Friday, August 29, 2014

CURT FLOOD, FERGUSON MO, AND AMERICA'S NEED FOR HARMONY

A two-edged sword of race and religion is slicing America into a wounded nation. Strangely both may wound or both may heal.  Individuals decide; and decide we do. As a white minister, I would be one who has emotional ties to the sword.  Please endure my fumbling as I try to say something useful.

African-American Curt Flood began as a childhood hero to me as he roamed spacious center field at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.  Oh, as a Little Leaguer I did my best to copy both his batting and fielding styles.

Later, with my idea of a ministry through the Cardinals Legends Camps, I was not disappointed in meeting Curt.  We became very close friends to the extent that his mother and his five brothers and sisters adopted me into their family.  Curt's note of Thanks for being so sweet to our mom is among my most treasured memorabilia.

Once Curt taunted me for our mother had moved her first six kid's pictures from beside her bed-stand and across the room atop a cabinet.  My picture was now near her clock and pillow.  Yay me!  Upon a visit to see our mom, I indeed saw the rearrangement of our pictures.  Yay me a second time!

Eventually, I was called by one of my new sisters stating that Momma had passed, could I come.  I flew to Oakland to celebrate her life, speak at her funeral, and be, as she had told me as she hugged me great big, Oh, my little white boy!  I always wanted a little white boy!  And then she slapped her knee with great laughter.  Only a few short years later I was called by Curt's wife to participate in his funeral in LA.

Curt Flood was highly concerned about racial abuse and conflict.  With me being white, this man spoke in terms of which were a foreign language to me.  What sealed our hearts was my inquiry about his perspective of slaves being freed because I was going through a religion which was trying to experience freedom from its own bondage.

Curt was impressive as he spoke with that smoky voice tender-in-heart about matters of which I knew nothing.  He shared how one year during Spring Training in Florida that he and Bob Gibson were invited by Cassius Clay to a Black Panther meeting. Curt and Bob ultimately rejected the idea.  Both shared with me that they rejected the group's thoughts because it was just White Power in reverse.  Clay went on to become Mohamed Ali.

Curt made a point one morning, as we flew from Florida camp back to Atlanta so each could catch a continuing flight, how the African-American race struggles because the men aren't home.  The dads are incarcerated; thousands and thousands and more thousands.  The women are left, in huge percentage, to be both parents.

I had not ever given this a thought.  If you have never visited a state penitentiary, doing so might take your breath away.  A massive amount, as well as a disproportionate percentage of blacks inhabit walls of iron bars, open toilets, and razor wire.  In my few times inside, it makes my heart sick every time.  The scene doesn't strike me that they don't deserve to be there.  Rather, it verifies Curt's comment that the bulk of these were raised by a Momma whose husband was also incarcerated.

Curt taught me that races are different in positive ways.  It is not the black man's wish that we all be regarded as a colorless human race.  These want to be noted as who they are; black.  They are rightfully proud of their heritage.  We Whites insult them by trying to deny their racial attributes and contributions to our social strengths.

Both racial issues and religious disciplines could heal America.  They should heal America.  In places, though, each polarizes.  Such division is both deep and wide. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are the gasoline and the match to our racial challenges; simply my opinion.  Many television evangelists have the same stroke of alienation power.  Their seeming undevotion to the Spirit of Jesus coupled with a hammering message of send in your money is equally polarizing.

Ferguson, Missouri has been our latest scene.  Was the slain black man a victim? Was the white officer a bully?  Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton continue their White Power in Reverse as they seem to live for a moment before a camera.  All the while, humble black citizens of Ferguson give us insight through their interviews of a much more civil, even holy, spirit.

America is in deep need of harmony; a commonality that only God can provide.  Both race and religion can contribute a deeply needed, as well as important, hope.  All sides must arrest our reflex bias.  All sides should note that we can be easily swayed by prejudice without even a bit of investigation.

