Thursday, October 30, 2008
Politics is only one front. The Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series last night. Was the danger and damage of rioters found to be in the losing city of Tampa Bay? No, it was found in the city which won! Whether victory or loss, some are filled with such anger they are anxious to find any excuse to create havoc.
Level-headed, quite responsible leaders of all fields are burnt over the shameful and unrepentant scandal of the Wall Street moguls. Congress' volunteer blindness toward both the problem and solution exacerbates the thread-bare nerves of common man. Our nation is in a mess. I believe it to be so big, I couldn't exaggerate it.
Therefore, rely on the Spirit of Christ. Lead your people to Him. Have them hide their wealth by giving it away. Lead them to save their lives by losing them. Teach them that our citizenship is in heaven; not on earth. Train them of the value and truth of the outstretched arms of both the Son on the Cross and of the prodigal's Father back at the family farm. Adorn hearts with the news which is heard louder than Paul Revere's; a Savior is coming! A Savior is coming!
The humility factor is of great importance to God. When we want to know His will, humility is always a part of the equation. God is opposed to the proud and this is why the church has struggled so much over the decades. It has been proud of how it is the church; how right, how orderly, etc. God opposes such an attitude.
God draws to humility. Look at famous Bible settings and notice how God responds favorably to the humble: David vs. Goliath, Mary while Martha criticized, the man who wouldn’t look up while he prayed as the one beside him thanked God he was not like the loser who wouldn’t look up, the younger prodigal while the older prodigal balked, Stephen being stoned, Paul and Silas sweetly singing in prison, etc.
Spiritual leadership is about not knowing what to do. It is about not having all of the answers. It is about saying things like “I got it wrong” and “I’m sorry”. Spiritual leadership knows the score; it is all about Jesus and none about self. Ego is a sneaky sort. If it can’t come in through the back door of arrogance it will slip in the side door of shyness. Both are about caring for self.
Humility is a parade of our weakness (not our strength), our vulnerability (not our stability), and our foolishness (not our brilliance). Humility lets God work with no explanation as to how. Humility rejoices that things are so good, but can’t attribute the cause in any direction except one; the Spirit of Christ.
Have a good day. Avoid being proud you are humble. Be humble. God will exalt you…..He promises.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
A week doesn't go by that I don't get calls or emails or run into some who are curious to know about the Holy Spirit. The more we learn of him and yield to him, the more the church seems to flourish.....in spirit. No coincidence, is it?
I am continually reprinting the study workbook on Empowering the Ordinary (The Holy Spirit Helping Inadequate Believers). This work is a rewrite/revision of my earlier book The Holy Spirit Makes No Earthly Sense. I couldn't find a publishing house to do the reprint but we had so many calls for the book and I believed in it so much I hired a printing company to publish it for me. I pay for it myself. I've been reprinting it on my own for about six years. It is tough to keep in stock.
I know it's my own book. I know I can look badly pushing it. However, I'm more interested in the people who want to study the topic. If you would like more details, email me at email@example.com. The book is designed for small groups and Bible classes. We keep shipping out orders every week and it just keeps going.
You don't need the book to know about the Holy Spirit. THE BOOK has enough to say. Mine is merely one of many guides through the Word. Having my stuff is insignificant. Having the Holy Spirit is ultra significant. We cannot bear his fruit without him. He blesses the church. Thank God for sending His Son first and His Spirit second. We cannot do without either.
Monday, October 27, 2008
We had been the Church of Christ but we weren't seeking the Christ of the Church. He didn't really fit in as we needed business organization (remember "business" meetings?); we needed to stand for something and against other somethings. We weren't looking to Jesus; we were looking at what we could stand against or better yet, who we could stand against. I was an angry preacher in the pulpit breathing threats of daring positions to be taken by the remnant of faith. Whatever side we assumed, of course, was always the truest of remnants. Remnant sort of verified we were old testamently new testament.
Jesus has changed our place as he has changed our hearts. We've discarded the squint-eyed judgmentalism of suspicion of everyone not exactly like us and we began to loosen selfish-control and opt for Spirit control. I really had to back off of trying to run things just the way I wanted. Other ideas are often better than mine; oh, go figure.
Jesus works with us. We have not arrived. We never will. But I hope we will continue our learning curve to be more positioned upon the nature of Jesus and not of our best or most intelligent selves. Jesus will give life to the dead and direction to the hopeless. We hunger for such input from above.
We are so odd. In the past we have tried to reach the world by preaching to the church what was wrong with other churches. Wouldn't it be something if we could preach to good news to the church and let its life seep out into the community of hungry seekers who reside among us? We are noting a contagion for Christ developing and our plans are to fan the flames.* Let us join together to grow in the Spirit of Christ. He is the only leader worth our time and commitment.
*Note: Don't forget our area -wide meeting this Sunday night at 6:00 at the Union PAC near 68th and Mingo. The Union PAC is not the big UMAC at the south of the football stadium. Turn West at that building and drive around to the Union PAC. Its parking lot is just north of Sam's. All churches are invited.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
And, what a day! Craig and I shared our hearts this morning and of course he is simply magic when he speaks. Craig is an awesome speaker but what makes him such is not only his creativity. He really has a heart for God. His humble manner lets us in on the prize of Jesus. We get what he's saying and we like it!
