WHAT ABOUT FAITH? (Part 5)

Greetings all. I’ve been a wee bit absent these past several weeks. Like the pretentious Priest, Father Guido Sarduci on Saturday Night Live used to say, “I blame-a myself.” The pen (keyboard) has been silent and difficult to approach. I attempted more than once, maybe twice, I don’t know, by now it doesn’t matter. My attempt to write the final blog in this series, numero cinco, in What About Faith, well, let me be honest here, it just wasn’t happening. 

Now having apologized, then making fun of that apology, and then adding in another excuse, I recalled the famous quote attributed to almost every writer:  “No one wants to write, everyone wants to have written.”

That was my problem these last several weeks. And I am looking forward to feeling much better once I finish this conclusion!

In the last blog which few will remember from 22 days ago, I suggested that Jesus, from what I can tell, invited people who were interested into Proximity and Participation. Proximity meaning to move in close in order to be present. Wherever you are, be all there! To be close is to be adjacent… to be near one another. This is a position that makes sense to people who are devoted.

That second word, Participation, is a fitting word for us to use in the conclusion of this series centered around a practical definition of living out a life of exceptional faith. Without participating in the faith that one admits to, one is left unwilling to pursue their faith. America is full of Christians whose participation is of little importance to them.

Religion is more an event we attend than a Faith we Follow. That has become an inconvenient truth for many who have been overcome by some kind of situational amnesia from church itself. Inside of these WAF posts, I have tried to present an anciently new way of pursuing one’s faith. It has been here all along. Ever since Jesus challenged us to have eyes to see and ears to hear. What would you call that? I call it Practical Theology.

We have people these days in the Church who love to talk about “the Word.” Seven times in Matthew 23, Jesus, who according to John’s Gospel was the Word, had this to say regarding people who believe they have the power and position to tell others what they have to believe: Woe to you…hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones…

Wow Jesus, why don’t you just tell us how you feel!  

I know a little about hypocrisy. It results in being a hypocrite, which I once was in order to elevate my importance in the eyes of others unschooled in theology. It was as they say a fool’s errand. So, back to Practical Theology if you will.

Participation, that second word I brought up is critical for those of us who are pursuing the life God has called us to. Proximity without Participation is useless to us as we seek to explore, discover and live a life of exceptional faith.

Participation, defined for this post means – embracing and engaging the life of faith. It’s a purposeful act one is compelled into because they want to center their life around their faith, trusting that once there they will find a deeper life driven by the Spirit of God residing inside us. 

What keeps most professing Christians from a deepening faith? It may be as simple as this: 

  1. They have yet to allow themselves to move into the Proximity of the God who longs to welcome them into a new and unending life.
  1. Without proximity they may be unable to define what it means to take the next step into the act of Participation with others in community. 
  1. And finally, without proximity and participation, Faith itself seems to have been mostly ignored.  As G.K. Chesterton noted in this quote: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult, and left untried.”

So, What About Faith?

In the end, when it comes to faith, no one can appeal to another as their proxy. While it is not private, it is nonetheless by definition, personal in so much as you and I have or have not come to a conclusion on faith’s significance for our own lives. 

So, What About Faith?

It’s between you and God and eventually it is between the both of you and the community of others who in spite of their frailty of faith, nonetheless do not give up hope.

So, What About Faith?

Hang on wherever you are with faith. And never forget, God is for you not against you. 

Thanks again for stopping by long enough to read this post. I pray this post has read you as well.

MC

WHAT ABOUT FAITH? (Part 4)

Hey you Blog Post people. I’m glad you’ve latched onto this 3rd post in the What About Faith series where we are pushing forward to unpack the importance of faith. We set out to write five posts which might help us consider the import and impact of faith in anyone’s life regardless of whether you are religious or not.

These posts are coming straight from talks and conversations I have been having with friends of mine @ Life Community here in Mt. Pleasant, SC as together we explore how one’s Faith can Transition us to a new step into what faith actually is about.

