Saturday, May 31, 2008

SO MANY DOING SO MUCH

I love being a part of the Memorial Drive family. The old church adage of 20% of the members do 80% of the work has long left the building at our place. It's most likely 96% do 96% of the work here.

Tomorrow started several days ago for some, months ago for others, and decades ago for even others. We are a combination of past, present, and future....all in one moment. Former members as Eldon Tygart and Velma Miller were a part of setting the stage for tomorrow's God-work. A couple of Memorial dolls like Ethelen Magnusson and Bethel Logan will be on hand to hug our necks and tell us how good we look! Little kids will have great classes to attend and we big kids will be spoiled rotten once again by Shane Coffman's diligence and Jason Thornton's organizational expertise. I really get enthused to see what God does with the few passages of scripture He and I have worked on all week.

One of the things I like best about being together is our people are simply happy. We seem to enjoy God so much. We love His Son, His Spirit, and His people! Tomorrow we don't have anything extra-ordinary planned except to step back so God can have front-row recognition. He will sit in the main seat. We will hope to honor His socks off!

Later in the day I get to begin the Summer Series for the Crosstown congregation at 5:00. I love being with them. Charlie, Wayne, Chad, and crew are being used by God to build a sweet, sweet kind of place. As soon as I'm done there I head for home as our small group is having a wedding shower for Randy and Kerrie Rodriguez' son, Christopher, and his fiance.

Our Sundays sure are fun! I hope that to the Father they are meaningful.

BROTHERHOOD BOULDERS AND SPECK-ULATIONS

I think we are way off course. While I am for us and love being among us, it seems doubtful today’s church would be recognized by Jesus or Paul. It’s just my opinion, but I wonder if we can begin to fathom the sin we live in by so missing the mark of walking as Jesus. Our “Get Right Church” mentality of try hard enough and you’ll conquer it comes very close to leading us away from the cross and into Behavioral Therapy Law.

A huge awareness devastated my heart years ago; especially as a leader. God showed me how cocky I was about others’ sins with complete ignorance and/or denial of my own. Until that day I had textbook (book, chapter, and verse if you will) answers for everyone whether friend or foe. How foolish and irresponsible I concluded “they” were. The truth is....I was the fool.

I’m now convinced refraining from judging is a major adjustment needed in the leadership heart. This seems clearly, even salvationally, pertinent to God:

  • If you do not forgive men, your father will not forgive your transgressions (Mt. 6:14-15).
  • Do not judge lest you be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye (Mt. 7:1-3)?
  • For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment (Jas. 2:13).

The depth of the truth of this issue I cannot judge. I do wonder if it would bring brothers and congregations together if we could each face up to our own deep-seated flaws and work on removing them first. Comparatively, God says when we get the boulders out of our own eyes all that will be in the brother’s is still a speck. Wouldn’t it be something if we were to discover the speck-tacular miracle among us that everyone else’s issues are slight compared to our own?

Friday, May 30, 2008

WHEN WILL WE BE DONE WITH SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS?

Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, Jesus explained. Why His righteousness? Ours is broken. Ours carries no persuasive influence with the Judge. We will only be acceptably right because the Judge hands us His righteousness. Ours is no good when we are in His city. Put your billfold away.

Jesus equally exhorted we are to take up our cross and die to our self (righteousness). Yet, self keeps raising its ignorant head and trying to assert its logic in order to gain some sort of soul-stamp of godly approval. Stop it. Self(righteousness) is messing us up….big time. For one thing, it divides us. We begin to believe we worship God right(er) than others. We believe we believe right(er) than others. We become convinced we are closer to the Truth than others. Self keeps knocking down the construction barrels and off into the ditch we go….again and again and again.

When will we learn the only way we are right with God is to accept the righteousness He gives us when Jesus took on our wrongness on the cross (II Cor. 5:21)? When will we believe the Word that we will not be saved by deeds we have done in (self)righteousness (Titus 3:5)? When will we get it? Our doing spiritual life right is up to His saving grace and not our dinky presentations during a spiritual moment. We must trust in Jesus and carry none in ourselves.

If we are to get church right and salvation right and destination right we simply must take on the “His righteousness” coupled with the kingdom; both are to be sought. The self(righteous)ish crowd had much to say about the adulterous woman. By the time Jesus got done with them, they lowered their accusing chins and melted into the landscape? Why? Even the religious best haven’t a clue as to how guilty we are before The Judge. Our self-righteousness is poison in the church. It must be both quarantined and eradicated. It cannot be allowed to continue its foothold in the hearts of Christians.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

THINGS NON-CHRISTIANS MIGHT THINK ABOUT

One of the things I try to do in parts of my communication at Memorial is to help our people think as seekers think. While God nearly didn’t find me, now I can say I’m so glad to have had the experience of looking for Him. Thousands of ideas cross our searching minds. I wonder if we church people forget or maybe didn’t experience “the search”.

