Friday, August 26, 2016

THE CONNECTING FACTOR

The connecting factor...is a Person; not a rule-book.  We have the scriptures to know him...he said...John 5:39-40...but they weren't connecting because they had become infatuated with Bible study.

While the world has breath-taking aspects of wonder too enormous to describe, the daily pursuit for all has been reduced dramatically to getting by.  Such an observation isn't meant to be negative; but rather, to be accurate.  Take a walk in any direction and one will eventually come upon deep pain and agony of someone(s).  And then the sarcastic call of a few (well, maybe more than a few) is, Where is God in all of this?

The answer to that legitimate and important question is that God was, and is, and will be in the mix calling every soul to look in His direction.  His direction?  Why would one who is about to fade into insurmountable overwhelm have any regard for what God might think?  After all, if He is God, why hasn't he done something by now?

He has.  He does.  He will.

God's move toward creation was a brilliant tactic.  He entered as a newborn in order to experience our entry...and then our growth...and then our imagination...and then our obstacles...and then our defeats. God experientially walked through every phase from birth to death in order to understand both our hopes and our fears; our desires and our defeats.  God, through Jesus, was mentored by His own creation to learn first-hand just what it took and what was needed to do more than survive.  He found that restart was necessary and Jesus verified the Way.  He is the New Way.

The connecting factor is not our compassion for the hurting.  Neither is it the grasp of the Hebrew or the Greek language.  The connecting factor is not something we do or did.  It is totally what Father did.  He sent His own Son that whosoever would believe in Him....but oh how we've nearly over-quoted John 3:16 into a meaningless compilation of wordage when God intended it to be our most powerful Get Out of Jail Free card.  

Jesus is intentionally the connecting factor.  He did not begin on earth and pray his way upward for an audience with Father.  Nor was his an earth-beginning trek pressing in to the regions of Above.  No, rather he came from above to work his way into humanity; that very core where we live...and question...and doubt...and offend...and strive to improve.  It is Jesus who reached to us first.  He is the connecting factor...and the perfect one at that for he has walked in our sandals, encountered human rejections, and then beat the system....by beating the grave.

Live connected!



Thursday, August 25, 2016

IS EVERY PERSON SIGNIFICANT?

One of the great breakdowns of humanity is that of comparison; people to people.  And it is beyond strange just how flexible we use such a device.  We may compare ourselves to others to inflate our self-value while, simultaneously, we may deflate our worth when we stack our meager accomplishments against a few others.  We are so weird that way.

Here's a thing I know.  Every person on the planet struggles to believe in his or her exceptional significance.  From Prince to Pauper, generally speaking, very normal people live their days oblivious to their actual, factual wonder.  I know people at the top.  I know more who are at the bottom.  And I know even more who reside in the middle.  One matter is of striking resemblance.  Each level is the same regarding the insecurity as to whether they are making any real difference for society-at-large.

We strain to know exactly what it is that is valuable about us while being very touchy if anyone points toward one of our flaws.  Our self-defense is often only for the public arena for we privately are aware that we are so much worse than even what our insulters/accusers seem to note.

Every person....every individual....is quite significant.  The Accuser (Satan) has done and is doing his number on mankind.  We voluntarily have whittled ourselves down to nothing in our own minds.  We try not to look like we've had this talk with ourselves as we mingle among our friends.  We don't want them to know of our envy, our jealousy, our wicked thoughts, nor our relentless struggle for approval.  We portray to them in deceit at times that....we are doing pretty good.

Our job, therefore, is the job of being Jesus to the neglected, the unsure, even the unnoticed.  He had such a knack of picking up on the lonely soul in the crowd. Remember the woman who touched the hem of his garment?  He wasn't the least bit bugged by her for he wasn't touchy.  He was in touch with the inner struggles of one lonely lady.  Surrounded by a pressing crowd, her loneliness could not/would not have been detected by anyone other than a person with the heart of Jesus.

Bingo!  He knew something special just happened and that something was done by an exceptional individual.  This is how we are to see life; not with schedule, but with people (even strangers) integrated within our set course for the day.  People are who Jesus was about.  Religious leaders wanted rule clarification.  Jesus wanted people justification.

Our lives will transform when we open our hands and see the people.  They are everywhere!  And not so oddly....these strugglers include ourselves!  Is every person significant?  Every one.  The problem is that the vast majority don't know it.  Maybe we should tell them?  Oh, let's do.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

SIMPLE TRUTH BLURRED BY ACCUMULATED RELIGIOUS HABIT

I know of no other stage as drastically undermined as the one which would  try to call individuals toward God.  To prove it, just take a slight glance at our communities. Total disregard for having anything to do with God is justified by the masses because of the abundant negative story-flow about those of us who seek Him.  Not only do the atheists hack at believers, believers take shots at other believers.  So why wouldn't one who has determined not to approach this topic simply give a mere shrug while we duke it out for our churchy favorites?