The African-American communities (not all; but very many) are hurting as they have never recovered from the inherited slave-tones of the Civil War.  Much of this is not their fault.  Viewed as an inferior sort by a significant number of white egotists causes perpetual inflamation.  If not smug, we whites can at least be indifferent to this sentiment.  Yet, we don't live in their shoes.  We have never experienced a steady diet of condescending and abusive comment.

The African-American section are to be inspired by the millions of their own who have succeeded.  Some have had to endure extreme hardship...and succeeded.  So have many of the poor whites applied themselves to become productive rather than being submerged into a lazy white-trash iconic lifestyle.

The hope is found in the harmony which Jesus would offer.  He would die for the very ones who lived to put him away.  He loved them.  We don't have the capacity for such a top-level range of healing love....on our own.  Yet, it is this very reason the Holy Spirit resides in us; that He bear His kind of fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, etc.

We can do this.  We of differing color and we of devotion to the spiritual can bridge gaps.  We can; not they can or they should.  We can listen to each other as all can listen to God.  He understands the depth of suffering like none of us do.  He knows creative power as He invented it.

Curt Flood, Ferguson, MO. and America's need for harmony contribute for an awakening of the spirit of each of us.  These matters matter.  We can march and protest with prayer, faith, love for all neighbors, and a gigantic belief that is as certain that God parted the Red Sea giving His people today an access to a brand new kind of hope.  It is true, God can part the great seas of divisions and pull us together as one nation as brothers/sisters/believers.

The challenge is too big for us.  Maybe we should put away the television cameras which negatively stir both race and religion.  Maybe we should consider those who have suffered in territories we know little about.  Maybe we can draw in heart to each other because we first draw to the heart of God.

I have fumbled so badly in writing this post that I have stalled for hours before hitting the publish button.  Forgive me if my loving attempt is marred by a mistaken or ignorant comment.  Hopefully, there will be some portion of this that would open your hearts and minds just a bit toward the possibility of reaching across polarizing lines which stir division.  Go for it.



Thursday, August 28, 2014

DO-GOODERS DON'T DO GOOD ENOUGH

Any who are devoted to life in Jesus must become alert to the subtle mistake of becoming full of self-righteousness.  Nothing offends the nostrils of community like odor of a church-ee or church-ette parading how good we are at being good.

This has been one of my most regretful mistakes.  Learning about God and His style is incomparable in delight to anything I have ever studied.  Accounting was my game. I loved it; and still do.  But to learn about God has distracted me from all other themes.

Yet, the trouble with any like me is that I took what I had learned into an area God never promoted; let alone endorsed.  I became arrogant as to how many things I believed and practiced that made me more right than others.  I did better than others at being the best believer ever; so I mistakenly assumed.

It seems one of God's holiest themes is to call every individual to take on the righteousness of Jesus simply because ours isn't good enough.  Note: ours is not good enough.  I had so assumed it would be.  

Oswald Chambers points out our glare when we try to justify ourselves before God and others by marking just how good we have been.  Beware of justifying yourself when God alone is the justifier.  If ever I can justify myself, I make God unjust.  If I am right and morally based in all I do and say, I do not need a Savior, and God is not justified in the extravagant waste of sending Jesus Christ to die for me.

Indeed, it is extravagant waste by putting Jesus through all of the extreme suffering if we find that being good enough....is enough.

Somewhere along life's path we must reach the end of our conclusive rope that we can pull salvation off by self-effort.  It is beyond our reach.  We can't get to heaven without Jesus anymore than we can fly to LA without a jet.  We must enter Him, like at baptism, that He might get us to our destination.  All of our attitudes, platitudes, and do-goodness mean nothing.

May our confidence increase in Jesus and decrease in self.  Nothing we do makes us right with God except Jesus.  Way to go Jesus!








Wednesday, August 27, 2014

DO YOU QUESTION WHETHER THERE WILL BE A RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD?

