Thoughts from Pastor Travis: Sowing and Reaping

As we are going through Dave Ramsey’s study, Financial Peace University, I thought I might spend a few weeks talking about money during Sunday morning’s sermons too.  I can feel your excitement all the way through the Interweb...  A good text to start with will be 1 Timothy 6:17-19 (and maybe 6-10 for good measure).
But today I was thinking about the idea of sowing & reaping.  “You reap what you sow” is what we usually say.  Take a look at 2 Corinthians 9:6-11.  Sowing & reaping isn’t as common of a metaphor for Americans as it once was, but for us in the West that still plant gardens or work in agriculture, it works just fine.  What you plant is what you will grow & harvest.  Hopefully, you will harvest more than you plant (that’s why I don’t garden anymore), and the more you plant the more your harvest will be multiplied. 
In the case of 2 Corinthians 9, Paul seems to be applying this principle to money (or resources in general).  In a crude sort of way, it sounds like capitalism.  Invest money & you’ll get more money back.  But that’s not really what he’s saying.  Paul is inviting us to invest our money, resources, & selves into others, into those in need, and into Kingdom-building work.  Then God promises a blessing in our harvest.  That harvest may or may not be material (This isn’t some sort of magic output box or Heavenly 401(k).  Verse 10 promises us an enlarges harvest of righteousness.  Treasures in heaven.  So Paul’s point is that generosity is a trait that helps us be more like Jesus.
But think about how we apply this metaphor in America.  We easily substitute “money” for “seed”.  We plant money & wait for our harvest of money.  But “American Consumer” is a poor substitute for “farmer”.  We tend to consume everything that comes our way as fast as we can.  Rarely do we invest our resources (money or otherwise) into other people, because we don’t think we have any to spare.  It’s kind of like a farmer that starts eating his seed on the way out to the field, and when he gets there he has nothing to plant!  The wise farmer knows how to set aside what he needs for planting first, and he only consumes what is extra.  He always knows that he more he can plant, the more he can harvest next time!
So what if we learned to have a farmer’s mindset with our resources, instead of a consumer’s mindset?  What if we invested first in others and in Kingdom-building, & trusted that God would supply our every need?  Changing how we view our resources might change the harvest we receive as well!
See you Sunday!
Pastor Travis

Thoughts from Pastor Travis: More "Dribble" From Travis

I know it should be “drivel.”  It’s a basketball joke... You’ll get it in a minute...
It seems like there’s a media storm bordering on a hurricane going on right now, & this time it’s all about racism.  I’m sure most of you have caught at least some of the controversy around Donald Sterling, owner of the L.A. Clippers.  He made some very racial comments to his girlfriend in what he thought was a private conversation.  She recorded the conversation – about 15 minutes long – and it was released to the media.  The fallout has been tremendous.  NBA players have threatened to strike if he is not forced to sell the Clippers.  The NBA has banned him for life and fined him $2.5 million, and are considering forcing him to sell.  Of course, he has refused to pay the fine and still claims not to be “a racist”.
I don’t bring this subject up to debate the morality of Donald Sterling’s actions.  His words were obviously very hurtful to some, ignorant of the truths of racial equality, and contrary to the message of the NBA as a whole.  I don’t even want to debate the Freedom of Speech, which is something our culture seems to stand for unless it is on certain topics (and though this isn’t one of those times, there are many instances when Christians find themselves on the receiving end of that firestorm).
Rather, I want to talk about the way this whole mess is being handled, & what that tells us about society.  Specifically, I want to talk about the concept of “Tolerance”.  A working definition of the concept of tolerance is “holding a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one's own.”  This may be the single greatest value that our culture holds right now.  It is seen as the road to peace and harmony.  The only thing that isn’t tolerated is intolerance itself.
Here’s the problem – tolerance as it is practiced today can only be applied to outward displays of one’s views.  Although we would never teach it this way, Tolerance allows anyone to hate their brother, hate other races, hate other religions, hate gays & lesbians, hate anybody & everybody, as long as it is kept internal.  Tolerance accepts the idea that a person’s opinions & attitudes can’t be changed – in fact it is built on that belief – and simply tries to keep everything calm on the outside.
That works for awhile, but we don’t know what to do when that wall is breached.  Donald Sterling’s incriminating words were thought to have been private – he never would have said them on a public stage.  But that means that we take this now-public rant is a picture of his true self.  Nothing he can say now will be taken as a true reflection of his self.  Nothing he can say or do will convince the public that he is not a racist. 
Since Tolerance is built on the foundational belief that we can’t really change people – only ignore them – then we don’t know what to do when the real person comes out & it is ugly.  (We could also get into the psychological beliefs today that everyone is a “Good Person” and that sin is an illusion.  We don’t know what to do when the real person comes out & it is sinful.  Many sins our culture dismisses, but a few we have made absolute – racism & cruelty to animals, for example).
If people can’t be changed or believed, then the only recourse is to punish them.  Take away whatever they have.  Why would the NBA have the right to fine Sterling $25 million?  Let’s take away his money & his team (even though that will bank him a LOT of money!) and remove him from our presence.  Let’s do whatever we can to hurt this man.  We want blood.  We are self-righteous & we are angry.  For this special dispensation, we don’t have to show Tolerance to this man!
Add to the mix that Donald Sterling has issued a public apology.  He has said, “I was wrong.  I caused this whole mess and it’s my fault.”  But we don’t know how to take it.  We can’t trust a heart-change.  Maybe he’s just sorry he got caught, or sorry for himself that he has to go through all this.  So we ignore the apology & keep going.
So how would Jesus call on us to react differently?  This is really the crux of the matter, right?  The Kingdom of God is different from the status quo.  We are called to be different, & to respond differently, right?  Think about these verses, and their context.  Think about what they mean to you in your life, & how to express that to those around you.

