The Church Book: Revisited

htc-smallI came across a copy of my “Church book”, There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church!, just today, and on a whim I picked it up and flipped through it. For some reason, the epilogue, titled “Concluding Remarks”, caught my eye this time.

If you think the book is anti-church, these words should dispel that notion. The words are the written expression of many weeks, months, and years of deep, soul-searching, truth-seeking efforts for the church, the Bride of Christ.

Happening across these words again today was interesting, coupled with a conversation we had this past week with an old friend. The subject of “the church” was central to a portion of our discussion. We both spent much time crafting emotional, spirit-filled, Jesus-centered programs. Everything was meant to point the hearer/seer to Jesus. And it was wonderful. We commented that we definitely miss those moments. And still, we also recall the not-just-physical exhaustion of energy possibly slightly misdirected: building up an organization and event, rather than one another.

If you haven’t purchased (or downloaded for free) and read a copy of this book yet, I wonder if what I wrote at the end of the book might encourage you to do so? I had forgotten about this part, but I think eight years later, this is all still true. (Even while some of the other things I’ve read might have been slightly modified by the passage of time.)

Here, today, is the short epilogue, in its entirety.

As I finished putting this book together, I couldn’t help but think that I had missed something. I tried to go back over each chapter in my head, wondering if I had said all that I hoped to communicate through a few thousand feeble words. I want so much to convey the astounding freedom that we have in the quite undeserved love of our Father. I want to communicate that we as the church could be so much more! I don’t want to attack, or belittle the things that so many brothers and sisters cherish (as did I in the not too distant past). I only want to offer what I believe we Christians already know and teach, but perhaps are just not living out.

A phrase from Scripture comes to mind quite often when I ponder the current forms of the Church. “A form of godliness, but denying its power.” To me it seems that could define the church, and the lives of many believers today. We have created a facade that would pretend to offer us life with Jesus, when in fact it is only a set of ethics to which we must adhere. It’s only a meeting to attend. A job to be done.

The kingdom of heaven is so much more. It’s here, now. Jesus has made it possible for us to know him and the Father by his Holy Spirit right inside us. He is always with us. Through good, and bad. This is the nature of the church. In reality, it’s not something we have created to propagate truths passed down through generations. We have turned it into that. But the church is the living, breathing, body and bride of Christ. It’s much more real than we have allowed it to be.

I don’t know if the words on these pages have stirred you or not. If they have, it was not the words that stirred. It was your Father. He loves you, just like he loves me. He has communicated that to me through many means, and I am hopeful that you heard his voice through this book. It is not my intention to tear down anything with this book, only to liberate and help open our eyes to the greatness of what we have, and perhaps what we’re missing.

Live today in the freedom of God’s love and grace. Know he loves you, and longs to be with you. His love is perfect, and compels us to love as we’ve been loved. May you know the greatness of living life as the church with others similarly loved.

Grace and Peace to you, The Church.
Greg Campbell

htc-small
There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church by Greg Campbell, is available through Amazon.com. If you’d like to purchase the book, please click the book title in the previous sentence. If you’d like a free PDF version, it is available here. Also have some of the audio version available at church.gregshead.net. Thanks for reading, sharing, and feel free to add to the discussion in the comments below, or wherever else you can reach me.

Fading Away

fading-flower

Stop loving this evil world and all that it offers you, for when you love the world, you show that you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only the lust for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our possessions. These are not from the Father. They are from this evil world. And this world is fading away, along with everything it craves. But if you do the will of God, you will live forever.

I read those lines from 1 John again this morning with my two oldest sons. When we finished, I went back and read them aloud again. Then we discussed.

“This is important,” I said.

It wasn’t about keeping them from sinful behavior, though. Of course, I hope that they can avoid as much hurt caused by sin as possible—unless God allows that for their own greater benefit. I can not know or understand such things.

What is important is what I made bold above: And this world is fading away, along with everything it craves.

Everything is fading away. I see reminders of that everywhere. Everywhere.

Jim Kelly, the icon of toughness for the Buffalo Bills and the entire western half of New York State is in a very weakened state, in a hospital in NYC, hoping to battle back cancer… again. Our friend, Scott Shimp continues to fight his stage four cancer, which doctors say is incurable, but he (knowing the Great Healer) says otherwise. My Mom is recovering from painful surgery that revealed more damage than they had anticipated. She’s OK, but in much pain. (She often is.)

Other friends are dealing with cancers (new and recurring), death of spouses, and we also know of a little four-year-old boy who is fighting a disease far too early in his life on this earth.

