Saturday, January 21, 2017

OWN THE CRITICISM YOU RECEIVE

There is an invisible doctrine that has always been among us in the church.  We will sacrifice dollars and we will surrender time; but we will not do the receiving of criticism.  Think about it, please.  We are called to what?  Take up our cross and follow him.

Taking up our cross means that we are voluntarily, intentionally, in trouble...with people.  Church is trouble.  Of course on so many fronts it is full of joy and peace and valued meaning.  Yet, the one thing about Jesus that reversed the world from doom to hope was his willingness to take on the whole believing load which certainly meant mistreatment.  We seem to be in up to a point.

This week we made an announcement that was painful to put forth; the ending of the Tulsa Workshop.  Hundreds of loving comments of support have passed my computer screen and washed my sad heart.  And then there are those who seem to have found their opportunity to get to say in public as to how they feel quite negatively about our event.  Some man named Stanley B. Adams put the following out there for all to see on Facebook: this is what happens with the Tulsa congregation left its first love, you cannot put lipstick on a pig and expect it to be other than a pig. Godlessness has its own reward.

I dare to repeat this man's feelings for the sake of those of you who also have critics.  This isn't fun.  It is hurtful.  Yet, this is the very thing that you will face as you make progress in the Kingdom.  Don't resist.  And, certainly don't hate.  What this man and others have posted about me/us this week is a drop in the bucket as to how lacking that I know that I really am.  I've made multiple mistakes in the workshop decision process.  And, I'm not done being a flimsy leader.

But this is for you, young leaders.  Don't run when criticism comes your way.  Rather own it.  It is an essential part of the ministry package.  We will not prosper without it.  Peter took a stab at advising Jesus to go some other route than the cross.  Jesus' response was to connect Peter's seemingly thoughtful and protective words as those coming from Satan's lips.

We don't like struggle.  We just like church the way we like it.  So we eventually, usually, run.  So I join with other voices down through the ages saying, Don't resist, don't hate, don't run, and don't quit.  I deserved the negative comment above, and others like it, coming at me.  I'm a weak feeble man trying to wear the courageous sandals of our Savior's feet.  He did it well.  I resist at oh so many turns.

Criticism is to be a part of our Christian walk.  Otherwise the cross would be a mere piece of jewelry and not our heart-felt calling to enduring commitment.  Yes, some church stuff isn't fun and isn't fair; but it is the Jesus-style.  We are called to love our enemies; to do good to those that hate us.  He meant it and showed us how.  We are not free to opt out.  I wonder if the society's deepest crippling could be because we massive church-attenders love those we love and despise those we despise which avoids the central call of the Cross.

Don't be down because someone takes a shot at you.  Rather, awaken to the fabulous opportunity of God in such a moment.  He wastes not one crumb of a crummy life.

We exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; AND HOPE DOES NOT DISAPPOINT, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us....Romans 5:3-5.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

GOD ALWAYS SEEMS TO HAVE AN IDEA

The flesh lives in ruts; hides in them, even.  The spirit abides on an entirely different terrain.  We must be intentional to lean into the latter rather than be manipulated by the former.  Every day is a YES in Him.  Every circumstance is poised for God's resurrection power which irritates the human need to control through some self-induced and controlling creed of life; religious or not.

God knows how to do stuff!

God can take a group (well a nation, really) out for a walk, come over a hill only to see a swollen river, and part it so smoothly that the travelers just assume that this was a part of the guided tour.  But don't dare try to lock Him into a pattern for one day He will demonstrate that parting of the waters is not essential for everyone's travel.  Jesus simply used such as a sidewalk when approaching his friends in the boat.

God has so been the God of conformity and non-conformity; simultaneously.  This one fact bugs any who wish to get Him to somehow operate from their base of understandable formation.  Some of His disciples would be jailed and He would leave them in there.  Others incarcerated would find that He would rattle the steel cages and the doors would fly open for great encounters of freedom.

Some stories would have dead individuals coming back to life while others died and stayed died (intended to be funny on the last died).  One moved on to Heaven bypassing the cemetery altogether.  While yet there were others who died and arose from the dead.  Now just which way is it that God intends to work?  Yes.

I'm going through the weirdest stuff right now:
  • My role is coming to an end July 16.
  • We announced this week that the Tulsa Workshop is now ended.
  • In a week I will go to my final St. Louis Cardinals Legends Camp.
  • And...I await the results of a brain scan which is sorta weird to me.
So what is a man who looks like Brad Pitt to do with all of this?  I'm to do what we are all to do when facing challenges that sometimes make us cry.  We praise God.  We tell Him "thank you".  We do not flinch.  What we do is live in certainty that as one door closes others break open.  This is the way it will go for me and how it will unfold for you.

