Monday, August 29, 2016

EXPECTATION

It's no secret that Christianity is going thru a crisis in America today.  Especially among the younger generations.  When asked what has helped their faith grow, 'church' doesn't make the top 10 among Millennials.

Somewhere in the 1900s we realized there were teenagers among us.  Before that we'd thought of people in just two categories:  Children and Adults.  A child reached 12 and he/she was suddenly responsible for helping support the family -- working -- bringing in income -- cooking -- cleaning -- etc.

You were either a child or you were an adult.  In the last 100 years, we've discovered there was another group:  Teenagers.

Entire industries revolve around them:  movies, music, fashion, fast food, online services - their likes, their dislikes, their habits, all scrutinized by ad companies.  Someone once said that 92% of teens would be dead today if Abercrombie decided breathing was uncool.

But of all the things society wants to wring out of teenagers, high expectations isn't one of them.  Or maturity.  Or productivity.  In fact, society has come to expect less and less of them.

The internet is full of material on things associated with teens:
Drugs.
Alcohol.
Sex.
Porn.
Drinking.
Depression.
Suicide.

Those are some low expectations.

I don't know that the Bible is super helpful either.  God doesn't seem to specifically address teenagers.  Instead, Paul writes:  'When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  But when I became a man, I gave up childish things.'  (I Corinthians 13:11)

Paul doesn't say: 'When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  But when I became a teen, I sort of looked like an adult and I kind of sounded like an adult, but I still acted like a child.'

He says:  'I became a man and I gave up childish ways.'

Paul writes later to Timothy, an aspiring young pastor, and says:  'Don't let anyone look down on you because you're young, but set an example in speech, in life, in faith and purity.'  (I Timothy 4:12)

Whew!  It doesn't seem God has one standard for young adults and another for old adults.  He has high expectations for all of us.  Where culture and society expect little, God expects great.

This is how I believe we should view our student population who are working out their Jesus salvation -- as awesome and capable of doing great things.  Set the bar high.  They're a significant part of the MOVEMENT God has called us to at Journey Church and beyond.

We can't do this without them.

And be blessed.

Monday, August 22, 2016

DANGEROUS

thegospelcoalition.org 
There are definitely some dangerous songs out there.

I don't mean like Michael Jackson's "Dangerous."

I don't mean songs like 'Push It' by Salt-n-Pepa or Prince's 'Darling Nikki' -- though those are certainly dangerous for their own reasons.

I'm talking about dangerous songs within the church.

This past weekend our church gathered and sang a song that said:  'Everything I am, everything I have, I give it to you, God.'

Think about that for a minute.  All you are.  All you have.  All your behaviors, all your resources, everything.  What if God hears us sing those things and takes us seriously?  How else is He supposed to hear that?

Real and passionate worship is dangerous.

We sing songs like: 'Have Your way in us, Lord.  You're the potter; I'm the clay.'  And yet some of us, even as we sing that, are locked in stubborn conflicts with a spouse or a friend, refusing to take a first step toward reconciliation or forgiveness -- but 'You have Your way, God.'

We sing: 'Take my silver and gold, nothing would I withhold.'  Take it, God.  We sing it with great sincerity in the moment.  Man, our hands are stretched as high as we can reach.  But it's possible you can sing those words and not be at all willing to be sacrificial with your giving toward God.

So I want to ask you, if there's a gap between your worship and your life, would you be willing to say, 'God, I don't want to just say or sing some words, I want to give You my whole heart?  I want to give You my life.'

Because I'm telling you, real and passionate worship is dangerous.

And be blessed.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

WARS

Photo Credit:  gentsamongmen.com 
One of the things, sadly, the church has become known for over the decades is generational warfare over worship styles and practices - arguing and bickering about the kind of music we should use to honor the God who died to make us one.  The single most common subject for church fights - how and what we sing.  I'm talking full-scale, guerrilla warfare.  I'm talking church splits.  Division and break ups.  It's tragic.

I believe ... it is sin.

In John chapter 4 a Samaritan woman is talking to Jesus and she asks:  "Where should we worship God?  At the Samaritan place of worship, Mount Gerizim, or in Jerusalem as the Israelites say?"

And Jesus lets her know it isn't about geography or approach.  He says the time is going to come when people realize it isn't about this mountain or that mountain.  God is looking for people who will worship Him in spirit and in truth.

The mistake she makes and the mistake many of us make is when we believe the only folks who get worship right are the people in our little group who do it in our little style on our little mountain.

I'll be real with you.  In my role I'm sometimes on the receiving end of comments, both pro and con, about what is going on in the church.

