The Emptiest Church In Glendale

Yesterday, we started what will quickly make GPC the Emptiest Church in Glendale. Empty of self, that is. Jesus poured himself out for our sakes and lived a life filled by the Father. That sounds like a great thing for his church to do, doesn’t it?

So what do you do on a Monday
after a Sunday like Sunday?

If you were one of those folks who walked down the aisle yesterday, YES! That actually happened! I want to remind you that you were courageous and bold. Coming forward to confess that you want to be like Jesus, emptied, poured out, so that the Father can fill you back to overflowing is a seriously brave thing.

Today, I’m having a total worship hangover, trying to recover from the amazing grace and power of God at work in our congregation!

If you weren’t one of those folks, thanks for hanging back and praying. God was at work mightily in all of our hearts! There will be a next time!

So, what do we do today?

First, remember that yesterday happened. What Jesus did in your heart is real and meant for action today.

Jesus emptied himself, poured himself out so that he could be filled by the Father. In his human life as a servant, he got refilled in three deeply significant ways that you can do, too.

Jesus was dependent on the Word of the Father

When he was tempted, Jesus fell back on the Word that was in his heart. The Word that had been taught to him, memorized and treasured.

Jesus was dependent on the Presence of the Father

At the height of his business, when there was more opportunity than there was time, Jesus went away and spent time in the presence of his Dad. There was no one else on earth who could or would do for him what five minutes with the Father could.

Jesus was dependent on the Mission of the Father

In a hurting, oppressed, depressed, exhausted world, Jesus stuck to the mission, which was simply to get people to God. He never answered the Porsche prayer, never wrote a mortgage check, but asked sinners to change their hearts and lives and believe.

What you can do today and tomorrow and for the rest of your life is keep emptying yourself of independence and surrendering to dependence on the Father.

Surrender yourself by praying these three things:

  • Ask Jesus to give you a craving for his Word
  • Ask Jesus to give you a longing for his Presence
  • Ask Jesus to give you a fearless hunger for his Mission
  • emptiest church in glendale


    Empty Happens

    I’d love to hear your reflections. How can we encourage you to find Christ’s Word, Presence and Mission wherever you are today?

    The Big Bang Theory of Easter

    It’s difficult to imagine where the beginning point of the Christian faith actually is. Is it in the Garden of Eden? The People of Israel? The Christmas Event? The Ministry of Christ? The Cross of Forgiveness? The Ascension? The Spirit? The Acts of the Apostles?

    All of these are starting points. Some might be re-starting points, actually; an alt-ctrl-del.

    In the beginning of the natural word, scientists believe, the mass of the all things converted into energy and moved outward, forming a Universe, something that did not previously exist. Everything was energy and motion, heat and light. From the moment after the beginning, time existed, but operated differently. Space didn’t function as it does now. There was now an end point and all things were spiralling toward it – regardless of how distant.

    big bang of christianity

    Easter is the Big Bang of Christianity

    Easter is the starting point where the spiritual mass of all things converted into power and began to move outward, shaping a movement, something that previously did not exist.

    While, in mythologies it was pretty common, the idea that a flesh and blood man could die and be literally resurrected had never happened. It’s very different to say that a character in the Egyptian story of the Gods rose from the dead and that guy right there did it.

    Jesus was born.
    Most people are.
    Jesus minsitered to the masses.
    Lots of people do.
    Jesus claimed to be the fulfillment of prophecy.
    Lots of people had.
    Jesus died on the cross.
    Lots of people did.
    Jesus rose from the grave.
    Just Jesus.

    That moment meant that his birth was different.
    That moment meant that his ministry was real.
    That moment meant that he was who the Scriptures pointed to.
    That moment meant that he his death was special.
    That moment meant that his past was capable of bringing the future into the present.

    Easter is the bright collision of God and history. That early morning, the power of God came into being in a way that it simply never had before.

