Tuesday, July 22, 2014

THE GREAT NEED TO LIVE WITH OPENED EYES AND OPENED ARMS

It seems that community is swelling with fatherless children.  I don't speak of only those who have no fathers in the house.  I speak of a growing number who have a dad present; yet he isn't a father in the home.  He is distracted by or obsessed with other important issues in life; but has little attention for his children.

The Gospel story known as the Prodigal Son offers a quick glance at a few in a family. A younger son who is sinfully rebellious, an older son willfully stubborn, and then there is the father of both.  Take a good look at the loneliness of the father regarding his two boys.

One is missing.  The father is left with heartache.

While the younger is gone, it appears the older brother is in good sorts with his dad as they work the farm.  When the big sinner returns, it is at this point that the older one ratchets up his pouting.  From yet another angle, the father is rejected by a child.

In both scenarios, the father suffers heartache and break.

Note that the father did not react as was the pattern of his sons.  When rejected by either boy, he neither indulged in drunken sin nor took cheap shots at the rest of the family.  He stuck by his role regardless of painful rejection momentarily inherited from both sons.  The father remained the father of the story.

It seems important to notice that when each son was in deep and poor behavioral mode, the father did two important things.  First, his eyes were always looking for, as well as after, both boys.  He wasn't distracted from them.  And second, his arms were opened wide for both.  He seemed to favor neither and treasured both.

Receiving the full force of rejection, this man arose to his role.  He lived above treatment received.

In the story of the prodigal, we not only have the visual of what it means to be a father.  From his display of God-like love, we learn to be fathers...or mothers...or brothers and sisters...or friends when encountering the same sort around us.  And the reason we should/can/will do this is because we are oft times found to be one brother or the other....or both.

Luke gives us one of the greatest insights ever revealed.  He shows us in the Prodigal story the vulgarity of gutter life and in the same breath reveals the selfishness of religion.  Father had to fight for both.  So do we.

In this picture, therefore, we discover we are not like one of the two; but we find ourselves relating to each of the three.  May we mature in shifting our poor behavior as found in either son at times to live with new eyes and extended arms like the father.  May we be willing to experience the loneliness of hopeful waiting as we battle our way toward home.










Sunday, July 20, 2014

KNOWING JESUS....WOULD MEAN WHAT?

We are called to walk the most exhilarating course of all history.  Our path is to be that of Jesus'.  The dark powers of this world know this.  Therefore, we are targeted to get less from our walk than the heavens intend.

We must be alert.

Consider Paul's statement of Philippians 3:10...that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings....  Really?  This is our goal as well?  It should be.  And, what a different approach to life's venture.

We all want the first half; none prefer the last.  Yet, the power of His resurrection is found in the midst of His sufferings.  The two are correlated.  If there were no valleys, mark it down, there would be no mountains. Resurrection is prominent only when suffering has struck.

Knowing Jesus is to know that life is difficult, filled with chasms, and yet God empowers us to arise to have very good days because we connect with the pattern of Jesus.  If not on guard for the workings of the kingdom, we will miss them because we commit ourselves to a different path...the one of safety and assurance.

I urge us to be attentive to the difficult days.  Such is not a signal of our inadequacy as much as our calling.  These are to verify we have not bailed.  May we find that we live willingly in the Suffering Servant's sandals.  Without much thought, we tend to disregard.  I say give heed to the stresses among you for they may have the purpose of God buried within.




Friday, July 18, 2014

WORLD TURBULENCE AND INNER PEACE

We live in very strange and absurd times.  Yesterday's news was fascinating on many fronts.  It is concerning, disconcerting, and stunning.  298 die in a jet over Ukraine. Israel invades Gaza.  Troubles loom large as media focus is both intense as well as extravagant.  We are a generation that can watch live war from the comfort of our living rooms; chips and soda in hand.

So what does this do to you?  Bring about fear?  Arouse dis-ease?  Conjure insecurity?

World turbulence has a "yes" in it.  It drives one to search for the true hope of inner peace.  Such will never be found exteriorly.  Regardless of shelters man builds for protection, other men build bigger bombs.  We must have a better reinforcement against the most determined enemy.

God gives us Good News.  Mankind has a most unique hiding place.  We must seek such shelter.

Of course, I speak of Jesus.

When one is under intense fire which could be life-ending, man begins to set aside trivial Sunday School arguments and get serious about the things the Bible posts. There has always been correlation between new start, born over, bringing our old life to an end, and the act of baptism.  The beauty of this process has been lost on the fields of church wars.  And to be fair, baptism isn't the church's god; so forgive us for intimating such.

