Monday, December 31, 2007
I am currently reading Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen’s fabulous book, YOU Staying Young. While these guys are M.Ds., they have a great knack of communicating in simplicity. This morning I read about our stomach’s serving as our second brains.
I like this about the book: (1) as simple as I am, I understand their lingo, (2) they point out the obvious adjustments which need to be made, (3) but they point out new discoveries to get there. I have been reading this book every day when I…..when I….go to breakfast! Yes, I am a mess. The book verifies it. However, I had less breakfast today….that’s the good news. There’s additional good news: coffee and dark chocolate are good for us.
If you are fatigued over the Fluffy Battle, I think you’ll GAIN a lot from reading this. Oh, that four letter word stings slightly, huh? However, what you’ll gain is worth keeping.
Happy New Year!
Sunday, December 30, 2007
The grace of God is that spectacular ingredient in the believer's life which possesses the activation of the living God. Due to grace we are effective. Period. Without it? We are stuck with our own industry which is quite lacking in the Kingdom-of-God process.
Bitterness is immoral. It cancels grace. The result of bitterness shuts out God's involvement with us. Oddly, bitterness fits the parallel of Esau in that he traded his birthright for one meal. Bitterness satisfies the angry soul. While it won't stay around for the long haul, it leads one to have great appetite for getting even. The long-term penalty is worth little discussion to the one hungering to extend insult.
Bitterness is a bad deal. It deceives us into believing temporary injury to another makes us even; maybe even victorious. It's far worse. It cancels God's grace.
Saturday, December 29, 2007
This is how I see the Body of Christ. I'm a part of it but fundamentally clueless regarding it's capacity to breathe well and reproduce at its intended destiny. We are a meticulous miracle in both action and actuality. We perplex ourselves. Yet, we enjoy being a part of the Body of Christ.
The truth is we are each in over our head as to how the Body operates. We simply believe we do. The coordination of cells and limbs is a profound and global activity which defies time's boundaries. We are directly connected to the head which is Jesus himself. Our's is to be his mind....I Cor. 2:16, But we have the mind of Christ.
Such brings me to the title of this one blog. I feel weird being saved by His love (and I believe I surely am) while lost in the concept of being a true part of Jesus' Real Body. I'm so little and so insignificant. While millions of us comprise Him on earth, I live increasingly overwhelmed at the thought of trying to live up to his standard and expectation of functionality. I'm a mess. He is not.
It takes great faith for us to accept ourselves as is and to accept His Word that we are actually necessary in His scheme of redemption. We make a difference. Yet, the masses pass us by without notice and the trillions are spent with unkingdom regard. Jesus and you and me: we comprise The Body. We cannot afford to move nonchalantly with disregard for another brother or sister. Each is likely to possess a Christ-cell which makes us closer to being whole.
May your day be filled with overwhelming awe that you belong to a system far bigger than your imagination.....and then may you have vision to match.
Friday, December 28, 2007
Political correctness rushes to override genuine conviction. Because we don't want to be hateful, we may be found winking at important matters which God does not approve. I feel certain I am guilty and always will be as long as I am a student of the Word. However, Truth is not found in the middle. Truth is extreme as it has been ushered in by God. Not everything goes. Yet, more things go than what man's interpretation will sometimes allow. We are caught to be found always as searchers and learners reaching conclusions which are firmly Bible-based and void of
cultural- wind influence.
Thus, we are challenged as to what to think about the era of broad acceptance of all peoples. Some believe Jehovah while others call God Allah and yet others refer to Him as Buddha. The list expands from diverse regions upon the planet. Is there one true God going by different aliases: Jehovah a/k/a Allah? I believe there is a simple and important consideration.
The true God, according to the Bible, insists all men confess Jesus is His son. If Allah will not confess this, he is a false god. If Buddha will not abide by this, he is a false god. Jesus is the difference-maker. His name is above all names. He is more than a prophet. He was sent by the true and living God to bring salvation to mankind and there is no other way.....politically correct or not.
Jesus is most tolerant in reaching to every desperate corner of life. He is not weak in His commitment to the Father and to the Spirit. We do not possess the room to differ from his position.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
When you encounter turbulent times where you believe you are going under, reevaluate with the eyes of Jesus. Would he sink in such depths or would he merely use it to step across to his next cluster of people? Will you go under or will you use stresses to move ahead in life? We have the choice, the opportunity, the possibility.
When things don't go the way I think they should in the local setting, I try to use the obstacles as stepping stones. I encourage you to do the same. Don't try to understand. Try to believe....Him.
Consider working in increments of time and distance. When you are certain ideas will produce only to be confronted by un-get-around-able people or circumstances, wait. Wait on God. If it's of kingdom value, it will come about.
I work in terms of five and ten and twenty years. My brilliant ideas might not be so brilliant. Yet, they might be. If upon proposal, or even activation, they don't fly, fight of the tendency to be bummed. Wait. Wait on God. It could be He's training you to wait and training others to make important visionalistic adjustment in order for harmony to meet, match, and produce.
Expand your thinking to include continents instead of streets. Assume your slight faith moves impact Europe and Asia and Africa because you are connected to the body which actually works globally. Then, think in terms of generations; not simply the moment. What do you do today which will impact those living in the year 2187....long after you are gone? We can have influence from the grave, you know. Martin Luther does. Henri Nouwen does. Richard Rogers does.
Don't flinch at stubborn hurdles which tend to shut you down. Lift your eyes to see the riches and the power and the glory....just as God has desired for us. Step a little higher today my friend. We have reason to hope. While Peter began to sink in the massive liquid, Jesus used the very same threat as leverage to lift His follower up. How did they get back to the boat? Either they both walked back....or Jesus carried him. Either way, what would drown most became a highway for two that day.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
I doubt I'll ever fully understand this truth. I'll most likely remain in kindergarten over this one as well as the twenty-eight thousand other gems which escape my discernment. Yet, we must make effort to live His Word. What does it mean when we are told to consider ourselves dead to sin, but alive to God?
For the moment I simply want to point out that sin (ours or someone elses) does not rule our mood, our day, our course. The resurrection power of Jesus does. When discouraged we say what of such a one? That person seems really "down" today. Such is a confession which is the opposite of "up"....or of resurrection. If we live in the "up-ness" of Christ we are dwelling in the resurrection life.
