Archive for the ‘Discipleship’ Category

graphic from theresurgence.com

I think everyone who knows me well if you asked them to describe me in one word, would probably say “patient” (“pugnacious” would come in a close second).  Sam Barrington = patience (this is my blog and I can live in whatever fantasy world I so choose!!).

This past week our Communitas Group (our small groups at Living Stones Church) assignment was to at the end of the day log and note when we struggled with patience.  What were the triggers?  What is our typical response when impatient (e.g., yell, sigh, blow up, passive aggressive, silent treatment, vent, count to 10, etc.)?  Who or what do we find we have the least amount of patience for?  How do we cultivate the discipline of patience into our lives.

What I noticed is that there is a huge difference between external and internal patience.  Probably because I was sensitive to the assignment (and my in-laws were in the house for the week) and I didn’t want to come to our small group and confess I hurled a chair at the church staff (I did that once…well…not actually at the staff…but it was close) or that I yelled at my kids so loud that paint chips from the exterior of the house fell off.  So (and my kids would probably dispute this) I felt like it was a good week in regards to external manifestations of patience.

But how a guy looks on the outside, doesn’t mean anything to what he is experiencing on the inside (note what is said about the neighbor who was involved in some shooting – everyone says, “he seemed like such a nice quiet guy“).  Because as I thought about how I had done pretty good externally, I’m not sure I felt it internally.  And I think I can say that as a general life condition I have.

My hair is falling out (I name each departing hair after the person I think caused it), I’m on blood pressure medication, and my body feels perpetually tense.  I went to the dentist a few weeks ago (first time in over 5 years) and they asked me if I clinch or grind my teeth.  I said, “nope” (in spite of clear visual evidence from the pictures and x-rays).  “Don’t think that I do.”  And since then, do you know what I’ve noticed?  I CLINCH MY TEETH ALL THE TIME!!!

So, how do I move external to internal.  This seems to be at the heart of real spiritual discipline.  And this is the exercise we’re trying to work out in Communitas.  This isn’t easy.

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Read any book on “healthy churches” and there will be a chapter on the importance of small groups.  I feel like I’ve read every one of them.  And when I hear “small groups”, this is what I hear – “blah blah blah blah.”  This is my pastoral confession.  I believe that every Pastor knows they are important, and the hidden secret is that a lot of Pastor’s hate them.

At the Living Stones Church (and even previously as the Donmoyer Ave. Church of Christ) we have tried to do small groups with every known method to man!  We’ve done classic Bible studies, groups based on demographics, groups based on your geographical location, gender-specific accountability groups, the cell-group model (and the cell-group model that was rolled out every year at a conference to be the “new and improved” cell-based model), the semester-based/short-term growth group model, etc.

There are pros and cons to all of those methods.  But in November of 2011 when we had a leadership meeting and we began discussing our small group ministry, I personally felt apathetic, and I didn’t sense a whole lot of excitement in the room of among the other leaders at LSC.

UNTIL

We started applying some principles we had read in a series of blog posts that challenged how churches typically structure themselves for spiritual growth and transformation.  And by the time we were done talking, dreaming, and planning – the whole room lit up with excitement about a new way of thinking and experiencing small groups at Living Stones Church.

Over the next two weeks I want to share that discussion with you and tell you about our plans for small groups and how they are intertwined with spiritual transformation and community (two topics we have talked about for a very long time).

As a hint – the author of the blogs we read, who happens to be a diehard CrossFit coach – used CrossFit as a working analogy and paradigm for the spiritual realm.  I’ll tell you more about it on Sunday!  I’m very excited about it…like uber-excited!

[This post is in a series of posting about marriage and weddings.  You can find the first five posts hereherehere, here, and here.]

I’ve got a lot to say about this subject (surprising I know!…but…when you’re an expert…you’re an expert! 🙂 ) so this might take up a few posts.  Let me explain.

According to the most recent statistics, 80% of Christian couples are having sex before getting married.  EIGHTY PERCENT!!  I know that sounds high, but my pastoral cynicism (and experience) jumps in and I quickly think, “That’s it!?  I would have guessed higher.”  Statistically, there is almost NO DIFFERENCE between Christians and non-Christians when it comes to having pre-marital sex.  ouch.

This in spite of the fact that the Bible is VERY clear on this matter.  Really.  There are a lot of grey areas in the Bible.  This isn’t one of them.  I would recommend the following as starters on this topic:   1 Corinthians 5:16:1318;10:82 Corinthians 12:21Galatians 5:19Ephesians 5:3Colossians 3:51 Thessalonians 4:3; 1 Corinthians 7:2; Matthew 5:28-30.

