Tuesday, May 01, 2018

WHY IS IT SUCH A CHALLENGE TO FOLLOW THE SON OF GOD?

Church is taking a big hit in today's societal "push 'n shove" for attention.  For a large part, this intended godly entity has been moved to the back of the bus due to both neglect and indifference.  I have no idea how I have contributed to this misalignment of spiritual significance. 

Religion is a slight-of-hand of Satan.  He doesn't care that we go through the motions.  He just doesn't want Jesus to become our conviction of Life.  He doesn't mind that we have Bibles or even believe in them.  He just doesn't want us reading them.

In my own fragment of the Christian world, we have strong emphasis on three, what we might call, vital signs; (1) Command, (2) Example, and (3) Necessary inference.  Go to the Bible and find where these three things are clearly taught, spelled out in its simplicity.  The latter of the three, necessary inference, is inserted by Restorationists to make the Word say what we couldn't get it to say otherwise. 

This three-fold, man-made, guide shoots ourselves in the foot.  The latter one permits a student to make desires of the mind or preferences of our practice to reach any conclusion for which we might inwardly yearn. 
     1.  Believe in the Bible; but seldom open it? 
     2.  Believe in prayer; but seldom practice it? 
     3.  Believe in evangelism; but seldom personally engage in it? 
     4.  Believe in giving; but seldom surrender to it?
     5.  Believe in loving one another; but seldom beyond those we already love?

Why do I think from this slant?  Granted, it is very likely that there are a hefty number of church members who would not fit the above inclinations.  Yet, I think this way....because as the preacher...I was this way.  I was a Bible-promoting, Bible-pounding, smart-mouth who was guilty of each of the above five charges.  That's....how I know. 

I had the rules down...best I could anyway...with intent of mastering them all.  My problem was that I didn't know Jesus and I didn't believe that I, personally, could make an eternal difference for people.  Welp, there went the Great Commission right out the window!  So, my alternate route was to be egotistical in what little I knew and critical of other religious people because they apparently weren't as sharp as me.

Why is it such a challenge to follow the Son of God?  Mankind (men and women) (just like you and me) have an inordinate amount of bias within our religious veins.  This leaning or preference has formed a barrier to the heart; the heart of self and the hearts of others.  It, then, keeps us from learning....learning of the perpetual, continual, vast wonders of our mighty Creator. 

May we prune away some of our own dead limbs before we approach the forest of glorious community.  Hope is for them.  They learn of it via those of us who find it ourselves.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

CHURCH: IT'S MARVEL AND IT'S REJECTION

The Bible is simplistically clear: the foundation of authentic life is not found in the true church but in the head of it...the Savior of it.  The church that Jesus is building is a glorious entity, but itself is not our saving grace.  Jesus is.  We have long strayed from the very Truth we proclaim by substituting preferential regulation of religious habit for explorational heart connection to the  Adventurous Leader.  Jesus broke the mold and breaks the back of a system that became nothing more than same ol' same ol' deadening practices. 

The above would be a significant part of why the world rejects those among us who do what one can to display a lively faith.  Sadder, this is why communities are loaded with former church attenders.  It offered a routine that seldom pressed for individual growth.  Rather, we developed a format that kept the "church people" content without ruffling our highly touchy feathers.  This is an unwritten doctrine in many of our well-established congregations. 

Such a trail disrupts every generation when focused on tradition rather than exploration of increased faith.  To be clear from personal experience, vast amounts of Christians will assemble today to see that the order of worship doesn't include anything "out of the ordinary"; in others words, our controlling tradition of "the way we like things".  Our comfort has never been His goal.  The Cross may be key here.

The truth of the matter--or the Truth of the Matter--is that we are deeply engaged in an ongoing battle to break from personal hesitancy and hiding at the cost of risk.  Safety, once again, has been the religious mantra ever since that escapade of denial in the Garden.

