Monday, April 28, 2008
Jesus reversed history. He yanked the rug from hell's intent. His disciples rearranged the social structure to implant confidence into the has-beens and the nobodies. We are no less remarkable. It is our call to see what can be whether earthly measurement would agree.
One of the areas which separates the winners from the losers is whether we can believe in people...when they aren't what they could be/should be yet. Do we believe they will catch on? Do we envision them becoming effective? Occasionally I hear of leaders speaking of how dense or dumb flocks are in general. Not good. Do we see in our people the truth that they can become different? More productive? More like Him?
Our people don't only want us to know the Word, they need us to know the Word will work in them. They deserve to see in our eyes faith in them when they can't see it themselves. Some are looking for a signal from us that we believe they are unique; wonderfully made. The good news is I think that's exactly what our people are going to find in us....confidence that they are brilliant becomers with a great future.
May we reshape now by believing in the people God gives us to work with.
I'm off to Pepperdine Tuesday morning. Pray I will share in my classes the Abundant Life God wishes we all would own! Lord willing I'll be back at Blogville next week unless earthquakes rattle with great disruption.
This was a major problem in Jesus’ day. He called for two extremes: truth and humility on the part of those who learned the truth. At first I thought truth came with my pounding the pulpit while raising my emphatic voice. Not. Truth comes because Jesus said it and not by my/our addition to or subtractions from.
Pride gets in such a toot to be first….the fastest. Humility has a respect and openness to truth because it shares in the awareness man is most frail in understanding and interpreting. If Jesus’ disciples lived with him and still didn’t get it (They scooted like cowards, remember?), we must take in the possibilities we may be lacking in our conclusions. It isn’t wrong to reach a point of conclusion. It is wrong to seal our eyes and ears should we have misunderstood on participle of His revelation.
Can we have confidence? In the Spirit of God; but not in ourselves (II Cor. 3:4-5). Shall we live in assurance? Only in Christ and nothing else (Phil. 4:13). Are we to regard ourselves as useful in the kingdom? Only in humility for God will oppose our pride (I Pet. 5:5). I spent an evening with Ida and Richard, missionaries from Uganda. A tone I see in them I don’t see as much in me is humility. They are gracious, soft-spoken, thankful, and respectful. When I’m with them I see a side of Jesus which is refreshing in my Much America and my Much Church. If we are going to grow in Christ-likeness we must ever strife to work from the launching pad of humility.
Sunday, April 27, 2008
My intent and hope is to not be leaving immediately, but I am leaving and the way time flies it is important to make preparation. Because I know it and the elders know it we are preparing. I don't know if I get to remain on board for another three years or another 10. Whatever the amount of time, it will one day hit and we will all act as if we didn't realize this was possible. It is.
Today Jason Thornton preaches while I, once again, sit. Bobby Smith preaches next Sunday. This brings me great delight. I love this church. It's become one of the happiest and most productive per I've ever heard about. The Holy Spirit enriches this place. I don't feel the least bit possessive. To have been on staff for a small amount of time was fulfilling. To have been here this long is God working beyond my imagination. I just love it here!
When I leave Memorial I hope it can be said about the congregation:
- It is built on Jesus and not on my tenure.
- It is supplied by God and not my energy.
- It is empowered by the Holy Spirit and not my longevity.
- It is built to celebrate.
- It is attentive to the heart of every member.
- It is engaged in more mission work than it can track.
- It has a confidence that God actually works.
- It has a vision of possibility based on actual experience in God.
- It has taken on the certainty that everything is a "Yes".
- It has become important to realize every day is a "Good Ol' Day!"
I am leaving Memorial and when the day comes it will feel weird...really weird. But I love the idea of carefully noting plans that the flock be strong and productive for the next guy on the block. If he would get here in, let's say, 2012 and stays as long as I have to this point, he would be preaching here 'til 2043. Hmmm, I wonder if we'll still use a projector and words on a screen by then? We might just be using Ultra-tech ear devices which flash the words onto the back side of our forehead! Now, there's an idea! Watch our own announcements!
Saturday, April 26, 2008
During his introductory remarks he made an astute observation: "This week you will learn not to be so critical of ballplayers because you are going to discover what it's like to be expected to produce....while playing hurt." Oh dear. I had no idea how true that was. They put us through stuff (and I was a young 35 back then) that made my body ache so badly that the next morning in the clubhouse I could see my shoes, but couldn't reach them to tie them.
His point was well made. When a professional steps up to bat with the bases loaded and strikes out, we seldom take into account his wife called an hour before the game to say their daughter has been put in ICU or he has an infected toe giving him enormous disability. We don't know what all is going on in the pain region of the expected slugger.
