Wednesday, December 30, 2009
I'm in one of those zones where I don't feel like I'm getting much done. That's weird because I just finished a manuscript to a book I've worked on for five or six years. And, I'm now rewriting the Holy Spirit book; just cleaning it up a bit.
But I feel duddy.
You ever feel that way?
When I hit such times two things overwhelm me; the size of God and the amount of people who need to be reached. I can't seem to connect the two and they need to be connected. God is remarkable and amazing. People are valuable but basically indifferent to His existence. I have the knack of drawing the two together and lately I'm off.
I'm not discouraged with the church. Memorial is the ideal place to get to be. I'm just poopy about my load; it doesn't seem to move. I'm not overworked in the least. I'm underaccomplished.
What I'll do is the same thing I always do when these times come along. I'll wait. I learned a ways back I can't do anything apart from Him....so I'll wait. He'll show up.
Disappointed you didn't read this today and find a great bit of earth-shaking inspiration? Well....me too. Yet, even in our weakness I sense some readers would be encouraged to know that not every day is a mountain top for me. They aren't. Now you know....again.
Be encouraged. God will break in and when He does....yippee!
Their #2 story is, Excluded from 21st Century Christian's 2009 edition of Churches of Christ in the United States were the Richland Hills church in Texas and 20 other congregations that use instruments.
The #1 story? The number of men, women, and children in the pews dipped to the lowest level since a comprehensive effort to count members began in 1980.
I wonder if it occurs to anyone that the brotherhood's critical and judgmental attitudes toward those involved in the #2 story might be the cause of the #1 story. A proud and divisive spirit will not be conducive to church growth.
Blessings to every autonomous congregation for doing the best you can to reach as many as you can as fast as you can....including Richland Hills and the 20 other congregations listed at #2.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
There He was....God. Little, innocent, helpless....God in a baby body. Of all people, Herod seemed to have as great a faith of what this child could become as anyone on earth. He issued a decree to execute out of panic all the male children under two. Why? He believed what Jesus would become. That's pretty amazing faith.
But the scene repeats itself. Oddly, it is innocent enough that no one would guess it a replica of the original manger posture. Today's scenes are little congregations sprinkled throughout each community. If they aren't in the thousands, to me they/we are little.
And here we are.....tiny churches gathered with little recognition from society around. Just as the baby Emmanuel, we have little money, little political clout, little community pull, and little reason to believe we can make a difference.
Yet, we can. We are Jesus' body. We can believe we can become highly impactive just as he was. We can believe we can take control via the same means as he; the cross.
Our challenge is also our pathway. We will increase by the same means he did; prayer, prayer, prayer, and more prayer. Most likely the reason we have been babified for decades is because we have mopped our egos with chants of being the true church while failing to go near the prayer path of the real, authentic church.
Our hope....is seen in that little baby in the manger. He grew up to be the Main Player. We must not settle for living life from the cribs called church buildings. May we note from his great display of faith in the Father a way for every congregation to hit 2010 even more prayerfully prayerful.
Monday, December 28, 2009
Last week I experienced another form of strain on humans; materialistic obesity. Why do I have so much...the best of so much...the most of so much.....and still want more? I fear I have gangreed.
Materialistic obesity is not everywhere; but it surely is among many of us.
When we have so many packages to unwrap that we can hardly enjoy one gift for the next five coming at us, we are threatened by materialistic obesity. When children have so much given they find it difficult to live in ecstatic appreciation, we may have a case of materialistic obesity.
Forgive me for sounding old, but when I was six I got a toy John Deere tractor and a jacket. I was thrilled for I hadn't received a gift since June 18....my birthday. Now I give myself so much throughout the year my kids and grand kids are forced to really think it through because I've spoiled me all year....and had a very good time at it!
It could be we should evaluate another facet of the need for The Biggest Loser. It could be we need to push away from the table of materialistic gain. Maybe we need to awaken to our overindulgent nature which has grown so out of hand it harps that too much is yet not enough.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
David and Lisa Combs moved to Tulsa a few years back initially requiring some of their furniture to be stored. Once they secured a house, the items were moved in.
The dining table had a particular cough during the six months of storage. Originally, two leafs went with it. But....only one was in place and the table developed a distinct bias against the orphaned leaf. It would not budge that the leaf could be added. Strong men tried. Stronger men said they could pry the table open in order to insert the leaf alongside its older brother.
For months and months the table would not say "Ah" that the spare leaf be added. Clammed tightly shut, the table refused hospitality to it most useful sibling.
On Christmas Eve David and Lisa were preparing to open their home for guests the next day. Lisa was sitting on the floor by table. In frustration she mentioned to God that she knew Him to have bigger fish to fry, but she really needed that extra leaf in the table....and would He please fix it.
She then stood to give the table a tug. With ease it cooperated. David called to her asking if the table just moved. It had. The table opened its mouth wide to receive the once-abandoned leaf. Everything was now in place. The guests were all seated.
Now you know the parable of the Dining Table. How did it happen? Lisa believed God.....is all I know to report. Claim it to be weird or absurd...whatever you wish. She prayed. It happened. I love it!
Friday, December 25, 2009
Well....I have an excuse. My house is so crowded with kids and grandkids I thought I better check on my blog-family.'
We have had a blizzard. No, really! It is perfect....so exciting. Chris and Wendy left here at four yesterday (they are from Atlanta) to get with his family for Christmas Eve. It was sleeting magnificently as they left. The sleet converted to snow about 5:30 and by the time they began their trek back here, it was a gigantic blizzard. I think we have about 6 or so inches of white fluff just calling for someone to make snow ice cream. How fun.
But....Chris and Wendy couldn't get back home last night. They made it here this morning. How fun is that? Can't get around town because the roads are so bad! Great!
Thursday, December 24, 2009
One man regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Let each man be fully convinced in his own mind....Romans 14:5.
I have Christmas every day. Why not? Packages every day? Shopping every day? No to both. Celebrate every day? Like right now every right now with eager anticipation of what surprise package will God deliver next? Absolutely.
God has converted me. I am a new creation. I think every day is a holiday. While non-believers dumb down to performing dailiness with drudging ritual, believers get to smart up by awakening to the wonder of God's intriguing moment by momentness!
For the Christmas season I can't wait. I start a count-down in the office August 1 as to how many days 'til October 1....the day we draw name for Christmas. I begin Christmas shopping October 1 and finished (on purpose waited this long) December 23rd.
Who doesn't love gifts and great surprises? So why dumb down for eleven months? Why not smart up? Believe in something spectacular, marvelous, stupendous! Believe it is authentically the Christmas season year round. This would be one way of putting the Christ back into Christmas, don't you think? If the Christ-followers celebrated every day in every circumstance.....don't you think the dumbed down version would pale in comparison?
That's how I see Romans 14:5.....I regard every day alike.....always Christmas!
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
One indictment against us, however, is our perpetual operation under the umbrella of fear. There is great need for our people to break the bonds of living on eggshells for fear God will put out our wick. Two or three texts of God zapping those who didn't do everything exactly proper have bred a psychological misfire in His people. In general we are afraid.....afraid of silence, afraid of new, afraid of old, and afraid of not being acceptable to God.
When the eggshell element is present, worship goes out the window. Our gatherings are not monitored by the heart involvement; but rather by the dumbing down to the common denominator of "was anyone offended". It matters not whether God had any feelings about the matter. Fear leads us to gatherings of both rigidity as well as frigidity.
I remind you that Jesus is the Lord of Life. Satan is the master of robbery. Fear is more than the opposite of love; it is the opponent.
As we among many strive to become more like Jesus, one of the great hurdles for the Church of Christ is to clear the high step of fear. It strangles the church when it has no idea it might be suffocating. It is. Jesus alone sets us free.
May our courage increase.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Discipling is the win-win action of the church's operating system. When we do the work (whatever it is) by ourselves, we short-sheet God's intended design of efficient functionality. When we become disciplined enough to train others to train others to train others, we have the true church operation. And the good news is? This method is highly productive.
Because of my tenure and my age, I am more aware than ever in ministry of the importance of empowering others. The more souls empowered, the greater the productivity among us. When the empowered learn to empower, a very exciting dynamic strikes every congregation.
