Have a Church and a Smile

Our Communications Team is looking for a new slogan for our church.  Something we can put on t-shirts and hats, something that gives people a glimpse of why church is important.   Here are a few I dug up.  See what you think:

  • “The Closest Thing To Home”
  • “Enjoy Life”
  • Church “is your kind of place”
  • “Where there’s <church> there’s hospitality”
  • “I’m lovin’ it”

You might not have recognized the first four, but I bet that last one rang a bell.   These are all slogans from McDonalds or Coca Cola from the past 100 years!

As I sat around the table at the Communications meeting last night, it dawned on me that McDonalds and Coke have stolen all the good church slogans.  “We Love To See You Smile”, “Coke adds life”,  “You deserve a break today”, “It’s the Real Thing”.   I could go on and on. So what’s the deal?  When Christians come up with slogans for their churches, are they “selling out” and acting like advertising companies?

I don’t think so.  Not at all.  In fact, the opposite is true.  Remember that great song “I’d like to Teach the World To Sing?” The first time I heard that was in church.  It wasn’t until years later that I found out it was a jingle for Coke.   What Coca Cola had done was to take all the feelings, importance, and meaning of a world in perfect harmony, and then attach them to a product — Coke!  When you see a car commercial on TV with the slogan “DRIVE = LOVE”, that’s somebody’s attempt to make you think that an automobile can make you feel love.

But that’s not true!  God is the source of Love.  We’ve been telling people that for millennia! God is the reason for hospitality and why the whole world will one day sing in harmony.  The reason churches do marketing is because we want to help people connect with the real “Real Thing”.  It’s not a misrepresentation, and it’s not a manipulation.  After all, “God” really does = “Love”.  

So we’ll keep working, looking for a few choice words that speak to what it feels like to be part of our church.   In the meantime, allow the words of this devotion to invite you to visit us for church this Sunday.

An added bonus?  This week we’re having communion!  Or as I like to call it…

Happy Meal.

Have a great week,

Mitch 

God Has A Big Nose

They offer to the Lord every morning and every evening burnt-offerings and fragrant incense  — 2 Corinthians 13; 11a

Hearing.  Seeing.  Tasting.  Smelling.  Touching.

If you had to lose one of your senses, which one would it be?   I’ve thought about this before, and for me the answer is always the same.  I’d say goodbye to my nose.

I wouldn’t want to give up my eyesight.   I couldn’t watch movies, or enjoy a sunset.   Likewise, I couldn’t give up my hearing because I wouldn’t be able to listen to music.

Tasting?  Hey-I love watermelon and nachos way too much for that.   Touching?  It’s a more subtle sense, but it would effect everything I did.  Every embrace, every gentle breeze.  I don’t think I could give that up.

It comes down to my sense of smell.    Don’t get me wrong, I love the smell of popcorn, or a campfire, or a flower, and I understand that smell effects how things taste, but if I had to give one up, that’s the one I’d have to choose.

Do you agree with my choice?  (You can vote down below)  I get the feeling God might not.

In Old Testament times the Priests thought God had a big nose.   A lot of what they would do to please God had to do with smell.   First, there were the sacrifices.   Twice or more a day they’d offer burnt sacrifices–like meat on a barbecue grill–because they believed the delicious smell would float up to God, and make God happy.  (I can certainly relate!)

And then they’d light incense, there in the temple.  The delicate fragrance would lift up to God, to delight God’s sense of smell. Apparently conventional wisdom had it that the way to God’s heart was through God’s proboscis!

Hmm.  Maybe I’ve short changed the power of smell.   I’ve read that smell is the most powerful trigger of memory.   And it’s true–the smell of the ocean breeze or a hot parking lot or the skin of a baby can evoke the most powerful responses in me.   Now I’m not so sure I’d be willing to cut off my nose to spite my face after all.

Actually, as time went on, God made it clear that the quickest way to God’s heart wasn’t just through the nose, but through faithful living.   You can only bring home a bunch of fragrant flowers to apologize so many times.  Eventually, you have to change the way you live. So, in the New Testament, the focus isn’t on pleasing God’s senses, but pleasing God’s sensibilities.

Hey, it may be true.  God may have a big nose.  But the size of God’s heart is what matters most.   The same is true with us.   These marvelous senses God gave us make life rich and enjoyable, but it’s only the connection between our heart and God’s heart that can ever truly satisfy.   I think Love might just be the 6th sense, and all the others are simply supporting players.

I wouldn’t want to do without any of them, but I do know this.