In the midst of chaotic religiosity remains decent men and women who wonder if there is a God and, if so, what would be the correct path to take?  I know a bit of this because I lived there.  I was a below average church attender as a kid.  My god was the baseball diamond by day and Gunsmoke by night.  As I aged, I found myself wanting to know more about this God I had begun to know in my childhood and visited church after church during my college days hunting for some sort of spiritual hint.  I just felt there was more to living than what was on my visible plate.

Obviously, God has changed my world of which I will never get over it.  Yet, I continue to pull for the one who basically doesn't want to die without hope of full and remarkable eternity.  Just as there is fruit from a seed that dies in the ground, I believe that there is a next life after the body folds in complete deterioration; just like the seed becomes a flower or a vegetable or a tree.  Death...and then life.

So what about you?  Interested?  Numb and indifferent?  I offer a bit of direction for those who are seeking Him today and for those who will think about God perhaps next year.  In the last few verses of the first book of the New Testament an interesting charge is given by Jesus to the eleven remaining personally-trained disciples.  These words are from the Savior to the original eleven; a concept destined for all generations of the entire world.  Bible students know this portion of the Bible as The Great Commission.

17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful.18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Neighbor girl Julie Brown told my brother about this.  Classmate Debbie Hilpert told me.  We didn't realize that it was time that we be baptized.  We just needed somebody to say.  This wasn't really the topic discussed a lot at third base nor coming from Chester Good as he limped along his way down the streets of Dodge.  This simple truth that Jesus told the eleven and then Julie and Debbie told the two of us just continues to roll through the ages (as has gone on for so many of you and your friends) as we pass the baton of this Matthew 28-17-20 text.

The simplicity of this stunning call to rebirth has been sabotaged by religious debate and prideful distraction.  I am one who has practiced such argumentation to a fault. Therefore, direct your eyes to the plain words of Jesus and ask if you might be able to see the simple truth which has been blurred by accumulated religious habit; even by guys like me who mean well but know more about winning an argument than knowing the Son of God.

I believe that there are many who will read these words and wonder about being baptized into Jesus.  I say that this would be the Spirit of God calling to your spirit. Yes, you should be.  It is an indescribably exciting thing to learn that a person of age can be reborn.  Nicodemus of John 3:3-8 had never heard of such hope either.  But to be born again is an option that every person should take God up on.

Don't let the simple truth be blurred by accumulated religious habit of someone else...but rather seek the one named Jesus who will give us the Divine Guidance that we all desire.




Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Same Kind of Different As Me



If the movie is anything like the book, this will be a winner.  Coming in February 2017.

MY POST FOR THE DAY

I just spent a significant part of my morning writing and weighing and defining my blog topic to send out to my dear readers.

I looked it over.  It was terrible.

I trashed it.

Feel blessed.

And my point?  I have none.

So there.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

HAPPY NEW LIFE!

I've been thinking about you.  No.  Really.  I sit at this computer and wonder how your heart is, what might bug you, or what could be said that would give you that just right boost for your day.  And, I think I'm about to nail it for some!

There is the slightest of comment in Paul's discussion of First Thessalonians 3:8 where the words are expressed, for now we really live....  This phrasing changed my entire world some three decades ago.  I was in the church; but I wasn't really living.

I was a tough believer.  I was proud of my doctrinal stubbornness.  I was pushing hard to do right for God; but I wasn't really alive.  The rigidity of church law had done just what Jesus said it would do.  It killed...my drive...my life.  Upbeat?  No, moody.  Full of faith?  No, full of criticism.  Confident?  What would that be?  I was deep into church at its deadliest form; earning my salvation and desperately pleading with God to back me.

I was as a mere robot doing church things....and quite outspoken about my devotion, I might add.  But to say that I was really living?  Nope.  I was marking off my church checklist of Done Good or Did Bad.  Really living...had never occurred to me.

Let me reemphasize.....really living had never occurred to me; the man who stood in front of hundreds each Sunday and thousands at special events.  Is this not precisely what Jesus warned?  The Law will kill; but the Spirit will give life?

So transition was demanded.  The how is still in progress.  I had to first park my high-horse and dismount.  My self-assumption of knowing more than others and knowing what I knew better than others took a significant hit.  I had become an ego-driven, pulpit-pounding, sinner-judging, law-keeping dead man while I walked.  I knew not the Spirit of God; and furthermore, verbally mocked those who thought they did.

Yes.  Me.  The Bible carrying self-righteous one.

So I hit a point where I had to make a new resolution sorta like HAPPY NEW YEARS! Mine, however, was HAPPY NEW LIFE!  As weird or as odd as it sounds, it took great focus (and continues to require attention) to transition from being right to being of the joy of God.  Being of His joy IS being right.

For you and me, one of our simplest calls to inspiring the entire world toward God would to be to become a community of believers who are the happiest people our neighbors and colleagues ever met in their lives.  These good people are not wanting to know if we go to church.  What they really want to know is whether our going to church has done us any good.

And together we say.........It.  Has.  And.  Does.  And.  Will.  Continue.  To.  So.

HAPPY NEW LIFE!