It took me years to see this. I knew it in my head, but did not realize the power of its intent. I was doing my part of the work by myself. But as I realize I'm in the phasing out segment of my life (meaning I'm past 60), I see the value of mentoring as never before.
Our elders have seen it longer than me. Memorial Drive is highly energized because the elders backed away from being permission givers. They lead by finding champions of any and every cause. If they can't find a champion, they don't start the work. But a key to their effective (efficient) leadership is empowering ordinary and devoted members of the flock.
You should see our auditorium this Christmas season. Brad and Diann Coggins and Richard Lovett did it.....because Linda Scott empowered them. She had enough work to do and then accomplished more because she gave others room to show their gifts. J. D. and Cindy Hatter direct the member involvement ministry, PLACE, because Jason Thornton guided them. The elders didn't give permission for such a move because they already turned the responsibility over to Jason.
The win-win method of God is discipleship. Church leaders are making a big mistake when they have to have their hands in every pie. Such is a matter of egocentric control in the name of shepherding or ministering to the flock. When we let go of the reins we become enthusiastically astounded at how He reigns.
When we hit the win-win process, life in the kingdom happens so fast and so strongly we cannot chart all of its wonder.
Monday, December 21, 2009
It is remarkable the amount of kindness and goodness embedded into society.
Yes, the media (including its ticker-tape at the bottom) tell of the bad guys. But have you noticed they have to repeat it for there isn't enough to keep it new? They'll repeat it for hours on end because there is a void of badness and a glut of goodness.
I'm not making this up. I know the government is working on ideas to serve our country. While they work on their various political plans...and I hope they work out....America is busy being the good guys in such mass there are hundreds of volunteer organizations already cooking; plus the zillions of churches doing what they should have been doing all along.
People serve people. They go out of their way; even sacrifice. Humanity is not a lost cause. Rather, it is a found culture. It looks to me like Jesus may have had greater impact than some of us once imagined. A ways to go? Of course. Failing the world? Hardly.
The good guys compared to the bad? I think they are outnumbered!
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Does any of us approach our Sunday gathering without custodial assignments? Not a church meets with trash strewn through the lobby and about the auditorium as if it didn't matter. Windows are washed, restrooms are tidied, and the carpet is vacuumed. We are ready.
So why is we think the external matters are to be in tip-top shape and that the internals matter little? How can we be so trashy in our approach to sing songs if we want and if we don't? Well, who cares? You're not my boss.
How is it we can clean the outside of the cup in properly grooming for church attendance with the assumption the inside of of the vessel can go without study, prayer, and devotion throughout the other six days?
What goes on with us that we can move about our streets in complete silence about the love Christ throughout weeks, months...even years....but talk as if an expert when in Bible class discussing evangelism?
Tomorrow will be another opportunity for us to have visitors. If one thinks they will be impressed because we don't have a piano and we do have communion, think again. They will be watching the hearts....that element the whole church just can't hide. The heart is that invisible neon sign of the spirit which forces our mouths to open in praise to God as well as actively greeting our visitors.
From the abundance of the heart....THE MOUTH SPEAKS. Will the visitors experience worship with us tomorrow? The tell-tale sign is whether we gush in love for God and people....by speaking openly.
People WANT to know God.
When I didn't know that factor, I spent my evangelistic efforts measuring prospects. It was like mining for gold; I had to go through a lot of terrain before I made a strike. Such an approach resulted in guilt more than anything else because I wasn't good at prospecting.
People WANT to know God.
And then when I realized the factor, the entire community changed in front of my very eyes. Every person contemplates the reality and the will of God. Sure, most may be fuzzy in their thinking...but who isn't while in search of the Liveliest One?
For instance, how much seed do you think is sown by all denominational and Catholic VBSs combined? How much seed is sown by children playing church at home? Finally, how many children attended some sort of Christian event over their years? 56%? 97%? I would venture the count would be high.
In all of these contacts--and there are so many more to raise one's awareness (Christian concerts, camps, etc.)--the seed has been sown. Today is sits poised with in prisoners, gangsters, CEOs, Rock Stars, and truck drivers. The seed of goodness planted by Kool Aid ladies with high-topped shoes remains in place waiting for sprouting.
What's going on in this culture of people? They secretly wonder if there is a God and how to go about knowing him. When I was searching as a college student, I would read three verses a night....three. Of course beginning with Genesis 1:1.......it was an impossibly slow process which ultimately faded.
Then I shifted to the back of the Bible where it had questions. I hit the one on why Christians couldn't dance. Well...I didn't want to dance but I sort figured I'd like to know what God said about it anyway. The reference sent me to four different guys named John; John, John Jr., John II, and John III....quite a generational heritage I thought.
I wanted to know God. I still want to know. And you can count on it...your doctor, your neighbor, your relatives are asking questions to themselves to keep from looking foolish in your eyes as to what might be cooking with this God stuff. Keep knocking on doors of hearts. You'll likely be surprised that when those around find the opportunity open about God, they will jump in....gladly.
Friday, December 18, 2009
I'm quite comfortable with responses that don't agree with me. You just would not believe how many times I get out on a limb and find I don't agree with me.
The response which came in (above) regarding a recent post is interesting for certain. I think it is a good response as it goes against the grain of what I wrote and clearly some good soul disagrees. Disagreement isn't the end of the world. It can be the beginning of a marvelous relationship.
First, my ideas expressed in the article were simply ideas. They aren't laws. They aren't necessarily great ideas. They are simply.....concepts some might consider.
The passage Anonymous references is really crucial. It is a freeing Bible verse. I believe that same passage and sense he or she may be violating it. Therefore, I would like clarification from Anonymous. There are many readers out there. We are learners. I've gone over my ideas presented and I don't understand where you are coming from.
Would you mind sharing what you mean?
It would be good to have a name other than Anonymous so we can know you aren't just taking a shot. But....that isn't mandatory. What do you mean by your statement?
Would you mind going over your concerns as sometimes we are saying the same things, but from differing viewpoints.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Children are amazing; magnetically interesting. The pure fascination of children impresses upon our hearts the God-nature implanted into human beings from the get-go. One of the great sweetnesses of little children is their oblivious willingness to care-freely give.
Kids don't know a dollar from twenty. But in their early stages they are willing to give it all away. If not careful, we parents will train them to hoard.
I saw this in my three when they were 5, 6, and 7. God was grooming them. Plus, their mom took them with her every Sunday morning at 7:20 and every Wednesday night at 6:15 on the Joy Bus to pick up the poor children in housing projects. The kids came home telling tales of stark sadness of their little friends on the bus who didn't have enough of something....usually food.
This experience caused my kids to want to give things, including dollars, away. I tried to never train them to restrict their hearts. I would let them give what they thought. It would be important to let them grow up believing giving hearts were to be a necessary part of adulthood.
It is more important to teach children the value of giving than the value of a dollar. Adults need to learn from the kids in many situations....not the reverse.
Children have an ability to sense need of the moment. They see opportunity and delight in participating. On our annual Missions Day at Memorial every first Sunday in May, one of my favorite times is watching all the kids flock to the stage to empty their coins into the shiny red wagon. They are overjoyed to make their contributions.
The child-heart is a wonderful thing. It is that part of divinity in men and women God is perpetually urging to transcend us backward....to be more like we once were. The child-heart is that golden moment of time where we remember one more time---whether 19 or 91---to revert to that pliable thinking that people matter more than possessions.
Good for us when we feel seven again!
For God so loved the world HE GAVE His only begotten son.
We love BECAUSE GOD FIRST loved us.
God's method is not a plan; but a style....one style....one consistent style....reach.
We are called to fit God's style. The reason this is important is we tend to compensate for failure in this grooming by developing outreach plans. I know. I lived there way too long. I couldn't see it differently. Out of a combination of responsibility and guilt, I made intentional effort to do something that appeared to fit under the umbrella of evangelistic. However....it was a dead effort.
God's style changed my approach. No longer do I evaluate prospects according to my mission plan. I extend my love to them...as God did...with awareness there may be a casual, informal, wonderful response. God's style is making the first move and then waiting on our response. That's to be our same style.
My next door neighbor was Rob. He and his wife visited church. We soon baptized her and they continued to attend. Returning from church one Sunday at noon they had parked their car in the drive and left the garage door up. As I was turning into my drive I took a sharper right and pulled into their garage. I went to the door and Rob answered.
I said, Hey, do we need to get together and talk about this church stuff? I will always remember his response. Soberly he said, Our day will come. I drove off. I later baptized Rob and today he is an elder for a huge church in Dallas.
I didn't have a plan. I had God's style....reach.....in hopes their will be a response. God's method of reaching the world isn't a project. It is a style.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
- Develop a prayer team to meet in one of the classrooms during Sunday morning or Wednesday night class.
- Develop a prayer group to meet in the auditorium for an hour, before Bible class begins, to pray for your day.
- When praying spend more time praising Him and thanking Him than pleading with Him. Tell God you know He is the one running the show and thank Him for His skill and provision.
- Study the "One another" passages in the N.T. We scheduled such a class at Memorial...a one time event...when I first moved here. I announced from the pulpit we would have such class a next Friday night at 10:00 believing only the seriously interested would attend that late. Twelve showed...each explaining they would need to leave by 11:00 or 11:30. I just smiled. No one left until 6:00 a.m. We studied all through the night.
- Learn to anticipate the Holy Spirit living among you; within you. My book on Empowering the Ordinary is one guide to the Holy Spirit's activity among us.
- Break the tradition of church assemblies for the benefit of children. Cancel Wednesday night or Sunday night to offer a party for your children and neighborhood children. Have a County Fair in your parking lot for the neighborhood.
- Ask the song leaders to quit talking and lead. The more a congregation can go from song to song without interruptions the more it seems to have a positive worship affect on the spirit of the church.
- Begin a contagion of discussing informally about God moving among you. Be living testimonies of praising God for the wonderful...even seemingly small....things that happen to you. The more you praise Him it seems the more He gives you to praise Him. He works. Say so wherever you are with any in the body...tell of His greatness and those who hear will be inspired.
- Read books about Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and God working. Randy Harris' new book, God Work, is a place to start. Henri Nouwen's The Wounded Healer is exceptional. Fill your mind with news about Jesus. This will permeate the congregation.
- Refrain from worrying over a brotherhood you know little about. Take care of the menial tasks and daily grind at home. Fill those knitted next to you with love in grace-filled words. We have enough to do on our own plates without wondering and doubting things of churches miles away.
We have work to do...great work. Jesus said THE WORK that was to be done was to believe in him whom God sent. That's our job...believe Jesus. Charts won't encourage. Plans from the business management perspective won't cut it. Jesus does. Jesus will. Believe him.
Monday, December 14, 2009
I was oh so enthused to get to preach. I believed it to be a fascinating venture and still find it so. The nerves? Never do they calm. One would think they would but trying to convey Him between prepositional phrases is fearful to the soul.
I'm convinced of one necessary change in all preaching; we are called to preach Good News and it should be done. The Word is Good News; too good of news to be true. Preachers (like me) have humanized the message to a sin management seminar. Whatever the sin, grace abounds....the Word says. But we want to curb the good news for fear it become too good of news...you know the kind where individuals step up their sin to capitalize on more grace? The Word addresses such in the same text.
To keep from abusing grace the church's tendency is to not believe in it. Enter sin management. Enter mediocre news. Enter boring, dull, sophisticated, formal, rigid church. Enter death to joy.
Watch the Word anew. Watch its grace oriented good news. Watch the woman at the well get off the hook with no follow-up. Note the Prodigal coming home and the church watch-dog on the back porch pouting away the glory of the Father's love. See the victim in the ditch as well as the nameless stranger's second mile benevolence.
When these and other acts of God are absorbed our hearts are filled with concentrated and obvious....too good of news to be true.
So what do we have to preach? We can forgive every sin. We can heal the sinners by forgiving them. We can give repeated offenders; not three times, not four....but 70 x 7. Oh how this fits so well in Bible Hour for the wee ones, but when it comes to adult sin we balk.
We just can't escape the Good News. We must preach it for it is on every page of the New Testament. We aren't the New Testament church if we are preaching the Old Testament law of bad news.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
The size of our work is, therefore, always over our heads. I don't possess a gnat's whisker of influence or management skill. He is the One. He is the One who knows all the ins and outs to the trickiest and stickiest of moments. I increase in cluelessness.
The size of our work and the size of us is quite significant. We must maintain our decomposure. We are nothing unless He enters the scene.
Whether elder or minister or momma, each of us will be in the game....effectively in the game...if we will remember that this all powerful One draws to our humility. We don't have all the answers. We don't even hold the best ideas. We are lucky skunks to wake up finding ourselves involved in the greatest show on earth...the God-walk.
It is by His mercy and grace we get to be a part of this grand fascination. Therefore, be encouraged not to promote yourself to any level beyond gratefully most fortunate. I love being a part of the church. I'm still in awe that He found me. I'm more in awe He lets me hang around the work force I get to be near.
The size of our work is not to be measured by the size of us....but rather by the size of Him.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
We want the gain life part; yet do our best to skip the lose part in order to reach His gain portion. It is not surprising our adjusted efforts don't work out. Stubborn as we tend to be, we still try to force His hand by showing him if we could just have a few more days or dollars, we can make our equation work without having to suffer the threat of His.
His way works. Ours doesn't.
So how do we lose our lives. One way is to do as He desired, care for one another. In caring for another (His way) we lose our lives when we do what we can to see attention is give to another. We lose our lives by bragging on the other staff members, or the other elders, or the other servants, but not ourselves. We live by using our light to shine toward others and their accomplishments; not our own.
When we lose our lives by giving generous applause to everyone in our path, reciprocation in gratitude will begin to return for we build up good people. We believe in people by giving to them compliments and assurances. In turn, our life begins to breathe deeper because we see strugglers beginning to develop into someone new.
Lose your life. Others will come alive. And you will be blessed. Jesus gave his....and we express gratitude for such a move day by day.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Tim, Kim, and their three little ones have lived by the generous support from various individuals and churches over these six years. Due to the economy they have lost combination of approximately $1000 per month in support. When funds weren't abundant originally, a hit like this is significant.
Memorial Drive sponsors this couple. If your congregation would be interested in picking up part of their support through an annual pledge or a one-time contribution, it would be of huge encouragement. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
God knows exactly how to see them through in their work. It could be He will use some of you to be a part of His labor in Guadalajara. I'm appreciative of your consideration.
Thank you for everything you already do to care for the broad range of missionaries serving in the global vineyard of the King.
At Thanksgiving a member at Memorial Drive told her family that she wanted me to do her funeral when the time came. Jane Ferrell, 74, later told a friend about a specific dress she wanted to wear at her own funeral.
Two weeks later Jane was driving to stay with a dear friend who was dying. She intended to spend the night. However, Jane was killed in a freak car wreck on a street near her home.
When the family entered Jane's house to begin funeral preparations they found on her bed a note with funeral details. It makes one wonder, after hearing so many similar stories, how much communication from God's invisible realm takes place among us.
By the way, Jane's dying friend? She passed away the next day. Both funerals will be held on the same day. There's more to our world than what we see.
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
I didn't get the show at first. Really, I didn't like it for I felt it was degrading and mean. But the transformation of these people was addictive to watch. Congrats to local guy, Danny, who won it all! He lost over half of himself! Amazing!
What I like about the program is it serves as a visual for what we do as Christians. We introduce them to Jesus and he helps them discard all the baggage. What happens is the literal metamorphism from caterpillar to butterfly experience. We help old people become new.
We help the tired and the weary find new energy. We train them to be new just as we are new. Living in the kingdom doesn't get old....it gets wild with wonder!
The Biggest Loser regards weight loss. To me? It means moving from lost (loser) to saved (gainer). It was Jesus who said the way to be the biggest gainer is to become the biggest loser.
When that happens.....watch out.....a new you is now on the scene!
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
There's something else we should see. In the eyes of each one might be detected old life; old, haggard, fatigued life. They need a boost; a new start.
Jesus revolutionizes life. We can rock our world with the infusion of Jesus into....people...the everywhere we turn people.
Notice the clerks. They've had a bunch of sassy customer talk again this season. When you turn toward them at 2:37 one afternoon, try to remember they have been standing there since 8:00 and they've heard our rude moans.
We, though, have life. We have something to say to them and those quite weary in line with us. What a day! What a privilege! A lot of people in nursing homes and rehab centers wish they could stand in long lines and pay high prices!
Get a life....and carry it into the community. Don't tell your Sunday school during class about how you know the Bible. The world could care less if you know your Bible. They want to know if you know of anyone who can get them out of this terribly disappointing life.
You do. His name is Jesus. Merry Christmas world! We share him!
Yet, we all know the Word speaks of each member being both sufficient as well as necessary.
So what can anyone do to build up the body of Christ? Catch people around you doing something good and point it out. Say so.
The more we point out the good traits in one another the higher we strive to live. The more we speak of the good life we see in another the more enthusiasm seems to develop. I love Memorial Drive....I'm crazy about 'em. They do so many important things in so many random ways, who could know all of the good we get done? The more we brag on God for working among us...the more He seems to give us to note His glory with, in, through, and among us.
Everybody counts! Everyone is necessary! Everyone!
We can make a difference because we believe in one another. We live near and among the best. Catch everyone doing something right!
Monday, December 07, 2009
Whitey Herzog is one of my favorites of the Cardinal organization. He is one of the funniest men I ever met. More importantly, he was a brilliant baseball manager.
The new Hall of Famer has been good to me over the years. He was my shuttle driver when I tore my knee in camp three years ago. Two years ago he stood in the team meeting on the last day with tobacco juice flowing and said, Hey, I just want to say something. Everybody knows Terry Rush is the worst ballplayer in camp...shoot he's always picked last because no one wants him....but I'll tell you that man can hit the ball....every time I've turned around this week, he's on base.
Should I have applauded or cried? That made me feel sort of good in a bad way. What an honor to be dishonored by someone....so famous?
I finished a new manuscript Saturday. MVP (Why You Are Most Valuable in God's Eyes) is ready for the publisher. One of the very special parts of the book is the endorsement of my good friend...Whitey Herzog....that I now have to change the wording to Hall of Fame, St. Louis Cardinals manager.
Sunday, December 06, 2009
Today? Well, I'll not forget it. He shared with me that I ought to look at Acts 2:38 again....that because we have mistakenly pounded out the forgiveness of sins part, and ignored the Spirit reception part, we are left with a membership which obsesses over sin forgiven without caring whether there is any involvement of God in our walk. We basically want to know one main thing as a person dies...were they forgiven? We care not what they accomplished for him...sin resolve is our beat because that's the part we extract from Acts 2:38.
The message resounded. Our people got it. As we then evaluated the rest of the chapter we could see the awe-ha moments which were a great part of the church because in those days they were filled with the anticipatory Spirit of God where awe and additions were the nature of the church.
The Church of Christ is going to look more like the true church when we preach the full message of Acts 2:38. As long as we ignore the Holy Spirit our only alternative is to squeak by in life hoping we aren't lost at the moment we die.
Saturday, December 05, 2009
My old nature is a worrier, an attempted controller, and then more of a worrier. While I was insufficient at managing much, I tried to manage everything....and everyone. I was lousy at it....but such surely fueled my obsession to worry and try to control.
I've learned from the Jesus style to let go and relax. I talk about this a lot because too many live tied in knots. Things will work out. All will be all right. Operate in terms of decades if you can't do it in months. Let go. Relax. God knows how to do life for us.
We tend to make life too hard. We try to think ahead of both circumstances as well as people. I did for years. It doesn't get us anywhere except to turn our mattresses into racks of torture. When nothing is wrong, we wonder what might be. If someone wants to bless us, we wonder in turn what it is they are up to.
But when I learned to relax I learned to enjoy the life I have right now. I like right now. I'm not to heavy, too short, too poor, nor too busy. I like now. If I think I look bad now....in ten years I'll wish I looked this good....so how about a wow for now!
Yes, there are abundant upsets. Yes, much is disturbing. If you can fix it, get on with it. If you can't, enjoy the enjoyable things. The day may come when the tumor or the stroke or the final breath ends it all. What have you got to show for yourself?
Well....I think thoroughly enjoying God's moment at the moment is good for starters.
Don't make life so hard. Fears don't belong in your vocabulary so quit reciting them. Live big....and live now!
Friday, December 04, 2009
I would think various answers would be acceptable. Here would be my take.
I want to take him to all regions. How do I share? I don't give them a lecture or invite them to church. I want to communicate life....no Life. My hope is they pick up on refreshing news about their walk.
I see God in them; even if they see or feel nothing but failure and decay. I communicate I see possibility and hope in the very center of their existence. All such individuals need to know there is hope of life coming from them. I see, in their feeling of nothingness, something and, in their deadness, life....Romans 4:17.
I see in these the goodness they cannot see in themselves. Jesus is the one who resurrects the dead and my role is to resurrect self-doubters into God-believers. I get the privilege of believing in those who long lost any ability to believe in themselves.
When we take Jesus to the world one of the things we do is implant the concept of potential and possibility when such ears have never encountered such hope words. When I take Jesus to anyone, what I am really doing is introducing them to a new world of wonder which they can count as their very own.
Thursday, December 03, 2009
Over the weekend a single mom found her fourteen year old daughter hanged. The momma discovered her. Trauma set in to say the least. My daughter went out and bought the woman a dress to wear for her daughter's funeral. That's the way she is; that's how she thinks.
But would you guess how Wendy-the-Pooh got such wings? She received them in her own pain. You see the 7th of December will mark 18 years since the murder of her fiance and his brother. Again to say the least, the situation was traumatic as well as devastating. None of us had been so shattered.
The world seemed to bow to the Phillips and Rush families with both generosities and kindnesses. They could not have been of greater help. A few of the young women went shopping and brought by several dresses for Wendy to choose from for the funeral for she couldn't do such for herself. What a remarkable gesture on the part of her friends.
So now 18 years later, when another happens upon ghastly horror, Wendy-the-Pooh knew immediately one thing that could be done. After all, she had received her wings 18 years earlier and remembered God's grace.
Good for you Wendy! You remembered how to do it! I love you today!
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Have you noticed there are more people around nowadays? More than ever before? Have you noticed a correlation with increased population and increased stresses? Have you noticed that surpassing this vast and fast pace is what is known as high- speed Internet? High-speed? Naturally. Everything is bigger, better, faster, and then over-sized super!
Man is about to be swallowed by his own creation. We've gotten out of hand. What shall we do?
We must stick with the Word....not a slogan, not an old-fogey idea. Stay with the Word.
Why? It contains secrets rulers can't know. It contains wisdom of the highest learning...THE highest learning. Romans 12:2....be transformed by the renewing of our minds.
Look, don't be as enamored with small phones which can pull up the Internet as much as the faith of plain person calling up the Spirit of God in prayer. Tech doesn't surpass God.
We are still full of hope. Yes the media has some truthful bad reports. Our God has the best yet to come....His Son! Lean toward Higher Learning!
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
Starting in Genesis and finishing in Revelation God has one clear and consistent message; God works with those who are under overwhelming odds against them.
- Noah with a message that wouldn't hold water.
- Abraham well beyond his prime.
- Moses running from Pharaoh's army.
- Joseph in the pits.
- Elijah against 450 prophets of Baal and a pile of wet wood.
- Jesus in the tomb.
- Stammering Peter opening the first workshop in Acts 2.
- Paul whose knees shook and knocked.
Throughout the Word the odds were stacked against God's people that His sheer glory might be enacted. We prefer to be on top of things. Yet, if we are really going to serve God's land we cannot expect anything the others didn't get. We are called to exemplify the Living Lord on His terms; not ours.
Be very confident and courageous. We are called by the same One who called those of above fame. We get to be in on the greatest shock in the world; God's arousing victory in the midst of assumed defeat. Do not neglect the faith God has given you. Use it to envision victory in the very center of sneering opponents.
Overwhelmed? Ah, right where we should be. It must be up to God to make it work....and we believe He will.
Monday, November 30, 2009
This mistake is probably one sin (see comment on last blog) the church suffers over most and is clueless to its degrading nature. We just accept it as a part of us when it scuttles so much of His intended work among us. Defensiveness keeps the rest of the church tip-toeing around somebody about something....so much of the time.
How do we get over it? Well, I suffered a lot. Why can't we just say the words out loud, I might be wrong. I got it wrong. I'm sorry. Why? Instead we keep good works at bay because brother Vesper will get upset or sister Constance will withhold her contribution. When will we grow up? When will we break these invisible handcuffs which stop good works in their tracks?
It has been grueling to learn to let defensiveness die. I had to admit I didn't control....anything. I had to discontinue my thoughts that I was the drive shaft of the church. I never was. The Spirit is. It never was up to Terry who runs things or Terry who wills things....but up to God who has mercy....Romans 9:16....sorta.
If we can but continue to grow in trusting God more with His work than ourselves we will find ourselves more open to possibility rather than sealed in preservation. (Ah, another good blog!)
Sunday, November 29, 2009
After our group interaction with her throughout our meal, I stepped away from our table to have a private conversation. I introduced myself and told her where our group was from. Then I told her I thought I could tell that she was a very good woman; that I could see God in her. I told her that if ever she hit a point where she needed encouragement just remember our church is one of those places she can count on.
What would you guess her reaction? She leaped to hug my neck. Very purposefully she went on to tell me of some big struggles recently and that she has been looking for a church.
I basically know nothing about her; her life, her schedule, her patterns. But I feel very good that God used me tonight to make contact with one He is reaching. Whether we see her again or she becomes a part of another Christian group elsewhere, it is very fun to have eyes to believe another would be open to God....and find out I was right.
See people. Sow seed. Win as He wills. How fun is that?
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Any of you young men out there in a panic? I'm not in a panic; but I am on appropriate edge.
Be assured, God is working on the sermon from many places besides your head. He's responding to prayers offered for some maybe seven years ago and tomorrow those "prayed overs" will be dropping by your place. Give 'em heaven!
God has been working on your sermon. Brothers and sisters have invited guests and they are hoping against hope we have a message of good news. Oh, how they hope we are known as a place of good news tomorrow morning.
My sermon isn't done yet. I would guess about 55% completed. I have to leave tomorrow morning opened for Him. We've worked this way for years. I've thought and studied and prayed throughout the week. As a result things will occur to me in the morning that I have yet to consider.
Do this with yours; trust God and trust His Word. The church and her visitors are not gathering to see how interesting we are. They want to know if we have any scoop on life for where they have been seems to be burning out. We do have life! Give 'em heaven!
Do your best not to smother the Spirit in your over-preparation as well as your self-preserving control. Those in front of you care less about your outline. They desperately want to run into a preacher who believes with great enthusiasm that this message is directly from God and not from his preparation skills.
Preparing is of utmost importance; so don't misunderstand. If you haven't been listening for His input and interaction....you have put together a sermon one more Sunday....on your own.
Do you know how to give 'em heaven? You get it from heaven. You give it because you get it. Do well tomorrow. People want to know God is alive. Demonstrate it!
I feel sorry for the multitudes who have encountered my passionate religious exercises called Soul Winning. While indeed I had genuine interest in drawing the lost to Jesus, I had a bigger interest in proving I could do what I feared I couldn't; persuade any of His love. The contest wasn't would they believe the man as much as could I sell the plan.
From my perspective (which is surely only one) I would say to most of us, who want to move toward our neighbors, that before we move forward we might want to back off.
I made the process of leading others to Jesus far too messy and unnecessarily difficult. I had proof texts that I used more like sling-shots rather than seed. I had one goal; stand in the baptistery with them. I was not a soul winner at first. I was a trophy hunter.
But due to some miserable failures and a merciful God, I see opportunities differently. I don't have to sell Jesus; I merely want to tell of him. Our role is not so much to take him out there as to lift him up. Lifting him up didn't fit in my five steps; it's only one. One can't be right, can it? Didn't I understand God did everything in fives? Or, was that sevens? Or, twelves?
I encourage you to be even more aggressive in reaching out. This is sorely needed in every community. But I would encourage us to reach out with the patience of sowing seed while possessing the confidence God knows how to draw. If we would back off from our rules and regulations and replace such with our love for relationships, I think we will see a much more encouraging orchard filled with Holy Spirit fruit.
Friday, November 27, 2009
A homeless couple happened upon my office doorstep this afternoon. They have been staying under a bridge for two nights. I would guestimate them to be 25? She was a cutie and he was so handsome.
She had a job at a bar. They were evicted from their apartment for "some stuff that happened". DHS took their two children. Court is set a for a week from Monday. Get the picture? Their lives are a tangled mess.
I was able to give them money for three night's lodging and food. I don't know how they got into this bind. I haven't a clue what poor choices they made to bring this on. My heart wants to fix life for them. The most I could do was have them come into my office, sit, let me look them in the eyes, and listen.
I love this couple. It doesn't matter to me if any or all of this is their fault. I want to help.
What gets me more is this is a picture of community. Much of it is falling apart. I need God to work in me/us bigger.
I prayed to God early this morning to win the whole world. I want to see Him do that Jesus-stuff where thousands are reached. In the kingdom scope of things with so many members blanketing earth, I'm assuming it is happening. God is winning the world.
You are on...the mic is in your face (in this case at your fingertips). Tell us about a work the church or individuals are doing which inspire you and would inspire us.
It does us good to learn of God working. The mic is facing you....and you are on. What do you see?
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
This week is a tribute to one of God's grandest themes: thankfulness. Some among us may not believe anyone is thankful for them. We have opportunity to reverse their spirits. We can make them into new people by our acknowledging they exist....importantly exist.
Do what you can to avoid taking anyone for granted. Look into the eyes of those who feel lowest. State your case as to why you believe in them. Tell them why they are powerful in your eyes. Especially the young will tend to think they are family fringe and don't matter so much to aunts and uncles. Prove differently.
Let your light so shine that it brightens the eyes of another. You are encountering people as if they are human candles. You are the match. Light them up. Watch them glow. When you put one human candle ablaze there is great possibility they will pass it on. What a great way to live...lighting the human candles!
May we continue the contagion of liking right now and liking all of those around us right now!
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Billy Joe was one of those friends who was close in heart whether we got together only once or twice a year. Every time I we would talk on the phone I would ask how he was doing. His response was always the same, Blessed because of the work you do.
This man had my utmost respect. He preached for one of Tulsa's mega-churches and was what I call "the real deal".
I enjoyed every visit. We were constantly working on showing up at events at the same time. Recently he was planning to meet me at the prayer meeting with the Baptist preachers in South Tulsa. A few weeks ago I shot an email regarding another mutual meeting. When he didn't respond, I just assumed he was out of town; possibly out of the states.
We always discussed the Spirit. He was as much a student as am I. The two of us met for a private breakfast just to catch up. We got off onto healing. I was asking him how he saw that working. Eventually, I inquired of him how it would be decided to let a person die as sometime that had to happen. Such is a terribly shallow question I imagine. But in his typical gentleness he thought it was a good point worth weighing.
Billy Joe is quite a story. As a young man he had a vision while at a church near 4th and Sheridan of what ultimately led to the now-famous Victory Christian Center. He wasn't a showboat. He never left a hint of impure motives. The guy was devoted to Jesus in both his speech and actions.
One of the things I liked most about him is that while he was certainly high up in prestige, position, and connections of famous people, Billy Joe always had time to be attentive to our friendship which meant much to my heart.
Billy Joe Daugherty was a believer that God could do more than man imagined or thought. His fruit is testimonious. He was a sensitive leader. He would not be surprised at my sense of loss. He was more than a good friend; he was my brother.
Suffering isn't a part of the vision of many in the church either. Therefore, I encourage you to let such a concept begin to take over more of your heart. Why? Because if you do not love Jesus and his church, you will do as Peter....deny you know him, deny you ever met him, deny you had anything to do with him....and then flee. You'll run away from the church.
What I admire about the present day church is it is built with stones---generation stacked upon generation---which are committed to hangeth in there 'til Jesus wraps up all of life in his grand re-entrance. Just as Paul found he had to separate from his colleague because they didn't agree, neither of them left the church. They found ways to keep serving God while momentarily detached. We may serve down different lanes for the time being, but we must remain committed to the Christ in the most stressful of situations.
Even in the center of hurt feelings, our nature is what? Keep trying. Jesus wouldn't quit. He died in the process only to let the Father turn that moment into the biggest story ever to come out of Jerusalem! Yours is a continuation of his story. You are important. Don't forget that if you have to suffer and struggle over anything in life....let it be something as magnitudinal as loving the body of Christ.
Do you love me?, we asked of one another. Oh yes. And we won't stop.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
For one, when I moved to Tulsa I was pretty rough. I was a brash yeller and pounder of sermons. Since I knew myself to be weak, I compensated with the assumption loud meant power. It didn't and most knew, except me. There remain those who wouldn't walk across the street to hear me preach. If were still like that, I wouldn't go either. I was two things back then; (1) Jesus-less, and (2) loud. Many fled from Memorial and I don't know how those who stayed took it.
In addition I recall a key Preachers' Luncheon that permanently separated me from most. The meetings in those days were very dark in spirit. A heaviness of ego-gathering and divisiveness permeated meeting after meeting. Week after week I watched as the area men rolled their eyes/smirked as Marvin Phillips and Ron Swadley walked in. I always wondered if it was from jealousy. Whatever, I finally had enough.
After being in town for three months I was at one of those meetings. Of course we always went around the room to give our reports and announcements. When it came my turn I stood and said, Guys, I moved to town really looking forward to what I heard would be the Preachers' Luncheons. Where I'm from there were no other Church of Christ preachers. But I have to tell you of my disappointment. You men are the rudest, most hateful and divisive group I have ever been around. I don't like this. I'm amazed that this goes on.....and took my seat.
One by one they stood in direct and obstinate rebuke. I gave it and I would take it. They scalded. I'll never forget their serial venom. Finally, an older one named Lee Peters stood and said, Men, we might ought to fess up. We had it out against Terry or whoever moved to Memorial because we don't like the attitude coming out of Memorial (whatever that meant). He's picking up on what we all know is true. He probably has pointed out something necessary. We most likely need to hear what he has had the courage to tell us.
Next, a younger preacher named Jim from Bixby stood and said, Men, until Terry got here I was the newest in the area. I want to tell you that what he just told you is how I have felt all this time. He just told you the truth. I think the meeting sorta ended as I seemed to have lost consciousness or something. From that moment it wasn't good with me and area churches. I probably shouldn't have said it that way. I'm certain I could have said it better....but I still feel that way about those days, said better or not.
And then another thing I think makes me a lightening rod is my teaching that the Holy Spirit operates directly in the Christian's life. This one surprises me more. It is simply in the Word and while that same Word says there is no law against His fruit, I find there is in the Church of Christ...that true church that supposedly takes its stand on where the Bible speaks.
I'm not proud of the first round of upset at the Preachers' Luncheon. I could have been more patient. But this one about the Holy Spirit is going to have to stay. How can we read the New Testament and conclude the Spirit of God does not work among us directly? The words say so.
Finally, this leads me to a great appreciation for the area preachers. It is surely a new crop of Spirit-minded men. From Danny Sidders in Bixby to Elliott Dunn in Sand Springs to Tim Luster at North Sheridan and over to John and Dan at Open Door on out to Tim Pyles at Broken Arrow....what a classy bunch. Judge and Bob and Ron and Tracy and Charlie and Warren are probably the basic old guys like me as far as tenure.....yet we feel renewed in our partnership day by day. But when you add these young pups including Mitch and Greg and Joel and others, it is so encouraging.
I wish I had done several things better. Who doesn't? Some of my blunders will always haunt me. I'll necessarily carry that burden. But I remain electrified at the caliber of young men filling area pulpits in addition to the spirit of us older men who keep hanging in there with attitudes to grow toward one another. Opposition is clearly not a part of the area preachers any longer. Thank you, God, for your patience.
Friday, November 20, 2009
A lot is said about doing God's will. I'm in. I love seeing His will performed. But something I see as a real challenge to the church is the question of will God. Will God keep His promises? Will God provide what we can't imagine? Will God work in ways we cannot program? Will God supply as He vows?
Yes, yes, yes, and yes.
At the end of the day it really isn't a matter of church money in the bank, but faith account in the hearts. Faith will make the church hum, not books in the black. Faith will see the glory in darkness, not flashing lights of show. Faith will unveil surprise in the midst of unforeseen blessings. Faith will launch the meagerest of hearts to see the grandest victories.....because God will show up.
We talk kingdom. We debate truth. We argue right versus wrong. But a question very needed among us is do we really expect---really believe---God will work marvels beyond our programming? I do. I think many do.
But I also think many in leadership capacity hold their god at the furthest distance their own arms can reach. A passage that is really important to the one yielding to the Spirit operation is Romans 9:16....it isn't up to man who wills or to man who runs, but up to God....
I met with Tim Pyles yesterday; the new preacher at Broken Arrow. It was my first occasion to have a lengthy conversation. I'm highly impressed. We are already great friends. What I like about him most is he hit that point in ministry (and we each have to hit it somewhere) where he could not pull it off....ministry...any longer on his own steam. God broke him of his own confidence and now he possesses God's....II Cor. 3:4-5. The work had never been up to Tim...he had misunderstood.
One of the things that would rock every congregation is to believe two things wholeheartedly; (1) we must know the will of God, and (2) we must be absolutely unequivocally sure God will work.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
I've been thinking about God....wondering what He's up to with me. I am at a temporary point where I feel uneasy. Surely you've been there where you are disappointed in people or situations. Anger isn't in the picture, but uncertainty is.
And then I remember something He taught me a long time ago. Once again I'm pressed to recollect His astute truth. God is quick on His feet....and I prove not to be.
The Spirit inspired the apostle to write, That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong... II Cor. 12:10.
I and many around me are not being persecuted; nothing of the kind. But the weaknesses, insults, hardships, and difficulties ring a bell. Kingdom work is hard work. It's like no other. Paul wrote in the verse just ahead of this that therefore I boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.
The church doesn't have an authority problem or a truth problem as much as it has a believing problem. Can we take His word at face value? Or, shall we run to one of our "solid in the faith" slogans while ignoring a very magnitudinal call to boast gladly when we don't have a clue how to handle kingdom matters?
This truth always brings me back. Where I waver and wonder if I can make it over this hurdle or through this next hoop, God reminds me to salute His brilliance of working so very backward to fleshly organization and evaluation.
Being bruised, being crushed, being unsure? All these rigors simply thrust each of us into that wonderful Land of Ahs.....ah, God is doing it again. We are powerful...the Word declares....because we are so weak that often we don't know if we can do another day...another meeting....of church stuff. And yes......we can for His power is draped upon us as a robed champion because of the very thing we didn't want to possess.....weakness.
Good for God. Good for us.
One of my biggest dreams is freedom. As the African-Americans hold a special understanding of slavery that Caucasians can only read about historically, I sense and experience similar slavery in the church. Something unbiblical came along and was swept into our camp as a Trojan horse. Before we knew it we had been sold out as slaves to carry an unnecessary weight throughout our days. Shame on any of us who dare call it a golden calf.
Yet, it is. I speak of the Restoration Movement. Before our early American church fathers broke camp a non-Bible word was connected to us that buries its people: restoration. Restoration insinuates that putting our hands to the Bible plow and looking back is right; something evidently Jesus didn't understand.
The fruit of this movement is a growing quagmire of hardened hearts who cannot stand the genuine call of the New Testament...grow in the Spirit of Christ. Restore is the motto. Explore is taboo. Exploration has been stymied because we have reverted to digging up the past of the church instead of the future fascination of God.
We continue to hear it said by the restorationists that we must take our stand. Such a stand implies in harmony, never out of step, and always cooperative with everyone who holds such faith. Hardly a picture of Jesus. Controversy is assumed satanic when, in reality, it is promoted by Jesus as necessary to hold to the true pattern of Holy Script.
I encourage you to develop a love for your enemies which would match that of Jesus' for you. And then I would encourage you to take your stand and break free from the quagmire that is choking off hope from a very needy culture; that of restoring a hand full of sacred calves with just a smidgen of spirituality mixed in.
I don't like being in trouble. I am insecure enough that everyone liking me is a big deal. But I must say our God surely has bigger fish to fry than that of calling all people to look back in any other direction than the cross. When we catch a vision of the cross....we will explore with great freedom those regions of the soul...theirs, ours, and mine.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
I speak of ministering to the poor among us. Several churches, St. Louis, Memphis, Dallas, Ft. Worth, Oklahoma City, Denver, Tulsa, (on and on the list goes), have been deeply involved in inner city ministries. Orphans, addicts, abandoned, and deserted are blessed because of a plethora of devoted workers already in these trenches. In addition nearly every congregation has pledged some effort through benevolent works for decades.
But I see the storm coming where the need is rapidly increasing. Reaching into the communities through this opportunity has the look, as well as the demand, of our bus ministry days. The community wants us! It really needs us. If it thinks it doesn't....it will. Wonderfully....this is what we have needed.
The bus ministry was a mighty tool. I believe it impacted all three of my kids as much as anything in the church as far as leading them to develop hearts for people. God is back with a new work. Get ready church.
We will need to work wisely. The need is so great that if we don't prepare our people for this storm they are likely to be swept out to sea in bitterness and frustration. The demands will be big. We must work with our people to get ready that they not suffocate in irritation for the tides will tempt to overpower. This work will insist we trust God to hold the workers together by His mercy; not our running or our will....Romans 9:16.
When this storm hits land, cries for food, pleas for housing, and calls for clothing will escalate beyond anything we America has seen maybe since the Great Depression. Signs of such already pose challenges. The church is faced with one of its greatest moments of our time.....encountering humans on the streets of poverty as did Jesus. It will be one of our finest hours....if we help us get there.
I'm not preaching doom and gloom. I'm communicating we are already seeing signs...constant signs that can no longer be ignored. Communities are decaying.
We cannot face such flood gates without preparing church hearts for company. In a positive way this surge will break the backs of our whining intra-church criticisms. It will thrust all of us into a pool of such overwhelming capacity we will be forced to need each other. With religious terrorists on one side and poverty on the other, we are going to find ourselves very blessed as God will squeeze the selfishness of our four-wall pride out of us. We will be plunged into the ocean of devastation while our eyes will be opened to two things: the wonder of God...and of each other.
Unity is coming. Need is going to sweep through our villages. Jesus....the name of Jesus is going to be the code word. Get ready church. Bus ministry days are back. This is a strong storm brewing. I believe unity among believers will filter in....for we are really going to need each other.
When I first hit ministry my days and evenings were cataloged. One night for visitation, another for church, another for committee meetings, another for evangelism, and then there was Friday family night. I followed instructions and maintained a faithfulness to my calendar.
It wasn't long 'til my assumed approach to successful ministry became buried in the quicksand of conflict. Life didn't seem to align with my predicted schedule. Adjustments had to be implemented.
First, I relaxed. This was new. I gradually learned to lean on God's provision rather than my synchronized schedule. My major adjustment came when I made every night family night. Instead of Tuesday night being evangelism night I went with my family to the kids ball games...and guess what? We began to see the friends I made at the games begin to become a part of our congregation. Who knew it would work this way? And....it was family night on the wrong night!?!
It became clear that wherever my kids were, there were people who needed encouragement and ministry became an entirely new animal. It transcended from either-or to God is involved in life abundant.
I shed the robes of being the church's little governor where I tried to show up at every birthday party or hospital room of every member. I couldn't get there....but the church could and I learned to do as Jesus exemplifies.....be present in the spirit of another without physically being on site. This is key.
Right now I am present in Florida, Utah, New Mexico...anywhere you want to name because I am connected directly to the Spirit of Christ. So are you.
I'm not lazy. If you are looking for an excuse to be lazy you don't bother reading this anyway. What I am is excited at the impossible and amazing work God does in, through, and with us while we try to figure out how to do His work.
My recommendation is to ease up. You'll like your work longer and I think you'll see more of God in your work if you'll back off and enjoy Him a bit.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
If you go to the above website and click on "The Gleam of Life" sermon, I think you might be encouraged.
I love to watch for signals from Him as to how we can find yet another reason to hope. The quote at the end of the sermon is the one from Dr. Larry Crabb which is at the right of all posts on this page.
Preachers, we have much good news to share. Keep looking at the Word. Keep digging. Keep waiting on Him. Catch the gleam in His eye that you are amazing!
Have a really good week!
What I didn't know is the cowering had already been done. The true church had been sold off at debate auction to the loudest bidders. Our claim to fame was we possessed the distinction of the one true New Testament church. The problem is we weren't exactly such. We were a mixture of Jewish-minded traditionalism, a version of the Lord's Supper, and semi-biblical worship services.
Certain texts had been set aside. Others had been ignored; i.e. the warning of holding to form rather than power. The Church of Christ is now known in many places for being all about form without power. Preaching of Jesus and him crucified had already been replaced by preaching the distinctive marks of the true church. Church of Christ was preached. And finally, the New Testament Holy Spirit had already been retired since including Him messed with our patented and now answerable doctrines.
True church? There is one. The one Jesus was and is building. I am taking my stand. I want in on that one. I don't want to be a part of the one I once was where wounded souls now litter our communities because they ran into the "true church" (us) and were mutilated by our harsh pronouncements of which we knew very little about.
You'll likely catch me slipping back into the Restoration Church of Christ on occasion, but I really want to be a part of the biblical one; that one where division and suspicion do not rule, but hunger for God does. I want to be a part of that one where I find myself really worshipping God rather than applauding ourselves for how good acapella sounds. I want to be a part of that church where every one counts, where the Word is still acknowledged but our pride in having stored up nearly all that can be known about God is not our trait.
I want to be a part of that distinctive church Christ is building where hope and joy and life abundant flow uncontrollably out of our mouths and into the streets where both the rich and the poor cross paths. That's where I want to stand.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Why? Oh, it just had to much whiny-ism in it. It doesn't matter....I cut it out.
Years ago I preached a constant barrage of brotherhood issues. It kept the church stirred. It kept me stirred. What I found out was I was tickling the ears of some strong-willed members I wanted to please. I was feathering my nest so-to-speak.
But it wasn't right. What I wrote an hour ago may have been acceptable; but it just wasn't right. It was too much back in that defensive mode of which I made a break years ago.
So write this post to say, Do what you can to break the bonds of impressing others. Just do away with it. God has much to say about Him. Preach about Him. Fill churches with the fresh news of the freshest news in the land. Nothing about the experiential God is boring nor uninteresting.
Fill the world with word about Him. May we tell what He's doing, where He's been, and where He's going. Plain people still want to know. They don't want to know about our pet peeves or our sour grapes. They want to know when and where the Jesus-stuff is going on.
I'm one who wants it to be going on where I preach. How about you?
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Early this morning Jason Thornton performed a wedding in the chapel at St. John's hospital. It was the first to be performed there. Scott Wallace and Kylah Ottinger were baptized three weeks ago, had a child Friday, and were married this morning. God really is putting their lives together.
Later in the morning Connie and Shawn were baptized. This is the couple that managed the Cove Apartments when back in the summer our small group had an ice cream social for the Cove's tenants. Who would have guessed a dish of ice cream would result in a family being added to the church? Well.....we would....we did.
Too, one of our Memorial families fell apart this afternoon due to sin. Why would I mention such a matter when the report was going so well? I write this because Memorial Drive doesn't live a Story Book life. We live a real life and both of these matters fit into the composite of what the church is like and who we are.
The latter couple will have some high hurdles. I'm believing they are at the right place at the right time. Too, they will now realize one more time what it means to be able to start life over.
Baptisms, marriages, and painful bruises; that's what our congregation is about. Perfect? No way. Placed in a perfect position to rest upon His finished works...absolutely. We have had a blessed day. We saw God emerge into our paths from all sorts of angles. We are much because He is everything!
Saturday, November 14, 2009
By communication, I don't mean information transfer. I mean understanding each others' hearts. Memorial's elders/staff meetings are every Monday morning from 6:30 to 8:00. We have no minutes; old or new. We get together and just talk. Always we work on a few important matters to go over. But the bulk of the time is spent laughing at one of us--usually Ron or me--mixed with sharing stuff that concerns our hearts.
What I'm trying to describe is a secret to an elder/staff relationship I've never experienced nor heard of anyone else experiencing. We communicate heart to heart....not head to head...detail to detail...dot to dot. We have learned to appreciate where the other is coming from.
This has helped me immensely to relate to our part-time staff as well as our members. I've learned over the years what I knew academically but not practically; people vary in thoughts and needs and each variance is terribly important to the kingdom fabric.
I've calmed down. Agitation lessens for while I may not agree, I can understand where opposing views are coming from. The harmony isn't in agreeing on every detail. It is on grasping a truth that those who disagree often have good reason.
When we communicate with understanding---a deep-seated wanting to know why the other thinks the way he or she does---unity is much easier because we really desire to work with all involved. I believe much of the bitterness and hatred in church circles are perpetuated by rumor and assumption....but not by understanding for we rarely listen. We conclude without knowing the person with whom we have the debate.
Communication helps. When we get why some personalities take differing views and then speak to one another repeatedly in conversation as friends, God's work finally has a better chance of leaving the meeting rooms and impacting the streets.
Friday, November 13, 2009
Our world gets rocked with steady upset and discouragement. What do we do about it? How do we hang in there?
First, we admit every one's concerns are legit as each is doing his or her best to seek what's best for the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Any of us might be selfish, but certainly that is not our intent. And if we catch ourselves behaving that way, we are overall willing to back down.
Second, how we hang in there is we simply recall the empty tomb. Our God is the God of many things but I know of none more fascinating than being the Lord of possibilities. Our problems are not that challenges face us. Our basic struggle is that we forget He is both the provider and the protector when we feel absolutely clueless.
Now clueless I get! I know of no one in the kingdom more clueless....and that isn't a false humility statement. Show God your weakest link and He'll show you His mighty muscle. We can breathe easy and at the same time help others breathe easy because God will show us possibility.
How do we hang in there? Together. I hold on to you. You hold on to me. While we may be clueless...at least it will be together. Now this we can live with.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
The presence of people fascinates me. I mean it. How did I get to be so fortunate to be a man instead of a locust? I revere the most splendid creations...people. I want to just look at you. Let me rephrase....I do sit and look at you.
While some eyes are struck by the beauty of an ocean kissing the sky blue yonder, other ears are satisfied with the strong voice which says, It's a girl. Grills give off summer scent. And, touch becomes so sensational in the simplest of hugs. Senses...how powerful they are. How easily they are taken for granted. Not so with me.
Nothing exhilarates like people. How do we drink in such wonder? God is right....the Spirit flows as a river and when He indwells people....then we sit beside the perfect stream...you and me in the togetherness of the moment. Moments matter.
I often say I am the luckiest man I ever met. Too many years passed by before I could genuinely make such a claim. But what's weird for me now is the older I get the more I seem to thirst for the finer things in life.....really good people.
People....what would I do without 'em? I'd be disappointed for sure.
We have much to do.
But I ask you a question while we each, to our faith credit, seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness. I ask you if you have been praying for your enemies?
Enemies are in our personal world. We must pray for them. Someone must. And we cannot be the cynic who prays for their demise. Have you prayed for the Major who gunned down the soldiers at Ft. Hood? I prayed for him this morning.
I pray that God would not hold one thing against him; not one dot of sin. I pray that this man would, in some unfathomable way to my small mind, find the peace of Christ and stand at the Judgment Day in linen white.
While we seek missions on a grand scale, I do not know of a more needed shift in the church heart than to see the enemy, pray for the enemy, and thank God for not holding their sins against them.
Radical? Oh, yes. One only finds this source of foolishness promoted from one small hill in ancient of days where a beaten man was publicly draped....yet continually uttering instructions about how to treat an enemy.....it was......coming from the Savior on the cross.
I think we have work to do.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
I read a piece recently; whether fact or fiction, who would know? A presentation of terrorism was explicit. Ruin is forecast for those who are left behind. The warning was the next attack on America will be far more severe than 9/11.
The article caused me to wonder about us; especially our possibility and responsibility as we would operate actually on earth but perched from our citizenship's native land of heaven. What would we/should we/could we do? What if banks closed, highways became impassable, communication systems melt, and food and water supplies were disrupted?
Likely what might happen is man would turn on man in the name of survival. It is here we would want to train our people to lose our lives by caring for all others first. In that move, Jesus promises we would find the very life we surrendered.
What form would it take? How would it look? We won't really know until the actual event. But I do believe it valuable to know that if the world falls down....Christians will have a great option. We will not join the herd in panic; but will be a stable force of peace and hope.
Courage instead of fear. Compassion rather than self-serving. Love over fright. Calm over dread. His people will become even more needed as lighthouses to show the clear path to hope.
All of these things have been written assuming the world would fall down. Do you realize it already did and everything written above is the approach we are to take....now.
It isn't "if". It "is". We are on duty....now. We can do this.
(Reading Cary's "here" comment right now.)
Are you back? All right. Here's something interesting about his referencing the multiples who respond each Sunday at the conclusion of the sermon. It is a fascinating thing to see. I don't take it for granted. If one responds for prayer it seems two to ten people will be down front joining them; sitting beside them in support.
How this got started was over twenty years ago our teens came back from camp. Immediately if one came forward at an invitation song, the whole group would move to the front as well. Crowded on the front pew and packed nearby on the floor, teens supported teens...and it was moving sight to behold.
But a large group of older folks didn't like it one bit. They called for a meeting and before the meeting was over they tried to have me fired over this. Their claim was this wasn't decent and in order.
I had no idea of Cary's blessing from such a scene. But I will join him in saying there is everything decent and orderly about it. It is called compassionate understanding and caring about others. That youth group now finds itself sprinkled about the nation carrying out decent and orderly works for the cause of Christ from their 35 to 40 year old bodies.
You can see why Cary's note blessed me more than he could have guessed for he had no clue about how we got to the point he would be so enriched.
For you? Don't quit during the hard stuff. I'm sure there are those who were pretty upset that evening about 20 years ago that don't feel like that now. Sometimes our reactions are just that...reactions. The good news is we grow up, don't we?
It just takes time for God to help us along...don't you think? Thank you Cary for pointing out another thing that goes right around this place.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Jeff Buckman loved the concept. He had entrance and exit signs made for the parking lot, "A Place to Start Life Over". Today Jeff, as a young man, resides in heaven alongside David who visited us one Sunday....and eventually started life over. Both were good friends, died at young ages, and continue to impact this marvelous place.
Richard hadn't been to church in 20 years. At an invitation by his brother, he came to visit us. When he saw the phrase on the large exterior rug at the entrance, he wondered if it could be for him.....and it was.
Gail was headed to church....a different one. She pulled into the wrong parking lot and saw the canopy that reads "A Place to Start Life Over". She stayed and did.
Two months ago Scott and Kylah saw that same slogan on our lawn sign. So they came in...and did. We baptized them two weeks ago.
This phrase sticks. For years now it has signaled we are among a people who can start all over. That is the message of Jesus to the entire world...rebirth now!
For all who could use the phrase in your community, take it and run with it. Everyone we encounter has those battlefield moments where they wish for anything they could start life again. This is what Jesus is about. Nicodemus heard it first...and we pass the baton.
We are a people and a place of second chances x 70.
Monday, November 09, 2009
Next, I was talking with my daughter, Wendy, today. Their congregation in North Atlanta has issued to every member (due to a generous donor) thousands of dollars to give away to the poor. Wendy and husband Chris and kids Hayden (6) and Campbell (4) have been studying various ways to share their assigned funds.
Initially, it has been a fun thing. As they find needs; a homeless family in Hayden's school, the hungry along the street, Wendy said the need is so staggering they feel they can't make any difference.
Isn't that how many of us feel about our portion of the kingdom work? Don't some feel overwhelmed regarding families without food while others grieve over children without homes? Still others try to think of how to spread good cheer while I, personally, strain to help everyone I can believe that they are valuable...and good enough to be saved.
Ours is a very challenging life....really. There isn't a need one can find but what further research will leave all completely overwhelmed by the size of monstrous need.
Enter Jesus. Remind us of that fish and loaves ordeal? How did that one go? He took too little and fed too many with too much? Is that how that went?
Yes and such is precisely what we need to remember. I don't know of a servant of Christ who does not appropriately and faithfully live in humility (humiliation) of feeling completely undone and overwhelmed by his or her assignment/calling. Such insists, therefore, that Jesus will have to do the grunt work of and for the body. He will be the provider. He will be the fruit-bearer.
Our job? To believe the impossible. May we count how little we have....and then turn it all over to him. Watch him make the difference.