Sunday, May 31, 2009
By Friday I like to receive a signal it will live. No signal. Three attempts to work on the sermon yesterday did not please my soul. I could tell I didn't have anything for Sunday but notes; no life. Just notes. Dull, uninteresting, and uninspiring notes. Yet, I did know to wait on God. He would be there.
This morning it gradually began to click; first during the prayer time at 7:30 and then through class. I realized my teaching was backwards.
My intent was to encourage, from the Exodus text referring to Moses coming down from the mountain with face aglow after receiving the Ten Commandments, that we should turn the light of God on in our communities. It would not fly. However, this morning I realized I had it backwards. We don't turn the light on. God does. Moses didn't even know he was shining. We don't either.
Sermon delivered. Made a difference. Built faith. God came through one more time. While it was slow in getting here....it was on time.
We believe what is yet not seen. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for; the conviction of things not seen.
Christians operate from a different kind of GPS. We follow a map read by heart-eyes; not the physical ones. We can see through the thickest of stone walls and the darkest of clouds.
Be not discouraged very long. Occasions present themselves in front of your eyes with full intention of discouraging us. Don't fall for the ploy. Don't believe what you can see; but what you can't.....for that part is eternal....II Cor. 4:16-18.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
There are more things I don't know than I do. That doesn't bother me. I'm still in kindergarten in learning; this doesn't discourage me. One area grieves me big. It isn't the sin of actions but the sin of unbelief.
A grievous doctrine slipped into camp decades back and the church pays the price today. Someone convinced others of us that we were the only ones who knew, served, and worshipped God correctly. An arrogance began to poorly form which said to our off-spring, Worry not that you don't know God and that you don't feed from His Word. The main thing is don't do church wrong during the Sunday morning hour. A preservation-of-the-hour evolved.
This misshaped direction continually breeds a weak and empty people. I write not from criticism; but from grief. Too many who are absolutely dear individuals have been trained without a relationship with God. These might be the ones who are as seed sown along the road. There is no understanding of the Word, yet they are devoted to sitting in buildings with the right name on them.
Michael Molinos wrote in 1675, Experience has shown that many believers, even after 50 years of external exercise, are void of God. They are also full of themselves, having nothing of the true spiritual man except the name. That observation was made 334 years ago.
I'm neither disappointed nor angered toward those who would fit this zone. Some are my very dear friends. I mourn for them for a life without God has to be miserable. However church without God causes extreme lament.
Among our efforts may we continue to teach from the Bible with emphasis on knowing the Christ of the Bible....John 5:39-42.
Friday, May 29, 2009
But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.
My question is why is it seemingly easier to be lost in Adam than to be saved in Jesus? Everyone is lost...no exception...with no effort. All sin without devotion or study as to how to fall from God. Why is the greater man's (Jesus) work so much more difficult to spread through mankind?
The text says, For if by the transgression of he one, death reigned...much more those who receive the abundance of grace.....is the ability of the transgression to spread stronger than the ability of the grace to spread? If not, why isn't the saving power of Jesus creeping into one's life easier than sin does?
I know this sets me up as vulnerable to even raise the question. How do you see it?
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Many members talk of how difficult shepherding is as if they are supportive....until their direction doesn't match some who wish things to go differently. It a strange thing; being a leader in a system which allows sinners the grace to serve again and again. Oddly, the self-righteous struggle with such positions. The murder they commit with their hateful words toward brothers seems not to bother such chatterers in the least. But it should.
Bill Fowler, long-time elder at Memorial many moons ago, once told me; Look you go in there and preach the Word of God and don't bring this up. I'll take care of it. I did and he did.
Talk rattles on by the weak and immature. But the good leaders resemble Jesus at this point as much as any part of His ministry when they take intense criticism while keeping their mouths shut.
Good for you---any leader among us---who can care for the people while receiving random shots in the process. The hits you take advances the kingdom and brings justice to many who, otherwise, would never receive it. Much of our disruption could be avoided if what Jesus describes as murder-talk could be avoided.
Fear is such an unnecessary bully. It causes some to believe they should not dare try to break the rut now experienced. Yet, they surely should push back. God is not one of fear but of love. Love is vibrant and determined to conquer everything; including the highest mountain of blatant intimidation.
General Douglas MacArthur once wrote, Youth is not a period of time. It is a state of the mind, a result of the will, a quality of the imagination, a victory of courage over timidity, of the taste for adventure over the love of comfort. A man does not grow old simply because he has lived a certain number of years. A man becomes old when he has deserted his ideal.
The years wrinkle his skin, but deserting his ideal wrinkles his soul. Preoccupations, fears, doubts, and despair are the enemies which slowly bow us toward earth, and turn us into dust before death. You will remain young as long as you are receptive to what is beautiful, good, great; receptive to the messages of men and women of nature and of God. If one day you should become bitter and pessimistic and gnawed by despair, may God have mercy on your old man's soul.