  1. I didn’t know the Bible had a message. I thought it was a gift eighth-graders got at graduation.
  2. I didn’t expect to find new life. I anticipated simply additional stress on my already-full calendar.
  3. I had no idea of the body-concept of the church where we each become a fitting piece to the productive puzzle….where we actually belonged.
  4. I had no vision of church beyond a street address in a building.
  5. I had no consideration I would find encouragement there. It never occurred to me. I deemed it a boring ritual where we were all nice to have put in 45 to 60 minutes instead of being at the golf course.
  6. I did not know God actually worked in believer’s lives. I thought He bossed from heaven’s balcony by barking out orders and swatting the bad guys.
  7. I didn’t realize Jesus on the cross was more about blood and guts than a plastic figurine on a dashboard. It just never occurred to me.
  8. I didn’t know prayer was an important relationship with Him. I thought it was being extra-religiously good.
  9. I didn’t know I was really sinful. Comparatively, I always came out in the top tier. I required his death.

On the list continues. What I want you to take in is the fact that seekers want to know God. I’m convinced there are huge quantities of them. But they don’t even realize what it is they are trying to find. He’s the One holding the goodies while guys like me were just wondering how it is He might fit into our busy lifestyles. If we can just get them to the banquet table, He will fill them with Life of which they never dreamed!!!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

WHAT IS GOD LOOKING FOR AT YOUR PLACE?

How many of you are able to note needs your congregations have? Only if...maybe? Only if we had more money? Only if we had a better location? Only if our preacher wasn't so dull? Only if our elders weren't so legalistic? Only if.....on and on the lists can be made.

How many times in my ministry I weighed each of those and more. Days of gloom would wrap my soul. Frustration and disappointment reigned for many days. Nearly every time I was led to the same conclusion: God is looking for one person among us to believe He will work. I think that's what He is looking for in every congregation: one person who believes He can.

I've had to struggle in so many ways to reach the joy of ministry today. I think about year 25 I really began to notice I felt like I was beginning to get into the stride of things. But even during the early years, whether questioning Memorial or me (or us), I kept concluding God just needed one person to believe He would work. Sometimes I was the guy. Sometimes it was someone else....or a combination of someones. It was, without exception, moments of God moving which brought relief....and never by any other means....only God.

God needed Abraham to believe Him. He needed David to believe Him. He needed Joshua and Caleb to believe Him. He needed Peter to eventually come through in faith. That's what God needs from us today: one person in any setting trusting God knows what to do and believing He will produce; even when we are clueless as to how and what that might be.

So dear reader, what is God looking for at your place? The same. Anybody can assess what isn't working; what isn't going right; who is messing us up. One person believing God can work in spite of such analysis will bring ultimate life to that very spot on earth! People and settings don't hold the church back. Failing to find at least one person who will place their eggs in His basket truly spells hopelessness for any congregation. Determine then that even if no one else will or can, you will be that one who can imagine Him delivering spectacular results...Romans 4:17....right where you are.

HIGHLY MOTIVATED

Do you ever feel over-motived? Is there such a term? My soul gets so stirred over so much. I don’t know how to talk about it….so I’m going to should you have similar feelings. Our world is shrinking meaning we can communicate farther and faster than ever. Nowadays overnight delivery of a message is archaic. This thing called email (which I didn’t want) and blogville (which I accidentally fell into) have us talking to people who we don’t know in distantal regions we can’t imagine. Add to the speed of our extension the deep hunger the world’s populace has for meaning and we find ourselves in demand!

Jesus is out-of-sight phenomenal as the solution for the entire world! I want us to continue the effort He began to win the world. I pray to win it. I dream of ways to win it. Movies stir me. Reports stir me. News of awe or ill stirs me.

Memorial Drive had a visitor Sunday morning. She responded to the invitation asking us to pray for her as she dedicates her life to God. Lisa Combs gave her a ride back to her nearby apartment. The visitor pleaded for us to please help those living in that complex. Such surroundings are depressed and dangerous….and so calling for someone to help. I will do what I can to imagine for God’s hand to move upon them.

We’ve seen good things happen due to inviting to church. There is something additionally enthusing to see the community invite the church to come to them. That’s what happened with our little nearby public elementary school and now an apartment complex is sending out S.O.S. signals. I marvel at how our people are touching the lives of the poor and/or discouraged. We are engaged in the community. Oh we certainly have a loooong way to go….but the great news is we are going.

Be encouraged. Be over-motivated. There is so much to do and so much IS already happening. The entire good God is doing in this land could not be contained in reports for earth could not hold such an extensive compilation of God-works! Wahoo!

Monday, May 26, 2008

TWO BIRDS WITH ONE SERMON

The first bird: yesterday I preached about Jesus telling his disciples to go into all of the world baptizing them. The reason? He wanted everyone to escape death by being baptized into his death. This is significant because he broke the bonds of death. When one hides in him at his death (Romans 6:3), we find ourselves hiding in the very place death could not keep a person. Jesus broke death. It leaks. We are to hide in the place death was busted.

Four were baptized following the sermon. Each was an emotional triumph. Ruthie had overcome a history of deep struggle and Jesus set her free. Jesse and Leah are a young couple having recently noted the bottom falling out of their newly-wed life. Now they are brand new. Seth graduated last week as a senior in high school. What a treasure each of these are.

