Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Keeping the Ministry Fires Burning

Bailey McBride has an excellent article in the Christian Chronicle regarding keeping our ministers from being overburdened. He addresses important issues which I bring to the attention of you young whipper-snappers out there who are knee-deep in the wonderful work of God's kingdom.

One hand full of rest is better than two fists full of labor and striving after the wind (Eccl. 4:6). Once again, the wisdom of God baffles the human mind. Less is more....and lasts longer. If you are going to complete the marathon don't spend all your much-needed energy by mile five.

How do you last a long time and find yourself increasingly enamoured with your work well down the road? Here are some clues:

1. LEARN TO SAY NO. My first few years in ministry found me saying yes to demanding members when I clearly wanted to say no. I could not possibly attend all the functions some members felt I should. Congregations are willing to house you on Guilt Street and let you abide there for as long as you can. Don't succumb. Learn to say no when you mean no.

2. ATTEND A SEMINAR NOT OF US. Each year I attend Catalyst in Atlanta put on by John Maxwell's INJOY team. The reason I go to this particular event is it caters to the younger minds. I'm 59 and I want to know what's connecting with younger generations.

3. REMEMBER YOU ARE MOST LIKELY THE DUMBEST PERSON ON THE COMMITTEE. I'm serious. I know it in every meeting I attend....and such awareness frees me to be vigorous about what I see needed among us. I fight and push and nag and complain....knowing all along my level of lacking competency, but wanting to see if God swings open some great and wonderful door. Sometimes He does! I am never a better thinker or more spiritual than anyone around me...ever. Such, ironically, doesn't defeat me. It frees me to try.

4. KINGDOM MATTERS ARE NOT DEPENDENT ON YOU....BUT ON GOD. Romans 9:16 keeps me sane. It keeps me from going over the edge of feeling trapped and suffocational. We deal with overwhelming pains, sorrows and needs. We can't possibly hold up under the pressures of making ideal choices and perfect decisions. The truth be told, we don't know how to fix squat. This passage says, "If it is to be, it is up to Him." He makes things work. We don't run the show.

Ah, these are simply man-noticed ideas. What works for you to help you remain as fired up today about your mission as when you began? For me? Everyday I feel like the teens when they come home from camp...except for one thing. It doesn't fade!

A great gift for Christmas

Philip Yancey is a special friend. I named my dog after him. Yes, I could have chosen Arthur, Manning, Swindoll, Colson, Lucado, or Warren. I couldn't envision a dog named Warren (while Maxwell might have worked) so I refer to him as Yancey.

Philip Yancey's newest book, PRAYER: Does It Make Any Difference?, is one of his best yet. His writing of this book is brilliant in the page-after-page intrigue of prayer while wording it so captivatingly simple. I am both enthralled and inspired. Every page has insisted I use the highlighter and several call for the addtional dog-ear.

Yancey has written several amazing books. This one brings clarity to a muddy topic. Easy to understand, he raises common questions as to what good it does to pray. His simple responses are inspiring.

Get the book!

In my earlier years I didn't want/like to pray. It was redundant and redundant with redunancy. Plus, it went nowhere. When I began to realize God works among us/within us, the need to pray became critical. Yancey's work deepens my hope of why the necessity.

How do you see the role of prayer?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Restoration Movement Calls for Change

The Restoration Movement has given us great motivation as well as direction. When I was converted the very nature of such a movement wowed me and continues to do so. I feel, though, we may have allowed the movement to jump its orgininal tracks into a zone open to great human error. The Restoration Movement is not the Word, it is not God, it is not the rule book for the church. It is a man-created society with respectable principles....and that's all.

Some view the Restoration Movement as providing the criteria for what the church should believe and how it should behave. We don't call our preacher pastor even if he does shepherd the flock. We don't call our meeting room sanctuary (but auditorium) even-though such is the only room in the building where we can't take food and drink because it is sanctified.