Is one unable to find reason to be down? Of course not. Reflecting for only a moment will usher in reason enough to go insane. However, our focus is on the "upside" of life; the resurrected Christ side of life. We must become dead to sin. It's not that we don't sin but it has no effect on us. If we say we have no sin we are a liar and the truth isn't in us...I John 1:8. It's what we do with sin; rid ourselves of it by confessing it and moving upward or dwelling on it by getting it out and polishing it with the cloths of downward mood swings.
Focusing on sin (yours or mine) and refusing to "arise" from the ash heap keeps us dwelling there. We are called to be alive....really alive. How alive is alive? It's measured by how sure we are His resurrection fits our walk. It's not about us. It's about us in His shoes and Him in our shoes. We have reason to hope; not by the gauge of how we are doing, but how He did.
We are alive when our focus is on Jesus. If our attention is on the dark deeds of others who are back in the boat we may find accurate judgment but will sink in the conflict of distracting winds.
Monday, December 24, 2007
Merry Christmas! I began shopping for Christmas October 1 and run up to the very last minute December 24th. I don't want to get done Christmas shopping. I love it. It made me feel good tonight when at Penneys at 5:45 and they announced, "Shoppers, the store will be closing in fifteen minutes." Hurray for me....I endured to the very end! I didn't waste a drop of shopping opportunity. Earlier in the afternoon Tim and I covered seven stores...which weren't in malls. How fun.
Some day I'll be stuck in a stinky nursing home where everybody smells like yesterdays socks. I'll so yearn to get out and do something. So now I do and I love doing it.
I hope you enjoy your big day. I hope you enjoy the fuss and the bother and the fatigue and the mess. It's a treasurable moment to be so deeply involved in relatives and friends. What a time as Christmas. It goes on 52 weeks a year but really gains momentum October 1.
Merry Christmas to my friends. I love you today! If you stopped by, leave me a little note to share your fun day!
My Secret Life of Discipleship
This article is long. Possibly too long for you to tackle it. I'll tempt you by telling you it has sat in my "drafts" box for at least 9 months now because I've been somewhat fearful of sending it out, which seems silly to me today for some reason. I've read it to some close friends, and in a couple of lectureship classes, and have had multiple requests for copies from some of those in attendance. It is affirming to have it's spirit resonate with a few, and it is refreshing to engage in lively but loving dialogue with those who may feel defensive. I'll remind all readers that I love the Church of Christ, and am living my life as a member of it, loving it with all that I have, and loving the world through it. Just start reading...those who are supposed to read this mess I'm confident won't be able to stop. I'd love your feedback...
I'd like to introduce you to a whole bunch of us who are members of the Church of Christ who live secret lives of discipleship totally separate and apart from our church practices.
We span the ranks of our churches...we are ministers and elders, deacons and "lay members", students and college professors, teenagers and senior citizens.
We live and move and act within Churches of Christ, and hold dear the idea of becoming more like Christ together, to become a church that is, in actuality, 'of Christ'.
We are not interested in change. We are interested in Christ, and whatever we must change in order love Him more truly, we are glad and anxious to do so.
We are immovably committed to the Bible. But only inasmuch as it teaches us about and moves us closer to Christ...and we believe it to be the perfect tool for doing so, a gift from God, the written Word that was preserved to lead us to the Living Word. We suffer from a growing intolerance for people who use the Bible merely to defend and maintain strict adherence to certain sets of worship practices, beliefs, or political positions. And most of us are long past satisfying our spiritual zeal by fighting with other attempting Bible-followers about who is right.
We are trying to find out how to pray, and our longing for prayer is intensifying. We are not motivated by duty, nor merely to "lay our requests before God". We pray because we long for actual God-contact. And in this area, in most of our churches, we feel impossibly alone and mentorless, and oftentimes even looked at as crazy or overly-emotional. We are looking to ancient monastics and mystics and their practices, and also to other denominations, to satisfy our need to be taught...we are not creative, we are desperate.
We are bright and honest and dedicated, but only some of us are educated. And those of us who are rarely point it out, and more often hide from talking about it. That's because we put very little stock in the educated merely because they are educated. We have met people who are much more devoted to the Divine Master than some who have a Masters of Divinity, and have found them more useful in our own becoming more like Christ. We are not anti-intellectual, mind you. We love smart people. But we have the innate ability to spot unspiritual smart people, and we would define them as those who run after smarts rather than Christ, and mistakenly confuse the two. We want and need smart, educated people. But educated people who expose a lack of self-awareness and humility by expecting deference from others because they know so much, we just leave them to their ivory kingdoms and sorrowfully attempt to pursue Christ's without them.
We are indignant sometimes, and defensive and rude on occasion, and every now and then, we are angry. For the younger among us, it's because we feel like we're being bargained with...asked to 'please stay in a movement that doesn't work' in exchange for job security, or hero status, or at the very least, tons and tons of gratitude and affirmation...and we sense that the strings attached are too costly. For those of us who are old enough, it stems from feeling duped in our younger years, agreeing with things that sapped us, our friends, our parents, our children, and those we tried to evangelize of the very life we said submission to our system offered. Some of us are the ones that faithfully did everything our churches asked of us, and if it asked for more we would've done that, but we ended up not looking like Jesus. Maybe it is too much to ask, but we must: Forgive us our inappropriate, un-Christlike reactions to our wounds...we don't mean to claim perfection of any sort, we only abhor those who seem to claim it themselves. And we are scared to death of becoming like that...and are angry at ourselves for ever being like that.
If you watch us closely, you'll see that we have stopped complaining about the Church of Christ that we see (for the most part), and have turned our energies to becoming the Church of Christ that we dream of. When we are at our best, we are ushering in a new world, not just yelling at the old one. We are envisioning a new society in the wake of the old, not one that puts a period on the end of the sentence and starts a brand new unrelated one, but puts a "dot, dot, dot", pausing long enough to look around at all of us, and wake up that it is already new, if we would just engage each other and the world we live in with true spiritual friendship.
That term, 'true spiritual friendship' really means something to us. It involves confession, transparency, and vulnerability. It involves mutual introspection for the purpose of personal and each others transformation. The word 'and' really means something to us, too. We distrust those who only want to transform us or others who lack the capacity to show that they too are in need of continued transformation. And mere intellectual agreement with the idea that "we all sin and fall short of the glory of God" doesn't show us anymore. We need to hear confession.