What I think the world of wonderful, cruddy, fair, and dishonest people would want to know is that there is not only great hope; there is direction given by God for our security, safety, and protection from all battles. This isn't found in a doctrine; but in a person.  Lavish hope is always found in Jesus.

Where baptism comes into play is that it is a part of the process of entering into him. Romans 6 expresses the fundamental fact that one is to be buried into Jesus.  Verse 3 says that one is baptized into his death.  Why death?

The safest place to get away from death is to get to the place where someone else already died and beat it.  We hide where Jesus died because in his death he was able by the Holy Spirit of God to break lose.  The way to encounter the highest and widest world threat is to take shelter in the Son of God.

In Colossians 3:1-3, the apostle Paul clarifies by stating, If you then have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.  For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

When one is buried alive in baptism something goes on eternally wonderful.  Our old nature is transformed as a caterpillar to a butterfly.  No one can explain it; let alone argue it for it is a sheer fascination of God.  We simply have choices as enemies pose bigger and bigger threats?  Build our own shelters or hide in the only one that death can't crack.

Sometimes in one's Christian exuberance, the implication is that baptism is god.  It is not.  It is not the main thing.  Jesus is.  Baptism is the door to his grave so that we can be dead with him....so that we can experience the resurrection with him.  It is the importance of every person concerned that one know how to prepare for the onslaught of uncertainty in this highly threatening time.  We have a hiding place.

There is one name that rescues; Jesus.  Muhammad wasn't raised from the grave. Neither was Buddha.  Only Jesus.  Every person must know where to hide...and how to enter the hiding place.  These words of mine are fiercely inadequate, I feel certain. Yet, maybe for some this is one beginning place.

Inner peace is not found in a process nor is it in a church.  It is in Jesus, the Savior of the world.  He died so that we could live.  Let's not miss the living because we didn't do our homework.  May we find that protection from all enemies is not in a doctrine; but in a Person.

Please...isn't it time some make the decision as millions of others have?  Isn't it time we quit hiding in bottles, and activities, and multiple distractions that serve to numb our hearts from the inevitable?  Isn't it time?  Isn't it time to get serious about the safe place to hide?

I would urge you to contact a friend, a relative, or a minister and just tell them you are tired of trying to reinforce your eternal hope.  Tell them that you want to enter the Hiding Place.  They will help you.

Glory be given to God through the Spirit of Christ.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

OBSESSED WITH THOSE WHO HURT

Jesus redefines who we are, what we are about, and where we focus.  We are under threat to miss his walk in our shoes for we who are committed in the church tend to look toward the reverent rules and not the needy people.

It is the strangest of all strangenesses to watch Jesus.  He consistently bucked against the religious trends in favor of nameless societal underdogs.  The woman at the well. The good Samaritan.  The lame.  The blind.  The littler man up a taller tree.  Jesus was obsessed with those who were unfortunate.

Why did this bug the religious leaders of Jesus' day?  They weren't into people.  They really weren't into legalism.  They were obsessed with being right which leads to narrow-minded and deadening legalism.  This is why the word righteousness is to grab our attention anytime it is used in the New Testament. His righteousness versus our self-righteousness is of constant contest.

I write via email to one of our members, who is in a federal prison, everyday.  I have for months now.  Just this week she told me about a block-mate who is in desperate need of encouragement.  She has no family, no friends, and no funds even to receive emails....it costs 5 cents per minute of computer use.

My heart goes out to my friend...and now to this other woman who is in prison basically alone except for a random prison friend.  That's all she has.

So it is where you walk.  People need you.  Some are trying to sneak to the well in broad daylight without being noticed.  Others are atop balconies of wishfulness just hoping to get a glimpse of someone who knows the better road.  Yet others would love it if the religious sort could put down our busy schedules long enough to notice that they are hanging onto the next day only by a thread.

Much needs to change in Washington.  But first much needs to change in the church. May we increase in our drive to be obsessed with helping those who are in terrible binds.  There are many...and we can/do make a difference....just like Jesus did.

If we are not caring for the needs of others (including strangers) among us, we are very wrong while we tell ourselves how we are the only ones right.  People need help. We are in the helping business.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

LOOKING FOR THAT GET OUT OF JAIL CARD

Monopoly is quite the board game.  The power struggles to buy, sell, manage, and control are found in the intrigue of the business plots.  That is until our little icon receives instruction to go directly to jail.  Our whole functionality is then limited to lock-down.

All we can do is wait to get out of jail.