    Before that morning, Death was the end of life.
    Easter brought an end to death.
    Before that morning, the grave was the destiny of man.
    Easter rerouted our itenerary.
    Before that morning, life was measured in years.
    Easter measures it in eternity.
    Before that morning, we waited.
    Easter proclaimed, ‘The wait is over.’
    Before that morning our hope had grown dim.
    On Easter, Hope became a wellspring eternal.

    Mary stood outside near the tomb, crying. As she cried, she bent down to look into the tomb. She saw two angels dressed in white, seated where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head and one at the foot. The angels asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

    She replied, “They have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they’ve put him.” 14 As soon as she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she didn’t know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who are you looking for?”

    Thinking he was the gardener, she replied, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
    She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabbouni” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Don’t hold on to me, for I haven’t yet gone up to my Father. Go to my brothers and sisters and tell them, ‘I’m going up to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene left and announced to the disciples, “I’ve seen the Lord.” Then she told them what he said to her.

    John 20:11-18 (CEB)

    Christmas: Are You Buying Or Telling?

    are you buying or telling

    Recently, I read that the US uses 70% of the world’s resources (actually, I think that it’s more accurate to say that richest 20%, but anyway). The period of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas produces 40% of retail revenue for the entire year. 

    Truth telling. 
    Are you kidding me?

    Forty percent of business has to have Christmas or there won’t be an economy. 
    Sounds absolutely crazy. 
    If the thing is about Jesus, it does anyway. 

    History Lesson Time

    “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.” [Lk 2:1-3]

    When Luke tells the story about Jesus, it starts with an insane amount of money; kind of like 40% of the economy. A census was not about a Caesar who cared about each and every person in his empire. It was about a Caesar who cared about how much each and every person in the empire owed him. 

    BIG Difference!

    It took a huge military for Rome to maintain its “Peace, Love and Understanding” foreign policy. What’s so funny???

    Augustus, conquerer of the whole dang world, needed some cash, so a census was the answer. Each person was taxed on everything coming and going and the only way to make sure the Romans got dey deep rolls of fat Benjamins was to register all of the people that were under Roman rule. 

    Caesar was concerned with bringing people together to find out how much tax people owed him. Jesus brought people together and paid their debts himself. 

    Caesar tied people down to an economy they couldn’t bear.
    Jesus freed people into a new economy of God’s love and grace. 

    Visa, Caesar. 
    Caesar, Visa.

    The story of Christmas isn’t that we have to buy gifts, it’s that we were given one. It’s not that we go into debt. The story of Christmas is that God created a way for us to get out of it. That’s an absolutely amazing story. It’s the most profound story that exists. Everybody wants to sell you something. Only Jesus wants to buy you back (as funky as you may be).

    So are you buying or telling?

     
    There’s this song, “Go tell it on the mountain,” the lyrics make you stop and re:think the whole deal. “Go tell it on the mountian, over the hills and everywhere, Go tell it on the mountain, that Jesus Christ is born.”

    If that song were written today, perhaps the lyrics would be:

    Go tell it to your neighbor, 
    cook up a meal and tak it over there, 
    Go tell it to your network, 
    that Jesus Christ has freed you from the debt 
    that weighed down your soul like a credit card bill.”
    (you have to sing that last line really fast)

    This #ChaoticChristmas, can you do more telling than buying?

    Christmas: Turning Funky Into Fine

    james brown turning funky into fine

    🎶 It’s Christmas time, It’s no time to be afraid 🎶

    Unless you haven’t done your Christmas shopping. You’ve got three weeks. Are you done yet? Shopping for Christmas presents really brings out the crazy, right? All these funky people trying to find a way to be…to feel fine. 

    Check out this clip from “Jingle All The Way”

    When my siblings were little, I had to do this every year (That’s right, Jamie, Santa didn’t beat a man with his own arm to give you that Nintendo Power Glove. I did!). It kind of…scared the Christmas out of me. Where did all this gift giving come from? If Christmas is about the birth of God on earth, do we have to run up such a high Visa bill???

