Sunday, December 04, 2016

TRY NOT TO RUN FROM THE DIFFICULT PART OF FAITH IN GOD


There is a false faith among us...deeply and convincingly so...that the church is fun, is alive, is productive, and is meaningful.  Well...it surely better be.  Yet, this is only one side of the picture and to assume this is the entirety will end in sheer breakdown of God's intent for us.

Absolutely the church is strongly alive and incredibly meaningful.  Personally, I'm nuts about it.  To give people hope when their hearts are shattered is some sort of awesome calling.  To help some understand that the things going wrong in their lives are actually secret benefits and blessings?  Well, what a story everyone has.

However, if one is to experience the true life of Christ, we must absorb the truth that we have been designated a cross; not to sing a song about, but to carry.  This cross has weight; it is a drag.  It's unhandy like all get out.  And....quite honestly it hurts.  Jesus said, Pick it up!

If one is in the church without the personal cross, feelings get hurt easily and then "feel"ings begin to rule.  The cross doesn't feel good....period.  But we are in this for the eventual life that such a tool gives others and promises us.  From the cross we can envision what can be...for ourselves...and especially for others.

The cross is neither handy nor is it convenient.  If you have one, carry one, you will surely get your feelings hurt and you will find that you didn't get your way.  People will be rude.  Insult will be in your face.  Ideas will be misrepresented and efforts will be derailed.  Welcome, therefore, to the side of church that isn't fun...but this deep and offensive struggle is crucially significant for every person who claims to be a part of it.

Rejection is a part of the plan of salvation.  There are no exceptions.  Either we will endure.  Or, we will quit.  The cross is the defining and dividing factor as to how our personal walks go.

....fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

DEATH'S TESTIMONY

Isn't Fall a most beautiful time of the year?  It's my favorite.  The color scheme from God's creative pallet is so awesome that even the finest photographers may catch only a momentary glimpse.  Eventually, naked trees stand as if death to the beauty made the final call.

Yet, we know that such isn't true.

The bare trees remain poised in Winter pregnancy ready to give birth in the Spring. Of course, we celebrate!

Flower bulbs are similar.  In order to become their utmost fulfillment, they must first be buried in their little flower cemeteries.  These must pass away (give way) to the temporary processes of death in order to experience the stature of a newly resurrected life.

When death has been used as a step-ladder into a higher calling, these little guy bulbs and gal bulbs will burst through the ground in some sort of divine resurrection power to take our breath away with renewed and vibrant beauty.  Death isn't a final statement; but rather, is involved in the life-giving process.  What Satan intended as hurtful, God redesigns as blessings.

Death of plants and bulbs and dying leaves are perpetual testimonies of death.  Their message: DEATH ENDS.  Death comes to an end because life eradicates death's grip.

By faith, we believe this to be true for humanity because Jesus paved the way.  Killed and put away, he created a scandal of sorts that his own death was, in reality, quite weak when it had been assumed by all that it had the final say.

Not.  So.  Jesus returned.  Death was shunned.  Life is possessed.  We carry such a dependable hope!

Death's testimony is that it carries a powerful bark; but it has no eternal bite.  Thank you God!

Friday, December 02, 2016

WHERE THE RESTORATION MOVEMENT BACKFIRED

When in preaching school a thread of information came at me that I had no idea existed in such profound quantity.  I had heard of the Restoration Movement, it seemed, from day one of beginning to begin to learn about God and His Divine set-up.

The idea that we strive to be a people who are restored to the parameters of the early church which began in Acts was overwhelming in a most glorious way.  That a people could simply go back to the Bible and be New Testament Christians was surely an attractive concept.

This remains a profound idea.  But, the Movement took on baggage; the very thing it was saying it had escaped.  It became the very thing is disdained.  With profound effort to shed man's tradition and breathe from the simple biblical calling, it wasn't long until man began to impose new rules of his understanding of abiding faith.  This was anything but casual.  As a result the Restoration Movement went haywire and developed a fabric of  "true churches" of varying (even opposing) beliefs; each claiming to be the One True Church.  Within this movement to curb the Movement, egotism volcano-ized.

I found there to a be a similar thread in all divisions as they began to unfurl.  Rules ruled.  New traditions similar to what we thought had been booted out were now a fixture.  And the entire scope of thought had been found to lack three central personalities; Father, Son, and Spirit.  The Word was king.  The practices were proof.

Prayer was vague, if not absent, which signaled Father was not necessary (though we would never voice such).  Jesus was not real; but an historical figure whose name sanctified our prayers at the end.  The the Holy Spirit was treated, no neglected, as if we were embarrassed and ashamed of Him.  We did our best to restrict Him to go no farther than the very end of the book of Revelation.  From there we would manage with our best explanations and efforts.

The Restoration Movement, a once splendid concept, has backfired; significantly so.  Yet, the concept remains feasible and full of Good News.  It is a challenge for all Bible students to remain open to the unfolding reality of God.  His information is not captureable.  It is believable...and there will always be additional ideas and truths to believe which will align with much of what we previously garnered from in-depth study. That would be why we study.  Right?

In reality, as we students take in news (NEWs) of God, we are often found that we must shed some crucial mis-learnings; mis-understandings.  This is too thrilling; not threatening.  We are anticipated by God to look at His Revelation and do things like learn, grow, increase, develop.  The Bible isn't handed to us to pass Bible quizzes.  It is given to us that we can enter increasing glimpses of Life found in Jesus through the Spirit.  Father is quite serious about this.