So, why are so many Christians abandoning the clear teachings of the Bible to have sex?  Well…there are a lot of reasons:

  • It’s fun.
  • It feels good.
  • should I go on?

I’ll talk more about the reasons in a future post, but for now, allow me to propose what I believe to be the main thesis of this blog post:  Sex before marriage is making you stupid.

I see it all the time (especially among women…but I’m totally into equal-opportunity thinking so I believe this is true of guys as well).

Before you get married, I believe you need to have the ability to discern and weigh out whether or not the person you are dating (or engaged to) would be a good spouse.  You have to have the ability to see “warning signs” and “red flags” of potential disaster ahead.  Like…for example…hypothetically…I’m just sayin’…maybe I’ve seen these situations… a) the fact that he is already lying to you about some very significant things.  Or…b) the fact that he doesn’t have a job and spends hours playing video games on your couch while you go to work.  Or…c) the fact that he has a bunch of biological children all over the country that he never sees and he isn’t caring for financially.  Or…d) the fact that he is addicted to drugs.  Or…e) the fact that NO ONE in your entire circle of friends and family (people who love you!) thinks he is good for you.  [I know these examples are extreme.  Just as valid are the smaller issues that are just as important and just as impacting on your future marriage. E.g., You love 2-ply toilet paper – your fiancé is too cheap to ever buy 2-ply toilet paper.]

Do you know why you can’t see those “warning signs” and “red flags?”  SEX!!!  Sex has blinded you!!!

Sex bonds you to another person.  That is why God created it (remember – it was HIS idea).  That is why it is very important within the covenant of marriage.  And it is why if there is no sex in marriage, the couple needs help from a counselor (and I’m serious…if you aren’t having sex within marriage…GO GET HELP!!).  This bonding effect is all by God’s design.  That is why the Bible says things like this:

Genesis 1:24 – For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

1 Corinthians 6:15-16 – Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself?  Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a  prostitute?  Never!  Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body?  For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.”

This is the language of bonding, uniting, and oneness that belongs to sex.

Even the body’s biological design is chemically wired in this way.  Even before sex (in just the attraction stage), you have certain hormones and chemicals that are coursing through your body.  Even before sex – you have testosterone, estrogen, adrenaline, dopamine, and serotonin at work (this is why sexual temptation is very real and very powerful.  BUT…when you engage in sex – your body releases oxytocin and vasopressin (feel free to do a Wikipedia search on all of these hormones).  Oxytocin & vasopressin are known as the “bonding hormones” that creates long-term attachment.  And…these hormones make you stupid before marriage (they can also make you stupid after…but in a way that is to our advantage 🙂 ).

Premarital sex PREMATURELY bonds you to another person, that more often than not, works against you in regards to discernment, rationality, and wisdom.  It keeps you from asking the tough questions and more importantly, it keeps you from hearing the right answers (and truth).

I can’t tell you how many people I know who now hate each other and are divorced with great pain, suffering, sadness, and anger.  And when you ask, you find out that all of the causes for the break-up of the marriage were really present before the marriage, but they were so “in love” (read…stupid because of sex) that they couldn’t see it.

And to my Christian friends who aren’t married but are having sex.  I know guilt can be a strong driver to look over some very obvious things.  You may be thinking, “I have to marry them now, we started having sex.” (or some variation of that line of thinking)  Let me tell you right now…Jesus has a much better way of dealing with and resolving your guilt than forcing you into a bad marriage.  It is not too late to wake up from the sexual stupor and make a wise and good decision.

Church discipline is a difficult thing.  I know the Bible has teaching regarding its necessity.  The foundational assumptions of community and fellowship in our present experience of “church” in 2012 as contrasted to that in the 1st century are very problematic for me.  So, I confess my own concerns, questions, insecurities, hesitancies (or whatever other word you want to you) when it comes to the application of the biblical principle of church discipline.  The following is a “church discipline contract” sent to a member of the Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA (where Mark Driscoll is the Pastor).  Just reading it makes me go… “Whoah” (in a shocked and not sure what to do with it tone).  And then I read the back story.  You can too…here and here…and then it made me go – “Oh no!!!  Dear Jesus no!

What do you think?  Would you sign this?  Is this healthy?  Right?  Biblical?

Living Stoners

Just a follow-up from yesterday’s message on passionately pursuing Jesus through the Word of God.  If you missed it you can check it out here.  Remember Jesus is the meal; the Bible is our menu to that meal!  In the message I issues a challenge to the church to do two things:

1.  Begin to consider the idea of growing in your own spiritual life to a place where you can become a spiritual fitness coach for those just beginning their journey in Christ.

2.  Read the entire Bible in a year.  We want to get a big picture; overview; “forest view” look at the entire story of the Bible.  Along the way feel free to record in a notebook all of your questions, points of confusion, or just plain moments of being disturbed.  It is all legitimate as we read the Bible together.  In the end, we don’t want to miss the “forest view” by getting stuck on a particular “tree.”

