Wednesday, May 30, 2007
I want to play ball for the St. Louis Cardinals. Well, she didn't rightly know how to arrange that one. Of course she didn't. She was old, wore old shoes, and walked old. Well, then I want to be a stand-up comedian. You guessed it. She didn't know how to do that one either. 0 for 2. She's about to strike out. We finally opted to send me to a business college down the road so that one day I could become a whiz of a CEO or something....she said. I didn't catch it all exactly.
Today I fly to Chicago to speak at a high school graduation for 400 seniors in DeKalb. I can't wait to get there. I will flash my St. Louis Cardinal bubble gum card and tell several funny stories (with great points of course) as a stand-up comedian.
What will they be when they grow up? Isn't it fascinating that in reality they haven't a clue. God's world whirls in too many unsuspected gyrations. Some will land precisely where they had dreamed, of course. Others will fly higher than they'd ever anticipate.
My word to you today? Regardless of age, graduate with a head full of dreams and a heart full of determination. Break the imprisonment of your own rut. Risk. Jump. Sail. Life is for living; not for preserving. If you'll dare break out....you may have set the stage (finally) for God to break in. Many readers may not have needed this today. However, I sense in my spirit someone really did.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
There are a lot of things I don't know. What I do know is so lacking compared to what is available to know, I am most foolish. Truthfully, we are all in the same boat. How many professors at Yale and Harvard don't know this about a horse?
How fascinating, therefore, to approach the Word with exact eagerness! It's seemingly undiscoverable in one's lifetime. I don't just read the Bible, I explore it. It explores me. Bible study is full of lively distractions. In looking for the location of the passage at the end of this writing, I'm amazed at connecting verses I had yet to realize were even stated. The depths of God are incalculable, indecipherable, and impossible.....they are too much.
Thus, keep learning. While you are learning take it into your thinking system it is not how much you know, but it's Who knows you that ultimately matters.
Knowledge is arrogant, but love edifies. If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know; but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him.....I Cor. 8:1-3.
Monday, May 28, 2007
We pray for God to attend our assemblies. We anticipate Him being here. We walk away Sunday after Sunday giddy at His activity among and within us. It doesn't matter who preaches. It just doesn't. Our focus is pregnant with expectation God will move through someone(s). We don't have to beg or press. He shows up all the time.
We talk about Him. We look for Him. We must have Him. We don't know how or why so many things work so fascinatingly well. We can't grasp God's wisdom. He just keeps pouring over us and into us and out of us.
Briley Davis fell this week and shattered her leg. The wife---a first time visitor---of the sweet couple came up to me afterwards and handed me money "for the broken leg lady". They didn't know her and needed a collection themselves...but the spirit of generosity keeps showing up in members and strangers.
Yesterday we put some hardback sport books on sale as a fundraiser for Kyle Holcomb who is headed for Scotland in the AIM program. I told the church the books were $3 each with a ceiling of $300. I was only joking about the latter. One lady bought a book for $203! We collected over $500 for the Davis' and over $740 for Kyle.
Yesterday we experienced God is so many ways. We are certain we are nothing. We are more certain He can give life to dead settings and call things into being which do not exist...Rom. 4:17.
I cheer you on......turn your lousy and anemic efforts over to God. He'll make barrels of lemonade from them! We like church energy. Church energy is Holy Spirit power.
Friday, May 25, 2007
Some wave a silent farewell because they simply can't conclude they are loved and accepted by God. They feel their deep sin has claimed them and there is no hope. When they returned for one more try at church because such had always been an important part of their makeup, they only found more harsh and hopeless condemnation from the pulpit.
This was brought home again as I visited with a precious friend who, today, is so effective in God's ministry. She speaks with life in her eyes about being called by God to share life toward others. She's dynamite! However, there was a time she nearly walked away. She had begun to accept herself as a shameful and cruddy sort. She could find no relief for her guilty and aching heart in the church. True to the church's previous course, there was no good news for her. Fortunately, she began to attend a congregation and heard new terms foreign to her church ears; grace, mercy, compassion, and the Holy Spirit.
Sin is sin. We need our people to know two extremes about sin: ours is personally more awful than we estimate and by the outpouring of God's wrath at the cross, it's more forgiven than our hearts can assume. Forgiveness of sin is the world's greatest scandal and the church's most amazing doctrine! Sin separates us from God; yet, He put His only son where His mouth was. The good news is sinful wretches are to be transformed into elated celebrationists because God paid for what we can't.
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him....II Corinthians 5:21.
May churches signal to the good people who've given up on themselves, their congregation, and their God......Jesus is the way to start life over!
Our direction has evolved over these many years. While it is most appropriate, it is understandably confusing. I cannot speak for Garnett's leadership on this; only myself for the years when we have the workshop. Our goal is one: truly, honestly, simply, profoundly....JESUS. If we will grow in Jesus, we will grow in evangelism, in prayer, in Spirit, in commitment. But Jesus seems to fail to land in the minds of many who inquire because he is invisible. They seem to want a sidewalk and a statement to memorize. Why is this?