Does the question of whether one really will come to life again once placed in a coffin ever traipse through your mind?  Like, often?  I wonder about it.  I believe it, really. But there are those times I say to myself, What if this idea just isn't real?  What if we die and everything is blank?  Nothing?

So for any of you who are like me, let's examine why our faith would continually make the trek back to believing there really will be a resurrection from the cemetery experience.

First, God said it.  In our multiple incidents of our faith walking right into the God-moves of ordinary life, why would we question this promise?  One reason might be that this one is the big one.  Our continuation throughout eternity is dependent upon this faith element being accurate.  We cannot afford to have been fooled.

Second, consider the nature of God's creation.  Seeds that die sprout; and they don't sprout until they have died.  Corn on the cob never becomes such until Mr. Kernel hits the dirt...and dies.  And ask Miss Flower Blossom.  Same story.  Bulb dies.  Flower resurrects.

And then third, I toss an observation your way which I consider ultra important.  I address the fact of giving.  Giving is a pre-death, belief in something-comes-from-nothing, test.  Take inventory of the givers around you. These live abundant lives; not because they are frugal; but because they are blessed by the uncanny grace of God.

I speak of giving away of money.  Although time and other possessions may surely be contributed, it is money and what it could have bought that is the litmus test in giving...Mt. 6:24 God or riches.  Earth power is money.  Heaven power is grace.  We are called to be willing to swap one for the other.

II Corinthians 9:6-15 is one of the greatest calls to trust God's resurrection promise. Verse 6 is about sowing; buried seed that will die with anticipation of arising into a glorious crop.  Giving is a huge test to whether one believes the resurrection.  It challenges us ahead of the grave to see if we can release with faith-confidence that God will supply new and unexplainable provision.

God's grace while we walk on earth--His abounding, all sufficient, abundant provision--verifies that even when the earthy body passes away, there will be a new kind of body arise.

Sowing and raising.  Sowing and raising.  Sown one thing.  Raised abundantly more and newer another thing.  So also is the resurrection of the dead.  It is sown a perishable body, It is raised an imperishable body, it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.  If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body (I Cor. 15:42-44).

Honestly.  Will there be another life past the grave?  Yes.  An exciting element of truth is that we are to experience verification of such before we die.  From our (1) believing what God said, (2) reviewing God's creative nature, and (3) noticing how blessed those are who give deeply of the funds they could have otherwise depended upon, it seems clear that in each of these three that visible results are noted.

I urge you not to believe in God and go through religious motions just in case all of this stuff is true.  Rather, be urgent about surrendering to God and His style for it really is a true and workable kingdom system He operates....now.




Tuesday, August 26, 2014

WHY CHRISTIANS STRUGGLE WITH CHURCH

It's just weird in a weird sort of way.  Christians really struggle with church.  Ah, isn't that strange?  We tend to believe that those not interested are so because they are the ones who struggle with organized religion.  But, not the case.  Churches have the same problem; except we are us!

The trek through believer-ship is not an easy one.  This explains the struggle.  We live in a very soft society; even with all of its upheavals and stresses.  We bring our don't make this too difficult whims to the church table.  In general, the maturing in Jesus by way of suffering on the cross has been aborted in the new birth process.

Instead, we have developed  a what pleases me attitude, walked into churches, and served notice.  Meet my expectations or else I'm outa here.  Selfishness is why Christians struggle with church.

Sue Monk Kidd wrote, We seem to think that God speaks by seconding the ideas we've already adopted, but God nearly always catches us by surprise.  If it's God's Spirit blowing, someone ends up having feathers ruffled in an unforeseen way.  God tends to confound, astonish, and flabbergast.  A Bethlehem stable, a Roman cross, and empty Garden tomb.

Christians struggle with church because they look at six days a week full of headaches and expect Sunday to be their day of peace and quiet.  They especially look at church to bestow such a don't make me feel uneasy gift.