We give extravagantly to and through the Churches of Christ we attend, hoping desperately to play a role in redeeming them and ourselves. We figure that if the mission of Christ is to people, then bringing Christ to the Church of Christ people is as good a target as any. We constantly flirt with taking a few like-minded people and planting new churches, but keep faithful to our Churches of Christ either out of fear of new things, family love and loyalty, or a deep sense of calling, or all three.
We give much of our money to our Churches and to others in our life in attempts to not be bound by it, but by Christ alone. But when we get to give sacrificially, it acts almost as a drug, giving us a temporary high, proving to ourselves that are motives go beyond our own comfort. We hear Christ telling us that we can't be his disciples unless we give up all that we have, and we believe him, and want to do it, and respect anyone who does. We are tired of being richer than everyone else in the world, but are scared to do anything about it, because we think our churches will look at us as unrealistic, unwise, and bad stewards.
We give much of our time and energy, too. But we don't always give it to the church programs, because we see that as tending to the aquarium, which we agree needs to take place, but we long for our efforts to make a God-honest, actual, life-giving impact on those outside the church walls with no strings attached. We are honestly clueless as to how to do this, but we have our ideas and are trying and wish our churches would give us a legitimate seat at the table as we learn as a whole group...and even if our churches are clueless too, we wish we were all being clueless together out in the open, determined to keep trying stuff until it works.
We're taking full and total responsibility for our children, completely done with expecting from or blaming the church institution for their spiritual outcomes. We welcome anything it does to help, but we are picking and choosing and investing in relationships with the people that we want influencing our kids, and outright asking them to do so, thinking of anything positive that comes out of our churches children's and youth programs as only being supplemental, and hopefully useful. We are watching closely, however, for any residual teaching that resembles anything legalistic whatsoever and are preparing to help our kids unlearn it, explaining our love for the church that taught it, showing openly where that teaching comes from, but correcting them as to what discipleship really looks like. If a Church of Christ wants to run us off quickly, which it may want to do because our convictions can be hard to deal with, or hard to argue against, then all it must do is start teaching our kids to be legalistic rule followers instead of passionate Christ followers. We'll leave. We are already worried enough about what we are doing to them by trying to teach them discipleship at home while their church is trying to teach them why we don't have instruments in worship.
Our commitment to Churches of Christ remains as long as we can be totally honest (as opposed to being totally right) among them.
Indeed, we have much in common with the Churches we exist within, and yet co-exist with dramatic differences. We are both committed to the Bible, but our approaches to finding its riches stand at odds. We are both committed to the truth, but our definition of truth stands at odds. We are both in love with the church, but our view of who make it up and what it exists for are at odds. We both want to live in the Kingdom of Heaven, but our views of what that means and when that is to take place are at odds. We both want to see ourselves as primarily spiritual, but our comfort with embracing mystery are at odds. We both want to worship God, but our convictions on what the non-negotiables are, are at odds. We wonder if we can really co-exist. We wonder if we are going to have to wait for some funerals to expose ourselves and our thoughts openly in the Church of Christ. We wonder, sometimes, if we can really co-exist at all, feeling sometimes like we are tolerated by our churches only because we walk on eggshells concerning how we talk about what is going on inside of us.
But we sense there is one means of hope that exalts what we have in common, and minimizes where we are different. A focus that allows us both, different as we are, to continue becoming Christians in a way that does not condemn our historical Church of Christ roots, nor restrain or condemn those of us who want to grow beyond it's limiting beliefs. The means of hope is for all of us to focus seriously on following Jesus.
The Bible's overarching call is to follow God. Jesus' overarching call is to discipleship. Our hope is in our mutual agreement to pursue the Restoration of Discipleship. Once again, and all over again, and in a brand new way...following Jesus can be our salvation.
What is our secret life made up of? The pursuit of becoming more and more like Christ in our hearts. We are striving to be prayerfully dependent, like him. We are striving to live lives of uncompromising integrity, like him. We are striving to define our lives by loving relationships, like him. We are trying to live daily lives of true and spiritual worship, like him. We are trying to become sacrificial stewards of everything we have and are, like him. We are trying to become what Scripture says we are, like him. And we are wanting to share this life-giving pursuit with every human being on the planet who doesn't know about Jesus, like him.
We will baptize our children with water, fully immersing them in it as one of the many Biblical steps of coming into the life of Christ, but we will not have an obsessive, myopic focus on it ever again. We will no longer claim to believe in the "priesthood of all believers" when we actually mean the "priesthood of all male believers". We will not ever again treat other Bible believing, Jesus following fellowships as lost people...and not because we don't disagree with them on certain significant points...but because we have been humbled by our own disagreement with our past selves, and we hope people who died thinking like we used to were saved by grace, too. We will not write whole books explaining away the Greek word "psallos" to convince everyone instrumental music in unscriptural, we will not write articles and preach sermons focused on the churches down the street and what they are doing wrong, we will not draw lines of fellowship based on whether we should have Bible classes, kitchens, basketball goals, or multiple communion cups. The mere mention of such feuds embarrasses the fool out of us, and we swallow hard and remember our love when we have to be associated with those related to us who have or are.
We wonder if we'll get to stay in the Church of Christ. Our intolerance for our own personal past and our churches intolerance of us may foil what we feel inclined and called to do, but day by day we pursue Christ sincerely, with all of our hearts. The good news is that it doesn't take much to encourage us. Any step towards Jesus by any person at all fuels us to take our next one and we are anxious to use both as evidence that we are in the right place.
We want the Church of Christ to be a church that is actually "of Christ".
Sunday, December 23, 2007
When the plows penetrated the tender earth a sweet aroma that maybe only farmers can appreciate lifted from the ground. It was dirt....no roots....no stumps of the past. Crop farming continues on that land although the new owners are basically oblivious to the frustration several took to get the land ready for production.
So it is in the church. In some places all the stumps have been pulled and the work is free to be what it's supposed to be. In other places trees remain in the way and clearing of the grove can cause some to feel progress is being made. Yet, until the stumps are pulled (which will take the greatest work of all) the field will never be a true field.
Here's how I want you to be encouraged today: Regardless of trees or stumps be sure God can create a field yielding great harvest where you are. And, don't be surprised when the Holy Spirit reveals to you that all along it's possible you may have been one of the stumps.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Thank you, Theresa Underwood, for designing my new sight! The banner is awesome! Theresa and husband, Dan, are perfect examples of kingdom life at Memorial. They are so willing to use the abilities God has given them.