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

John 8:7 ESV

“And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Romans 12:9 ESV

“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.”

Matthew 6:14-15 ESV

“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.”

2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Romans 5:8 ESV

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” 

This suggests to me that Christians are called to something much deeper & more difficult than Tolerance.  We are called to approach one another knowing we are all sinners.  We have failed to live up to the standards God has set before us.  Some of us have sinned more publically than others.  Some of us have faced more earthly consequences or punishments than others.  And we don’t all sin in the same way.  But we are all sinners.
God loves us anyway.  He doesn’t dismiss our sin.  But he loves us for who we are, for who he created us to be.  He loves us so much that he sought to get rid of that sin, to save us from it so that it wouldn’t be a weight around our necks anymore.  That’s what Jesus did for us on the cross.  He took the guilt of our sin for us.  He forgives us, when we let him, which means that he takes the debt we owe on himself.
Jesus paid the debt & forgave me for my sins, & they aren’t a few.  Jesus paid the debt for the sins of all of us.  He even paid the debt for the racial slurs & attitudes of Donald Sterling.  Whether Donald Sterling or anyone else has accepted that gift of forgiveness is not between you & I.
Jesus calls us to share this forgiveness with others, with the world.  That means that we stand up for Truth – we never dismiss sin as if it isn’t real, & we stand up justice, and we stand up for forgiveness.  Hard call to make.  In this example, Sterling has offered an apology.  We don’t know if it’s real.  But we don’t know if it’s not.  Singer Todd Agnew says that “loving my neighbor & loving my enemy says something about him/her, more about me, & a whole lot more about You [Jesus].”
Perhaps most importantly, Jesus wants to change us from the inside out.  He doesn’t want to help us just stuff our sinfulness deeper inside of ourselves.  He wants to bring it out & deal with it & change us.  That’s what I need, & I think it’s what we all need.  Loving each other means helping each other find that freedom in Christ, even if it means coming across as Intolerant or judgmental.  If we approach each other in love, from the understanding that we are all sinners seeking Jesus together, then God will bless it.
I’ve rambled on.  When it comes down to it, I want to encourage us as Christians to look for ways to engage the world through a Christlike approach – not mimic the world’s approach to things & not just ignore it either. 
Pastor Travis