"When will we hear the songs we used to sing long ago?"
"When will we worship with real reverence here?"
"When will you do something I like?"

Here's what we've decided to do at Journey ... 

We're going to respond to God's glory and honor and majesty with full hearts and worship with all our minds and all our strength and all our souls with every resource we have at our disposal.

And sometimes we'll come and be overwhelmed by the holiness of God - and we'll be driven to our knees in response.

Sometimes we'll come and be overpowered by the great compassion of God - and we'll throw ourselves at Jesus' feet in repentance.

Sometimes we'll be seized by the joy of the Lord - and our feet won't be stilled.

We won't be present as consumers ... 
God deserves better.

But here's one thing we won't do.  We won't be present as consumers.  You and I are here primarily as givers of worship to an all-powerful God, not as takers of worship.  God deserves far better.

At Journey, we've simply made the choice that whatever brings honor and glory to God and will make worship accessible to the maximum number of people in our culture who are walking toward eternities separated from Christ and bring them into the Jesus community -- we'll do that.

We've decided we aren't having generational power struggles over worship.  That's a major sign of a church in decline.  That won't be us.


** I'm so proud of our older generations at Journey Church.  They've navigated the winds of change over the past years.  They've handled revisions - modifications - alterations graciously, lovingly, patiently.  They've decided to let their hearts be blessed by the hundreds of students, 20-something, 30-somethings who gather in the house to worship God every weekend.  As mature believers in Christ, they've made a decision to give up what they grew up on and embrace the coming generation and their styles that also honor God in His full glory, rather than sit in their seats with their arms folded and talk about how we don't do their songs any more.

They've made a decision along with Joelene and me that at the heart of the growing and thriving Jesus community is this value -- that instead of focusing on our tastes - our wants - our wishes - our past -- we'll worship God here at our 'mountains' in Kenosha and Burlington in a way that blesses God and in a way that makes worship attainable by a new generation -- where we who are older can say, 'You, come on in.  We aren't hoarding this treasure for ourselves.'  We'll keep singing a new song and then another new one and another and another and another, and we'll keep seeing the generations come find Jesus.

We've imagined being part of a great church means being willing to pour the Living Water out of containers our generation has never drunk from in order to reach the next generation for Jesus.

I'm so proud of Journey Church.

#journeyforward

And be blessed.

Friday, August 19, 2016

PASSIONATE

We have four church purposes at Journey.  Just four.  No more.  We don't do everything; we just do a few things.  We didn't decide ourselves what our church purposes should be.  We just read the New Testament and there they were - what the church is called to put its time and energy to.

We just decided how we would say them to each other.  So here they are - our four Journey Church purposes:

Enthusiastic Service
Authentic Community
Offering Hope
Passionate Worship

Let's talk worship.

We tend to equate the word worship with singing.  We shouldn't.  I mean, some singing is worship, but all singing isn't worship.  Worship can certainly be singing, but all worship isn't defined by singing.

Worship is also prayer, fasting, reading the Word, meditating on it, generously giving, a sacrificial lifestyle -- it's all worship.

True passionate worship is Jesus-centered.

True passionate worship is Jesus-centered.  It isn't at all human-centered.  This is one of the most important truths we'll ever absorb.  True worship isn't about you getting your needs met.  It isn't about your preferred style or personal taste.  In true worship we encounter the presence of a Living God and we declare His greatness and glory.

Since worship isn't about you it's easy for it to get off center because we are continually bent to focus on ourselves.

Worship gets off center when it becomes casual -- and by that I don't mean wearing shorts or tennis shoes.

For instance, imagine what happens when folks come corporately before the presence of the real God.  I don't expect they respond this way:

We're leaving because they aren't doing the songs I want to hear.
I like it when the other team leads.  I'll come back when they're up.
I want worship to be different than this.

Worship becomes about us when that happens.  It becomes casual.

One way to prevent that is to come ready and prepared to worship whenever we gather corporately.  I know that it takes great effort for many to gather corporately some weekends.  People are busy; they have multiple obligations.  My office has an entire wall of floor to ceiling windows that face our largest parking lot.  I get to watch folks walk in from their cars on the way to worship every weekend.  I have a habit of praying for them as they're making their way in with kids, diaper bags, Starbucks cups, Bibles, etc.

Sometimes it takes heroic effort just to get to the corporate gathering on time.  But I would ask for one more heroic effort.  Don't just get your body to the gathering.  Prepare your spirit to be there.  Get your heart ready.

Spend some time late in the week or even the morning of - meditate on a Scripture.