When I met Jesus I walked into a den of life. I had no idea how confined I had chosen to live. Church didn't pour cold water on me; it watered me. I now grow. I am a growing being with a bent upward instead of bowing to earth's magnetic tug toward pessimism.
Shoulders back. Chins up. Eyes forward. March toward the Light.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
So it is in the world of serving others. We want to exit this life making an impact, don't you think? We want to do great damage to depression, injustice, and poverty. Right is the dream. But we are upside down in our approach. One doesn't get to the top of accomplishment by walking over people. We do so by learning to walk with people....one small baby step at a time. This gives God much room to enter in astounding participation and surprise.
What gives guys like me hope is little Zacchaeus up in the tree. Jesus seems to be bent on making somebodies out of nobodies. Me? Are you talking to me, Sir Jesus? You what? You...man are you nuts? You WANT to go home with me? And so they did.
All around us are those peering in at our immaculate (to them) and beautiful lives. They would accept a hello or even an attentive nod. We must realize that such small gestures work themselves, by the grace of God, into large and satisfying living. Don't overlook the little things. They are charged with the TNT of God.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
I've lived there; been there--done that--still hit it. Losing can be for losers or it can, also, be used to create winners. The greatest of baseball hitters make an out seven out of every ten at bats. Those aren't exactly successful odds, do you think?
To fail is no crisis. To fail to gain momentum from failure might be. It can be/should be an instructor to help us reach upward and forward.
One of the things that has to go in order for us to learn success is to falter and not try to hide it. Humiliation, if allowed, will produce humility. The closer we get to that mark the more we find God in our corner. He is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble.
If not careful we will be full of pride in the midst of our losses while making strong efforts to protect our image. Kingdom-wise, we would be better served to let the loss mold us into better and stronger future winners.
An example of this would be in my rookie outreach efforts. I loused up study after study. I said dorky stuff and used ineffective means as I so wanted to encourage friends. But I kept going back to the possibilities and opportunities. I cared more about helping people than preserving my image. Yet, I must admit such was a huge battle for me. I wanted to look good doing good, do you understand?
Through unsuccessful attempts I began to see what would work. Kingdom life is a continual school of learning. Don't hedge on the process. Sometimes a good way to be an effective leader is to learn to lose well.
In the world of working with God we will do well to realize that the many things which don't go our way are precisely His way of bending us His direction in leadership maturity.
I Corinthians 1:20-31 makes if very clear God will repeatedly stun us as to what works and how it works. His ways are of such superiority we find Jesus' statement to be truer day by day...only the babies get it.
I read a communication last week about Toby Slough's church. I've known of Toby for years; might have met him at some of our workshops. He's always been on the cutting edge of edges. The report said his congregation had implemented a passing of the plate where those who want to give give and those who need money take. In the church?
Their contributions have exploded!
What an idea. What a remarkable---can't possibly work---idea that....works.
It's this kind of faith I love to discover. We are (because we are simply people) so susceptible to rote. Traditions of men were a violation to the nature of Jesus; yet somehow we each feel fairly comfortable in justifying our own.
I encourage all of us to wonder. What is it God would do for mankind if only one person could think outside the church? What? May we continue to discover that as long as we have been around.....it hasn't all been discovered yet.
But the question for you is Who do people say you are? Are you the child of God or are you yet another who works the churchy system, but has no authentic connection to the Father?
How do they decide who you are? I happen to be one who thinks we show who we really are under intense pressure; at least discouragement. Even when we are stumped as to what and how to do the next step, our faces show our God is alive.
Who are we.....really? In some ways we are the same sort as atheists or Sunday morningers. Yet, there is to be a notable difference. We love our God and believe our God when we have nothing in our hands (or even in our sights) to verify we are having a good day. Who shall separate us from the love of God, the Romans author inquires? The response is clearly, Neither anyone nor anything!
So today you realized before you headed out the door you are highly suspect of getting several matters of the day correct. Do try to get this one question answered best of all the things you do. When you ask your peers who they say you are, may their response be, You seem to be a child of God.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
If there are multiple sides to this embarrassing phenomena, I surely have been on most of them during my continual growth in Christ. I've fought. I've badgered. I've accused. And, I've repented of arrogant stances I highly proclaimed came from the Word of God but, upon investigation, found they too came more from men's whims and good wishes than from Holy Writ. I'm sure my days of repentance are just getting started.
Basic division arises over protectionary preservation of the past versus possibilities for the future. Either can be right if indeed faithful to the God's instruction. The problem with us is we've placed God's will against the backdrop or our wants. In turn we create the God we want and the message we want rather than the reverse. The Church of Christ in particular has tried to get back to the Bible but couldn't pull it off. Others have the similar goal with identical results.
Here's a very simple idea which might separate the wheat from the chaff on both sides. Who is tending to the stranger? Who is getting into the ditch with the victims of brutality and injustice? Who loves the beggars and embraces the AIDS carrier? Not the majority who pridefully claim to be of the truth of God.