The church is to be a marvel of God.  It is to be outrageous in its faith, its reach, and its remarkable distance....going into all of the world.  For we believers, there will always be the call, God's call, to abort the self-security of hiding within the framework of seeing that church is done right for sixty minutes. 

As remarkable as the true trek of Jesus is, the Word of God calls for us to duplicate it.  We are to believe deeply, serve mightily, and bravely approach unexplainable possibility.  This develops a joy and a needed excitement within the hearts of every generation for, regardless of age, we are to be new day by day.

Today there will be millions gather for "church" possibly under the guise of "doing church right".  This strain is embedded within all denominations as well as the many who broke from the tight reigns of denominationalism...only to eventually develop as very similar independent habit-forming, self-satisfying deadening doctrine.  This is the trait of routine religion of which killed the Master as he insisted that it be broken up.

The marvel of the church is that we are forever learners who hold tightly to Jesus while he takes us places we could have never imagined; in worship, in service, in vision, and in outreach.  The rejection of the true church, while so many parade such a stance with pride, is that our church habit can be found to strongly replace spiritual flexibility.

The Good News is...and there is always such a facet...that every individual can transition from rejection to marvel as quick as a heartbeat.  When we choose to enter the vast and glorious unknown of Kingdom potential by cutting the habitual ties anchored to safety, we will have entered the terrain of the working God. 

Go.  For.  It.  Best.  You.  Can.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

HOW DOES ONE AGE NEW?

The world of God is beyond strange.  It is always on the grow.  How ironic that the biggest battle over new concepts comes from congregational settings.   Church after church, member after member...all battle an endless and fatiguing war of the new.  Some make the adjustment quickly while others become devoted to ending any such drive.  But these latter combatants choose not to label it as growing in the Lord.  Their/our/my cry is directed at warding off words like "new" and "change".

The Kingdom is most baffling to God's followers because these two words bring mixed reviews.  They stir enthusiasm and ambition in some; yet trouble and heartburn for others.  However, it is a clear biblical principle that each disciple is to perpetually advance (grow/increase) into the realm of the next level of followship and fellowship.  We are not to be baptized...and then fossilized.

I was reading an article today about the Chicago Cubs manager, Joe Maddon.  Maddon is the oldest manager in the Majors.  He is quite successful at his role and his team gives my Cardinals a firm challenge year after year.

At age 64, Maddon has a most intriguing insight.  "I feel like I've always remained contemporary, not by plan, but I've always been curious."  He continued, "We are all raised in different generations.  And whatever generation you come from, you're always going to have an old-school method to it.  You know, from when you grew up.  But in referencing the past, you have to stay current with what's going on now--or even what's occurring down the road."

The magic word of that interview to me is "curious".  From that comment one can determine that this manager is most exhilarated by the success of now; yet is attentive to what else can develop.  Curious.  This word inspires because, for me, it wonders what else can be.  What could become?  What would take place if?  How might we reach more, teach more, believe more, improve more?

This trait, or the lack of it, seems to consistently separate the dreamers from the regulators; the flexible from the rigid.  I've seen both, thought like both, and been both.  One lives in consistent aggravation while the other pursues yet an alternate perspective to draw more into the Kingdom Life.

How does one age new?  How is it that we can reflect the biblical truth that we really are newer day by day?  One of the ways is to grow new, think new, believe new, and...be in awe of God that such is His idea.  It is up to us to see that the concept of faith...even as some visit us on Sunday mornings...is a lively movement forward rather than a scene of taking us back in time.  With God, even churches are to age new.

LEARN--LEAD--LEAP

When I begin a post, I try to write the final sentence first.  (It is already on the screen as I now type this comment.)  It is the goal, the message in a nutshell, of what I want you to take away.  Afterward, I write with a form of leadership to hopefully help you arrive at a practical and useful destination.

Our walk seems to be a rather simple procedure of learning, then leading, and then leaping.  Learn what's needed, lead out beyond habit-forming restrictions, and then leap into the unknown and unfathomable future is surely anything but a boring and mundane trip through the corridors of life.  I'm sympathetic to every hesitant person as this old world has a way of talking us down from taking the jump into what possibly could be the greatest move of our so-far lives.