Play some worship music in your car on the way.  Play some of those songs you know they aren't going to do that morning.

Pray with your family in the car before you get out.  Get there a few minutes early to pray before the gathering begins.

There are a lot of ways to prepare.

Invest yourself in every moment.

And then, invest yourself in every moment.  Don't drift.  Say to God, 'I'm here.  I'm fully present.  Every second I'm offering myself to worship You.'

Come with a sense of awe for the God who created the universe who will be the focus of your worship - the One who made the mountains shake - the One who caused the thunder to roar - because you serve the King of all kings and He deserves your best and passionate worship.

And be blessed.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

SOMEBODY

The Bible is full of things that just make sense.  You don't even have to particular believe in Jesus - though I'd recommend it - to benefit from the wise words in the Bible.

For instance, Solomon in Ecclesiastes says: 'Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work.  If either of them falls, one can help the other up.'

That isn't rocket science, is it?  No.  It's just human nature, common sense good stuff.

Agree?

Have you ever seen someone fail financially who had no one to help him up?
Ever seen someone stumbling in their marriage who had no one to help her up?
Ever seen someone go thru a physical difficulty with nobody to help?
Ever seen someone fall morally and there was nobody to give a shoulder?

Solomon also said: 'Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.'

Score again on that common sense thing.

I don't know if you've ever been overpowered.  Maybe not.  But you've been overwhelmed.  I know you have been.

It was a season of life.
Something unanticipated came up.
A sudden crisis or problem.

At some point in our lives we'll all need somebody.

Everybody has been overwhelmed.  But you'll navigate the overwhelming moments of life if there is someone to help you walk through it.

You didn't even need me to tell you that, right?  Didn't you already know that?  Of course you did.

It seems so clear - at some point in our lives we'll all need somebody.

And be blessed.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

ROUND

I ran into someone the other day - as I often do - who said:

"Hey, you're Pastor Kevin, aren't you?"

"Yes.  Great to see you."

"You too.  I visited your church last weekend.  It was great."

"Thanks so much.  Please come back."

And though I won't say this, I'll think it.  You didn't really visit our church last week.  It was a service - a gathering - row-style ministry - but it wasn't really our church.

Because real church happens in the round - in circles - not in the weekend rows so much.  I mean, I love what happens on the weekend.  The apostle Paul told us to keep on meeting.  Something takes place when the church of Jesus comes together in the big corporate setting that can't be duplicated any other time -- not to mention, I make a living talking to people in rows.  But as good as rows are, real church and real community don't happen at their very best in the weekend row environment. They happen best sometime during the middle of the week - in the round.

Church happens down the hall on Wednesday nights when kids sit in small groups and someone breaks open the Bible and they can ask:  'What does that mean anyway?'

Church goes on Thursday nights (coming soon) when Journey Young Adults gather to talk about what's happening in their lives and what they're experiencing from God - where someone can say:  "I'm not really sure I buy what PK was trying to sell us on Sunday morning."

Church happens on Wednesday and Friday and Sunday nights when ten to twelve people meet in a home somewhere in our cities and have a meal and read the Word and watch a video and talk and pray together.

That's church.  And that doesn't happen best in rows.  It happens best in the round.

And be blessed.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

FELLOWSHIP

Fellowship is one of those words we don't use so much anymore.  These days it's reserved more for the funding one gets to do research and to sponsor studies of various kinds - a 'fellowship.'

That the word itself has fallen out of common usage, however, doesn't mean we shouldn't have it; it just means other words that mean the same thing may have successfully replaced it.

But the concept, idea and importance lives.

'Fellowship' means people hanging out and getting to know each other.  Kind of like family.  And because you're part of a family means you're going to occasionally drive each other crazy.

Am I right?

Don't answer that.

But it's called ... life.  Fellowship.

So let me reduce your expectations about 'fellowship' as it exists within the local church.  We use the word 'life' or 'community' more often today -- but no matter the word you want to use, it doesn't mean perfect, reconciled relationships where we all wear matching sweatshirts and ride on tandem bikes on the way to Bible study while singing songs from The Sound of Music.

It means -- I'm going to tick you off and you're going to tick me off on occasion.  And if we kill each other in the process at least we'll see each other in heaven one day.

But often 'fellowship' -- community -- friendship -- gets broken.  Then what?

I'll tell you the easiest way to build or restore a friendship with somebody:  have a meal together and pray together.

The easiest way to build or restore friendship is to have a meal together and pray together.