I have to give kudos to Brian McLaren and his writing in the book – A Search For What Makes Sense. He is an awesome writer whom I was introduced to by friends who thought I might find in McLaren a kindred spirit. And, I did! McLaren is a writer who has the credentials to help all of us work through this ever present pursuit of faith. 

So, let’s start with a point McLaren reveals; in a world where there are Good and Bad Choices, it’s quite likely that there must also be Good and Bad Faith “options” for my faith.

Jesus says in the Gospel accounts; Come and see or Come and follow. What I believe Jesus meant here is that Good Faith begins with Proximity and leads to Participation. The capital “P’s” assume significant importance which we’ll return to shortly.

Choosing a path to travel on as one explores, discovers, responds, and embraces an exceptional faith for one’s life is representative of someone who believes that faith itself is worth our time. And, in fact, isn’t it true, that time, the time we commit to a person, a project, a plan or a purpose is always a factor for a good or a bad outcome regardless of what one might be pursuing. By the way, go back to the top of this paragraph and read those four underlined words. Don’t each of those words sound inviting? They seem to me to be the scope and sequence for an individual whose intent is on giving faith its rightful place in their life.

Looking back over three decades in ministry, I recall having a sense that many people I’ve known who attend church, get baptized, pursue God, or “find religion” (whatever that means), spend little of their time exploring, discovering, responding, and embracing faith especially in these days of distraction. 

Time plays a huge part here and we have to be honest with ourselves as to the allocation of our time, because faith, as it turns out, requires a lot of one’s time. This is precisely why in the Gospels Jesus calls all of us first to the concept of Proximity. That word means to move close to in order to be present. When someone says to me; “Hey Mike, I’d like for you to come see something I have been working on. I’d love to hear what you think about it.” That’s an invitation to Proximity. And there is a bonus attached to Proximity. When one is near to others in faith, one becomes closer to exceptional faith… if that is what you are looking to find.

Immediately following the 4 Gospels in the New Testament we find The Book of Acts which is the beginning of the Church. Today, you, me, and others may see church as “our church.” It’s the church that I go to, the church I give to, the church that fits who I am, the church where I feel more at home in my faith. There are a lot of things you can identify as a reason for the church you choose and yes, the faith you are pursuing should be a major factor in where you are pursuing the Life that God has offered you.

Jesus’ church (if we can call it that) was actually a community, a fellowship of sojourners who because of their Proximity understood why Jesus was calling them to Participation. Without it (Proximity), there would be an even smaller number of people who are sharing their life with others (Participation), pursuing an exceptional faith. 

How do we Participate in the life of an exceptional faith? That’s where we’ll pick up inside of the 5th post in this series next week…

MC

WHAT ABOUT FAITH? (Part 3)

Welcome to my blog. If you are new, I am in a series of posts focused on the action of faith in our lives. This is the 3rd installment so check out the first two before you read this post… Oh, and we are glad to have you join us!

“Hello, is there anyone out there?” Does that sound like a question you have asked God when you can’t seem to locate where God might be… or if God even IS? 

I’ve asked it and I think many of us have asked it when we are wondering, where is God when we need God? Inside of that popular question put to God in a moment of despair or uncertainty or just plain anger, lies the initial problem humanity has been wrestling with when it comes to connecting with God.

Okay, well here’s a great place to begin part 3 of our What About Faith? blog post. I’m hoping we can move this conversation down the road by the end of this post. We’re not leaving WAF? behind, but these first three posts should put us in a position to move forward with some level of fluency in this matter of faith. 

I happen to believe that God has set us up. I know that statement (set us up) is often used in a negative way. But, what if there was a Creator God who created you with a purpose for your life? That is certainly the assumption which many confess to have, even though only a few live out their lives as if they actually believe it. 

