Wednesday, September 30, 2009
So dead duck Abraham became known as what? The father of Isaac? More. He is also known as the father of faith. He leads the family of God in one main thing....But God.
Romans 4:17...read it. Come back and tell me there is an area which stymies God. It won't happen. It can't happen.
So? Have a very good day.....and let your face in on it!
In the preface he begins by telling of young girl enamoured with the romantic view of one day being a writer. She inquired as to whether she might become an intern of Philip's, "I could do research for you, or office work. Or perhaps I could just sit and watch you write."
I love Philip's candid remarks. "I sent her a polite turndown, though this is what I should have responded: Young woman, are you crazy? No, you can't watch me write! I can't bear to have anyone in the same room. Writing is an act of utmost privacy and paranoia, and no one dare cross that barrier. Plus, you would soon get bored out of your mind. Why don't you stare at a rock all day or watch a TV screen with the power off---far more exciting than watching someone write.
Would you have guessed that side of Philip Yancey? I would because we are us! We are all like one another. My friend Charlie cannot stand to have his house thermostat set on odd numbers like 71 or 75. I laughed heartily over that one. Yet, I won't watch my TV with the volume control on an odd number like 23 or 27.
Last night I mentioned to Mary that, if she had time, I would like my best jeans washed for an upcoming trip. She told me that would be no problem....but to put them someplace where she would see them to remind her.
So I put them in the refrigerator. And....guess what. She found them!
Why don't you stare at a rock all day......yowie, we are so prone to have funny sides to our assumed ordinary approaches to life. So...I encourage you to be real. It is permissible....and often a lot of fun.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
We would think it to be noble to complete a mile with an enemy. No. He wants two. Murder? Never. To talk bad about another....well, what's the big deal? Yet, Jesus slams us with truth too deep. Greet strangers? We find fatigue in just covering all those we already know.
Jesus is fascinating to me because he won't let any of us have a break. He wrecks our plans, our doctrines, and our assumptions. The Pharisees and lawyers constantly took him to task and he constantly turned the tables on the simplest of situations. Remember the immoral intruder who watered his feet with her tears while the host stood to the side rolling his eyes in disbelief?
We like (no, love) Jesus because of this portion of his nature. He shows us clearly how humanity fits into the kingdom slots. He will not make life easier. He will make life live! Jesus ruins man's educated conclusions about the nature of God. He insists we develop a perspective higher than what the herd-thinking has led us to believe.
There is a challenge ever before us. It isn't cultural change or political maneuverability. It is the stunning, even shocking, simplicity of the truth of Jesus for his call will always be backward to the human perception.
I briefly experienced it last night at Ringa-Ding Church. I've never been. Oddly, I was asked to attend a function in a banquet hall off to the side...a fund-raiser no less. In order to reach the destined hall, I had to pass through Ringa-Ding Church. Such a church? The huge Cherokee Casino on the East side of Tulsa.
The parking lot was full at 6:00. People were pouring in. Glitz and glitter and chiming one-armed bandits overwhelmed the senses. It had such a strange feeling that a hold-up was in progress and the poor were lining up for the Kool-Aid. Where was Mr. Jones anyway?
I noticed a little about the Ringa-Ding Church. Evidently the members are truly sacrificial as I didn't see any rich folk there. For communion they have beer and cigarettes. And, it is clear they do not believe in a Capella for all the church music was instrumental...Ringa-Ding, Ringa-Ding filled the air with songs of mass robbery while the members smiled.
Should you think this note sarcastic or harsh....I mean it to be. Society usually calls the police when it is being robbed. In this case, though, good citizens volunteer to be fleeced so that when you pull up into the Ringa-Ding Church parking lot one is filled with a sense of, "Wow, this place has money!" Once inside you cannot help but notice who the givers are. The place has money. The members don't.
Most of society complains about churches that only talk about money. I now believe such a society to be either insincere or hypocritical. Ringa-Ding Church? It makes me really sad.
Monday, September 28, 2009
Simultaneously, we are noting conversions as these who pass through are now sitting with us in both our Sunday morning assemblies and small groups. We are thrilled.
Because of the growing need right where we live, David Combs has been added to the staff as a full-time outreach minister. He will spend several months to a year traveling to similar and effective work sites around the country to note what might be our best approach where we are.