Christians at the Movies

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it seems like Christian movies (or at least Christian-based or Bible-based movies) are taking over our movie theaters this year.  Right now there are four of them – “Noah,” “Son of God,” “God’s Not Dead”, and “Heaven is for Real.”  Focus on the Family’s “Irreplaceable” and “Mom’s Night Out” are set to come out in the next couple of weeks.  In future months we will see “Persecuted” and a reboot of “Left Behind” starring Nicholas Cage.  2014 will end with “Exodus: Gods and Kings”, a Hollywood epic directed by Ridley Scott & starring Christian Bale as Moses. 
We’ve come a long way from the days when Christians were warned to stay away from the wickedness of movies.  (Yet in many cases, the wickedness has certainly increased!)
And much of this is due to the success of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” 10 yrs ago.  At the time, Hollywood moviemakers’ interests were piqued by the $600 million the film made, but they had no Biblical movies in the works to capitalize on it with.  It has taken them this long to produce a big budget Biblically-based film, & they are watching to see how they are received.
Yet how do we as Christians regard these movies?  Sometimes, it seems like we are expected to applaud Christian movies if they relate true Christian ideals, even if they are poorly made, poorly acted, and unchallenging to the audience.  These are movies made by Christians for Christians that we all wish would appeal to our lost culture, but never do.  On the other hand, we are expected to decry entertaining & challenging movies when they stray too far from the Truth.  Noah is a great example.  Well-written, challenging, suspenseful, and starring Russell Crowe who is definitely channeling his inner Maximus here – but at times disturbingly inaccurate.
Do we boycott?  Do we support them hoping they will get better?  Do we simply ignore?  And how do we respond to the talk around the water cooler when someone mentions how Noah was grievous about the sinfulness of humanity, but also thinks rock monsters helped him build the ark?
As prominent as Hollywood is in our culture today, we cannot afford to ignore it.  For good or evil, our society is becoming more & more dependent on social media & entertainment.  It’s where the big money is being made.  It’s where our children are learning world views, history (or pseudo-history), & morality.  It’s what people are talking about, & it’s how many people relate to one another.  It’s not uncommon for us to quote movies or TV shows to one another in regular conversation now.  And have you noticed how many communities (sub-cultures) are created around the love of a particular genre or movie series (Twilight, Hunger Games, Super heroes, etc).  It’s not going away.  So we need to be smart in how we engage it.
So what do you think?  How do we relate to Hollywood’s version of the Bible or Christianity in the movies?  How much artistic license can they take with narratives from the Bible?  How can we use Hollywood’s movies to speak to our lost friends & neighbors about the Truth?
This Sunday my message will be on this very subject.  It’s been a great excuse to go to the movies as “sermon research”!  Yesterday, I went and saw “Noah”.  I will try not to give too many spoilers.  And yes, even if you know the Biblical story frontwards & backwards, there are plenty of spoilers!  Tonight, I’m going to see “Son of God.”  I don’t think I’ll have time to see the others that are out, but if any of you have seen “God’s Not Dead” or “Heaven is for Real”, I’d love to hear your impressions of it.
See you Sunday,
Pastor Travis

Those who have suffered persecution

I hope to see everyone at Canyon Ridge this week.  We are continuing to look at the examples of people whose lives have been totally changed by Jesus.  It’s a great encouragement to me to see proof of just how wonderful & powerful & loving Jesus is, & that he brings that wonder & power & love into our lives too.
This week – we’ll be looking at those who have suffered persecution for the sake of Jesus, and how Jesus has used their faithfulness to the opposite effect than the persecutors planned.  Take a look at Stephen in Acts 6:8-8:3.  Compare & contrast the details of Stephen’s death to that of Jesus.
We’re not suffering from persecution in the West.  (Maybe some inconveniences, some social irritation, but not persecution.)  What are we suffering from?  How can we stay faithful witnesses and see Jesus work through us?
Pastor Travis

Should I stay, or should I go (to church)?

American trends are showing more & more people who claim to be followers of Jesus but who choose not to be a part of a local church.  There are several responses those still in the church might have to that:

  1.    They're flakes.  They aren't really "committed".
  2.    It's the church's fault.  The church needs to step it up and be more relevant so people will want to be involved.
  3.    They have a point.  What am I really getting out of the church? Maybe I should try something else.

We could go into a lot of detail addressing each one of these responses. Each one of them has some merit, at least from a certain perspective.  And maybe you have a different response altogether.  The Christian community has spent a lot of time trying to find out what is going on in the minds of those who choose to leave the church but still claim to be followers of Christ.  We want to understand so we can address it & bring people back.  I guess it leads me to ask the opposite question - "Why is it that we who are still part of the local church are continuing to value it?"  What are our motivations?  It's not just a pros/cons list to help me decide which is better for me, or I might decide to stay home after all.  It's a question of whether Jesus wants us to be part of the church, & why?  If the church is important to Jesus then it should be important to us, & we should do everything we can to make it as effective as it can be, & to fix what may be broken.

All that to say - Ed Stetzer wrote a good response to Donald Miller, who revealed that he rarely goes to church because he doesn't get much out of it.  I thought it was worth the read:

Pastor Travis

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