Friday, June 24, 2016

WHAT IS IT GOING TO TAKE?

What is it going to take to reach the entire world with the powerful good news that Jesus is the resource for hope?  What can be thought, said, or done to make aggressive impact on our neglected, our forgotten, our lonely, and our broken?  I believe that the hope lies within one mighty seed of human behavior that will stun society and shake the world.

Humility.

It is going to take humble spirits to wreak favorable havoc in a dark and selfish state...of which each of us tends to participate.  From top to bottom and side to side the range of personalities all have one thread in common; we are impaired because the cream of self-awareness perpetually rises to the top.  Jesus devastated such aggression.

What is it going to take?  This is such a monumental question because we already understand the question and know the answer.  Yet, we struggle to attain it.  Humility appears to be not so simple.  It takes the grandest self-sacrifice known to the heart of any man or woman.  Yet, we treat the subject as if it is a rather sweet character and a mild disposition like trying to be good.  Hardly.

Humility was the commitment of Jesus.  He was beaten, tortured, and died due to the truth that He could elevate each of us above himself.  In humility Best regarded us as superior.  It is within this framework that compassion is both allowed and then executed.

What is it going to take to inspire the church, reach the neighbor, and change the world?  It will not be due to church affiliate nor will it be because we regularly sit in church buildings.  It will only be because and when we can express authentic humility that there will be a hopeful surge of renewal.

For myself, I have yet to master this element of the Christian walk.  Many of you could attest to this from your experience with me.  Yet, it is the call and the direction of every believer.  Until we each grasp the truth that we are the least in any room, we will take up a few waking hours seeking or serving, proving or disproving; but we will not make impact like Jesus.

We are encouraged (no, called) to take up our crosses and follow him....day by day.  As we drag them through the streets, visible to all, may we dare hold the bravery to look bad in order to make even our enemies look good.  This....it what it is going to take to awaken a society which has rocked itself to sleep by our rampant self-serving.  Via the eyes of humility we are able to see the value of every man and every woman regardless of religious (or non) bent, educational level, or independent callings.

What is it going to take....practically speaking?

We must never write any person off as hopeless.  Jesus was always mingling among, what the religious leaders posed as, the wrong crowd.  We must get over the sense that what we each think, individually, is what God thinks.  Only by a downward shift will we truly be open to the upward call.  God has mighty and magnificent things in store for His children.  We must be open to changing our minds, reversing some courses, and redirecting ministerial energies in order to discover more clearly what it is going to take to win the most souls in this day and time.

This might be a portion of what it is going to take....to reach more, teach more, be more.




Thursday, June 23, 2016

IF "BEYOND IMAGINATION" WOULD BE EXERCISED

You know that one of my all-time favorite verses is from Ephesians 3:20; Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we ask of think, according to the power that works within us...  God is able to do the big three--exceedingly, abundantly, beyond--according to the power of the Holy Spirit who works within (see the text, Eph. 3:14-21).  I'm proposing that each of us has light-years of advancement to make regarding this electrifying fact.

Fear shouldn't be a factor.  Faith should be.

The very nature of faith is to walk where there is no path.  Human nature wants routine, management, and eventual control.  This is why the WORD ONLY rule was spun in years past as it effectively skirted the Holy Spirit involvement which will not be controlled by human judgment.  One of the phrases often quoted to me when arriving as a young preacher at Memorial was the warning: We don't want any surprises.  And guess what?  We had none.  All went according to the controlled thermostat of manly correctives with no room for the what if, what could be twins of Holy Spirit possibility.

What would it be like if we could continue to mature in the beyond imagination exercises of the faith walk?  What is it about our stances that we would discover it difficult to fulfill the doctrine of this Ephesians text?  Why would leaders hedge on this most impacting Word that would let the church productively soar?

The probe begins with me (of course, yours begins with you).  For 40 years beginning in the auditorium in Quincy, Illinois I would spend time with God asking that He help me/use me/guide me to reach the whole world.  I want to impact the have-nots, the has-beens, and the could-bes.  I hunger to reach even the strongest churches/leaders who are strong on regulation of church pattern and weak on relationship with Jesus.  I need all of this.

Would any of you need a nudge to move off of what you might regard as live-center when its rote movement coupled with repetitive phrases has left you quite stuck on dead-center?  I think so.  Due to the immeasurable size of God and the lavish work of the Spirit, I believe this need to be of constant wonder and hope.

What system have you developed that works well for controlling people; yet, it simultaneously blocks the adventuresome Spirit.  I believe many of our congregations are in serious trouble.  Our blindness to doing-things-the-way-we-have-always-done-them doctrine is drooping; not just in the smaller congregations, but the larger ones as well.  If the Spirit of God isn't leading, then we must be.  And if we are, our energy will eventually begin fade with age.  The good news is that if our ministry is of the Spirit, we are newer and more energized for it day by day (II Cor. 4:16).

So, Terry, what is it exactly that you think we should consider?  Wouldn't we make progress if we moved from preserving the church to engaging with Father?  Wouldn't it be something if we could dare let go of those controls which we believe provides us security and then actually step out into the swollen waters of the Red Sea to experience what God could do?  Are our congregations supplying energy to the lower grades, interest to the high-schoolers, but finding that the college group begins to wither on the vine right before our very eyes?  This is one challenge to see if we are providing form or are we offering life.

What I'm suggesting is not that we focus upon an age group; but upon our system of weakening safety...our adamant insistence that we set the organization in motion, keep it under our control, and hope that new families move in.  The Spirit of God is all about three stretches to the human heart; excessive, abundant, beyond.  Contrarily, self wants regulation in the name of prudence, management, and non-disturbance.

We do not want to be caught off-guard.  This is major to our humanistic effort to walk with God.  We don't want to appear different from our conservative critics so we walk in safety of reservation.  When this goes on we find that we have not died to self; although that doctrine is one of our favorite discussions in Bible classes.  Rather, we have died to kingdom expansion.

IF "BEYOND IMAGINATION" WOULD BE EXERCISED, we would find wowing and wonderful supplies and surprises of God.  I experience this at times and so do many of you.  May we cheer the church on to letting go and letting God....even when we thought that in itself was nothing but a mere slogan.  It is more than a slogan.  It is the call of the Spirit to the flesh; Move over!



Saturday, June 18, 2016

GOD: FACT OR FICTION?

Is there really a God?  Is the idea that Christians put forth as to His reality some sort of inherited fabrication merely perpetuated by family lineage?  Does God exist?  Or, is this idea a hoax of silliest dimension by the thoughtless or weak-minded?  I understand the questions.  They are usually honest.

Probing minds which search are willing to give fair evaluation as to whether there is anything substantive to believing in the invisible God.  So let's talk about some things we already believe by faith because we see results.  Too, we regard them as most common which, I believe, makes the idea of faith feasible as well as most practical.

While the probe could take us into various zones of useful assistance, let's consider one idea for now.  Is it really possible that there is life after death?  Is the concept of Heaven legitimate?  Or, is this mere folklore in order to keep the church attendance thriving?  I believe the life-after-death issue is both defining as well as clarifying as well as convincing.

Is there a "back again" dynamic among us?  Or is this, once again, the grandest of wishful thinking?  We are free to probe as well as imagine.  Therefore, I would point us to a couple of things we can clearly grasp with hope that a seeker might give the spiritual evaluation credibility.

How many times, as a child, did you ponder on a quiet summer day the activity of what we called the woolly worm?  Yes, we believed.  We believed that in some wild and unexplainable process this fuzzy crawler would one day take off in flight.  Our faith thought that transformation would one day occur.

The promise of resurrection/transfiguration remains one of the greatest artistries of the Creator to this day!

Okay, so we have the caterpillar/butterfly concept.  Are you convinced that life after death is of possibility?  Or is this just another matter of wishful believing which has no actual bearing on the reality of life?  Do you think there is life and then death and then nothing?  Nada?  It's done?

I don't blame any who question.  We need to/want to know.  Is faith legitimate or hoaky?  I propose that this is serious stuff.  We would like some sort of signal that there is actuality beyond the grave.  So I encourage you that there really is reallyness; even once we die.

One of my personal convincers for my questioning mind is that of a seed.  It is never planted to become what it already is.  Wouldn't that be weird if planting three kernels of corn in a garden hill would produce three kernels of corn?  So first, seed it is sown just hoping (on the part of the sower) that it will die.  And if it will die it will become...more...more than it could have ever imagined.

Every cornfield is God's chemistry lab doing all it can to persuade seekers that there really is life after death.  Seed is planted.  It must die in order to give birth to a newer, larger, more detailed order.

God: fact or fiction?  I believe He gives us ample reason to believe for He shows us in beautiful simplicity season by season.




Friday, June 17, 2016

WHAT IN THE HEAVEN IS GOING ON HERE?

How many times we find ourselves living in that negative (but real world) of, It seems to be just one thing after another!

This pattern seems to create one big question.  Can there be hope when there are no signs of any on the horizon?  Are there simply not pockets of loneliness or defeat that would seem to officially cancel any reasonable expectation of hope?

One of the aspects of faith that I find so extremely legitimate is that what society needs most God offers most.  The ancient one's, Abraham, trademark was that of hope.  Hope when there was none to be calculated according to the human mind.  This is where faith knocks at the doors of our hearts.  Would you please open the door that I might show you an alternative way to living?, the gentle voice pleads.

By unexplainable (and really, unreasonable) perspective known as faith, the Bible says that Abraham went out not knowing where he was going.  Really?  Headed out to succeed...while directionless?  Wouldn't this image be more of goof-ball than faith? And then later he and Sarah had their firstborn when they were the age of the baby's great-grandparents.  Oh, that waiting period surely would have given them time to doubt God's promises of having a child.  But, no, they would not quit hoping.

And then there's that other time when this newborn grew up to be a hunk of a young man and God asked Abraham to sacrifice this boy upon a woodpile.  In his heart against hearts, Abraham prepared to do what God wanted with definite and incomplete unawareness as to what in the Heaven was going on here.  Abraham did it; no assurance that this wasn't just his wild imagination, no manual, no counselor, no hint of reason why.  And God intervened.

At one juncture Abraham and aged wife were childless with nothing but a promise from God that they would eventually become very key parents.  Decades passed.  No baby.  In their what would have been their great-grandparent years, they were pregnant!  And we want faith to fit our reasonable style?  To ice the faith cake, this most treasured one God gave them was later required of God to be offered as a sacrifice...by his most aged dad.

What?  They had waited oh so long.  Just how dear, dear, extremely dear must this lad have been in mother's eyes?  Say it ain't so God.  Oh, please say it ain't so.  Say we aren't hearing you correctly?  But...okay...you gave him to us and we trust you...by faith...so....okay.  We believe that even if he die, you know how to bring him back to life.  Okay, God.  We're okay with this.

We call this living with nothing more than a promise and a prayer.  And, yes, we call this living!  Don't be afraid to believe God at what may seem to be the most obviously wrong times.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

HE AGONIZED OVER US

And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.  Luke 22:44

The above is extracted from a scene in the Garden as Jesus faced execution.  He agonized during deep and penetrating prayer as he approached his assignment to die that the world would have hope.  He wasn't reluctant.  He was driven to offer legitimate reason for the rest of us to hope.

You do get it, don't you, that we are called to follow his steps?  You do get it, don't you, that church life isn't about whether you like the preacher or the music?  You do get it, don't you, that the world around us cannot get well until followers of Jesus die for the enemy?  Right?

We are living in heavy, serious, times.  Complexity confuses.  Discouragement distracts.  Yet, real honest hope is to be found in this One who faced the cross head on.  Many of our hang-nail ailments might dissipate when we persistently grow into the true nature of being believers by living/dying that the wounded might be healed from their intensely discouraging days, months, and years.

Jesus did not say, Take up your songbook and follow me.  Nor did He call out, Be sure to find the church that both comforts you and notices you.  Not quite.  He agonized over us...and then handed us the like-painful baton.  And.  We.  Will.  Not.  Flinch.



Wednesday, June 15, 2016

HEY. YOU MIGHT WANT TO KEEP WHAT I'M ABOUT TO TELL YOU UNDER YOUR HAT.

There's a slick talker roaming within each of our own minds pushing a propaganda of sorts.  It's a snow job on how bad others are doing, looking, or being while we rationalize within our biased heads that we are above all of the them and they failings.  If they would only...  If they could just see themselves...  Why, if they were as quick... or as smart...or as...  Oh how we do carry on within ourselves about our obvious (but subtle) superiority.

And...because of this selfie-attitude, our communities are in a world of hurt?  Why? Because we are a dishonest mess.  We profess that our failings are only slight and if they should be desperately visible we admit we have them; but we tend to blame someone else for our lack hoping to get ourselves off of the hook.  Really, we are no better than any neighbor.  No better.

Society is on the prowl for something; something meaningful, something rich, something far beyond the stagnating routine of normal.  Fortunately, many have the drive within to still want to find that treasure; to get there.  Be encouraged.  There is a grand secret embedded within the rolling hills of life's pursuit.  Brennan Manning (I just love this man's heart) mentioned that when G. K. Chesterton's detective priest, Father Brown, is asked how he could be so astute as to get into a criminal's mind, he answers that it came from the discovery that he is a criminal himself.

Before I quote his next paragraph, hear well what is said.  To get into a criminal's mind one must discover that he is a criminal himself.  At that point, one will know how a criminal thinks.  God's genius already knew this.  If Father was to get into man's mind, he absolutely would need to become a man himself.  And that He did.  We know him as Jesus.  No Divine one ever understood us better than the one who became as we.

No man's really any good, Chesterton continued, till he knows how bad he is, or might be; till he's realized how much right he has to all this talk of "criminals," as if they were apes in a forest ten thousand miles away; till he's got rid of all the dirty self-deception of talking about low types and deficient skills; till he's squeezed out the last drop of the oil of the Pharisees; till his only hope is somehow or other to have captured one criminal, and kept him safe under his own hat.

Should you be inclined to have a yearning to tell another how low and sinful someone else is, we will all do well to keep it under our own hat. It is at this point in one's life that genuine good begins to come forth.  Hurrah for Jesus showing us how.  No man is any good until he knows how bad he is.  This fact would transform the church into a mighty influence of both substantial relief and authentic hope...and it would let the neighborhood in.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

JUST WHEN YOU THINK THAT IT CAN'T GET WORSE

I think about you, dear reader.  I wouldn't know personally the many who have signed on to reading these posts.  But be assured, I write with you in mind...every day.  My calling is to cheer you on when other voices may have gone temporarily hoarse...or even silent.  You are worthy of encouragement for you are created in His image.

Life is very broken.  This is one of the strongest verifications that the Bible is true.  Its story begins in the Garden and not one person has broken the code for recovery other than Jesus.  That gives us motivation to learn of him because Jesus broke brokenness.

Be not discouraged...even when it is deemed intensely so.  See through it.  Such is a fake trying to mislead you; trying to convince you that life only gets worse.  It doesn't. Just when you think that it can't get worse....it can get better.  That's a good, new, even adventurous twist.

God isn't around to ruin our Sunday schedules; making us go to church when we'd rather golf, fish, or read.  No, God is around to pump hope, and joy, and life into our hearts.  He lived--and died--and arose--to affirm that the bad days are significantly ugly; but are no match for profound resurrection power.  You and I get to live in resurrection power; not just someday beyond the cemetery, but right now.

So just when you think that it can't worse is the very time to remember that the best is already here...right now!  Do what you can to drop the worry from around and lean into the promises from above.