Our God, among His many traits, is Creative.  And, He calls us to imitate His Word(s).  A threat to our Christian virtues is that we will operate on our own understanding rather than the daring trust of His unexplainable, unpredictable style.  God doesn't fit the fear-mold that tends to dominate the brain-trust of humanity.  We must be careful to refrain from believing we have a better common-sense grip on life than....than God.

Common Sense is too often the hooded villain who wishes to hold faith at gunless point.  It marches into every business meeting and stands with bold guard over nearly every decision.  Common Sense is often found to be fearful of three things: learning, leading, and leaping.  Why is that?  Trusting in ourselves?  Possibly?

Too much of the Christian field is being sabotaged; not by exterior interference but by interior hedging in three areas.  Yep, they've been named.  I go through this perpetually in my daily walk.  I'm either looking over my shoulder hoping I escaped my critics or else I'm inwardly insecure due to my own self-criticism. 

Therefore, should you be somewhat like me, I cheer you on.  We can be wonderfully grateful for the faith(ful) of our past.  Do hear the calling.  No believer is along for the ride.  It is not our goal (first) to go to Heaven.  It is our call to step up to the incredible dynamics of faith.  May we dare walk out into uncharted waters of opportunity...just as Jesus once walked out onto the threatening waves only to use them as the new highway of world impact.

(And here it comes...my final sentence...written at the beginning.)
Learn from your past!  Lead from that learning into the now!  Leap by the learning and then leading...into the future!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

GOING INTO ALL OF THE WORLD...IS SOMETHING TO BE LEARNED

The longer I experience ministry the more I note how similar we all are.  Talents vary.  Missions are surely versatile.  Personalities are indeed different.  Yet, one thing is a plague to each.  It's a Devil tactic.  Fear.  I was a student in the Fear 101 course for far too long.  I learned how to negotiate threatening circumstances and avoid all potential interactions among those other than the closest of friends. 

My goal was to protect myself from looking badly.  I had two self-satisfying mottos.  "Try Not To Mess It Up."  My second motto was similar, "If It Needs To Be Done, Someone Else Can Do It Better".  I lived, as a minister, under the umbrella of these two doctrines.

Outgoing?  Oh, I really was....toward those within my relaxed friendship borders.  But beyond was not even a question in my mind.  I.  Wasn't.  Going.  There.

Going into all of the world doesn't necessarily mean we go on a mission trip to Alabama or to Nigeria.  It means we are on call to see others, reach to others, engage with others day by day.  To be frank....I just couldn't do it.  I carried a Bible in my hand and the denial in my heart.

Of course, now I am able.  But it took years of overcoming hesitancy.  Where I now marvel is how convincing I was to myself and to others regarding my excusivity.  I could explain my cowardice away in a heartbeat because I couldn't do one main thing...engage with strangers. 

Truthfully, however, I had no legitimate excuse.  I didn't know that such a trip could be learned.  I didn't want to know it. 

So I cheer you on to have the confidence to see strangers; even colleagues of whom you fear interaction.  Relax.  Know this.  Everyone is alike.  We all have our fears, our torments, our insecurities.  I know of not one--not one--exception.  We can learn--that's the good news--to reach out, reach toward, without one exception.

The call to go into all of the world, I felt, was always for others.  I liked the idea.  My intention was to be a contributor toward it.  But I didn't believe that God could do for me what I saw Him doing for others.  Yet, He will, He can, and He does....for every one of us.  I don't blame you for holding back or holding out.  But I encourage you to want to learn how to develop His personality within yours that such a tandem might go all over the place...into all of the world.

Afraid?  Oh yeah, I lived there for decades as the preacher.  Guilty?  Oh, certainly.  Resentful of hearing such messages?  You know it.  Able to learn to do it?  I'm still the student.  Progress is in motion.  How about you?