I cheer you on as so many things go right, where you walk, to praise those many souls who serve as John the Baptist in your ministry so your pathway is cleared for effectivity!
THANK YOU THERESA! YOU BLESS ME AND THE MANY WHO BENEFIT FROM YOUR APPLICATION OF GOD IN YOU. I LOVE YOU TODAY!
Friday, December 21, 2007
The school teacher may be in front of the class, but how many hours and years did she spend in the classroom herself preparing to be such a leader? The doctor has our respect. He is in control of the situations. How much work has he put in behind the scenes to get where he is today?
"Behind the scenes" work moves about unnoticed. No glory. No fanfare. Do you realize there is a behind the scenes person working for and in you? He is the Holy Spirit of God. He goes unnoticed. He can't be touched tangibly. He rarely receives credit for your accomplishment. Yet, if it wasn't for him, you would repeatedly falter.
As the third-grader walks into the classroom, few think about who ironed her clothes, combed her hair, or fixed her breakfast. We are entrenched with the visible of the moment and move quickly to the next moment with little thought of all that went into getting one to this point in time. So it is the the Spirit of God.
Our minds are sharp, our purpose is becoming clearer in focus, and our enthusiasm for the next project lurches us forward. Yet, did we forget (again) the backing we have to get us to the present experience? Have we forgotten all the preparation which went on to get us to this point. The clean-up crew in the heavens by the blood of Jesus? The confidence replacers offered us form a most unique support system? The protective angels who shield us from millions of skillful opposing agents?
There is an enormous team forming a Behind-the-Scene system for each of us. We will do well to contemplate in quietness just how much God has going on behind the scenes to bring us one productive moment.
You...and I.....are mightily and thoroughly blessed! Live like it!
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
To get us started I offer my threesome:
- PAM COPE for rescuing the "Magnificent Seven" children from slavery on a fishing boat in Ghana. She flew over there and "got those kids away from their captors". I applaud this Missouri housewife for her feisty ambition! She's awesome.
- ETHELEN MAGNUSSON for her bravery and continued faith stamina as she has taken two major falls this year, lost close and dear friends who passed away, moved from her house to her children's, and yet refuses to let down her guard. She acts as if her Saviour of all these years really saves! Good for Ethelen!
- TOM EZELL for his devotion to Jesus when his pretty blond quickly moved heavenward. Her death was so sudden it remains stunning to realize she is gone. His sturdy faith has not dimmed but increased. Tom is an inspiration of the strongest quality; yet he truly remains clueless as to how his faith affects ours.
Those are my three and I have more who are worthy. You can chime in on three or bring in a totally new crop of candidates whom you feel are worthy of Person of the Year consideration.
Jesus said, Narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
Those two statements thrill me and bug me. Misery has so very much company. That part bugs me. I have great compassion for the miserable. I want to help. There is awesome possibility for life....that excites me. Few find it....that bugs me.
I urge you to find the life and pass it on. Good, yet discouraged friends, need our help. In the religious circles the narrow road is usually developed from one's doctrinal standpoint. Big mistake. There is a true world of difference between a narrow road and a narrow mind.
The road leads to life while narrow thinking leads to prideful irritation with the religious (and non-religious) others. Miserly religious thinkers believe they have life because they are rigid in rules. Oddly, they appear to be among the most miserable in the community. That's why those who don't go to church don't want any part of it because it's obvious God hasn't been of much help to these narrow talkers of faith (?) whose faces look like they were weaned on dill pickles.
A person alive is one who loves God and loves people in every circumstance; whether things go our way or they don't. A person alive is not deterred by the mood of the moment. God is awesome and people are important and our eyes never see it another way. An alive person feels blessed to get to be a person, feels enthused to wake up, is enmeshed with believing God works in all settings. Life is stronger than death, better than rules, and more exciting than any sporting event.
Of all the things we believe, it may be crucial that those who observe us conclude one thing for certain: we seem to be so ultra-alive there must be the Living God backing us! The religious hoops we jump prove vain. It's the Holy Spirit fruit we bear which proves God is with us.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Therefore, I urge you to recognize you are a part of the powerful numbers system of God. Our voices must be heard. The more voices the more power. We must combine our voice power to raise the volume regarding our great pleasure in God. We must continue to apply the pressure of pushing darkness out by increasing the "Light" talk.
If we have nothing graceful to say, then it's best we keep quiet that we not quench the spirits of others. However, the number of voices expressing full-steam the gratitude and appreciation for God's move and God's movers builds incredible momentum.
Words, words, words. Blah, blah, blah. Unless.......unless the words, words, words, are dynamite sticks of God blasting away at deadened hearts oblivious to their own possibilities. We need more voices to shout GRATITUDE and CONTENTMENT and APPRECIATION and HOPE to every one in our path whether it be note, blog, call, or personal conversation. Say so! May the church fill the land with Saying Power! Go out and tell it.....today.
And...don't forget to spread the word of yesterday's blog for Postage for Africa. Pass that one on!
Monday, December 17, 2007
AFRICA INTERNATIONAL MISSIONS
P.O. Box 1919
Dr. Roger E. Dickson
MISSIONARY TRASHES PLEAS FOR BIBLES!
I AM A FRUSTRATED MISSIONARY! Maybe my wife, Martha, and I are in a unique ministry. Africa International Missions is a continental effort to help anybody, anywhere in Africa. So the pleas come in from everywhere. And what do I do with the pleas for Bibles for which you have NO MONEY JUST TO PAY THE POSTAGE BILL TO SEND THEM OUT?
YOU THROW THE PLEAS IN THE TRASH AND BEG FOR FORGIVENESS!
You think I'm kidding. Not on you life. We receive so many pleas for the word of God that there is no possible way to answer them. And so, we just throw the letters in the trash. Here are some pleas that went to the trash:
"Sir, we have Bible group discussions every Sunday before church starts to study the word of God. But sir, we do not have Bibles to use for the group discussions, which has been one of our major problems to study the Bible. Christians cannot learn the word of God without the Holy Book. Therefore, as the deacon and the leader of the group, I am standing on behalf of my group to beg you to send us some Holy Bibles to make available to our group." Hanson Ofoe Agu, New Town, Ghana
We threw this plea in the trash.