The second bird? The sermon is on both CD and DVD. Many want to share the good news with others but don't know how. I intentionally put this sermon together for those who would like a copy to hand it off. If you would like such an outreach help, email me at cardinalmuseum@memorialdrive.org and tell me CD or DVD. We'll send it to you at no cost.

Together, we make a soul winning team!

Saturday, May 24, 2008


My youngest of 10 grandkids is Campbell (aka Belle). She’s three. It was just this week that Belle informed the family of Mouse’s birthday. Mouse, her favorite doll, has pal-ed around with Belle each of her three years. Campbell planned the party and carefully wrapped her own gift (which turned out to be an old toy belonging to her five year old brother).
Friday night in Atlanta was no ordinary evening. Party hats and a cake with a candle found the Chapel family in high celebration mode. Mouse, hip-hip-hooray, is another year older!

Everyone could use a dose of grandchildism now and then to open the windows of life and let a little fresh air flow through. It's much better than applying Febreeze to musty old routines. Oh yes, a barrel of oil and blood pressure may be too high while the interest rates on bank CDs seem too low. But one thing is certain. There is nothing quite like learning of a heartwarming birthday party for Mouse; especially when designed by a blond-curled, cutie-pie, three year old.

THE MAIN-MAN MISTAKE

Taking on the role of a paid-staff minister can be daunting. There are profound responsibilities, opinionated demands, and meaningful opportunities; each insisting we apply our best wisdom for success. I share with you a breakthrough which has positively impacted my work for a couple of decades now.

I learned to believe in God in other people. Until such revelation, I liked (and even loved) others but felt they could not come through with the important stuff at the level I could. How na├»ve (and self-centered, but don’t tell me I said that in front of my back). How mistaken. The Spirit gifts believers. Every member may have 95% or 65% miscue about them, but we each contain 5% or 35% gift from him.

A secret worth exploring: if we can believe our people are gifted and pool our giftedness instead of our miscuedness, we will see a church family explode in the peaceful, happy productivities of God. A shift must be made to emphasize the gifts from God instead of the failures of man. What ministers need to do is believe in the God in the people more than believing he or she is the only one who can do the work correctly.

We are mistaken if we think we see something valuable but no one else in the kingdom will see and follow through. We are off center if we think our people don’t want to apply themselves in church life. They do. It may be we have not given them opportunity because we considered ourselves to be the main guy and, in our minds, the main guy does the main work.

Your flock will come through. God is in them. It’s a guy here and there like me ambitious to see the church flourish, but stifling the gifted talent, who holds the church back. The members aren’t indifferent. They are blocked….by one mistakenly believing he is the main man.

The main-man-role has already been set. His name is Emmanuel. Move over. Let him be the head of the church. You? Learn alongside me to stay out of the way of His great and intentional works. The Main Man lives....at the very place we work!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

SIMPLY GOING BY THE BIBLE

"Let the Bible speak" is the charge of some. "We go by the Bible" seems to imply that settles the discussion at hand. But it doesn't. Yes, the Word of God was delivered flawlessly by the Holy Spirit through plain men. Yet, plain men still study the Spirit delivered Word....and misinterpret. We are simply growing students of this fabulous heavenly treasure on earth.

I wonder how often being blamed for being liberal or conservative has little to do with disagreements. One side insists the other isn't "going by the Bible". Often that is not true. It is not only possible but probable that much dissension arises because honest people simply view the passages differently from their counterparts; both with eyes wide open.

Serious students of the Word must be careful with the labels we freely toss as if we really know what we are talking about. Not everyone who fails to think and believe like my circle of friends is a Bible-denying scoundrel. They are often found to be basing their stance upon a position they gained from understanding the Word of God.

Yes, we can know the truth and the truth will make us free. Yes, we can understand the Bible. What I am saying is we must not assume we have complete and final grasp of this ever-flowing spring of Holy Spirit drama unfolding before our very eyes. Sometimes, people, we just get it flat wrong and there's nothing to be ashamed of unless we have inbuilt such bias to defend our errors over admitting them.

From experience the stronger one gets in his plea that we must only go by the Bible the more likely this brother may possibly be really meaning we must go by his interpretation of the Bible...and his view is supposed to settle it.

The Word of God is to be revered, believed, and lived. It is far easier to defend what twenty-five verses we know by rote than it is to study those texts familiar to our denominational friends yet are foreign to us. Go by the Bible? That's good advice. Don't fall into the trap of concluding that those who see it in a different way are always false teachers. True, they might be. Too, they may have seen something God wishes we'd get.....but so far we can't see it because it doesn't conform to our well-organized rut system.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

JOHN DOBBS ENTERS THAT MOST DREADED ZONE

Our friend is heart-broken and for good reason. His only son, eighteen year old John Robert Dobbs, was walking along the highway in the dark late last night as his vehicle had stalled. An eighteen wheeler accidentally ran over and killed him instantly. John Robert was to graduate from High School in two days.