David is highly qualified as he and his wife, Lisa, are two of gigantic and compassionate hearts. The Spirit has clearly marked this man and his family for a much-needed work at Memorial Drive. I applaud our elders for letting the need outweigh the present funds. There is not a thorough map plotting the course for success. We don't know how all of this work....but it will.
Welcome to our very own David Combs. May the force of the Spirit be with you!
Sunday, September 27, 2009
I'm really frustrated with the nation's leaders of every political brand. Have they never met us? America? How out of touch can the three political sides of congress be? I reference the discussion on several talk shows, plus newspaper reports regarding the need for distribution of wealth tied with the call for all to serve as a volunteer in America. Be they kidding or just plain ignorant?
Are these guys and gals clueless that there is a strong system in America already fulfilling their call while they parade en mass before the mics to make such remarks? Such a force is called church as well as philanthropy. Are they not aware distribution of wealth has been going on as long as us? Where do they think all of the abundant foundations, hospital wings, and grants come from? Congress? How many combined millions...even billions...would we guess churches budget and then take up additional special contributions to assist the masses in need? The figures would be staggering....daily.
Volunteers? What do they call church groups who blanket America as well as foreign fields to assist in crisis after crisis? My wager is churches did more for victims of hurricane Katrina than government both financially and certainly in man-power. And, where did the government get its money to spend on these matters? From the very same volunteers who pay taxes and, in addition, fork over extravagant amounts of money for benevolence.
To all three brands holding office in congress, I for one want to say you have an extremely good idea....but your constituents have been practicing what you propose for 200 years. Welcome to our world. If you ever met America you would know we are waiting on you to catch on to the great heart of this country. It isn't called potential. It is called action....and we've been taking it for a long time. I think you have to....but you evidently have forgotten how much is going on beneath Washington's insightful radar.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
I believe we are suffering defeat (in front of a Victorious Lord) because we have transplanted Jesus to Leader Emeritus where we make sure we toss his name into the gratitudinal history....but our focus is upon more surface matters.
Surface matters? I believe churches have shifted without realizing the slow boil. Gradually the drive to reach the unreached has been replaced by brand-name competition. We compete for attendance. We compete in doctrinal accuracy. We scramble for the latest effective method. All-the-while, Jesus' role seems to be Leader Emeritus; one great guy but no longer on the cutting edge of culture.
If we moved deeper by going back into him, what would need to change for us? Restoring church hearts for the love of mankind would be good for starters. There is no greater thread of societal hope than what Jesus portrays in the Good Samaritan story. Yet, we as aggressive, mission-talking congregations struggle to see that something as simple as all of the visitors are greeted.
Another change would be to confess our sinful nature of making doctrine more important (again) than people. Churches are filled with ritualistic checklists which do not have people in mind...except those who violate the checklists. I believe what Jesus notes to be the greatest command is another way of saying the true church doctrine is.....people.
Jesus was a people-person. If we are going to really move about as he....we will touch the lepers and the immoral....and all strangers. If we are only going to commit ourselves to our favorite church organization as some do the Red Cross or the Masons, then society will be without the tender voice of the Lamb who heals...and churches will subsequently and appropriately flat-line.
Friday, September 25, 2009
Anyway, look at this: The world is poor because her treasure is buried in the sky and all her maps are of the earth.
What great insight!
Thursday, September 24, 2009
When we awaken to the fact we live in the kingdom of God, under the name of the Son, empowered by the Spirit, why in the world would we ever believe any day to be....average? Why?
People can be average without God. Believers dream and imagine and wonder. We are not just believers; we are certainty-ers. We know what we believe is true. Therefore, we must awaken to the dynamic within us known as the Dynamic....within us.
Old man Abraham wasn't written for a flannel-graph conference. It exhibits the living God in weak man. Moses isn't about failure. He is about waiting on the living God to shock the sandals off of the opponent when He gets good and ready. Elijah wasn't for a VBS theme. His story is to inspire one man against great odds. The Virgin Mary isn't about un-sex. She's about transferring "You've got to be kidding" being "Nope, we are telling you the amazing truth".
Awaken. You and I are called to live the most abnormal life which is to be labeled the new normal. Jesus introduces a whole new world order called the New Creation. We've lost our might because we've joined the distracting forces of the Bible-banging naysayers. Where's our spiritual grit? Where's our "get'n it done"?
Awaken. We have a God who has yet to flex all of His muscle. His breath-taking creation isn't visible for the purpose of snapshots to send to Aunt Bess. It is to motivate us to live on Ordinary Street while empowered from Above All with absolute resolve we are here to impact everything in our way.