"We walk in the villages and preach the word of God. Many people come asking questions and then repent of their sins. But the problem which we face is that we need Bibles. Please send us Bibles for us to preach the word of God well." Patrick Mubisa, Chitipa, Malawi
Straight to the trash!
"I came from a Muslim family by the grace of the Almighty God. I gave my life to Christ. Since then I have a big problem with my family who sent me out of school and out of the community. The last message I heard from my friends before I ran to Gambia was that my family wanted to kill me because I changed to being a Christian. The purpose for my writing to you is to plead for Christ sake ... send me a Bible and Christian literature for me and my wife." W. M. Majaro, The Gambia
Yes, this one went to the trash!
"The village where we are has been greatly struck with diseases, which has resulted in many deaths, leaving many children homeless and many orphans. We are writing to request your help or assistance for materials. Right now, we are greatly requesting for 70 Holy Bibles. Our members cannot afford to buy Bibles and many have not opened a Bible since they were born. Beloved brother and sister, we are greatly praying and fasting for you to help us out with this great gift anyone could receive. We really have many numbers of false religions. We want to try our best to reach all of them with the truth of God's gospel." David Gbuyi, Gunedogun Village, Nigeria
"I am your brother and a believer also. I am nine years old this year. I worship at the above church mentioned inside this note. In God's name, I am begging you people with all my mind and the love of God, provide me with one Bible through your good office." Eze Nnadozie, Benin City, Nigeria
"Please, I am an evangelist here in Ghana who preaches in the market and at truck stations. I preach also by moving from door to door from different houses for the salvation of lost souls. Through the preaching, many people have been converted to God. The majority of the people don't have Bibles. They come to church empty handed. So when there is the need to open to the Bible to search for the word of God, there is no way for them. Please, I am pleading with your ministry to come to my aid by sending me 20 Bibles." Emmanuel Kwamina Ephraim, Ketan Sekondi, Ghana
"My name is Maureen Watch Eze. We fellowship in a Bible believing church. The church has about 100 members with a man of God who is also a devoted man of God. I am serving as a worker in my church, leading the Sarah Group Evangelical Team. The Sarah Group comprises of women above the age of 60 in our church. Our aim is to reach out to souls for Christ, especially those above 60. Most of them appreciate welcoming mothers of the same age, and thus we have won many souls by God's grace. My purpose for writing today is to make a request for Bibles. We are 23 in the Sarah Group and 15 of us do not have a Bible and cannot afford to buy one. I am appealing to you to kindly send us 15 Bibles." Maureen Watch Eze, Benin City, Nigeria
"Please, I am a man of 42 years of age and my wife and I have five children. But sir, we do not have a Bible to use for church service. We are not the only people who go to church without a Bible. Most of the members of the church do not have Bibles to use, and our preacher always tells us to bring our Bibles to church. But we do not bring them because we do not have them. The fact is that most of us just do not have Bibles. And as a true Christian you need to have a Bible to use for daily learning and studies since without the Bible you cannot learn the word of God. I am asking you to come to our aid by sending some Holy Bibles to make it possible for everyone to have access to them to use for their studies. God bless you for having it in your mind to grant us the word of God. I cannot wait to see the parcel of the Holy Bibles you send to us. God bless you for your kind heartedness towards human-beings." Maxwell Agbarkey, Ashaiman, Ghana
What kind of missionary would trash such requests from a continent pleading for Bibles? A missionary with funds to do so, that's who.
WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU RECEIVED REQUESTS AS THIS DAY AFTER DAY AFTER DAY, BUT COULD DO NOTHING ABOUT IT? WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
That's right, just go out to eat and spend $15.00 for the meal. You just "ate" THREE BIBLES that we could have been sent to requests as the above. So, before you blame the missionary who trashed the request, remember, "Thou art the man, also."
(Yes, this is one of those email messages that should be passed around like all that other stuff. If you can pass on some joke, then surely you can pass on something as this. If your heart aches for Africa like ours, then do something.)
Now, church, we can do something about this. We can! I want to ask you to consider raising funds for "postage" for this man and his wife to be able to send out the Bibles. They aren't asking for Bibles. They don't have the money to pay the postage. We can help. Would you pass this need along.
Would you make comments on this blog as to your intent and effort. We can help an entire continent of spiritually hungry people. We can do it. Yes, I know you support many things...many great things in your congregation. I'm simply asking you to consider adding this plea to your list of good works.
If you would be so inclined, please send money immediately to:
Bibles for Africa (Postage)
Southwest church of Christ
Amarillo, TX 79109
.....and let us know of your intent that we might build huge momentum for this great call.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Our confidence is not in me nor in each other. It is in the Holy Spirit. Do you grasp how this tilts the playing field.....in our favor? The Spirit, from the very beginning, mastered in bringing order to chaos. Read Genesis chapter one. Chaos. Challenge. It is the Holy Spirit who brings order to our chaotic challenge. Read Titus 3:3ff. He lives in us to regenerate, re-energize, and renew. That's the job description of God's Spirit. We must step out of His way that He provide us the more impactive and efficient way.
What's our job description? Believe Him/Them. Believe God. Believe Jesus. Believe the Holy Spirit. We are advantaged when it dawns on us that we are disadvantaged. Only the Creative God would order life so ideally backward. I cheer you on today. Be confident in the Holy Spirit of God. He knows how to do what we wish we could....but feel so stumped as to where to begin. He begins.
Our job? To believe in Him a whole lot more than we trust our own aspiring genius.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Jesus left earth in order to send His Spirit. Jesus would transition from living in one slender mobile body to a few who became hundreds who became decades and centuries of thousands! He said he would send a Helper. What will a Helper do for us? Get a notebook and write this down.
The Helper will Help us help people.
The Helper will come to help us help people. Believers have Help to help others.
Yesterday I was on my way back to the office and I saw a man thumbing a ride and carrying a gasoline can. It was cold out. I turned around and went back for him. He had run out of gasoline, walked to the nearest station and they were out and he was on his way to yet another. I gladly got him back to his truck with the needed fuel.
While were at the light at 11th and Memorial I pointed to the church building with the huge slanted roof. I told him I preach there and if he ever needs to start life over, that's one place to begin. Tony immediately started in: You're a preacher? I was telling my boss yesterday I've got to find a preacher. Man, I turn 44 Saturday and look at me. I've done nothing with my life. It's a bummer, man. Look at me. I've got to do better than this.
