Common on Purpose

Americans love celebrities, don’t we?  We love people who are famous for their athletic achievements.  We love people who are famous for the films that they make.  We love people who are famous for the music they perform.  Heck, we even love people who are famous for . . . being famous!

It is pretty easy for us to see that famous people are important to Americans because of all the ways we have to keep track of our celebrities.  Next time you are at a news stand, just check out all the magazines that are organized around keeping track of our celebrities (People, Us, etc.)  Then, think about the websites and television shows that are designed to do the same (TMZ and others).  We love our famous people.  Sadly, this celebrity obsession even finds its way into the church.

Pastor Joel Osteen prays with Nik Wallenda and family at the Skywire event Sunday night on the Discovery Channel.
Pastor Joel Osteen prays with Nik Wallenda and family at the Skywire event Sunday night on the Discovery Channel.

If we are not careful, Christians can find themselves worshipping celebrity as well. In Sunday nights “Skywire” event on the Discovery Channel, where a man walked across the Grand Canyon on a tightrope, there were many shots of Pastor Joel Osteen praying for the event from the canyon’s curb.  The subtle message . . . if a famous Pastor is praying for you, you have a better chance!  I know, I know, that sounds harsh.  By no means do I think it is bad for Pastor Osteen to pray for Nik Wallenda.  If I am ever walking across the Grand Canyon on a 3 inch wide cable, I would want Joel praying for me as well (along with anyone else who would do so!).  The sad reality of it all, though, is that I have heard (too many times to count) something like this:  “Have the Pastor pray for you . . . he has a direct line to God!”  While it is a tremendous privilege to pray for anyone, it is a theological error to believe that any human Pastor (celebrity or otherwise) has a more direct connection to God than any other believer in Jesus Christ.  We ALL have access to God in Christ and Pastors (or real celebrities) do not have a hall pass to jump to the front of the line.

Think also of the way Christians react when we find a celebrity who professes faith in Christ.  We freak out!  We want them to come speak at our churches, share at conferences, pray before congress, etc.  If we are not careful, we begin to slip into the insidious frame of mind that says, “God can use famous people more than He can use me.”

I was reflecting on this over the past few days as we studied 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 in church last Sunday.  In these verses Paul surveys the church in Corinth and comes to the following conclusion:

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.  And because of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31)

What these verses tell me is that the church AND people God uses in His plan are mostly common, not celebrities . . . and this is by design!  God intentionally uses people in His plan that the world would otherwise write off so that it would be clear to everyone that it is God who saves, not human talent.  Indeed, in 1 Corinthians 2:4-5 Paul makes this point even more clear when he says:

And my speech my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

God uses average folks (like you and me) in His plan because the contrast of His strength shows best against the canvas of our weakness.  So, if you have never been on television before (and don’t plan to).  If you came from a normal family (not a famous one).  If you will never write a book that someone else (not related to you) will read.  If you will never win an Oscar, the Super Bowl, or a Grammy.  Fear not!  God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.  He wants to use you as a canvas upon which to paint a picture of His brilliant grace so that one corner of this lost and dying world might see it.


NOTE:  God loves famous people as well!  If you are reading this and you did win the Super Bowl (or have a good friend who did), fear not!  God has not rejected you because of your fame.  The key idea to take away is that if you are famous and you have a relationship with God, He is using you because He is so great, not because you are.  What a freeing thought for a world so fixated on our pedigree and our performance.  The Person of Christ is our hope!

Lego Church #2 (Sermon Audio)


Hey there friends!

This past Sunday at Wildwood I preached part 2 of my series out of 1 Corinthians entitled “Lego Church: Built to Be Together.”  In this week’s message, I focused on 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5.  If you missed the message, want to listen to it again, or want to share it with a friend, you can either listen to it online, or download it here.  Thanks!