John Robert's dad, John, preaches for a church in Monroe, Louisiana. I've spoken with him three times today. His mind is blown and his heart is crushed. John has entered that most dreaded zone where few truly understand God's heart until they, too, enter such a privileged arena. The pain is intense. Dismay reigns. The heart can barely survive; but survive it will.

God has been there and done that. He understands John like no other and John will now gain a perspective he didn't want, but will use to God's glory. God lost His only son to early death. The Bible says a day is like a thousand years to God and a thousand years as a day. The agony God experienced in the absence of His son felt like three thousand years to Him. John's been through one partial day to this point and it feels like it's been weeks.

What do I say to my broken friend? Well, the first call at 7:00 a.m. I cried loudly with him. That's the most creative I could muster. The second and third at noon and later in the evening I merely checked in to let him know of the untold numbers of Memorial friends who were aching in heart with him and Margaret.

The day will come when John will not only be okay, he will find himself remarkably blessed by this disaster precisely at the level mankind is blessed when God lost His son. The Word says that due to Jesus' suffering he became a source of eternal life. John can't fathom such now. His mind won't let him go there and I don't blame him. But I feel sure the day will come when it will occur to him that John Robert still lives so mightily in his heart that, from all the drowning suffering he is now enduring, he will become a source of life for others. No one is ever a real source of life until they have been baptized in the fire of fierce and impossible suffering.

God bless you John and Margaret. John Robert will not be forgotten. Furthermore, the drive for souls to be drawn to the Master has just increased due to the mystery of God working in such distress which you now encounter. His life and his death will not be wasted. The kingdom will expand because your son was a dedicated believer of God's invisible world.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

RETURNING THE KEYS TO GOD

Of the many things I have done wrong in ministry, one of my more glaring is that of being so easily agitated. Such is not the mark of faith; most surely not. What causes that in leaders like me? I doubt I know fully. However, I might share some possibilities.

First, my earlier years in ministry were marked by my need to be in control. I had learned the mistaken doctrine that God no longer worked directly in our lives, so as the Positive Thinking Rally speaker charged, “If it is to be, it is up to me!”, then it truly was up to me. If it was up to me, and I believed it was, then I had to keep everyone abiding by my rules. I learned life is up to God; not me ( Romans 9:16).

Second, I didn’t know others thought as good as me. Arrogant? Well, of course. However, I’m simply telling you how it went. It took me a bit to catch on that others did know better than me. God showed me through the blessing of one failure after another that I couldn’t manage lives; and He could. I was forced to yield by giving Him back the keys to His kingdom which I had stolen through mis-assumption.

Finally, I was clueless as to the size of God and myself. I thought He was somewhat smaller than I now envision while I assumed me to be somewhat larger than I really am. Putting us both into proper size perspective was a rude awakening. I know. I know. I should have seen it coming. But when it’s up to you to make the church function well, then you take on a lot of other ill-logical stuff.

Today? I am less agitated. As a matter of fact one might find me rather patient in comparison. I’ve learned to trust Him and my colleagues. Both are brilliant; really. I don’t have to fight people who wish to fight me. I’ve gotten better at surrender. Arrived? Oh, not ever. Progress? Absolutely. I’m gaining confidence to go ahead and be me in the kingdom…..but I’ve resigned from being Master. Another guy already had that job.

Monday, May 19, 2008

ARE WE MISSING SOMETHING SIGNIFICANT?

Why the chatter for self-help materials and why the surge for spiritual renewal such as Oprah's followers? There is incredible interest in this arena. Thousands and thousands are seeking what we believe they ought to have, but they seem to be shopping elsewhere. Why is that? Such tells me a couple of things:

1. This movement signals there is both deep and broad interest in matters beyond the visible/physical. People believe there is something more and they want it. Give the masses just a hint of life beyond and they stampede in droves to learn more. Once they pick up the scent of any sort of hope, they become aggressive to follow the trail to meaning and purpose which surpasses what they have experienced thus far. Reality shows are the trend of the day and such is popular because of the dissatisfaction of their spirits; they want reality and are declaring what existence we have now ain't it.

2. Why are we missing out on being the target of this new quest? Why aren't the masses rushing to churches? I think we are missing the active Jesus. In reality, he is supreme to any other offer of hope. Our replacement packages of church schedules and events simply are out of step with two things: the starving hunger of the people for something spiritually fulfilling and the earthquaking standard of Jesus to reverse earthy life.

The solution for earth's populace is not five steps and a prayer. Neither is it one congregation raising the ante of another's works. It's God's new and vigorous life wowing those who possess it! Jesus has to make a difference in his followers before we can expect the world to be drawn. If he is lifted up he will draw. Substitutes of church being lifted up or programs being lifted up leave each community saying, "What?" "What?". We are telling them we have hope, but they have yet to see it in dramatic and impacting ways.

I encourage you to be vocal about being a Christian; not in boldness or bluntness. I encourage you to let people around you know you love God, love where you are and who you get to be. The masses aren't drawing in hoards to us possibly because they don't see us any happier than they are.

Jesus. He will never rock the world until he has rocked the church!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

HOW CLOSE ARE WE TO TRUTH?

