Wednesday, December 31, 2008
New is a thrilling theme for anyone and everyone! Join in the fun! Join in on the greatness of God's Glory!
New again this year....II Cor. 4:16-18! We will not lose heart!
Happy New Year!
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
I don't know how Memorial has held on to me these many years. I've done an awful job at moments...at many moments. I've preached sermons that were what I thought were the worst. But, I was wrong. More worst came! I've been blind, faithless, and faulty. For those who wouldn't know behind the scenes I have been a lousy leader. Yet, my enthusiasm to improve continues to burn.
Oddly, I'm no different than others. We simply have light-years of improvement to make. Memorial has allowed me to improve in some elements for over three decades. That, my friends, is an exorbitant amount of patience. Yet, it is precisely what it takes.
Memorial didn't believe in me, per Se. They believed in God. I am most fortunate.
I would encourage all to do what we can to believe those around us will improve because we have placed our faith in the Father. He knows how to build strong hearts and sound talent. May we hold on to one another tightly while we grow up in Christ together.
Jesus has always defied the world. He upsets its leaders because he refused to march to their imposing cadence. We are to face our days as he did his. If attitudes are low what should ours be? Soaring in faith. If money is tight what should our giving be? As stable and confident as ever.
Norman Vincent Peale always told his board of the famous Marble Collegiate Church, Whatever funds you must cut during hard times, do it. But don’t touch my advertising funds. He felt that the rougher the times such days only increased the need for advertising the church. Riding near the coattails of his statement, I would argue that whatever you cut in hard times; do your best not to cut your giving. It is in this precise zone God finds out what/who it is we trust; God or mammon.
Be encouraged. If days get tighter may your purse strings grow looser. God provides. He promises. Defy the world’s wisdom!
Monday, December 29, 2008
The publisher sent word back that the material lacked focus. The comments said all is not lost, but it needs work.
Ah, this idea struck me. The book is about not giving up; about believing that even if found rejected, victory is down the road. What an awesome thing to happen to me. The very thing I have written about is being acted out in the process of its printing! Can you believe it? It lives!
I don't know how this thing goes. I've had some books published and some rejected. Realistically, it is much tougher to get books out there than in days past. All the more exciting.
For now the score is 0-1. However, I think the game is going my way.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
This morning I preached my heart out. The church seems to be doing so well. Yet, when I got done (as is usual from Sunday to Sunday) I felt like I had missed the mark. It is the weirdest feeling---for me anyway---to be involved with the God of all life. I am just too small to pull off my part. I do believe He works in spite of me, but the feeling of failure travels the high road on most days.
I think elders, staffs, all leaders in the church must feel this way as well. It isn't that we can't get anything good done. But when we are working for the all-powered, all-intelligent God, how are we to observe our efforts but simply lacking?
Therefore I cheer you on; those who are doing your best to serve. I'm not sure if it's all right to tell you I go through the stuff as above. But, I do. When you have the sinking feeling you didn't teach the best class or preach the best sermon or offer the best counsel, all I can say is a group of us live in your shoes. I hope that helps.
We want to do better than we can do because we have a God who is bigger than we can imagine. Blessings as you give it your best shot; even when you know you came up short once again! You are good enough. It's just that He is the only One who can make us complete.
Friday, December 26, 2008
Pride ruins all of us. I suppose it is mankind's true nemesis as pride insists upon hitching a ride to every event. Two guys were praying. One was tickled to death--- possibly died in it---that he was not as bad as the other while they both prayed. The other knew his counterpart wasn't lying. He was bad. Yet, God justified the humble one and would not do the same for the one full of self-satisfaction.
Have you ever been proud you are Church of Christ and not Baptist? Have you ever been proud you are not like those in the certain-kind-of Church of Christ? Have you ever thanked God you aren't as dumb and foolish and ridiculous as others? We see this trait as a terrible mistake in political government. The audacity that others are fools when we are not finds politicians in need of a good dose of eggshell walking. The same mistake is made in the church....any brand.
I guess this pride thing will be a burden for me all the way to my grave. But I don't want it to be. We must be alert to the sting of this villain who insists upon driving our lives. And should you be one who is proud that you aren't proud, you too need good eggshells. Pride: a real problem for believers. Walk more carefully.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
It is for this reason I like the church. It is more family. Jesus spelled it out saying everyone who leaves father or mother for his sake would have many more fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters. I recently attended a family reunion in Arizona for my uncle’s 80th birthday. Nine cousins were together; some from Oregon and California and others from Illinois and Oklahoma. It was spirit luxury to go from one relative to the next and fit hearts together. It reminded me of church.
When we gather at the Tulsa Workshop, it is sheer family reunion. We can hardly believe we get to be us and know who we know! When we gather at Pepperdine? The same thing happens. Soon I’ll be a guest speaker at Highland Oaks in Dallas. Among the many blessings, reunion time will be prominently influential and inspiring!
One of the things I really like about family (church and otherwise) is the eye we have for those who don’t have family. Not everyone is swarmed by a crowd of hugs. Some have no family; no friends. This is when we become more like Jesus. So even through this blog, if you happen to be sitting at home quietly without a lot of fuss and mess going on, know that you are “in”! You are in the mix of blog-family. You are embedded into the Christ group. You belong. Everyone belongs! Everyone is important!
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Today, though, has had its moments of tugs upon my heart. First, I visited by phone with my new friend who is very ill with AIDS. I am trying to get him to help me start a new ministry for others struggling as he. We are to meet next week. He is down to 88 pounds and his voice sometimes fades out. Our conversations are both well-connected while concerning, of course.
Second I went to see Blanche, one of our elderly members. Hospice is there. She visited with me well, but has little time on earth left. While sitting at her beside, I inquired as to how she was dealing with everything. She was quick to let me know she didn't have long left on earth so we discussed the reality of fear and security to hope. I regard moments like these as extremely special and important. Yet, my heart is too weak to endure the tugs which are firm.
Just now I called California to console the momma to my friend dying of cancer. The family's hopes are she can make it through Christmas Eve and Christmas. The mother cried and I cried with her as she told me how she is cooking for the entire family their traditional Christmas Eve dinner for the last time with her. Too, she shared how her fourteen year old granddaughter sang a special song for her mother at church Sunday.
Heartugs are weighty; yet so important in hope. If we did not agonize with those who suffer we would be of all people calloused in heart. The church is a nation full of softies, huh, and I'm glad. It lets me fit in!
Some of you are moving through the week with the world on a string. Good for you. Take it all in with gusto. Others are happy with a trickle of sadness forming a slight shadow. For you, we all tell you that it is true, you do not stand alone.
I was telling God mid-morning just going through routine stuff, God thanks so much! No heart attack this year. No stroke. Both legs work. Both arms. My eyes focus. And, I can still think. Thank you God while it surely is a great day! Heartugs hit us. We all deal with them. Our God puts each into perspective and shines the Light as to the way through every bit of it. Wahoooo!
Why not consider getting bus load and making the trek to Tulsa? You could charter a bus from your place and make another stop along the way to pick up another group from a church on your route. In addition to the workshop experience being out-of-sight wonderful, the fellowship on the trip itself is worth the effort.
There will be classes on worship experience, missions, addiction recovery, vision, money management, divorce recovery, motivation, classes for children, for teachers, for song leaders, for….the list goes on and on. If it has been a few years since you attended the workshop, maybe it is time to start a new tradition by bringing some rookies with you. And, if you’ve never been to the Tulsa Workshop, don’t tell anybody…..just get yourself here!