It is probable that every leader in the church of Christ has hit a fork in the road as to whether to remain committed to the Movement or to the Word. If to the former, the paradigm has no shift. It's cut and dried---some believe---as to what God thinks. Yet, these remain divided and re-divided over exactly what Campbell or Nichols or others concluded we should believe. The latter (the Word) will call for our devotion to both unchange and much change. Jesus will always be the Son and methodology will always be subject to shift. Word study will necessitate perpetual adjustment.

The Restoration Movement set the boundaries and several locked the Holy Spirit out. The Word insists He's in. The Restoration Movement set the parameters for worship......referred to the Word of "decent and in order" virtually shut out emotion and expression. The Word authorizes "decent and in order" without curbing the celebrative excitement of praising the Lord.

The ideal of the Restoration Movement may need to slip back onto the tracks of holy writ. Restoration does not mean petrified. We are not a people locked down; but rather, opened up. I see it as it was originally designed; to call us back to the Creed of Jesus the Lamb. Will such include change? Of course. Who would be against changing the number of souls we are winning each year? Who would be against changing the numbers gathering for corporate worship each week? Who would be against learning more of the Word......even if the Word disagrees with our policy to this point? Who would like to see more interest in Jesus by our teens. Who would like to see fewer leaving the church distressed over bickering and arguing? Who would like to see more of the homeless homed and more of the rejected accepted? Who would like to see the church change from rote meetings three times a week to meeting in the Word? Who would like to see more effective praying....more members praying?

There is so much I am eager to learn. I believe I know about 1% of 1/2% of what He intends for me and I'll not discover as much of it by dragging along my man-created rules. I suggest only two areas the churches of Christ---in general---does not address: prophecy and the occult. I believe we unintentionally have dampened our members' enthusiasm for the Second Coming having ignored the study of Prophecy. Too, I believe we have set the church and her families up for unnecessary struggle due to the disinterest in the spiritualism. These are just two areas that need to change. There must be hundreds more topics we have yet to consider.

Will the Restoration Movement allow change? It's very nature calls for it. Yet fundamentally, our goal is to abide by the Word; not restore the Restoration Movement.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Don't flinch.....ever.

In September of 1986 a friend sent a most amazing note my way. I had sent an earlier note expressing my being stumped as to how to approach the work of the church while sitting in on one hostile/frustrating meeting after another. Fear was holding us back....and I was a part of it....and I wasn't sure what/if to do.

Dear Terry,

My friend.....hang tough!

Legalism and pharisaism are hoodlums on the loose in our Lord's Body, the Church. They have always killed and destroyed, assaulted and raped, clawed and crushed, bruised and battered the spiritual lives of others. Our Savior reserved His severest words for those whose hypocrisy and squint-eyed judgmental attitude bullied others into submission.

Stand fast. Stand against. Stand alone, if necessary. But stand in the Ephesians 6 "full armor of God" with that effective "shield of fatih" that extinguishes all the adversary's flaming missiles. All.....including legalism and pharisaism.

I respect you for your discernment. I affirm your courage to face wrong head-on. Don't even flinch, Terry. God honors those rare spokesmen who trust Him in the hard places. You're one of 'em, my friend.

Praying for you....honestly,
Charles R. Swindoll

Just ten days ago I received a similar S.O.S. from one of our most brilliant ministers pleading for prayer over him as he felt he was dying in his work. I thought of Swindoll's note and pass it along to those of you who really needed to read this letter today. God has a way of providing that just right message...even from a twenty year old letter!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Did this blog show up?

I wrote a very good blog earlier today. It was well written and cheered a lot of great servants onward. And.....the blog connector evidently didn't connect. It must have gone on to blog-heaven.

So.........did this blog show up? If so, how do you feel about what I wrote earlier? For it? Against it? Need more information?

It's Fiery Friday...AGAIN!!!!!

