Blog is moving...

Several folks in my church have recently discovered my blog Out in the Sticks. I've decided to update things a bit and create a new Out in the Sticks and have this blog serve as an archive.

Why you ask? Partly because hawkenstein.blogspot.com is confusing for folks. I picked hawkenstein to honor two of my favorite scientists, Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein. But it's a bit strange and difficult for many to remember. So I thought preacherkoops.blogspot.com would be easier. Hopefully, preacherkoops is self explanatory. So here we go. Hope you enjoy!


Sermon on Mark 10:13-16

Here is a sermon that I didn't get to deliver as we were unable to make it home to Wray from Denver. I hope you enjoy!

Today we are beginning a new series called People Bringing People leading up to Easter. We will be looking at stories in the gospels of people who bring people to Jesus. What can we learn about bringing people to Jesus from these stories? How can these stories help and motivate us to bring people to Jesus today?

I have mentioned many times before that only 15% of Americans 30 and under attend church and only 5% of Americans 18 and under attend church. That means that the vast majority of children in our country are growing up apart from the influence of the church. Fewer and fewer children are growing up with knowledge of Jesus Christ; with a relationship with Jesus Christ.

And those that are growing up in the church usually don’t stay throughout their lifetime. In fact only 1 in 8 children who are raised in the church will still be in the church when they are 22 years old. These are discouraging stats. But it makes it even more important for us to bring the children of our day to Jesus.
Here in Mark 10:13-16 we see people bringing children to Jesus. They bring their children to Jesus to have him touch them. Now why do they want Jesus to touch them? There is no mention of these children being sick or demon possessed. Why do they want Jesus to touch these children? These people want these children to be touched by Jesus to bless them. They are seeking a visible means of conveying God’s blessing on their lives. It was common for parents to seek the blessing of a Rabbi for their children and it makes sense that many would seek the blessing of Jesus for their children.

It seems to be an innocent enough request. We’ve all seen paintings with Jesus and children. Jesus welcoming little children, laughing, hugging. But the children first need to get past the disciples. Past the bouncers. We see here the disciples rebuking those who are bringing children to Jesus. This seems so strange to us. What is going on?

It’s like the disciples are saying, “Don’t you know who this is? Don’t you know how important his time is? He doesn’t have time for little children! He doesn’t have time for the unimportant, the insignificant, the powerless. Children can’t help fulfill the mission. Children can’t bring about the kingdom of God. They have no political clout, no useful contacts.”

But Jesus sees this completely differently. Jesus is indignant! He is ticked off! He is angry. He is outraged! He is furious! This is the only time in scripture that Jesus is said to be indignant. He is indignant because this is wrong! The disciples are once again demonstrating that they don’t get it! Once again we see that they misunderstand the Kingdom of God, they misunderstand Jesus’ work.

So Jesus rebukes the disciples for their rebuking the people bringing the children. And he has two commands…let the children come to me and don’t hinder them. Start allowing them to come to me and stop preventing them from coming to me.

Then he tells his disciples something amazing. He says they must become like little children to receive the kingdom. Those they were preventing they must now be like. The scene ends with Jesus not just briefly touching the children but hugging them, taking them into his arms, laying his hands on them, and blessing them. We see that Jesus has time for children. Jesus values little children. Jesus values the unimportant, the insignificant, the powerless.

This story leads me to ask several questions. First; are we bringing people to Jesus for him to touch? Like those that brought the little children are we bringing people to Jesus? I assume Jesus has blessed you in some way. I assume you have experienced his touch on your life. That he has begun the process of transformation in your life. That he has saved you from a life of sin and hopelessness. That he has given you peace with God through faith in him. I assume that you have experienced the grace of God through Jesus Christ. That’s why you’re here and keep coming back each week.
Are you seeking to share that blessing with others? Are you inviting others to church? I hope you believe that this church is a place that you can invite others to. We are seeking to make this a safe place for people to come and learn about Jesus. A safe place to experience the touch of Jesus through his followers. To experience love from us, his hands and feet.

When was the last time you invited someone to church? I have read several books and studies on church growth and nearly every one says that churches grow through the members inviting others. In fact, many of those studies say that as much as 80% of new attendees are people invited by current members. 80%! Do you want this church to grow? More importantly, do you want God’s kingdom to grow? Do you want others in our town to experience the peace and joy and new life in Jesus Christ through faith in him? Then invite them to church!

In a few weeks we will be celebrating Easter. Easter is the perfect Sunday to invite someone to church. I am planning to do a very unorthodox message, one that I hope God will use to excite others about our church. Let me encourage you to invite your friends to our church on Easter Sunday. You may be surprised at how open they are to attending with you because you invited them.