Watch for new information concerning speakers and topics beginning soon! www.tulsaworkshop.org
Monday, December 22, 2008
In talking to Wendy as they left Atlanta she shared that five year old grandson Hayden walked in with my bubblegum card as they were packing. Do you think Pop Terry would autograph this for me? Do you know what an autograph is? Yes. Well, I’m sure he would be glad to. As they crossed into Tennessee Wendy looked back and Hayden had my card in his hand….waiting for a signature. As they got closer to Tulsa she checked again. In one hand was a stuffed animal. In the other was my card.
Today we intend to have an autograph session! Do you suppose the line will be very long?
Sunday, December 21, 2008
When I first began to preach I took the baton from Him and ran my own independent race. The messages were shallow as well as distracting. The Word continues to express His desire that we team-teach. For years now, I have studied more intensely. The difference is I learn with an ear for His input.
Today I have a message which is quite different in form than my usual three or four biblical texts and subsequent points. I'm slightly nervous about me....but not about Him. I would never have thought of such a presentation on my own. This causes fleshly nervousness and spiritual excitement.
The joy I find in preaching escalates week by week. He is so sharp I feel I am just getting started. God has groomed me to understand that on my own I am an embarrassment to the church and to myself. With Him, though, I am an acceptable and useful vessel. Success is not dependent upon my personality. It is totally dependent upon the truth that in all we try to do God participates.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Hearts have a tendency to lean one of two ways; tender or hardened. I don’t know how hearts decide or if it just happens. It would seem choices are made. To be fair, I’m not sure.
Heartbreak is a killer for me. I still cry when Charles Engles is moved on Little House on the Prairie. He and I were made from the same mold. Charles cried over every little thing. I have the feeling Michael Landon did so in real life as well.
The holidays are especially tough for some. Tragedy and trauma abruptly impose themselves while most unwelcome. Death and dying are tough enough for those remaining behind any time of the year, but Thanksgiving and Christmas seem to me to make such occasions doubly difficult.
This morning Laura Murphree will be buried. In her late 50s, she died last week of a sudden heart attack. She leaves behind a mom and dad, husband, and two children. Debbie is dying in California. She is doing her best to make it through Christmas one last time with her family. She is a preacher’s wife and has been most graceful and faithful in the final few months.
I point this out to remind you not to complain when the package doesn’t arrive on time or the ham is too fatty. Let it go! Trauma and tragedy are playing havoc with some and losing power for two hours isn’t one of them. Be grateful for what/who you have. These are wonderful days for most. Treat them as such.
Friday, December 19, 2008
I wrote a young man who is deathly ill with the AIDS virus. I've only recently met him. I sent a note to him in the mail this morning asking him to consider helping me begin a new ministry for AIDS patients. Why not give him a purpose and see if God might break in? Maybe he would be converted to Christ as he helps me reach others who need the love of Jesus.
Then I learned of one of our own stuck in a quagmire of sin. Oddly, emails and phone calls have all been returned pronto once discovering my love is unconditional; just as much today as ever. Great pain seem to be at the center of Jesus' attention.
And then I opened the mail; a letter from the son of my late friend Richard Haley. Richard died of cancer a few years back, but was buried in Christ just before. Rich poured out his heart as he has been sentenced to 20 years in prison. He is terrified to the extent of fearing he will lose his mind. He is so open to God's heart. I will do what I can to help; I talked to his mother in Chicago moments ago.
This is ministry folks! When the church focuses on the stark pain of people two things happen;
(1) we find ourselves thrust into the sandals of Jesus, and (2) we have no taste for pitiful church talk which has no direction but circular argument. We are on a mission and our mission has the wounded in clear sight.
Do your congregation a favor. Keep looking for the devastated and cheer them on with what you have. This is called ministry worthwhile. It puts the pep in your step and the skip in your walk.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
I think the elders set the tone. My work, as well as attitude, very much reflect the disposition of our elders. Every week I do my part with this congregation which reflects totally what I see and hear from my friends, the elders. I personally receive too much positive credit for the good things which go on at Memorial. Such is nice; but undeserving. I believe it is still true that the elders have the authority over the flock. I have never felt the need for authority. However, it is crucial that I receive signals from them of close support.
If the elders are nervous control freaks, the preaching can be persuasive but the flock will take on the fear of the shepherds. The sheep will develop an unhealthy hesitancy if they sense it would be better to be safe than sorry. However, if the elders applaud the flock for its courageous imagination and admired zeal, great works will multiply. The growing tone of the church comes from the elders...my opinion.
Now, I'm certain an "Anonymous" will hurry to let us all know Jesus sets the tone. Yes, he most certainly has such a desire. We understand such. Yet, we have the ability to get in the way. Jesus can't set the tone if the elders or the preacher block him out.
Finally, how is the tone set? We either present the unifying life of Jesus or the divisive and robbing death of Satan. One gives and the other steals (John 10:10). Much is dependent on whether leadership is approached by excitement for or hesitancy from.
I applaud our shepherds. They don't know how to do many things. They are mere men. Yet, one thing they will not relinquish is operating from the Word. Many a debate and church argument are avoided because they simply try to adapt to what the Bible explicitly expresses without wandering around in the endless zones of what it doesn't say.
Maybe we preachers do more to set the tone for congregations than I think. My belief is the men in the pulpit are a reflection of their men over them. My hope is that any elder reading this will come to realize (or be reminded) the flock reflects the shepherds. Do your best to reflect the Shepherd. At that point, Jesus does set the tone.
Most sheep are mild in manner. They abide by what you choose to feed them. If it's hope...hallelujah! If it is fear and full of hangnails, maybe some serious adjustment could be made. The flock will follow leaders into amazing zones. May all combined develop an atmosphere or a spirit wonderfully full of faith.
Preach the Word. Teach the Word. Its power suffices. The Story does things to the hearts of hearers/readers because it lives and breathes hope, assurance, and direction. Trust it.
As preachers and teachers, worry less over your illustrations and your three or four points. Trust more His quickening power. God does something to hearts when we tell His story. Be as creative as you want in delivery, but foremost of all, be extremely Word confident. Life will happen as a result!
Monday, December 15, 2008
When God parted the Red Sea and then the Jordan He was just warming up. His opening acts in the book by the same name were not the apex of His arm. It isn't that God was 28 in the New Testament and now lives in His early 90s. God does not weaken.
We must stop the drift of letting faith slip into expectant flesh-capable routine. We must continue to call on the active, heroic, creative, and wild God. I keep asking Him to do things which can't be accomplished by my/our human formulas and equations. He keeps responding.
I want to see God do the God-stuff. I want to see Him defy our minds and our wills by expressing His strength in the very center of our efforts. I like to work in the kingdom where the results are so good friends say things like, "You are kidding!" and "You are not going to believe what I just saw!"
Don't let your faith drift into the mediocrity of man's best standards. Anticipate God delivering the goods beyond the wonders of the O.T. and the miracles of the N.T. He loves to show His stuff. We should want to see His glory in all we do!
I believe the church has become stuck in arguing Bible instead of living in the raw anticipation of faith it wishes to develop within us. May we lose our taste for winning arguments and keep building a hunger for winning souls. The best way to do it is to pray for Him to work in our lives.
There is the frail us trying to do good work...and then there's God!
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Perhaps you need a good book recommended for a Christmas gift. I list my favorite five and if #s six and seven jump out….so be it.
1. The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen
2. The Wounded Healer by Henri Nouwen
3. Wild At Heart by John Eldredge
4. The Anointing by R. T. Kendall
5. The Barbarian Way by Erwin McManus
6. The Emotionally Healthy Church by Peter Scazzero
7. The Empowered Leader by Calvin Miller
8. The Rabbi’s Heartbeat by Brennan Manning
9. Waking the Dead by John Eldredge
Okay, so there were nine.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
The church growth artillery at our disposal is great. The tech world, the book world, and the seminar world surely load us up with valuable information which gives all a much needed boost. Add to these the testimonies of congregations experiencing increase and a fire of hope begins to build.