Thursday, August 18, 2016

HOW IS IT THAT SOMETHING OLD WOULD MAKE THE CHURCH POP WITH RENEWAL?

Matthew 22:36-40

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
Um...how many of you know about this text?  Oh, everyone?  So let's evaluate where we are as congregations to this point in life. Where are your victories as well as disappointing losses?  Too, are you perhaps a bit weary of trying harder to try harder which at times results in...well...not so much?
What do you think might happen if we were to restore (and you know we are all about restoration) the most basic of all basics of spiritual development?  What if...what if our members were obsessed with two things; (1) love for the Trinity and (2) love for all people.  Would this have impact on both the community and the church?
Impact?  It would revolutionize both!  
But here's what we have.  Generally speaking (fully aware there are grand exceptions, thankfully, within all congregations), churches love their format and their tradition far ahead of loving God.  And Jesus spoke to this directly.
And next, churches love those they love.  Hatred of others isn't the scene; but intentional avoidance/absolute non-interest is.  At our truest core, we want church to be meaningful to me in that one hour time-slot and we want to get to see our friends whom we dearly need.  
Our focus is anywhere but upon the above words of Jesus.  We are not pondering God and have no intention of meeting/reaching to strangers.  We have no intention of risking even saying hello and appearing interested in any whom we do not know.  Visitors.  See.  This.
You know that I'm not saying that reaching to others is never done.  It very much is; but only by a percentage of the gathering with little conscious-stirring-duty of the rest of the flock.  When this happens, and it does, the church slips into something Father never intended; a self-seeking, self-satisfying false form of spirituality.
It is the Gospel truth that Jesus changes people.  He changes us. He changes me.  In what way?  Jesus doesn't just flip our internal switch which moves us from Destination Hell to Destination Heaven.  It's more.  It's very much more.
Jesus calls us to follow; not just hope that we are right with him at our final breath.  He calls us to see, to notice, to touch both the lovely and the unlovely.  He assumes we will take on the whole world; not in finding our handy church niche only to operate from here or use such to hide from the "othernesses" before us.  
He calls us, those of us who are timid, uncertain, and afraid, to infuse His Spirit within that we might find love and joy in reaching...when we don't know how.  This truth is one of my most surprising kingdom discoveries.

My earlier days of faith were bulked with try harder coupled with someone else could do this reaching part much better.  But it is our God who uses our weaknesses to reach the world.  We are all qualified; never due to our own might, but because of His untameablilistic and wild imagination toward us.

This very old truth spoken by Jesus is still the secret that would cause the church to pop with renewal.



 





Wednesday, August 17, 2016

BE CAREFUL WHEN THE CHURCH CRIES "FOUL".

Crowds are everywhere we turn.  Traffic, supermarkets, ball games, hospital rooms...people...venues lined with people.  And within each of these collections of friends, neighbors, and strangers are sweet souls taking their turns at a very bad day.  It is here at this juncture of deep need that we religious people must be on high alert.

When walking through the Gospels there is one consistent thread: Jesus saw the one(s) in need while religious leaders simultaneously cried foul in pointing out how Jesus was doing ministry all wrong.  Today, we the church continue to be captured by these tender reaching stories of Christ's labors.  We love the compassionate Rescuer.  Yet, in practice, we continue to very much struggle to be like him. Rather it remains our tendency to wear the mantle like those of his constant opponents.

When we observe that the church knows Jesus we see the congregation being different than when it knows Bible.  Can that be?  Aren't these two one in the same?  Hardly. Jesus said as much.

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life. I do not receive glory from men; but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves.

Hear him be very pointed toward the situations that we may face today.

We are to remain led by Jesus.  This is very different than parading the knowing of our Bibles if such information does not make him (Jesus) our ultimate destination.  It is in Jesus that the world finds authentic hope; not if congregations know their Bibles.  This can sound contradictory; yet, the legitimate concern is in our possibly being able to reference Bible proof-texts while being fundamentally disinterested as to whether we have close relationship with the Son of God.

This concern isn't a moot point.  Jesus brought it up.  The reason is off-the-charts astounding.  If we were to become a people who know Bible verses without developing an intimate knowledge of Jesus, we will not/cannot have the love of God in ourselves. The latter statement is far too representative of the congregations peppered across our landscape.  This isn't a take-it or leave-it doctrine.  This is essential.  This is the nuclear power of the dynamic and effective church....the knowing of Jesus.

The religious leaders of Jesus' day were engaged in constant claims of foul.  They could not stand the Son.  He bugged them.  He got under their very thick skin.  He did religion the wrong way.  They bravely cried foul and many chose them over him.  These doctors of doctrine were gravely mistaken; yet caught up in the driving fever of their legalistic hotbed topics.  I find myself subject to this identical negative thread if I neglect knowing the man by obsessively knowing the plan...without the man.

It just seems to be a worthy reminder that to know Jesus does not bring about peace in the religious setting.  Rather it may be found to be of stressful challenge as his style is framed from the rugged cross and not the table of negotiation with a coffee pot awaiting.