Especially of our heritage, much has been stressed about the biblical perspective of Truth. Add to this the other denominations' take on scripture and emphasis is on the clarion call to behave according to Holy Writ. Such a plea is not only noble, it is biblical. How adamant should expectation be over our personal interpretation and understanding of scripture?

First, we can know the truth or else God would never have said we could nor that such would make us free. Yet, the point needs to be made that in the process of reaching Truth it is true each of us is very suspect in striving from the human terrain to reach for spiritual accuracy. We have a strong likelihood to misinterpret. Furthermore, we have great potential of becoming arrogant over our conclusions; weak and self-serving as they may be.

What gives such inclination? Those who spent visible, physical time with the Living God (named Jesus) totally missed his careful guidance and instruction. As much as he told them he had to die and be raised on the third day, his disciples were clueless. How clueless? When he was killed they fled. They tucked tail and ran as if they never had a relationship with God. Their concepts failed when it came to understanding the most fundamental faith.

If those who walked, ate, and had intimate discussions with him didn't get it, why do we assume our concepts are so much more accurate? Can we know the Truth of God? Absolutely. Need we be careful with our parading of what little we know about the Bible? Necessarily so.

The truth of the Bible will set mankind free. He said so (John 8:32). The truth is even the greatest of biblical scholars are quite likely to misjudge the Word due to ignorance or arrogance or political bias. We will do well to seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Mt. 6:33) while making such a search in earnest humility. The only one completely right is God. The Bible is right. We students are the suspect. As for me? I'm always in kindergarten learning about God as fast as I can.

THAT THING JESUS DID DIFFERENTLY

How we admire the steadiness of Jesus. The biased and favoritism bug never bit him. Yes, he had a circle of close friends, then an inner circle, and the beloved one. Yet the thing about Jesus which lacks in us at times is everyone was important to him. Whether it a woman at a well or another at his feet carrying on creating uneasy attention, he never flinched; he never withdrew.

Jesus loved all people. He loved scamming, immoral, cowardly men and women. Jesus loved everyone in his way. The thing Jesus did differently was he refused to be selective with his loving attention. Even strapped to the cross he was still issuing grace and mercy. Jesus cared about acquaintances and strangers.

We are called to do the same. Everyone needs our love; everyone. When God’s people begin their multiple assembly gatherings this morning will everyone be greeted or only our favorites. We must break this pattern of loving only those who love us. If there is one great need which trumps all others from our earthly perspective, it would be to do that thing Jesus did differently.

Today speak to every person you see in the parking lot, the hallway, the assembly. Signal to them they are each important. Mission efforts are important. Greeting more than your close brothers only, too, is essential kingdom business.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

ROCK A ROCKY WORLD

I’m not a fortune teller. I do see signs of concern. I think Americans are in for very difficult days ahead. The thread to come completely unraveled is in danger of being pulled.

Regarding the political scene, there is reason for distress. Highly inflated opinions are ratcheting up dangerous polarization. If only 1% of Americans are bent on uncontrollable anger, our nation could burn down should the wrong person be elected (or cheated in the election).

Economic issues prevail. The ripple effect of escalating fuel prices is destined to toss the middle class into the poor house soon and very soon. Saudi Arabia has issued a “not interested” from the President’s plea for more oil production. If we think gasoline is high, wait ‘til we receive our electric bills in August and go to by new coats in October or a gallon of milk in November.

What’s a Christian to do? Be a Christian.

God’s people turn such challenges on their ears! We don’t faint. We fly straight into the chaos with eyes wide open. Eagles use storms to fly higher. God parallels us to them. “Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary ( Isa. 40:31). Life storms can send a man crashing or the same can be used to lift him to fly even higher. We choose flight over crash.

How shall we set our wings to miss the crash and be lifted up?

  1. Trust God
  2. Love right now….regardless of circumstances....put a smile on your readable face
  3. Don’t shrink in fear
  4. Increase your giving as a means of defying the intimidating winds of threat
  5. Escalate your love for your enemies and your friends
  6. Look and act like you have a God who is simply not rattled by such imposing forces
  7. Live like you have already won…..for we are alive in the kingdom today

Friday, May 16, 2008

CHURCH LIFE ON THE INCREASE

God is working. Everyone reading this blog possesses multiple stories of God working over their life-span. Neighbors were converted, careers were upset for the good, surprising doors opened, or negative circumstances produced a huge crop for lemonade. Can you imagine the God-stories we possess? There are so many thrilling-to-the-heart inspirations such could not be counted!

Wouldn’t it be something if a brotherhood paper were to break out with nothing but testimonials of God working? Can you imagine the illustrations preachers would have for sermons? Can you fathom the momentum the church would gain in believing God works in ordinary lives? Can you envision the life which would filter into one congregation after another because we simply made it our mission to tattle on God?

Maybe one of you would have the vision to build a team from within your church and start a brotherhood paper called "Tattle Tales". Our dullness might wane and our foggy vision could lift if we could bombard our readers with the Good News to the extent it is too good to be true….for such is the dimension of God’s gospel.