Could it be true that the true church is very much a reality but it isn't known by form or fashion? Could it possibly be true that the real church of God is alive today in each person who carries the heart of Jesus into the ditches, the chemo clinics, and the homeless shelters?
All kinds of brands and every kind of slant of Christianity can make bold claims...we all do. But here's one thing true about every one of us. When strangers walk into most of our complexes on a simple Sunday morning....way too many of our properly formed believers.....scatter. We talk a good Sunday School talk; but we hide among ourselves from the poor, the lame, and the blind.
Our struggle is essentially unnecessary. We must improve our Christ-likeness....all of us.
I like my friend, Chuck. He's a plain sort with a smile that can be seen on radio. We get along all right; we have since our first meeting in the mid-80's. We went to lunch a couple of times when I passed through his city. Both times, when the check came, he begged off on buying with the line, Oh Terry, I left my wallet on my desk. The first time didn't seem odd.
So I notified him this week fully aware he owes me two lunches at this stage of the game and, hey, I'm counting. His secretary wrote back:
Good morning, Terry,
Chuck asked me to send his regrets for lunch or dinner Saturday, June 13; he already has plans with all of his family. He also asked me to let you know he regrets not being able to buy you a snow cone for lunch.
I can only imagine the joy and laughter when you two get together!
Let me know if I can help in any other way.
Have a great day,
A snow cone. That what my friend Chuck (Swindoll) would have forked over the money for. Ah, we all know better. He would have left his wallet on his desk. I just feel certain he would.
Friday, May 22, 2009
Speaking well is, therefore, utterly important. Our words are creative because we are created in God's image and He created the world through "saying"; Let there be light, etc. Equally true, our words create. So framing our words well, whether in business or relationship, is of profound importance. Words make or break sales, letters, and dreams.
How do we obtain the use of better words exiting our mouths? This is where the eye bone must be connected to the tongue bone. If we have eyes to see hope, possibility, and glory, our mouths will repeat what our eyes see. That's why God said in Ephesians 1:18 that he was praying for the eyes of their hearts. When the eyes see hope the mouth speaks hope. If the eyes see frustration, the mouth parrots what the eyes see.
Therefore, it is not a strange thing that God says in the gospels, From the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. Heart-eyes write the script for the mouth. The tongue bone is connected to the eye bone.....and we can neither deny nor defy that law.
Wanna speak better? See better.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Why are we able to be so "up" with all the downers pounding and denials nipping at us? We know the secret of resurrection power.
For the first years of being me, I thought resurrection power was for when we eventually arose from the cemetery. Wrong. It is for right now as well. We have a secret about us; a power which defies every negativity of the moment. We can come to life in the midst of defeat. We can come to life in the center of a mean-spirited scalding. We can come to life in the middle of the dumbest and dullest reports ears could fathom.
Our secret is nothing can approach us that can barricade thrilling life. Oppose us to the hilt and we will break out in applause. We like right now. With all its ailments, with all its disappointments, with all it abuses, we cannot help but wave that resurrection power wand and expect to see vast improvement in our spirits.....right now.
That's the secret we know....and we are free to tell it. I just did. Hmmm, we really are a good news people.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
First, I believe that many I encounter may possess a significant amount of fear. I don't know that; I just wonder. With the world news of the last eight years, do Muslims assume we don't like them? Do I do things to substantiate their fears?
Do these have an inner "wish" that we would stop long enough to accept them; to love them? I speak from ignorance....as well as interest.
Surely we have learned over the terrain of experience that inner people have opposite thought-life different from what their outer life would make us believe. I think Muslims would like to know Jesus if both sides could figure a way to disarm and dismantle some invisible walls.
Of the five or ten you all might select, I'll give you one of my top-rated reasons. I think our people are too self-centered which results in shyness. Our people will tend to give great amounts of money for significant causes as long as they don't have to be personally tagged to say something....anything. We don't want discomfort. Too many of our people will quit first.
Paul told Timothy God does not give us a spirit of timidity. So where have we come up with the biblical right to allow the majority of our members to practice the very spirit God does not give us? Why is shyness not one of those doctrines which would eliminate a congregation being listed in "the" book?
Why do some not want hands raised in our assemblies (even though it is biblical)? Is it because of arthritis? Bad elbows? It certainly isn't because of Bible teaching. It is always because of embarrassment. Some don't want to do it; but it isn't enough they be allowed not to. They impose their insecurity on others because this is embarrassing to them. Shy wins.
Of all the wonders of doctrine Jesus could have proposed, why do you think it important to him to mention assertive greetings of those not brothers? He expects us to open up to the world....aggressively. Yes, I've seen shy; I began my ministry as one deacon put it---the most introverted man I ever met. And I've seen shy (couldn't speak/couldn't look at people), my wife is one. But I've watched Jesus change her to one who serves and prays now with strangers in the food pantry every week. God will help us get over shyness.