But church isn't just Sunday morning; rather it is 24/7.  Nor is it going to dispense bandages for our bad attitudes nor our unfair injuries.  It will train us to worship and praise God in the middle of sorrow; even defeat.  It will teach us to endure; as did Jesus upon the cross.

Church isn't about robes and decor.  It is the community training center.  This is the place hearts and minds lift weights to sharpen; not to give up.  The church will build us through hard times just as athletes or aspiring business leaders go through intense training....all of their lives.

If we are in this for the long-haul, we must understand that church can be very hard. Because of weak people who always opt for the easy way out, the church's reputation is that we must please the members or else.  Well, that isn't good enough.  It isn't the theme of Jesus.

We struggle because we are being trained to hang in there.  Endurance is a very kingdom essential.  Quitters do so because they find excuse to cave.  We have work to do. There are millions of our friends who are depressed, lonely, and/or afraid. There is no time for us to whine.  People need help from those who live enduringly in the Spirit.

Through our pains, we will not quit; but we will use these times as training seminars for we are not giving up...ever!  Why do Christians struggle with the church?  We suffer because it is the very nature of being on a mission.  When we intend to bless others, we must first realize where they hurt by encountering stresses of our own which eventually are used to bless another.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

VIRAL EVANGELISM

Have any of you heard of a thing going on called the Ice Bucket Challenge?  Really? You have?

This has been a valuable experience for me to witness.  If that can be done as a fund raiser, why cannot it be done for the kingdom of God?

One of the things the IBC did for me was to see that somebody behind this went public with it.  They filmed it.  That's all.  No billboards.  No TV ads.  Filmed by amateurs on phones.  That's it!

What if we filmed baptisms the same way?  What if we moved these sacred events through the media for others to see how it's done and what it's for?  Additionally, what if we helped novices to baptize their friends and their friends baptize their friends?

So today let's begin a Lake and Pool Party.

Step One: Assign someone to film with their phones the baptism and then put it out for the world to see what is being do so that others can follow.  And when you film, keep it brief.  Otherwise, it will be less likely to be pass along.  Be serious.  Be sober. For this is a highly godly situation.

Step Two: Jesus told the disciples to go into all of the world baptizing...Mt. 28:18-20. When the church began at its earliest point, hearers were told to be baptized to have sins washed away and that the Holy Spirit would move in...Acts 2:38.  This is supported throughout the New Testament.

Step Three: One does not need to be a professional church person to baptize another. Friends can baptize friends.  So, why not?

Here's what you do.  In your pool or at the lake, because baptism is a figurative burial (Romans 6:3-5), you stand by the one to be buried in the water.  Take their confession.  You will say, Do you believe Jesus is the Son of God?  They will say that they do.

Both standing upright, you then put your hand behind their back in support while they cover their nose and mouth.  You say something like, Upon your confession, I now baptize you that your sins are to be washed away and that you will receive the Holy Spirit in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Spirit.  

You will do fine.  Exact wording isn't necessary.  The meaning of starting life over is. You lean them back into the water until completely submerged.  When you help them come back up, this is a picture of His death, burial, and resurrection.

Step Four: Encourage each who experiences the new birth to get with a group to learn how to read the Bible, how to pray, and how to develop a relationship with God. Otherwise, these will have simply been led to get wet.  If uncertain how developing and growing in Christ would look, email me.  I'll help you with ideas; we are learners together.

I believe that once such an event is visual, the world will be inspired to give their lives to Jesus.  The formula will be repeated time and time again.  Baptism is merely at the beginning point.  Learning of Him and His ways is a life-time commitment and experience.

Jesus is our redemption.  Baptism is not a god; it is a godly act to bury us with Jesus. Common, ordinary people are being baptized all over the world.  We can add to the fire.  My we develop by the grace of God an incredibly viral form of evangelism.