It's time we roll, my friend. The average stuff is for those who have no Living God. Awaken....today is full of possibility for you and me to stun the world with the gigantic and penetrating love of Christ.
I like that idea regarding the kingdom; it just keeps ticking.
I had an idea. Jenny Williams is one of our delightful young professionals at Memorial. She just returned from a missions tour with AIM in Mexico. She is adorable.
A few weeks back I asked Jenny if she would like to team up in an Encouraging Ministry. I would give Jenny a fifty dollar bill and she would take someone to lunch sometime to give them a boost. She was to bring back three things: a report, a receipt, and the change. We intend to repeat the process once Mary gets another paper route and saves up another $50.
Last night she walked into my office all goose-bumped. She loves God....and people. (Sorta fulfills a command I heard one time, huh?) She handed me back a receipt and change. She had taken a young couple to lunch Sunday after church and the bill was $32.20.
The report? Well....it is so special. You see Memorial experienced a young man standing at the mic at the end of services last Sunday morning confessing his bride (as of Friday) was over three months pregnant. It was an emotional time for them...for all as they repented of their sin and asked for our support. So sweet Jenny took them to lunch!
Don't you know they needed that? Don't you know Jenny needed that? Don't you know we all needed to know of such wonderful networking ideas...because there is always a God-report to be heard? Take your ideas and run. There is so much to be imagined...He said....Eph. 3:20.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
It is important that we weigh kingdom scenarios as well as doctrine. Doctrine is essential. The right one leads to life; the wrong one---even if it sounds good---will eventually kill; usually through stagnation.
I am concerned for the church. Not a week passes but what I don't get a call or an email from a man or woman heart-broken over the neutralization of the church via fear. The struggle is epidemic. Leaders are frozen in Sunday morning pattern with little regard for individual life. The leaves are turning brown; but the leadership feels that as long as they assembled and didn't do anything wrong....hey, we must be the true church.
A solution is a combination of faith in, love of, and prayer to Christ. We do not (cannot) accept death around us by positively calling it life. We will not give up on God or our friends. Neither of the two gave up on us. This is a major struggle, though, and it will take resurrection-power nature to restore wilting souls.
We can do it. I've recently read negative, condescending accounts of Bible stances that are so sad....yet they perfectly reflect what I believed and said up to the mid-80s. What happened? Jesus wrecked my religious---all my answers aligned---duck row. He sat down right in the middle of doctrine, method, and friendships....and wrecked many.
Jesus does not match our need-to-control religion. He calls each to a personal heartbeat for the poor and the lonely. It is easy to hold doctrinal positions. It is a whole new world to let a homeless person spend the night on your couch.
Be careful with our stances. Standing boldly isn't the clarion call. Standing beside the forgotten is. Ah, that Good Samaritan....he keeps us on track better than most, huh?
In working through such a discussion great irony occurs. When I was ultra-conservative I was unknowingly practicing a very liberal and unauthorized maneuverability through the Bible. My vocality of going by the Word only was skirted with parenthetical phrases as well as exceptions (when I needed them). When I shifted to a more honest approach leaving my much needed parenthetical additions and subtractions, I became truer to the Word. Ironically again, I was instantly labeled as liberal.
How crazy is that?
I was told in preaching school that liberalism was slick; that you couldn't always peg its error. Well there is a reason much of it is slick; it is more faithful in it's conservatism of going by the Bible than the conservatives who would like to believe they are the faithful. I know. I was one.
A problem we continue to have is hearing God through all of the quacky religious static. Mixed with our moods and our biases, it is a wonder God has a chance in His own country.
Truth is still truth. It isn't the truth of the best arguers or the highest of education. It isn't the truth of jumping church-brand hoops nor is it the truth of language experts. No. The Truth of God shows up in infants and parables just itching for the big dogs to have the slightest glimpse about that which they bark.
Monday, September 21, 2009
God's story is all about what can't possibly happen does. That's it. That's all. What can't possibly take place does. Do you recall perhaps David and Goliath or Gideon and his dinky army? What about Elijah being the minority at the cook-off when no one brought matches?
Did you ever hear anything about....oh a couple of rivers standing at attention as they saluted God's children walking past in defiance of.....the impossible? Oh, and that prison thing where Paul and Silas were in double break-proof security....and they converted the security guard? Remember that one? And....do you recall hearing anything about another breakout? You know that one where Jesus was dead awhile and then he wasn't?
