Wednesday, November 26, 2014

THE CALLING CHALLENGES FOR CHURCHES

The church is poised on the edge of its seat with powerful anticipation of what's next.

Or....is it?

I think not.

Rather, churches in general do not function with a drive to reach the wonderful populace which knows little about God and His elaborate transformation system.  No, we are snagged on the splinters of looking backward (as did Lot's wife).  A very large contingency of most churches are willing to give lip-service to going into all of the world; but not foot-action.

One of the most profound personality traits of Jesus is his compulsion to connect and contact individuals.  He cared about the hurting; not in theory, but in one-on-one connection.

This major element has been blurred among us.  Our focus has been welcomely diverted to personal preference over building decor, ministry options, coupled with a very strong what pleases me thirst.  Doctrine may be bantered a bit while the urgent call of the Great Commission has lost its urgency.  Did no one notice?

The church remains poised in a culture with great and useful friction.  There is to be a hunger and thirst for the hurting and lost masses that these, too, may find the greatest hope and comfort available to mankind.  We hold the keys.  We were once them.

Erwin McManus points out that multiculturalism has created tremendous friction for the contemporary church because the church has fashioned itself around monocultural ministry--not simply in its style and texture, but also in its message. The gospel, as presented in our time, has been crafted in a way that would only win Christians to Christ.

While I don't love his statement, I need to hear it.

Guys like me and most of those reading this post are being called into a world of upset, messiness, and horror.  It isn't clean.  It doesn't align in rows.  Neither is it poised upon a hilltop with a sign that says, Please, rescue me.  I want to know about God.  No, this segment is hurt, confused, and worst of all, forgotten.

We should awaken to the fact that we are rubbing elbows with generations of very decent people who have been involved in far too many life-wrecks.  Some have grown numb to God and to those who follow Him because we proved to be raising funds for a new wing on the educational structure more than possessing interest in the distraught.

The calling challenges for churches will always be to resist the thrill of being saved only to slip into being comfortable.  Jesus' way is still via only one route; that of the cross. Opinions, theories, concepts, and distracting church needs only serve to keep us from the main thing; touching people.

There will never be enough of us to quench the thirst and heal the scrapes of mankind.  Yet, we can determine to personally move forward in prayer to God, praise for God, that we might have eyes to see the masses that pass us by.  And with these focused eyes, may we have the courage to tell them about the Great Physician.

We can't heal them; but He knows how.  Our challenge is to take on the responsibility of introducing these dear people to the One who not only knows life....He IS life.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

FERGUSON, MISSOURI: OPINIONS, ANGST, AND WONDERFFUL PEOPLE

How is one to interpret and deal with the out-rage of the past few hours in Ferguson? So many statements.  So many more questions.  So many interpretations and opinions.

I sit some 400 miles away.  Yet, I sit with intense interest.  Such upset is not a city-wide occasion.  It affects humanity at the center nerve; people behaving poorly toward people.

Me?  I would not have answers.  I would have sympathy to all involved; both sides. With an extension of concern, I would also say that I have a love for all; both the injured and the injurers.  Ferguson is a picture of man-gone-stressed.

Who started it?  Who caused it?  Who feeds it?

The media will name names and then we will create our own surmisings.  Satan will go unnoticed and unnamed.

Man likes labels.  We want names to go with our accusations.  If we don't have accurate accounts, we'll make good guesses.  This isn't productive.

Occasionally we can seem bent toward a good beef...or a fiery riot.  But this isn't a battle with racism nor is it one of fanaticism.  This is a picture of man being tricked by a source of power that confuses, misleads, sets the stage for turmoil, and then sneaks off unnoticed and unscathed.  It is Satanic.

Satan exists to throw wrenches in man's relationships...with one another.  He then backs out of the picture visibly; yet remains on the scene with his stirring influence.

We are not enemies of one another.  Jesus knew this.  He died on the Cross because man is so crossed up we find ourselves, at times, not knowing which end is up.  Jesus didn't live and die to have cool VBS summers.  He did it because man is an incurable mess unless someone divine breaks in and stops the bleeding....by God's own bleeding for His precious creation.