To download, click this link: Lego Church #2

To listen online, click the player below:

Lego Church Preview- Part 2


For many years now I have been a fan of Michael Card’s music.  Specifically, I have enjoyed the lyrical depth he brings to his songs.  One of the first Card songs I ever heard was “God’s Own Fool.”  This song is a powerful reflection on the truth of 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5 . . . the very verses we will be looking at together this Sunday in week #2 of our series “Lego Church:  Built to be Together” at Wildwood Community Church.  In case you are not aware of this song, here are the lyrics (and there is a Youtube video below with the full song in case you want to listen):

Seems I’ve imagined Him all of my life
As the wisest of all of mankind
But if God’s Holy wisdom is foolish to men
He must have seemed out of His mind

For even His family said He was mad
And the priests said a demon’s to blame
But God in the form of this angry young man
Could not have seemed perfectly sane

When we in our foolishness thought we were wise
He played the fool and He opened our eyes
When we in our weakness believed we were strong
He became helpless to show we were wrong
And so we follow God’s own fool
For only the foolish can tell-
Believe the unbelievable
And come be a fool as well

So come lose your life for a carpenter’s son
For a man who died for a dream
And you’ll have the faith His first followers had
And you’ll feel the weight of the beam
So surrender the hunger to say you must know
Have the courage to say I believe
For the power of paradox opens your eyes
And blinds those who say they can see


So we follow God’s own Fool
For only the foolish can tell
Believe the unbelievable,
And come be a fool as well

1 Corinthians 1 (and this song) play on very human definitions of the words “wise” and “fool.”  To say that humans are “wise” and God is a “fool,” of course, is total nonsense.  God is all wise, and humans do so many foolish things (if you need further proof just watch TV sometime . . . or let me tell you my life story)!  Saying God is a fool and humans are wise is shocking and surprising . . . but that is the point.

Many times, we want God to be the God we “think He ought to be.”  Under this model, theology is not a process of discovery of how God has revealed Himself in Scripture, but a process of self-reflection, drawing a picture of God from our own imagination.  In other words, forget what the Scripture says, we want to make God be a Xerox copy of our imaginations.  In reality, God is a copy of no one.    One of the sad realities of human philosophies is that we try to think of life as we think it should be, and when the Bible (or Jesus) does not match up, we call it “foolish” or “outdated.”  The collective “wisdom” of man does not confine the perfect plan of God, no matter what we call it.

The flip of the terms wise/fool in this passage causes us to look deeper at the other-worldness . . . the supernaturalness of our salvation.  I can’t wait to look at this passage together on Sunday morning in our 9:30 and 10:50 services.

In preparation for this Sunday, you can do four things:

  1. Pray that God would open your eyes to see His truth from 1 Corinthians 1 as we study it.
  2. Read 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5 before Sunday morning.
  3. Email me pictures of you or your family with Lego creations you have built (I will use a few each Sunday in the series as intros to our big idea — that we were built to be together.)
  4. Bring a cross made out of Legos to donate.  We will have a station in the Gathering Hall where you can drop these creations off.  The Legos you use to make the cross will be donated.  At the end of the series, we will gather up all the Legos collected and give them to children without a lot of toys.

Check out this video looking ahead to Sunday –

Which is More Difficult?

The past few days have shown us a major reality in sports:  it is by far more difficult to win than to almost win.  As the old saying goes, “close only counts in horse shoes and hand grenades,” and this is especially true in sports.

OU Softball

Take the Tennessee Women’s Softball Team.  The Lady Vols were an out away from winning game one of the Championship round of  the College World Series.  Then Sooner Magic happened . . . and OU went on to win the title.

Mickelson OPen

Fast forward to Father’s Day.  Phil Mickelson was 18 holes away from winning his first U.S. Open title.  A few balls hit into the hay at Merion later, and Justin Rose is a first time major championship winner.

Spurs parker

Then look at last night.  The entire world was preparing for a San Antonio coronation in the last 30 seconds of game 6 of the NBA Finals.  Two clutch 3 point shots and a pair of missed free throws later, and we are headed to Game 7.

In each of these cases, we have seen that it is far more difficult to win the title than to almost win the title.

I was reflecting on this today as I thought back over 1 Corinthians 1:10.  In this verse, Paul strongly admonishes the church in Corinth regarding their unity.  He says:

I appeal to you brothers and sister, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.

Paul here admonishes the church in Corinth to stop dividing over their personalities, philosophies, or plans.  Jesus bled and died to create one Church, not many, and Paul was sick and tired of hearing about the bickering that existed among the believers in this Greek town.  It seems that their divisions were rooted in pride and self-exaltation.  Based on a number of factors, different factions of the church of Corinth claimed superiority over the other factions, based on who led them to Christ (among other things).  Paul writes to this crowd and calls them to be of one ________.

But what does Paul call them to?  Many times, when we read this as 21st century people, we read this and interpret it as Paul calling them to get into one ROOM.  We think that Paul’s chief concern was that the church in Corinth gather in one physical location.  This is largely because, as 21st century Christians, we often think of “church” as a location.  When we think of it this way, here are some of the applications we come to from 1 Corinthians 1:

If we are Roman Catholic, we say 1 Corinthians 1 tells us that Luther and Calvin and the reformers should have never broken off in the 1500’s.

If we are a mainline protestant, we say that 1 Corinthians 1 tells us that the non-denominational churches should never have broken off and started in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s.

If we are a non-denominational church, we say that 1 Corinthians 1 tells us that people should never stop attending our church.

In all these thoughts is the idea that the key understanding of 1 Corinthians 1 is that people be in one ROOM.  However, is that what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:10?  While I do think 1 Corinthians 1 has something to say about the above mentioned situations, I do not think that is Paul’s primary concern.  Look at what he says . . . He does not say that he wants them in one ROOM, he says that he wants them in one MIND.  This idea gains further weight when you realize that the church in Corinth was ALREADY meeting in different rooms, meeting in homes instead of in a large church building.

Now, which is more difficult: for believers in one city to get in one room, or to get in one mind?  I think the answer is obvious.  It is far easier to get people in one room than it is to get them in one mind.  Getting people in one room requires invitation, opportunity, and construction . . . three things humans can manage.  However, getting people in one mind, requires something supernatural.  Getting a group as diverse as the church in one mind, requires the church adopting the mind of Christ — a mind that sees others as more important than themselves; a mind that does not seek to assert our own “rights” at every turn.  As Paul wrote to the church in Philippi in Philippians 2:5-8, the church is to have the mind of Christ.  When we do, we stop trying to figure out who in the Christian community is better than everyone else, and we focus on God’s glory and how He wants to use us as His servants in the world.

One of my favorite things that I have seen over the past month or so among believers in Norman is a sense of oneness . . . regardless of church attendance.  The tornados that ravaged our area brought the churches in town together in one mind.  Though we continue to gather in different rooms, we are one mind in serving those in need and showing the love of Christ to a world that is broken and in need.

After preaching on 1 Corinthians 1 last Sunday, I had a dear woman come up to me who has been deeply involved in the tornado response.  Here is what she said:

To hear what you have said this morning has put into words the vision and truth I have seen over the last 3+ weeks.  Seeing the different churches coming in with like-mindedness has been such a blessing.  We pray the unity formed from this tragic situation will continue to bring together the full body of Christ.

AMEN to that.

So, what is more difficult to do: win the championship or almost win it?  What is more difficult to get the church in one room or to get them in one mind?  Over the past few weeks, the answer is obvious . . . on both counts.  Praising God that He has done through His church (and His Sooners) the more difficult thing.  🙂

Lego Church #1: Sermon Audio


This past Sunday, June 16, at Wildwood, I kicked off the new sermon series on the book of 1 Corinthians entitled “Lego Church: Built to Be Together.”  In case you missed it, or in case you wanted to share this message with a friend, I have posted it here to my blog.  Thanks!

To listen to the message online, use the player below.

To download the message to listen to on your iPod or other device, click here to download.