I didn't slam on the brakes, run into a light pole, or anything of the sort. I just stayed with him. I told him I knew exactly what he was talking about and I'd be so happy to sit with him when he had time and go over a lot of things I thought would cheer him on. He seemed encouraged just to have had that brief conversation.
I'm telling you everywhere we turn strangers and colleagues are needing help because they don't like who they are or where they are. We can't help by ourselves. But with the Helper, we can be of help....don't you think?
While the players deservedly will take the hits upon any penalties distributed (And who expects much of that?), there are matters not headed for congress which also should be investigated. What causes this blatant cheating? Money. The top 24 guys leaving Spring Training get the big bucks. The top spending teams "usually" have the best shot at the pennant....and additional money.
Who pays the big bucks to the big guys while turning their heads from the fact a player has bulked up and hits the ball so far and throws so strongly? The owners. They don't care about the men. Their bottom dollar is the bottom dollar.
At one time there was a Major League Commissioner who served neutrally between owners and players.....until the last appointment. The owners selected a man among themselves to be the new commissioner, Bud Selig, who once owned the Milwaukee Brewers. Today he's going to clean up the drug problem. How's he going to do that without cleaning up the dollar problem which has his ear bent by each of the owners?
I remain a die-hard baseball fan. The game, however, has lost its glitter and its charm because skill has been replaced by greed and the marketing schemes which follow. My proposal is to penalize the owners, the general managers, and the managers in the pocket book at each player violation. Money runs the game. Money removed might correct it.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Today it's not as risky to confess the Holy Spirit works directly in a believer's life. Twenty-five years ago it was another story. We were grilled in school to never go liberal by saying the Holy Spirit works directly in our lives. I kept such a vow with great pride until the Word would not let me do so another day.
But what about an organization or a group heritage that deletes the Holy Spirit from it's belief code? How will such a system function? Simply by reading the above passage taken from Ephesians 4:1-3, the message is piled high with Holy Spirit fruit words: gentleness, patience, love, and peace. This is the kind of people produced by the Holy Spirit. He bears this sort of produce in God's children.
So what will the church look like if she denies the Holy Spirit activity? The opposite would be true: hateful, bitter, prideful, impatient, and divisive. These marks identify many of the early Restoration groups. Such still exists in strong pattern. If the Holy Spirit is denied access to a group, they cannot possibly bear His fruit nor experience His unity.
Our charge is to determine whether the church of Christ, as far as we have influence, will possess the Holy Spirit or the Hollow Spirit. May we grow in the traits He puts forth.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
We are now in day four of the ice storm. Signs of renewed power and warmth are in my neighborhood but not yet at my house. This week has reminded me of my grandparent's farmhouse which had no insulation and no heat for the upstairs bedrooms. There was a hole in the living room ceiling which dually served as the hole in the floor of one upstairs bedroom. The heat below rose slightly serving as some sort of heat for above. It wasn't much warmth for either room.
My grandmother would set irons on the top of the wood stove all evening. When it was bedtime she would wrap the irons in newspaper, place them beneath the covers at our feet and my brother and I would put our feet on the irons for warmth. The heat lasted 'til we feel asleep or froze to death...whichever came first.
This has been a week of inconvenience. Yet one must not do anything but attack life! It will present itself with times intending to drive us back. Life was created by God for great roar, awesome celebration, and profound glory. I cheer you on to take on life with a vengeance. Fight for it. Defend it. Live like it is one of the most exciting things ever invented!
We have people to love, purposes to fulfill, and opportunities to perceive. Don't miss the forest for the trash along the road. My trees are a disaster at the moment. By April they will be taking new and invigorated form. Plus....I was just needing more firewood.
Like right now before it gets away from you. I drove along our dark streets this morning and thanked God all the way to my coffee shop. He's done it again. He gave us another day and we will hit it with vengeance for all the good stuff buried in the center of it.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
- I've learned a new meaning to the "There's not a thing on TV" comment.
- Mary has learned that a stool can flush without electricity. She's so excited!
- How I've longed for just enough TV to see a scrolling of school closings...that would satisfy.
- I don't like camping out. This week I've learned I don't like camping in.
- This morning I stepped out on the patio and thought, Wow, it's pretty nice out here. Then I realized it was the same temperature as in there.
- I so appreciated the four or five cars which simply passed by my property last night. Each time I heard one coming down the ice-crackling street, I leaped to watch them drive by as if they had been special company all evening long.
- I found myself wishing the phone worked. If only one fund-raising charity would have called me last night, I would have given lots of money...I feel fairly sure!
- Playing Solitaire by weak candlelight affords the conscience a little more room to cheat.
- I learned that when it's dark for hours and hours with no heat and no phone and no TV that it takes much longer for the clock to move from 8:10 to 8:20 than when all that other stuff is up and running.
The Ice Storm saga continues......
Monday, December 10, 2007
It's been a night of interruption. A small power plant sets two blocks from our house. Transformers exploded 13 times (I counted) over the night accompanied by the rockets blue glare....not how the Star Spangled Banner exactly described. We have broken limbs falling all around us. One reason is we have 26 trees in our yard. I don't mind it when we lose limbs as long as they don't land on the house. Ice storms are one of God's ways of trimming my trees.
I like these kinds of days/nights. Disruption of the usual isn't all bad. Yes, I dressed by candle light this morning at 5:30. That was the time of the 13th explosion so I just got up. I started a fire in the fireplace to have some portion of heat, lit a couple of candles so see by, and was on the road by 6:15 with nowhere in particular to go.....except for coffee.
I've learned this morning of several others without power. Some are transferring their household to stay with close friends. These are great days! How fun!
Enjoy your day. It's looking like it's going to be another good one!
Sunday, December 09, 2007
So here I am stepping up to my cyber-pulpit as we are beginning wireless church. What? We can't be ready for the sermon? And, why is that? Because we have not had our usual cyber-announcements. Of course. Therefore:
- You need to know building church is cancelled.
- Tonight's children's play practice and party are cancelled.
- Be sure to bring plenty of cookies Wednesday evening as we have company coming! Lindbergh Elementary (our adopted public school) will be practicing their Christmas Program before all of us. Be ready to meet and greet!