God is never out of ideas.  I truly believe that He has wonder in mind that no man or woman has dared even inquire about; let alone approach.  

So I look forward with ambition.  I may be 69 1/2 but I don't look a day over 69 1/8.  While some doors necessarily close, we are now able to watch for the surprises of God which will cause great cheer and bear much fruit.  Every day is a good day...Romans 5:1-5.  Nothing changes that...ever.



Sunday, January 15, 2017

THE GRACE OF GOD

Does it ever hit you that to hear the terminology the grace of God that it feels like nothing was just spoken?  Does such feel empty?  Isn't there sort of an, And? or So? that immediately lingers?  This very grace dynamic of the present and engaged God among His followers has been aborted.  We prefer intriguing meaning of Greek verbiage or profitable social works that would give us something to show for our faith efforts.  In other words, the grace of God is in perpetual danger of being shelved for the exchange and implementation of human acts in the Kingdom business.

J. I. Packer wrote over forty years ago that our conception of grace has not been so much debased as non-existent.  The thought means nothing to them; it does not touch their experience at all.  Talk to them about the church's heating, or last year's accounts, and they are with you at once; but speak  to them about the realities of which the word 'grace' points, and their attitude is one of deferential blankness.  

For those of us who cut our teeth on legalism, grace is a four-letter word.  This bias must be overcome.  The church, the members, are in deep need of the grace of God that is a five-letter word which connects the earthy with the heavenly.  God's grace is indescribably beautiful and over-achingly powerful.  His grace thrusts us into a zone of which the human cadence knows nothing.

We just must not leave home without it.  The grace of God transcends us from being human leaders to beyond-imagination service in the most drastic form of robust spirituality.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

TRY NOT TO FALL FOR THE "FOOLS GOLD" OF BETTER THAN OTHERS

Mediocrity hits us from all sides of life.  Name the topic of your moment and take note as to how much playing-life-safe while walking down the middle of the road is your lifestyle.  Our spiritual side has been knocked for a loop over this trend which seems so natural and is so acceptable.  This takes no thought, no Bible reading, no prayer, no serving.  To merely exist by what we deem our best behavior (well, most of the time, we tell ourselves) is a popular trend that does not offer inner life for us, but outer disgust with others.

I reference lost and saved as conditions of our eternal souls.  Such is profoundly a matter of deep importance for to live in mediocrity is never where Jesus lived.  Neither will it prove of value to our own lifestyle.  Such is a fake front that we, somehow, try to convince ourselves is the place to be.

To believe that one is fairly lost has a bit of baggage clinging to us.  From this we seem to admit that, okay, there are some things we get wrong here and there; but we aren't like those who blatantly live in sin.  We regard ourselves as no saints; but not like them.

Jesus destroyed such self-centered efforts at our self-induced need to somehow come out on top of the one next to us....that we don't like.  This method allows that because we can always, in our way of thinking, find those who are worse; much worse indeed.

What immediately follows this rerouting of our blatant sinfulness by denying that we are THAT bad, is a very mediocre confidence that we are saved.  This develops a HOPE SO; but not a certainty that Heaven will call our names.  As a matter of fact, these are pretty sure that He won't; but we refuse to drop the ax that we so enjoy filing to batter someone(s) we know.

So what's the answer?  Mediocrity is no way to live in the church; bossed by our moods and pushed by our preferences.  The answer is found in be in the truthful extremes of both.  We are very lost; each of us.  The ugliness of the Cross does not indicate that Jesus is paying for parking tickets.  No, he's covering for something extreme....like my/your terrible sinfulness.

Salvation, then, becomes a different matter of the heart.  When we are covered at the very worst about us, we are able to believe that we will receive the very best for us.  And, again I stress, this isn't just about the Judgment Day; but this is about how we live among one another now.

Axes to grind?  Bless your heart.  You don't get the self-picture do you?  I didn't for the longest time for I was operating from the FAIRLY LOST/SORTA SAVED position that routine religion supplies.  But it won't cut it for us.  This is no way to live...for it isn't real living.  Walking in comparison is Fools Gold of the heart.  Surrendering our personal awfuls for His cleanliness is hitting life in target center.

We are right with God because Jesus' righteousness was transferred to our accounts...as the greatest gift.  Dare to remove the wrappings and enjoy!

Friday, January 13, 2017

PREACHERS, POLITICIANS, AND OTHER QUESTIONABLE CHARACTERS

Our nation is in a world of enormous opportunity!  There is great need among the citizens, firm ideas among some noted as leaders, and possibility of success as far as minds dare imagine.  For politicians and guys like myself in spiritual leadership, we must abort any habitual divisive ways and renew our vows to do all we can to bring people together by the strength of God's Spirit.