Emotions are running high.  Our test, as children of God, is whether we can remain calm of heart and love those who are being injured as well as those who are doing the injuring...before, during, and after the murder of young Mr. Brown.

Sighing and crying won't make a dent in the civil unrest we are know seeing unfold before our very eyes.  Leaning in upon the wonder of the One who died for all of us is our hope and our answer.

For the joy set before us, may we use these trying times to see just how serious we are at taking up our crosses and following Jesus into the world of turmoil in order to truly love those who have never experienced a deep and abiding interest in what they can be and who we know the good that they really are.


Sunday, November 23, 2014

HOW TO KEEP THE AWE GOING

Victory.  Oh how we like it.  Celebration.  More of the same.  Success.  A feel-good moment.

Who doesn't appreciate the victory and celebration of success.

Christianity is not a new brand of V-C-S lifestyle.  Neither is it simply a notch above worldly V-C-S.  No. Christianity gives its inhabitants abundance of life and grace when there is loss, when their are tears, and when there is embarrassing failure.

This is a zone the church struggles to see.  But....let's grow to see it.

If we have a goal day of attendance or of raising funds and hit these goals, we parade our way-to-go smiles coupled with hugs and pats on one another's backs.  If we miss our goals, there can be a tendency to feel like failures.  Worse yet, we might even feel that God didn't bless.

How we keep the awe going is to realize that the faith God seems to wish we possessed sees well.  It is a new sort of sight; walk by faith not by sight looks at every setting with a secret faith-code.  The code is remember resurrection power.  

God is all about His family living under the clearly affixed divine umbrella of resurrection power.

  • The hope spoken in Rom. 4:17-25 is based on Jesus being raised from the dead.
  • The Rom. 8:28ff all things work together for good text continues to speak of such direction which is issued upon the basis of Jesus being raised from the dead.
  • We are to fix the eyes of our hearts to know the hope, the riches, and the surpassing power of His greatness....identical to and the same as was when He raised Jesus from the dead....Eph. 1:18ff
Get this: raised from the dead is an exhilarating effect of God's deliverance.  Certainly.  And, we want this kind of awe in our very walk.  However, we short-sheet His grace when we forget that if there is not severe strain, anguish, misrepresentation, disappointing moments, persecution, and eventual death of Jesus....there is no resurrection.  

Awe hinges upon un-awe.  In all things, awe is coming!

Believers get to march in the parade of awe; not because the breaks always go our way and we have victory, celebration, and success parties galore because we get what we want as with some magic wand.  No, we have awe because even in the abuse and mistreatment we receive, we can still set our eyes on God's resurrection power which is with us day by day.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

HIS NEW CREATION...IS....NEW!


Change is refreshing to some and a dirty six-letter word for others.  There are those who believe change represents everything nobody wants and that no one should have. It is the heart of the kingdom of God; yet, for another part of the believing family.

Change is a vital part of normal, spiritual, progressive living.  For a newborn to never grow to be 3 and then 7 and then 22, would be grievous to any parent.  For flowers to never bloom?  For Seniors to never graduate?  For workouts to never change bodies? For discoveries to be outlawed?  Man would be hurt if change wasn't a steady part of the daily fabric.

Change factors are essential if one is to grow in the Word of God.  For those who simply manipulate the Bible as a proof text for pet doctrines, we miss a glorious part of pondering scripture in order to mature as well as develop.

Bible classes must be on guard against ever discussing in order to never learn.  Paul clearly warned us of joining Bible study groups to tickle our ears by hearing what we want heard.  Our tendency is to promote II Timothy 4:1-5 as if this text is a warning for others; never us.

Believers who have always believed what they have always believed are in danger of carrying a stillborn faith.  The Word is sharp and active.  It is new, exciting, adventurous.  Of course, many things true yesterday will still be true today and tomorrow.  Fact.  In addition, that same text is productive; always changing through flexibility of the Spirit those things where man is called to learn and to grow.

Brandon Hatmaker targets this subject.  But change is not a threat.  It's a fact.  If we act as if change just happens upon us--surprise!--in a sudden upheaval, we miss its continuing flow and its lessons and the opportunity to keep up with it.  Change is a fact of life.