Church growth is happening. The good news is that much of it is not transplants but a combination of recovery as well as conversion. Several congregations experience straying sheep returning to the flock. They may have been away for years and yet that Holy Spirit microchip God placed in them years ago helps them find their way back. Especially those who find themselves in crisis continue to be buried in Jesus as he is the only true place to hide. He alone is safety.
But my bottom-line word to you regarding growth for the congregation you serve is to build a band of praying members. Time in prayer won’t cut it. While time is certainly central, I encourage you to encourage your group to pray with the following ingredients:
I’ve spent time praying. I (and others with me) simply put in time praying. But when we hit upon expecting God to work, thanking Him ahead of time for the way He is working, and actually believing He will work, matters at Memorial reversed…..for the good.
Get a group of two or three, at least, and believe He is there with you. Four others meet with me every Sunday morning at 7:30 to pray for an hour. It is the most productive part of my week. I would miss many things before I skip this event. The reason this is significant is because for my first twenty years of preaching.......I didn’t pray.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Mr. Rush, for several months now your blog and comments have touched me in a way God needed me to know, many more days than not. While I know you are merely a man, you are indeed one who is in the Spirit and whom God is using powerfully to reach at least this little soul that needs regular encouragement.
The above is the lone comment left on yesterday’s blog. At one time in my past, “anonymous” notes were not so welcomed. But I must admit I am beginning to like the newest version! This one’s comment obviously inspires and motivates me to keep on keeping on. I needed it.
Such is my point. Church leadership is more effective when we point out the good the church is doing. My earlier days as a leader was by pounding and shouting from the pulpit. I thought loud equaled power. It doesn’t. Furthermore, it has a negative effect; not a faithful one.
We will do well to continually let our congregations know how good they are, what wonder they work, and how much they positively impact this and future generations. I perpetually catch our staff doing good things and I point them out. The staff is natural in expressing gratitude to the shepherds while the shepherds are always reminding the staff of their good efforts. Genuine encouragement builds a healthy church contagion. The more we focus upon these aspects it seems to be the more we become it. Our God is delightful and we, of all earthlings, should be reflecting His kind of light.
Thank you, Anonymous, for saying something from your heart that did more for mine than you would imagine. All of us need encouragement…even the devoted encouragers. Each takes turns in the pit or on the mountain top. The pits, by the way, are most valuable as they help us know a mountain top when we see one! Thus, God builds up the body of Christ by our love and support while we are glad to get to be us!
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
One reason I feel I will always be in kindergarten is I hunger to learn of Him. The other reason is His indescribable size. How can I ever gain ground on understanding God as the more I learn the bigger He appears? I never seem to close in on Him.
It is crucial we be aware that to grow up in the Spirit of Christ we will, indeed, find many repeated rough situations. These moments are not darts from Satan, but are opportunities to advance. I've not cared for church struggles; nor personal ones for that matter. Hurt feelings and abusive insult take their toll. However when handled well as weights in the workout room, they always serve as tools for our advantage.
Try not to resist every difficulty which comes your way. It may be a tremendous leadership opportunity dressed as a discouraging pit. Remember Joseph? Some mean it for evil....and God means it for good? Don't do ministry by skipping your workout room assignments. They are crucial and if you choose not to grow by them you will eventually quit the kingdom.
Train. Learn. Grow.
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
And then God took on a different form; one as a man. Upon such a stark move the Creator also became the created. Now that’s too weird. Such a transition would be as if we actually became a candle, or a greeting card, or pie we had made.
Can you comprehend what it would be like to knit a sweater and then take on the life of being a sweater; dependent upon who wore it and when, unsure of whether you would be worn under a coat, or tossed into the soap suds, or spit upon by a choking baby?
Can you imagine thinking you are going out to dinner only to find your owner passed by the mirror and decided you were the wrong color with the blouse so frantically you are tossed back into the dark drawer only to find a neighbor sweater gets to go out instead of you?
And then God took on another form; that of the church. The church is the new body of His second form. He first moved to one and now resides in several who corporately comprise the church. The church is a composite of Jesus when he was on earth except it is involves a multitude of warm bodies over a period of centuries.
This leads me to us. We must hold dear the truth of our form; the third God-form. We are not natural; but supernatural. We have the mind of Christ. No wonder as the third form of God began the people kept feeling a sense of awe. God was the new Him. Be encouraged. God is so current that He makes anything we would call the cutting edge appear to be antiquity. Let your imagination run. God is still amazing…in you…and in me! We are His latest new form!
Monday, December 08, 2008
There are some men out there who aren't preaching who should. You might be one of them. Maybe a friend or relative will pass this on to you. Good for you! But, how does one decide?
I address this from experience; not from rule of law. Use what you can.
- I would urge those who hunger to preach to do it. Talent isn't the issue. Education isn't. That will come in time. Talented and being educated does not determine an effective man in the pulpit. I would inquire of your "want to" level? If you can't do anything else because your heart must preach....then preach. The skill and effectiveness will develop by His rich grace.
- I would encourage you to trust God when you can't figure the how and the where of launching into preaching. God knows how to get you where He needs you. Trust Him.
- I want you to know that preaching is the most wonderful work in the world. It isn't the only work. It isn't the only important work. It is a brilliantly spectacular work and I highly recommend it.
- I lead you to realize that to get to do this job you will have to be slain day after day by insult and stress. This is a very important part of the package. Some will feel it there calling to bleed you of confidence. Such will only drive you to trust God more! Do it.
Why shouldn't you preach? This is equally important to consider.
- Don't do it to become famous. Jesus is the only one famous...without exception. That is a rule.
- Don't do it for money. You'll never have it if such is your motive. Stop now!
- Don't do it because you can't do anything else. Hear the call of God or don't start.
- Don't do it if you think the hours are easy and the load is light. The job will break your heart as you will cry buckets of tears before it is over.
Preaching is an unfathomably wonderful experience. It contains heartbreak, heartache, and heartthrill moment by moment. Seeing hurting people get well is a fabulous move of the Great Doctor. To be the Physician's assistance is what preaching is all about.
I say you'll love it!
I must tell you I've had to be taken down a few pegs in the last thirty years. I didn't realize I was living in such territory. Neither did I realize how wrong it was. How could that be? Why couldn't I see it?
I couldn't see it because I just assumed the right way to think was the way I thought. How vain! But I learned it as a kid. I learned it from some of the older folks around me. I had no idea that some (even many) things could be done differently and it would still be all right; that I would still be all right.
The church is this way. Some (even many) have opinions about how a worship service ought to look and have become quite outspoken when the order and events aren't to their specifications. The irony is there is no such biblical description or guideline to do it the way we do it. We just believe it is the right way. To be asked to consider options is offensive to these because this is the way it ought to be done.
Why is this topic important? Too many dear and wonderful people are bent out of shape because of our misguided whims in the name of Truth when nothing of the sort came from the Word. This makes a misery of the people and a mockery of God's revelation.
I found that to express my preferences, with the clear understanding there is more than one way to do a plethora of ministries, makes life flow quite a bit better and a little more in line with what Jesus had in mind. Of course, there a some things not optional to opinion. Yet, the body of Christ is guilty...very guilty....of reversing the way things should go. We have legalized opinions and opinionated God's laws. We have built faulty cases regarding worship styles while dismissing gossip and lack of mercy.
Neither the lost nor the saved can afford for us to clamor for getting our way. It is wrong. Such comes under the umbrella of pride and too many are unnecessarily dying in spirit when we cannot allow room in the spiritual zones God would not curtail.
Sunday, December 07, 2008
I have learned over the years to see God in more than an evangelistic Bible study. Once I felt that if our efforts didn't end with a baptism it wasn't good enough to be considered of much use. When I began to pick up on God'S enormous interests (sparrows and hairs and nameless boys with lunch sacks), I grew to understand everything and every opportunity matters.
Our God is big!
He works. He provides. He supplies. He delivers. He rescues. He saves.
Be encouraged that every effort done in the name of Jesus continues a lineage of God's handiwork which really counts. Baptisms count. So does prayer. So does contentment. So does kindness. So does thoughtfulness. So does mercy. God wastes no crumb. He gives our walk in the garden of His grace incredible delight. We move about in marvel; not of ourselves, but of Him. How can He do so much? How can He be so amazing? Just as Jesus explained, through His Spirit power overwhelms.
Good for God! Happy are we!
Friday, December 05, 2008
I especially liked how they were so tender in their explanations of the work. It was not just a kindness toward the Hondurans who live in rude poverty, but they have a knack some mission-minded Christians can't seem to claim. They had the same kindness toward the American church listening to their report. Some are so bothered by the poverty scene they struggle to remain civil about the spoiled American culture including its church.
I understand the strain. But, it isn't right. I applaud Mark and Lori for their spirit of clear love for both.
As they were talking I thought about the rich American culture. I live as grieved over its people as foreign missionaries do their zones. We may live in a first-world economy but the masses of such a land still live in a third-world mood. Their spirits are impoverished. I don't think this is a trite comment but one of burdening accuracy. Many are so desperately poor in spirit. Those of us remaining this side of the oceans and gulfs have enormous work to do to lead the poor in spirit to the blessedness of Christ. It is not an easy task. No one who really works it takes it lightly.
There are those in the church whose day seems to be made if they can hop on the wagon of church feud. But there is another sort; those who grieve for the hurting. Whether economically impoverished or filthy rich, the spirits of men and women plead for us to keep our vow to the great commission.
Bless someone today with your considerate understanding as their bright world continually has someone or some thing pointing a flashdark on them.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Henri Nouwen said, Still the revolutionary believes that the situation is not irreversible and that a total reorientation of mankind is just as possible as is a total self-destruction. Revolutionaries see the plight of mankind and choose to do something about it. Upheaval may be rampant, but Christian upheaval triumphs over the dark side of things.
Bombings in one land and betrayals in another coupled with fear tactics of many can build a case for fright in the strongest of hearts. The darker the threats build the brighter the promises arise according the Jesus. Don’t forget Paul and Silas were caught in a hard place and revolted. They rebelled with voices of praise in song when none would have blamed them for belly-aching. We want to receive their torch for authentic freedom. We are free to praise God even when shackled by various and powerful miseries. Nothing can take away our spirit of revolution to face darkness head-on and punch it right in the nose….with a glorious song of hope!
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
We must work as Nehemiah; a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other. This man was a giant fellow exemplifying successful focus. We will do well to keep our eyes on the Leader of this church. We must not be duped into distracting debate and what-not insult. We must guard against wanting to defend ourselves against the torrent of gossip and accusation which untamed tongues love to invoke. Yakety yak has always been abundant among the least of the workers.
Jesus was sometimes silent and sometimes leveling with his words. We must keep watching for his kind of work in our midst. Shams will come along to talk us out of helping the needy. Failures will arise causing us to hide in intimidation. We must not give up on God, on others, nor on self. We can get a mighty work done when we intentionally look for God to do so in, with, and through us.
Unintentionally, I believe we have made work in the church far too difficult. We thought we were doing his work properly; yet we left him out. Our organization and subsequent self-approval became more important to our egos than sensing the leading of God's Spirit. Stay focused. Watch him. Look for him. Trust him.
Wonderful things are happening in the church. None of them are because man got smart. It is happening because man got humble. We can't. He can. We choose to believe his ability is more effecient than our own. Good for God.....He still works among us!
Monday, December 01, 2008
We talked. We cried. He asked me to baptize him. I did. Then Richard Haley died a few weeks later.
Today I received a long letter from his indifferent son. Now thirty years old, he is crying out for help. His cry beats his dad's in age by twenty-some years. He is in Cook County jail in Chicago. On December 11th he will find out if he gets a second chance or goes up for six to eight years. He mentioned he cried the entire time he penned his words to me.
Rich wants to know if I could pray for him, if I could tell him about God, and if I would call his mother to check on her. I will to all three.
For now I want you to try to envision this young man a few years ago when I first met him. I want you to feel his smugness; sense his disdainful attitude toward showing respect to any. He was caught up in a blind trust of nothing going nowhere downhill. Look at him. Look again. Study him. Do you see him being interested in just a few years? Do you see him crying over his wreck of a life? We must.
Look at him and then take a good look at the smugness coming from some of your associates. Be there, my friend, with seed-sowing kindness and interest. The day is coming that many in your circle who snub you now will reach back...for your help. God works and troubled hearts want him....on their timetables; not ours.
Look at the room full of people. None you see are exempt from needing God. Don't assume otherwise.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
FLEXIBILITY....I GUESS GOD WASN'T KIDDING
Do you find yourself fighting the nature to be a control freak? I mean do you get stuff in your mind and you seem like you've been taken prisoner as your determination as to how things are to be must rule; must win? The body of Christ is more effective when it is limber. Rigidity doesn’t belong in the kingdom system. I was reared to be very uptight. Such spiritual arthricity still plagues my ministerial movement. One who truly grows in the Holy Spirit increases in flexibility.John 3:8 discusses that all born again are so supple they can shift or even reverse direction, much like the wind, day after day. Unbending stances have become a modern day call for respectable doctrine. Such didn’t arise from scripture as much as tradition. What goes unnoticed by us as we are stuck in it is that we don’t know we are stuck in it. We think church is the way…........Okay, so do you want to hear something sorta weird? I’m in the office at 5:00 trying to write this article for the blog. I’m in when no one else is to keep from being interrupted, right? So I decide you need to know about flexibility and the doorbell rings. I begrudgingly go answer it wondering what somebody wants when I’m trying to work.So I go to the door just now even in typing mid-sentence and it’s one of our sweet college kids with an envelope marked “Terry” on it. In it is a letter from his momma expressing having saved up this money, $200, for me to use as I wanted. People are always giving me money and I give it away when/as I think God wants. How nice of this servant heart. I started to put it away and decided to pocket it as I may run into someone tonight who needs it.So I’m back now at my computer pounding out the sentences on arthricity and rigidity when the door bell rings again. Brother! Urghh! I’m trying to write an article on being flexible here and if you idiots don’t quit ringing that stupid and irritating doorbell, I’m never going to get done! (Insert more Urrrrrghh here.)I get up and go to the door to find a 60-ish year old disabled man with an electric bill in hand. He explains he and his wife are disabled and she is on a breathing machine and they just can’t afford to have their electric cut off. He showed me his ID and the bill which showed he lives in the neighborhood. He needed 70-some dollars so I peeled off $80 and told him that not ten minutes ago someone was ringing this same door bell handing me money for anyone who needed it......Now, back to my story about flexibility. We all need to…..nah, I think that was it. Once again, God wrote the text!
There is more to the story.
Today Shane and the team led us in two songs and then David Combs baptized Mary W. He and Lisa had befriended Mary at the food bank and have been caring for her for months. It was a great way to begin our morning.
And then....at the invitation song Charlie B. came forward to be baptized. He looked familiar. I had met him once before.....when he rang the doorbell on a Wednesday evening asking for help with his electric bill. It was him! He came back to church to start life over.
Both Mary and Charlie are about my age. It is too exciting to see the love of God showing up in people all around us. Don't quit. God is working. We can count on it.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Faith breaks the decent and in order assumption. It is young like right now and old like ancient Abraham. Faith is more than a step in a plan of salvation; it is a leap in the scheme of God-sized moves. Faith causes water to stand at attention while it salutes the dry river bed of the Jordan.
Faith allows common people to participate in uncommon events. It abides by ridiculous whims of God like pushing from the inside to cause the Walls of Jericho to fall outwardly. Faith see as way Jose, when doubt said no way.
Faith is antsy. It must have a mission; a place to show its talent or else it spoils. It is very alive and alert picking up on the most unusual senses that possibility might be more of a reality than one would guess. God sat faith down in the very center of humanity and said, Take a good look folks. This is what I want you to possess.
Faith came in the form of Jesus. He defied all odds, beat all enemies, and freed the captives. I encourage you to live like you have a faith which has not yet been de-clawed by more tame and acceptable circles of influence. I urge you to provide your faith a mission in which it can roam and soar and celebrate. Nothing can shut you down or up if you believe in the resurrected Jesus. Nothing. So awaken all dreamers! Life has just begun....in you...again!
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Christians have an uncanny ability to live in acceptable deceit; not just deceiving others but self. Being in the church has its moments for every size, mood, and tenure. The deceit is that we are about the business of the church while staying as far away as possible from people in need. We may pray and we may give, but contact is out of the question. The prayers and the givers are important facets. They cannot, though, be provided as hiding places to keep from expressing the Life of Christ among the community. The one challenge which crosses all generational as well as doctrinal boundaries is the actual coming into contact with the messy, unruly, needy of our communities.
It is one thing to decide as a board of directors whether to send money or support ministry to a needy and worthwile camp. It is quite another to roll up sleeves and serve at the homeless shelter or give a ride to the stranded.
I've had my moments in both camps; the deeply involved and the excusively removed. Jesus lived not in but one camp; highly and intensely connected in both word and deed. Until the church grows in gracious relationship with those less fortunate....personally one member at a time...we are in great danger of being a social club with a self-consoling name over the door. May we continue to strive for the accurate doctrine of Christ who was continually going home with or welcoming strangers into his circle. I am most proud of any of us when such is the experience.
The heart of Christ is not a philosophy nor a discussion topic. It is hand clasping another's hand while offering genuine hope.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
However, the movement shifted from restoration to preservation. Teachings began to crystallize. Pliability took on a strange form of rigidity. Learning was replaced by defending. Humility was booted out for a conquering sort of pride which moved from tender-hearted disciples to legalizing Pharisaism. Effort to get back to the Bible was t-boned by getting back to the Restoration Movement; something Stone and Campbell would never have accepted.
From the Restoration Plea there was a high note of “go by the Bible”. However such a thrust did not come from the movement itself. It came from the Bible. The idea of a movement leading anyone back to the original thoughts of God’s revelation is always a respectable course. However, when such attempts shift to preserving what little has been recovered, momentum and direction suffer injury. Discovery and mystery are replaced by defense and form; de-formed is the result.
A significant hiccup may be found in evolving plans to restore the church to the New Testament pattern. Scripture would indicate what is called for is to restore people to the New Testament Christ; he will not restore his church but will continue to build it. His church isn't something mankind gets back to. It is something man is added to. Have we not been in a long state of reversing the work by trying to add the church to man?
I love the early days of the Restoration Movement. To operate trying to restore the restoration movement, however, is something added to the will of God. Such a course is radical and the cost is a mistake. The latter day saints’ minds atrophy as the Bible doesn’t have a chance. It has been replaced in its own camp by names of notoriety other than Jesus. If we don’t continually move back to the glorious name of Jesus, God will most likely find someone who will.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Tonight at our house was a wonderful setting. Our small group consisting of eight couples brought pies and cakes as we gathered to tell the elders exactly what we think of them. And we did!
It was, in my opinion, a benchmark moment. All sixteen spoke in abundance as their hearts were each filled with praise and thankfulness for what our guys do for this flock. All sixteen had much to say. In reality much was left unsaid which needed to be said; but after an hour and half we felt maybe that was enough for one night.
Fortunately for Memorial Drive, our elders are as grateful for the flock as the flock is for the shepherds. Everyone was touched by the outpouring of grace and love. These men and their wives deserved hearing what wonderful work they do. We are a blessed congregation as these allow God to work with them, in them, through them.
Memorial Drive isn't the only special church in town or in the scheme of things. It is, though, one of His happy ones! We enjoy noting the "out of the blue" experiences God hands to us week after week. In reality, there is so much of God among us we hardly know how to comment. But for one evening, I must say it was a real joy to observe our elders and their wives as they were bombarded with intense and highly deserved accolades.
It might be a good idea if other congregations would consider giving their elders a piece of their minds! It built us up....I know that for sure.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Too, I have been working on a celebrity golf tournament for two years. The goal is to raise a million dollars for Tulsa Public Elementary Schools. One door after another either closes or simply fails to open. There is one more door at which I knock. Friday when I knocked a voice on the other side said rather curtly, Go away and come back some other time. It sounded like a brush-off, yet the invitation to return leaves me with hope to try once more.
You have works you envision. We must not give up. When doors fail to open, this must only serve as a signal to watch for the doors which do. We must not get discouraged and quit knocking. Souls literally depend on our ability to endure the tides of discouragement. We just can't quit trying.
You are quite important dear colleague. None will know the amount of time you may have spent with seemingly little results. Fret not. It is worth all of the hassle and the wait when a door here and there opens for His measure of productivity. Do not quit!
It seems it would be easier not to press. But, we have too much work to do and too many people to lead to God.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Families will possibly find themselves in a serious pinch. The financial load will affect not only those outside of the body of Christ; but those within as well. I would encourage us to be in prayer that God would do with us what He did with the unsuspecting lad with the fish and the loaves. More is going to be required of us than there is of us. This is the ideal setting for Jesus to show his stuff.
America is going to find enormous need. Will we be as his disciples calling to him to do something about this? Or, will he return the monkey and advise us to do something about it? I believe the latter is his action for the former. Jesus did not just use the sack lunch. He used the unassuming disciples to distribute what they could not see as the answer. They were just as shocked as the boy.
As reports of layoffs and financial strain escalates, let the church be of a different language than those who have no Jesus. May we do as Jesus. He did not deny the extreme need. He called on God to bless the moment. Did He ever! Therefore, it is not up to us to scramble to find more funds. It will be up to us to present the few funds we have with anticipation he will do that expansion thing with them. What will be up to us is to continue developing the faith which believes our God can take of what little the church has to offer and multiply it so many times the community can only look toward Jesus with grateful applause!
You have a different perspective and role. Hear of the world’s troubles. Then dare to be different. Plan on being a tool….used similarly as the nameless boy with the bread and the fish. Bless the world in need.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
I wonder about all of us. Do we get it that while we have the calling of God to reach the world we must be cautious not to impose our own wishes, meaning, and glory? Pride is a hangman's noose camoflauged as a necktie. It may look dressy, but it will hang the greatest of visionaries.
I like it when we can discuss differences of opinion. Yet, on occasion an edge comes out in print on the part of any of us. We must be so careful. It is right that we cheer each other on by spurring deeper thinking or considering alternative methods. We must be careful to keep pride at bay for, the truth is, not one of us is a sharp knife in the drawer.
There are not some in the church who are pros while others are novices. Compared to Jesus we are lucky to be let into the stadium let alone onto the field. My articles and your responses are always safe when written from dispositions of gratitude.
Therefore, I urge you to hold fast to your convictions to which God has led. But do not assume yourself as better or wiser or more capable than the next for God has allotted each a measure of faith. Use sound judgment keeping in mind each of us possesses incredible and enormous lack. This is precisely why it is so doggone thrilling to work in the kingdom. We should never have had our application accepted. But you know God! He insists everyone gets a uniform!
Calvin Miller emphasized a most valuable reminder; Still our respect for His majesty is ever to remind us of our inherent weaknesses. The only way that we can ever make strong decisions is to depend on Him. Each of us is quite capable of slipping into the zone of handling life’s challenges and opportunities from our own ingenuity base.
The Word is thrilling to remind us over and over about the resurrection power of God. He defied the most basic bully; death. God made life out of death. He pleads with us that such a truth is where and how we are to walk on earth. This resurrection power/something from nothing recipe for mankind is called what? Miracle? Magic? Neither. It is called faith. That’s it. Faith.
When He urges us to walk by faith and not by sight, is God not calling us to enter a zone of bewildering and scandalous wonder? Surely He does! Your faith….is significant. Allow Him to help you grow it!
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Could it be that great vision in the kingdom is provided by those who see far but have no view of themselves? Could it be the reason such men and women are so effective is because they don’t live with regard for themselves? This class of servants can see all over the place as they bring the body news of potential and opportunity. But they never focus upon themselves.
How blessed every congregation is to have those among us who have no concern for self. How fortunate to labor beside young and old who are ambitious in proper spirit. May we each strive to be most valuable for kingdom good and while we are at it, may we be careful not to keep watching ourselves.
May you be increasingly determined to serve in such a way you are effectively looking out for the rest of the body. That’s a tall order. But the body of Christ is dependent upon eyes with good light!
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
When I saw Mike Huckabee’s recent interview with Bill Maher the “Few Percent” principle leaped out at me once again. He has built his argument and his movie upon the assumption that all religion is what just a few percent reflect. This is not only a big mistake for Mr. Maher, it’s a big mistake for us if we practice judging anything by the fewest percent who happen to be ridiculous or radical.
Do you struggle as I with suspicion toward the Muslims? Do you find yourself not trusting those who say they are peaceful? Do you believe that given enough rope they’ll hang us? I viewed all with great suspicion…until I watched Maher’s interview. I now must reevaluate.
I do to the Muslims what atheists do to Christianity. They (atheists) run to report the abuse, the immoral, the warring, and speak with apparent intelligence that this is what God does for you. Why can they not peruse the larger percent of the upright instead of the renegade? Why is this? Because they are not interested in truth, they build a defense to fit their preconceived ignorance. That trait is found in me….maybe in us.
Why is the Bible rejected? Partly because 1% pounded people over the head with it? Why is the topic of giving the laughing stock of unbelieving coffee shop patrons? Is it because 1% (possibly television evangelists) abuse it?
We keep our faith. We don’t melt any of God’s truth away. We don’t jump to all religions as being right with God. But it is always right to judge others upon truth rather than gage any by those few percent who make a mockery within every brand and tribe. Jesus, for me, will always be the only way, the truth, and the life. His call for loving our neighbors, though, needs to find expansion in places. I find I may have judged all by the antics of the few. We even do it among ourselves.
Monday, November 17, 2008
However, I see in many cases good men trying to swim in the wading pool. They are dealing with things deacons and deaconesses should be handling. Elders are mistaken when they find themselves devoted to being the Board of Permission as well as the Financial Board of the Church. Such is terribly poor leadership which causes the congregation to be immature. When elders operate from AUP (Ask Us Permission) the flock does not develop in risk, faith, and mystery. It only develops upon the restrictive control of its three or four or six men in charge. This is crippling to the body.
Elders would find their load greatly lightened when two things happen: (1) turn over the work of the church with full confidence in the members, and (2) learn to stay out of the way. Right now there is so much productive good going on at Memorial there is no way our four guys could permit it, support it, understand it, or know about it. They are interested, quite interested, in the productivity and spirituality of every member. But the members health cannot depend on the shepherds knowing about and how to run every good work this membership can envision.
When elders bless the church instead of boss it, profound life is experienced. Right now David and Lisa Combs are arranging to baptize Mary on November 30. They have been working with her through the food pantry. None of the elders (I imagine) know who Mary is. I know her and can't think of her last name. The point is our shepherds love this flock and are proud as punch that God works so many fascinating ways they cannot possibly keep up.
Bottom line: our elders believe God works. They are not afraid to give shepherding the flock their best shot without having their hands in every paint bucket. If we want to spend money we don't ask the elders. We ask the four on the finance committee. If we want to have an event, we don't ask the elders. We check the church calendar to see if it would conflict. If we are uncertain as to an expenditure or an event's wisdom, then we go to the shepherds and they wrestle with us over the best approach. They are terrific to work with any of us; but they do not own the work. God does.
I think too many elders are frustrated because they are trying to shepherd from the safety of the wading pool. Such a work was not designed for men of such faith. This can frustrate the spirit of the men trying to serve as well as the flock trying to do good and mysterious works. If these men would move to the deep end of the pool where they have fewer answers as well as control, they just might find that God's involvement would be a great necessity. Too, they will discover He is willing to participate in the work to such a degree the loads get lighter.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
This is the reason for nearly all of the rebaptisms I experience. When in school we were taught that Acts 2:38's reference to the gift of the Spirit was not the Holy Spirit himself we received, but the gift of salvation. I went along with it as the argument seemed to fit. But, I don't believe it today. I think the passage speaks to our sins being forgiven and the Holy Spirit moving into the Christian's new life for activity.
I wouldn't want to make what I'm about to say as law for I am far too weak in my understanding. Yet, it seems to me the mistaken teaching on Acts 2:38 has been hazardous to the church's health. We have had generations baptized by immersion into John's baptism instead of Christ's while saying we have done the opposite. Yet the fruit of argumentative and divisive walks substantiates my view. The church fusses and fights as it cannot possibly bear the fruit of the One it denies. Thus, we are stuck with us.
I would suggest the church adjust its teaching regarding the Holy Spirit for it is a vital part of the God-head. There were not two. There are three.
Friday, November 14, 2008
I understand the threat. I once believed the opposite of what I do today. What I don't understand is who started this panic. When the church shut down the Holy Spirit it shut out God working among us. That (spirit) form is the only way God can work and we say (said) we don't believe it.
What happened to change my mind? What made me begin to believe the Spirit works today? The Bible did. I was reading Ephesians 3:14-21 where it says the Spirit gives strength to the inner man and I said aloud, That's not right. I caught myself speaking back to the Word correcting it and it stopped me from continuing the false belief that the Spirit no longer works directly in a Christian's life. He does; the Bible says so.
One of the things that happened to me as I began to search this new possibility was listening to our older men pray (who didn't believe the Spirit worked either). They would pray things like, God guide, guard, and direct us. Really? Direct us.....like indirectly maybe? Or, God, give Terry a ready recollection of the things he's about to say. But, I bet they didn't mean directly...did they?
We have tossed the Spirit out and He is so gentle He has willingly left. When this happens we are left to do church on our own. His fruit of love and joy, etc., cannot possibly hold up for it is His fruit. The spirit of hatefulness, and division, and gossip will prevail when He is absent....and we've proven that in too many places.
The Holy Spirit isn't spooky. He is God in Spirit form which happens to be Holy. If the Spirit is booted out the only thing left is our conglomerate business minds doing our best to pull off average. Average worship, average commitment, average life, average experience; no relationship with God and no anticipation of His working for we accepted the false notion He doesn't anyway.
The Holy Spirit is controversial. How we tried to toss Him on His ear out the back door while trying to keep the Father coming in the front door is most amazing. The church of Christ is in desperate need of the mighty power of the Spirit functioning with us today.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Abraham was one man. God kept his promise. The father of many is he. David was one man. Sinful and selfish did he behave. God made him an example of courage. Esther was one woman. God shows the world of believers today that bravery to speak up in the tightest of pinches can break open remarkable doors. Saul of Tarsus was one man. He was hell-bent on destroying the church. By the time God was through with him, Paul was heaven-bent on building the very thing he once gave his life to destroy.
Don't forget your calling. You may feel as a minnow in an ocean, but you must not let your courage wain. Step up with your songs (as Paul and Silas) when treated unfairly that the Spirit of Christ may do His work. Step forward with vision to do what no one has yet thought to do. Get going. Quite living a shrunken life in the most advanced system on earth. Get up! Get going!
Write the best book ever! Produce the best movie ever! Imagine the greatest evangelistic crusade ever. The Shack? Gone With the Wind? Billy Graham? All people backed. Get with the program---His program in you---and be more than you've ever been right where you are. The church is not located on a street corner like Phillips 66.
We don't have a J. C. Penney Jesus. The church is sitting in your study, or your office, or your airplane terminal, or wherever you are reading this blog. The church is located right where you now sit. Don't you think it might be good to dream again for God? We aren't the Rut Church of Christ (unless, of course we have a building at the corner of 7th and Rut). We are the Imagination Church of Christ, the Anticipation Church of Christ, the Where We Live Church of Christ.
Ah, drop the criticism of others. Wake up to your own assignment. Live where you are planted and build the church; expand the kingdom. It will take courage but, then, we know the guy who excelled in that, huh?
I saw to extreme sites on my trip; at least two. The first night in Zapopan we went to visit the house church in Jocotan. The crowded streets became narrower and rougher. We have nicer alleys. The people were delightful, but, oh, so poor. The housing conditions were severely impoverished. Americans have nicer tool sheds in their back yards. Adults line the streets for conversation while children run and play. Everywhere one turned, everywhere eyes could see, there were hundreds, thousands, millions of people loved and adored by God. Do they know Him? How will they know Him? A few will (do), but the number who may never learn of the Savior Jesus is upsetting.
The other extreme was sitting in DFW going and coming. Adults line the well-manicured terminals while children run and play. The people are delightful, but oh so poor in attitude and inner strength. Everywhere one turned, everywhere one could see, there were hundreds, thousands, millions of people loved and adored by God. I keep wondering, Do they know Him? Surely many do. But what about the number…the vast number….who don’t? This, too, is upsetting.
An odd thing I noticed in my travel among the extremes. Overall, the poor in Mexico were happier than the rich in America. Nonetheless, we must ramp up our efforts to live in the Christ that the big message reach both groups for both are dying without him?
This note today has nothing to do with guilting any reader. It has everything to do with a reminder; we must reach the world by every method and concept our small imaginations can fathom…..sooner rather than later.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
We are to honor his name. If not careful "in the name of Jesus" can become a "10-4" to our signing off on prayer. It isn't. It is the secret code (used out in public, no less) by disciples to credit the one---the only one---who runs the show. Nothing is ever about our plans. It is about Jesus blessing plans, leading efforts, and causing results.
You may wish for this and that. Be sure to place the signet ring of God---the name of Jesus---upon every task before you. Imprint your heart's desire with the authority of God's touch. How this works and why this works is up for grabs as to explanation. We know this for sure; the work of God in Christ Jesus is most amazing and our job is to believe in the very one whom He sent....John 6:29.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Many commenters on this blog are ones doing a good job of reaching out. Some are missionaries in the church sense while others are missionaries in the momma or the office worker sense.
What mission field are you in and where are you doing such faith work?
What does the future hold for the church? Well, it would seem two opposites. For the part of the church which insists upon denying the active Spirit of God, there will be a growing cause to fight what is perceived as false doctrine only to notice the graying of the members (age-wise) and a loss in numbers. The other group which acknowledges the truth of the Word regarding Spirit involvement will ever be learning God's masterful and mysterious ways. The former will be church from flesh engrossed with argument and ever stuck within its own strength. The latter will note a new normal; a harmony of work and faith, hope and promise.
Neither will be without sin. Both must rely on the bloodstained cross as beggars like in need of crumbs of grace. Both groups will find desperate need for His mercy and grace. But one will find life and love and hope because that's what God does among His people. The other will live fearful they got something wrong and disgusted with those they mistakenly believe to surely be wrong.
Life in Christ to the maximum level is what the church should hunger for! May we hunger to find the righteousness Jesus provides for we are unable to do so on our own. The future of the church? It will depend on where we decide to place our faith. I would urge you to build a faith based on an active God with the understanding the most any of us know to this point is probably less than 1% of total Truth.
Monday, November 10, 2008
When we reflect upon the cross with its guts and gore, hearts seems to rush to new focus. Hang-nail issues diminish by comparison. The cross blasts away indifference and causes renewal of energy. When we consider what happened to the Son of God by religious and Roman thugs we become aroused in spirit to push back against dark and unruly forces.
Too, encountering the poor motivates me to take action. The poor depress me a great deal. I don't feel sad that I am blessed; I feel lonely that others are not. Prisons housing human beings like zoo animals make me sick. Jesus, recall, had compassion toward prisoners. Those who have meager income or abuse what small income they have tugs at my heart. I want everyone to be well off.
What is the answer? Can we really do anything about this? Yes. Absolutely! Give 'em heaven! Give them Jesus. I think about this trying to go to sleep. I think about it when driving. I think about it sitting in airports. What can we do to impact the masses? Jesus is the only way. He is the way.
Please. Try to do more than finish your day in a tie. Keep doing something with your heart (with your imagination) to invent, create, activate works of impacting good. This world is weak at every turn. People are crumbling. The conditions are perfectly rotten for the love of Christ to shine like crazy. Blessed are those who mourn. Much mourning is going on. May we team up to pour in the blessings.
Sunday, November 09, 2008
I'm noticing the more I stay out of the way in sermon organization and planning, it seems the more God shows up in the message. Don't get me wrong. I study everyday. I am a slow reader and it takes me longer to prepare than others.
However, I am seeing a trend that the fewer notes I take to the pulpit the more His Spirit seems to work with my spirit during the presentation. That sentence could come across very wrong and I don't mean it improperly. There does seem to be a matter of trust from me to Him. I have in my notes basically the verses I want to read. Of course I've searched them. Of course I've given them serious thought. But what is different is I don't write out precisely what I intend to say should God have new ideas I had yet to consider.
In every sermon something shows up in the delivery I had not yet pondered. I am enthused to hear what He is going to say....really. Ah, I'm fumbling terribly in trying to convey this. Sorry.
My point I want to make is it may be possible we obstruct the Spirit of God by mapping out precisely what we intend to say to the extent He can't get a word in edge-wise in His own sermons. I think He is more willing to speak through us if we will rid ourselves of carnal safety nets and move as partners in Spirit work.
Maybe we could go back to the days where He really does guide, guard, and direct! No, I don't think it illegal if we have notes. I do think it illegal if we try to preach the gospel of Jesus without the Spirit of Jesus. There. That's what I meant to say.
There is usually a trait that goes with every such person; they are just as off base as those whom they criticize; Romans 2:1-5 says so. This is a predictable pattern and those unhappy are seldom informed of being off base; they aren’t approachable to be informed because they assume an upper faith which they deem superior. I did.
I’ve been in classes and sermons where one railed because the members aren’t in the community and they aren’t at the hospitals, etc. It seems so odd to me to hear it because when I’m in the community and in the hospitals I never run into those doing the railing. Not so oddly, I’ve been one to deliver such messages. My mistake.
Personally, I believe the church needs to improve in so many meaningful and important fields. Such does not discourage me. It gives me a job. I’m glad several are not satisfied. But I’ve been found guilty of failure too many times to live impatiently with the church. Our people are productive in a multitude of areas.
For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he out to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.
We must guard against impatience. Those who are impatient surely need to improve. The rest need to avoid becoming impatient with the impatient.
Saturday, November 08, 2008
Yancey's jaws have been swelling. A few days ago I took him to the vet. They gave him some antibiotics believing him to have been bitten. He was getting much better and then yesterday it was back again; only worse.
I took him this morning to a different vet to get a second opinion. The new place was very nice and very careful with Yancey. He seemed lethargically ill. The doctor concluded Yancey was quite ill with cancer. We had to put him to sleep immediately. I could hardly believe it was happening.
I stayed with him and can't believe how teary this day has been since. I walked into the veterinarian's clinic with a dog and walked out with only a leash in tow. I stayed with him while he died. His eyes....you know pet eyes can haunt you sometimes? His eyes looked at me so sadly.
However, Yancey and I did one thing together on his very last day which was a valuable thing. We were able to work our conversation with the vet around to church, where it was located and what it was like. I did all of the talking as Yancey partnered silently. If it hadn't been for Yancey, I might have never met the very compassionate doctor.
Even tearful moments matter, don't you think?
Yet, when Jesus was about to send his comrades into the entire world he told them to go to Jerusalem and wait. Waiting-to-get-going isn’t a man-thing. It’s a spirit-thing. Surely someone in the group could get the ball rolling now; not needing to wait. But the Spirit needed to be involved. The man-church fights the thought of the Spirit. He would rather control than let God run the show.
The only way one can be spiritual is by the Spirit; not the brand name nor the organization. The Carnal Church of Christ is withering and its basic recourse is to begin fighting and squabbling. Would such be man’s fruit or Spirit’s fruit? Love and patience and joy; these are spirituality. Carnal leadership lives in exasperation. Spiritual leadership lives in hope.
Church of Christ isn’t to be a denominational name. It should be the signal the Spirit of Christ leads the troops. Today there continues to be a need for conversion in the church. Just as some convert their electric utilities to solar, believers need to convert from confidence in the coattails of past church practices to the fresh fire of Holy Spirit leadership.
Friday, November 07, 2008
Be encouraged that Moses hiding and thought forgotten on the backside of a mountain is one of God’s most wonderful stories. Be encouraged that young Joseph believed doomed and forgotten in a remote pit due to hateful brothers was simply in the waiting room of God’s preposterous blessings. Be encouraged that humble Esther assumed relegated to wall-flower position was found to be God’s lone tool in order to avoid a national crisis.
What did Moses, Joseph, and Esther have in common? For one, they had their share of moments when things were quite perplexing; things just didn’t look a bit good. Secondly, Holy Spirit eventuality struck all three. So it is with us. Be not surprised to discover the road to good results is filled with necessary interruptions feeling more like potholes.
In visiting with Craig Hicks this morning, he was sharing how his seven years away from ministry felt so long. Now that he is back in it? That time feels like only a blink. Be encouraged. When we are stuck in the dark moments of bad days, God is working His scheme to prepare us for the good news blink. The bad days we encounter belong to God, too.
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Today's topic revolves around my lack of vision. I thought the only work going on in the church was the work I knew about. Ignorant? Oh....like maybe a lot?
The reason I bring it up is such an attitude is easy to accept still today. However the body is comprised of a lot of cells (believers) in many places.....globally. Right now millions of orphans have homes because faithful Christians have provided shelter. Much is going on. Right now teens, and convicts, and husbands and wives, and homeless, and military personnel are studying about life in Christ and are about to be baptized. Hundreds; maybe thousands.
I can't imagine the amount of money given by the total body in one week's time. Over a year? It must blow imagination's gasket. How many missionaries are supported? How many does God have? How many retired make transcontinental trips to offer medical treatment or hold an abandoned child in their arms?
The size of the body of Christ is more the size of God than our puny measurement. When I thought the only thing getting done in the church was the stuff I knew about? Well, I was simply living quite vainly one more time.
What a God! If we could know of 10% of His work going on about us every day, we would probably pass out in amazement. Live big! Love big! God is at work....in His coworkers....us!
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
It is a huge challenge for unbelievers to accept the marvels of God. I think, however, it is equally challenging for believers to believe the God beyond hard bargains. Faith isn’t a step in a religious series or a salvation plan. It is the eyesight of the spiritual. No darkness is dark enough to take light captive. No situation is so stark in its impossibility hold to thwart possibility’s strength from piercing through.
May we arise to the practical perception that it is not our organizational skills which lead to productivity. Rather, it is our Experiential God who shocks even the best of believers at His latest move to shake the world. Need a charge for your routine or mundane day? Step aside. See past the darkness of blindness to make way for the great light! God works!
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Maybe it took forty minutes. I doubt much more. Reports of such lines are all over Tulsa.
I wonder if the men and women who received fatal shots or maiming shrapnel during any of our wars imagined their valiant maneuvers would lead to such expression of freedom. I wonder as thousands rocked by the intruding waves of bays, gulfs, and oceans if these soldiers imagined the pride millions would one day feel as we stand in line to carry out their orders. I wonder if the troops being greeted by shores' mists soaking their faces as they dismounted from ships....I wonder if it crossed their minds that America would be excited to join in on the contest of a black man versus a white woman reaching for the White House.
I voted today. While those on the ticket are surely important factors; my vote counts for those I never met yet likely imagined America might one day take in such an event. To those who suffered loss.......you and yours are receiving applause today; not by hands clapping but by votes being counted....in what promises to be record number.
Monday, November 03, 2008
I have friends galore in every brand of Christian branches. Matching the political scene, we have representatives of liberal and conservative persuasions. Bitterness and joy, struggle and peace; each has elements of momentum in all camps.
I believe churches of every brand are dying because we have become unfaithful to the Word of God. While nearly all sects use it as a guide, it's riches come under the scrutiny of leaders who find it more important to continue the heritage of their particular view than to study openly for the Word to reveal its freshness, its newness, its revealing mind. We are in desperate need of the winds of freedom to believe to criss-cross our land.
American churches aren't as interested in uncovering the buried treasures of the Bible as they are at placing steady guards at the front doors of churches slowly becoming tombs so no one will mess with what's going on inside. What has happened is God's method of learning men and women has been replaced by "standard keepers". The problem is that many of the Standards were never of God; but highly preferred by some evidently influential and persuasive in our past.
How many times have we heard of those who go by the Bible, that don't study it or grow from it? This isn't going by the Bible. This is refusing to open up to its beautiful teachings. Too many churches are dying because the very Word each treasures is beginning to die within their own walls due to suffocation and ultimate stagnation.
Let the Word breathe among all our churches. May Christ have the freedom to build His church His way according to His plans without our interference.
Sunday, November 02, 2008
Here's what I thought when I heard them: These guys are really good! We have some really good speakers in our area. I saw traits in each that I don't see in me. For one, they seem very knowledgeable. I get by, but those guys have a background of study under their belts that I envy. I'm advantaged in ways by not being raised in church. Yet those who have been can speak from the top of their hearts about things I may not pick up on. I thought they did a good job. And, it's tough speaking in front of a special group like this one. As the speaker so much is needed and because we are human we can never deliver as strongly as the occasion requires. So while there is a great chance that none of the three feel they did what they wish they had done, we received great blessings by hearing their hearts speak to us.
There must have been maybe 1200 in attendance? It was a packed house. Those who participated in the presentations; emceeing, speaking, reading and leading singing, didn't disappoint. It was a special evening. But I especially was proud of my co-laborers in the pulpit. They are exceptional and I'm proud to be their friend.