I'm back from a long Thanksgiving break just in time to write a new blog on "FRIDAY"!!!!! So, let's toss some Fiery Friday gasoline on some good works God has going.

Let's comment on congregations you find great delight in knowing about His work in them.

I salute:

THE SHANNON OAKS church with Jeff Jenkins. Their heart for people combined with courgage for God inspires me. I love that they endure from the cross all which might consume them and keep their drive for extending His kingdom.

THE UNIVERSITY CHURH OF CHRIST where Dusty is. Their leadership is committed to building a sweet family. This congregation is well on it's way to the excitement of watching God do things through His provision and protection which will bless some---well down the road----who have yet to be born.

THE GUADALAJARA CHURCH where Tim and Kim are. What a powerful work going on that does not possess the norm of success measurements. The numbers are few...but growing...the lifestyle (compared to mine) has it's challenges...but the Holy Spirit visits this work.

(And, I'll mention they have lost some financial support and are worthy of someone picking them up....soon.)

THE CROSSTOWN CHURCH OF CHRIST IN TULSA where Charlie Kymes preaches. The congregation was declining a few years ago and God has begun to rebuild right where they live. Their humility, their stability, and their simple devotion to stick with Him is bearing the fruit of joy in the land.

THE RICHLAND HILLS CHURCH OF CHRIST hasn't reached it's size by playing church in neutral. This is a prayer-based, vision-oriented group whose drive seems to be two things: The Cross of Christ and the outlandish hope of reaching the lost. Rick Atchley.....good leadership from you and those who partner with you!

Toss some gasoline on a few churches you'd like to see continually fired up!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Fiery Friday

Let's throw a little gasoline on some friends to inspire their work to even greater levels!

First, this will be my last post for a week as I'll be traveling home to see my momma for TG.

Now, to Fiery Friday!

Eph. 4:29 says to speak words which will give grace to those who let's "speak us some power!" I chose to throw gasoline on three people whom I applaud for their servant faith.

JOHN DOBBS......serves tired and tirelessly as pulpit minister in Mississippi. The man is both worn down and stronger than ever due to the amazing grace of God filling his shoes. John inspires me to work when it ain't fun. We took a team to Pasgagoula last summer. What a depressing thrill! That is rugged work and it's facing John every day he drives down the street. JOHN DOBBS, I think you are a living wonder!

ARLENE MAYES....serves faithfully beside her husband (SHAWN) while he leads worship at Garnett. The Mayes are members at Memorial Drive; their home. But, Shawn has been called by God to help Garnett out for a time with his strong ability to lead in worship. Arlene packs up her four little kids and steadily, faithfully stands by her man by attending a church---while neat in its own right---is not home. She misses her Memorial friends and family. She misses the worship here. Yet, she serves faithfully to God and to her husband by keeping the family in tact. The kids stand by daddy as momma does and the lessons they are learning will bear continued fruit. ARLENE are JUST one amazing, powerful friend. I love you!

BRENDA a wife, a momma, and a nursing student. I call her the "Going Home Nurse" because of the saying that when you are in the hospital and the nurses start looking better, you are about to find out you are going home. BRENDA is beautiful all the way through. She carries a big load which includes missing every Sunday morning's assembly in order to complete her training at the hospital. One would think her faith might be threatened; that her interests might slip. NOT! She is committed to Him....period. She has not and will not let go even though her temporary schedule is not ideal for her and her family. BRENDAY HUGHES......I salute you!

Would you pick three people and throw a little gasoline on them? Let's cause their fire to erupt by grace-filled words which will cause them to pop with over-joy! Tell us about three of your most amazing servant-hearted friends.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Aging youthfully

I really enjoy my work. It's exhileratingly exhausting. The challenges are often more than I can emotionally bear. One thing I continue to enjoy about it is it never gets old. And, I don't either.