I think it's because we have been strong on Church and weak on of Christ. If one were to enter the Kentucky Derby with these horses: Bellamy Bible, Name of Jesus, Darting Doctrine, Baptism Beauty, Running Three Times A Week, Huff-N-Puff, Restoration Rosie, and Organized Oswald, which horse would win according to the members' conversations? If we monitored lunch discussions or Bible classes, which of these horses fills our speech? I'm saying Name of Jesus would stumble at the gate for many members. Others would see him finish fourth. To win, place or show? Fortunately, there would be some.
The direction of Tulsa's workshop is Jesus. Bus Ministry was not our hope. Those who believed such may find themselves critical and disgruntled with the rest of us. Jesus is it! We are targeting him. We want to lead our people to more prayer, more security, more unity, more contentment, more life, and more evangelism. This will only happen through more of Jesus. May we stay in this derby.....and win!
But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, that, just as it is written, "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.....I Corinthians 1:30-31.
Jesus is all of this to us and for us. We are none of it any other way.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
The main thing he's having to drill into me is to relax my grip and my swing. I g-r-r-rip it and r-r-r-rip it! I grip the club too tightly. He told me that on a scale of 1 to 5 my grip is a 25. And, I swing to hard. Such seems to me the ball would travel farther if I put more muscle into it. Not.
It was said of a Cardinal pitcher during a televised game this week that the reason he was not effective is he was too tense trying to throw the ball too hard. If he would relax, the ball would have both increased speed and movement. Why is that? The announcer went on to explain that when the body relaxes the muscles and tendons are freer to produce more effect results. My golf instructor has his work cut out for him in getting this concept into my head. I've done it wrong for 50 years.
Similarly in the church...we try too hard. We are a committed sort; a serious crew and we intend to unleash power. But, we may find ourselves carrying the load alone. He will do the work in us, if we will release inner tension. Yes, we try harder. But tense fret and worry aren't as productive as relaxed faith and confidence. Do you try to force your preacher to do better? Are you one who presses the elders to see clearer? Some calculate and plot to raise funds for projects. Others manipulate and control in such a way the congregation is wrapped in tightness to the extent is becomes immobile.
But Moses said to the people, "Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today." Exodus 14:13
"The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent." Exodus 14:14
Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary. Isaiah 40:31
Be still and know I am God....Psalm 46:10
Today is another story. Ministries abound. Joy abounds. Attendance knocks at 500. Kids are everywhere. We recently had a record amount of $115,000+ committed to our annual missions budget; yet, we did not reach our goal as we need $120,000 to cover all of our requests. Memorial Drive now has two awesome traits: happy and productive. I so enjoy what God is doing with, through, and for us. But, what happened to turn it around?
- I began to preach about Jesus rather than brotherhood issues as the Boston Movement, Divorce and Remarriage, We Were the Only Church, etc.
- I quit shouting and being mean in the pulpit. I thought loud was a sign of power.
- I began to brag on the positive, faithful things about the members rather than run them down for not doing enough. I began to believe in the power of the flock.
- A few women began to study Blackaby and King's, Experiencing God.
- As a result we found ourselves praising God instead of making plans. We began to watch for Him to work and we spread the good news every time we saw His hand. We began the N.T. practice of witnessing and testifying of His abundant grace.
- We began to pray more and worry less.
- We cancelled Sunday evening gatherings which had become Jr. Sunday mornings and went to small groups.
- We added a part-time children's minister (keep in mind we had no funds to do this...our elders saw the need...stepped out with only a prayer....and God provided on the basis of their courageous [although highly criticized] faith) to assist those faithful teachers who had given their talents to work with kids. Before long we had to add another part-time children's minister. You ought to see what the Nicky's and the Mona's and the Becky's and the Roni's and Dennis', etc., do for all these kids!
- We assigned each of our small groups to one specific room for the purpose of remodel. They were to pay for the materials and do the labor.
- We added a full-time worship minister when there were no funds. We were behind in budget. The two elders withstood fierce criticism for this move and it remains one of the most heroic moves I've ever seen in all my years. Again, their faith paid off.
- Our elders shifted from reporting/massaging the complaints of the few to be protective of the various Spirit gifts among the flock. By protecting the gifts I mean they made sure the talents of the members weren't quenched by dreamless and blind critics. When a member had an idea and would take the project on, the elders gave a quick affirmation to their wishes. Total fruitful activity continues today because the elders adamantly refused to let the naysayers kill the dreams of the members.
- All leadership began to develop flexibility. We had to learn by practicing the leading of the Holy Spirit rather than holding to the concrete and safe rigidity which stifled the His activity. The Holy Spirit lives in this church and we continue to look for His new and current leading.