Yes, we should very much be a part of restoring the New Testament church; one which every time it discovers an answer it seems that four new questions break out.  God is not to be captured; but vigorously pursued.  We are called to know the love of Christ which is beyond our fullest exploration....Ephesians 3:19.




Thursday, December 01, 2016

TRUE WORSHIP

To truly worship God is surely one of the most urgent calls of the heart.  To give Him praise and honor and absolute attention is the paramount calling of all believers.  For a long time, as a Christian and then as a leader in the church, I gave this little thought.  I was what most around me were also about; getting church done right.  I was more driven by my squint-eyed perception of true church; rather than an open-hearted fascination of true God.

Through time I have begun to begin to understand that I have worshiped many things other than our Marvelous Creator.  I have worshiped the Bible version used, the style of and the selection of songs, as well as the church's doctrine.  The Kingdom Pedestal has been a lofty place for many of these matters; but not Father.

It is a grave mistake to transfer the worship God deserves over to an element of our lives that we prefer.  The Kingdom of God is both vital and vigorous.  There cannot be a substitutional distraction from the absolute and singular prominence of God.  The saved can't afford this.  Neither can the lost whom the saved are to be reaching.

I'm guilty of spending too much time fretting over matters which I believed to be central to the church life while ignoring the One who wishes I would increase my look toward Him.   In all of my drive to do church well, Father patiently awaits my heart's engagement in vocal praise of Him alone.

I have worshiped the Pattern, the Movement, the Church of Christ, and thirty other lesser matters without giving heed to the necessity that He is to be honored foremost and certain.  This must change.  It is changing.  It will continue to improve.  I will note Him more and my church preferences less.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

THE PROBLEM WITH WAITING IS THAT IT IS SO SLOW

Wait.  Oh sure.  In other words, put me on hold when I've got so much to do.

Wait 'til Spring.  Wait 'til you can drive.  Wait for the light to change.  Wait for Christmas.

Wait a minute!  Regular life seems to be packed with a most common; yet a very nuisancing non-time capsule called W-A-I-T.

Wait is what makes the church God's.  Hurrying is what makes the church ours instead. These aren't a match.  Much valuable time is lost, not in waiting, but in forging on without the endorsement of Father, Son, and Spirit.  We tend to want things and, when the idea hits, we want them now.

The Spirit has everything to do with waiting.  When the early church began in Acts the placed popped with robust life because the disciples (very much emotionally and eagerly engaged in this new drive of God's), who were intentionally poised to reach the whole world, were told to wait.

So they did.

This very idea is one of the grand secrets of the Holy Spirit because man's nature feels more at ease as long as we are doing something; anything but standing still.  Our movement seems paramount to satisfying the flesh-life.  This is why so many who deem themselves as committed Christians...never pray.  That's a zone more of waiting than taking fleshly action.  To these, prayer seems dull, useless, and a complete waste of time.

The problem with waiting is that it is so slow.  The marvel of waiting is that it is so endorsed by the divine call of God.  It has always been true of those in Scriptures and those who follow them; those who wait on God tend to get more done than those who have no time to be with God because they are so busy trying to get their kingdom efforts to produce.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

STRIVING TO BE IMAGINERS

God is all about imagination; wildly so at that.  Man, religious man, succumbs however to managination; management of the spiritual.  The former is Life in the church and the latter is Death.  Without the Holy Spirit we tend to manage our imaginations which, fundamentally, results in dabbling with Kingdom matters to the extent that we would be in control.  Control is a big important word to a person who has one foot in the Kingdom and one foot in the world.

I love the church!  I love getting to be a part of it!  But a great flaw in me is that I want to know how my/our efforts will go.  I would not have been a valuable board member when it came to releasing God's children into the raging and swollen waters of the Red Sea.  No, I would have needed a few more business meetings and a bit more perspective if I were to regard myself as a respected supporter of such a hair-brained move.

What I'm/we are learning is that God surely enjoys being God.  Showing His handiwork seems to give Him (and us) enormous delight.  Therefore, may we be a people that note when we are discussing possibility and potential with the invisible culprit of fear sitting in our midst.  May we be imaginers--risky, unemplainable, take-your-breath-away, imaginers for none of us believe God's arms have atrophied.

Dare we strive, vigorously so, to step out by faith to see God do what no man nor church has yet imagined could be done.  And then, might we spread the word of His activity among us?  Imagine what can be but hasn't been....yet!!!

Friday, November 25, 2016

TRY NOT TO SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF

If not careful, we will spend far too much time resenting stuff--people stuff, work stuff, or not-enough-hours-in-the-day stuff--and will miss the brilliance of the enormous amount of great stuff which is abundantly all around.

It's most natural to fall prey to such distraction.  We may feel ignored, or misunderstood, or abused, or put upon, or _______.  Yet, far too much of what weighs on us is a light-weight when compared to the burdens of others.

Yesterday, Thanksgiving Day, I received two messages which were stark.  The first was a call regarding a young woman who died yesterday of a heart attack.  The second was about a dear old friend who also died.

Aggravations are real.  Frustrations due to people and/or circumstances are common. The sudden death of one(s) close in heart are stunning.  We all know about this truth. Yet, we still find ways to become distracted and then hurt.

May we be glad for the privilege and wonder that is all about us.  May we treasure the moment.  May we, in turn, not sweat the small stuff.