So it is in the kingdom. While we want to be critical (even of our critics) we must realize nearly all are playing hurt. As the team director was making the point that we would learn in our first week to be a bit more merciful when our heroes let us down, I learned we need to do the same for each other. Few involved in the kingdom are not playing without some great pain in their system. Even the best strike out. They don't need our boos; they need our sympathetic understanding.
Friday, April 25, 2008
One brother wrote that unless we do something about the dull evening worship assemblies regarding upgrading the singing, a huge portion of the younger generation will stay away. His letter was quite lengthy. The next day I got a note from an older brother so angered over the workshop being liberal that he told me I was killing the workshop and he would be praying for its death. And yet another has written twice of his disagreement over my comments on the Holy Spirit working in a Christian's life. In the midst of that a mass mail out comes saying the brotherhood is in a mess and the tip of the problem is failure in our a cappella singing. Yesterday a note came in suggesting I need to run the workshop the way Marvin did.
Honestly? This chatter gives my brain arthritis. It's very dangerous. If I'm not careful I will let the negative comments begin to roost. But I have a choice and I must not let my mind go there. First, I thanked God again this morning for the stress and complimented Him that He would count me useful in the Kingdom. Second, I will continue to evaluate what each critic offered. Third, I will not let the unnecessarily hurtful comments roost in my rafters.
I will do again what He said to do. I will choose to think on the workshop attendance being up. I will choose to ponder the workshop CD sales were at record high over the past five years. I will select to review the hundreds of comments from the workshoppers pleading for more of what they got this year. I will treasure the grateful hug offered me yesterday when I delivered a DVD of their friend's funeral. I choose to be in awe of how many 100% Natural Evangelism tapes are selling and the regions they are covering.
I will remember that while discouragement surely has strong pull, God gives me a way to avoid its pitiful and even imprisoning moods. ....whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.....practice these things (Terry); and the God of peace shall be with you. What shall we do to be saved from this stress? We shall think on the good stuff!
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Answers, of course, will vary. But, it's good to ponder just when these moments are that we might find even more of them. Our goal is to be like him. Ironically, it seems our greatest satisfaction is when we have such experiences which are reverse to our most comfortable zones.
I direct your attention to your connecting and mixing with the poor in spirit. How's it going? These may simply be the poor. Our tendency is to be stronger on theological theory than compassionate connection. My greatest moments are not in the presence of those the world would regard as celebrities, but with those the King would regard as highly esteemed. We tend to drift toward our own kind. Jesus forces the issue and plants himself in the middle of the messes.
He went home with Zachaeus, stopped the crowd to attend to the unnamed woman who touched him, and selected as kingdom leaders the greatest quagmire of misfits ever. Jesus comes alive in us or us in him when we are about his father's business of touching those regarded as the most untouchables and conversing with some of communities' most suspect. Jesus went where the human spirit tends to shun.....high class or low....somewhere other than where we feel safe and unimposed upon.
We are most like Jesus when we leave our heaven with all of its theorizing and discussing to walk directly into others' hell where fear and threat are so thick one could cut it with a knife. I've been in the company I didn't want to keep. I've ministered to those who have zero friends. I've left at times having absorbed their odor only to sense in my spirit, "Ah, this too is where Jesus would have gone." At these moments it may be we are most like Jesus.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
- BE ASSURED.....everyone wants to know God at some point in their life.
- BE CONFIDENT.....God is able to draw them in when you don't know how or when or where.
- BE VISIONARY.....believe the day will come when every person you know will consider Jesus as their friend.
- BE PATIENT.....sow small and little seed. You aren't asked to hold a revival. Put your favorite book by Lucado or Swindoll on your desk and let it set. Note how many pass by and ask to read it. Loan it out. Extend invitations to church two or three times during the year. One day they'll most likely say yes.
- BE ATTENTIVE....just as being on time or returning phone calls count as good business etiquette, being sensitive/interested in those near you regarding their struggles, etc., is important.
- BE RELAXED.....you don't know all of the answers. No one is in search of a "know-it-all" so it's a tie! Enjoy your friends knowing they have a secret need to know God.
- BE CERTAIN.....even unbelievers have questions about God. One reason they will not enter or instigate a conversation about Him is they feel foolish. As self-protection they stay away from the topic...but are curious about Him.
- BE POSITIVE......speak of God in normal, consistent, and everyday conversation as to crediting Him with your good life. Brag about Him to colleagues pointing to His blessings in your path. Counter those who curse at Him by blessing at Him.
- BE GRATEFUL.....in casual tones let others know you are a happy and content person. Few Christians realize this counts. Why would unbelievers want any part of God if those who already know Him are still miserable. Put on your happy face!