We've created some funny rules over the years. Many of them came about because we were protecting someone who was living within a shell of fear. Rather than eliminate fear with the biblical approach of love (it casts out fear), we have groomed it in every church in every generation. Thus, the real terror to Christianity sits in our own pews and silently begins to hyper-ventilate because the assembly or the direction makes them....uncomfortable. The kingdom has moments of enormous discomfort.....as in the cross.
Yes, we have moved along way (in our profession of being true as the early church) from that strong stand of, Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to your rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking what we have seen and heard (Acts 4:19-20).
We will gain momentum each time we convert from fear to love.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
1. I learned today that Royce Money is stepping down as President of ACU. I emailed my friend, Randy Harris, immediately asking my name be removed from the successor consideration hat. He quickly came back with, sorry but the Rush for president signs have already gone up all over campus.peace,randy
There I go....being considered once again for the top post of a university. Just the rumor of me getting my doctorate at Pepperdine has caused such a flurry of interest. I'll learn to endure.
2. My good friend Brian McCutchen began a new blog,
3. If you want to get a feel for developing a calm spirit, research Jesus' last week. He would not let the tedious deceit and politics cause him to veer from his mission. Even with back swollen and bruised, with throat parched, and with his own blood blurring his eyes, he would not succumb to being a pitiful and bemoaning doubter. He showed us how to live under extreme duress and care for everyone around in the process.
4. Our youth minister is moving to Mt. Carmel, Illinois as their new pulpit minister. Bobby Smith has been a fabulous youth minister at Memorial for five years. I marvel at his maturity. We wish him the greatest of kingdom blessings.
5. If you don't know what your congregation could do for your community, open a food bank. Locals are simply hungry. Children in America are hungry. Families are scared. Memorial is having more and more first-timers pass through our place in great need of food. Jesus fed the 5000. So can we. I wonder.....his body must feed what....500 million each day globally? That's probably a low number.
6. Another friend, Kent Smith, is getting a career going in the entertainment industry. Known as Grumpy Smith, you can check out pertinent information at http://grumpysmith.com/blog/ Give Kent a serious consideration at your next banquet or special event. He's another one of the good guys.
When He says He is building us mansions I see that as like on acreages; not on dinky corner lots. Do these mansions come furnished or are the walls bare and the furnishings are up to the individual? Will we get to heaven and find the keepsakes of our past have been transferred over in pristine condition?
Time will die. So how will we know how to be us....schedules and the like?
How will work go? For instance a lot of farming matters are hard work. But portions of it are like vacations. I would like the non-work part of farming to be there. I would like to live on a small farm adjacent to two things; an ocean and a golf course.....and all of my friends live on my cul-de-sac....or hey, upstairs maybe.
This transition is going to be most strange. Yet, God is the Master of creativity. Heaven surely must be packed with beauty, so do you think it will be like going to an endless art museum where we note mountain ranges, geysers, water falls, and relatives?
All I know for certain is God has created so much wonder within the heavens and earth now that I can't imagine how fascinating and breath-taking heaven will be. I think now is unsearchable in all its glory. Heavenly days are going to be out of sight!
Sunday, May 17, 2009
The message? All too clear. Plain, common, wonderful, and very dear people struggled through their seven minutes each to say something special to one of the most important people in their midst; their child. The pressure was on. An auditorium full were measuring every word; sometimes we all held our breath as a mom would pause to swallow her tears before finishing a sentence.
People are valuable. Jesus died for them. The vision of watching grown people say faithful composites to newly grown people is an exercise important to the kingdom. While we have Senior Sunday once a year, we should have honor your brother and sister every day of the kingdom. There is so much good to point out. There is so much praise easily as our disposal for free dispensation.
It is easier for me to do a sermon. After all, that's part of who I am. Sitting while others do the talking is unnatural for me. However, God is always speaking through His people. Today He spoke volumes through the unprofessionals who were battling nerves to get something said of impact. I applaud Memorial Drive for taking the time to practice Ephesians 4:29...speaking good words that it might give grace to those who hear.
Good for you parents. Keep up the good talk.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
But the life---the abundant life---Jesus provides keeps my head swimming in both wonder and gratitude. This afternoon I watched the Preakness. There was Bob Costas doing an interview and it threw my mind back to the first game we played at Busch Stadium at the Cardinal Legends Camp. Costas was the shortstop on my team.
Remember the check I took to my donut shop last week to buy coffee and donuts for the newly established Pentecostal Spanish church up the street? This morning I was in visiting with them. This afternoon three of their men came by to evaluate some work I need done at the house.
Tonight an old Patsy Cline movie is running. References to her friend Loretta Lynn throws my mind back to times of working with Loretta; especially when she was down and wanted everyone to leave the bus so we could talk. Loretta talked to me about losing Patsy and how she still misses her. While Loretta remains a star, I feel sorry for her because her life has been one where she has often been the pawn of family and friends. I love her dearly.