However, I do find my role changing. One of the more obvious is I am noticing the need to be less of a spark plug and more of a gasoline can carrier. Where I love motivating the troops, I love now the opportunity to throw gasoline on the younger ones' ideas. Yesterday I sat in my office with two church leaders 20 years my junior. They had visions and dreams of what adult Bible classes could be. How exciting. How not like what I had organized over the years. My secret/quiet goal toward them from the beginning was to do everything I could to toss gasoline onto the Holy Spirit fire within them.

I may be 59, but I don't want to get in the way of wild horses leading in the kingdom. Enough of taming and domesticating the ambitions of good young men and women. We've done that along the way, and we are losing some of our best to discouragement. I think they have tremendous ideas. I'm not here to tone them down. I'm here to see their fires keep burning.

Lord give us the wisdom from above to know when to carry a water bucket and when to carry a gasoline can. Speak words of life....and then expect the fires of compassion to roar with extravagant hope!

An Athiest's View

Ellen Johnson is the President of American Athiests. During her interview on the O'Reilly Factor November 13, 2006, she said, Religion can't survive without government. She was emphasizing the decline of religion in America by making the point that if it weren't for the U.S. government, faith-based organizations wouldn't survive. Bill O'Reilly challenged her with high percentages from polls indicating religion was much stronger than her perception. She was bent on voicing what great gains her organization is making on bringing about religious decline.

Those who speak anti-faith seem so glib. What a calling to rid earth of God?!?

It would be interesting if there was a way to calculate the money religion sent in goods, man-power, and occupational sacrifice to the Katrina shorelines. Could it be goverment wouldn't survive without religion? Government isn't surviving without it.

Don't be dismayed when strong statements regarding faith are introduced. Faith is dependent on one thing....let me correct that....on One. His name is Jesus. His Father flinches not, even if the circumstance appears the minority. There was David and Goliath, Esther, Gideon, and so many others. Their dependence was on God; not on numbers, not on statistics, not on funds in reserve. We live in their jet-stream.

Calulate where you see God working.....and then tell the whole world about it. Hopefully such contagion will grow that unbelievers will volunteer to praise the name of Jesus with us.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Peak Effeciency

Do any of you ever feel foolish at your computer? Just how smart is this little gray box, anyway? It can do things I will never think to require of it. It can twirl, it can dance, it can skip, it can prance its stuff. Yet, I call on it to do maybe.....1% of its capability, if that much? Do we ever connect with the software's maximum capabilities? I doubt we get close.

Shawn Mayes is a PT working with me as I prepare to return to the Cardinals Legends camp. He has me stand on one leg atop a half rubber ball about 18" in diameter to teach me balance when coming off of the mound. At first, I could not remain balanced for even a few seconds. When he taught me to contract my stomach muscles, I can stay balanced a long time. How much of our physical prowess do we neglect because we simply didn't understand how things work?

I heard a healthy looking man who possessed maybe 1% body fat speak at a Peter Lowe Seminar about diet. He explained in overwhelming detail about chemical interactions and fuels for the body that my mind could not possibly take in all he was saying. Don't eat fruit after 4:00 p.m. because such interferes with other chemicals and on and on he continued. My conclusion was, "Donuts are out?"

Study of the Bible floods the brain as well. There is so much to know. The name of God...and how many names? The intriguing connections to Jesus' instructions which could be better understood if we were Jewish. Yet, the Jews struggled to understand him. When we speak of restoration we must consider we are most likely only speaking of the half % we know.

My point? Don't become enamored with what you know in any field. Whatever it is you have gained is but a fragment of a fragment of what there is available to absorb. So? Park your high-horses. We are all foolish....even in our strongest environment.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

When Golfing Gets Rough

Thursday was a fabulous day to golf. Three of us ventured to our favorite course. As I was teeing up on the second hole we heard a blood-curdling scream and looked up.

The foursome coming our direction one fairway over had hit a shot which had veered in our direction. As the man was surveying his ball location his golf cart began to roll toward him. Panicked, his wife jump in to set the brake, but instead hit the accelerator. She ran into him, knocked him down, and kept screaming and keep pushing the accelerator to get the cart to stop.

It was a hilarious scene!

She knocked him out of his shoes and drug/pushed him 40 feet before the cart finally stopped on its own. Then she got out of the cart and another had joined by this time and they are hunched over asking the man if he was all right....with the cart still on him. They didn't back the cart off for several minutes.

The sight was hilarious. This man's shoes back up the fairway, him pinned beneath the front wheels and them leaning down to talk to him while this cart sets on him.

We lost our composure. I've never seen Ralph Gray cry. It took him four attempts to hit his drive because he kept stepping back and drying his tears. Ralph, who shoots in low to mid 80' s shot a 105 that afternoon.

Needless to say that couple didn't finish their round. She drove him back to the clubhouse and my guess is they have been in therapy ever since.

Friday, November 10, 2006

What do we do?

Last night I got one of those dreaded calls. A sixty-one year old man who attends Memorial became despondent over a property-line dispute. He shot three of his neighbors and then himself. All four died. His daughter, dear to this church, and is in my small group. We just baptized her mother last month.

Upon receiving the call, I drove to the church to catch any elders who might be there. During the short drive over I found myself praying. It was an unscheduled time for God and me to meet, once again. And, here's what we discussed.

I thanked Him. I thanked Him for being God and thanked Him that we weren't. I thanked Him for understanding when our frail minds couldn't grasp the English words we were just now hearing. I thanked Him for His glory, His beauty, His quickness, His patience and long-suffering. I let Him know that in the center of devastating news that He remains the Beauty of the World. I thanked Him for the successful work He and Jesus and the Spirit did at the cross and through the grave.

As I continued to praise Him, I asked Him if he would develop this tragedy as a backdrop for the diamond-beauty of faith to shine ever so brightly in our lives.

When news hits us so starkly it feels that someone has darted off with our oxygen tank, it is always a right thing to praise the Living God for His extreme loveliness and presence....Phil. 4:4-9.

That's one thing we can do.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Lead, follow...or get out of the way.

In my early years as a cynical and brash preacher I relished the sting of the bumper sticker which boasted, Lead, follow, or get out of the way. The message of course was a bold call for the bum-fussler(s) blocking church progress to either get with the program or else let me lead and he/she/they move to the rear. It was a strong, stern message of power coupled with vision.....I thought. Just to recite it excited the take-charge guy within me!

As God grew me down I have practiced that line so much better as the secret to it's call is really to get out of the way. That's what John the Baptist did when Jesus approached. That's what I try to do to be an effective leader at Memorial. I try to calculate how to best get out of the way: out of His way, out of the members' way, out of progresses' way.

Now in my 30th year we are having Jason Thornton and Bobby Smith (both staffers) preach once a quarter. Others must increase and I must decrease. Gradually, these and others will be in the pulpit more. I intend to be present cheering them on. Getting out of the way doesn't seem to be natural. I feel weird sitting there while a young fellow does the preaching. I'm doing seems.

Yet, getting out of the way is such good leadership. It let's God and His people continue the flexibility to be current, to try the new, to experience uncharted courses which would also be good for developing missionaries out of our kids and training reckless young minds to exert their energy inside the halls of kingdom living. Oh, Lord willing, I'm far from being put out to pasture. I'm only 59. But we are planning ahead for the future when I hit 85 and they have had enough of me.

We have many mottos which produce effectively at Memorial Drive. A great one is, A Place To Start Life Over. Another one we try to practice everyday is, Get Out of the Way.

It's a Haggard week

Ted Haggard surely has caused much stir. Blogs and emails contain sensitive and well-thought-out comments. The new merciful nature of Jesus seems prevalent in most compared to gnashing of teeth. One note which passed by informed readers that James Dobson and Tommy Barnett would be evaluating Haggard's spiritual and emotional base for the purpose of giving him healthy counsel.

