Thursday, April 30, 2009
Over the years I been proven to be my own enemy. I've tried controlling others. That doesn't work. I've tried manipulation. No good. I've tried manipulation through pouting. No good either.
Jesus has trained me over the years to be assertive with ease. Those two words didn't fit into one sentence in my earlier years. I've learned to let stuff go. What people say. What I say. What happens that doesn't go my way. Let-it-go. Life will be all right. God makes it so.
Sometimes it seems like someone raised the hurdles. At times I don't clear them. I fall down and skin my emotions. Both the event and I will be all right. God makes it so.
I once would kill off life in a project or a process by rectifying and re-rectifying and re-re-rectifying efforts. I learned to turn it over to Him. He's the expert at soul laundry while my efforts look like self-shout-it-out.
God makes life work. Assertive? Aggressive? I love the privilege of both. But the outcome isn't up to me. It is up to God. So I can back up and take a huge run toward the hurdle. Whether successfully sailing or fretfully falling....God makes everything work out for good because I love God and am called for His purpose.
I like life a lot better when I quit being my own backseat driver. Second guessing self is selfish. Try with all the might in which we love God. He gets the work done....in amazing ways!
You all know I have been relishing the idea of receiving my honorary doctorate. Mom would be so proud. However, Darryl Tippens informed me he is out of town...London. You can guess what this means. No need for me to dress up big for my surprise doctorate as the Presentor is absent. Bad break #1.
And.....you know how it is when you are asked to speak at a prestigious event. First, you are elated and brag about it to friends, family, and may even stop by a local bus stop to inform those waiting. Next though, dreaded fear rushes through as you wonder.......who is speaking opposite you at the same time? Walling? Atchley? Lucado?
Well, I have the ultimate opponent facing me. It's worse than Harris. I speak at 9:00 at night. My opponent? Pie and coffee. At the conclusion of Tuesday and Wednesday evening keynotes, Jerry Rushford will step up to the mic and say these words; Folks, haven't we had a wonderful evening? The good news it isn't over yet. You are in California you know. We'll take 30 minutes and then you have a choice of ZOE's best with Mike Cope, Jeff Walling's drama guild, Randy Harris' slide show of family vacations when he was in grade school, Max Lucado signing personalized books, pie and coffee...and, oh yeah, Terry Rush will be speaking to three of you. Would you raise your hands---three of you---if you'd be willing to go hear Terry?
Bad break #2.
Somebody's got to do it. So hey, bring by an old book written by anyone...or even a magazine you like. I'll sign it. Better yet, I'll autograph your pie.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
I remember a teacher once asking me, "Don't you know anything?" and I said I don't even suspect anything.
When you see a fork in the road, take it.
When asked at the beginning of Spring Training what size cap he wore: I don't know. I'm not in shape yet.
When honored before the game at Sportman's Park in 1947 he was so nervous he said, I thank everyone for making this night necessary.
Public Speaking is one of the best things I hate.
Carm's been a great wife and we have a great time together, even when we're not.
I always get up at 6:00 a.m. no matter what time it is.
I have little patience with people who are late. I'm always early for everywhere I have to be.
When moved from catcher to left field, the shadows would begin to creep over the edge of Yankee Stadium. It gets late early out here.
I guess I've always been serious about money. Maybe because it was hard to get, and it's never worth what it once was.
I turn out the light in a room right after I leave.
If I had to do it all over again, I'd do it all again.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Guys like me tend to parrot them; but these and others of their caliber don't look for the pattern to follow. They look for the gift of God within and begin to lead. This doesn't mean we can't copy things that work. It does inspire me to want to pray for and reach toward areas of God's work within me that may have not been considered to this date....by anyone in history.
I don't believe 1% of God's talent and ability within man has been struck. Therefore, we are free to dream and imagine what can be. The kingdom, if nothing else, is the purest land of opportunity. Good for you in the good things you are getting done. While you are doing well, I encourage you to weigh what might yet be done for the blessings of man which has yet to be discovered.
Monday, April 27, 2009
Uh, I'm not sure but I may have arrived. You see I received a very special award from Jerry Rushford at last year's Pepperdine Lectures. Being me, I told my 10:00 a.m. class on Friday that I had to leave immediately after class to receive my Honorary PhD from Jerry at the 11:00 o'clock hour. (I knew I was only to have the opening prayer but.....well maybe I embellished it a bit?)
When I got the the 11:00 keynote Jerry presented me with such an honoring award. Upon receiving it in shock, I told the entire audience (laughing of course) that I thought I was receiving my Honorary PhD. Darryl Tippens commented immediately following my comments that if I wanted such an honorary degree I was to see him; not Jerry Rushford, that Rushford only directed the lectures.
Well...THIS WEEK...I received a letter from Pepperdine. The envelope is addressed to "Dr. Terry Rush".