Churches are divided and then splits exist among the dividees.  Politics, it seems in places, has become so uncooperatively political in significant pockets.  In both cases we are operating largely from sound-bites more than from deep thought for the community which could very much benefit from both systems' kindnesses and compassions.  Goodness reigns from both groups; yet the negative seems to get the news coverage and the coffee shop chatter.

Whether to blame preachers most or should it be the politicians for our diametrically opposed camps could be the same a discussing which came first; the chicken or the egg.  One reason that I choose to point this out is that Jesus calls us to life and both of these dimensions have surrendered vibrant living for winning debates; political or religious.

The way we will be effective in drawing a divided people together is for us to get out of the way.  The Jesus-style is the winner; but recall his very own people marked him as loser and strung him up in public shame.  The mid-day sunshine went completely dark when Jesus died on the cross.  The message from Heaven was obvious; You have just killed the light.

Society will gain ground, meaningful territory reclaimed, when we in the spirituals and in the governmentals can walk humbly with God and with one another.  To think of others first is still a long-shot in some churches and in some circles of government.  Those who have and are succeeding have done so only by the holy route Jesus proclaimed.

Our nation is always more effectively led when shouting matches are disbanded and soft-ball teams are formed.  Bias, if it isn't based on truth, is an immediate loser regardless of our newsreel preference.  Personal preference must make effort to yield to Truth; not a Bible-pounding, obnoxious scripture-spouting proof-texts, but new life for those worn and ground down to dust from discouragement who would very much benefit from our sacrificial love.

We have the means to make a difference!  Caring about neighbors and enemies would be a stunning new beginning, possibly, for a large populace.  Determining to pray for God's touch rather than parade our opinions would be a significant step forward.  Lifting our eyes beyond our immediate preferences just might thrill the tar out of us as we would discover a new land out there that we didn't know existed.

I know this; the more we give ourselves away for the benefit of others, the more we are likely to discover the life of which we had always dreamed.  That's a Jesus thing....Luke 9:23-24.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

TODAY IS A BIG DAY! I'M PUMPED!

You all are not going to believe what I'm about to tell you.

We all love celebrationalistic moments.  Right?  This is one of those ultra-exciting days in my life.  Yes, there have been many and I'm grateful for each.  That wonder continues surely is fascinating, I say.

I'm 69 1/2 years old and; yet, it is too awesome to still feel like a kid.  I get to do the funnest stuff ever!  I get to know the funnest people ever!

And so today is a benchmark day that I feel certain you will want to know of its most preciousational unfolding.

Today....

Today.....

My brand new baseball glove is to be delivered to my house by UPS!

Go ahead!  Be envious!

Monday, January 09, 2017

WONDERFUL IMMEDIATE RELIEF FOR A STRESSFUL LIFE

True.  We can't always avoid many of the challenges that come our way.  We are able, however, to manage some of them with ability to reclaim hope and to demonstrate love.  Why else would God give us His Holy Spirit if were not to be divinely equipped for earthly conflict.  Look at the descriptions of the Fruit.  Yep, God surely saw conflict in mind.  But He, too, saw the way into wonder, and glory, and joy was to yield to the Spirit who knows how to make life pop.

Our job is to cut the accusations toward another as to how miserable they make us and let this be a time of Holy Spirit action.  Anyone can forgive anytime anyone wants to do this.  The Spirit of God is not Voodoo weirdness beyond the human imagination.  No, He is the supply of robust fellowship when our flesh prefers to rule with clinched fists and teeth.

Romans 2:1-5 pins each of us to the whipping post.  Anytime we want to blast away at another, Paul wrote that we are precisely alike in our actions; the very same as those of our opposition.  Every time we accuse another we condemn ourselves.  Go ahead and ignore it if that's one's wish; but be certain the way you condemn or release sets the stage for each of us face to face with the Judge.

I think it was Jesus who stood beside a most sinful woman out in the bright sunlight as accusers built their case as to why they could/should/would stone her to death on the spot.  Jesus didn't explain her.  He inquired as to one thing of them.  Who among you is not guilty of sin...fire away!  100% dropped their charges, released their firing-power, and walked away.

This truth is one that stands in enormous need every day in every household toward every relative and every friend.  Sin is sin.  Poor behavior is poor behavior.  Conflict is conflict.  The game-changer in all of these situations, however, is that every participant was such a sinful mess that God had to send in a rescue team straight out of Heaven....because we couldn't keep our act together.

Not.  One.  Of.  Us.

I'm sure you been offended.  Do not take lightly, though, that you have offended.  I'm certain you are tempted to keep score.  But what you may not realize is that you have many friends who chalk your walk and your talk up to being just like the rest of us so we have no choice but to give you room to be the wonderful you we dearly love.  Therefore, if you are driven to grind an ax, use it for chopping wood and not for cutting down humans who are precisely, exactly as are you....deeply flawed.