Now, if you were born with a purpose and for a reason, how would you discover what those were? Most do it on their own and that of course is assumed to be the reasonable way to do this. You know, pick yourself up by the bootstraps and all that. Or, be a self made woman or man, (whatever that means) I’m not making fun here, I am simply stating that this is the way most of us, if not all of us, are inclined. 

Attempting to be our own arbiter as to our purpose and reason for living this life is, to me, a scary proposition especially when we can’t see or predict the future. This Pandemic has revealed that for us common folk. It may have been predicted, but even medical science is largely incapable of predicting mankind’s response to the virus. And as we have seen, mankind, at least in America, has proven it doesn’t want to pick itself up by the bootstraps now. We have shown we do not have the will to do what we do not want to do. We have shown that we value our independence well above an offer of interdependence.

So bear with me and let’s go back to this idea that if God has set us up, that could be a very positive thought. It doesn’t cut us out of discovery. It may give us an even better chance to discover who we were made to be. It may challenge us; in fact, it should challenge each of us because interdependence will require at the very least some level of faith. 

Couple of weeks ago in our series Faith Transitions I spoke on this topic of Faith In 25 Words Or Less. 

First 5 words – Faith is a dynamic state. 

Meaning faith is alive, fluid, innate. For faith to survive it must continually be upgrading and transitioning. 

Next 6 words – Faith is lived in relative certainty

Meaning faith is a gift given to imperfect people like you and me. Dr. Peter Enns in his book, The Sin of Certainty, writes, “Struggling with uncertainty transforms faith in ways nothing else can.” 

Next 7 words – Faith is about matters of ultimate importance

Meaning it is significant, meaningful, and substantial. It is about orienting oneself to what is universally true. It isn’t departing from reality, it is closing in on reality. Faith deals with how we conduct our lives, make our decisions, cope with suffering or pain, and establish our values.

Final 6 words – Faith is a catalyst for action. 

Meaning if my faith doesn’t result in action on my part then my faith is only an opinion. Anyone can recite a creed but to say that God exists without pursuing the life God offers… is not faith. It is merely an idea which I am not committed to. 

Faith matters. I remain convinced that every human being has faith in their lives. Whether it is active or dormant, dynamic or static… it is there. We are all at the very least responsible for considering and exploring faith’s possibilities.

Let me close with a couple of thoughts. First, I write this blog because I am deeply invested in being a part of the conversation that is shaping this culture. I honor who you are and where you are on faith right now.  At the same time, I share what I have come to believe about faith. Second, I do this because I have come to see faith as the leading edge of my life and in the lives of many others whom I have the privilege to journey with. As always, I am grateful that anyone would give me a listen, so thank you for reading. Now, how about responding? Your voice matters, make it known. 

We’ll have another post up by this weekend so please check back. And finally, I want to thank my awesome wife Lynda who is taking her time every day making contacts and building a following for this blog site. It’s great to have someone in your corner; it’s even greater for that someone to have known you for 50 years.

MC

WHAT ABOUT FAITH? (Part 1)

Are you a person of faith? At Life Community we are having a conversation right now centered on what we are calling Faith Transitions. We’re committed to spending a minimum of four Sundays developing an understanding of what faith is and why faith matters. It’s a start as we consider what life can become when and if one’s faith begins to transition, to grow, to transform one’s life.

Are you a person of faith? My first thought would be of course you are! I believe everyone has faith, it’s part of a person’s worldview. Without it life would be an improbable if not impossible journey to undertake. We all practice faith in our own way. 

Merriam-Webster is of some help when it comes to a basic description of faith; Faith is the complete trust or confidence in someone or something. How does that fit with you? I like it as a baseline, a place to start. I hope that is okay with you as well. Stay with me, it’s going to get deeper.

Are you a person of faith who lives as if you have complete trust in someone you’d call “God”? At Life Community we have always begun our pursuit of God through a Conversation which leads to a Connection, which invites us into a Community. Those 3 steps are always being recycled in our lives because when it comes to FAITH, we all have a lot to experience. And for some reason, God has chosen to draw us together in community so that we can encourage one another as we wrestle with faith itself.