Let's say you're married and not having a real good time right now.  It happens.  I'm saying -- eat together and pray together -- because God blesses those kinds of connecting moments.  That won't solve everything, I sure do know that, but I've found two things happen with many couples when they're having problems -- they've stopped eating together and they aren't praying together.

This works with a friendship as well.

Eat together;  pray with one another.  This is a path toward working things out relationally.

Try it.

Invite them over for a meal.  It will be one of the hardest things you've ever been asked to do, but this isn't lightweight community you're called to live.  It isn't Cracker Jack Felllowship that's been modeled for us by Jesus.

Estranged family member, strained friendship, a neighbor, a co-worker -- have a meal.  If they're vegan, cook vegan.  If they like meat, kill something.  Whatever it is, serve them, welcome them, practice hospitality, move healing forward.

Ask God for His help.  You can do this.

And be blessed.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

MEAL

What is the best meal you've ever eaten in your entire life?

Meals at the Taylor house are routinely amazing.  Joelene is an incredible cook.  Food at our home is very often better than food at a great restaurant.

But great meals consist of more than the food.

There's the location.  If you're sitting in a booth screwed to the floor in a place where high school kids in uniforms are cooking your food and serving it with a spork, chances are that isn't your best meal ever.  I would say, if pressed, that the best meal I've had in my entire life was the first time Joelene and I were in Rome, sitting in Piazza Navona at an outdoor restaurant.  It was a bowl of tomato soup - that's it - but it tasted so good.  I said to Joelene:  "This is honestly the best bowl of soup I've ever tasted."

"You realize it's just soup, right?"

"I know, but . . . "

It was really good.  I'm guessing now - looking back - that it was probably at least 70% the location.

The other thing that makes food great is the company.  Some of our best meals have been around the Thanksgiving table with our entire family just enjoying conversation and laughter and making memories.

The first meal in the Bible is one eaten without God.  He creates the first couple - Adam & Eve - and places them in a perfect garden.

"You can eat whatever, with one exception - just one - fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Don't eat that."

Tons of freedom and joy; one thing forbidden.  Just one.

Eve ends up having a conversation with satan - the serpent - the enemy.  He invites her to eat of the forbidden fruit.  Adam, her husband, isn't far away in some clover field while this is happening.  He's complicit to the whole thing and they eat together.

As a result, the received a sin nature.  God came searching for them and they hid.  They blamed one another and had to cover their nakedness.  They were kicked out of the garden and separated from God.  They ultimately experienced death.  By the next chapter of Genesis, their two sons are fighting and one kills the other.  And so it begins.


When you eat a meal it's about community with others and friendship with God.



We're told in Romans that you and I inherited that sin nature from Adam.  Because of his rebellion, we all get to die now.

So that's nice.

Adam takes the wrong thing off the shelf at the grocery store and now every human being after gets to croak.

But it isn't just about eating a meal -- it's about picking a friend.  Because Adam & Eve were saying in essence: 'We choose not to be friends with God.  We choose to be friends with this slippery one over here.  We're going to push God out and invite satan in.'

When we eat a meal, we aren't simply selecting food.  We're picking a relationship.  That's why Christ-followers pray before they eat.  Not as ritual; we're choosing to be friends with God - to welcome Him in to our setting and situation.

So when you eat a meal, it's bigger than the calories - or the food choice - or the fat content - or the sugar levels -- it's about community with others and friendship with God.

Buon appetito!

And be blessed.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

HISTORY

History is waiting for you to finish your race.

"All these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they should not be made perfect.  Therefore ... run."  (Hebrews 11:40-12:1)

When the Old Testament believers died, their spirits were made perfect, but they didn't receive the full blessing of God's promise - not yet.  They didn't get new bodies in a perfect new age - not yet.  They didn't obtain that promise - not yet.

Why not?

The answer to that question is extremely important.

God's purpose seems to be that all His people be gathered in before any of them enjoys the fullness of His promise.  There's coming a day when we'll all come into our eternal inheritance together.

History is waiting.  Think on that for a moment.

Your life counts to those who have gone before you.  Your finishing the race is what history is waiting for.  They're crowding the marathon route to cheer you on because they won't be perfected until the final runner crosses the finish line.  They won't be perfected without you.

So run the race with perseverance.  Run it with heart and passion.  Run it with faithfulness.  Run for all you're worth.  Because it isn't just about you.  It's way bigger than that.

And be blessed.

Friday, July 29, 2016

TAPE

The call on your life as a believer in Christ is to run like you're in a race with a finish line and everything depends on you hitting the tape.

To get there, Hebrews says: 'Lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us.'

Not just your big ol' giant creepy sins, but 'every encumbrance.'  Every weight.  Every obstacle.  Everything that weighs you down.