- BE PRAYERFUL....share with God your needs, concerns, and celebrations. Trust Him to do more with those you are reaching than you can. He works.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Here's our greatest calling: we get to take the broken-hearted, the crippled in spirit, and the lonely rejects and change their lives! We get to do that! We get to believe in people when they are out of muster to believe in themselves. We get to see hope in others when they haven't heard if there is any longer hope. We get to cheer on the downtrodden. We get to take those just barely getting by and pour the love of God into their paths and watch them be changed. We are change agents.
We get to approach churches which are stuck and see the Spirit of God resurrect (change) them. We get to approach a congregation which may have little faith it could make significant difference and then we begin to put the bloom into them. We are change agents! We turn good people toward their own greatness which no one has yet to point them toward. We get to lead wonderful followers of the Christ to steadfast confidence. We change minds! We get to do this!
If we aren't changing things for the better and improving much for good, what are we doing? God didn't call us to Petrified Church. He called us to a Marching Soldierdom which moves about the land bringing about fabulous, outrageous, glorious change.
I am a change agent. What a thrill. May we be more determined than ever to keep moving forward within the greatest movement ever......God's Kingdom! He changes me. He changes us. We share the change by taking it to the world. Go for it!
What they saw in him, many see in you. They might note that you are nothing more than common. Yet, you are the Jesus element more. You are gifted by the same Holy Spirit and involved in the same Holy Kingdom.
The woman at the well? Not just a nameless woman at a well. She is the "keeps the fascination of Jesus going" nameless woman at the well. The woman at his feet? She wasn't just pouring perfume. She remains the "keeps the fascination of Jesus going" woman who sobbed uncontrollably into centuries.
And you? Are you the "keeps the fascinating story of Jesus going" giver at missions day, sharer in small groups, or hugger at funerals? Maybe you are the greeter at the door "keeping the fascinating story of Jesus going" or possibly the plugger-inner of the coffee pot before class? Our people need help in understanding each counts. Each is profound and not just a little bit. You, my friend, keep the fascinating story of Jesus going. Live like you count!
Whoever wrote this went to an awful lot of trouble to prove something not there. Furthermore, I prefer a cappella music.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
If I were to move into your place, here are a few things I would ask myself:
- Is Jesus the Savior of this place or is it church heritage, programs, or personalities?
- Am I getting my material from God or serving up routine three points and an illustration?
- Am I preaching the Word or brotherhood issues?
- Is our worship alive or monotonous?
- Are we led in singing or in worship?
- What needs to be done to encourage members to bring their friends?
- When the members bring guests, does their preacher team up with them in offering good news?
- Do those not in my immediate inner circle hear from me they are important and I am proud of them?
- Do I let the elders and staff know I caught them doing good, positive, successful things?
- Do I return every phone call?
- Do I grow in being open-minded or have I become narrow-minded to new ways and new ministries?
- Do I still love what I get to do?
Add to the list the items you think would be good for each of us as leaders to evaluate.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
I felt the wonder. More so, I experience even greater electrification in the kingdom! What in the world has happened to us? I'll tell you in one word: MUCH. Much has happened to us and it's gigantic, unfathomable, inexpressible, and great! Life---abundant life---has happened to us! We can't possibly measure it or describe it! We are in over our heads with effectiveness, delight, and friends! This church stuff is of the greatest excitement from the Truest Source for the most glorious work! Don't flinch when the bad stuff hits. Even the Cross has a place in the schematic glory of the Lord's workings!
My good friend, Marvin Phillips, single-handedly lit a fire in a nation full of preachers in the mid-seventies...and it ain't goin' out! Spread the Good News oh ye of wobbly faith, the broken-from-the-grave Son is still the hope of the world, the hope of the church, the hope of each of us! We have every reason to go crazy over who we get to be in Him! We can take a pretty stern beating or hefty disappointment and yet bounce back to "bigger than life"! Didn't he do that from the cross and out the grave?
Go crazy preacher! Go crazy! Let the church frenzy of celebration continue! Jesus is Lord!
Friday, April 18, 2008
We are leaving a century when prosperity and strength were fairly normal and on the increase. Church attendance may have been up, but faith may have been riding a wave of ease. I’m not sure. Christian Colleges were established. Mission works were carried out. New methods of Christian service were created. And, there’s just a slight chance America became its own god to several generations as well as nations.
But today heaviness is sensed. Concern surely is standing at attention. What a glory. If mankind kept on as was prone to note in the last century we might have become our own god. However, Someone must intervene. I don’t mean to be negative when I say much of what we have counted on is unraveling. This is positive. God is the Provider, Protector, Supplier, and Sustainer. He alone.