I have attended churches that have a list (sometimes a very long list) of things you have to DO in order to maintain your Christian faith. 

Jesus seems to have had a different perspective. He called people to follow him in order to experience 

Who he is, 

How he roles, 

Why he is focused (not on lists to DO) but on How God has created you to BE so that you can come fully alive to Who you are. 

When was the last time you felt this way about WHO YOU ARE?

Now, I’ve been following Jesus for over 50 years. During this journey here’s one thing I am certain of. Becoming who I was made to BE is the only way for me (or you) to ever DO what I (or you) need to be doing. When DOING overwhelms BEING in the Church (which it has in many churches) Christianity loses people who know better. I’ll get into WHY that makes sense in an upcoming blog, but for now I’ve got a conclusion to write.

Most of the people I hang out with are:

  1. Not Christians
  2. Christians who have left the Church because of Rules and Regs
  3. Christians following Jesus in order to discover life to the full
  4. Friends I have made who are interested in knowing more about why I am following Jesus.

After 30 years of ministry in the Church I have never felt so free to BE me. And having walked in this way with others @ Life Community Church, I am convinced beyond everything else that this is WHY LCC is still here in Mt. Pleasant, SC.

Hopefully, you’ll give me some time to make this case. My goal is to post twice a week during this June /July series. Before I close, I’d like to invite you to join us on a Sunday morning during this current series on FAITH TRANSITIONS. We stream to Facebook live every Sunday at 10:15. Like our page Life Community Church for the service to show up in your feed. 

Don’t forget to leave a comment and/or share this blog site with a friend.

MC

THE INTENTIONAL LIFE OF SUSTAINABLE RELATIONSHIPS

Thanks for your responses to the Monday post – What Is 46 Years Worth? Lynda and I are into our third day of celebrating our forty sixth year together.  We began doing this not too long ago for anniversaries and birthdays. Try it, seven days is a heck of a lot better than one day, plus you’re not under some outdated time restraint. Who needs those?

Today, as I write from my Study in the Old Village of Mt. Pleasant, I am looking forward to this follow up post about Sustainable Relationships. First, let me report that Lynda and I are still together and grateful that we are, especially having been sheltered in place with each other for almost two months!

One of the most unexpected results of growing old with one another is that when you reach a certain age you realize there is nothing that can separate you short of death and of course death, as many know, lost its power when Jesus was resurrected. Now, if you’re not a follower or a fan of Jesus please do not leave this somewhat brief post as you might find inside of it something of value.

Look, couples should never forget that each tomorrow we live into will in someway be different from yesterday. I had brought up this word in Monday’s post which may have been missed and so I will rebuild it into our conversation here. That word is intention and it should command our attention. Hokey, right? Keep reading.

Intention has kept Lynda and I together for 16,792 days. And the word itself may seem pedestrian at first glance but we’d be wrong to define its impact so quickly.

Over the course of our journey it has been intention that has salvaged our marriage the day after a 10 round fight that left us both reeling and running to our respective corners. You probably know what that’s like, as anyone, who is truly in love, finds within themselves this counterintuitive thought that only love could inspire. That thought; to live is to love, and to love is to honor, and to honor is to REMAIN. It’s as simple as that. 

I heard this at a conference I had attended and have used it alongside Lynda in the FOCCUS program we have taught to couples for over twenty years. Some of you reading this will remember it because it is quiet simply hilarious. On the evening we talk about forgiveness when it comes my time to speak I stand in front of the audience and say to the them; “I’d like to share with you why Lynda and I are still married. Anytime we get into a fight, one of us says to the other, Lynda I’m sorry.”

