A Brighter Path #3: Sin

By Steve Flowers

Successful-based beliefs/practices in the church today continue to undermine Jesus’ desire to bring about “the kingdom of God.”  And the successful-based belief/practice on sin has arguably had the greatest negative impact on that. Because of that impact, it is critical to understand as fully as possible what we mean when we use that little ‘ol three-letter word that is at the root of so much difference between successful-based and faithful-based churches.  We will therefore spend three posts on sin (or you could say we’ll be “sinning” for the next few weeks).  In this post we will engage in a brief overview of the concept of sin and a related spiritual concept, holiness, and introduce how successful-based and faithful-based churches differ on them.  The following two posts will each explore in more detail how each side views and lives those concepts. Continue reading “A Brighter Path #3: Sin”

A Brighter Path #2: Successful Churches and Faithful Churches

By Steve Flowers

When we look at the nature of the church through the lens of Mother Teresa’s spiritual maxim that “God doesn’t call me to be successful, but to be faithful,” it might appear at first glance that both qualities should not only be acceptable but encouraged.  It seems counter-intuitive to think we should not be successful for God. But the two concepts are opposites. One relies on God, and the other relies on ourselves but puts God’s name on it. Many churches today preach a life of faithfulness but their actions reflect Christianity’s long struggle with striving for success in its own human-derived standards.

Continue reading “A Brighter Path #2: Successful Churches and Faithful Churches”

A Brighter Path: Introduction

By Steve Flowers

An old joke I first heard while at seminary in the late 80s goes something like this— “Jesus came to earth in order to establish ‘the kingdom of God’… but all He got was the church.”  The punch line can be self-deprecating humor for life-long church members but it also reflects a painful indictment.  The history of the Church over 2,000 years is the record of an institution that has done some good (along with some evil) but overall has fallen far short of bringing to fruition Jesus’ mission proclamation to break-in “the kingdom of God” (Mark 1:15).

Continue reading “A Brighter Path: Introduction”

Stories From A Village Podcast: Living From My Heart

By Ivy Lamb

Scott is a husband, father, and professor. Over the years, he’s slowly learned to relinquish the illusion of control. Moving past his own theories of how the world should work has been one of his greatest spiritual challenges, and yet he considers it core to the message Christianity. In this episode, he shares his journey of learning to let go, and how a recent health crisis helped him understand the profound importance of human connection. Continue reading “Stories From A Village Podcast: Living From My Heart”

Stories From A Village Podcast: Breathing Goodness Into the World

By Ivy Lamb

How do we overcome experiences of struggle and find ways to share our gifts with the world? For Chase, the answer lies partly in practices of spiritual discipline. A relatively new high school English teacher, Chase feels called to use own experiences of struggle to empathize with and encourage his students. Journaling, yoga, and self-reflection also help him stay grounded on his journey toward authenticity and “being seen

Continue reading “Stories From A Village Podcast: Breathing Goodness Into the World”

Walk Just As He Walked #6: The Parable of the Two Sons

By Steve Flowers

We continue this series by looking at a second example of a parable from Jesus to uncover how it reflects his teaching to serve God faithfully, not successfully.

“What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.  (Matthew 21:28-32)

Continue reading “Walk Just As He Walked #6: The Parable of the Two Sons”

Stories From A Village Podcast: It Is Well with My Soul

By Ivy Lamb

As the son of a Methodist pastor, Andrew grew up intimately connected to the church. His childhood experiences exposed some of the difficulties and shortcomings of the church, but they also helped Andrew discover his own call to ministry. Today, he serves at Stone Village Church as a musician and worship leader. In this episode, he shares the story of how he moved from feeling judgement and shame about his sexuality to claiming God’s love and living more fully into his gifts.

Continue reading “Stories From A Village Podcast: It Is Well with My Soul”

Walk Just as He Walked #5: The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector

By Steve Flowers

The contrast of living a successful spiritual life versus a faithful one was not only in Jesus’ actions but also in his parable teachings.  Over the next few posts we will meditate on three parables to uncover how Jesus taught to serve God faithfully, not successfully.