All of the king’s horses and all of the king’s men couldn’t fix things in Humpty’s day. None but God can in ours either. May we find security in one named Jesus….and none other.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Ah, then I share some really good news! Jesus' commission shatters the stronghold of both earthly measurement and logical restriction. Think not? Well then consider that Jesus pelted physical dominance with highly effective spiritual impact. "Can't walk?", he would inquire. Get up and get going! "Can't see?", he would ask. Read this!
Yet, I believe one of his greatest teachings was on the hillside late in the day when it was time to eat and the cafes were about to close. The disciples complained, "We better have the closing prayer. These people must eat." He ordered to feed them....you know the story well. And the spiritual so controlled the physical that a sack lunch of a no-name boy fed thousands with laundry baskets full of food left over?
What's the point? There's just not enough disciples to go around; to handle the great need of a stymied civilization. Yet when Jesus touches the meager few of us, the millions feed on the bread of life. That's what you and I do! We offer Him our meager sack lunch efforts and see so many effective results that such cannot be reported. Listen to me now, we can't even report everything God does awesomely in our individual congregations! Why would we be surprised, then, to consider our imagination just can't fathom His prolific energy and results....through us...all over the world?
We do so many effective and magnificent things in the kingdom! Jesus does so much with our meagerness! Believe it!
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Could I tell you that one of the remarkable blessings Memorial encounters nowadays is the great unity? And such hinges on the fact our elders developed great courage? Their leadership is remarkable. Our people are safe. The flock is loved, but not doted over in our childishness. Our shepherds expect us to encounter injury, endure the pain, and allow the Wounded Healer to touch us while portraying lives rich in mercy and forgiveness toward on another. It takes great courage to say to a person face to face, “You, my friend, are not thinking right.” Our guys do it. Sometimes I’m the guy they say it to.
Oft times they see the flock make pleasant and productive progress. At other times we get self-centered and whiny and suffer setback. But the point I want every young leader to grasp today is that bravery and courage are needed if you are going to fight the big battles on the big playing field. Wimpiness and cowardism simply gum up the hope of young and old alike. If the leaders won’t bravely stand up to any who oppose The Life, ultimately the little children are left to the wolves…..for lunch.
Don’t be afraid. We live in a danger-laden kingdom. If we are the church, we are surely at risk. Dare to risk.
In my case I feel pretty sure my talk is stronger than my walk and my bark is way ahead of my bite. I’m an evaluater deluxe….just as I’m doing on this blog. My experience is the church-in-general is enjoying life in the Spirit because we are accepting the range of various conclusions without being afraid of thoughts which don’t match. It’s as if we have actually agreed to be agreeable when we disagree.
What would it be like if we were to take our stance on being patient and kind and compassionate? What if we were to measure our fruit alongside that which is Bible described of the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5? Could it be we may often be found out as truly noisy gongs and clanging cymbals in our cussion and discussion of endless and circular debate?
Brian McLaren wrote an interesting piece which speaks to the moment. Jesus was short on sermons, long on conversations; short on answers, long on questions, short on abstractions and propositions, long on stories and parables; short on telling you what to think, long on challenging you to think for yourself; short on condemning the irreligious, long on confronting the religious.
It is easy to identify Jesus as exactly as McLaren portrays. It must humble us to realize we are among the religious Jesus might want to challenge. May we grow in our ability to think without forcing others to be as smart as we assume we are.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Death, as ugly as its intent, can be used to fuel our Christian ministry. I point you to reasons why:
- IT AWAKENS US TO WHAT MATTERS
Whether one missed a putt on the tenth green is now of no concern. An outside faucet dripping does mean it needs attention, but it doesn’t require our fretting. Someone not speaking to us does not constitute a pity party. A trip to the dentist is not the end of the world.
- IT AWAKENS US TO WHAT WE REALLY BELIEVE
Death separates our wheat doctrine from our chaff doctrine. A lot of stuff we divide over, we don’t really believe ourselves. Our pride sucks us into taking a stance which caves at death’s door. Our true love for others gets the opportunity to break open as our fake belief system has been shattered by death’s ram.
- IT AWAKENS US TO THE NEED FOR GOD
The most draining aspect for me personally in the setting like yesterday is that God has ridden in the back seat for so many. He has not been in the remotest parts of so many good hearts. Whether saying so publicly, I believe each soul weighs the deep ponderings of the truth of the Living God.
- IT AWAKENS US TO REMEMBER TO LIVE
Until death whips some back into focus, mankind is forever missing its own life. Some feel they will live when they become ten pounds lighter, $2000 richer, or could look five years younger. Now seems to be wasted for what could be. What could be is seldom now. Death motivates inventory of present blessings.
What would you add to the list?
Monday, April 14, 2008
Here's my pick:
- Prayer: seeking God's participation before we ever get there.....thanking Him ahead of time for showing up.