    Turns out, the problem started with the Bible.

    In the Scriptures, these Magi bring Jesus some presents. Of course they didn’t fall off of Santa’s sleigh and they weren’t fought over on Christmas eve. They were baby shower gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh. Gifts have always been a part of Christmas, but you didn’t always have to ‘Jingle All The Way’ to get them. 

    Gold was a gift for a king. It is priceless, representing economic wealth and spiritual purity. Throughout the Scriptures, God uses gold to talk about the process of becoming more and more holy, “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the priests and refine them like gold and silver. [Mal 3:3]”

    Frankincense was a spice used in worship. It was an everyday offering. When you added it to hot coals, it made the funky smell fine. This gift foreshadowed Christ’s life on earth: he made the funky…smell fine.

    Myrrh had many uses. As a resin it was a beauty treatment. As a liquid it was a pain reliever. As a solid, it was a perfume, as in a burial spice. 

    The King of Heaven began his life with Gold, and ended it by turning you into it. He began his life in the funk and made the funk fine before God. At his birth, they brought myrrh. At his death, they brought the same. 

    The birth of Jesus means that you are important to God.

    It’s gold when you think about it. 
    His life means that God is with us. 
    With you. 
    With you however you come to him, 
    wrapped in whatever funk you got yourself into. 

    The myrrh of his death is the thing that reminds us we are forgiven, you are forgiven;

    You are more loved and accepted than you can handle.

    You are fine. 
    More than fine. 
    You are his. 

    You may have the perfect gift for your BFF, but what are you bringing to Jesus? What gift are you laying before the manger?

    Bring whatever you have. 
    Whoever you are.
    All that you have to give. 

    If you are afraid what you bring to Christ is too funky, don’t worry. Jesus will turn your funky into fine!

    🎶 It’s Christmas time, It’s no time to be afraid 🎶

    In the comments, share a present you had to fight to get.

    What’s The Point Of Christmas?

    [This is the beginning of an #Advent series (a fancy Christmas season word which means, “Look out G, Jesus is coming!”) of indeterminable length. I have a count of 16 titles up to this point, so check back for inspiration during December or join the mailing list to receive the latest post in your inbox fresh like chestnuts roasted on an open fire.]

    What's The Point Christmas

    What’s the point of Christmas? To find out, last night, my family watched the Peanuts Christmas Special. If it’s been a while, go ahead watch it. It’s still as good as it used to be back in the day. That Charles Schultz was a prophet, man, using Charlie Brown like God used Jeremiah.

    Full of existential angst, Chuck cycles through his group of friends, picking apart their approach to Christmas. One’s too philosophical. One’s too anemic. One’s too materialistic. And this was 1965. They had philosophy back then?

    What lies at the chewy center of “Brown’s Dilemma” (can I ™ that?), is that no one can tell him what the point of Christmas is. There’s the postmodern: what is it to you? The post-decorative doghouse: it’s whatever you can hang on the dog house. The post-consumer: whatever you can desire, buy, wrap and figure out a way not to have to give it to someone else. 

    As I watch the blood thirsty hoards wrestle their way into America’s retail coliseums, it doesn’t seem like much has changed.

    So, what is the point of Christmas? 

    Is it:

    A time for family to get together?
    A time for roast beast?
    A time to watch our favorite Christmas movies?
    Listen to our favorite Christmas stations on Spotify?
    A time for good people to give other good people good things?
    A time to direct Christmas dramas?
    A time to preach through Christmas sermons?

    If you lick the Tootsie Pop (a metaphor for the meaning of Christmas) three times and get down to it’s chewy core, we find that there’s one right answer to Charlie Brown’s question and young Linus nails it. 

    That’s it. 

    That’s Christmas. 

    It makes materialism the most widely accepted addiction on the planet.