Hope for the world? It’s everywhere we turn. I’m handing off an idea to a reader or to one who will pass it along to a second-generation reader who loves assembling stories. As I write this I recall Norman Vincent Peale did this years ago. Who will take this idea and run?

There is enough oil (stories) to fuel the church for centuries. Quite a bit of it is still buried in the ground. Will someone dig it out through serious exploration? I’m saying someone will do it!

Monday, May 12, 2008

THE ENCOURAGING WORD ECONOMY

The American economy is the talk of name brand media and coffee shop experts. It has always been. With today’s escalating fuel prices which forces increase of every other piece of goods we buy, there is plenty to discuss. I say what a time to watch our language. The economy of words is also near crisis mode.

What we say either builds up or tears down. Seldom does it remain neutral. Negative speech is ripping America. The price of gasoline wilts in comparison. Because man is created in the image of God, we take on some of His characteristics, even those who don’t believe in Him. He created the world by speaking. Our talk is creatively powerful. We speak and moods shift; up or down. We can create confidence or failure by the words we freely and often unaccountably toss here and there.

Parents have to watch what and how they speak to their kids as such language creates temperament and disposition in the young hearers. Preachers and teachers have to be as careful. What we say builds the church or pulls it down. The Word Economy is a potent matter. We must not take it lightly.

I have been on a Word Economy campaign for several years. It’s sadly fascinating to me to encounter several generations which are experiencing new life because they finally learned how to undo the negative talk they endured when younger. While we think of ourselves as insignificant to the process of large life we must think again. What we say doesn’t just matter; it takes form (becomes form) in those who listen to us gab.

See the world. Do something about it. Speak life into everyone who crosses your path.

I’ll be out of town ‘til Friday.

Take a look at the clip on www.tulsaworkshop.org.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

WHAT TO DO WITH SUNDAY

When Sunday gets here we are either going to assemble as various congregations to do the non-productive routine....or to make a huge difference. I say we are intending to make a huge difference!

Don't dare hit Sunday morning with slouching ritualism. Sharpen. Focus. Assume the best. We will be gathering to see God do that stuff He does where He inspires and motivates us to keep on keeping on! We are about to experience the awe of God.

Yes, that's what churches are about....our Father's awesome business.

Don't forget it!

Friday, May 09, 2008

WHAT WILL YOU SAY ON SUNDAY?

Watch it! Sunday is sneaking around hiding in Saturday's shadows. When you wake up in a few fleeting hours "It" will be here. You preachers and teachers know what "It" means. You needed another 40 minutes on the alarm and another brain for sermon and class preparation.

I cannot count the number of times I have suffered from "Sunday-Got-Here Sickness". I knew it would....and it did....again! You know that sick feeling you have in that you love God and you love the church and when they get done hearing your frail communication that morning they are going to spew the lukewarmness you, yourself, feared they would hear. It's a terrible feeling and those who stand behind pulpits know full well what I mean.

The cure? Trust God. While delivery is your responsibility the power is in the Word. Give them the Word and let them hear from God. Point them to the power of the Gospel. It rises to great heights as a spewing fountain. Good ears love to take in the message of the hope of Jesus. Good ears never tire of listening to His profound and undeniable truth. Lead them to feed upon the bread of abundance believing your talk to be pretty lame (like in a few loaves and fish); yet, mighty in potent inspiration because of the Majesty's touch.

"Feed them yourself", Jesus goaded the disciples. And we know the rest of the story. They had leftovers; there was so much when working with so little. God has great things in store for His people Sunday morning if you and I will but trust His magic hand. May our frail effort prove to stun those listeners on the hillside. May they arise to real, authentic life because they were fed well....even by those of us who dreaded the moment as we felt such lack; especially as Sunday came sneaking.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

ARE WE CONTINUING TO IMAGINE?

I'm talking to believers in the Living God. Do you find yourself aggressive in applying God's gift of imagination in your work for Him? Or, have you found yourself slipping into a routine of "good enough...but nothing reflecting God" ministry. I want to cheer you on to the zone He insists and anticipates coming from us. He says He will do more than we can ask or imagine...Eph. 3:20-21. I loooove that!

In personal ministry I urge you to align your efforts according to His size and not that of another brother or sister. I will pray, "God what do you wish a preacher would realize that no one has thought to ask?" When I began praying such I began to notice the truth the Holy Spirit works in our lives, that celebrities too need to be reached, and it is possible for plain people to impact the entire world. I've had the weirdest and most wonderful opportunities arise. Simply strange!

Imagine. Whatever you can, God says He will trump. Go for it. When my kids were in Elementary and Junior High I would pray for their interviews once they reached adulthood. I would pray for doors to open so I could reach thousands on earth. It's not the size of our influence or our circle of friends which determines our impact. It's daring to imagine while the rest of the world rocks on its heels and plays Scrabble.

We are invited by the Living God to think as big as we can think and then promises to do more! Is that not an open invitation to a Faith Spree? Take inventory of needs in your life, your congregation, your circle, the entire world. Dream of what could be if. Begin to plan to walk through the very doors God opens to get you beyond your dream.