- Music: Our song service makes us or breaks us. We are so blessed by heaven to have Shane lead us in worship. If your congregation isn't focusing on improving it's singing and song selection, this needs important attention.
- Friendliness: Guests need your sermon of love more than the preacher's sermon of three points. If you are indifferent to your guests, their hearts will grow cold to the rest of the assembly.
What would you add to the mix?
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Don't be so egotistical that you carry on personal feuds when their eventual death will show you really didn't mean it. I know of no more waste than what humans commit in silly grudges and childish irritations. We are so foolish in this regard it's a wonder God has not taken our brains and given them to the giraffes.
To refuse to forgive immediately is to drink poison hoping the other guy dies. We must break this insanity. Families are dividing and churches splitting over nonsense; sheer and meager nonsense. If we've been offended, let us get over it. Kill the multitude of their sins with your love. God called us to do it....equipped us to do it....and insists we do it.
God is the ultimate dot connector. I received a note from Linda last week. She and her husband live in Germany. Her letter revealed such an amazing time line of our connection. Linda was a nursing student in Lubbock when she went to the public library to get study materials. She inadvertently came across one of my little books on the shelf, Since He Walked on Water, We Can Wade Through Life.
Later she went back to check out my book only to be informed they had no record of such. However, they did borrow a copy for her from a Tennessee library. She read it and we began such a neat and strange connection:
- She read my book in ’93 and was baptized a month later.
- She met Tim, our son who was an AIM Student, that month.
- Mary and I dropped by to see her when we were in Lubbock checking on Tim.
- Linda spent the night with Mary and me a few months later….’94.
- One of her honor attendants in her ’99 wedding was Memorial Drive's own Amy Hicks.
- She moved to St. Louis and her husband’s boss has my Cardinal bubble gum card on his desk. He and I are good friends.
- Linda and Kent move to Germany and meet a soldier who is getting married in Tulsa (2007) but has no church; no preacher. They do now. I did their wedding.
The story continues; neither of us knows how. This is simply an unfolding of one needle meeting another needle in God gigantic kingdom haystack. I’m saying so goes it with you in the great adventures of Haystack Living.
Friday, April 11, 2008
Everyone from President to pauper is consciously or unconsciously a huge failure in major areas. Everyone is the same. This truth allowed me to walk into the arena of famous people with a certain mission and trust. I know something about them they may not know anyone else knows. Everyone of them is crummy. I’m not better than they are. We were all formed from the same dirt mold.
There’s one cure, the same cure, for all: the Holy Spirit of Jesus moving into our shells and operating from such rental spaces. God desires to move into our abode and set up shop from that very prime real estate…each of us! Every person I know needs this and, at least secretly, wants this. The problem is they don’t know how to go about finding Him.
Here’s precisely where we come in. Our confidence is not in ourselves but in His Spirit…II Cor. 3:4-5. Our wisdom does not come from within but from above…James 3:13-18. Broken us can arise to minister to the other broken ones because we personally know the Healer. We no longer lead broken lives. We met the Physician. How now shall we lead? Again, Nouwen wrote:
“The compassionate man stands in the midst of his people but does not get caught in the conformist forces of the peer group because through his compassion he is able to avoid the distance of pity as well as the exclusiveness of sympathy. Compassion is born when we discover in the center of our own existence no only that God is God and man is man, but also that our neighbor is really our fellow man.”
Thursday, April 10, 2008
In a couple of hours I am to meet with a couple I’ve never met before. Their 18 year old son drove his car into the back of a parked flatbed and died at the scene two nights ago. He was a senior to graduate in a month. This family has no church, no preacher, etc. Mercifully, they do have dear friends who attend Memorial and we have been chosen to assist this family, school, and community by conducting the funeral services. So, young leaders, what does one say at this meeting?
First, I want you to know I’ve been blessed years ago by encountering such personal tragedy. Once again God is a “Yes” as I learned something ministers needed to know: how people feel in the center of stunning loss. Therefore, I pass what I regard as important factors along to you which I learned in the center of the pit.
1. The parents will hear of my desperate sympathy.
2. Their world has been destroyed.
3. Realize they can barely hear the simplest of words as their minds and hearts have taken a direct hit and they can barely function, let alone take in information.
4. Because you know they can’t hear, don’t expect response from many things you counsel. Some matters must be discussed, but don’t gage success of the meeting on your “connection” for a part of them is not in the meeting, although their bodies are.
5. I will share with them the day will come they will be okay. Right now they can’t envision such.
It will be important to share with them how life will go for the next few months:
- They will look to see if it’s their son every time they see a car like his just to make sure theirs isn’t a dream.