Continue reading “Walk Just as He Walked #5: The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector”

Walk Just As He walked #3: Successful versus Faithful

By Steve Flowers

As I wrote in the previous post, decades ago I adopted Mother Teresa’s spiritual maxim that God does not call me to be successful, but to be faithful. Though it rang true, it would take years of studying to see its origin in the various pieces of the Bible’s truth. The final piece that drove home the meaning was not from any one passage or story from scripture but kind of a finally-seeing-the-forest-amidst-the-trees realization. Though not explicitly stated in the Bible, it was finally seeing how Jesus lived this truth in the most powerful and dramatic way at the end of his life, a way that was very different from what we would expect from leaders today.

Continue reading “Walk Just As He walked #3: Successful versus Faithful”

Walk Just As He Walked #2: The Tale of the Unconventional Shoemaker

By Steve Flowers

Once upon a time, a new shoemaker and his apprentices came to a village and set up a booth at the edge of the marketplace. The other more established shoemakers looked at them with contempt and told each other, “Surely, he will fail.” After all, shoemaking is a difficult trade and this shoemaker was not known by any of them.

But the new shoemaker spoke of how his shoes would make the people feel renewed. Slowly, people came and tried on the new shoemaker’s footwear. And each time, they were astounded! They had never felt this way before.

Continue reading “Walk Just As He Walked #2: The Tale of the Unconventional Shoemaker”

Stories From A Village Podcast: Learning to Live Beyond Labels

By Ivy Lamb

For more than a decade, Joey identified as an atheist. Today he calls himself a Christian again, but his story isn’t what you might think. In this episode, Ivy and Joey talk about his early experiences with Catholicism, how his moral convictions led him to leave the church, and how he eventually returned to Christianity with a different perspective. His story illuminates and challenges how we think about the labels of “Christian” and “atheist.”

Continue reading “Stories From A Village Podcast: Learning to Live Beyond Labels”

Walk Just As He Walked #1: The invitation of “Follow me”

By Steve Flowers

Many people today are seeking after God and/or spirituality. Christianity has a simple invitation to this search for everyone: follow Jesus. It is fashioned after Jesus’ own call— a two-word summons sprinkled throughout the Gospels (emphasis added):

As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” (Mark 1:16-17)

As (Jesus) was walking along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” (Mark 2:14a)

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” (John 1:43)

Continue reading “Walk Just As He Walked #1: The invitation of “Follow me””

On The Table Podcast: Up, Up, and Away!

By Steve Flowers & Jordan Flowers

Jordan and Steve share how they came to love comic books and superheroes and then discuss where they see faith being reflected in the characters and stories of those superheroes.

This episode along with the bonus OTT 8.1 episode also released today are the last OTT episodes for our first season. OTT season 2 will return in 2019.

Continue reading “On The Table Podcast: Up, Up, and Away!”

On The Table Podcast: Picking Fights with Jesus

By Steve Flowers and Jordan Flowers

In this 3rd installment of the periodic series studying through The Gospel of Mark, Steve and Jordan discuss the five conflict stories in Mark 1:40-3:12. They reflect on the scripture, including where we might be picking a similar fight with Jesus by not recognizing who He really is and when someone criticizes the way we live a Christ-shaped life, we should try to turn that into a teachable moment like Jesus does instead of escalating the heat.

Continue reading “On The Table Podcast: Picking Fights with Jesus”

On The Table Podcast: Flo Bros Edition

All the Flo bros are together as Heath and Tanner join their brother Jordan and their dad Steve. The brothers talk about what resonated and what didn’t in their own spiritual upbringings, a discussion that at times is serious but also at times explained in laughter (including at Dad’s expense). The conversation ends with their take on funny suggestions for new segments on OTT.

Continue reading “On The Table Podcast: Flo Bros Edition”