Change is a reality and we are living right in the middle of it.  Speaking of God, He sends us on journeys that bring us to the end of ourselves.  We often feel out of control....

Yielding our control is man's rub with the divine.  We cherish and treasure knowing how things are going to go.  Letting go is foreign to us.  We feel at risk as if the safety net has been removed.  It has been taken away if we believe it to consist of man-ordained guidelines.

Rather than waste our breath fighting change, it would be more fruitful for all of us if we would accept it as fact.  It is the kingdom's systemic process.

So how shall we respond?  What are we to do?

One idea would be to read the Word of God still believing it has come from God.  Be free to use it as a proof text with the clear understanding that we are studying a fountain of life; not a rusticated law.  Hear the call to believe when there are no signs of hope.  Note the charge to go with Jesus and not the religious mob.  Dare to engage the New Creation which can be much different than old-hat church.

May we delve into the Word of God with daily new-found faith; not with fearful and imposing restrictions which He never issued.   There is a difference.  May we enjoy His New Creation in us....to the max!

Friday, November 21, 2014

IMAGE OF COURAGE

Image.  What we think people think of us has an earth-shaking magnitude.  Image can be a blessing or a curse depending on whether we control it or it controls us.

Image, I believe, often houses every person's insecurities whether famous or not. Mirrors are loaded with information.  Many negative mirrors have been installed in most houses.  Regardless of who we are, who we know, where we live, and what we do, mirrors tend to speak about speck-tacular lack.

The mirror industry isn't to blame.  The lies that Adam and Eve bought into in the Garden are the culprits.  At that historical moment man fell and we have been trying to buy better mirrors ever since.

So let's talk about why so many don't believe in God with a courage to publicly let it be known?

Image.

One of life's greatest losses is found in this region.  Very good men and women have listened to their core groups mock Christians, to the extent that should one begin to question that possibly this idea of believing is valid, the strong undertone would be to spare oneself of the subsequent mockery

This one wouldn't want to take on the verbal abuse which they, themselves, have issued toward others.

Image.  The front one has to keep up of being a good person; but not too good so that our cronies won't suspect a change of heart.  Image.  The liar.  The non-existent voice that bullies normal human beings into a silent cowardice so that no one will know we have a spiritual side that yearns for freedom.

I have dear friends from all ranks of social standing.  I love them completely.  Some have nothing to do with God and His church body because they think they aren't good enough.  Image again.  And still others are self-pressured to keep up there non-church, non-God, non-belief.

This is catastrophe gone mad.  It involves a whole lot more than eternal destiny.  This is a matter of living from day to day without the joy of knowing how to make life pop on any stage.

I would ask each reader to pass this message or one like it on to others.  Good people want to know God; but they don't know how to ask, necessarily, and they don't want to appear foolish to a few of their colleagues.  Image.

For those who are high up in life and those who are way down in your own minds, drop me a note at trush@memorialdrive.org.  I work with a lot of people one-on-one and no one knows.  You are out there.  I know it.  When the tumor is discovered or the depression is mounting, I care.  When you have neither, but life seems to bug you.  I care...again.

For now, do this.  Determine to have the courage to live a robust life without the taxing element of fearing what other people think.  Image.  Develop one of courage.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

THE WONDER OF GOD BURIED BENEATH POLITICAL INTENSITY

If there is anything more touchy in the marketplace of humanity than religion it might just be politics.  People have opinions (in both) that are strong; in some cases unbending, closed-minded, and unapproachable.  For some, politics is their religion. Nevertheless, I wade into both today.

The idea that religion and politics don't mix is a lie that the church has swallowed.  It is very much an inseparable blend.  Look at Jesus' walk.  Was he constantly facing Sunday School teachers and deacons over class materials and softball teams?  Or was he encountering political figures; national rulers, advocate groups, and military might?

Jesus was deep into the political scheme.  The reason would be that this seems to be also a place where common people live. Jesus was always about the welfare of people.