I take this as an omen. Although the contents of the letter don't need to be discussed here (okay, it had my housing assignment), I must say I believe I am in for some sort of surprise honor next week. I want all of my friends (both of you) to hang around because I feel certain Jerry Rushford or Darryl Tippens has something special they want to present me.
Now I'm trying to decide what to wear, where to sit, and whether to have a press conference afterward.
Now I've been around part of the block. I knew by her wrinkling nose and insincere talk that she was playing a trick on me. I was fairly certain it wasn't poison. But, hey, I'm a grandpa and why not make this cutie's day? Right? Wrong. Bad move.
Emily sprayed and sprayed. Oh! It was so terribly bitter! And she died laughing. I'm always good for causing people to laugh. But I could not get that bitter taste to go away. As it came closer to preach I realized I had made a very bad calculation.
So? I'm friends now with Emily Hughes. I made her day...or part of it anyway. But the next time a kid comes up with some miracle spray, I am pretty sure I'll pass.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Families encounter a great deal of stress these days. There is a simple solution to many of the problems; three words really.....I am wrong. Those are a tough three words for some. Impossible for others.
When one can't admit as to being wrong, a hazardous trail develops. Relationships fray. Misunderstanding escalates. And homes disintegrate.....all because one in the herd could not say the words I am wrong.
Blame then becomes the next unhealthy route. Then it will always be someone else's fault due to what someone else did/said/didn't do/didn't say. Anything will do as long as one doesn't have to say the dreaded three-worded sentence.
A lot of families would heal if grown men and women could begin to repeat the phrases like I am wrong and I am sorry. The trouble with this thought is when any reading this can see how effective this would be if the "other" would just say those words.
Roman 2:1-5 won't let any of us escape. When at odds with another self-judgment is the best place to start. For several years in the church I felt others were to blame for our ills. I was half right. They were.....but so was I. Strange. It hadn't occurred to me I might also be a part of the problem. I was a great blamer. I was an equal pouter.
But I was found being as weak and as mistaken as I thought others were. I began to notice the glory of God right where I was planted when I began to be appreciative for His mercy toward me in my incredible weaknesses.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
By the time Jesus steps up to deliver his inaugural address at the Mount he immediately begins with seeming defiance to man's muscle and mind. Blessed are the poor in spirit....wait a minute! We gathered to hear how we are going to make it. We don't need some young squirt speaking in riddles. We want answers, man....give us answers.
And he proceeded to speak promoting mourn-ism and the value of persecutions. Some kind of nut? Or, some of that "higher thinking" Isaiah prophesied?
We've read the book and we win. We see his points. They baffle; yet we do our best to line up with him. So we would not think it odd, huh, to realize that to have our spirits truly lifted up we would need to confess how far we have sunk. Only God could make that scheme work....for good.
I spoke at a seminar in Arkansas this weekend. It left me sad and glad. Sad that I am not any further down the road in maturity than I am. Glad God works among us anyway. We will do progressively well when we can grow in realizing he (as a human) had it figured when he said, Apart from the Father I can do nothing.
To really lift the spirit of man one will consistently find the creativity of God and not the intellect of man is what works for both.
Friday, April 24, 2009
What lies we live beneath. What suffocating, ruinous, injurious lies.
Yesterday was Mary Watkins' funeral. This 53 year old indeed lived a life or rebellion. She spent maybe a third of her life in prison. Her addiction to drugs and alcohol followed her to her grave. Yet, a year ago she reached the end of her own rebellious rope. She was baptized into Jesus as a pre-cemetery arrangement....dying to Christ before she died in the flesh.
Mary let her family know of her baptism looking for some signal of acceptance. Yes, she had fought them and hurt them severely over the decades. She got no response. There was no more room for her love. She had burnt all of the bridges......so she assumed. They didn't care anymore...she thought.
Yesterday I stood in the family cemetery. Mary's grave is up against where her dad will be buried...right beside him....along with her deceased mother and brother. If Mary could only have known they loved her enough to bring her home to be beside them, it would have been one of her few heart-warming thrills. But the family couldn't say to her they cared. They did. They showed it....after the fact.
How about you? Who in your life has hatred blinded you to the truth that you really do possess a love for your assumed enemy? Words of acceptance may not rectify damage uncontrol, but they surely may be just enough of a hint that souls could begin to heal. We must be careful to speak words of life....even to those who betray us....for in those words we may find we have personally created a new person we had no idea existed.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
While I don't relish the pain men and women encounter, I very much like such days. Yes, I suffer fatigue. Fatigue over schedules is maybe 10% of the load those with whom I met are carrying. Mine is the easy job.
What I treasure about yesterday is Memorial Drive is obviously such an authentic Place to Start Life Over that we actually draw people who.....need to start life over. The immediate innuendo to such a truth is "sticky wickets". One of our older members encountered a friend who attends another church in Tulsa. The friend said, "You know, Memorial Drive is nothing but a church for refugees" meaning to take a dig at our member....and us.