- Every holiday during the first year will make this death arise to its fullest pain again. The second year will begin to ease.
- They will resent foolish bickering/complaining over nothing they overhear in checkout lanes and at work.
- It will be important for them to not blame anyone/each other for this tragedy.
- Finally, I will share with them the truth that God lost his son and the lights went out in His world for three days. But the third day carries hope.
The above can sound awfully sure about myself. To the contrary, it tears me up and breaks me open. I will fumble and sob and ache (I have in just writing this blog). God will say things to them I have not planned. Words will just come out of me….and you when you hit your hour to deal with such devastation. The main thing I want you to know, which they can’t understand at the moment, is God will work. Watch for God. He will work. He promises….II Cor. 1:18-20.
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
Receiving negative mail was a shock to my system. The letters signed “Anonymous” were treacherous for an insecure, living-in-a-glass-house, feeble little man. I’m such a cry baby anyway and these things did me in. A small percentage of members feel quite free to let us have it. They seem to believe it their duty.
I found myself fighting for air. Harsh criticism was probably embellished by my own lack of confidence. However, unsigned letters are signal enough the writer intended damage. Here’s what I’ve learned over the years:
- Practice Philippians 4:4-9. Think about all of the good letters, the great phone calls, the majority who support you. Replay those; not the negative ones.
- Relax. The writer might be right. He might be wrong. Learn from the things you need to adjust and put the rest out of your mind. Focus on Philippians 4:4-9.
- Don’t do what the writer is doing….rehashing the negatives. Here’s an exercise I would do: I would take positive inventory. Am I tumor free? Did I get a pay check last week? Do I have close friends who love me? Did I sleep on the street any time within the last year? Is my car running well? Do we have indoor plumbing? Did my kids each come with arms? I would make up a list of gratitudes and think on them.
- What’s the worst thing they can do? Fire you? I had to consider this many times as such threats were verbally expressed to me on occasion. I had to conclude that if such were to happen I would survive…somehow.
- Read Matthew 5:10-12 and ask yourself why you think you should be the exception to Jesus’ rule. Why is it you think persecution ended when the Bible was completed (uh-oh…I just threw in a wrench).
Dear young leader, the kingdom of God’s icon is the cross; the blood-splattered kind. If people are mean to you, wake up! You are being verified by the Spirit of God that you are in the real deal. What we don’t want is the very thing we must have to effectively grow…..struggle. Don’t try to get over it. Learn to walk through it.
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
Tim’s three are comprised of a six year old boy, Quincy, and a set of twins, Karsyn and Clark, who are three. When Quincy was about three or four he misunderstood when someone prayed, “Heavenly Father…..” He thought they prayed and, thus, he began praying, “Happy Father…..” He still prays such and the twins have picked it up as well.
Clark prayed a couple of times during mealtime, yet unable to pronounce his “r”s, "Happy Fathow, thank you fow mommy, and daddy…..(long pause)…..and fow Quincy…..(more long pause)….and fow Kawsyn…..and fow….me…..and ouww family." It one of the sweetest things you ever heard in your life. And each time he’d recite his prayers, "Happy Fathow….."
Maybe we could glean from this year old if we related to the Happy Fathow.
Monday, April 07, 2008
I emceed a banquet Heston spoke at in Louisiana a few years back. The evening evolved into a special treat as those sitting at the head table were all couples from the area except for two whose wives were not at the event; Heston's and mine. The two of us sat in the center of a long table and it became apparent I was to keep the chit-chat going with the film star. Easy to do.
First I welcomed the crowd by telling a hilarious joke that brought the house down. Heston really liked it. He wanted to talk about it as soon as I got back to the table. We discussed "movie stardom" and he rehearsed a couple of times what Jimmy Stewart and Gary Cooper did by mentoring him in his earlier years.
I had a baseball which I had intended to have him sign. But my instructions at the beginning of the evening included telling the audience not to ask for autographs. What to do with the ball? I hid it behind my water and tea glasses. As the evening went on he inquired about the ball. I told him its intended purpose and why it was now in hiding. There was neither expression nor comment.
We continued to visit about various matters. Later he leaned over in sort of a whisper and said, "Get me the ball." I didn't say, huh? He took the ball and put it under the table cloth under the table and signed it for me. I may have the only Charlton Heston autographed baseball.
Mr. Heston had some eccentricity about him. He was quite rigid. This made it more meaningful to me because I could tell he liked me. His podium had to be specially built according to specific requested dimensions. He was awkward as he seemed intentionally cold and formal toward the crowd. But I must say I enjoyed spending time with him when he seemed, at times, to forget his role of fame and venture into conversations which seemed to warm his heart. I liked that part.