I offered an online resource that I love and that I HIGHLY recommend to help you in this venture.  Go to this website:  www.youversion.com and download it to your computer, your smartphone, and/or your iPad!!!  Then go to their Reading Plans and select one that will take you through the Bible in a year.  They have several to choose from.  If you have spiritual ADD I highly recommend The One Year Bible plan.  It will give you a little OT, NT, Psalms, and Proverbs in the same daily reading.  It is great!!

I look forward to seeing all that happens in our church over the next year as we engage with Scripture!!

Someone PLEASE tell me that the SUM total of Christianity isn’t what we see on Sunday morning for an hour and fifteen minutes!  TELL me this isn’t it!  TELL me the Christian life isn’t reduced to simply gathering once a week with people who have the same preference in worship style and in whom you have varying degrees of acquaintance.  Please.  Tell me this isn’t it.

It isn’t.

We’ll discus why over the next two weeks in our new series – Tangible Kingdom!  See you Sunday 9:30, 11:30 am, or 5:30 pm.

Here are the facts:

  • Sex was God’s idea from the very beginning.  So was marriage.
  • The Fall (introduction of sin) caused a lot of issues with sex, love, beauty, intimacy, marriage, relationships (remember how God intended it – Genesis 2:25).  These issues manifest often at the Living Stones Church.
  • Today – 50% of marriages will end in divorce.
  • Single women are statistically happier than married women (the opposite is true of men).
  • 84% of women confess to having sex with their man to get him to help out around the house.
  • Less than 50% of marriages report having a satisfactory sex life.
  • 1/3 of women who have affairs do so because they were “bored.”
  • 30-60% of marriages will go through infidelity.
  • By age 19 – 7 in 10 teens will have had sex (the average age is 17)
  • A couple gets a divorce every 10-13 seconds.
  • 12% of married people sleep alone.
  • According to surveys, the most fulfilling year of marriage is the 35th year of marriage.
  • 60% of couples live together before getting married.  Couples who live together before marriage are statistically less likely to stay married.
  • Women instigate 75% of divorces.  A large percentage of men report they never saw it coming.  Experts call it the “Everythings Okay factor.”
  • 54% of men think about sex several times a day.  Another 43% of men think about it a few times a week or month.  The other 3% are in a coma (OK…I actually made up that last statistic…but I think it could be true).
  • The average sex session lasts 3-10 minutes. (I’m feeling better about myself all of a sudden 🙂 )
  • 93% of singles WILL get married.
  • The average number of times per year a person has sex – 103 (WHAT?!?!?)
  • Dealing with issues of sex, marriage, love, relationships, intimacy, etc. require divine help, empowerment, and guidance.
  • God knit all of us together as sexual beings…which means this topic and theme is FOR EVERYONE and your absence will be interpreted by me as greater dysfunction in this area of your life than you are willing to face up to (no pressure or anything). 🙂 [OK…that last one isn’t really a fact]

Enter…THE SONG OF SONGS.  A book that is unlike any other in the Scriptures.  In the end, it is a collection of songs celebrating the reality that God created them MALE and FEMALE…and it was good…

…except, it often isn’t good.  It is often…painful, wounding, passionless, abusive, lonely, mundane, lifeless, and dysfunctional.

So, we begin a six-week message series this Sunday to explore the depths of the Song of Songs to rediscover how to live our lives before God as the sexual and relational creatures he designed us to be.

We will study together to move, as a community of faith, to being a Kingdom-centered people who live our lives in such a way that it is a sign and witness of what God has always intended for his world – whether it be as a teenager, a married couple, a single, someone who is divorced, or widowed.

Pursuit:  Love, Sex, and Beauty.

This Sunday – 9:30, 11:30, and 5:30 pm (the 5:30 service will have candles…in case you need mood lighting for the topic…I’m just sayin’ 🙂 )

Important Disclaimers:

1.  This series is rated PG-12.  If you have children birth to 3rd grade, we STRONGLY recommend they attend Kids Kanyon.  4-5th graders will be dismissed to their normal class at the sermon.  Everything else is appropriate for 6th grade and up.  If you are wondering why, it is because the average age of a child who discovers online pornography is 11.  So, trust me…your sixth grader needs to know this too.

2.  [If my biological children, mom & dad, grandmother, and perhaps sister don’t want to hear me speak on this topic…I recommend Southgate Church @ 10:30 a.m.] 🙂

3.  I’m a fellow traveler in this topic and not an expert.  So, I’m asking my wife not to scowl, snicker, pfft, or “whatever” me during this series of messages.