Because there are all kinds of things you can carry into the race that won't help you run it fast.  They'll just slow you down.

The race of faith isn't run well by asking wrong questions.

"What wrong with this or that or the other thing?"  

Wrong questions.  Weights.  Obstacles.

It's run well by asking, 'Is this the path to greater faith or greater love or greater purity or greater courage or greater humility or greater self-control?'

Not, 'Is this a sin?'  But, 'Does it help me run better?  Is it getting in my way?  Is it dragging me down?  Is it holding me back?'

Don't ask about your music -- your movies -- your parties -- your habits -- 'What's so wrong with them?'

Ask, 'Does it help me run faster for Jesus?'

And hit the tape full speed.

And be blessed.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

MARATHON

The 2016 Summer Olympics are coming soon.  Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  Pretty exciting.

Personally, some of the coolest Olympic memories I recall are ...

Mark Spitz winning those 7 gold medals in swimming and diving in Munich, 1972.  Nobody had ever won that many golds and no one eclipsed Spitz until Michael Phelps won 8 golds in Beijing, 2008.

The first perfect 10 score in gymnastics in Olympic history in Montreal, 1976 by Nadia Comaneci from Romania (pictured).

The amazing American basketball Dream Team who won it all in Barcelona, 1992.

'Miracle on Ice' with the U.S. men's hockey team winning the gold at Lake Placid, New York, 1980.

Usain Bolt from Jamaica - considered the fastest man on earth - hitting the tape in Beijing, 2008.

Those were some incredible moments in Olympic history.  I'm definitely watching this year.

There have also been times during the Olympics when I've stayed up late at night yelling at the TV for a bunch of sports I'd never watch under normal circumstances.

Women's Water Polo.  Really?  Who needs that?

Or that game where they push that little disc and scrub hard as it goes down the lane.  What's it called again?

Curling (pictured.)

Who said that was a sport?  They made that up.

One of the sports I do enjoy watching is track and field.  The marathoners.  I couldn't do what they do.  Some people mistakenly think I'm a runner because I have legs out to next Wednesday.  But I'm not.  Running twenty-six miles.  I see nothing appealing in that whatsoever.  I don't know why you'd do that when you have access to a perfectly good car.

But the Bible says in Hebrews that the Christian life is like a race - a marathon.  It's no sprint, that's for sure.

That word for 'race' is 'agon' in the Greek.  It's where we get our word 'agony' -- so that's nice.  It was also the word they used back then to refer to the pentathlon, which was five sports in a competition.

That ancient pentathlon ended with a Greco-Roman boxing match.  After they'd completed the first four events, they'd square off in the ring.  Fighters wore leather gloves that would protect their hands but disfigure the other person's face.  So it was 'agon' -- agonizing.

I really hate to break it to you, but there are moments in the Christian life that can be 'agon' - agonizing.  It isn't always a cake walk.  The spiritual marathon you're in right now can be a tough race.

But God's call on every single one of us who've made a commitment to Christ is to be moving forward with new wisdom -- new holiness -- new courage -- new discipline -- new joy -- givers, not getters -- from being people who are taught all the time to becoming people who teach others.

That's your race.  No coasting.

Suit up.

And be blessed.

Friday, July 22, 2016

GENERATION

There was a study done not long ago with Americans under 30 years of age.  They were asked what their impressions of Evangelicals were.

The percentage who had a positive impression was --- hold your breath --- 3%.

Right.  Said another way, 97% had a decidedly unfavorable impression of Evangelicals.  Ninety-seven percent.

That same study was done 20 years ago on people under 30.  At that time, 85% had a positive impression of us.

Right.  Said another way, only 15% had an unfavorable impression.

That took place in just one generation.

Sigh.

Let's think about this.  We drag the name of Jesus through the mud for what?  Some legislation?  Christians known for being mean and nasty?  Nothing like Jesus?

The good news is -- if we can wreck the name of Jesus in one generation, maybe we can right it again in one generation.

If we can wreck the name of Jesus in one generation, maybe we can right it again in one generation.

What if 20 years from now, without backing down on what we believe -- without compromising our Christ-honoring values -- what if we were known for ...

... being the biggest supporters of the foster care system in our counties?

.... fully embracing adoption?  Followers of Jesus are crazy.  They take children into their homes and don't let them go.

... being the most generous people around?

... acting in grace-filled ways?

... humility?

... compassion?

... being slow to anger?

... loving the gay community?

That would be something.

Agree?

That can happen with the Spirit of God at work through us.

And be blessed.