What a compliment to us. Yes, we are a refugee church. As far as I know each one of us is worthy of rejection....not only by God but by each other. Yet, we aren't rejected. We may have to sand and polish from time to time; but every person is valued highly.
For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think....Romans 12:3.
Ministry is sheer joy. Our job is not to think highly of self. Our responsibility is to think more highly of others for we all rejects starting life over in Jesus....the Life-Giver.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
I focus on this blog. It is important to me to keep it current. With it, email, phones (office, home, and cell) I'm in touch sufficiently, don't I think? Yes, I think.
GOLF: Wayne Conway passed by my table Monday evening at El Chico; the Honduras fundraiser. He put two cartons of new golf balls in front of me. We both love golf. I was stunned to receive so many new balls....and they were just placed in front of me (as Casey Jones said when little) with no asking. As I opened one sleeve I saw Wayne's genius. He had ordered an imprint to be placed on each ball;
A Place to Start Life Over
Church of Christ
What's the intent? Golfers like us are always losing golf balls due to errant shots. So Wayne has devised a "Lost Golf Ball" ministry which advertises the church to those who find our stray shots. 100% Natural Evangelism at work again!
BASEBALL: I pray for Rick Ankiel of the Cardinals; I have for years. During last night's game he did poorly his first two at bats. When he came up the third time I began praying for him as he has really struggled early this season. He got a hit, then another, and the third time up he got a hit driving in the go-ahead run against the Mets only to later score. I emailed him this morning that he remains in our prayers....and that we did well in last night's contest.
MANUSCRIPT: I've been working on a new manuscript for four years. It isn't an easy process, but it sure is fun. I have a professional writer/friend assigned to rigorously edit the manuscript from cover to cover. She has to be pretty frank; like in this morning's note that the first 2/3s are stellar and the last 1/3 is unacceptably weak. Now I have work to do...again.
And I encourage you that 2/3s of your ministry may be strong yet 1/3 not so good. Don't sweat it and don't resist it. Learn from it. Grow from it. Correction is for the ones intending to get better at the jobs God gives us.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
It isn't unusual to note physical abnormalities strike and we are clueless as to what and why. Then why is it that when we ail spiritually we so easily and quickly self-diagnose? Ah, it's the last preacher we had. Well, if the church members weren't so hypocritical. I will never go near organized religion again as it is a scam. On and on the diatribe rails against the church in explanation or excuse as to what it is suffices as reason to skip God.
But I hurt for such ones. I know their accusations against us can be accurate. But their excuses are terribly flawed for that isn't the real reason they are detached from God's community. Oswald Chambers wrote, many have lost---not their faith in God (I never met anyone who lost his faith in God)---but their belief in their beliefs, and for a while they think they lost their faith in God.
Some feel sure they don't know what they think about God when it is quite possible they have lost faith in their belief system. God isn't needing abandoned. That answers nothing. Weak belief systems should be swept away and new lines of orderly faith brought into perspective.
This just might bring a fire back into some very dimly lit hearts. How about yours? I am rooting for you.
- My confidence in God
- My confidence in people
God actually does the many things we talk about Him doing. I've learned to wait. He'll be there in His time...but He will show up. On top of that, He does have a pretty good knack at effective leadership. He knows how to get stuff done.
And people....my if I had known in my earlier years the talent (God's skillful talent) which resides in everyday people. It's spectacular. Yes, we find each of us glitched on occasion. We tend to fray and even break here and there. But God keeps the body moving quite well showing us Jesus is the head of the church and not one specific member, or one specific family, or (dare I say it) one specific preacher.
God works in people. People are fueled by God. The more I stay out of the way, the more wonder He seems to display. Each of us is tremendously blessed....by God...and by amazing people.
Man has built stubborn defenses against spirituality in general because of counterfeits. This is the distant roar from the anti-church people. God has been banned from homes, offices, and schools because of counterfeits...like me on some days...when God has done nothing but beg through allowing His son's torture and ultimate death in hope we will awaken to Truth.
Counterfeit money is everywhere, yet I've never met one person who balks against the use of money. Flim-flam sales teams hit the unsuspecting, yet the masses still make purchases. Rogues rip off the elderly through misrepresentation and, still, the elderly engage in financial strategies.
Why won't people treat God with the same mercy?
Masses are going to live eternally without God and His heaven because they focused on the bad eggs among us....which at times are us....only to rob themselves. Yes there are counterfeits. But you can't have a counterfeit unless there is a truth. God is Truth.