I share these things believing there is a reader or two out there who would benefit. One must understand we have learned many things in such a delightful transition. One is we as leaders shall never be more than in kindergarten. We hunger and thirst for Him to work because all of our formulas paled, became sickly, and fortunately died. His hands work in our hands. His heart supports our hearts. He is "THE" leader. We are not.
To give God the glory is on the mind of every elder and every staff member. Jesus is the name above all names. We owe Him everything. We credit Him with everything. We want more of Him!
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
He has surprised me as I find Him faithful to Jesus' plea, Come unto Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. God surprises me at how easy life flows if I will release the tense reigns of control. I didn't realize:
- Power is perfected in weakness...II Cor. 12:9. I had little influence; quite small doses of power. I had an abundance of weaknesses. He said my weaknesses would be perfectly powerful....so I gave them to Him. He was right. The weaker I am the more powerful I get.
- Intentional stillness trumps erratic action....Ps. 46:10. My trust that He would work is far more effective than my trust that I must make things happen. If I'll do the waiting on Him, He'll do the showing up for me....and it's so much more exhilarating!
- Giving leaves more to spend than keeping...II Cor. 9:8. This one is wacky. To me it verifies there is truly life after death. If anything this strange can be true, life after death is no puzzle.
- Tiny seed planting pulverizes humanistic organizational determination....Mt. 13:23. As much may be done in the moment's seed of courtesy to the waitress than a week's campaign knocking doors. We tend to look for the big to count. His Word has always pleaded with us to get it that Davidic concepts devastate Goliath theories. If we will strive to be little, He will have room to show up in our world triumphantly.
These are just a few surprises I've seen about God. I simply didn't see these truths coming down the pike of belief. Each is nearly scandalous. Impossibility has become routine for those who believe. Life can't possibly work this way. Regular life doesn't. Abundant life does! For me and my friends? We chose Abundant Life! We love impossibility doctrine!
Monday, May 21, 2007
Jack lived with his hand extended to greet. The first time I met him was in the tunnel beneath Busch Stadium. He was standing alone----looking dapper in his grey slacks, red coat, and white shirt and tie----and when he saw me it was Jack who made the first move to greet. He wanted to know who I was, where I was from, and what I was doing. He had this unusual way of visiting with people as if he had much time set aside just for them.
Jack lived with his hand extended to cheer. He reached to every class. His eyes had no prejudice; social, racial, or otherwise. He loved people and respected all. Those many and fortunate interns who passed through the corridors of KMOX radio in St. Louis rave about the manner in which he treated them with such grace. He intentionally built people with his wordtools.
Jack lived with his hand extended to give. Knowing a middle-aged lady had stood on her feet all day serving customers at the stadium, Jack approached her in a crowd as she stood waiting for the next bus to finally head for home. He called her by name, reached out his hand toward hers and placed $100 bill in her palm; then kept moving on. When he would speak at a dinner he would have a stack of $10 bills and every time a waiter/waitress would serve him his meal or fill his water glass or coffee cup, he would tip them $10.
Don't you see why people loved Jack Buck? He lived like Jesus. He gave himself into the hearts of both princes and paupers. He lived from his heart and saw others from theirs. He valued people. People loved him. We tend to value programs and schedules while resenting interrupters of both....people.
I cheer you on to live with your hand out. Hand out compliments and support. Hand out conversations simply noticing the ones with whom you speak. Hand out cash. Give yourself away and you'll find the real you---the fulfilled you--- shows up on earth; the person you were always meant to be. Jesus was not concerned about how he looked in doing good to others; neither was Jack. They just did it. Shy is not a part of kingdom character. Timid is self-serving; self-preserving. Don't live focused upon preserving your own image. Open up your hearts and open up your hands.....go through life with your hand out.
Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus. Philippians 2:4, 5
Saturday, May 19, 2007
That was a lie. He never said it, but I figured I'd gain her devoted attention with this ploy. I thought she'd say to me something like, Oh most adorable, tall, and handsome hunk, don't you ever worry. You are the most amazing chiseled man of all my dreams. Uh, it didn't work that way. You know the guy I "made up" the story about? She immediately started dating him! Neither was on the other's radar until I made up this story....I think!?!
One of my poor traits which has really taken a lot of work for me to get past or get over is creating situations in my mind...negative views I believed others to have....which were never in their minds...ever. I simply imagined them. I was guilty of always assuming....the darkest scenario. My assumptions were always the worst instead of the better. If someone didn't respond or react to me the way I felt they should have, I worried as to what I did wrong or said wrong when in reality they most likely weren't even thinking about me. They may have been having a bad day of their own, but I could turn it so that I was responsible.
Stop it! If you are doing this, stop it! In general, good people aren't going around hating you, plotting against you, and playing mind games with you. It's us...people like us...who play the mind games. The sad thing is when the game is going on we are usually playing solitaire while believing there are two of us at the table. Not. Others aren't even on the radar screen. We've made this up! We've invented what we think they think and what we think they think we think....and it's all screwy! Stop it.