A lady visited our church today that had not been here for maybe twenty-five years. She was once a young mother who rode the joy bus way back when. Today she was at Memorial...with her granddaughter. I remember her so well. It feels good to see some of that effort come back around.
Then, my "community service" teen showed up. I met with him and his mom in my office at 9:30. They needed to know they ran into friends. I wanted them to relax; know that we cared more for them than for accomplishing an assignment. I gave them $20 from a little stash I had set aside for their lunch and one would think they had won the lottery. Tonight Tyler was great at helping out with the children's games at the Fall Festival. He was very polite and I hope that when he is a grandpa he will remember the day he ran into God at the Memorial Drive family.
David Buchanan took some time to encourage us to get on with raising funds for a desperately needed new Lawn Sign. Then he held up a check and said he and Deborah are in. That's good leadership. It was simple. He worded it very well; without belaboring the point. But he set the example and I think his move will be used by God to trigger more acts of generosity.
Finally, I must say that four of us met for an hour at 7:30 this morning to pray over our day. What we sought God about, He surely delivered in grander scale. I don't know how He does this Sunday after Sunday. He is so creative and our leaders are such a match by staying out of the way.
What a day.....God provided!
Saturday, October 25, 2008
I sat at my computer and asked God to speak to me if He had any ideas as I didn't have. In moments He gave me a great idea. I called the lady back and gave her my proposal. She gladly accepted.
Tyler needs 12 hours of community service by Monday. Tomorrow at 9:00 he and his mother or grandmother are to be at Memorial Drive for juice/coffee and donuts. Tyler's first assignment is to attend Bible class and then the worship assembly. His first phase is to study the idea of church. Tomorrow night is our annual Fall Festival and Tyler will help the Scott's set up immediately after church. Too, he will work from about 4:00 to 9:00 tomorrow evening at one or more facets of the evening venues.
This will let Tyler serve us while we serve him. I truly expect God to work in this meeting. And, I do think God gave me a good idea.
Friday, October 24, 2008
And then there are two more incredible staff members: Linda Scott and Stacey Kendall do an amazing job as they serve full-time as our Children's Ministers receiving part-time pay. We are an extremely blessed congregation to have such talented leaders as these two. I am personally proud of how much God uses them to inspire me by getting to observe their creativity and devotion. They mean a lot to me in my ministry.
Sunday night is our annual Fall Festival. Not only does the whole church join in the excitement as we serve, so many from our community show up for the Trick or Treat doors decorated up and down the halls, lots of candy, great games, and the fun hayrides. Of course the free food doesn't hurt anything!
This event is too wonderful to miss. It fits right into the needs of community children and their parents. They need a safe place for their little Ghosts and Goblins to roam; to celebrate being kids. What better place than the church being one of those community icons where families build fond memories. This wonderful work isn't about giving us something to keep busy. It is about building children. Memorial Drive has so many kids....and when we do something for the community even more kids show up!
Sunday Night----Fall Festival----only two more sleeps!
Thursday, October 23, 2008
It is too easy to become sidetracked by important matters in the kingdom and forget "The Matter": Jesus. Some can serve others like crazy; yet have zero connection to Jesus. Others can recite entire chapters of the Bible by heart but know not the One it is about. Yet others can organize and succeed in godly guidance while having very little awareness of the presence of Christ.
We will all do well to establish the relationship with Jesus as our doctrinal priority. The world is not hurting because society is lacking churches in its midst. The Lord knows there are plenty to go around. The authentic hurt is the fact that churches just like yours and mine are built on something other than the Son of God. Our residing in a community as a church and going unnoticed is a testimony to my point.
I want to see all churches have robust impact on schools, businesses, and families. If we happen to be Christless we will also be powerless. Numbers aren't the measurement. Believing hearts are. Whether you are in a congregation of ten or a thousand it will be most essential you arrange your labor around the Spirit of the Son of God. Otherwise, we are simply out selling fire insurance.....all on our own steam.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Mr. Maher is an obstinate and obnoxious television personality who just came out with the faith insulting movie called Religulous. I believe Dusty's idea is pregnant with possibility. I met with a group at our church tonight to form the beginning of a prayer team to ask God to overwhelm Bill Maher with love and conviction that he might yield to the love of Christ.
Would you consider forming a group with us? Would you ask your small group, or your church, or a few email friends to begin praying for this conversion? Would you ask them to begin in prayer by thanking God for such a delivery? Would you mind leaving a comment describing your group development that we might each be encouraged a faith step at a time?
This move is not to put Mr. Maher down. He is a worthy man of goodness buried deep within. He is, though, one who would be a tremendous tool for God when his heart is captured by the love of Christ.
May we pray in faith to lead this man to a newness only God can imagine.
An immediate problem arises when the established church puts a learning freeze on the Bible and then maintains a protectionism of the thirty-five verses it prefers. This is dishonest and much of practicing Christianity is just that.