Whatever man may find to dismiss God, rethinking must take place. Blame organized and unorganized churches all one wants, this will not hold up as a good excuse when the Master inquires as to why He was snubbed throughout the many adult years.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Mary Watkins is a newbie at Memorial Drive. We found Mary in our church's food pantry as her money had run out of month. Mary, with a husky voice, needed help in oh so many ways. Two of our workers in the pantry, David and Lisa Combs, began to shepherd Mary as she was so very alone. They took her groceries, brought her to church, drove her to the doctor, and moved her from apartment to apartment as demands arose.
Mary had straggly hair and no teeth. With a walker she would inch her way into our assemblies and talk during much of them. She had a lot of struggles. Mary was an alcohol and drug addict. A few weeks ago she was baptized into Christ and started life over. She continued her addiction battle but did so with a new family (church family) that exchanged smiles upon every encounter. Although she had severe health struggles her heart was light in the sheer joy of belonging to somebody somewhere....us.
Mary died last night. That is a sweet and sour statement. She suffered so much and now suffers no more. This woman had a very hard life. She looked 75.
Mary was only 53. We will forever be blessed at her passing by our church and accepting us as we are.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
I wouldn't know how to count the number of hits to the heart an individual takes during a lifetime....but it is a lifetime full. But this is why the God-element is so important. It is Jesus (the one He sent) who declares that he gives us life....and in abundance at that.
One of our duties as believers in this remarkable and perfect savior is to continually and perpetually prod our friends into believing the good things about life. Struggle is not our enemy. If we will set our eyes on Jesus, we will see ourselves advantaged from every setting; negative or positive. Jesus won't go down in any battle and we belong to him.
Henri Nouwen wrote, You have to keep unmasking the world about you for what it is: manipulative, controlling, power-hungry and, in the long run, destructive. The world tells you many lies about who you are, and you simply have to be realistic enough to remind yourself of this. Every time you feel hurt, offended or rejected, you have to dare to say to yourself: "These feelings, strong as they may be, are not telling me the truth about myself. The truth , even though I cannot feel it right now, is that I am the chosen child of God, precious in God's eyes, called the Beloved from all eternity and held safe in an everlasting embrace."
You are not God's accident in life. He specifically, intentionally chose you. Push back the tears. Fight back for your place in God's arms. You are important. The world may not tell you so; but God does.
Friday, April 17, 2009
This lady started life over at this place. She married and does well. So does her friend who suffered the same plight. Ashamed and depressed at how she made a living, she was suicidal. We buried her....as we baptized her into Jesus and when her boyfriend got out of prison, I did their wedding.
Churches are like people. They have peaks and valleys, good days and bad, wins and losses. What is it that makes a church successful at times and a failure at others? I would think a hundred solid responses could be given. Since it is my blog I will write about one of the crucial one hundred.
A church is sharp when it reaches out. It is dull when it focuses inwardly. (This truth applies to individuals, does it not?) Churches possessing a mission to keep everyone in the herd corrected become top-heavy with a pseudo-truth. Such a church falls into the same trap as the religious leaders of Jesus day when he wouldn't do church stuff they way they saw it.
What was it he did so glaringly errant in their sight? He disregarded religious law for the benefit of healing non-religious people. He loved the injured more than he feared the threats of the church.
Churches committed and convicted to reach society's rejects and fringe possesses a God-heart; understanding itself to also be rejected and fringe. Jesus was both.
I see a big difference in churches when one or the other of dispositions is present; reaching in or reaching out. One is sharp. One is dull. One is alive. One is dead. One is praising; the other is complaining. One is daring. The other cowers in fear. One is saved. One fears it isn't.
One is grateful for grace. The other is aggravated at those grateful for grace.
That's one of one hundred. You would add which one?
Thursday, April 16, 2009
There is a glitch in us, though, which often throws a breaker. We ultimately hit zones we can't fix. What's going on with that?
What's going on with that is God has been trying to get our attention for a long time that He would provide. We have behaved as if it were up to us.
Centuries ago elderly Abraham was promised a son. Abraham (then only known as Abram) surveyed the land of possibility concluding his wife was too old to have a child. What's wrong with his conclusion? He forgot God knows how to make life come from non-productive arenas. So Abraham set out to fulfill God's promise. Once again he forgot God knew how to fulfill His own promise.
Abraham botched God's delightful blessings by impregnating a servant girl so he could say to God, See, you got your child! What Abraham needed to do was wait on God. Because of his prowess to "fix things" Abraham has our society in a huge mess today as noted in the mid-East crises which erupt continually. Abraham didn't fix things; he botched life for much of mankind.
We will do well to note that rather than fix things our job is better suited if we would but wait for the Promiser to do His marvelous work. Eventually Sarah had Abraham's promised child. Yes Sarah. The one assumed by the husband to be too old. But what did he know? He was only the husband. God was God. God knows how to fix everything.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
I made that up (if you couldn't tell). The riddle has to do with a kingdom factor which I regard as huge. I can't do without it, have it in abundance, and fight for it constantly.
The answer? Confidence.