God lets me live in a world which touches an incredibly wide range of personalities and there is no explanation or justification except to say He lets me.
But another factor must be noted. I wonder how many men and women have passed through life and had the imagination to try but those around them cooled those dreams with doubting and discouraging words.
So I thank my Memorial Drive family and my own family for possessing the goodness about them to let me try. I live a surreal life because few people tried to throw cold water on ridiculous ideas....which just might work.
We once experienced assembly after assembly when anything out of the decent and in order caused all of us to wince....wondering just who many and how many didn't like it. Walk in. Sit down. Opening prayer. Blah-blah-blah. Closing prayer. Relief! No hits. No runs. But certainly no errors.
The whole thing was often an error. We hadn't worshipped God. We had checked off all five items and returned to our abodes feeling quite self-assured. Ladies and gentlemen....we have once again pulled off church without a hitch. But God wasn't in the picture. Our keeping everything in line was.
It is most freeing to realize that when we don't get everything precisely accurate or when there might be a mis-statement or questionable moment....love overrides pestering panic. We are a blessed people and can take a shot at letting Him know of our gratitude. Some raise their hands in praise while others sit on theirs. No problem to either preferencer. We belong to God and to one another.
What are people going to think when we try a quirky sounding ministry or allow the abnormal situation during the assembly? People are going to think we must be crazy about the Living Lord for everyone fits....in every effort...in every setting...because we make continual concerted team effort to lavishly praise God. Expressiveness is encouraged; not repressed.
Church in all of its glorious facets isn't about what people are gonna think. It is about how much God hears of great love from His people.
Friday, May 15, 2009
For a while I have felt we have missed something in our present dispensation of communion. We are adamant about keeping baptism from being reduced to a symbolic moment as in pouring or sprinkling. Yet we may have turned the Lord's Supper into what some denominations have done with baptism; a representative meal.
What may have happened to us is that we went to church taking note of how communion was done and then placed our practice as the backdrop for studying the Bible account. We aren't illegal in our approach, but it does leave room (as in all things we learn toward God) for us to keep sifting through the Bible wonder seeking His paths of original intention.
William Barclay wrote, It remains a very definite possibility that Jesus did not intend to institute a symbolic meal, but that he meant that every time bread was broken and eaten, and every time wine was poured out and drunk---that is, at every meal in the house---he was to be remembered......but it remains a real possibility that in the upper room Jesus was not intending to institute a special meal but that he was hallowing and sanctifying every common meal so that every meal might become an experience of his presence.
For certain, the Lord's Supper is a time for mindful awareness of all he did and all he is....to the living body of Christ on earth.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
I've been in and lived through a biblical transition. For the first 20 years of my ministry I loaded up my sermons preaching the Church of Christ; what we believed, what we stood for, where we would and would not go. When I began to see I was preaching issues but not the Man, I could see an obvious need in shift. Negotiating such twists and curves were not addressed well by one as mediocre as myself. I wish I could have been wiser. I wasn't.
The move was right though. Immediately (and still) I was regarded as unfaithful to the rules of the church. And....I was. I wasn't unfaithful to the Word; but I was to the many hoops which had come to be assumed from the Word.
I want to be careful and seek some way to ease into this next section. We each know I am not much. Discussion concluded. However, what I experienced in the church is what Jesus experienced when walking among the Pharisees, Sadducees, and high priests.
There was an ugly clash between them and him. Jesus was viewed by the community vocals as an underminer, bad man, and blasphemer; all in one despicable package. The chasm wasn't liberal or conservative for Jesus was more conservative than they in many areas. The difference was between their law-abiding, rule-regulating versus his love of God and love of man. They hated sinners. He loved them. They loved the rules. He loved the people.
Churches may side with one dimension or the other; but the style of Jesus is the only way to let the church be the true church of Christ. For the remainder of my life I will make concerted effort to become more like him. In the conclusion of that effort I will have failed....for only his gift to me/us of his righteousness will I ever hope to be right with God. But together--some of you and me--maybe we can keep the transition going in the direction of loving God and people more day by day.
- CHECK OUT Memorial's new website. A huge thank you to Melvin Fox and Shane Coffman for finally providing us something up-to-date. http://www.memorialdrive.org/
- AN ELDER FROM CALIFORNIA is working on converting our 100% Natural DVDs to Spanish.
- AS YOU READ "SAME KIND OF DIFFERENT AS ME", leave comments about it on the current blog I write (regardless of topic) so we can be reminded of the impact of that book.
- BE CONFIDENT that God knows how to turn every obstacle into a tool expanding His kingdom fields.
I never met a man that wasn't superior to me in something.
Vernon Law, former pitcher, Pittsburg Pirates
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
If you want to read a true story of God working in the lives of two extremes, run to get this book. If you want to be motivated that God is deeply involved in our work more than we can imagine.....run to the store. Hall was a rich man and Moore homeless. God spoke to both through both. I've never encountered anything so easy to read; yet maintain its rivetability.
Things I gained from the book:
- Why homeless don't want to talk and don't trust the kind gestures of the homed.
- The vision of forgiveness.
- Prayer is a major player.
- The invisible world is actually active and God is in it.
- People--on both sides--can and need to change.
- God absolutely communicates with His people today.
I would laugh aloud as Hall and Moore surprised me with simplest reports of their encounters with one another and with God. And, I cried so hard for an hour this morning as I wrapped up the book.
When would I recommend you get this book? I would get it now. Run!
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Have you ever been at those mid-summer Sunday evening assemblies when the youth group gives their report just back from camp? What is their mood...every year? F-U-L-L of enthusiasm.
I propose we can be precisely, exactly that excited about our lives everyday. Not only on the great days....but even on the good and not so good days.
How? Be thankful. Thanksgiving is a mark of hope in the New Testament writers. Yes, who among us could grow weary from well-doing? Well, all could but we don't. We don't get tired of the hassle. We don't get tired of the disappointment. We don't become bummed by our own glaring lack. The reason? We are so amazingly, indebtably thankful to God for the brilliant life He gives us.
I talk to my office colleagues repeatedly about the negatives that strike at us. Who wouldn't love to sit in our office and have our jobs for just one week. We get to have them every day! I'm not going to wish one day of my life away ever again.
Not everything in the kingdom is fun. Everything is a blessing. So I say live like it....F-U-L-L of thanksgiving toward God who runs the show.
Why do elders hurt so much? First, not all elders do. Some are in the control game and seem to stress only to acquire more power. I address these not. Let's look at the men who truly shepherd with diligence the flock assigned by our Lord. Why do they seem to suffer at so many turns? I give you one reason to be considered.
Elders hurt due to the natural processes of life to expand their capacity for compassion toward the lambs. Pain is an important factor in the kingdom scheme. The cross is not theory. We are to take it up every day. Elders must---and so must preachers---endure deep stress in order that their heartbeat for the flock be richly connected.
The flock needs shepherds who understand their pain. When an elder's child goes through a divorce, such does not scar his resume. It enhances it because he understands a pain the undivorced can't possibly fathom; hard as one may try. The elder struggling to keep his business going while trying to deal with aging parents and in-laws deteriorating health is not a candidate to resign. This one understands what, church? Pain. The shepherd who finds himself zapped with ill health (his and/or his wife's) is going to school by taking the class, Suffering 101. This is God's seminar on effective leadership.
We think a Steven Covey or a John Maxwell workshop on Leadership is what improves elders and other church leaders. Partly so. But the best school is the one our leaders face on Monday mornings and Thursday afternoons and Saturday nights----frustrating struggle within their own family circle.
God is always grooming his men. Let an elder find himself with a daughter as a missionary or a son as a church employee and suddenly that man has the richer understanding of the group. Why? Because, to the faithful man, when one hurts.....one learns the way of the world-impacting cross. Pain really is where the gain is.
The significance of pain is why elders and church leaders hurt. We learn not to run from ourselves or the flock. Our personal agony develops a personal relationship with God's precious lambs....with compassionate understanding.
Monday, May 11, 2009
Bias and preference and opinion rule. Man seems to have less commitment to truth than to being sold by the better PR of any matter. I throw myself into this ring for how do I think I have escaped any more than another?
Whether conflict among gender, race, politics, or religion, truth suffers voice because man is wired in misguided self-preservation; including his right to buy into the best sales scheme of the pertinent topic. Who's saying it and how does he or she look while it is being said can determine the listener's stance over truth of the matter being presented.
So it is with God. How many have chosen to behave as if there is no God because they have developed the complete alibi; failed Christians. Consciences are salved by the ointment of finding a fault with any (the many any) believers and--wa la--such a conclusion must be legit. Except...it isn't.
God is God because He is; not because a person or a group of people succeed or fail. Millions are going to be forever lost in hell because they compared the Living God to an ailing and injured believer. Will the lost ever realize the reason Christians fail is because they are complete failures? Will these objectionists ever understand we are a group whose only hope of being saved is by Jesus dying on the cross because all of our combined efforts of righteousness fell in utter collapse? I know one here and ten there are drawn to him....but what about the masses marching the wrong way?
It is so one thing to reject Jesus because one researched and concluded he just can't buy into his concept. Yet, for the masses to march over the edge of cliff eternal because of ignorant bias makes me ill. I'm praying for God to help me reach these gifted and amazing people. They are being duped and betrayed by their own egos.
God possesses the truth. We must think of ways to alert them to the impending stampede presently gathering momentum....in the wrong direction.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Here's the best part of Pepperdine's Lectures....as I see it. While I love the speakers, the scenery, and meeting up with friends or making new ones, my favorite part is to sit in the dining hall for breakfast and note the hundreds in full roar gabbing at the tables. The whir-r-r of chatter isn't it. Trying to imagine what all God has done through all of those people is.