    Christmas begins with ‘Christ’ and ends with ‘s’.

    It’s when we remember to remember that God collided with the world so that we could be free; free from darkness, free from pointlessness, free from our ism du jour.

    Everything else is Christmas wrapping (BTW, my favorite non-Christmas Christmas song)

    Have you ever felt “Brown’s Dilemma” like good Charlie Brown? Let us know in the comments. 

    Is The Fault In Our Stars The Future Of Literature?

    wallace Claire Wallace is a senior in High School in the fast paced culture center of Glendale, CA. When she isn’t devouring books, she’s hawking them, talking them up and organizing book discussion groups.


    In school I have read many famous classic books, which most people define as literature. In their own time, these books were well known and usually popular. I got thinking, “What about today’s popular books?” Will they stand the test of time?

    The Fault In Our Stars Banner

    Will a supernatural romance or a dystopian future become our next Moby Dick?

    Personally I don’t think so. I believe the book that will be considered literature, read in schools and studied, is The Fault in Out Stars. It has beautiful writing, rich literary devices, and most of all, it will continue to resonate beyond its time.

    The writing in the book is majestic. It has what I like to call these “profound moments,” – basically when author, John Green, writes a passage prominently presenting a theme and usually it’s beautifully written. An example of this is when the character Augustus confesses to the main character of Hazel (no I am not giving anything away, it reveals it in the movie trailer):

    “I’m in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable and that we’re all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have, and I am in love with you” (153).

    One of the main themes is expressed in this declaration, the idea of fate versus the idea of choosing. Not only does John Greene just write it, he puts it in a love confession, between two teenagers, setting the stage for another theme, one about love.

    This is the kind of passage where, as soon as I read it, I just want to read it over and over again. It captures my attention.

    Literary devices, yeah, they can be associated with school, but they bring so much to a story. One of my personal favorites is the constant symbolism of names.

    First is Hazel, a girl with terminal cancer and the narrator of the story. Her name, Hazel, is an in-between color neither totally brown nor totally green. This represents Hazel’s state of being. She is in-between life and death but also as a regular teenage girl; she is in-between childhood and womanhood.

    Then there is Augustus Waters. Due to the cancer, Hazel is drowning in water but in comes A. Waters. He shows her how her life is not just a side effect of dying but so much more. And just like every human needs water to live so does Hazel. Augustus Waters helps her truly live.

    The Fault In Our Stars, at first, seems utterly unrelatable; a girl with cancer, having to live in this state of in-between. Yeah, I am not sick. I have no foretold death.

    So why is it so relatable?

    The idea of oblivion is hard to understand, and we choose to ignore it but that does not change the fact that it is there. How do we deal with it when we are forced to acknowledge it? That is what this book shows: a girl dealing with oblivion but also within that, love.

    As humans we can all relate to love.

    This is the briefest of examples of why I believe this book will continue. I truly believe that will become one of the great classics. In future generations, someone will look back, and look forward and wonder what book in their time will become like The Fault in Our Stars.

    What do you think? Is The Fault In Our Stars the next Melville?

    Where Do We Begin? The Rubble? Or Our Sin?

    I love it when Popstars are the Prophets. I love it when a song, a lyric, a melody moves into you, through your ears and straight to the heart, making us change the way we think about the world around us and our role in it. Bastille has a song like that for church leaders. Turn it up!

    Bastille: Pompeii

    The Important Question

    Did you hear the question that singer Dan Smith asks over and over and over in the song? “Where do we begin? The Rubble? Or our Sin?” That’s a great question, isn’t it? The song, “Pompeii,” juxtaposes a city being overtaken by, well, the very historic volcanic pyroclasm (you can never say that word enough), and a life taken over by sin (“my own devices”).

    It’s a portrait of sin collapsing upon a life, the way that the volcanic cloud crashed over the rooftops of Pompeii.


    “We were caught up and lost in all of our vices //
    In your pose as the dust settled around us.”