Monday, April 23, 2018

KEEP THE PUSHBACK GOING

Faith is a major entity of the human course.  Temptation to move along by our own wisdom or our insecurities is strong; very, very strong.  Faith sees where eyes can't.  Faith takes us where hesitation won't.  To walk by faith is to possess an inner determination which defies all odds, all uncertainties, and all opponents.

We must possess the strength to push back against our own fleshly nature; our nature toward safety as well as our tendency to see that we are in control.  The fearful often seem to have the loudest voices of "legitimate concern".  Oddly, these cowardly present themselves as the saving grace of the group.  However, the minority of the courageous, the bold, and the brave lean upon Jesus much more than one's understanding.

Faith isn't necessarily a walk in the church park.  It is the most defiant inner directive of mankind.  It believes when there is currently no reason to do so.  As blank as the future appeared to be, when Jesus was placed in the tomb, the potential grandeur is so staggering that God tries to train us to believe when hope seems to have fizzled.

Keep the pushback going.  Overwhelmed?  Buried in stress?  Oh...most certainly...and quite often I might add.  Yet, our muscle and our insight aren't the keys to escape these torturers of our walk.  The reality of the risen Saviour is.  We keep the pushback going with daring strides because we are more tightly linked to positive, lively Jesus than to any negative, draining circumstance.


Friday, April 20, 2018

WHAT TO GET MARY FOR OUR 50TH WEDDING ANNIVERSARY

Today, April 20, Mary and I celebrate 50 years of God's amazing wonder as we learned to try to walk in His Garden.  Being the creative person that I like to think that I am, it was in my heart to do something special for this benchmark occasion.  "What could I get Mary to honor her?" was my mission.

I've hit upon the perfect, practical, creative and extraordinarily unusual gift that should put me in good standing for at least the next week.  She will be so surprised.  So Mary...get ready.  This may just blow your mind.  On the other hand, it may just be more of the amazing same!

If you'll look out your kitchen window in about an hour you will note quite a sight upon our driveway.  Try to imagine...no really...what might I have done to bring you tremendous joy.  It's something you've wanted for a long time.

So...in the voice of the guy who announces for the Price Is Right as the showcase is revealed, MARY RUSH...LOOK OUT YOUR KITCHEN WINDOW....IT'S YOUR BRAND NEW DRIVEWAY!  (And you didn't think I could out-do my creativity!  Well, what're ya thinkin' now?)

HAPPY 50TH MARY LYNN McENTEE RUSH....I LOVE YOU!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

THINKING ABOUT BEING THRILLED WITH LIFE?

I cheer you on!  No, really.  You have so much wonder behind you, currently with you, and far ahead of you.  Oh, don't think that I deny your heartache nor break.  No.  No.  Such takes its toll...or at least takes a stab at it.  Each of us could trump the next person's heartbreak rehearsings.  I've got a few packed away myself.

The profoundly good news is that no one has to live...nor re-live... those moments for each of us has a gift handed to us by the Creator.  He has given us minds which are capable of making decisions.  How life is going for us cannot always be chosen.  How we react to it is always up for grabs...our reach.

I'm not trying to be PaulAnna here.  My walk is not one of pretense when it comes to the subject of rejection, discouragement, nor disappointment.  But stronger and truer (and much more funner to experience) is the glory of God; the wonder of possibility which accompanies each and every terribly bad moment.  Hope...biblical, spiritual hope...is not a slight "give it a shrug and wish for the best" nod from Heaven's Board Room.

So guess what.  There isn't a reader among us who doesn't have voice of desperation and frustration when it comes to a few things having gone/are going wrong.  No exception exists.  Yet, some choose to win while others choose to shrink back.  It isn't what has gone wrong that determines our day.  It's what we decide about the entire scope of our walk.

Our thinking sets the stage, dresses the players, and enacts the roles.  Therefore, think...really ponder...about the potential of being thrilled with life.  Such.  Possibility.  Is.  Only.  A.  Thought.  Away.

trush@memorialdrive.org