In order to invite someone to church, you need to be investing in the lives of people who do not attend church. Do you have people in your life that you are investing in in hopes of introducing them to Jesus Christ? If not let me encourage you to begin investing in the lives of others. We need to be sharing what God has done for us with others. We need to be sharing our faith with others.

Think about how you came to be part of the church. My guess is that someone invited you. I hope that we will become a church that creates opportunities to invite others to our church.

A second question that emerges from this text for us to consider is this; are we hindering people from experiencing Jesus’ touch in any way? Do we have attitudes or actions that prevent people from coming to Jesus? Sometimes we do this and don’t even know it. Many times in churches, there is an unwritten code of conduct, of dress, of respectability, of status in the community, of influence. We are rarely aware of these unwritten codes. But we all live by them and we expect visitors to live by them as well. Without even knowing it, we may make others feel unwelcome or unwanted. Are we a welcoming church? Do we make others feel welcome? Do people feel free to be themselves here? Do they feel safe here?

Along with these unwritten codes that make others feel unwelcome, Christians can also hinder others in their behavior throughout the week Have you ever had someone say to you that they will never go to church because of all the hypocrites? Sadly, we all know that this charge against some in the church is true. And it should cause us all to take a long hard look at ourselves. Are we practicing what we preach? Are we living consistent, authentic lives all week long? Are we truly developing a relationship with Jesus Christ or are we being religious? Does the way you conduct your business draw people to Jesus? Or does it turn people off to Jesus? Does your home life draw people to Jesus? Does the way you manage anger demonstrate to others that you know Jesus?

The world is watching us. And they can’t wait to point the finger at our failures, at our hypocrisy. But if we are consistent, if we practice what we preach, if we are growing in our walk with Jesus Christ, they will see that too. How we live our lives is vitally important to the witness of Jesus Christ in the world.

Along with our unwritten codes and our hypocrisy, we can often blatantly hinder othes from coming to church. Sometimes as Christians and sadly in the name of Jesus, we are rude and judgmental. Many times we believe that Jesus has made us the moral police in the world and our job is to point out the sins of others. But if we are going to point the sins of others out, Jesus teaches we need to start with ourselves.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says that instead of pointing out the splinter in someone else’s eye we should concern ourself with removing the log from our own eye. But sadly we rarely practice this. We like to see ourselves as having it together and others are the ones who struggle. We see others as not being good enough, righteous enough, repentant enough, rich enough, powerful enough, or straight enough to come to Jesus. But Jesus commands us to start allowing and stop preventing. We need to seriously consider this question: are we hindering others from coming to Jesus like his first disciples?

A third category of question for us to consider is this: are we becoming like little children? Have you ever noticed that you always know what little children are excited about? You know what has captured their heart. They blurt it out. They talk about it incessantly. They think about it all the time.

Are we childlike in our excitement about Jesus? Has he captured our hearts? Are we childlike in our enthusiastic devotion to him? Or have we grown up? Have we stripped our relationship with Jesus of its passion and replaced it with religion that’s prim and proper. Have we lost our passion and enthusiasm for Jesus? Have we become dignified and dead?

Look at the picture of Jesus in this passage. He is childlike in this scene. All the cares of the world are gone. He is one his way to the cross, making his final trip to Jerusalem and he knows that execution awaits. Yet he stops and hugs children. He holds them. He laughs with them. He blesses them.

Do we have time for the least important in our world? Will we bring them to Jesus?
This leads to my final question. As a church are we welcoming children? What kind of facilities are we devoting to children’s ministry? How much of our budget is dedicated to children? Do we recruit and train quality teachers to work with kids? Are we creating a safe environment, a loving environment for children? Are we reaching out to unchurched kids?

Are we people bringing people to Jesus? Let me challenge you this week. Do you know an unchurched child in your neighborhood who you could invite to church? Let me encourage you to invite that child to church. Bring that child here for Jesus to touch.


The Brick Testament

Just found this in a Google search. Looks very funny!

The Brick Testament


Hospitality and our "enemies"

Several weeks ago, Soulforce Equality Ride came through Colorado and stopped at my alma mater Colorado Christian University. I was very pleased to see how the school handled the riders. This article from Christianity Today points out The Power of Hospitality
In an increasingly polarized political culture, shouting slogans is predictable, not newsworthy. As biblical Christians find themselves at odds with various groups, it's worth remembering that "fighting the culture" is more effective with meals and washbasins than it is with posters and bullhorns.


More goofy evangelicals

Christianity Today has a fascinating and disturbing article concerning Patrick Henry College and the recent depart of 9 professors. Take a look:

Shakeup at Patrick Henry College - Christianity Today Magazine
On March 8 another Source article, this one by Noe and Culberson entitled "The Role of General Revelation in Education," again prompted the administration's response.

"A common misconception among American evangelicals, and one that cannot be supported by the Scriptures themselves, is that the Bible is the only source of truth," the article began. "We argue that this misconception amounts to a blasphemous denial of Christ's words in Matthew 5 that 'he sends rain on the just and the unjust.'"

The 900-word article argued that "a Christian must refuse to view special and general revelation as hostile to one another. Nor should he hesitate to learn from a pagan. There is much wisdom to be gained from Parmenides and Plato, as well Machiavelli and Marx."

The article prompted a 2,600-word response by college chaplain Raymond Bouchoc, sent to students, faculty, and staff. The response, endorsed by Farris and Sanders, discussed seven "harmful implications" that could be drawn from the professors' article and claimed the piece "diminishes the import of Scripture."

Does acknowledging that the Bible is not the only source of truth reduce the significance of Scripture? What are your thoughts?


McLaren on The DaVinci Code

SojoMail sent out a great interview with Brian McLaren concerning The DaVinci Code. His comments, true to his form, will probably prove to be rather provacative. Below is a teaser:

One of the problems is that the average Christian in the average church who listens to the average Christian broadcasting has such an oversimplified understanding of both the Bible and of church history - it would be deeply disturbing for them to really learn about church history. I think the disturbing would do them good. But a lot of times education is disturbing for people. And so if The Da Vinci Code causes people to ask questions and Christians have to dig deeper, that's a great thing, a great opportunity for growth. And it does show a weakness in the church giving either no understanding of church history or a very stilted, one-sided, sugarcoated version.

On the other hand, it's important for me to say I don't think anyone can learn good church history from Brown. There's been a lot of debunking of what he calls facts. But again, the guy's writing fiction so nobody should be surprised about that. The sad thing is there's an awful lot of us who claim to be telling objective truth and we actually have our own propaganda and our own versions of history as well.

Let me mention one other thing about Brown's book that I think is appealing to people. The church goes through a pendulum swing at times from overemphasizing the deity of Christ to overemphasizing the humanity of Christ. So a book like Brown's that overemphasizes the humanity of Christ can be a mirror to us saying that we might be underemphasizing the humanity of Christ....

I would like to see churches teach their people how to have intelligent dialogue that doesn't degenerate into argument. We have to teach people that the Holy Spirit works in the middle of conversation. We see it time and time again - Jesus enters into dialogue with people; Paul and Peter and the apostles enter into dialogue with people. We tend to think that the Holy Spirit can only work in the middle of a monologue where we are doing the speaking.

So if our churches can encourage people to, if you see someone reading the book or you know someone who's gone to the movie, say, "What do you think about Jesus and what do you think about this or that," and to ask questions instead of getting into arguments, that would be wonderful. The more we can keep conversations open and going the more chances we give the Holy Spirit to work. But too often people want to get into an argument right away. And, you know, Jesus has handled 2,000 years of questions, skepticism, and attacks, and he's gonna come through just fine. So we don't have to be worried.
The conversation surrounding The DaVinci Code continues. What are your thoughts? Do you think Christians are looking for an argument? Do you think the average Christian is uneducated concerning church history and would be greatly disturbed if they started to learn?


End of the "E" Word?

It's so nice to feel affirmed by others in my reaction to the word evangelical. Here's a tease from a great article calling for the end of the word evangelical.

Christianity Magazine: Editorials - Editorial comment on christian issues by John Buckeridge: Church finances and christian giving
I’m an evangelical – but sometimes I’m reluctant to own up. I’m not alone – in a survey conducted for Premier Radio and the Evangelical Alliance 87% of the sample describe themselves as evangelical but only 59% reveal their ‘evangelical’ identity to others (News page 8). Not that we’re ashamed of the gospel of the Lord Jesus or being identified as Christians, it’s just the ‘evangelical’ tag that we sometimes struggle with.

So what should evangelicals who don't like the word call themselves? Any ideas, suggestions?

Students, Staff Involved in Fatal Crash - Taylor University

This is a terribly tragic incident. May we all be in prayer for the families and friends of these 5 people.
Taylor University officials report that a van carrying professional staff and students was involved in a collision with a semitrailer on Interstate 69 near Highway 18.