    Pompeii Bastille lyric pic

    Cosmetic Theology

    The question, “Where do we begin? The rubble? or our sin?” is the right one.

    The Church is in the sin/forgiveness business. The Gospel is about a God who steps into the aftermath of the Mount Vesuvius in our lives and begins to sweep away the ash, revealing a life that will now be overcome by his, and only his, love.

    As a church leader, I’m often tempted to ignore the painful distraction of walking with others through the rebuilding of their exploded lives. It’s even more tempting to get cosmetic, to fix something that needs fixing, paint something that needs painting.

    Where do we begin? Addressing the pain and destruction of sin in the lives of those we are called to love and lead? Or to remodel the sanctuary and let people work it out on their own?

    When we look at Pompeii, we see a city in need of new walls, fresh paint and manicured lawns. If we were able to get a contractor and a capitol campaign, people could move back into Pompeii. But so what? Who needs another retail condominium?

    There were real people in Pompeii. People like you and me, who had experienced personal cataclysm long before an environmental one:

    sin

    People sin. We do. It’s the way things are. It’s not popular to talk about. At all. Sconces and pew cushions…now that is more like it, right? It might be easier, but it’s not the Church.

    The question is: Do we have the courage to get down into the messy, complicated, uncomfortable reality that all people wrestle with daily?

    Bastille ask a question that we need to answer: Where do we begin? Since the Gospel proclaims freedom to those who are covered in sin, would we rather proclaim that freedom? Confront sin and point to the God who forgives it? Or redecorate the Welcome Room and perfect the practice of something closer to a theology of cosmetics.

    “If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day is out. [Gal 6:1;MSG]”

    God in the Ruins

    When Jesus answers the question, it’s always going to be about beginning with sin. Rest assured that as Christ would walk through the uncovered ruins, the rubble wouldn’t be on his mind.

    The people would.

    Forgiveness is measured in lives, not walls, souls, not paint. A cosmetic makeover is nice, but soul-change is necessary. While a new color scheme is great, a new life is greater.

    The truth is, living like Jesus never feels nice. We tend to want to point out the cosmetic changes that will one day make “all the difference,” but Jesus looks beyond the gloss and bokeh – pries deep into the places and spaces we believe are too dark to be seen and plants a light there, makes a home there, speaks to us from there. Where does he begin? In the places we most wish he wouldn’t.

    And that’s where we belong.

    Captivated By God

    This is a brief response to a question that was asked in a sermon by Jason Heppner, preaching June 29, 2014 @glenpres // #3 in our GPC@TheMovies Sermon Series.

    There was a moment in his sermon where he asked this question. I started to just write down the question, because it’s a good one, but before I knew it, I had filled a page of my journal.

    When was the last time you were captivated by God?

    The times when I have been most captivated by God have always been when I see God at work in the lives of the people around me. I want it to be the surreal and miraculous personal moment, but it doesn’t ever seem to be the case. It might be that I don’t notice, possibly because I’m always going, always thinking, always asking, always listening, reading, talking. Maybe the miraculous is actually something that is the greater part of my life.

    When I notice the hand of God at work in my life is when I see it clutch the heart of someone standing close by. When I notice the breath of God blowing through the world around me is when I hear it catch in the voice of my neighbor because they have in some way seen the face of the living God.

    I notice that.

    It’s possible that I’m so drawn inward that I simply can not see the miracle moments as they happen to me. That, or what I experience is so normal that I don’t know I’m experiencing it.

    I rely on the reaction and the response to the “With God” experiences of others to deepen, to broaden, to multiply the profound nature of my experience.

    That captivates me.

    Why John Green Should Have Planted A Church

    There this little literary avalanche called The Fault In Our Stars. If you haven’t ever heard of it, you will, but chances are if you read blogs you have read the book. You have also probably seen the movie. 

    why john green should have planted a church

    The fine folks at Fast Company recently published an article on author John Green’s personal approach to becoming huge. While this will be good for all hard at work writers, I wonder if it doesn’t have wider implications that could benefit the church

    These are the six ways that Green described as building his audience (which is large, loyal and growing). If writing best sellers weren’t his gig, I bet that if he had planted a church…it would’ve been huge as well.