- We want to be in prayer for: Randy and Kerrie Rodriguez who left for Borger, Texas as her uncle Jim passed away; for Ben Gatewood as he recovers from surgery, for Max Mayes (Shawn's dad) who is recovering from heart surgery.
Now that we've sung a few songs from our hearts and the children have been dismissed to their cyber-rooms, here's today's thought:
- IS IT WE WHO HAVE CHURCH OR IS IT CHURCH WHICH HAS US?
It's quite odd to talk the way we do. Church is never cancelled. Meeting times are. At some distant points in our lives various ones of us believed church was encompassed in attendance at a building three times a week. The ones who punched the attendance clock each of the three times week after week and even year after year were considered to be the faithful....by those who attended all three times.
Church is where believers in Christ are. True, it is always powerful when assembled. The thrust of spiritual awareness is capable of peak performance during those meetings. We need to be together. Yet, the church is no less the church when it is scattered. Such times are moments of His brilliance activity as well. There are those traveling through airports this morning who will miss kingdom opportunity because they think that since not in a church building it isn't a time for God. It surely is.
While many will read this from nearby cities, distant states, or far away countries, I basically write to my Memorial Drive friends this morning. We are having church! It is wherever we happen to be. Today....it's not together in the flesh. Today...as in all days....it is together in the spirit.
Now, shall we stand for one last cyber-song?
Saturday, December 08, 2007
I wonder if the church doesn't show signs of living on the spoiled side of Americanism. I wonder if we have it so good in so many areas we've become finicky, fastidious, and fussy. The reason I question us is from the time Mary and I were converted "to the truth" it has been one heated argument after divisive conflict among the churches of Christ. For me it began with the surprising doctrine of mixed swimming. It escalated from there in preaching school as to whether it was liberal to have a mother's day out program. You understand the chatter all too well.
Are we spoiled rotten? Do our churches and individuals need more sinners in their lives (I speak as if we are not sinful enough ourselves.)? The world is broken. Young people without hair due to disease, old people committing suicide due to forgotten loneliness, and families whose emotions are thread-bare due to unwise money management and social pressures to keep up.
Each community is so broken it can hardly afford for those who have God-connections to get distracted over whether it's all right to lift hands during songs or whether women can pray when men are present. Such IS blasphemy.
There is great...no urgent....need for us to keep moving toward unity of Christ in the Spirit of peace as there are so many sinful and broken neighbors we cannot fix them all. It's so much worse. We can hardly fix but a very few. The need is there! The great...no urgent...news is the hope IS there!
May we think twice before we engage in doctrinal wars. Jesus always leans toward the broken sinner and their present plight. I believe you believe He still leans the same way today...through us.
Friday, December 07, 2007
It was different than any such experience I've had in my 30+ years in Tulsa. There was unanimous respect and love and support. I was very moved. Marvin wept. He leaned over at one point and in broken sentence said, There "is" hope.
We discussed our various works. The body of Christ in Tulsa has a lot of rich labor being exerted in things that matter. I am personally so happy to see consistent interest by so many churches in giving Memorial Drive assistance with the workshop. It's been a long time coming, but I felt we would get there.
For the first time I sense such harmony among so many area preachers. Truly, my first two decades in this area were pretty rough. I don't know if these younger guys get the picture. Marvin and I do. We've never seen unity before. What a sight! Guys laughing and genuinely interested in one another...and not just a select few of one another....everyone was in the mix. No cheap shots. No rolling of the eyes. No sneering. Amazing joy! Moving joy! Sheer joy!
Thursday, December 06, 2007
Lately I have walked in a terrible fog. I have felt pressed by projects and stressed by people. Ever been there? Thought so. That's why I write this. Several wonderful things are on my plate. One of them being a newly envisioned celebrity golf tournament sponsored by Memorial Drive to benefit Tulsa Public Elementary Schools. I had envisioned raising $50,000 to $100,000. My four teammates working with me on this project envision $20,000 per school....or a total of $1,160,000. This is too huge for my little brain.
We set the tournament date and we were off.....but not for long. A debate arose among those responsible in the accounting area as to how we should proceed regarding a tax exemption. One way seemed much easier. I was needing that one to be our route. I didn't make persuasive calls or send notes to plead my case (Oh, please. Oh, please.) that we don't have the time to go through the more detailed exemption process. I left it alone and simply waited. Yesterday the decision came down and it didn't go the way I had hoped.
Immediately the fog lifted. It was as if He needed me to wait in a stupor, get the decision I didn't think I wanted, and then open my eyes to His direction.....once again. The vote I thought might sink our efforts didn't. It enhanced them. When the fog lifted, here's what I saw:
- We will most likely be forced to move the date of the tournament back. This will give us much necessary and productive additional time to form a less rushed approach toward the contributors.
- We cannot quit. If this effort is this difficult it surely is a signal we are onto something valuable to kingdom efforts.
- We will be forming our efforts in the wisest accountability fashion.
- We see everyone involved from Memorial, once again, pulling together to do a top-notch work.
- God still leads.
This wasn't what I wanted...initially. The distraction and the delay only created uneasiness for me. But here's my main point: when I changed my thinking about such details the fog lifted. Isn't that true of every stressful, nagging circumstance? As a man thinketh in his heart.....the fog lifts!(Note I've written two blogs for today. See Wild Faith written later in the day Wednesday.)
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
I believe parents should praise God when their kids want to risk danger to serve God. What more could we want? I'd rather my kids get hurt risking to reach people than waste away playing life safe. It was terribly stressful to let Tim (at age 17) go off to AIM which eventually meant Portugal for 18 months. While he was there he fell from a cliff forty feet and nearly died. We didn't have the money to go see him. It was a rugged time for our family. But not once did we wish we hadn't let him go.
I came home one Sunday afternoon and Wendy (then college age) had gone out along the highway and brought a couple home who had become stranded. She got them in out of the summer heat. They were strangers. She didn't know them. She was at risk. I am proud she'd care more for others than herself. Isn't that what we say Jesus wants during our safe Sunday School lessons?
Most likely Dusty's more powerful training came from going into St. Louis' local prisons to work time and time again with those jailed. It was a harsh experience. He cried because he could not understand how to connect with the prisoners....at first...and second....and third. One day he got it! It takes faithful grit to endure such places.
Here's my advice. Don't tame wild faith. Faith in Jesus, like Jesus, for Jesus, if successful, will lead to the cross...daily. While we talk surrender we seem to walk tidy. Following Jesus is a beautiful thing. Yet, from watching his actual walk we must admit it was often messy.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
While our Memorial team works diligently on the event, we feel it belongs to the brotherhood. That's why we've listened for 32 years to input. Yes, a few have demanded we do it their way or else. Most have shared ideas with supportive expression of "if this should work, then maybe". As a result we grow together for the cause of missions and evangelism. We will do nothing but improve because our mission is to grow in Him.
Here's what occurred to me in reading your responses. I had originally planned on '09 being keynotes of less famous. However, we must consider the thousands who travel great distances at great expense who never get to hear some of these heroes but once a year....here. Yet, what do we do when we add the comments which legitimately point out so many others deserve to be heard?
Here's my plan for '09 due to what I gleaned from your comments. I'm going to do my best to put together a team of keynoters fairly well-known. But before they speak, let's create a time of testimony where ones (one per each keynote) out in the field doing the work can share with us how they are experiencing God. We'll sing! We'll collect the money! We'll pray! We'll sing! We'll have inspiring witnessing! Then we'll have the evening sermon! We'll sing! Then we'll have responses and mention every one by name who responds. Then we'll pray. Then we'll go get some rest, sorta, and back at it the next day and the next!
Here's what I think. After all these years we are just getting started. We have so much to learn and so much to improve and so much to look forward to. I am as excited each year as if I'm the new guy on the block. Kingdom life does not get old. It gets young. Your comments count. Thanks to each for allowing me the room to work with them.
What thinketh ye?
Contempt for Christianity is strong. Bigotry is in its glory once again. Churches find resistance, faith causes find abundant criticism, and the term Christmas is being moved steadily toward the back door. One day Christianity will awaken to the fact that its race is being rudely told to sit in the back of the bus.
I believe one day many as Rosa Parks will say, No more! I believe it's being said already by believers of Christ in other nations. Martyrdom is not dead. A bloody battle is going on in other continents for the rights to believe God. America, so far, basically reads about it with an indifferent shrug. Yet, racial prejudice is found on our governing boards as well as in our coffee shops. Christians in America are doing today what the then-termed Negroes did in the 1800s and 1900s. We are saying, Yes sir. No Ma'am. Where would you allow me to sit? When would you like me to speak? How would you prefer I say it? How may I keep out of your way?
Just as African-Americans understand slavery all too well in ways those of my skin color cannot even imagine, the Race of God is centered in a similar battle for freedom. There once was a state marker (and I assume it remains) along highway 63 entering the university town of Columbia, Missouri which promoted an Islamic agenda. A Christian cause would not be allowed. After all, Merry Christmas written atop of fire stations is forbidden. The more the Race of God realizes the actual existence and direct activity of the Holy Spirit the more paralleling obstruction we'll find from society in general that we cannot take such faith into the market place.
It is time we awaken to where America is headed. In general she is taking on a spirit that God and His race are the lesser sort and we will learn our place or pay the penalty for it. The issue is freedom. I think the government has cordoned off land sections called church buildings and told us we can do what we want on our land, but don't mingle with the natives.
Jesus called us to go into all the world. He has never rescinded such a charge.
Monday, December 03, 2007
Pay attention; not to how you are doing, but where you are being spent.
Give yourself to others. Do it wisely. Build a wall of determination to become focused on spending yourself by investing in others.
Yesterday Jason Thornton preached....while I sat down and listened. What a wonderful sermon he delivered. I called him yesterday afternoon to tell him I thought it was his best yet. This was a very great blessing to my heart. On one hand he doesn't need much training as he can hold his own in the pulpit. On the other hand, because he is effective as an instrument for God, Jason will continually be groomed and trained to become even more useful and powerful.
It brings my heart great delight to develop leadership skills by being able to retract my public appearance versus being the up-front visible one. When we die our possessions are distributed among the survivors. While we live our spiritual genes should be voluntarily distributed to our colleagues.
I encourage you to get more done by investing in the future by sharing with the present. You'll live on in others.........even after your body had faded away.
Saturday, December 01, 2007
Give me your opinion. I have worked on 30+ venues....splitting every other year mostly with Marvin and later Wade. Let's talk speakers. We have the favorites in Randy Harris, Jeff Walling, Don McLaughlin, Marvin Phillips, Mike Cope....and on the list goes. I really like to bring in the not-so-famous in name because they, too, are doing terrific work in their various fields.
For '09 I am considering having day and evening keynotes be delivered by the 'blue collar" guys out there hammering away in kingdom effectiveness? Does this discourage attendance or enhance it? Would you rather travel to Tulsa to hear the Buddy Bells and Jeff Wallings....or to hear the not-as-famous who also do fabulous work? The more popular guys would be doing classes, but not keynotes that particular year.
What's your take?
The few days have been bummer to me. Charles Swindoll laughingly told me of the time he was washing his hands in the restroom. A fellow entered and said, I don't believe it! I never thought of you as ever going to the bathroom! We both laughed at that one. I'm not Charles Swindoll, but I do have the best life in town. Therefore I tell you two things about me: I also go to the bathroom and I get discouraged. The latter is my focus this morning.
I deplore down days. I'm not good at them. They hurt me deeply. I must tell you (again) they, too, are a powerful yes. Bummer days are needed. On those days we can find reason to immediately park our high horses and dismount. Usually these days bring about needed and painful reflection. I get very blue over rehearsing moves I've made that were either unwise or failures.....or both. Such inner-reflection pulls me down.
My eyes glare at the screen but my heart won't supply my hands with encouragement to type. I just sit. I can open books, but my eyes refuse to interpret for me. I can see the page, but can't read the print. I just stare. I can go shopping. But things no longer appeal. My appetite for activity becomes anemically diseased, or something. And so, I go through the least motions possible to get by until the light comes on...or in.
Not a pretty picture, you say? No, it's not. However, it is where real people live. The good news is you and I are real people. Elijah whipped up on 450 false prophets of Baal only to find his next few days in hiding because he was depressed being terrorized by a woman. Weird? We are all weird.
Fortunately, God uses the weird. We have hope. God makes something out of nothing and brings life to the dead things...Romans 4:17. When we feel the most nothing or the most dull, we can count on Him to do great things yet!