We have a lot of it if it is placed in the Spirit of God. We have none of it in ourselves if we are positioned well with God. Proper and effective confidence is to be Spirit-provided and never self-induced. Thus, we have a lot of confidence in God; but not in ourselves....simultaneously.
II Cor. 3:4-5: And such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God.
All close to me know me to be of two extremes; no confidence/great confidence. I have no confidence (Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves) in me. So it is very weird being me or working around me; for I have great confidence in God (But our adequacy is from God).
So we live as the answer to a great riddle. It is when we have confidence in ourselves that we are jumping the kingdom track. Therefore, we find even greater meaning to the Galatians exhortation, I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me. We live while we don't while He does so we do.
God's riddles.....who can fathom?
Monday, April 13, 2009
I feel certain I will not be able to word this as well as the meeting actually went, but there was mutual agreement that the church cannot afford to have its leaders manipulated by a hand full of complainers. When elders or staff move to keep men happy rather than God, the work begins to suffer for God isn't the dominate factor.
People do complain. We've been there and done a bit of it ourselves over the years. Some, though, feel they are sort of self-assigned Barney Fifes keeping order within the flock. Some just have that disposition of letting their voices be heard to the degree leaders, if trying to pacify, kill off cells of church growth.
The word contentment arose. When church leaders can be content by threats (let members threaten) without rushing to plug the leaking dam, God has a way of seeing our trust in Him. He seems to reward. Elders and staffs must be careful not to get caught up in pleasing the malcontents or else the real work of the church struggles to get going. However, when focusing on His work, it seems the workers get a charge from getting to serve in creative and dynamic ways.
If any try to persuade us with "either/or" meaning you make improvements/adjustments or else we are out of here....we surrender and let them leave. They are quite welcome to stay, but we will not chase them down. If they are of the nature to seek a change we believe God will bless them down the road and still bless us by continuing to build Nehemiah's wall.
This might sound harsh to some. I don't mean it to be. I'm simply saying when some feel we don't come through for them maybe another congregation will be a better fit. In the meantime we are learning to develop a spirit of contentment as each of us could find displeasure of many sorts. But we are more inclined to be healthier as we focus as a church family on the possibilities with Jesus.
Contentment to live together in harmony realizing we each have a lot of improving and growing up to do creates a lively church.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
I so look forward to days like this when visitors are abundant. Our day was full of God as the church worked together as a team. Shane did his usual awesome work in creating music which had energy. God gave me a sermon that lived in the moment. But it is the teamwork of the entire church which thrills my heart.
Two of our foster families had the parents of their foster children as guests. And the church welcomed them. I saw it happen. Members invited friends who don't go to church (who don't like church) because they were confident Life in full energy would be present....and it was.
We baptized a woman who once rode on one of our Joy buses as a child years ago.
You should see the new stain-glass murals Nicki McDonald painted for the front of the auditorium.
Everywhere we turn, we find the entire congregation doing a superior job of being alive, friendly to guests, and highly confident God's love transcends each of our days.
Things matter to us. We consider important how our team does, how new the couch is, how friendly the clerk is, and how the Dow does. Our lives are full of masters shouting bizarre threats if we don't hop their imposing hoops.
Although we live this pressed-paced style it isn't the real us. The real us is that wake-up call we get when we find the cancer is stage four or the knock at the door is a somber patrolman with the worst news. The real us is receiving staggering news which stops us in our tracks. Suddenly all of those appointments and demands are put on hold without another thought of their organizational expectation nor of their survival. Each will (must) have to go on without us for our day has been rocked by devastating news.
So our real life isn't what we have been led to believe. Major events in our lives can wait. They can take a back seat to our simple need to rest. They can back off, can't they, without the notice of a heart attack or a funeral? Yes, bossy people and demanding situations appear to wilt when it comes to the real majors in our walk.
So how about you reviewing everything as well as everyone pressing you and then making a decision to tell quite a bit of it to back off. If it will at your funeral, then maybe it could give you a break while you live.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
- As you break the bread remember how religion broke Jesus.
- If he would have chosen to remain whole we would have no one to save us.
- He is the bread of life.
- We are called to follow in his steps.
- We each have him in our system because he was broken down into Spirit form.
- His body was crushed like grapes.
- In following him, we cannot be effective unless we yield to being treated as bread and grapes; picked apart and crushed.
- Much of religion is for the followers of man-rules.
- Christianity is for the followers of the Suffering Servant.
The standard for world evangelism is formulated through communion. Broken and squeezed of our own recognition, we are to be willingingly/voluntarily torn apart with the hope others will remember our God as they dismantle us through criticism, avoidance, and painful judgment.
Friday, April 10, 2009
Think about it. What if word came out that the U.S. government had put a freeze on all inventions and discoveries; continued research was to halt? Orders would mean science research would stop. Nothing new would be allowed. This would harm society. We are quite privileged to live in a system full of creative openness and discovery.
The kingdom of God is no less thriving in discovery. The Bible may be thin in measurement; yet its depth has not been reached. The Word of God is higher in content than the sun and deeper in meaning than any ocean. How can we afford to live on verse chips year after year?
John Hull wrote that adult Christians are afraid to learn for fear they will discover they are wrong. He's right on target. Pride loves to go to Bible study with us so we can build forts around the twenty-three passages we prefer. Pride didn't want me to study. No study---which then means my immediate and adjacent criticism of any who don't believe as I---would keep me safe.
I'm grateful to have hung around Christians who weren't afraid to be wrong. I came to town with a mind made up, forged in steel, and bent on spreading my viewpoints. But His word can crack even the closedest of minds. I am so glad. I don't know how it happened for I would usually find protecting my reputation more important than making adjustment for God. Pride would do that to me.
We must be a people younger day by day so the Word in its richness can have the freedom to deprogram and retrain in the God-element of things. Bible study is risky business to the closed mind for in the process God will break down error. In it God will rebuild the soul into something more like what He had in mind.
Don't be afraid. Study your Bible. When doing so, read it without your personal instruction. Let it talk to you. You'll find yourself new (a new discovery) again today. Keep learning.
Wednesday, April 08, 2009
Jason and Shane were in my office this morning going over a fun and imaginative part of ministry. I like the creativity around our place.
Later in the talk I drew their attention to something very important about ministry. We just concluded the workshop a few days back. In the middle of last week (week of workshop recovery) Shane encountered some very discouraging comments. I was present for part of it and I knew the pain was quite deep; the wound was severe. So, I talked to them about the value of slaps in the face.
Shane had done a superb job at the workshop. Because he has escalated in talent at rapid pace it was important for him to be hurt. God uses these times (insult and ridicule) to keep us from concluding we are independent of His leadership and provision. I encouraged both of these good men that next year they will be directing the workshop and it will go very well.....and they will encounter terrible pain and insult. They will most likely be driven to tears.
Such negative attraction is imperative for the good leader. Paul said he had to have this happen to him to keep from exalting himself. All men suffer similar temptation to exalt self. Critics---very valuable critics---keep us in tears as well as need of God.
I'm very proud of the boys. They are good men; great men. They do tremendous work. Because of that truth they will find themselves devastated over critical comments. Slaps in the face are a must for God's leaders. Any who run away to avoid them will not become leaders. They will become immature complainers.
I know the sting of insult. But in these cases the hurts help; they groom us to become His kind of leader....II Cor. 12:5-10.
Tuesday, April 07, 2009
One of the things which seems obvious is sharp-tongued media members give us a hint their position may not be without warped bias....on either channel. There is much to be learned by this.
I find in myself this trait I have never liked. I am what I don't like about them. I know it. Truth never has a good shot against error when conveyed with condescension. Never. It is one thing to be brave; courage is surely needed in the work we do. But it is quite another to belittle another in any setting. Bullying is not courageous but cowardly.
This is why I admire Jesus so. While he stood for Truth, he dearly loved---be it friend or foe---every person with whom he addressed. Yes, he leveled the playing field on occasion with some of the more notorious church leaders. Yet we must keep in mind he died on the cross for each of them as he did for the shameful woman or the belligerent man. He loved people.
I want to learn to be more like him. I must become more like him. This is not easy. I lived in world of stinging words and was introduced to a church which possessed some who could match what I knew as a kid. Such is easy for me to slip into. I resent them used toward me and pick up on them the second such darts come my way. But all of this is purely wrong.
Jesus, among many strong traits, was a perfect communicator. He used words to save...not to win positions and arugments.
Monday, April 06, 2009
The good thing about us is that while we can find several reasons to like right now one of the strongest is the hope we possess. We can choose to be a very hopeful people.
Note I said we can choose. Hope isn't forced upon anyone. It is a choice. Worry--to accept it as a friend or reject it as an enemy--is a total choice. Gratitude---is a total choice. Hope is a choice. We choose to hope and this is a very good thing about us. We are professional lemonade makers!
God took the hardest thing in life....the grave....and caused it to break out as a launching pad into life. What could be more encouraging? Even death falls prey to the roaring lion of possibility! What could be more encouraging? What would cause us to lose heart? Persecution? Rejection? Death?
None of the above for God has that great implant of seed hope just itching to show its stuff. You can count on Him. He really gets into this resurrection mode. If nothing shuts God down, why should we think it would us? He is on our side, isn't He?
So why is our world growing dimmer? Why such continuous struggle? Why is He not able to have more impact on the very people He created?
One of the reasons may be churches have robbed the communities of the freeing power of the Bible. For years the Catholics have been criticized by the denominations for taking the Bibles from the hands of their members and placing the priests as the (go-between) God-representative to all.
But we've missed our own tactical scheme to remove the Word from our own members. We allow them to hold their own Bibles and encourage them to read them. Yet, in many areas of the church life is snuffed from the Power Source because we have programmed our members to view the Word with biased slant while reading with jaundiced eyes.
We, of all people, love to have our ears tickled. I don't know about other brands of churches but II Tim. 4:1-4 is a favorite of the Churches of Christ. Furthermore this passage is quite accurate in its claim. Yet, we have applied it to others and not ourselves. We have mocked other churches for putting on their blinders to the read the Word of God; getting out of it what they want. Yet we put on our C of C glasses in just as many areas to bend the Bible to fit our preferences.
Getting back to the Bible is not only a respectable call, it is essential. Of all places, all churches would do well to heed this concern. Our world is in desperate need of help. We've hidden the Bible out in the open by burying it with our religious whims and peeves to the point no one can find God anymore. This is most tragic and we are to blame.
No longer can we roll our eyes and wonder why society has turned its back on God. It hasn't. It has gone deaf to a whining and irritating sound rising from churches which covers the reverent message of God with trinkets and bobbles of distracting tradition. We are to blame; not them.
May we make concerted effort to be faithful to the Bible more than faithful to the herd who interprets and misinterprets His writings.
Sunday, April 05, 2009
After spending a lot of time crafting my points and hitting PUBLISH POST, everything disappeared; evaporated into thin air. I guess you either weren't that interested or God spared you.
I am too tired to write it over. But I promise you, it had great points and many of you would have commented.
Saturday, April 04, 2009
However, we are quite alive and seem to draw to matters which offer light and hope of improving "our places" of service. Patrick Mead wrote of a hiring scenario he believes (in his pea-brainedness) which offers a new route of effectivity. I have been sharing a similar concept with leaders as I travel about. Take a look at Mead's first.....
If you are going to hire a second minister, make it a worship minister, NOT a youth minister. Youth ministers are wonderful and useful, but they should be your fourth hire, not your second. The first can be either a great preacher/pastor or a great worship leader. Whichever one you hire first, hire the other one second. Your third hire should be a children’s minister. THEN you hire a youth minister. It is amazing to me how few congregations know that. By hiring in the wrong order, you strangle your growth potential and increase the odds that some will leave by the back door. A lot of the glue of a church centers around the worship experience. It is one area that should never be economized, placed on the back burner, or ignored. That said, the best worship in the world won’t help anyone if you don’t move it out of the building and into the lives of the people. A good worship minister will find creative ways to do that.
I want to add that I wonder if the first move of a congregation ought to be the worship focus. My tribe likes to consider ourselves Bible-based; and I like that. But it is the Word which calls for relationship with God as a priority rather than sermons received. Effective and inspiring worship times can cover mediocre sermons. But the very nature of man needs connection with God; fellowship with God.
Worship isn't a series of acts. It is telling God how desperately we adore Him. Too many churches don't adore God; rather they endure church. Subsequently, He is left out of His own picnic. If I were to critique most congregations I visit I would not suggest they do anything to improve until they first put some authentic love and adoration into their song service.
To many churches sing as if traipsing to the cemetery rather than thrilling the heart of God with their open applause to His very name. That is my pea-brained observation...and I realize it is only that.
My second hire for a congregation would be a children's minister. I was here a long time and did the best I could. But it was when Allen French was brought on board as worship minister (and now Shane Coffman thrills us) and Linda Scott was added (and subsequently Stacey Kendall) as part-time children's minister, that this place came authentically alive. I had been here twenty years and nothing popped like their addition.
I would add the youth minister third. After that, I would add the pulpit guy. We (preachers) should be fourth in hire. We have many capable men able to deliver a message while we are growing the other three ministries. Easy for me to say? I've already told my elders and part of the staff that my opinion is this place could do without me before it could do without the other players. I believe they are more significant.
Don't get me wrong. I LOVE MY JOB. But I am saying too many churches feel that if they just had a minister they would come alive. But look around. Many have them and they are struggling as to what to do to create life.
Life is found in worship; not in delivering talks. My pea-brained opinion is God isn't being worshipped. God created His people to truly worship Him and if they don't have an avenue to cut loose in this one area, all the rest of ministerial arrangement is for organizational benefit; but possibly not the heart.
What thinketh ye?
Thursday, April 02, 2009
But what a very great group of area guys in neighboring congregations. We eat. We talk. We go home. No jarring. No griping. Maybe slight bantering. I mean Marvin does attend! But just a group of appreciative-for-their-job men who understand the wrinkles around the aging eyes and the greying of hair noticeably creeping into view.
I yelled down my table at noon and said, Wayne Pope.....I like you! He gave me that rolling-of- the-eyes look and went on with his meal. It's just nice to be around peers we love and respect with the greatest of ease.