    Start Small

    Commit to what you are doing, not the outcome. When John and his brother started, they were using Youtube to build a following. For the first 120 videos, they had 200 viewers. When it came to growth, it was all about timing. They weren’t trying to be huge. They actually valued their 200 viewers. They took that number seriously. Their more than 1.5 billion views began with their approach to those early numbers. Start small and take small seriously, ‘to whom much is given, much is required.”

    It needs to matter to you as well. 

    Phoniness is Deadly

    rob bell poppins Wisely, Green says, “All you can be is you.” It’s not about dressing correctly, or growing a soul patch. You don’t have to have church in a bar or a strip club to be hip. You have to be you. If you are truly being you, then people will understand what they don’t like. At the same time, they will love what they love about you. You won’t ever have to wear plaid just because that’s what the hipsters are wearing. 

    I’m bald. That’s all I can be. I have three kids and a tired disposition. I can’t start preaching like Mary Poppins or Rob Bell. You shouldn’t either. 

    Unless you happen to be Mary Poppins or Rob Bell.

    Be An Open Book

    “Sharing your life–adversity and all–makes an audience genuinely care”
    Church Leaders need to step out from behind the veil and lead openly. People are drawn in because their leaders struggle, too. Here’s the thing: if no one has to be OZ, then anyone can learn to lead. 

    We like to believe that other people are just like us, even if they happen to be further down the road. The further down the road, the more I believe they can lead me…especially if they experienced the same kind of struggles and issues that I am going through. 

    Don’t Settle For Ordinary

    Seriously, look around your church for things that are done just because they’ve always been done that way and stop doing them. You will grow immediately. More people are inspired by surprise than you think. Change is art form, but you only learn art by creating it. 

    Most church leaders I talk to are frustrated beyond belief because their are too many holy heifers and not enough alters. Ordinary will kill you. I suggest you kill it first. 

    Use Your Audience For Good

    Mission is more than check writing, it’s the reason you exist. In a few short weeks, my church will be ready to roll out a bold mission statement that I am already waking up early in the morning to be a part of. 

    People want to be attached to something that adds value. something that inspires their soul. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but regular life empties our buckets. You have an opportunity to connect people to the greatest bucket filler that exists in the cosmos. 

    As a result, We have committed to run marathons for clean water in Africa with Team World Vision. Over 40 runners have raised tens of thousands of dollars, over funded water projects and have managed to lose a few pounds. 

    Why do you exist? Is it about miles on the road? Or butts in the pews?

    Keep Creating

    To quote my favorite church leader/blogging pastor, Carey Nieuwhof, be committed to change in a rapidly changing world. How can the tidal movement of culture inform who you are reaching and how you are reaching them? How does radio effect your worship? Film your environment? TV your approach to communication? 

    Did you know that people love to listen to sermons? They do…they’re just called TED talks. Have you considered creating 18 minute stand alone blow your mind homilies? Soon I will publish a post on Bastille’s Pompeii. Did you know that pop music is asking questions that the church won’t? 

    Who are you learning from? Who is encouraging you to change your approach? What is your next book? Your next post? Do you draw? If not, why aren’t you painting? Ever hear of Jackson Pollack? Jimmy Buffett used to surf all day before recording his records. What do you do before you write a sermon? 

    tattoo you In the words of the erstwhile theologian Mick Jaggar, “Start me up.” Get going. Create. Your people, your staff, your family, your soul will thank you.

    Question

    How can any one of these six Faults In Our Stars change the way you approach your ministry world today?

    PS: I wasn’t just being ironic with the title, it could’ve gone either way. 

    %d bloggers like this: