Tuesday, September 23, 2014

AMBITION CAN BE A DISTRACTION

Of course we draw with admiration to those among us who have great zeal for life. And, too, those of aggressive nature who dream big seem to be some of my more glorious heroes.  These elements, however, can become a serious distraction if not aware of subtle pitfalls.

On the run is more than Mobil oil's slogan.  It is society.  While we often voice complaint, the moving pace of our days and nights is what we enjoy.  We are about the addiction of perpetual movement.  We are about activity.  We equate mobility with success.

Stillness, on the other hand, can be assumed blatant laziness if not irresponsible indifference.

God's children must balk at our busy lifestyles.  We must stop the Ferris Wheel and settle down.  To be still seems foreign to any who are bent on serving God.  The massive world has deep need and we each feel quite puny in our approach to bring relief.  Due to our compassionate hearts we tend to step up the pace over first sitting alone with Father to absorb the divine from a pure spiritual base.

Truth be told, ambition is often a distraction which keeps us out of deeper relationship with God.  We don't/won't take the time to be quiet so that He can get a word in edge-wise.  We are on the run.  Devotion to helping others is the name of our game while often we have failed to be filled with His Spirit.  We are found to be running....on empty.

Michael Wells makes a statement which seems...well...wrong.  Here is a great secret: when we are in the perfect will of God, we hear and feel nothing.  Yet, this comment is important.  Stillness is His focus.  We are simply His.  There is no stimulation nor is there need for it.  We are simply wonderfully in God's presence.

Psalm 46:10's Be still and know that I am God seems to feel weird.  That's it? Shouldn't I be moving; roaming the earth as a representation of His Son?  Of course. And when we evaluate His Son's walk it is not obscure teaching that Jesus spent very much time alone, immobile, being near Father.

There is dire need for us to develop restful relationship with our Father.  He yearns for us to be present in mind, heart, and soul.  We struggle to take a break from the phones, emails, demands, and schedules.  Rest isn't rest for often it is bombarded with things waiting for us to get done.  

With a church-world full of whistles, bells, missions, and programs, it is up to each of us to hear His call for personal relationship over our bent on keeping the plates-a-spinning.

So how do we stop it?  How to we get off of this non-stop cycle?  Do it.  Let the phone ring.  Let the FB world go on without our watchful eyes.  Let the church do its bountiful labors at times without you.  You rest.  You'll be back.  You'll be serving so that others can rest.

Ambition can be a distraction.  No.  It IS a distraction for far too many when we trust our efforts more than we trust His presence.


Saturday, September 20, 2014

BEING CRITICAL OF CHURCHES IS NO EXCUSE TO AVOID THEM

I surely understand any who just can't take churches and church people.  We are simply weird, even mean, in places.  The one thing we seem most consistent in is probably our inconsistency.  Therefore, due to the latter, the multitude feels they deserve a pass.

Not so.

Have you ever heard of car wrecks?  Any resulting in death?  Everyday?  So may I inquire, did that stop you from learning to drive?  And did you approach such with great enthusiasm?

Again, did you ever hear of a school teacher who was rude, unfair, and biased?  Did you ever take a class from him or her and leave discouraged?  And, did you believe that because this person was ridiculous that Math or Economics or Social Studies was also just as absurd?  Do people gauge the validity/accuracy of a subject by poor instruction?

Regarding the medical field, would you know of the term Quack?  When stricken with an ache or an illness, does society avoid the medical field at large because of the many Quack-a-holics posing as reputable physicians?

No.  A thinking people does not avoid the subject in any field; even when one may target those in the field who are dismal failures.  We seem not to behave this way with one exception; religion.  In this zone we easily become uneducated, even whimsical, experts.

Referencing automobiles, education, and the medical system, we do our homework. We train to drive knowing that we must be alert to potential accidents.  Never do we bail from learning because of an inadequate instructor by concluding all education is both delinquent and stupid. In the medical profession, we inquire who's good; who isn't.

We face each of these potential challenges with brain and heart.  We have an innate capacity to sort the good from the bad and the ugly.  We then walk away from the slackers and move toward the informed.  Never do we dismiss a topic because of the silliness of the representative.

Why cannot society do the same with faith?  Why the dismissal with a shrug because we find easy excuse to claim fraud or quack?  Why do so many feel this one area can be given no attention, no study, no research?  Each individual deserves better responsibility from him/herself.  Death, dying, and eternal life is worth research before we just irresponsibly reject with smug or snarky indifference.

I work in ministry.  I grasp the bombardment of negative accusations toward religion. I agree with many of them.  We are a people of faith who are stuck, strangled, and stranded by things we claim as coming from God that He never said.  Guys like me have made faith way too hard.  We deserve being questioned.

However, God is not a fraud.  Jesus did die for every individual; history alone supports this as truth.  Calendars are based upon his birth.  The Holy Spirit is our divine supportive Friend.  These are not fake.  These, though, go without serious study by the masses.

Please, I can't think of anything more devastating than one who would waste their very own soul simply by ignoring the subject.  Devoted to risking to drive?  Yes.  To getting an education?  Yes. To being medically treated?  Yes.  Yet no backbone to research the one zone (the only zone) which will affect them for eternity?  Grave mistake.

Reject God if you will; but please do so because you have studied to find Him incomplete.  Do not waste your inner-most truest being.  The Jesus-life isn't a racket as many would parade it to be.  He is the true hope of authentic life; not just for later, but for now.

Personally, I work in a zone that connects with wonderful people who had neither interest nor time for the God-show.  Until....until they lay on their deathbeds.  Then things change.  Criticism, anger, need for getting ahead, worry over things that didn't matter seem to melt out of existence.

In her finals days, a lady asked me, Why would I wait so long to think about God? Facing one's death knocks the props of rejection out from under everyone.  Love fills their speech.  Compassion resonates. Belief arises.

I cheer you on.  Experience this God-dimensioned life for the rest of your life; not just when you are dying and conclude then that there is no one you can turn to except the One you make have either mocked or ignored.  God loves every person.  Believe Him. He is always waiting and welcoming.


Friday, September 19, 2014

QUIET OUR SPIRITS. RELAX OUR NERVES.

I read these words this morning and feel certain they would bless you.

We poor human creatures are constantly being frustrated by limitations imposed upon us from without and within....Life is a short and fevered rehearsal for a concert we cannot stay to give.  Just when we appear to have attained some proficiency we are forced to lay our instruments down.  There is simply not enough time to think, to become, to perform what the constitution of our natures indicate we are capable of.

....How completely satisfying to turn from our limitations to a God who has none.  Eternal years lie in His heart.  For Him time does not pass, it remains; and those who are in Christ share with Him all the riches of limitless time and endless years.  God never hurries....Only to know this is to quiet our spirits and relax our nerves.  For those out of Christ, time is a devouring beast.

Abounding sin is the terror of the world, but abounding grace is the hope of mankind.

A. W. Tozer

Thursday, September 18, 2014

SECOND BIRTH/FIRST DEATH

I do not mean to be an alarmist.  The Bible directs us away from making ignorant speculations. However, I am alarmed.  America is facing a brutal enemy in ISIS.  They are here.

We have this grand knack of telling ourselves that threat from enemy powers is always over there or at least wherever we are not.  Such days are fading.  Catastrophic days will not come with slow warning.  Terrorists strikes will be sudden...and devastating.  Our current conditions are all of the warnings that we will most likely receive.

Therefore, I wish to give direction and support as to how we win with these conditions.  For the hopeful, there are two births as well as two deaths.  The first birth is earthy; the second of heaven.  The first death is of heaven; the second earthy.  We are born and then born again.  We die in baptism in Jesus.  Later we die to be buried in the local cemetery.

Just as seedlings die only to bear a new standard of life (bulb to flower), nature assures us that we are not foolish to believe that there is life after death.  Each person is to be born a second time (Jn. 3:3-5) to become a new creation (II Cor. 5:17); as the old things pass away.  Second birth by first death; born again by being baptized (buried) into Jesus.

Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into his death?  Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.  For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of his resurrection (Romans 6:3-5).

Man is born once of flesh and is to be born a second time of the Spirit.  In the rebirth process, one dies a first death to self.  A second death will occur where breath leaves the body and burial into the ground is the final state of the flesh.  At the first death; sin leaves the body.  In the second, breath exits.

Two births.  Two deaths.  No one wants to be found with only one birth and one death.

Every person has the option to win over this temporary life of mere decades in count.  Even facing the strongest of attacks, we are free to choose a perfect hiding place; that of Jesus, buried in him at baptism and riding out all of life within him.  For you have died and you life is hidden with Christ in God ( Col. 3:3) is the perfect plot to escape a final earthy death.

While this is a rather simple process (born over and pre-die in a watery grave), it is equally intimidating.  There is resistance from many sides.  Some don't want to appear religious.  Others are simply timid.  Yet, others will find excuse by delay with intent on someday; maybe.  This, however, is an urgent matter for each of us personally.  There are no barriers to our acceptance of this process except for the ones we conjure ourselves.

Whether terrorism hits our countryside, death lurks in the meantime for every person.  At that window, we will not be concerned about what others think.  Our stubborn resistance will melt into love for the One who created us, died for us, and was resurrected to show us the eternal living hope.

I do offer caution.  Baptism is not our god.  God is.  This burial in a watery grave symbolizes we are to enter the tomb of Jesus.  It was there from where he arose.  As we immediately arise from that grave of which God speaks, sins are removed (all forevermore) and the Holy Spirit of God enters us (Acts 2:38).  It is the entrance into and the exit out of a God-designed grave; an exit strategy by God Himself.

The Bible is not vague.  God is real.  He signals us each Spring in the vineyards, timbers, and cornfields that life emerges from dead appearances.  He has been consistent to bring on the Sun following every dark night; without exception.

It is time for each of us to get serious.  For certain we have already experienced the first birth; the natural one.  And the final death approaches.  What can one do to avoid the crushing blow of the latter?  Enter the second birth which is the first death (to ourselves).  Hidden in Jesus, we have life abundant from here on out.

If you have yet to be baptized into Christ, it is time for you to seriously ponder a second birth/first death.

(If you would find this post helpful, please forward as there are many who would ponder these thoughts and find them useful.  Thank you.)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

ARE WE DIFFERENT IN A JESUS SORT OF WAY?

Times are very challenging in today's world.  Terrorism, poverty, and broken relationships headline the media.  Stern news breaks daily with signals of wreck and ruin.

And us?  We as believers?  Are we walking side-by-side with those who have zero confidence in the reality and the effectiveness of the kingdom of God; yet we head for church once a week and sometimes twice?  Are we found to have any element about us that is more than religiosity (devoted to our own religion, but makes us still no different)?

Are we living among the dead as more dead than alive ourselves?

Or, are we a called-out group of whom it can be said that there is surely something special about these who go through the same church motions; yet these seem to be alive in some unique and mysterious way?  Are we activated by God or are we just active in church?

The difference could/should/would be in the power source.  Ritually dull or responsively driven? Are we operating on our own understanding and steam?  Or, are we directly connected to the power of God in Spirit energy?

If the latter, we are found with a confidence that comes not from our strongest positioning for accomplishment; but rather it is completely found in the Holy Spirit who is the adequate one.  Nothing comes from us (our own brain and brawn), but it comes from the Living God around and through us if we are found to be of any valuable effect (II Cor. 3:4-5).

II Timothy 3 warns that there are those (often us) who have a form of godliness; yet have denied His power.

Churches today are much about form.  High church.  Low church.  Outreach church. One can be formal while another is casual.  Some forms draw.  Others wain.  Both can be found to have centered upon form.  The kingdom question is whether there is any power from above to be found among the gatherers, believers, servers, and defenders.

Formation is both biblical and valuable.  It is also deceitful if church time is spent organizing and plotting without the impactive presence of the Holy Spirit of God. Churches are in danger of becoming a Word Society where our talk is technical, resourceful, and contemplative without a trace of unusual energy from above.

Our dynamics have rescinded from effectivity among our communities to rigorous dialog of explanation, or definition, with very little difference-making power.  I (we) are to be different from our God-denying world in a Jesus sort of way.  Our walk is to be backed by the Holy Spirit similarly to the way America's economy is to be backed by Fort Knox.

Jesus expressed clearly that apart from the Father he could do nothing.  We must find our devotion is seeking connection with the Father that we get anything done. Churches vary; styles, missions, and locations; even languages.  Yet, there is to be something central in every one; the power of the Holy Spirit of God.

We are to be different in this Jesus sort of way.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

FAITH ISN'T SPELLED B-L-A-C-K-A-N-D-W-H-I-T-E

Faith isn't for sissies.  It is that deep inner conviction that things we cannot see are actually in existence.  Faith is assurance.  Assurance would be the force of our need to know for sure when there seems to be nothing physical nor rational to verify.

Humanity is challenged at our deepest senses over this matter of faith.  It isn't logical.  It won't bow to one's strongest calculations.  Faith defies the god of human reason.  It is mystery in it's fullest term.

Brene' Brown agrees.  Faith is a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty.  

She follows quickly, I also learned that it's not always the scientists who struggle with faith and the religious who fully embrace uncertainty.  Many forms of fundamentalism and extremism are about choosing certainty over faith.

Fundamentalism and extremism are always roaming the halls of our camps.  These two have the loudest bark and impose the strongest threat.  They are church bullies.  These two culprits live to intimidate tender believers who would otherwise break free into a zone of brave devotion to the wild call of God.

Faith isn't black and white.  It comes with uncertain and even blurred lines.  Mystery is....mystery.  It isn't charted.  Neither is it explained, tested, nor provable.  In the territory of faith we are often called by God to simply believe because He said so.  (Hmmm...brings back the frequent words of my mother when I was a child.)

Faith is all around.  We all have it.  Regarding God, one either has the faith He exists or else the faith that He doesn't.  Believers' conclusions are based on search of the Word of God.  In that sentence alone is surely long-range mystery.  Doubters don't buy into such silliness (to them).  Yet, I believe, these do so without realizing they have no evidence, proof, nor verification for their stance.

Faith isn't spelled B-L-A-C-K-A-N-D-W-H-I-T-E.  It is spelled M-Y-S-T-E-R-Y.  Each is free to choose.  Fundamentalism and extremism, one must be warned, are mere church tyrants who live to distract us from freely experiencing the mystery of God by faith in the Son and the power of the Holy Spirit.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

EXCUSE ME, SIR. YOUR PANTS ARE UNZIPPED.

Embarrassment.

We either have it or else we possess its dread.

Chuck Swindoll says that we men are so self-conscious that we constantly check the fly of our pants.  I've heard of two occasions where one lady walked up to another and whispered, Excuse me, but you have toilet paper hanging over your belt in the back.

Say it ain't so!

May I take the reverse approach here?  It would be good for all if each of us could realize there are things about us personally that are embarrassing?  Mankind needs a constant supply of humility tablets.

The older we get it seems there remains a terrible glare from all as we regard ourselves a bit higher and mightier than a few others.  This is a grand violation of the heart that God wishes we possessed.  Arrogance plagues all of us; and it seems to be very equal among us.  Selfishness is prominent in all; not just a select few.  To look down at our noses to any other is a sinful posture.

I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith (Rom. 12:3).  A measure of faith; not the whole load.  No one possesses the complete package.  Enter the need for the church body to work in harmony.

Everyone has a speck of faith; maybe two or even three specks.  And the same individuals possess unzipped pants and toilet paper hanging out.  It shows.  In every one of us, it shows.  You can run but you cannot hide.  In everyone of us our great lack in major areas shows.

This is why we need one another.  To pool our gifts from God, the few which each possesses, makes for a wonderful, graceful, and powerful body of believers. Superstars and shy servants; all are only gifted in a few areas and are visibly deficient in many more areas.

Sound judgment isn't about information stored in a mind nor is it vast experiences one encountered.  Sound judgment only comes from humility.  One can be gifted in outreach, wisdom, compassion and/or management.  Not one of we gifted possesses sound judgment if believing we have the upper hand on another.  Not ever.

Especially in church leadership, must we temper our roles with the necessity of regarding others as more important than ourselves.  Arrogance warps our service.  We then cause the light from God to begin to glare.  Glare causes onlookers to look away rather than toward.

Regardless of what we have to offer, who we know, or what God has let us do, it would serve us to remember that every day of our lives finds us with either our pants unzipped or toilet paper hanging out the back of our slacks.