As a result, he lived with his own political agenda.  What do we think got him crucified? He believed in helping the orphans and the widows so the crowds barked, Crucify him? No.  Jesus' walk bled into the political arena causing the power-lords of the day a great deal of pain worse than gas.

The life of Jesus faced a dark world's power head on.  Get this.  He killed, not the killers, but killing.  Jesus killed killing.  He eradicated the very thing that would end life.  This is a magnificent political move.  He used their swords to beat them at their own game on their own turf without a sword of his own.  By the process of submitting to their killing machines, he then exited what was assumed to be a permanently confining grave.

This great move proved the opponents artillery could not stand a chance against the might of love.  Both the religious and political machines did their best to join forces to take this man out.  Assassination was their cry.

Willing to be assassinated was the beginning of his victory lap.

Our enthusiasm for perfect hope is built upon this majestic, inspiring, and outlandish truth.

The wonder of God is buried beneath political intensity because we don't realize that Jesus established a new era; a new political party if you will.  He stood for the underdogs everywhere he turned.  His power wasn't in chumming with the elite who carried power.  His was to present mankind with the greatest system that could ever be known; death met its match...and life wins!

This was new religiously and politically.

Our mission statement is to die well that others might live.  For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.  So death works in us, but life in you (II Cor. 4:11-12).

Some think we are elephants.  Other believe we are donkeys.  Clearly, we are called to arise from beneath the political intensity in this America of ours is to be the party of the Lambs.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

CHURCH IS NOT SYMBOLIC GOODNESS

Church is surely one of the most misunderstood entities of all time.  It is distorted and maligned from those outside...and those inside as well.  What is it really?  Why is it misinterpreted, misread, and misjudged...all too easily?

I could offer only a hint of a reason.  The true intended depth of church has been transformed into a shallow and hollow symbol of light-hearted goodness.  The masses assume those who go to church are either good or trying to be good.  Yet, these onlookers aren't buying it.  Well they shouldn't.

The church is anything but a symbol of minding-your-own-business and being-good. No, the church is the continuation of the resurrected body of Christ.  It is to be on the go.  Such a statement right there has suffered the hiccups because church-building-concepts have demolished the "Go" only to reconstruct a fake system which calls out "Come and sit awhile."

The church is the continuation of Jesus.  We are to be deep into at least two things. Fighting off the Pharisaic legalists who make church only about law-keeping while, simultaneously, reaching to the underdogs who need to be rescued from a harsh world of political scheming.

The Cross is our logo.  So?  So be alert as to how smoothly this icon is reduced from sacrificial living for others including our enemies to simply ornate jewelry and church building decor.  The Cross calls for a life surrendered to the extent we will die even for those who wish to wreck and harm our personal lives.

Church is not symbolic goodness.  It is not a gathering of voters who cast emotional ballots as to how the sermon and music went on a given Sunday morning.  The church is comprised of plain people who have absorbed a divine love.  These, in turn, are driven to see that the poor and the naked and the prisoners and the immigrants are warmed, fed, encouraged, and loved.

Church is not symbolic goodness.  It is much deeper.  If we leaders of churches do not redirect our real mission, our young will continually drift into the mocking world.  For these, churches are mere symbols of lethargy and self-indulgence.  When we hit life in the stride of Jesus our families, too, will sense a common purpose which imitates our Savior in his fullest glory.

Here's the thing that puts us in cohesion with Jesus and his walk upon earth.  He did not make contributions to community betterment.  He, rather, made the greatest of sacrifices.  He touched the sinners.  Jesus did not come to earth to find a job he could do in the kingdom that would keep him active in symbolic church.  No.  He waded into the lives of rejects and engaged them.

Symbolic church will always be symbolic until we determine that we were sinners lost and now are found.  And, that others await.  The latter are not waiting for a symbolic church program.  These are watching for someone who cares to get down in the ditch to help them out.

Do we have a religion that has taught us to be a good and better people?  Or, do we have a faith with eyes, arms, and legs to place us into the struggling regimen of touching the hurting and the forgotten?

We want to increase in seeing those in need and then take immediate and compassionate action.  This....would be the authentic church; not a symbolic one.