I'm learning that if I don't get a response favorably the other person may simply be distracted or maybe my idea isn't good. But, I must quit taking things so personally. I'm not that big of a deal. People really do have lives which don't center around me. I know that is a shock to all readers, but it's true. I'm not the main moment. For those of you who struggle as I did, you aren't the main event, either. Life isn't about you. It's about Him and all of us.
Life has a lot of hoops we must learn to jump through. Some aren't so easy. But playing mind games is a dead end street. I really believe there are many reading this who have no clue what I'm discussing. However, there are several who clearly know the topic at hand.
Relax. And when we do? We begin to find life much more productive, manageable, and enjoyable.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
In school we had times of prayer, studies on prayer, and then more prayer. I dreaded every second of it. I resented those who seemed to stand on their street corner to be heard by all. Give me a break. I wanted to get on with the guts of church work. When actually in ministry, I prayed very little. When I did it was always to commit my wish list to His ears. If a neighboring preacher would visit me at the office and ask if we could pray before he left, I always said yes. However, my inner man rolled my eyes and stuck my finger down my throat in sheer rejection of such a time-waster. He prayed. I listened. In my mind, my rejection trumped his praying and I won.
Over 25 years ago Albert Lemmons conducted a prayer seminar at Memorial. I attended but didn't want to. I went out of peer pressure; I was the preacher and had to show up. I went but vowed to not learn anything. I hated to pray. When he taught us to pray through the Psalms, I thought time had obviously stopped in its tracks. We even fasted an entire 24 hours and I felt I would not live. I didn't eat for the delegated time, but I didn't do much praying either. I was so glad to go out and load up on food!
Today, I truly enjoy prayer. My most important time of my week is when four or five of us gather in the auditorium on Sunday at 7:30 a.m. to pray for an hour over our day. The time flies. After leading several small groups in my home on Sunday nights with a combination of singing, eating, studying, and praying, I decided to begin a new group which would only pray. We spend our entire time in prayer. Such a move rapidly exploded our group into three groups.
What changed my view of prayer? My view of God. At first I saw Him as a Pharmacist taking orders for cures. But I learned to see Him as involved and interested; He loves to hear us say things as Thank You and We adore You. I've learned He is near. I've learned He is active; He responds. He cares.
Our God is alive! He lives! He lives to be adored! He lives to be given credit for all our senses can absorb! He seems to delight in seeing us praise Him in the center of distress as we act as if we actually have a Living God! Our lives are all about Him!
Prayer is not an order form with an 800 number. It is human to heaven and heaven to human discussion; a literal dialog. We pray to say to Him and to hear from Him. I guess the biggest thing which changed my view of prayer is to realize it is a two way street. When I learned God speaks to me and I need to listen for His response, the co-laboring involvement He and I took on is mysteriously wonder-full.
If you don't like to pray, I don't blame you. Yet, I do cheer you on that as you begin to connect with Him in speaking-terms-fellowship, life opens as a spring bloom.....wonder-fully a WOW!
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
I believe the reason the Republicans and Democrats in Congress are in such a quandary over Iraq is because they failed as leaders. Yes, Congress voted to support the war. Of course this is my opinion, but I think they thought it would be another 11 day war we would all watch on TV as a mini-series, conquer Hussein, set the nation free, and gather back at a hotel in New York City to gloat over the General's brilliant assessment of our success. When 11 days passed and then 11 months, both parties began to pale. I don't think they led the nation. I think they guessed they'd look badly if they failed to vote for a war which would be as speedily successful as Desert Storm.
So, where are we going leader? Are we going where Lucado writes and McLaren promotes and Sweet analyzes? None of these three would expect such. Yet, our vision can become snagged on the latest advancements which are a far cry of improvement from our own. I suggest we must continue to be leaders who hear from God. What is He saying and where is He calling for our assertion?
Back to the political realm, it's campaign time once again. Let's see....hmmm...what will the messages cover? Hmmm.....prescription costs for seniors? Health care? Social Security? No children left behind? Alternative fuel research? In other words the same ole same ole we've had for how many campaigns now? When will a leader step forward and take us in a meaningful direction other than circular landscape? We've passed those ways before!
I encourage you to pay attention to the Spirit's leading. Such a response could find one very lonely. Years ago I was heavily criticized (though not present myself) at a gathering of Bus Ministers in a nearby state. It was reported (to put me in my place) by one of them as to how they had gathered and discussed I had caved in to the elders and had lost my fire for evangelism. Those were lonely days as my good friends were speaking of my assumed failure. I may have shed a few tears along the way. I may have been uncertain as to what to do next at times. One thing I can say is I've never lost my fire for this work.
Step up to the plate, young leader, even if you step up all alone. God's voice is the One to hear; not the herd's who bellow the loudest. We aren't in need of politicians in the church. We are in need of prophets who will bring life to His people. Cooperation is always admirable. But there are those times when cooperation isn't leadership....it's politics as usual.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
- ENVISION EVERYONE WANTS TO KNOW GOD....I believer everyone I meet wants to know God. Everyone. No exception. The most shy or the most belligerent or the most negative will at some point want to know about God's most prized Truth. Every waitress, cashier, and neighbor...it can be trusted they will want to know Him. Such a faith transforms our view of where we live and who we live among.
- PLANT SEED....plant kingdom thoughts. Throw the seed to wind and let it land where it may. God is looking over the field. He'll run the show. Our job is to sow seed through praise of God and invitations to be a part of small groups or Sunday assemblies or church league basketball or a Bible study at our kitchen tables, etc.
- WATER WHAT YOU PLANT....When you've planted the seed of testimony of what God has done for you or you may have invited one to church, begin to water the seed with courtesy, interest, support, and friendliness. Let the cashier at Walgreens know you are one of the happiest people to ever enter their store. Speak to strangers. Water the seed others have planted by having a good day whether it is a good day or a bad day. Look like you have a God is inferior to nothing.
Midge Meloen entered her daughter's hospital room like a firestorm. I was in my second year of ministry. I lived scared; never knowing what to do. This new grandmother had learned her grandchild was dying and she was, understandably, a panic. I'd never met her or her daughter; the latter of whom I'd just been called to the hospital to minister to as she didn't have a church. When Midge set off her tirade of verbal fireworks and told me to get out, I did. But I didn't leave by simply leaving. I left in a polite, intentional way sowing seed of courtesy, respect, and understanding. I did not leave in a huff. I left with a purpose. I planted the seed of kingdom love by abiding by her rude outburst. I would not trade eye for eye. I would defy her intent with mine. She would one day need God.
The baby lived. I had visited with her daughter ever so briefly and didn't have a clue what to say. Ninety days later, Midge sent for me. She, now, was in the hospital. She called for me? I walked into her room (quite intimidated) and she reached her arms from her bed toward me and said, Oh Terry, why does God have to knock the props out from under me to get my attention? Midge was found to have cancer and was dying.
I studied with Midge and baptized her and her daughter who had the baby and her young niece who served as hospice. I buried Midge in January and then I buried Midge in February; the first in Christ, the second in the cemetery. She pegged it, God had moved in her life and the seed I planted in that dark and insulting hospital room three months earlier sprouted....God's way in God's timing for God's glory.
Reach out. You can do your part. He will do his. Plant and water everywhere you go. Everyone wants to know about God at some point in their life.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Do any of you identify with knowing everything and knowing nothing simultaneously? Both are extremes and neither are accurate. I never know it all, but seldom do I know absolutely nothing. What a quandary. And, I'm a leader?
I've finally yielded to the fact I don't know how everyone thinks. I can't grasp such a region of diversity. It's too big. I'm guilty of retooling other's concepts to fit my particular and opinionated grid. This messes with communication substantially. Colleagues go deaf in frustration.
The solution is the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit who gives gifts. It is the Spirit who empowers. When one can yield to the Spirit He can be trusted to know the inner thoughts of God and the thoughts of inner man. He knows all. He surveys all. He is to be trusted. My role is to let Him do what His role is designed to do. I must learn to submit as my estimation can only be incomplete while His is absolute.
Every leader surely feels the stress of communicational conflict. Why can't we think as a whole? The answer is none of us are equipped to define, decipher, or decode the whole.....only the Spirit of Christ has such a call. Therefore, we will do well to be assertive as long as two traits partner our vision: patience and gentleness....both (not surprisingly) fruit of the Spirit.
If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another. Eph. 5:25, 26.
Friday, May 11, 2007
When these foggy moments arise I believe we are experiencing our alienation from this world. We are aliens in search of The City. While we read our citizenship is in heaven, such doesn't logically register in the mind. Gravity seems to have it's fleshly pull. The truth is we participate here, but don't belong. Just as when traveling to be with a friend in another city and on the way to their home from the airport they want to drop a gift of for a shower that evening. You walk in to an unfamiliar house with complete strangers preparing for the evening event. You recognize they are humans. You have it within you to connect in courtesy. Yet, you feel estranged as you don't really belong.
I cheer you on. We are not these big-deal religious guys who've nailed the life and times of Jesus to the point of idealism. However, we have hung around him long enough to know he didn't fit in here and, when we thought we always would, we find we don't either.
Feeling weird about being you lately? It may not be that you are doing anything wrong or need to do something more. It just may be you are finally realizing something right: becoming increasingly attached to the glories of heavenly citizenshippery!
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
Grace is what makes any leader an authentic leader. Anything else is simply allowing a person to carry a title in leadership, but has no Spirit backing to be productive. Giving is a significant test. Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully......And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed...II Cor. 9:6,8.
I know one thing about my elders (although I've never seen one of their checks...ever), each is a strong giver. You can't lead by their skillful standard without having the leading and the backing of His extraterrestrial grace. It can't be done. Grace is the trademark of God working in a man or woman. No substitute will survive.
Years ago Marvin Phillips and I were on a plane destined to speak at some workshop. He shared with me that (and this was over 25 years ago) he had gotten his giving up to $100 per week. I'd never heard of such a thing. I gasped. I thought $25 per week was generous. And, when do we ever find ourselves permitted to share such a comment as Marvin's without being judged negatively for bragging. I was stunned. $100 a week seemed like $1000 to me....too far out of reach. Yet, it explains some of Marvin's success. He trusted God more than himself.
Marvin set me on a course that day which has challenged me year by year. I still feel hesitant in discussing my actual giving. I loved what God did for me when Marvin said it, but feel odd being specific with you. So, let me say I have it as my goal to one day be able to give $500 per week and I am closing in. Understand this important point: that goal was set when I didn't get paid enough to see how I'd ever attain Marvin's giving of $100. But there was God....promising.
In the early 80s I had not had a raise in several months (18 to 24) at Memorial. My salary was getting us by from week to week as long as the kids didn't need clothes and the car didn't break down. The elders gave me a generous and much needed raise of $30 per week. We really needed it. Yet, Marvin's example stuck. Mary and I raised our giving $35 per week (not our giving "to" $35, but increased it $35) to send a message to God. He has been ultra faithful to His abound, always, sufficiency in everything, abundance promises all along.
Some yearn for a good break in ministry. It might be thought a good seminar or a smart computer program or a faithful mentor might move you to the next level. May I seriously and delightfully urge you to evaluate your giving and fork it over so He can multiply what you sow in faith? You'll never be able to record His marvelous and mysterious moves. I tried, literally, to chart what He sent back. After 30 days of journaling, I threw the journal away. One cannot track "abundance" when God calls it "abundance". It's just too much to be recorded....human words cannot compute His blessings....and they're all for us!
Ponder the secret. Take the risk. And, step aside. His grace will come aroaring!
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
How does this happen? How does the Matriarch or Patriarch or simply Ms. Whiney-Butt rule the church 'til their death and its death? This is going on en mass. Any of the three can be sweet if they want to be as long as church goes their way.....and it eventually does. That's why they won't leave. The truth is they control and God does not. How do they gain such power.
Here's their approach: they either are an elder or an elder is their puppet. How wearying are the elders' meetings because there is one who objects to everything. One of my former elders (who was a good one) always referred to this as Minority Rule. The puppet rules. Dreams are quenched. Efforts are squashed. And....good, ambitious young men trying to preach become disillusioned.
I plead with elders who are observing this going on in your camp. Please take a courageous stand and stop this death-talking one who has been mistakenly placed in leadership. He holds great power over the other elders. Not all, but some are afraid to stand up to him. His stifling words of negativity and disapproval are terrorizing your own flock. Wake up, please, to the darkness and frustration that you feel, your preacher feels, and obviously your flock feels because fewer children attend and fewer yet become faithful adults. Stop the fear-leading in your midst. One among you may be the Grand Leader in this....or he may simply be the critic's puppet.
Many congregations are throw-backs of the slaves leaving Egypt; full of people trying to escape but simply going nowhere in circles. The church is so tired of this, but have no voice. They are mysteriously overruled and trumped by the church ruffian whom no one will dare counter. Souls are being lost while meeting after meeting discusses how to win someone new. Stand up, for kingdom's sake, and save the one's you've got.....including your young preacher!
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
I love that about him. He simply walked on earth as if he were from elsewhere! This is a huge item. It wasn't a matter of letting Jesus out of the box; he wouldn't go into one. He could sense the slightest touch in a crowd, but couldn't discern who it was that touched him. Now how does that work? He didn't mind in the least that a guy running late cut through the roof to get to him. He didn't flinch at the interruptive scene. No more than a friend would die and he'd call him back. Jesus refused to walk the conventional line. He could never be fully detected nor plotted, nor analyzed. He fits no one's mold of any human being. All we can do is try to fit into him.
He left earth and sent his Spirit to keep his body moving and what do we begin to hear? We are to conform to pattern and form; the very opposite of the nature of the magnetic Jesus. And how's pattern and form doing these days in Tennessee and Alabama and Ohio and Oklahoma? Well, it may be the reason we aren't growing.
It just could be that thing Jesus does could be those things Jesus would still like to do....refuse to be conventional and orthodox. It could be we need to refuse to go into the box! The walk of Jesus was faithful to his words in John 3:8 where he lays the big challenge on us. Those who walk by the Spirit are moving Southeast at one moment and turning North in the next.
I don't find this style confusing. I find it exciting.
Sunday, May 06, 2007
Those were tough moments. They had been tough days; waiting to see if the girls could pull through from their very premature entry into this world. Anxious for Chris and Wendy as they held on to hold up, friends and family prayed and pulled for all. Campbell was blessed. She lived. Ana was blessed. She died.
A few days later my friend, Don McLaughlin, and I stood beneath the massive tree in the babyland section of the cemetery. Ana's little white casket sat perched proudly upon a stone bench. Her coffin was about the size of a sewing machine case. Hearts broke at the sight. Sentiment crept through the crowd and quietly dismantled every heart. Don and I spoke of hope and compassion and faith and blessings. Singers directed our attention to the Living God. We each did what God could through us to give light in dark moments.
Many lingered to hug and to cry and to dab the tears from cheeks of those broken open. It was a sweet moment Ana provided for believers to rally her Mom and her Dad. Mary and I rode in the car with Chris and Wendy. We were the last to pull away...each straining to see anything through the tears of the lonely white box which would protect little Ana's frail body.
As we pulled away and were about to exit the grounds, Wendy asked Chris if we could circle by for one last look. I knew this would not be a good move, but I hadn't the heart to speak up. I was pretty certain I knew what would have happened. As we pulled within line of sight, the casket had already disappeared into the hole awaiting Ana's coffin. Now the bench sat as if abandoned of all meaning. I don't know when I've experienced such heartbreak as at that moment.
However.....there's always a God's "however".....the truth is God blessed all of us that day. We'd prefer life, but we accept hope. We'd have enjoyed fellowship, yet we accept a scheduled reunion. Our God is brilliant in every setting. He is to be praised when He chooses to do what's best through life and what's best via death; life and death are both life. He is the Grand Planner for our feeble walk. He possesses the Divine Strategy while we shore up one anothers broken hearts and dab away the tears.
Today Ana Rush Chapel lives. She is sharper and more focused than we. She reigns without distraction. We live in circular patterns hoping to one day be as blessed as our sweet little girl.
And, Dusty, I really believe she would have liked me best!
Saturday, May 05, 2007
In some cases there seems to be an air of scam. For others, it's not the same. How do I detect this? Discern this? That's what bothers me. I never know. In some cases the Spirit may be nudging me. My potential to misjudge bugs me.
I believe the answer to the question I pose is arbitrary. There are some cases where it really feels we are casting pearls before the swine. Some seem to be lazy or on the take....or both. The others are the ones I'm concerned about. I'm feeling there are well-intentioned souls out there who have no training to handle finances or organization or work skills. They are drowning in a sea of overwhelming demands and they aren't equipped to take on the responsibility. They grew older with little effective discipline as to how to survive. Fault no longer is in the mix. There is significant need....now.
For these I remind us we may be needing to re-up our commitment for when they fail the first and second time, they may be needing our 70 x 7 endurance. Memorial is working with two couples (at least) who are desperately trying to get life in order. The demands of money needs alone wear and weigh on their hearts. I carry similar weight and I make a huge salary. What must is be like to not know if you'll have a roof and bed at the end of the next 30 days?
My point? Don't let the scam artists lead you to believe their are not those out there on our streets needing and calling for our extreme patience as they take a step forward and two backward. They'll one day be well, if we don't let go of the rope.
Friday, May 04, 2007
I love preaching in Oklahoma. It has become a base for literal world outreach through five venues:
- The Soul Winning Workshop.
- A preacher training center as several of our youth ministers have moved on to preach.
- The developing of our own little boys and girls to become missionaries/ministers and business ministers world-wide.
- The transfer of our members "out" through the natural style of families moving on.
- The extensive outreach of Internet....of which, again, God and I had words over as I didn't want it....but fortunately, He won!
Too, I found a most striking surprise. Churches in these states haven't arrived. Some just believe they have. There is much coasting going on among the Bible Belt churches. While they believe they are doing other continents a favor by giving them their financial support and sending a missionary here and there, great lack of the Spirit of Jesus Christ remains in the heavily populated church states. Thus, the Bible Belt is also a mission field. There is need to rescue the saved from the Thief and introduce them to Jesus who calls for Life Abundant.
Jesus is being lost in a religion bearing His name. People are being lost because they cannot reconcile Jesus' association with Christianity. Christianity has become docile, domesticated, civilized. We have forgotten that there is a kingdom of darkness stealing the hopes and dreams and souls of a humanity without God----Erwin McManus.
Here's how I see it: if we've kept instrumental music and women's roles out and the weekly Lord's Supper in, we are faithfully serving God. I say this is simply the symptom of dead churches trying to convince themselves they still stand for something. When Jesus is brought back into the picture, transformation begins at every turn: goals, missions, doctrine, and congregational health. Biblical faith is not a position to stand against; but rather a call to move out, move on, move forward.
Shall we determine to march for His cause?
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
When I was a kid I found a bird who misread the landing strip, missed his runway and became stuck in the hot goo of our newly blacktopped street. There the poor thing was stuck.....glued bird-chest to the tar road...wings still in tact but not strong enough to pull a successful lift-off. I, being the heroic rescuer of all things at age 10, forged ahead to liberate the traumatized sparrow. Well, I really let the younger neighbor boy dig the bird out as I didn't want to get messy....after all, I was the director of the mission. The point is we saved the bird. But, my folks wouldn't let me keep it caged because they said it was created to soar. They said it would die if we kept it caged.
A mistake parents may be making is inadvertently domesticating their kids. Children are not family pets. Kids were created by God for adventure! They are to be Spirit groomed for eventual battle of light over darkness. Yet, we protect them from bad things. We pluck off their wings. They weren't created for safety, but rather for high-alert risk. Kids get a dollar from Grandma and, whatd'ya know, want to give it to missions. Parents urge them to rethink in the name of training them the value of a dollar. Their hearts begin to learn to be reserved.
Parents are afraid the children are going to get hurt serving God. Could I ask you what book you read in the N.T. which indicates there should be expectation of working in God's kingdom and not getting hurt? We may be breaking down God's plan. Our kids are destined for raw, all-out, spectacular participation in the wild of God's kingdom. Yet, by the time we get done with raising them and releasing them from their church cages, some are found to be de-clawed and quite timid about their faith. What do we do about it?
I suggest we learn to let them serve God where they feel called. We must speak words of encouragement to their daring dreams. We begin to talk as if Disney World can't hold a candle to the creativity of the Living God in the Breathing Kingdom! We brag to them that we served not knowing how it would go, but sure God would provide. We blurt out our dreams and ideas that don't make sense; there seems to be no rhyme nor reason as to why it should work...but can because God is sooooooo sharp in His ability. We...we....talk more enthusiastic about God doing marvelous things than we talk about anything else in life.
Afraid your child will get hurt? I really can think of nothing worse than taking your kid to church year after year to discover he or she is severely deformed because our hesitant talk de-clawed their spirit. Children are not given to us to cage. They are ours to train.....to soar!
At times I feel like a storehouse of riches which are organized only to later be reorganized, but never leave the warehouse. I'm not referring to sitting in my office versus leaving for the streets. It's bigger. It's more. I'm talking about my lifestyle. Compared to the vast need of crying hearts, I'm frustrated at my impotence. News of hope for millions grows dimmer.
The body concept I wrote of last week helps. Yet, there's something about me personally which feels this continual call from within to be proactive for the downtrodden. I think about the global starving while Mary and I take another couple out to eat (for the third meal of the day....third). Our world is in one huge indescribable mess. I have the message of hope. Something isn't connecting here.
Do you ever feel this way? It's not random either; but nearly daily. I live daily with the feelings the disciples had when there were so many thousands to feed and only a sack lunch. So what is it I'm missing in faith to release the wonder of Jesus into this vast and oceanic-sized need of starvation, slavery, murder, and sheer maniacal hatred which blankets mankind? Do I miss His call because I'm numb to needs while trying to minister over so many details?
I'm not depressed, dear reader; but I am upset. I'm perpetually hungering to save the world...literally...from all misery. Why do I have so very many riches? I live like three kings. I buy a lunch for a stranger here and donate a coat there and pray for a team we send off to Honduras for a week. The cry for help from near and distant lands is far bigger than my spirit can absorb; yet, we must take action.
Do you feel this way? I believe there must be an answer to unlock doors into the dark of abyss of the wealthy, the poor, the leaders of nations and the blue collar laborers. There has to be a more effective way to dent darkness than what I'm doing. Any thoughts? Am I stuck in a religious rut? Has God some approach no man has thought of yet? How shall we bring salvation to humanity?
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
When I moved to Memorial in 1977 the burning number one issue was authority. The question was, Who had the most? The elders or the preacher? There had been a struggle with the previous preacher over this and when I rode into town the message was clear, Don't even think it!
What the elders and the church didn't realize is I wouldn't....ever. I've never wanted nor needed authority. I need encouragement, but I don't need authority. What would I do with more power? If power is perfected in weakness (and it is...II Cor. 12:9), then I conclusively have more power than I could ever exert! I'm not bragging and that's my point. As leaders we don't strut our way into power. Power is all over us if we'll present our weaknesses as our true force. Paul said in his text that Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses.
A spiritual leader will only find his bragging rights in his failures and fiascoes and catastrophes and collapses. That really doesn't lend itself to much swagger.....do you think?
Submission is not a threat to the leader; it's the secret to success. Such is the art of God's brush upon true leadership. His palette is laden with our frustration, exasperation, disappointment, and breakdown. It is not our heroics which impacts the kingdom style. Show us your flimsy and fragile masses and you'll find leaders brimming with energy.
The only bragging we get to do is the same as Paul's; it's only in our weaknesses!