This is what people do in real life.  We move through our days accumulating, dispensing, interacting, and plotting our way toward success.  Strategic approaches captivate our days.  Imagination roams the streets of possibility.  Until...until we are put in jail.

I don't speak of a literal cell block.  No, your attention should be drawn those other kinds of jails; the invisible ones we create which has just a much power as the real ones. Those that shut us down because we have volunteered to be arrested even out in broad daylight by our own pessimism are just as cold and just as gloomy.

Receiving negative words seem to toss us into the clink.  Revelation of bad health might affect us as if we are to go directly to jail and not to come out.  Even dark self-talk about how stupid we are, or how abused we are, or how many times we have drawn the short straw, or how lonely, or how neglected we are has a stark and arresting nature.

We must guard against living in self-imposed penitentiaries that have only the walls of our minds as reinforcement.

Philippians 4:4-9 is written by a man sitting in a jail cell.  Paul's words are far from pooh-poohing his day.  Rather, they are inspiring, invigorating, and actually productive.  Anyone can find new life by flipping the switch of our own mind-talk.

Each carries a GET OUT OF JAIL CARD.  It is that one that gives us immediate passage as soon as we reprogram our thinking.  We are not only permitted to be happy and free, we are called to live so.

Everyone has access to this marvelous truth.  Nothing, absolutely nothing, is stronger than a faith that will change our whole world because it reverses adverse course.  It is true.  Abide by it.  No one is exempt.

All have the ability to get out of jail...wherever your incarceration...because due to faithful thinking the doors to our assumed restraint just flew open.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY ME

THIRTY-SEVEN years ago today, Mary (along with 7 year old Wendy, 5 year old Dusty, and 4 year old Timmy) and I moved by a very small U-Haul from Quincy, IL. to Tulsa, OK.  We were young...and terrified.  Guilt-ridden for leaving a precious church, we had signed on for a new work.

Noel Wilson and I moved into our offices the very same day in 1977.  He was Memorial's new Education Director.  He saw me unpacking in the Preacher's office, looked me over head to toe and said, You're it? with obvious doubt.

My prayer in Quincy was, God, help me to reach the whole world.  I still pray that prayer.  I still watch for ways to reach.

It has been quite a ride.  I haven't loved every minute of it.  But I have been so blessed by the ups and downs of kingdom life.  I'm the luckiest man I ever met.  No one has been more blessed to get to watch, participate, and enjoy so many things breaking out for kingdom life.

Thank you to all who have dared to let me get to be a part of this work!

I am more excited today than ever!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

WHAT MAKES LIFE TICK?

Don't you love life?  Or, do you?  Do you find living to be a marvelous experience? Or, do you find it to be a troubling puzzle waiting to be solved?

I have always been impressed with a phrase in First Thessalonians 3:8, for now we really live if you stand firm in the Lord.  Really live hit me that one could be living; but not really.  I was a portion of the not really until I began to move into Jesus instead of moving into church rules and regulations.

(Don't misunderstand.  There are true doctrines and false ones.  We must mature in the true ones.  But one of the greatest false ones is that we can have a right church without heart-felt devotion and praise to God through Jesus.  It is possible to be enmeshed in church with all of its correctness and not know the very Son who is redeeming us.  That was me.)

Life takes off when drawing toward the Son who is the way, the truth, and the life. Why?  Of course, I wouldn't have a complete grasp; but will venture out with an observation.

I think what makes life tick is the industrious and defiant Spirit of Jesus.  Nothing is impossible with Him.  Swollen lakes?  Walk on the top.  Overrunning sea?  Part it. Dead in the grave?  Break out.

It is this factor that keeps us from ever giving up.  There is always possibility in Jesus.  We can read any situation and circumstance and believe God has an unthought-of and an unheard-of answer.  Christianity has been reduced over time to hoping for the best; but not so much the impossible.  As a result, life seems to be rather routine; even with church tacked on at the beginning of the week.

I am very weak in this; yet, it is worth considering.  Churches are ignored by much of society because we are a powerless sort.  This is a Last Days dilemma.

But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come.  For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; and avoid such men as these.  (II Tim. 3:1-5)

The church is in desperate need of receiving the warning of Paul's charge to Timothy.  We move about in formation with little difference in power from what one would find in a humanly designed institution.  This is not to be the case for those of us in the kingdom.  It is a super-charged plant of workers for God; workers at a whole different level beyond man's energy and focus.

God's Holy Spirit is what makes life tick.  We must perpetually trade our insight, talent, and muscle....for His.  May we pray to see God work upon earth according to His power and strength.  When we believer this...life will really live!