It occurs to me that people who have bought into Jesus’ (there I go again) offer in John 10 to; give us life and describes that life to be abundant, are people who desire a life that is overflowing with life. Whenever we talk about  Sustainable Relationships @ Life Community we define it as: A Life that Gives Life. 

If we are not intentional about living A Life that Gives Life, then we should not be surprised at the other life we have chosen. We need only examine the investment we have made in our relationships, friendships, and marriages to get a true picture of where we are. All three will take up the majority of your life, but done well, they will also become a testimony for a life lived well. 

Lynda and I have spent countless hours building friendships and have come to find that it is this, this longing to converse, connect, and be in community with others that have made the life we chose, to be the life we are living still. It is not merely a piece of who we are, it is what we have given our lives to. The journey with others on this road to Life!

With no regrets (there could have been a few?) we continue. And for now, you are a part of this life we live. And for that, we are grateful to you all. With no regrets!

This weekend I will post another article about the book we are laboring through entitled – PARTICIPATION – An Invitation to Life. 

Let’s continue this conversation then.

God’s peace to you all,

MC

ON BEING THANKFUL

Here’s a short Thanksgiving post to all of you who visit my Blog. It comes from my heart so don’t say anything to hurt me okay. But, please, by all means, comment or add to this mini post your thoughts on not just this holiday but giving thanks for life in general.

There are many things like events, toys, opportunities, etc., etc., which we find ourselves thankful for on a daily basis. We know that we have a feedback loop which dumps that awesome chemical serotonin into our brain creating feelings of happiness when we’ve experienced something that makes us happy. We know this because this has happened at times to all of us. Like right now you might be feeling a sense of goodwill because Mike is taking time out of his Thanksgiving holiday to say to me he is thankful for me.

Well, you’d be right, I am taking time to do just that, but the point isn’t just to say to you how grateful I am to have you in my life.

The point is to say how your being in my life has changed me, challenged me, taught me, encouraged me, supported me, inspired me………. I could go on and on, but this is a mini blog today!

You people – you individually have spoken into my life through your own lives what it literally means to be alive and to embrace life day by day with thanksgiving.

That’s it. You have been a part of making me, ME! And for that contribution from you I say to myself, to my God, and to each of you 

THANK YOU!!

God’s peace,

MC 

Day 682

Sorry for the absence but these last 5 weeks have been consumed by preparation for a long awaited court date. As many of you know, our family has spent most of the last 682 days crawling forward as we continue to seek answers to the shooting death of our son Bryan. The journey is far from over, but next week, we have an opportunity to face the confessed gunman. Imagine what that might be like? A good piece of our time has been spent preparing ourselves for Wednesday, November 13, 2019. It will be Day 682 of our tragedy. Though it’s just one day it seems to encompass an entire lifetime.

Last Sunday I had the opportunity to speak at New Song Church over on Daniel Island. Inside of that message I placed this reminder from Jesus which John, the Gospel writer included in his book. It was a reminder to me and those who had gathered that morning to hear our story. Perhaps it is familiar to you or maybe you have never heard it until today. 

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

That first statement has been born out by all of us to be absolutely true. No one gets a pass on trouble. In fact, you and I at times seem to be experts at creating trouble in our own lives, our own family, and our own relationships.

I have returned to that verse time and time again because I am fascinated by that exclamation point which follows the word heart because it engenders this thought of hope. I was having lunch just the other day with my favorite Millennial Landis, who opened up a conversation about that word hope. In our back and forth on the matter we asked this question out loud; What would life be without hope

For me, I believe that Jesus’ thought process here in these two statements are critical to a life well lived in spite of trouble or tragedy or loss. During my own journey (which has never been just my own journey because so many of you guys have walked with me), I have listened and learned a truth about life I had never appreciated. 

The truth about loss is the truth about love because suffering is the test of love. Until you lose someone you will never know fully how much you loved them. 

I’m going to shut up for today and as always I hope you might have some thoughts yourself specific to this post. If so let’s start our own conversation. You never know who we might impact!

MC