My question is: Do we get it that Dobson and Barnett are in the same boat as Haggard and we are in the same condition as Dobson, Barnett, and Haggard? The Romans 3:23, all have sinned and fallen short is packed with mighty and deep sin and irrecoverably short. Somebody's got to pay for this mess! James 2:10 still prods us to accept a truth we tend to hedge upon, if you are guilty of one sin, you are guilty of all.

Ted Haggard's sin isn't to be regarded lightly. It's the dropped jaws of Christians that disturbs me. Our personal sin we accept with a shrug of it's not that bad. While immorality may not have been carried out in your flesh, there's reason to believe Jesus said if it's in the heart it's the same. Few, very few, would enter a school firing a weapon. Murderers we regard ourselves as not. Yet, Jesus claims that to be angry with a brother is murder.....and we yawn and shrug. At least we are no Haggard.....but we are.

Ted Haggard being exposed is not the devatation of the week. It's discussing the likes of him as if we aren't exactly like him.
Squeaky clean from sin is surely to be celebrated; yet, all have such opportunity only because Jesus makes us exception for any who considers him/herself as having done a fairly good job of avoiding pitfalls. We are ugly wretches cleansed only by the blood of Jesus.

The kingdom is about restoring the ugliness of mankind to the beauty of His Son...II Cor. 5:14-21. That includes Ted Haggard and you.....and me.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Don't give up...God works!

I've been with Memorial Drive 29 1/2 years. We've enjoyed watching God reverse our course. At one point we were sliding as a congregation into "not much hope for us". Everything about us seemed bleak. A couple of things happened which seemed to turn us around about twelve years ago. Mainly, a hand full of women began to study a new workbook, Experiencing God, by Blackaby and King.

They began to share with the rest of us the idea of getting on board with God where He is working instead of us generating concepts and then petitioning God to endorse our plans. What followed were two bold moves.

He lead us to add a part-time children's minister as we had very few children's classes....there were so few children attending. Too, we added a worship leader who took us to a new level of praise in our assemblies. Today the church is enthusiastic in its participtation in kingdom matters. God has richly blessed.

Share what moves you have seen God do---in your congregation or others---which might cheer others on to hold fast to their confession and, once again, see the church headed in a positive direction.

Sunday, November 05, 2006


Faith Under Fire

We are living a time of significant opportunity to display our faith. Persecution has passed our way in rare and intermitent dribbles. Some get written up for not walking the perceived party line. Others are eliminated from the speakers' bureau because their presentations offend. Such persecution is simply anemic.

Take a look at under the topic of "The Threat of Radical Islam". We are squarely facing the rumors America faced when Hitler and his were doing there thing....over there. Persecution is on it's way as a thunderous and bellowing storm. We will no longer watch war on TV. We will be in it. We are in it.

We must bury our people in Jesus ahead of time. Cute programs for adorable children and adventurous outings for church adults won't cut it. We must develop within our churches the mindset of confessing Jesus as Lord when under severe fire. The resurrection of Jesus is the conquering hope.

Up 'til now we have lived in the ease of biting and devouring one another in the name of "Truth". We've sounded big...but we aren't. Now, the stakes are escalating. We are headed for confrontation as to whether we will testify in the presence of our enemies that Jesus is our King.

We are poised for blessing. Our future will find absolute opportunity to possess faith with a purpose. We belong to Him and there will be no turning back!

Friday, November 03, 2006

What's the value of blogging?

As I see it, the blogsites are defeating privacy fences. We are becoming neighbors once again. Blogs allow our visits to be brief while our days remain free to get so much done. There is value in gaining connectedness in a world which seems so crowded, yet leaves some feeling so lonely. I am all for seeing that all feel absolutely connected to someone.

I'm not sure how often I can or will pay attention to this site. I am a very green novice. I know this....people are important. In future notes, I will join with many others to be another voice to cheer you on.

For now....enjoy your weekend!