Saturday, August 23, 2014

BELIEVING IN GOD ISN'T FOR SISSIES

Satan has tried to deal a lethal blow to God's system.  He has done so by intimidation to the extent that those who ponder the idea of whether faith is legit tend to back off due to noting our anemic style.  Christianity, overall, is misread by those who too easily dismiss us.  They see us as timid, silly, fearful, and unnecessary.  The problem with this is that much of their evaluation is accurate.

To many, ministers are believed to be the weakest of any community, churches are assumed to be mainly for women, and ministry is viewed as projects for the do-gooders.  Nice is how the church of Christ is perceived by those who are not so sure about us.

But the truth is that following the real Jesus in real faith is not easy terrain.  For one, the paragraph above describing the assumption toward us is difficult enough.  And while there is an abundance of just be nice, don't be radical, and stay out of trouble sorts of faith among us, God calls believers to risky depths.

I look forward to seeing what God does with the new-found attention of Ebola recovered Dr. Kent Brantly. This man has a message from God and the world is rushing to give him a microphone.  Get ready.  Talk shows, magazine interviews, speaking engagements, books and a movie or two are in the works....by faith I think this to be true.

Wonderful!

Skeptics, I believe, wonder about the reality of God.  These endure hardships and disappointments just as all do.  Of course, the big question of looming death is on every person's mind; whether homeless, celebrity, or in the middle.  Death is an issue that only the one resurrected from the dead can solve.  That would be Jesus, the one whom calendars continue to date themselves two thousand fourteen years since his birth.

So I speak to those very good people who are not so sure about churches and those who lead them.  I don't blame you.  I came from such a background of wondering if the lot of us weren't suspect.  I found out we are...but in a good way.  We are stumped by life's twists and turns.  We have found we cannot do life without God.  We are courageous enough to admit it.

Therefore while I rarely promote a book, I do this time.  John Alan Turner's Crazy Stories Sane God is written with exciting simplicity.  I believe everyone would benefit from the remarkable way he fits words and phrases which sets the heart on fire.  I urge you to order a copy as both believers and seekers will be blessed.

Believing in God isn't for sissies.  It takes focus, concentration, and eventual sacrifice to dare be bold enough to give faith a shot.  Go for it.

Friday, August 22, 2014

LET'S START A CAMPAIGN

Something needs to be done about the most challenging state of world affairs.  I draw your attention to God's army; believers who do battle in the invisibles which affect greatly the visibles.  Lets you and me build a group who will march through the corridors of need.

I pray for two things constantly; (1) that God would show up in the media of world news and (2) that He would send us signals of His engagement/involvement with mankind which would surprise us.  In the latter I ask Him to do things of such measurement that no one could point to man's manipulation to cause such results.

As I watched TV last night, I noted Dr. Kent Brantly step to the mic and give God glory for what He had done for him.  Later in the segment a nationally known doctor was interviewed.  When asked whether Dr. Brantly's recovery was due to science or to God, the doctor responded with a little bit of science and a lot of God.  That's a pretty good job of showing up in the media of world news!

Earlier in the week I learned of a work God did in America that I just can't discuss right now.  It's too amazing.  Too wonderful.  The story has ramifications of both wonder and considerable threat to those involved.  Let it suffice to say that the information is accurate and the witness is true as to God giving a signal of heavenly proportion so that not one person involved could take credit nor be given such.  This story will eventually be told.

Therefore, I toss an idea your way; a challenge that is bigger than ice bucket drenching (which is pretty amazing).  Would you spread the word among your friends and your churches that we are seeking prayer marchers who will pray for the next week for two specific matters: (1) that God would continually show up in the media by receiving glory for His work, and (2) that God would signal us with mighty works that no man or woman could have even thought to try?

Let's go on a prayer campaign for a week.  And, then let us share with others the things we witness which are from the deep regions of God.  Spread the word through Facebook, texts, church bulletins, church announcements, and random encounters with others who would join us.

Go.