I believe God has done amazing things through all of those gathered. You would want to understand the same is true for a crowd gathered at ACU or David Lipscomb or the Tulsa Workshop, etc. When I sit in that dining hall I am wowed by the truth that major things have been accomplished by these Christians; so many wonderful things that I doubt they can remember or realize all God has done with, in, and through them.
How could President Andy Benton grasp the churches and the nations that have been impacted by his wearied hours of devotion to students under his care? How could Jerry Rushford calculate the unchristian masses who have been blessed by his promotion of the Christ of God? These guys can't possibly fathom the minutest details of God's rich glory in their work.
So it is with all who sit in the dining halls....the common place for common people enjoying a common meal. God is brilliant. We are hooked to His star!
I say this to awaken you to your own impactive wonder. I received the sweetest note from a lady I hardly know named Shirley Woods. What an inspiration. Two readers, Linda and Nicole (mother/daughter), email me privately and their words lift my spirit to soar-level. The notes and calls I receive in the thread of appreciative communication simply lifts my spirits to a higher plane than the senders could imagine. They are "that" powerful.
We are of such dual existence; inspiring and able to be inspired. Don't underestimate the power of your most casual experience. When God is at our helm wonder galore is spewing by the power of the tender and amazing Holy Spirit. Good for you....for us. Because of God, we enhance life to a better level for thousands and nations.
That's what Pepperdine makes me think about.
Tenderness, to the Bible-jock, seems wimpy, shy, and weak. Bravery and muscle appeals more to the religious enthusiast. Thus the weighted hammer able to make an immediate big dent seems more logical.
However, the Word of God is referenced by Him as seed. It works without limelight in quiet manner. Seed is so unobtrusive one hardly realizes it's presence. Yet the beauty of the seed is it grows at a pace healthy for the surroundings in which it is planted.
Sowing kingdom seed is rarely a blockbuster deal. It takes such patience one will necessarily want to move on with other pertinent elements in life while God shines warmth and light on it even to sprout. Kingdom seed waits and waits out of sight and then, one day, ah-ha; we begin to note a crack in the earth!
I reached to Sherri nine long years before she ever came back to church. I've reached to some now for about 25 years with no sign of interest. However, I trust the seed. It has been planted. My job is to water and till.
Watering and tilling indicates you believe God is working when there is no sign to support such awareness. What we do is move about on God's green earth sowing seed (and not throwing hammers) that shy and unsure people may one day conclude they would also like to be adopted by God Himself. It takes no great skill to sow seed. Just toss it out there in kindness.
Seed sprouts. Hammers rust.
Saturday, May 09, 2009
The man could put both the fear or the warmth in you depending on just exactly where you stood toward God's style. When encountered on the street there was something about his personality that seemed lifted. It seemed he could see through you. Some revered him. Others shyed away.
Everyone wanted to be comfortable around this man. Many were, but some felt an edge about him. The word was that when this man spoke you better listen. He had something to say.
They say this man was flawless. He was clearly and immaculately groomed in his connection to the Father. Mothers pointed their children to this man saying, when you grow up I want you to try to be like him. I guess one could say this man was the apple of the community's eye.
The man's name? Jesus, you assume? No, it was Saul of Tarsus. A man who esteemed himself, just as others were doing, to be a level above the norm in religious devotion. Yet, the man didn't know Jesus. If if knew everything in the world, yet didn't know the Love of God, he was a big, famous zero.....the same man later wrote to the church in Corinth.
There was a man.....who was not complete....until on the road to Damascus he met...The Ultimate Man.
Friday, May 08, 2009
I loved it. No, I missed out on my honorary doctorate....but I do think such is in the distant winds. And....I must say that pie and coffee did not stop Lindhurst Theater from being packed both nights when I got to speak! I had a great time meeting so many new people and getting to see old friends.
What made this event so great this year was every speaker was talking about Jesus and his magnetic nature.
When I'm near Ken Young and Hallal or Brandon Scott Thomas and Zoe I am so happy I get to be me! Monte Cox was the perfect opening keynoter. Liz Pence has to be one of the deepest; yet practical, teachers I've ever encountered. Rick Atchley portrayed the need to be preaching/following Christ only to the point if I wouldn't have embarrassed him, I would have leaped to my feet mid-sermon with applause.
What I deeply appreciated about his message is that Jerry Rushford allowed it and supported it. It takes courage to put on meaningful lectureships/workshops. These guys take huge hits for having various speakers on the program. While Rick was courageous, I was stricken by how much I love Jerry in his stance on moving us closer to Christ and the cross through such a speaker.
Finally, what made the messages and event so impactive to me was the spirit in which the messages were delivered. No venom. No egotistical threats. No rolling of the eyes toward disappointing moments of our past. We are growing out of childish barking at one another. All of Pepperdine's keynoters had a message: a simple call---kindly, clearly, bravely--- to become increasingly serious about the one named Jesus was the hallmark of every message.