I once startled golfer Gary Player when I felt so sorry for him out there with only his caddy to talk to while he walked. About the 11th hole I stepped across the yellow rope and walked alongside him explaining I wouldn't stay long but just wanted to thank him for being so nice and coming to Tulsa. At first he was caught off guard and once he saw I was harmless he engaged in the very thing needed. He deserved a word of encouragement from a Christian man. We can do more than even we can imagine.

Imagine. Act on it. God will open the doors!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

HOW DO WE REACH THE GOOD STUFF?

There's a world either chattering or harping or plotting or nagging at our heels. Sure, we can each find reason to faint. Pressure can be exhausting. Is there a secret to finding Life in life? I mean, is there more to walking, talking, and breathing than living like wax museum figures....looking so alive, but really not? I think there is.

It's wonderful to hear Jesus say he came that humans might have abundant life. Such is intended for the plain and common us as well as the celebrity or the pauper us. Life! He is all about robust, privileged life! How do we reach the good stuff with all of the gnarly stuff going on?

When we realize first how crummy we are then gratitude begins to rush upon our soul. Until we become convinced we are truly worthy of nothing, we will not be satisfied with any hopeful setting of right now. I love right now....every day! Charles Colson wrote, "We have to understand the evil in ourselves before we can truly embrace the good in life."

If I were to lay one successful secret at the feet of Memorial's leadership it would be we all know this personal truth. It doesn't mean we don't strive for the higher calling. But it does force us to peer through clear glass at the obvious self-crud. Those exact moments position us properly to deal with others in the framework of mercy and love. Until then we simply clack and clang in pseudo-leadership noise. How do we reach the good stuff? We see our own blatant failure as a human being and seek the righteousness of God to replace us.....in the center of ourselves.

THE THRILL OF WORSHIP

Church once meant going to a building and more specifically meeting an organized set of worship criteria which would fulfill having been "at" church. I liked it all right and even became especially enthused as various ones patiently showed me the Bible's purpose. It was my understanding that a Bible was basically a gift given to religious kids at Eighth Grade Graduation. For that, I was so thankful I wasn't religious. I would have been so disappointed to get "that" for a gift.

Worship is no longer a checklist. It's a constant praise to God about God and for God. I love to carry on about Him to Him. As I lay down at night I mentally rehearse my fondest appreciation. When I awaken and realize I have awakened (each day is a new thought/new adventure) I remember to send Him mental gratitude. I pray for Dalton Pierce and Kelcy Mayes at night and morning as they are the two school children I selected to pray for (Memorial takes names to remember in prayer) during the school year.

Never would I have guessed worshipping God is funner than baseball. I know that sounds terribly earthy; yet, I get lost in it. Too, when we are assembled Shane Coffman does such a terrific work in designing meaningful corporate worship. We pray every Sunday morning together that God will participate....and He does every time!

Yes, each of us surely has stresses and moods and mishaps requesting our attention. I encourage you to praise God in the center of everything. He is the One who knows all and is all. We are mere people called by Him to arise into the land of wonder by letting our hearts soar in lavish love for Him. Dents and dings won't hold us back from embellishing our perpetual awe of the Living God.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

DID YOU EVER WANT TO QUIT?

A young man called today. He's a young, good, ambitious preacher. He had one question, "When you were young, did you ever want to quit?" This...is why I blog. I visited with him about this matter and now I share with others of you asking similar questions.

I can't remember wanting to quit. I may have. I can remember wishing some would commit membericide. Oooooh! I've hit some really hard-core meanness. There were times I thought I was finished; but I didn't want to quit. I just didn't know how to get around obstacles called people. I can remember wishing some members or owners of brotherhood publications would just go away. I do recall great disruption in the process of getting to today.

What I learned was I needed this to happen to me; I needed suffering to grow.

I know of no other way God trains His leaders. Ministry must have an element (a strong presence) of pain. For one, I needed to grow up. I still possess such need. Suffering is similar to applying a hot iron to a wrinkled garment lying on an ironing board. We need the wrinkles taken out of us and hot pressure is the only thing which will work. Suffering is connected to the cross and we are to take ours up everyday....right? Ministry has elements of some trying to kill us and we've got it coming.

Do we think we are to encounter struggle painlessly? Ministry does not come with Novacane. We have volunteered to be insulted, rebuked, and hurt. Peter wrote that we are not to regard this as the exception, but the rule. We are placed in a position of anticipated rugged discomfort. Jesus learned obedience through the things he suffered and as a result became the source of eternal life. We become sources of eternal life...but never without the same process as Jesus.

Pain and agony are necessary parts of being a minister. The more we suffer the more we see our people come alive. There is definite parallel in painful suffering and wonder-full life! Hold on as long as you can. Don't quit. Die trying....but don't quit. Call me when you are tempted to cash it in. Maybe we can cheer one another on. For the one who did call me.....thank you.

Monday, May 05, 2008

WHAT SHALL WE DO?