I sat at that gathering wondering about the pain each carries for his church, for his work, for his dream that finds refuge at least for an hour among sheltering friends. It feels good to be a part of ministers' gatherings that have authentic life in them. Some of these soldiers have fought great battles. Others have endured breaking points. All have dealt with a handful of members who act as if they own us. But none of them are quitters. None of them are giving up.
They have my admiration. I like these men. I like right now.
This morning I turned my daily calendar to this quote by William James, The essence of genius is to know what to overlook. This is a profound challenge. For one, we are constantly prodded by Jesus to see; notice the poor, assist the weak. It seems the man in the pulpit has a message which would cancel anything of an "overlook" nature.
But that would be the fault of the man in the pulpit. Just as it is essential to "look" for possibility one must be sharp (and strong enough) to "overlook" opportunity which is not from God but is a form of distraction from the pertinent issues.
Our world is very large. Due to technology we are in touch with more people in more places with more needs than every in history. While we diligently strive to bolster weakened mankind we will get more done when we learn to eliminate many of the schedules and appointments selfish and unthinking man demands.
Psalm 46:10 is remarkably key; Be still and know that I am God.
Wednesday, April 01, 2009
First of all, sinners are a "we" term and never a "they". We are all in the mix; presidents and preachers, powerful and poor, politicians and paupers....we are them. No one is exempt from such a label.
But rather than living a life of defeat we each have great reason to anticipate perfect/complete hope. We are good enough in God's eyes because Jesus died on the cross. The cross isn't a Sunday School form from which the deacons have ample supply of Sunday topics. It is the highest of heaven's technology to help mankind start life over.
Who wouldn't love to start life over? Who wouldn't wish for the past "bads" to go away? Who wouldn't like to pass jail and move on to "Go"? The cross of Jesus is first of all historic and then it is mankind's launching pad into profound terrain. Nobody can hardly believe we can be born over...really....as Nicodemas properly suspicioned in John 3. Yet, Jesus said it is precisely possible.
Do the sinners have a legitimate chance at being spared by the Powerful God? Absolutely. My advice would be to accept the work He did on the cross rather than doubt it. God isn't looking for theologians. He is looking for any too impoverished in spirit to save themselves. He would love to do that for us.
Our job, therefore, is to let Him. That's why they call Him the savior and not us.
Ah, Jeeze, I did it again. Over the weekend in Tulsa there were times I retreated to my hotel room, soaked to the skin, freezing, and swearing I would not emerge again until Spring… or until I had to speak again.
The wireless connection at Courtyard wasn’t the fastest… and excuse me while I go on a rant, here. I recently stayed at Embassy Suites in Dublin, OH, an upscale suburb of Columbus. The company that brought me in paid $165 for my one night stay in a standard room. However, to connect to the internet, I had to pay $14.95 per day. The TV was nice but the cable had only 15 channels. Why is it that I consistently find that the higher upscale the hotel is — and the more you pay to stay there — the more they nickel and dime you for internet, breakfast, etc.? Courtyard’s breakfast was free for those who stayed there and it was great… but I was put in a Hilton — yes, a Hilton — where the internet was $10 a day, very slow, and available only via ethernet cable and the breakfast was NOT included. It cost a flat rate $9 a day to eat breakfast whether you had fifteen waffles or a single yogurt.
At a small no-name hotel in the sticks, I get free, fast internet and 40+ channels on the TV. For one fourth the price. What is going on here?
Anyway… back to Courtyard. The hotel was very nice, the internet was free (if rather slow), and I was thrilled to be out of the pounding snow outside. After I got done with my work, I surfed over to eBay “just to look” at the guitars for sale. I have sold a ton of guitars on eBay (and a few ukuleles, a banjo, and a six string banjitar) over the last year and I didn’t have any desire to buy any more (really, officer, I was just standing here) but what could it hurt to look, right?
I saw a few that I threw lowball bids on, knowing they would be trumped immediately and I was right. Almost. The Martin and the Traveler EG-1 were quickly bid up out of the basement level so I abandoned them but an Alvarez AD70S was sitting there for just over a hundred. It is a $450 guitar, easy. I am a sucker for Alvarez when they get up into the 70 series and higher. Lower priced Alvarez’s aren’t really great, but the 70 series up to the Yairis are incredible. The 70 has a solid spruce top and… here is my weakness… rosewood back and sides. I am a BIG fan of rosewood. For fingerstyling, it just makes the guitar sound like bells. It can bring tears to the eyes (and I often bring tears to the eyes of those who hear me play).
I knew better… but I had time. I was bored. I threw in a lowball bid just a tad over a hundred… and got the guitar. It should arrive this week. With shipping, it is still a long way from $200 for a nearly new Alvarez.
Father, forgive me, for I have eBayed again. Maybe I shouldn’t be allowed to be out unsupervised. Or in, for that matter.