I loved it. I learned from it. I needed the strong reminder. Thank you Jerry Rushford, Andy Benton, David Baird, and others from Pepperdine. We were built up once again by a faith that really lives.
Thursday, May 07, 2009
Chris and Wendy traditionally take Hayden (5) and Campbell (4) to visit their sister's grave at anniversary time. As they parked the car in order to walk over beneath the shade tree Hayden announced he should probably lead all of them in prayer. So the family sat in the car while Hayden talked to God about his sister.
To lose a little one in the manner we did (after pulling for her for several weeks) was a pretty big hit. It was bigger being the grandpa and watching my daughter/son-in-law do their best to handle the matter faithfully. Tears of agony struck often during some of those days.
But I must say that God knows exactly what He is doing. We never have to wonder....nor doubt. God blesses everyone at every turn. I believe he spared Ana of deep frustration over something He could see would not develop properly. I think He was every bit as concerned over Ana as He was over Campbell and saw to it that both were tremendously blessed.
For today.....I simply say I have my imagination running freely to ponder the "Ana possibilities". I feel sure she would think me to be a really fun Crappaw! I'm fairly sure I could have made her giggle.
It was a great trip. So encouraging.
Monday, May 04, 2009
Man took a terrible hit in the Garden. It's ugly scene bears indelible and incredible fruit. As a result, men and women act weirdly and do stupid sinful stuff. The plague isn't a recent phenomena nor is it about to fade out. The consequences are serious, sobering, and scandalous in scope. Probably the greater portion of scandal is the nerve any would have to believe he or she is immune to the Fall and has borne the world of humanity rather respectably.
People. Ah, if it weren't for people society would be bearable; perhaps even fun. But everywhere we turn we are there. We place age old habits into our modern-day wineskins still splitting relationships right down the proverbial middle.
One of the cures for mankind's ailment would be to realize, admit, and confess that we are all alike. When we adhere to the fact that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" is not a momentary stumble; but rather a huge separation from godly ideology, maybe we would be more inclined to join in the congregational grasp for the hope in the name of Jesus.
We aren't comprised of the haves and the havenots. All are the havenots. Jesus is the Have. The unraveling of men's hearts has been passed along for so many generations, who can sort through the massive maze of complete injury and ruin? Only One knows how to put back together such a ruined Humpty Dumpty. It would be the one who has. That would be Jesus.
Jesus can put us back together again. And....we will work hard to let him.....John 6:29.
Sunday, May 03, 2009
Today has another special element since I am connected to the St. Louis Cardinals. One of our members, Don Walton, came across a local website for a Wishes Foundation. He noticed a fifteen year old boy wishing he could have an autographed baseball from center fielder Rick Ankiel. Of all the current Cardinal players, I know only one.....Rick Ankiel.
I forwarded the request over to Rick and this week he sent the signed ball. The young man and his mother will be at church today to receive the gift from his Cardinal hero. How fun. I love it.
There is opportunity to encourage and build up....everywhere we turn....so let's do it!
Saturday, May 02, 2009
I'm developing a slight relationship with a new little Spanish church which shows up on Saturday mornings. My shot-making has ignited the imaginations of children and a few of the men as they now roll up the napkins and give them a toss. Now when I walk in on Saturday mornings, the kids know what is coming!
This morning the group has really grown. The age is basically young marrieds and children. The owner of the store told me this group meets at 5:00 a.m. on Saturdays for prayer and worship and then comes to the shop afterwards. I love this group.
Next week I have a surprise for this sweet church. When they visit the donut shop next Saturday the Memorial Drive Church of Christ will have paid the $125 coffee/juice/donut bill with the exhortation from the owner that we are proud of them.
I have a son, daughter-in-law, and three grandkids who are missionaries in Guadalajara. They will be going with me one Saturday morning in the Fall to meet these people. I imagine God will be working very well.
How fun to be free to till, sow, and water knowing God works.
Friday, May 01, 2009
Distanced from these concerns are the elements we deal with in our reduced circle of society and individually. Worries flourish if not pruned. Burdens gain weight if transport partners aren't found. Life is tough on several fronts.
So how does one stay up? I know how. I used to live in the pits...as a minister. I was "pit"iful. But God awakened me to His brand of thinking. Philippians 4:4-9 can be the motto for those of you as I was.
Paul urges us to think on the right things; things that are going right....and many things are, you know. We can take responsibility for things we get wrong and survive by contemplating those areas we see His success. Too think about God and His ability is as positive as it gets.
But the really good thing about Paul's admonition is his emphasis on practicing these things. None of us are pros at being "up". Each has to practice realigning our thinking. I enjoy it. I don't enjoy failing; but I do relish the freedom I now possess to reassess what God might interject into the center of my worry field.
The way to stay up when things go wrong is to intentionally inventory every wonder and marvel in our midst. Such is abundant. God is abundant.