This world is fading away along with all that it craves (1 John)

There is good news in that, especially for all who are fighting, clawing, battling against the brokenness of this temporary, fading reality. We know it is temporary. We are pilgrims, passing through. But it is also all too real. The hurt, pain, distress, fear

We know that he casts out fear. There are dozens and dozens (hundreds?) of reminders of this in the words of scripture. Do not fear. Trust. Rest.

But while we traverse this temporary, fading existence… the darkness can feel too great, too overwhelming. Too often.

When our hearts are affixed to that which fades, our hearts will fade with it.

Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

Jesus reminded us of this. He knew we needed to remember it. This is important.

Fix our eyes on Jesus. Treasure that which lasts. This world, the physical pleasures—even those that are good, wholesome, godly—and even our own bodies are only temporary. Fading. But Jesus is not. He is eternal life. And to know him, is how we taste and experience that Life. (John 17:3)

This is important.

I don’t know what you are facing, but I am sure it’s something. Whether you’re feeling at peace with it, or raging against the injustice of whatever it may be, or the feeling of loneliness as you wage weary war against this enemy mostly unknown to even your closest friends…

Remember what is important. If you’re reading this, you have been given life today. For right now. We can not hold on to anything here. Nothing!

Only his kingdom, and his righteousness (not ours!) and only abiding in and enjoying fellowship with the Son.

And in this fellowship we enjoy the eternal life he promised us.

Remember what is important. Please. And by God’s glorious grace, let’s walk in his brilliant light, with joy, each day he gives us in this fading world, with great, eager hope of the world that is to come.

ralph-c-wilson-jr

Footnote: I began this post early today, and wrote out bits and pieces throughout my work day. Around 3:00 pm, my Twitter app exploded with the news of the death of Ralph C. Wilson, Jr., founder and only owner of the Buffalo Bills. (Whom you likely know I avidly follow.) It was a sort of confirmation of the certainty of the fade of this world, everything being temporary. We know death is the period at the end of our sentence, and we are constantly reminded of its reality. And yet, we have hope. Jesus defeated death. I’m so glad he did.

Frozen

This past weekend we watched the Disney movie, Frozen. Twice, actually. (I know, we’re a bit behind.)

Both times as the end credits were rolling (even knowing what was coming the second time) I felt impressed. Not by any technology or effects, though the animation was flawless. It was the story.

frozen

The princesses are beautiful and “princessy”, but flawed. The “act of true love” is one of giving, not receiving. The “villain” is Self, Fear, and Worry about what others will think of you. (And so, you end up legitimately liking the “bad guy”. Well, not the one who turns out to be a bad guy, but… don’t want to give too much away!)

I’m pretty sure it just leapt up to the top of my favorite family movies list. Spots previously only held by Pixar. (Up, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, etc. It’s likely no coincidence, as John Lasseter (of Pixar) is the Executive Producer.) As I thought about how well they told this story (which was based on a Hans Christian Andersen tale, The Snow Queen), and as we discussed it together, I only became more impressed.

There are really funny moments, too. Olaf the snowman was a highlight, and Sven the reindeer. (We liked when Kristoff would “do” Sven’s voice!) There are trolls, and magic, and other things you might expect in a Disney movie.

For me, the difference with Frozen is the tumultuous inner battle in Elsa. She pushes everyone else away—including her sister, Anna, who is her best/closest friend—all in the name of doing the “right” thing. Being the “good” girl. But when she tries to break free from this iron-fisted self-righteousness, she (literally) freezes the entire village.

In the end, the one whom we think must receive an “act of true love” is the one who gives it, which breaks Elsa free from her own, lonely, frozen prison. Love always wins.

The imagery and truths in this story are just fantastic. Well done, writers.

If you haven’t seen it yet, we definitely think it’s worth owning. (We will be buying a copy very soon!)

(Bonus: The music is really good and fun, too. Lots of singing happening around here now, inspired by the movie!)

Content Creator

content-creator

So God created man in His own image, in the image and likeness of God He created him; male and female He created them. Genesis 1:27 (AMP)

In my life so far, I’ve always enjoyed creating. Whether it was a song, or a blog post here, or a book of those posts, or even a meal. All the way back to some of my earliest memories of making little books at my Grandma & Grandpa’s house with my craft-loving grandma—I’ve always been a creator.

Lots of times that reminds me of God, the Creator. I know, as the quote from Genesis reminds us above, that we are made in God’s image; we are like him. That probably includes the ability (and desire) to create. We are mini creators.

This can take all sorts of forms. Some create buildings, some create art, some create works of literature, some create new technologies. We are likely all wired, on some level, to create.

I’m guessing there is a hole in this very sweeping premise somewhere, but it does seem like a piece of the core of our being: we are made to create.

Which might be why I feel so restless recently.

For a long while, much of what I’ve been doing with my time is managing the creations of others. Sometimes I do this in my work, managing software and technology created by others, as well as maintaining business accounts and data. Other times it is the current stage of being the father of six incredible mini-creators, which requires much time and energy to sustain them as well as cheering on their creations. And, truthfully, often I find myself managing the dissemination of products that I created at some time in the past. In all of this, I am often neglecting time for my own creating.

(I do still find time for some pretty tasty culinary creations, though.) 🙂

Knowing this is good, and knowing that it’s likely only a season is also helpful, but I do think that there is a serious deficiency for me as a “content creator”. A deficiency that I am hoping to find ways to fill.

One is this blog. I love to write out thoughts. It may be that it inspires thinking in others, or hope, or faith, or action, but even if no one reads it, it does help me to write (create) it.

Another is music. I know that music is a part of my being. Intentionally sitting down at the piano or grabbing my guitar and spending time “creating” music is life-giving to my soul.

I’m also trying to be very intentional in writing a book I am working on (actually, a couple books, but I am focusing on one primarily).

However the opportunities present themselves, I really do believe that I need to be creating. I am made to create.

Are you? What is it you’re made to do? Are you doing it?

If you’re not, I’d recommend—from my current personal experience—to pursue it. Intentionally. Fervently.

I believe it’s important to be in the place you were made to be. May your week be full of chances to be who you were made to be and what you were made to do!

Thoughts on Church Attendance

church-serviceI’m not sure why, but it’s curious to me that the topic of church attendance has popped up a time or two in recent conversations. It’s sort of different every time, but all of the occasions have been cordial, courteous, and even understanding and affirming of the thoughts we have on how we are part of the church, the body of Christ. I can’t think of any time that I have brought it up, but it’s been part of enough conversations that it merited a post here this mid-February day.

Right in the middle of these instances of “church talk” was an article I happened to spot by author, Donald Miller, on his website StoryLineBlog.com. I am subscribed to his blog and usually scan his posts once a week or so, reading those that catch my eye. Last week I spotted one titled, “Why I Don’t Go To Church Very Often, A Follow Up Blog“. Follow up? I wondered, I don’t remember seeing the first one…

Curious, I clicked and read, then clicked his link to the original and read—and much more surprising than anything Miller shared were the readers’ comments to both of these blog posts.

Miller’s first article was merely an informal, from-the-heart, spur-of-the-moment, observational post about a recent weekend worship service experience. He basically was “confessing” (his word) that he doesn’t connect with God through music, or any element of the traditional worship service. And so he has chosen to not often be part of that gathering, but finds community with other believers (the Church) elsewhere in life.

Seems fairly harmless to me. How about you?

The readers who felt the need to reply were (it seemed to me) mostly distraught at his proclamation. “How could you say it’s OK to not be part of the church!” And, “Church is not about you, or what you get out of it, Don!” And the lambasting continued with comment after comment—at the writing of this post, there are just about 500 comments on the original post—most of them sharply chastising Miller’s flippant attitude towards the sacred.

Hoo-boy… I’ve been there.

The issue is not whether or not we are called to be together, or to live and serve each other and together in community as the body of Christ. That’s a fairly obvious reality of the church from scripture. The issue is what we are calling “church”.

If you mainly see the hour (or two) on a weekend day—some people attend a Saturday service, you know—as “church” then you might be prone to astonishment at someone’s admission that it’s not their favorite thing—AND that they are “OK” with not attending it. That is actually understandable.

But did Jesus really come into this world to share the Good News of the Sunday morning worship service? Is that what we are called to?

I truly do not want to stir the pot here, creating my own flurry of vengeful, protective, defending-the-Kingdom comments. Please don’t respond here, if that’s all you’re feeling. (Because, I think if that’s what you’re feeling, you’re not hearing me correctly.)

I’d be very interested in calm, collected, thoughtful responses to anything I’ve said, or even more, what Donald Miller shared in either post linked above (and I’ll add them below here, too).

It was all so fascinating how vigorously and intensely the weekend worship service was defended by so many voices. The guilt-laden obligation that dripped from many of those same comments was also telling, I think.

Wherever you are with Jesus, I hope you are at peace. If you are not, I hope that it’s his spirit nudging you toward the freedom we are able to have in him—If the son has set you free, you are free indeed.—not toward a life without him, but into a life of rest in his grace and mercy and goodness. Freedom of a life with him.

Here are the links again

I Don’t Worship God by Singing. I Connect With Him Elsewhere.
Why I Don’t Go to Church Very Often, a Follow Up Blog

AND, if you want to read more on thoughts about what the church is, and what it can be, I did publish a book about that: There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church! Available at Amazon, and there is also a free (PDF) download. (But it’s nicer to pay for books… if you can.) 🙂 See below.

htc-small
There’s The Steeple… Here’s The Church by Greg Campbell, is available through Amazon.com. If you’d like to purchase the book, please click the book title in the previous sentence. If you’d like a free PDF version, it is available here. Also have some of the audio version available at church.gregshead.net. Thanks for reading, sharing, and feel free to add to the discussion in the comments below, or wherever else you can reach me.

Give Us This Day

frenchbread

I know Jesus always meant what he said. In my own life, I really try to “mean what I say, and say what I mean”, and for the most part, I’d say that is generally what is accomplished.

So when Jesus said, “Give us this day our daily bread” (or however your translation happens to phrase it) I think he wasn’t really just talking about bread—or even just our food.

Too often we are caught up in any moment besides now. Worries about the future, or even just plans and strategies for our future; hurt, pain, doubt, guilt from our past, whether of our own doing, or somehow inflicted upon us—these things can consume us.

We really have no idea what is coming next, nor how our past has prepared us for the now.

All we have is “this day”.

That reality has been so present for me again lately. I have friends who have been thrust into a daily place that I’m sure they don’t want to be (and yet, I know they are seeing and even feeling God’s blessings in the midst of such a hard place) and we are even waging our own daily battles here, too, which seem to have been going on for far too long now.

Maybe someone you love has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Maybe you have. Maybe you lost your job. Maybe you lost someone that you love. Maybe you’re living a life that you never thought would be “like this”, and you don’t know how to change it.

Maybe you doubt your Father’s love, or his goodness… or even his existence.

Give us this day…

I think today, I will drink deeply of the place that God has me. I know the bad. Somehow it is often better at being noticed. (Or maybe I am better at noticing it.) But I also know the good. There is good, now. It’s not some future reality that will be present once I’m through this, or change that, or realize some yet-unattained desire.

I have breath in me. I am here, in this place, now. There are people (whom God loves) around me whom I can share that breath and life with … now.

This day.

None of this is new, I’m sure. It’s not to me. But it sure seems that I need reminders to slow, to breathe, to just… be.

Daily.

May your day be filled with all that he gives. Even if it’s not what you were hoping or looking for.

He is there. This day.

[ThisDay] Sex Sells (Apparently)

One of the posts that has received the most interaction was admittedly expected to attract some attention. I wasn’t just searching for website hits… rather, I was making a point. A fun night out with Emma at the mall turned into conversations about large images of ladies in their underwear—everywhere! That night I posted some thoughts on our much we use sexual imagery in marketing and advertising, and the possible consequences of that. That was certainly a memorable post from January 31st in GregsHead.net history. A close runner up was the story called “My Computer Had a Heart Attack” (a good, lengthy read!). For today though, and the last day in this series: Sex Sells (Apparently). (Thoughts/comments welcomed!)

Sex Sells (Apparently)

January 31st, 2013

Aerie Ad - Girl in lingerieI wouldn’t usually post such photos here. But I guess I’m trying to make a point.

Have we really gotten so used to seeing women in their underwear (or less) that it doesn’t even slightly surprise us?

(My hope is that when you saw the photo for this post on my website, you were surprised, or shocked. It hopefully seemed quite out of place. And it should.)

Last night my four-year-old daughter, Emma, and I walked through nearly the entirety of our local mall, and the volume of near-nudity prominently displayed in store fronts truly overwhelmed me. It was not hidden in the lingerie section near the back of a department store. Rather, right out in front, for every passer by.

I did some research when we got home and found out that there are an inordinate amount of lingerie stores in our mall. It could be that this is the reason that there are so many super-over-sized revealing photos, but still, you can’t walk down nearly any corridor of the mall without being bombarded by boobs.

Aerie storefront display - Girls in lingerie

I know I sound old saying this, but… I don’t remember this when I was a kid!

(Yep. Old.)

Now you can be shopping at the Apple Store for an iPad mini and get an eyeful of what amounts to “soft porn” at the same time. (There’s another “intimate apparel” store across the hall from our Apple Store.)

Am I overreacting here? I’m not sure. I am a guy, of course, and scantily clad, beautiful women do have a certain appeal, but what is that appeal? Certainly it is to my flesh—the part of me that is supposed to be dead. We are all well aware, however, that it still fights for life.

Jesus said that adultery is wrong, but that a man looking at a woman lustfully is just the same (since sin is a heart issue, before it’s a behavior issue) … but, I’m not sure that’s why I feel uncomfortable strolling the halls of the mall. (There wasn’t any lustful looking going on.)

I am more uncomfortable when my boys are with me. Aged 14 and 11 1/2, the internal chemicals are beginning to and have already worked their magic and the appeal of women dressed in little, even posed suggestively many times, well… that’s not something I want to test my boys’ will power on. And all to just find a new favorite well-used video game?

Last night it was Emma, who was certainly taking it all in. Once she said, “More bras! Ha!” (Yes, she’s awesome.) So I’m not really sure what she thinks about it, but she at least finds it somewhat humorous.

spencers

But I think in the end, I just find it sad. Near the end of our mall tour we passed Spencer’s. This particular window display was the most overt of all the stores in their attempt (in my opinion) to use sex to sell. (They might even more be selling sex, not simply lingerie, but…) I actually shook my head at their forwardness, and quickly moved along. Later when I was looking for store displays online to share with you here, I discovered that when you click the above banner—taken from their website, but this was also the current store front display—you have to consent to viewing adult material before going further into their site. So, perhaps they aren’t even trying to hide the soft porn part?

(Note: I actually do remember that my mom would direct us past and cast doubt upon the goodness of Spencer’s stores in our various malls. Though I do think we darkened their door a time or two along the way. I think my sister liked some of the stuff in there? I do not remember such displays in their front windows… but I do have this inner, red warning light regarding their establishment. Perhaps this is not a new development.)

What I think all of this reveals about us (yes, pun intended) is a culture that is certainly progressing more and more towards debauchery. Again, I know that I sound old suggesting that “my generation” wasn’t as perverse as “this generation”, and to an extent, I’m sure I’m wrong. People are people. We’re all dead in sin, none of us can escape that; one generation’s societal moral superiority notwithstanding.

But I really do think this is a symptom of a deeper sickness.

Families are now horribly rent asunder: rampant divorce, children outside marriage, multiple parents (but really no parents), gay marriage, abortion… they are all signs of our inner moral corruption and decay.

So it makes sense that we’d continue to feed our flesh—the part of us that drives this decay—and even progressively think less and less of it, allowing it to have more of a hold on us.

We’re naked under our clothes. (Did you know that?) Nakedness is not the sin. The way it’s used to appeal to our selfish, fleshly, worldly desires can be, and those desires can be. Paul said, “All things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial.” Perhaps that applies here.

I don’t think I’m talking about the over-sized posters, though.

It seemed so blatantly obvious last night on our walk through the mall that these are symptoms of a culture-wide decline; gradually slipping more and more toward full worldliness, and farther away from godliness. It makes sense, of course, as culturally we have been removing God from everyday life for several generations now. It’s certainly bound to happen this way.

I know I sound old. (And, I kind of am!) This generation is worse off morally than mine, but maybe not than my parents’ generation? (The sixties, hippies, etc? Could be we improved from that?) And we will continue the downward trend until, as individuals, and families, and then as a society we allow God to resume his rightful position as Father and leader and provider and all that he is and wants to be to us.

Until then, it shouldn’t surprise me what is displayed in the large windows of our public marketplaces. If we continue this way, it wouldn’t be shocking to see actual nudity soon, as well as much more sexual images.

This really is the visible symptoms of a deeper issue.

I want to say, “And I hope for our society’s sake that we turn to Jesus and live full lives as he intended us to!” … but I wonder if that’s my wrong thinking about “life to the full”. Life to the full is messy. We are messy, broken, sinners. We are in a broken world, and though we can experience a taste of true, unbroken life, we are still here, in this mess. And that will never change, until we’re not. So, no matter how much we, as a society, might turn to Jesus … the deeper issue here (not the symptoms) is part of the bigger picture of “full life” that God intended. I think.

That doesn’t mean I have to traverse the mall corridors, though. 🙂

I’ll finish by saying that I hope wherever you are right now, you know the Father, the One True God, and Jesus Christ whom he sent (John 17:3) and that you know his abundant grace and life and are living that fully and free from guilt and condemnation and judgement (John 3:17) … because that is how we’re meant to be.

(Clothed, or not.)


Note: The photos in this post are mostly taken from the retailers’ websites. My iPhone camera was not doing a good job capturing the images I wanted to use for this post. All of these images here were on display in three-times-real-life size in the store windows, as well as dozens more.

OTHER POSTS from JANUARY 30th