. Don’t sleep in. Decide that you want to be productive this week.
2). Declare a “TV Free” day. Pick a day where the tv doesn’t come on all day. Choose to let something else besides the media influence your thoughts and actions. Read a book, play a game, just keep the tv off.
3). Listen to the Bible on audio. As you’re on your commute, as you’re doing things around the house, plug in those earbuds and listen to the audio Bible on free apps like YouVersion. See what happens when you allow words of truth to wash over you and settle on your soul.
4). Exercise. Yes, you know you need to do it, so do it! Get out and go to the gym. Walk around the neighborhood. Do something. As you take care of your physical health, your mental, emotional, and spiritual health will benefit as well.
5). Help someone accomplish something. To momentarily break the power of selfishness, choose to help someone else accomplish something they need. Help them with yard work. Help them finish a project. Do something intentionally for someone else and not you.
6). Don’t be a slave to lists. Just live!