This brings me to the 25 year olds and younger. Their bent is experiential. This factor is why American Idol has the viewers text their vote ultimately deciding the winner. Today’s younger generation wants in on the action. One may note cable news systems asking for your text in response to a question. Experiential.
This is a huge challenge to the “sit still and be quiet” established church when truly wishing to draw today’s young. To them, church has no experience except one: pure boredom. We churches need to get a grip on this dilemma because it isn’t the culture that needs to adjust. The church of the Bible is anything but dull. It is robust, surprising, mysterious, and often noisy. The church of Christ was the most happening place in the community. Such isn’t the case now. We have studied and organized ourselves into “the” most boring venue on our streets. Often a hives outbreak causes more community response.
If you happen to be one who truly ponders how to bring life to your congregation, a start would be to bring life to your congregation. Put life into it. Quit focusing upon order so much and avail activity (experience) to your membership. God’s people are basically creative but some churches stifle the gifts within. Sit down, be quiet, and say amen is not the picture of the early church. Maybe we should change us.
One hint as to a thing to do to create new life: we asked our local elementary school if they would like to come to our church one Wednesday night before their “Holiday Program” (Christmas) to practice on us. They jump at the chance every year. The guests outnumber us! Parents, grandparents, and neighbors pour in to see their princes and princesses perform. We are on alert to connect with all of these guests during coffee and cookies afterward. It’s just one way of seeing life stir where we live…..and we love it!
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Do you have any idea how much these words need to be heard? Have we a spirit of shyness that such a phrase has been relegated to women using it and then only to a guarded few? Negativity loves unlove.
We love because God first loved. He started it! We must communicate as if the clock is running down that we dearly love others. Others need to know they are loved by somebody. What if they would take it wrong? How can being accepted by another be insulting? How can being noticed and admired ruin a person’s day?
God did not give us a spirit of timidity. Yet, how we play the bashful game. Strangers could think we are odd and friends might assume we are aggressive. However, the world is committing degrees of suicide because God’s children won’t open their mouths and voice the most healing words to any heart.
Please don’t bark at a negative world. Do something about it. Shine His welcoming light on it. Speak up for more than Abortion Rights and Prayer in Public Places. Speak “to” people in your path and in some way convey to them you really love them! This is way too easy. And, such a pattern will turn the world upside down.
Monday, October 20, 2008
Here's what I think my morning headlines say: WEAK MAN; MUST HAVE A STRONG GOD! I get to be in the greatest system in the world; the kingdom of God. Few meeting me for the first time would guess me to be a Senior Pastor of a church of 450+. They would believe me to sell cars or deliver crates to drugstores; but not lead a church. Why is that? I am impressively unimpressive. I know it and such (my weakness) is my strength....power really is perfected in weakness. I am unimpressive in an impressive sort of way! Aha!
Here's what I want you to get. Some of you are impressive and you need to use such perception for the glory of God. You look sharp and sound so. But others are as me. You don't stand out in demeanor nor stature. But your faith may be the very thing needed to boost your work force; even your church. Each person is impressive when in Christ (even if our unimpressiveness is used by Him to impress). Everyone is important and significant.
I write a lot of people both through email and snail. I want all to know they are needed. In case you don't know it, the average person in America does not have one good friend. Therefore, you and I are needed! One of the great things I find in the simple lifestyle of Jesus was he, too, valued his friends. We are no different.
Today some are reading your headlines as you are their morning paper. I would encourage you to put a little umph of joy and new level of assurance in your talk. Anybody can display the headlines of "UGHH" and "YUCK". But those filled to the fullness of God surely have something better for their communities to read! Through you may God deliver your town good news!
Sunday, October 19, 2008
- Gen. 32:2
- II Kings 6:15-17
- Jn. 3:3
- Eph. 6:10-12
- Mt. 6:9-15
- II Cor. 3:4-5
That's it. I know you can't imagine the words I intend to say from this. They flood my heart. What I do want you to get is encouragement to preach the most cutting edge technologically advanced sermons....the Word of God. Nothing is sharper than the double-bladed Word. Nothing is more quickening to the struggling heart than a word from God.
Don't let your most dominating and essential force (the Bible) be robbed by the need to feel more modern. Don't do it. While we want to relate to connecting means within our social structure, ears are hungry to hear the fascinating Truth beyond what our natural senses can....sense.
When we preach, may those listening experience the touch of God upon their very wonderful hearts. Give 'em heaven!
Saturday, October 18, 2008
But the reason I am really encouraged is the wonder of God which I have gotten to study this week. Do you get it that we are directly connected to the real, legitimate, river-parting, grave-ruining God? Do you understand we are involved in the world of the above ground (that's in comparison to the underground)? God has so much to teach us. It's buried in such a thin little volume; yet continues to flow like Niagara.
I'm absolutely wowed at learning. I can't wait for tomorrow to get here for me to trim away the threads of His input and actually prepare to deliver what I've learned from Him. I've not forgotten my days of knowing nothing about God. Once converted I struggled to understand. In preaching school I couldn't get the teachings to connect. To me the Bible was disjointed; too difficult for a slow reader to muddle through. But somewhere along the way, He began to connect the dots and He's been on a roll with me ever since.
I don't look for good lessons to teach. I look for life to teach. I don't scan the Bible for three good points. I want to know what He's up to. Every week I measure whether I have a worthwhile sermon. It's easy to determine. If I have learned something new, I have something to say. If I haven't learned anything, why would I think they would?
I've told God a lot lately, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU. That's how I feel. Nations and centuries of people have known a lot of very important things. Those of us who know God know the good stuff!
Friday, October 17, 2008
I study our congregation. I love it so much. I enjoy it so much. As I ponder what God is doing with us, I cannot name a person which is key other than the Spirit of God, which is the Spirit of Christ, which is the Holy Spirit. If He (They) don't show up we shut down. If They don't flow freely and openly we are no more than an insurance industry peddling hope on paper. Should They choose to not engage in our assemblies whether class or worship, our best offerings would feel like sagging disappointment. Every Sunday I leave for home physically and mentally exhausted while soaring in spirit gratitude. I leave every Sunday completely clueless how They pulled love and harmony and compassion together when all we did was put some stuff together and offer it up to Him.
I can't wait for Sunday. Before every presentation of which I am responsible, I plead with Him/Them not to leave me up there by myself. They must connect the dots from what I heard Them say from study through the week to the ears of those who have the courtesy to sit and endure yet their one millionth talk about hope. Before every presentation I practice delivering the message in my mind including pausing to let the hearers engage; whether laughter, pondering, or inner debate.
How do we do this? We don't. They do. We are grateful for just a smidgen of participation responsibility, but it is the Upper Team which delivers the goods at Memorial and the whole church knows it. We don't want to be who we are because of any fleshly skill. We want to be who we are due to Them in us. The Trinity: They do church right!
What is that unnamed and unnoticed fog? Naturalism. Some of the most vocal of yesteryear declawed the Bible by removing the Spirit of God and turned the New Testament into Newer-than-the-old Law. Apparently such began when someone concluded “the perfect has come” of First Corinthians 13 referred to “miracles have ceased”. It seems it was necessary to those making such determination that “the perfect has come” meant the arrival of the completed Bible. I believe at the very least, such a conclusion is shaky.
But the fog….the fog that began to drift was when students began to associate “miracles have ceased” with “supernatural has ceased”. God was barred at His own door. "Holy Spirit, Go Back Where You Belong" was the song before communion. Believers began to unbelieve. Since there was a disconnect with the Living God and one was urged to go by the New Law, man was now out on a huge limb with saw in tow. Everywhere this naturalistic doctrine (which possesses no odor for detection) is accepted, men and women have lost sight of the activity of God in their walk. It’s all up to them: from being good enough to be saved to producing some sort of Holy Moly fruit in the name of religious activity.
Francis Schaeffer wrote thirty-seven years ago, The supernatural does not touch the Christian only at the new birth and then at his death, or at the second coming of Christ, leaving the believer on his own in a naturalistic world during all the time in between. Nothing could be further from the biblical view. Being a biblical Christian means living in the supernatural now, not only theoretically but in practice.
We must remove the fog; not by yelling or swatting at it but by continually, persistently, passionately leading the flock to open its eyes to the activity (the direct connecting activity) of God in the very mysterious midst of our daily grind.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Seven years ago our working arrangement with Craig Hicks as our youth minister came to an abrupt end. He was removed from the staff. Pain was everywhere. It hurt our elders and staff as much as it did him. The teens and their parents suffered acute injury as well.
I need to share only briefly that stressful backdrop to portray the amazing development taking place. Effective next Monday morning Craig is being re-added as a member of our staff as a ministerial intern. He wants to spend twelve months working with us that he can go out into the ministry arena with new confidence as he shores up his management ability.
He will be working with our college group as well as handling visitor and hospital contacts. While his role is significant, the heart of the matter is even more so. I look forward to seeing what Craig and I can do as a new team. The rest of the staff is enthusiastically supportive as we believe in him.
All who know this man is fully aware of his extraordinary gifts as a speaker. While he has been gone I have encountered new ideas regarding management, direction, and possibility. We are always in kindergarten learning the multi-facets of leadership. I really look forward to working with Craig. I hope over the next twelve months of his internship I can serve him well by supplying, guiding, and instilling new leadership confidence into a most valuable friend.
"A Place to Start Life Over" is not Memorial's slogan....it is our heart. I feel most privileged to be a part of a place that practices such renewal and regeneration. Only God could give us such a Spirit. Craig Hicks is back on staff. He has my admiration in that while encountering abundant heartbreak, the man did not run away. Craig is an endurer. Therefore, he is a victor.
Congratulations to all of us for believing God can supply abundant grace for such a special time as this! WELCOME BACK, CRAIG!
Whether sermon preparation, blog research, or simple reading of the Bible, I am constantly impressed with how it takes me directions I had not intended. The Word is always pointing life out to us….always! I encourage you to keep reading scriptures as well as other writings which discuss scriptures. Such an approach lets visitors join us in the process of learning about him. This lessens the stark thought of we and they.
Brian McLaren wrote that Jesus was criticized for being a friend of sinners---he welcomed and accepted people who did not yet, “believe right, think right, speak right, and act right.” But he knew something we need to know: If people can belong long enough to observe how God is alive among us, if people can belong long enough to see authentic love among us, if they can belong long enough to see whatever good exists in our lives as individuals and as community, they can come to believe.
If we will but continue to become students of the Christ, such a trend will make it easier for seekers to join us with the feeling of belonging to a group which learns together. The we and the they become more of an us.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
The church now has another ministry arising. It is slightly different in method; but not in heart. The difference is the people come here instead of us going there. The method is the Food Pantry. For any of our members not involved, they may not be able to imagine the great need of our community. The Food Pantry is so special we had to move to two times per week being available. The volume of demand is great…..and sad. I encourage you that of all the benefit from the tremendous work we found in the bus work may be partially matched by the tremendous need of the hungry in our communities.
I close with a question: What is it you experience in your area which is proving valuable as a well-organized method of outreach?
Monday, October 13, 2008
The woman at the well had no clue that such an innocent move as getting a bit of water at a common well would balloon into such a grand story. She was just being her. Then this guy leaps into the picture and dazzles her with new information. She runs to town, converts the entire burg, and ran off into the hillside forgetting to leave us her name!
The nameless woman still inspires humankind in every nation. She's a hero of sorts because Jesus touched her life and then he touches ours through her. Her story is ours. Oh, not some of the major details maybe; but she assumedly became useful as a soul-builder in her own right. So are we. We make a difference. Of course we were just pumping gasoline or paying for our fries or ducking into the pharmacy to pick up necessary items. All seemed so....well so everyday-ish...and we are clueless Jesus makes those innocent incidents live with a story to be continued.
Whether opening a door for a stranger or reading a magazine in the waiting room, Jesus is possibly writing a continuation of the woman at the well through you. After all, he wasn't the only one that met her there. We all have met her a hundred times over. So it is with us....constantly knitting that woman's story into our fabric of daily life. Stay alert.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
I wondered if some of you might be interested in what is going through my mind as such an opportunity arises. Here are immediate thoughts:
- This man is in a stunning situation. I want to help him. And I must be prepared to accept the fact I am not one he wishes to see.
- A visit with him may be nothing more than, "Checking on you to see if you would like me to pray."
- This one may be afraid and doesn't have a clue where to begin this frightening trek. I will ask him if he is afraid.
- If the door remains open, I will share with him that I don't know a lot of things; but the few things which I do know, I would be happy to share with him if he would think such useful.
- I will listen closely to his response. He may be frank and close the communication immediately. He may be courteous; but brush off the gesture. Or, he may welcome my help. I will watch for his signals and respond with love accordingly.
- If there is immediate rejection I will plant the seed of, "You are welcome to call me if down the road you would ever like to just have someone listen to your concerns." Often even after rejecting my first visit, I receive a call once they have had time to weigh these sobering days; plus the fact I was polite and seemed to truly care goes a long way when they do reconsider.
- If there is invitation, I will talk with him in the hospital or after he gets home and share the great passages on how to think, what to think about, and how to survive such mental intrusion of terminal illness.
- I will let God lead the way and I will not try to run past Him. I will only go through the open doors and patiently wait for closed ones to crack. And, the latter often does.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Last week Jason Thornton had a special lunch and meeting for senior citizens of which I would fit in that age range to discuss future ministry ideas. He asked me earlier in the week if I would be there. I told him no. Do you know what he said back to me? "Great!"
It wasn't that I wasn't interested. It wasn't that I don't love that group of people. I haven't felt well. I wasn't too ill to be there, but the meeting didn't hinge on my presence. God could handle it just fine without me. From what I hear, He did!
I remind those of you who feel either guilty or unfaithful when you say no when you surely wanted to speak otherwise, Jesus worked on this very dilemma for us. He needed to be more places at once than he could cover. He died and sent His Spirit in return to live in more and more and more individuals. He didn't send His Spirit to live in "only" you. He sent Him to "all of us" and a fabulous team are we!!!!!
Be willing to be used as God's vessel. Included in such concurrence is the willingness to not show up, to not participate, to understand ministry doesn't revolve around you. It revolves around the Holy Spirit's combined efforts in all of us and as a universal family, He gets things done. We can opt to say no and mean it without implying we no longer care.
I love being a minister and one of the reasons I remain extremely fired up is I have learned quite well to pace myself even when other well-meaning brethren try to heap that sneaky bit of guilt hoping I'll cave. God runs the show.....no one else; not you, not me.
Friday, October 10, 2008
The answers to these questions are assorted. Yes, it is possible there is a character trait which turns potential suitors off. No, being single doesn’t indicate you are flawed. Rationale as to the whys and wherefores are abundant and I am sure the single-wishing-to-be-married could write volumes. My point is I’m sympathetic to this valuable group. Therefore, I pass along supportive ideas:
ONE: God may be sparing you heartbreak. Now, that doesn't help much. But listen to it anyway. (You aren't being charged for reading this blog and it's my blog!) Church offices and coffee shops are filled with long lines and longer hours of counsel and Kleenex. Homes are wrecked in hurricane proportion as too many were not as wise as you to be selective.