A life without love…

Positively stinks.

Have a Great Week,

Mitch 

Spiritual Air Conditioning

For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. —Psalm 32:4

What was the greatest invention of the 20th century?

The car?  Antibiotics?  Microwave Popcorn?  (Vote down below)

I know it’s gonna sound petty, but I’m gonna go with air conditioning.   The first modern air conditioner was built in 1902, according to Wikipedia, and I LOVE IT!   That feeling of walking in from the hot sun and feeling that blast of cool air — there’s nothing better.

It’s HOT out there, and summer is just beginning.  I’ve never been good in the heat.  I’m just like that Psalmist, above.   I spend too much time outside, and my strength seems to just dry up.

You know what?  Psalm 32 is short — why not pull out a bible and read it?  What you discover upon reading it is that it isn’t really summer heat that’s making this guy’s life miserable.   It’s his unrepentant ways.   He hasn’t been honest with God.

Oh…it’s that kind of feeling the heat!  Yeah, I’ve been there too.  I have this nasty habit of messing up.   I’ll say something hurtful, or fail to act, or turn my back on the mission God has put me on.   I’ll go against the way of Love and somehow convince myself that I was justified.  Could be a big thing, or a minor thing, but in “the business” we have a term for it:  sinning.

Yep, I’ve done my share.  When I’m unwilling to acknowledge my own sins, they percolate under the surface like a hot pot of coffee.   As much as I try to deny them, the sweat starts to roll off of me.  Every lie I tell myself (and God) raises the temperature around me a couple of degrees.  Before I know it I’ve used all my strength to run away from the simple truth:  That I made a mistake, or a whole series of mistakes, and I need help to get back on track.   I need forgiveness.

Forgiveness is spiritual air conditioning, and God stands ready to provide it.   It must be the greatest invention OF ALL TIME!  God stands ready to help you acknowledge your sins and know that you are forgiven.

How cool is that?

Have a great week,

Mitch  

The Doublity?

This coming Sunday is Pentecost.  The celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Who cares?

You’ve got God up in heaven, who created everything.   You’ve got Jesus on earth, who died for our sins.   Isn’t that enough?

Some people think it is.  Hmm, maybe we don’t need the Holy Spirit.  Maybe we should get rid of the Trinity and call it the… Twinity?  The Twoity?  Personally I think the Doublity has a nice ring to it.   Then we could just call it the  “Father and Son”.   Sounds like a furniture store.

It’s true, sometimes the third person of the Trinity gets the short end of the stick (triangle?).   After all the miracles of the Bible, all the concepts Christians are asked to believe, for some reason it’s the idea of the Holy Spirit that can trip some people up.  Is it an actual Ghost that floats around whispering in people’s ears?  Is it some ethereal mist that helps inspire people? Does it breathe tongues of fire?  Does it convey the ability to speak in other languages?  A student told me they were taught that the Holy Spirit looked like Jiminy Cricket, sitting on your shoulder.   That’s a new one.

I 0nce wrote a paper describing the Trinity this way:

  1. God the Father(Parent) is LOVE, the source of all Love, the creative power of Love.
  2. God the Son(Jesus) is the LOVER–God’s expression of Love, come to Earth to love us, even to the point of His death.
  3. And God the Holy Spirit is LOVING–the divine power of Love, present in us and around us, helping us to put love into practice.

What do you think?  My professor didn’t seem terribly impressed, but when I think about the Trinity this way, I’m reminded that it’s a package deal.   Each way of talking about love is connected to the other.  All are ways we experience God.    God is our LOVE LOVER LOVING.

If you think about it this way, what would the world be without LOVING?   Sure, we’d be created in LOVE, and we’d be saved by the LOVER, but what would join your soul to mine?  What would inspire us to cherish and serve each other.   What would lead us down the right paths?  Without LOVING, I believe we’d be lost.

The truth is, the Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost, and never left.   The third person of the trinity, the Holy Spirit, is literally the glue that holds us together.   And the energy that sends us out.   The Holy Spirit is so much a part of your life, and mine, that if we aren’t mindful we can take its presence for granted.  Let’s not do that.

This Sunday, how about wearing red to church?   Red is the color of the Pentecost and the color we assign to the Holy Spirit.

And how about practicing some LOVING while you’re at it?   Celebrate God with you!  Pass out hugs like they’re going out of style.  Sing like you’re in the shower.   Put a smile on the face of a stranger.   Pray for world peace, and believe it can happen!

In other words, put some Spirit…

In your Holy.

Have a Great Week,

Mitch