What's the point of God's story? He wants us to believe Him so deeply we absorb His possibility-power into our routine walk. That's what we do with God's story. We believe Him so much we look at the call on one hand and the threat on the other....and ta da....we opt for the call.
That's us. That's who we are....all because God's storyline never expires.
But Craig isn't a quitter. He went to that famous class I call "Suffering 101". He took the tests, passed the course, and five years later approached the same shepherds with his idea of coming on board for a year as an intern. We accepted.
What a great idea! All were up for it which included the staff. Craig has been an intern for a year at the very same place where he once held a ministerial role. What a story from all sides.
The year will soon be over. It has flown. Craig remains a dynamo with a huge heart for ministry. So I'm making a plug for my friend. If you are looking for a guy in the role of associate or college ministry (and recently he is weighing the idea of returning to youth work)....write me at email@example.com. I'll pass your info along.
In case you are wondering....yes, he has an incredible wife that is also loved and adored by this congregation.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Another blogger was bantering for "going by the Bible...and the Bible only"; only and specifically what the Bible said. The writer's motives seem pure and his desire to follow scripture is correct for all of us.
But in one part of his complaint he wrote the Bible says: Bible: Sing (exclusive of mechanical instruments-Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16)-Some have added to His command by handclapping, humming, and using mechanical instruments
Really? Would this one perhaps have added to the Word from songbooks, in a church building, with a songleader waving his hand in 3-4 cadence that the Bible never authorized? Why can't we let the Bible say what is says; sing? Why the adding of parenthetical phrases and additional sentences to explain what God meant when He said sing?
Why is that? I think it is because we have gone so blind we can't hear. I'm not arguing for instrumental music. I'm arguing against this continual pattern of saying we go by the Word and then add to it in our very defense of complaining that others add to it. We are so blind we've gone deaf.
I get this man's position. I held it for as long as I could and was ashamed of myself when I let it go. I felt guilty. But one thing forced me to change my mind; the Word of God. I had so many parenthetical phrases and additional sentences to explain what God "clearly had not said but I wanted Him to say it".
The Bible isn't an old musty coat, folks. It is the Living Word of God. It doesn't need our help. It isn't crippled. It can stand up for itself. It needs neither our understanding of the Greek nor the fascinating opinions of any of us. It is pretty clear about enough things to lead us to Jesus. He alone will lead us to the Father.
I would encourage us to do what we can in prayer to keep the eyes of our hearts open that we might avoid going deaf to the Word calling us to a stronger discipleship.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
We will not just meet with each other. While that is delightful, we will also be meeting with brothers and sisters both across the state and on foreign fields. And where we are gathered, Jesus will be there, too.
I love the song that speaks of the "brush of angels wings". I try to imagine them sitting among us, beside us, with us. How spectacular must that scene be?
God will nudge our spirits to notice the unnoticed, to speak to the unspoken. We will be on duty...every one of us....to see with kingdom eyes. We will be delighted at His beauty and His presence. We will see Him in others' tears, in children's smiles, and in unusual but inspiring thought processes.
Tomorrow God will show up again! He will be where we are as a group. We will not be disappointed. We will be thrust into a wonderful arena of marvel...and we'll love every minute of it.
Aren't we glad we get to be us? I'm still like a little kid off to Disney World....but I'm doing something more exciting! I'm off to see God among His people....and something wonderful always happens!
I wonder if God charged admission into His kingdom and made the stakes somewhat high, if that would awaken mankind? As it is, there was a great fee....but God is the one who picked up the tab. My point is, aren't we such a strange sort that we would have such a lavish gift at our disposal and reject both the gift as well as the Giver?
God paid the debt He did not owe. In general mankind is so preoccupied with self it misses the fascination of this "too good to be true" event.
I urge us to be grateful and abundant receivers. I urge us to persuade others of the spectacularicity of the Living Lord. We see commercials where vans pull up to the curb with TV cameras running to the front door to surprise another sweepstakes winner. We think things like; Not real. Improbable. It could never happen to me.
It already has! More has happened! Yet as long as we deny God's incredible gift by avoiding Him altogether or functioning in the church as an unbeliever, we will never realize the most fantastic things possible HAVE ALREADY HAPPENED TO US!
God didn't and doesn't charge admission. Some don't care while others join a church and do their best to pay back....what cannot be fathomed.
Our God.....amazing! ACCEPT HIS GIFT. THERE ARE FREE LUNCHES AFTER ALL.
Friday, September 18, 2009
A high hurdle to jump has been that of "different". Different originally, to me, meant error and I was a super-duper error detector. I was quick. And...whenever I flushed error out, I was scalding in my address of it. I was a professional error eradicator.
However, much of what I labeled (conservative or liberal) was not as I claimed. It was simply different. People who raised their hands in worship weren't showing off as I claimed. They were worshipping differently than my acquired taste. Those who used mics to sing as a group were not there for entertainment as I boasted. No, they were worshipping differently.
It is way too easy for us to label others from our ostrich-icity of assumed correctness. When one reads the back end of the first Corinthian letter it is loaded with a call to the differentialities among us. We are not alike. We shouldn't want to be. Thumbs don't look like ears, don't move like ears, and don't function like ears. Different is the body's blessing. Shame on us for labeling it a curse.
Congregations can be conservative and others can be liberal in their methods...and both will impact their communities. We are His!
So I cheer you on that various tastes do not mean a disconnect (or disfellowship) is in order. It signals just the opposite. It is an opportunity for discovered, appreciated harmony. Unity isn't ours if we finally think and act alike.
Unity is ours when we pool our differences together in the name of the only Savior....Jesus. We are his body....we are not all thumbs.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Now I don't know exactly how to convey my joy for my earliest experience at these meetings was anything but Christian. It was a gathering of bitter, pessimistic, and rude preachers who made the room light up upon their exit. Marvin Phillips continued to urge me to keep going and keep smiling; but I wasn't as strong as he. Very disappointed in the atmosphere I had once assumed to be a privileged fraternity, I found better things to do than expose myself to the meanest hour of my week.
But what a difference 30 years makes! I met today with a group of a dozen or so area ministers at the SouthBrook Church of Christ. Former minister, Rodney Grantham, gushed at the amazing transformation. Bob Herndon is one of the guys who is perfect for the stability among us. In my mind he is a minister's minister. He's possesses that unique ability to rally the troops in unity while leading us to lift our eyes to the higher terrain of Jesus.
One after another, we gave basically the same report regarding our work; God is opening doors to the immediate communities around us. Each story was our own story. God is using us in the public school systems. He is making lasting connections with the poor. It is wonderfully strange that while we have not spent time together in mapping out our neighborhood tactics, the works had amazing and correlational reports.
As I delightfully scanned this circle of men, I could not help but notice the ego-less hearts and hungry minds. Combined, there must have been 200 years of ministry represented. But it had that wonderful feel of kindergarten eagerness.
It is a thrill....a super-charged thrill....to see the local works bond in love and respect. I want to be a part of it. Thank you Bob Herndon for what you did for us today. It's is a wonderful change and....maybe I needed to grow up a bit myself.
First the shoes. This week I developed a most annoying squeak in my left shoe. Steps were accompanied by err-eee, err-eee, err-eee. If I could have walked only right-footed, I would have gladly done so. It occurred to me in my frustration to google "squeaky shoes". Ta da!
Google knows how to try to deal with such a matter. What? How can this gadget be this smart? It blows my feeble mind as to how brilliant this creation can be. It knows about squeaky shoes, too?
Next is the starry night. God took Abram outside to view the stars. He told Abram he would have more children than stars. Now, you've got to be kidding. How could one wife--and past child-bearing years at that--give birth to that many children? Ah, but God was speaking both literally and exponentially. Abram would literally have that many children.....but not in the immediate procedure Abram would have small-mindedly assumed.
How much of life's awe and blessings do we miss because we believe God to operate at only our best ability? He consistently says He chooses the weak-minded to confound the strong. He ratchets up His case by throwing down the gauntlet that whatever we can come up with in our imaginations, He will trump.
If you think Google is impressive, as well as stars in Abram's night, God says we haven't seen anything, yet! Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.....I Cor. 2:9
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
1. PRAISE OF GOD IS ESSENTIAL. I was funnel-visionly focused upon church function as well as organization. Praising God was not remotely a part of my life. I attended church and preached at such attendance, but my emphasis was singularly upon getting church done right rather than letting God get me/us right through His righteousness....which would call for my praise of Him.
2. JESUS IS ALL. My earlier years were dominated by correct doctrine. Ironically, very little of that doctrine included the activational presence of Jesus....which would, then, make my doctrine full of error. Jesus was a subsidiary of Church. Church was first. Church was right. Church was in front. I didn't ask people if they knew Jesus. I asked them what church they attended. Jesus is to be Supreme in all of our efforts.