TWO: Some are called by God to remain single, others to remain patient, and yet a third group to make personal adjustments in order to be attracting that special one. If it's improvement you need to make, then get after it.
THREE: Thank you, indeed, for holding off. You could have been married by now....to the wrong one. Anybody can get married to somebody. You, though, seem to have healthy standards. Good for you! I see too many pass through my office for pre-marital counseling and I wish so badly I didn't have to do their wedding. They are not ready. Some have no business getting married as divorce is clearly emminent, but at least one of the couple is enamoured with the showcase of the wedding ceremony while they are blind to the disrespect and insult sitting beside them who is holding their hand.
FOUR: My guess is what you are looking for is not necessarily external impressiveness as much as inner life. If you are not married because your priority is to wait for the magazine face and body to sweep you off of your feet, you are quite immature. The spirit of a person is the life indicator for the future home. What one might do then is to find ministries where singles are engaged in paying attention to others. Some can’t find their charmer because they are looking for another only to be noticed. This is self-centered, self-serving, selfishness. If this is the case with you then you need to thank God He spared someone from finding you.
Life isn’t about looks and finances and education. It is about heart and drive and compassion. Learn to serve others. Avail yourself to those who are lonely and poor in your community. Give yourself away and you will find the real you. In that service you are very likely to encounter the opposite sex with the very identical burden to live for the benefit of others. You won’t find your guy or gal in the local bars or even in the singles classes at church. You are quite likely to find them dipping gravy at the homeless shelter or bagging groceries at the church food pantry.
MAINLY: You need to know you are okay. You are married to Christ….and if not you need to be. When you pray about finding a spouse, be sure to tell Him Thank You more than you specify the qualifications. He already knows your order.
It feels weird to write on this topic, but for some reason I believe there are those reading this who knows of someone(s) who need encouragement. Every wilderness has a promised land.
Thursday, October 09, 2008
From study of the scriptures, I do believe God approached some things in the early part He doesn't use now. His manner of communication would be one of those topics. But to hear some conjecture, God has either run out of words for now or has gone mute; He just doesn't say things today. For us, we are supposed to read our Bible.
I don't think so. The Bible will always be our guide to the heart and mind of God. However, the Word is that Truth which insists we will have knowledge of love due to the Holy Spirit which surpasses knowledge (Eph. 3:19). The Bible is that which says if we lack wisdom pray for it (James 1:5) and it will come down from above (James 3:17). These and other verses awaken us to the truth that communication is a volley between earth and heaven. I believe God is on speaking terms with His flock.
One of the things I have grown to enjoy is hearing from God. I don't hear audible words. I really don't know how to describe communication from Him because it is spiritual. The only way I know how to talk about it at this point in my relationship with Him is to say He gives me ideas. They aren't contrary to His Word. Often, His communication is in response to what I have been seeking in prayer.
From experience I can say I am continually learning to listen more. He gives me ideas as well as confirmation. I hear Him speak in other's prayers when I'm in their group. I hear Him speak through songs at church and on the radio. I hear Him through commentators regarding news who may be making one point but God quickens my spirit about another. Finally, the part of learning exchangive dialog from here to There is what He perpetually does to open me to His Word. He makes the Bible dance in my heart. It explodes with insight as well as enthusiasm for it.
Does God communicate to us? I think so and I think He loves the relationship which is on speaking terms. One of my favorite memories while doing some work with Loretta Lynn one week in Branson was how much she leaned on Jeremiah 33:3, Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know. Call. God will do more than answer. He will tell you profound wonders you did not know.
Do you ever feel like Rocky in that picture? Do you feel you are carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. Do you ever feel ridiculously foolish to think you are doing any good for such an overwhelming task at hand? I feel it....every day. I assume the same is for you.
But what if we could reverse Rocky's image by moving him off of the screen and putting a very large hand with a strand of thread hanging from one finger and the globe dangling in mid-air as if it were made of cotton? That would be God and the complete non-stress involved as He created earth as well as all her creatures.
The latter image (God) joins the former image (us) to virtually ease our load. How do we handle financial strain, marriage rot, doctrinal suicide, ministry unravel, and performance guilt? We shift from holding up earth on our own to believing the Hand is applying His strength in our walk. I really become challenged everyday at the personal load I carry due to being stuck with my weak mind and my inadequate talent. I discourage me for there is so very much in front calling for someone to make a significant difference. Yet, He is the One who knows the ropes of manhood. He was manhood.
Be encouraged. We have deeply serious work in front of us. But we have the Living Hand holding on.........and supplying every need....II Cor. 9:8-11.
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
The first thing at the door I heard for the first time ever, “Do you want your hand stamped?” Panic. Is this supposed to be said? I’m under eighteen here! Shall we all panic? You want to do what to me, lady? I had never heard that term before. The cashier asked it of all of us then she looked at Mom. Mom looked at me, “Do you want your hand stamped, son?” Now how am I supposed to know? Is this code to talk over the head of a four year old? It’s working. Who would know? I couldn’t fathom what a “hand stamp” might be until I looked at a strange implement setting on the cashier’s little desk. It was a typewriter; my first occasion to see one and was clueless as to what it did.
The woman was waiting on my answer. I studied that typewriter and concluded one was to put their hand down inside and then “smack-wham-bam” your hand would be crunched and smashed and stamped….and after that you got to watch the ballgame as an acceptable cripple. Why would Mom allow this to happen to her only oldest son? I quickly put my hands in my pockets as no one was touching them. I had rights. I opted for no hand-crunching on my first night. After all it would be a long season and I’d have plenty of opportunities to be initiated. After all I was just a little boy.
I wonder how many forty and sixty year olds feel the same about church. They don’t understand the code language and aren’t quite sure what all that Bible reading and pew sitting is supposed to accomplish. Just as hand-stamping and typewriters turned out not to be the painful villains I had assumed, neither is God and church. It just takes some study and some explanation. No panic necessary; just a heart ready to start life over is good enough.
(Hmmm, someone in our past must have made that argument up.)
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
Therefore, please note we are among the most privileged on earth. Paulson and Bernake may sit with the President to wrestle with economic issues, but we sit with one another to discuss the greatest System on earth...God's. Ours is a sobering and enormous challenge. It seems the world teeters at times on the brink of irrecoverable imbalance only to find the church operating with an even more frayed thread. While we love what we get to do, the whole thing could explode into awful disarray on one misguided dialog because Satan is so powerfully antagonistic to the great System.
We sit in on the great conferences to discuss both relief and potential for mankind. We (not just a "they" thing) must take our talk seriously that our plans to reach a dark world finds the activation button has been hit. We must decide whether we want to rescue those imprisoned or just have a friendly coffee while Rome burns. We are invited to sit at the very same table where gray beards like Abraham, Moses, Job, James, and John once perched to be just as decisive (just as sober) about guiding God's children upon the shores of the human heart.
God bless you. God bless the tar out of you for the courageous determination you display as you try your very best to finish the race giving Him your all....your entire you. Don't worry about career and finances and health. Don't . If you are going to worry, may it be about the hopes of others which oddly are based on whether you dare to risk for them or dumb down to a few brotherhood moods which, in general, may not care half a hoot about the lost ones in the market place.
I love my two friends. I dearly love you. You are a key player in the greatest work on earth. Take a good look at the people God places in front of you.....and give 'em heaven!
Monday, October 06, 2008
In his writings are several digs, insults, and misrepresentations. If not careful this can get under our skin. However, if the Holy Spirit is operating in our lives one of the things God insists He does from within us is bear His fruit. Allow Him to do so we must; especially in potentially pressing and irritating situations.
Therefore, we must relax. The writer who opposes my stance is just as weak as I am. He may be better versed in some scriptures. He most likely is more experienced in study and is certainly more extensively traveled. However, he is only a man who is quite capable of error as am I. My role is not to fight with his debate; but rather continue to study and believe the Living God as far as my understanding and conscience will extend. The Truth is to be known and we know no infallible teacher. He and I surely have valuable content to present. Each of us surely has taught mistaken concepts and found good reason to adjust.
Whether you are insulted or attacked, don't flinch. Don't rush to war. Don't even break a sweat. Go back to the Bible. If it still says what you thought it did, keep on believing it. If you realize you need to make adjustment, do so. But don't panic because a brother barks at you. He, too, has enough flaws to be railed against. You just don't happen to write a quarterly. Just relax. Love those who love you and love those who insist on pressing. God still owns the vineyard.
Sunday, October 05, 2008
However, I don't enjoy some of it. Our nation, my opinion, is in sad lack of humility on the part of the nation's leaders as well as the media. How much more heavy sighing and rolling of the eyes in disgust are we to view as the heavy breather speaks of another with biased contempt? Yes, serious matters with opposing opinions are on the table. But, I've not noticed the perfect candidate nor interviewer yet. Have you?
With so much at stake, why the distracting factor of negative innuendo and tackiness? Why the lack of civility? CNN? FOX? Both lack sheer courtesy at times. Democrat? Republican? Both parties possess obstinance and narrow-mindedness. Why the lack of respect? Where did all of this unkindness and divisiveness originate?
Could it be the divided American church has had more influence in the halls of Congress than we had imagined? Has media taken on church snobbery and narrow attitudes? Could it be our disregard for scripture calling for harmony and love has actually gone to such strong seed it comes back at us through our radios and televisions and we don't like what we are receiving?
What we are seeing in the political arena has much which is a far cry from the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Our job will be to see that such fruit is coming from the churches where we serve. Maybe if the spiritual world begins to care deeply for one another instead of living in competition, some such Holy Spirit traits might actually make their ways to the halls of Congress and build our country on the meaningful principles of God.
God has been listening to all sorts of worship expressions toward Him….for hours. The Chinese are just now concluding their evening worship as we crank up our morning services. Choral groups have sung His praises already in Turkey as well as Johannesburg. Plus the night stars and the morning crickets are simultaneously joining in on the Most Excellent worship service. Creation groans too deeply for any one language to capture our gratitude toward the Creator. The Holy Spirit must help us.
It’s Sunday. I wonder how Heaven is moved by the millions of voices offering various songs and speeches in multiple languages all at the same time. It must be…..heavenly!
It’s Sunday. Everyone must be encouraged. Everyone must understand the Word for them. Everyone must sense his or her meaning in God’s kingdom life. Everyone.
It’s Sunday and a sense of urgency fills our spirits as we cannot keep quiet; we cannot be shy. We will not be satisfied ‘til God is lauded with cheerful salute from here to there. Sense the urgency.
Friday, October 03, 2008
Something occurred to me that made me wonder if others who speak weigh the same ideas. Whatever the occasion, I do not focus on how well I will do in my presentation but how well the audience will hear. Said another way, in my mental preparation I try to imagine what those listening will receive. I pray a lot for the ears of those in front of me. I ask God to connect them to His message.
When I focus on the hearers, one of the first things which comes to my attention is what are they going to walk away with of value. Now this may seem obvious, yet how many of us prepare lessons which have three points and a conclusion because such officially forms a sermon whether the content says anything pertinent? We must be alert that the direction and the content must be fitting for those listening. Will it inspire? Will it relate? Will it persuade? Will it challenge? Will it heal? Will it offer hope?
Today finds enormous pressure upon time. As speakers we cannot afford to waste the ear-time of hearers. If they are going to lend us their ears, we must do our best to fill them with God-sized news above and beyond the world's wisdom. We must speak in terms of the wow and mystery of Jesus and not just terms of properly formed grammatical statements combined with a Greek meaning found in a Lexicon. We must make zealous effort to speak of matters.....which matter!
Don't worry about how well you are doing. Concentrate on the hearers. If they walk away having understood clearly a message, you have accomplished your task.
That sap and fruit which comes from we trees are to be the traits of God Himself; love, joy, peace, etc. What is the opposite of love? If we don’t have love what will come from our character? Hate? No. Fear. One without God cannot love and, simultaneously, cannot be confident. Such a one will be led to skittish, pessimistic, uncertain conclusions. Those moments in the church or in the family or in the business when a Christian is afraid simply signals love is absent. We tend to believe love means we are good to people; and that surely is part of it. But love means we are not fearful of God, others, and ourselves.
Too many Christian parents speak fear while they serve dinner to their families. “I don’t know what this world’s coming to!” Or, “I don’t know how much longer we can endure church life.” This talk does not come from love and it sows fear.
When God calls us to love one another He isn’t merely asking us to be good to each other. He is also asking us to live unafraid while together we face some very intimidating, Goliath-like, situations.
Thursday, October 02, 2008
I am concerned that as ministers we don't help our people die well. I wonder if more isn't needed. I wonder if everyone else has a grip on this and I don't. Thus, the vulnerability.
When our people are dying it seems we "stay positive" and don't go there with the ailing victim. Is there a style? A manner? A responsibility which would reduce their potential fear and raise present peace? As for me, I will sit with the patient or the family for various lengths of time. Yet, I find myself ministering to the family more than the patient. I fear that to talk with them as if they are dying somehow implies I've given up on their recovery. I simply have to trust some of you flounder in this important ministry as well.
My fundamental concern is to wonder if this event is not one of the great and glorious transitions of ones life and I offer nothing of direction or assistance other than my presence which is supposed to suffice to convey I care...I love.
What thinketh ye?
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
Congress has its hands full; but nothing like us. We find ourselves dealing with the enormity of debt. Elders, deacons, staff, and friends are pelted by devastating problems found in those all around us. Homes divided. Children confused. Beliefs challenged. Pressures mount. And, future blurred. Yes, congress has been called to work the extra mile but nothing like what the church puts in week in and week out.
Can the church fix her problems? I don't think so. A few yes. Most, I doubt it. So what is our approach? Do we turn a blind eye and deaf ear to man's dismantlement? Or, do we "do something" even if it's wrong? There is a third alternative and the more I work with us the more I lean this direction. We must keep loving everyone, as Jesus did, trusting God to work on hearts.
Jesus loved. But what does that mean? I saw him believe in a woman at a well when no one else did and that approach won a town. I saw him notice a little squat of a man up in a tree and treat him with such respect the guy couldn't wait to adjust his style. Jesus loved and when he did he put confidence in people that they could be all right. Few had told them this. These sinners had never encountered a person like this. What they didn't know is they had run into God in beard and sandals.
So it is with us. I like the routine of church. But I find myself especially juiced when I encounter the self-assumed no-good. This is a special moment (a perfect opportunity) for them to find out something they may have never heard before; someone believes they are important. Don't assume many around you don't need to know this. I think they do. When they run into you at the water cooler or on the elevator, may they walk away discovering the wonder of themselves because you noticed.