The routine dailiness of being human is continually met with consternation. Gas prices are soaring which causes all other goods to fly high as well. The political scene portrays a hand full willing to trade bold and possibly unmet promises for votes. That's nothing new. Racial tension is being fueled. Threat of Social Security collapse seems calculable. The legal head of government is growing faster than the working-force body. Regulatory legislation outweighs productivity and income. Could it be the body of the nation will eventually topple due to overgrowth of the administrative hormone?

What shall we do?

We must convert to Natural Spirit....the kingdom of God. We can avoid the calamities of poor management by the few or the many. We can enter into a system of clean conscience as well as clean air. While we will fulfill every expectation and demand of our national bureaucracy, we will place our total confidence in the scheme of Jesus. How do we go about it?

We act in ways that convey to the Active God we are totally dependent upon Him for our lives and our livelihood. We will betray the economists' Bear or Bull market by trusting in the invisible One which gets no attention in the Wall Street Journal nor USA Today. We will place all of our eggs in the One basket and trust Him completely with our present and our future.

Prices are going up. The ability to save is decreasing percentage point by percentage point. What am I going to do about it? I am going to do what God would confirm is a working model for success. I'm going to increase my giving. I'm going to significantly reduce my savings account and give it to the poor. I believe God is the one who runs this show and I encourage you to ponder the thrill of taking such a risk.

Thieves nor rust nor stock market crashes will take what disappears into the plate every Sunday. He promised. I believe Him. I think you do to.

SO?

Oh boy! One of my elders couldn't wait to point out that my last blog was the same thing I wrote about a week ago! Well......I just like the story. Or.....I didn't remember. Both are true, but I didn't mean to repeat myself so soon. I said I didn't mean to repeat myself so soon.

So? What do I learn from this lesson? First, it is a "Yes". I've just got to figure out how. Too, you need to know I will toss out mistakes here and there just to signal I'm normal. Ah, that's a good one.

What can I say? Sometimes we simply make mistakes. Evidently my elder-friend has not yet learned that sometimes I'm playing hurt. Ah, that was a good one.

I just hope before I hit "publish post" I haven't already written this one as well.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

DON'T BOO

The first lesson I learned in playing baseball with the St. Louis Cardinal old-timers is one of the best things I've ever taken in. We flew to St. Petersburg, Florida (then the Spring Training facilities for the Cardinals) and boarded a charter bus to the complex. The director of the camp got on the bus microphone and said, "You are now going to learn to refrain from being so critical of professional ballplayers because you are about to experience the expectation upon you to produce in the game while playing hurt." He said that fans have no idea how much pain the players endure. He went on to say that what fans don't know when a hitter goes up to the plate with the bases loaded is he, too, may be worrying about anything from family issues to battling an infected toe.

It didn't take long to realize why this first lesson was the first lesson. After one day of workouts, the following morning in the locker room I could see my shoes but needed help tying them. My aches had pains!

This lesson transfers to where we live. Take a good look at the people around your office, etc. Note that many are playing hurt. Some are limping and others distracted. They don't need our criticism. They need our support and encouragement. Things may not be good at home or were abusive in their childhood or maybe stressful in the area of health or finance. People are going through life injured; they are playing hurt.

So it is in the church. Full of attitude? Lack of productivity? Whether an elder or a preacher or a member, they may be playing hurt. Maybe our mercy and love will help them heal a little sooner so they can begin to hit home runs in the greatest arena....the kingdom of God.

Eph. 4:29

Saturday, May 03, 2008

PEPPERDINE. PHENOMENAL.

The Pepperdine Lectures are getting better and better! I've just returned from a week in Malibu that I don't know how to explain. It was way maaavelous!

Pepperdine's campus is God's tease about Heaven. It's breathtaking to walk the ridge above the baseball field while noting the mountain range behind, smelling the fragrant flower and bushes, and then casting an eye upon the Pacific ocean. The setting is too much for one mind to absorb in a week's time.

The fellowship is heavenly. To see Sheri Trupp and then find Larry and Sheila Wishard along with their friends, Ken and Reniece, the glory of God began to swell as to the meaningfulness of Christian family. I love to just stand beside Mike and Ann Spence! I stayed in the Sigma dorm with the Hallal singers. I love them so much I tell friends that my maiden name was Hallal. Ken, Marca, Cole, and Kelsey (and their entire group) are embedded deeply into my heart. Jerry Rushford put together a thorough line-up of Spirit-popping keynotes. Because of my role at the Tulsa workshop, I enjoy sitting back and observing Jerry's combination of joy, concentration, pressure, and love for the event. He's an artist at work.

I enjoyed sitting in on Tim Spivey's class each morning. That guy is a winner! Don McLaughlin and Randy Harris and Rick Atchley were on target, on target, on target. When Don spoke at Memorial on Wednesday night of the workshop, I thought that was the best I had heard from him. Pepperdine was better! But the one teacher that blew me away was a class by Liz Pence. I bought one DVD.....hers. I didn't even get my own (which are free to the presenter). I was wowed by her ability to teach. I have many heroes. Some have already been mentioned above. I have a new one: Liz Pence.

Congratulations to all those who worked on the scene and behind. Your Pepperdine was an experience that fulfilled its mission.