As we wrapped up the evening I presented him with a plaque of honor. He had warmed up during the evening. As we parted from the table he asked me to be sure to stop by his book booth before I headed back to my room. For a few minutes, Moses and I were good friends. It showed in his eyes.
Saturday, April 05, 2008
Don't do as I once did. I used to believe if a certain family would just move on or a specific problem would evaporate, life would be much better. However, when those specifics would happen to pass, new ones and then newer ones and then newest ones kept arising. Why? Why me, Lord?
These things are in our paths on purpose. They are there to train us to love. You know we ministers sometimes love ministry....it's the people we can't stand! Exactly. God lets us be around this; not for the purpose of us changing them, but for them changing us. We must grow up. Conflict and stress are our spiritual workout gyms. The training sessions are strenuous to lead us to reach a point where we will quit quitting.
Jesus washed Judas' feet as he did Peter's. He hung on the cross for sinners; not saints. We are anticipated by the Living God to hit our streets with feet like Jesus'. We must have his heart to go with it. We must crave to see that our enemies find reprieve. We must get the Word to them that will let them off the hook.
I cheer you on as you grow. You must do more than grow in understanding of texts through Bible study. You will grow in understanding of an obstinate and rebellious foe when you dare grow enough to greatly love him.
You aren't simply in town to reach the lost. Some of the lost may be in town to reach you. Waste not that which God uses to transform His ministers. Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you... I Peter 4:12
Friday, April 04, 2008
In my early days I found my mattress and springs to serve as a rack of torture every Saturday night. I would think and think of what to say. Nothing would show up. Why? I was all out of illustrations. I needed another story. I needed another experience. I needed another good joke.....anything to fill up the time! I hope this little note will help those who experience similar agony.
Remember God teaching us that His word is sharper than any two-edged sword? That it's alive? Very alive? If that is the case (and it is) then what we need, if we are looking for something sharp, is the Word. Now before that turns you off and seems of no value, patiently consider what I'm telling you.
The thing that WILL inspire your people is the thing God says WILL inspire your people. Whether we understand how that can be begs the question. God has what we want....inspiration. We think it's in the humor of Jeff Walling or the depth of Randy Harris or the experience of Paul Whitmire. Yet, what works in them is what works in God's people....His Word.
Open up the Word and place it in front of their hearts as a mirror in front of your face. That Living Word will dance with energy that we cannot estimate. It is active. It lives. Believe it. More, trust it.
Sunday morning, again, I will have about four to six notations on a piece of paper the size of a third of a dollar bill. It will have this on it:
- I Pet. 4:8
- I Cor. 13:5-8
- Jas. 2:13
- I Jn. 1:8-9
These are my actual notes for Sunday morning. Now, I didn't reach that level immediately. It took me about 20 to 25 years. Furthermore, it's not a law our notes have to be any certain way. I am saying that my confidence in God's Word has increased. It does what I wanted illustrations to do. I simply intend to let our people reflect on the sonshine of the Word. It will talk to them in ways I would never guess.
My point to you? Be confident. You don't need something interesting before you need complete confidence in the Word first. The Word is active. It's sharp as a tack. Your illustrations serve as good windows to peer into the heart of that Word. Preach away, my friend.
Thursday, April 03, 2008
Christianity has swallowed so many gnats we are gagging the world.
We (Church of Christ, Baptists, Methodists, Adventists, etc.) have picked and chipped at each other 'til the world is clueless about the powerful Christ. Read the Gospels. Read of the church. Does anything like we are look anything like they were?
Did Jesus or the early church have anything to say about the invisible curtain that keeps the women from entering the stage area with microphones while the church sings? Did they have anything to say about duplicating the church to look like the American '50s and '60s? Did either of them strain with religious constipation at debating and disfellowshipping the slightest strange movement within the brotherhood? Was their call for the King James Version?
The reason New Age is so luring is the Old Age is completely pooped of power and hope and promise. Denominations and Catholics have reduced their Jesus to form with no power. We offer little but a place to keep a few teens off of the streets and a dab of food to some homeless.
Yes, yes, yes. We have many things going and they are very good. I'm involved in a few. But it irks me to see millions rush at moments notice without unusual persuasion to Christless spirituality; not because they have so much to offer, but because we are so scandalously anemic.
We know of the Gnat and Camel sermon He delivered. But we keep feeding on this deadly diet while we hand out brochures at church condemning those fake gurus who seem to be misleading millions. If we don't present a Christ bigger than life, the world will continue to run headlong into an abyss of empty hope.
May we have the courage to unleash heaven with all of its spiritual freedom upon an obviously dry and thirsty land! The reason there is such a harvest of Gnatianity is not "The Secret's" fault. It's ours. Fear has ruled so much of all of us for so long the Fake finds easy entrance into the hearts of wonderful and precious people. Jesus is still the hope of the world.
May we present him without blemish in all of his glory to such a world!
Oprah had two families on regarding the book, Mistaken Identity. It’s the true story of two families whose daughters were involved in a terrible car crash. One was killed. The other slowly recovered from severe injuries. One family had a funeral and then it was discovered it was their daughter who was alive. The other family was mistakenly caring for the first family's daughter in the hospital. It was their girl who was the one killed. Both sets of parents sat on Oprah’s set and told of such roller-coaster emotions throughout the ordeal. Both claimed incredible stability due to faith in God and love for Jesus.
Later on American Idol, Dolly Parton was a celebrity guest. She sang about the resurrection power of Jesus. At the conclusion of the show, three of the contestants stood to await the announcement of who was booted off. In these closing remarks Brooke White was asked about her appearance of being visibly shaken. Part of her response referenced Dolly’s song about Jesus and her own personal devotion to Him moved her so much.
Do I really believe I had any connection with such far away and untouchable-to-the-common- person events? Absolutely. Our God hears our prayers and moves accordingly. I think we can be involved in World Order by faith, by love, by prayer. I pray the eyes of our hearts may continually arise to view the possibility raging within each of our hearts!
Tuesday, April 01, 2008
I see the same with preachers. Preachers are preachers. We deliver sermons. But there is a difference as to what carries meaning and what doesn't. Often it's passion. Andy Stanley wrote in "Communicating For A Change" that as speakers we must have a burden. I think when we have a burden passion follows.
What is the passion? I once believed more volume equalled more passion. It doesn't. It equals simply more volume. Possessing a burden for wanting the hearers to take in the functionality and the activity of God brings us passion. Our hearers cannot go through life without knowing this kingdom essential.
Outlines are a dime a dozen. W. E. Vines may wrestle with a word and a lexicon will offer its derivative. But hearts burdened with the hope found in Christ move our members closer to intimacy with the Christ. Preaching isn't about notes. It's about being sold ourselves on the good news we've heard before we step up to share it with the church.
If I haven't learned something thrilling by 10:30 Sunday morning...every week...I have nothing to say to those sitting in front of me. The exciting thing to me is the Word has proven exhaustless and I learn and learn. I must tell the people what I discovered about God during the week...and the next. This fills me with intense passion....for I want them to know this stuff and I think it is genuinely Good News!
The New Atheists are those who have written best selling attacks on the faith over the last few years. After several years without much in the way of neo-atheist literature, Dawkins, Demmet, Harris, and Hitchens have all unleashed polemics against God, Christians, and other people of faith. Their attacks have been successful enough to sell a lot of books and make them media darlings. For the last two years it has been hard to pick up a book review or news magazine and not find an interview, commentary, or a guest editorial written by these modern day prophets of No One In Particular.
Knowing I was going to be asked about these new, powerful arguments, I took the time to read their books. I was absolutely amazed at what I found. There were hundreds of assertions masquerading as arguments, arguments without any merit, and arguments that they had to have known were false. There is not one single new, powerful thought in the entire pile of books. If anything, their polemics pale beside those of earlier atheists who truly tested our faith — men like Flew and Russell, for example. Dawkins, in particular, uses circular reasoning, arguments from false premises, slander disguised as argument, straw men, and so many previously exploded arguments that one can only conclude that he is intentionally being dishonest. His own dear friends, such as the esteemed scientist and theologian Alastair MacGrath, have publicly wondered about his mental state and published their concerns about their friend’s ability to form an argument.
Harris is not much better. While more engaging than Dawkins, his mind isn’t as sharp and, therefore, his arguments basically boil down to "everything bad comes from religion and everything wonderful comes from atheists, especially if they are scientists." Carl Sagan tried this tack, too, and was bulldozed by history and facts. Harris isn’t getting a free ride from historians, theologians, sociologists, or scientists. To defend himself, he writes the same book again but with a different title and rearranged chapters…
When our most powerful enemies are reduced to kicking at the slats of their cribs while screaming "there is no god, there is no god, there is no god!!!" we have nothing to fear from them. I confess a huge disappointment in these books. I expected to be challenged, I expected my faith to take a hit. I expected to be driven back to the books to see what answers I might give to these great minds (excluding Hitchens. While he has an interesting mind, it ceased being great about two thousand martinis ago). Instead, I kept asking myself "are these guys five year olds? They have to know better than this, don’t they?"
There is no evidence that their work — supported and cheered on by the progressives in our political arena and the mainstream media — has recruited many new atheists. That surprises me because we, as a species, aren’t very good at deep thinking or independent thought (which is one reason why we keep asking our "betters" in government to cuddle us at others’ expense). Here are two more cases in point.