3. CATCH GOD'S PEOPLE DOING THINGS RIGHT. I was thoroughly converted to the critical side of church life. We were deeply trained in school to give right answers. Right answers meant something inevitable; I would soon flush out all those on the wide path who didn't know beans about anything of God. But I've learned God has very much amazing going on in many, many, many good people. I now love to send my elders notes repeating what I overheard said about them....that was terrific. Instead of castigating the congregation for its lack in an area, I've learned to point out repeatedly where I have seen them functioning very well in the Spirit. This builds a contagion that enhances eager and continual performance in His vineyard.
4. BELIEVE EVERY MEMBER (YOUNG AND OLD) IS VITAL TO THE FLOCK'S HEALTH. I was a selective minister at first. I could only see the obvious. I had no faith eyes to believe what wasn't there could one day become. Romans 4:17 changed my ministry. God can cause dead things to live and He can create something out of nothing. Now if I feel I am nothing or dead and if I feel an elder is or a team member is or a congregation is, I take God at His Word. He can breathe life into skeletal situations....and it happens! What a difference. Since that discovery the grass has always been greener wherever I happen to be standing!
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
1. We are tested to see how deeply we love. Before you take it that implied drop your sword, it didn't. We must think of four levels our love must apply: (1) God, (2), the difficult members, (3) the lost whom we must reach, and (4) people who have yet to be born but our labor will leave a legacy on this earth they will encounter. We tend to be short-sighted and work only with numbers 1 and 2 in mind.
2. We must realize this verifies we are body. When have you looked at your own body and said, I don't like this. I've got to adjust I've got to get a haircut. I must lose weight. The same principle goes on all the time within the body of Christ. Adjustments are perpetually needed as long as the body is a living organism. Some members, though, insist we wear the same hair style in this century we wore in the last. Such is neither wise nor is it biblical.
3. How do you know when to stand and when to bend? The answer is always found in another question; Is this debate for me to win or for others to find life? If its for me, I'll survive with this hairdo. However, if this change is for the lost we are trying to reach or the teens we are trying to keep, then the challenge may usher a different conclusion.
4. Here's a factor. Just as Peter, sometimes a member can innocently and unknowingly play the devil's advocate in a literal sense. Jesus came that the church might have abundant life. Satan is set on stealing that Life....John 10:10. All leaders must weigh the various matters before them by giving answer to the Life factor within the body of Christ. Some things need to be swiftly labeled as Satan's for he is stealing from the flock.
Finally, God has given us a test pattern for how to know which is of Satan and which of the Spirit. Read Galatians 5:19-22. If opposition comes from huffing and red-in-the-face threatening, this is not the fruit of the Spirit. However, if concern is advocated with a mixture of patience and kindness....there you have it. I believe a person can have a right idea; but if his spirit is of the wrong spirit, he offers rotted seed.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
We have two unemployed, two who have been in prison, five who have been divorced and one going through one, and all of us are not as much as we think while each wishes we were more than we are. Go figure!
We have two authors, one PhD, a librarian, and a partridge in a pear tree....(Oh, where did that come from?)
We had so many in attendance that tonight we had to divide into four groups so that the praying time would only last about 40 minutes. That's the purpose of our small group; to pray. When such a conglomeration of personalities gather to pray, the turf evens out.
We lay our hearts upon the altar of need. Our God supplies and we know He is the only one that can and will. We seek His guidance for our own shepherds and for those in other states. Praise of credit is given to Him for rescuing us and keeping us.
You might want to consider building a team of praying partners. Many already have. It makes a difference. It thrusts us into the fellowship of the Spirit as I mentioned recently. The body of Christ is marvelously amazing as it is made up of an unsettling combination of people-styles; yet succeeds because of the complete harmony of the Father, Son, and Spirit....and our surrendership to them.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Not everything works...but get this...more things will work if we will try than if we don't.
Remember the NFL star Lyle Alzedo? He died years back at a young age. When he was dying I was trying to reach him. I worked my way to acquiring his home phone number and then the person who gave it to me wouldn't permit me to use it. That was a strange development but this one got cold feet at the last minute. I respected his request. But I hurt in wishing I could just see if God's good news would possibly be welcome.
Remember when Michael Landon was dying? A friend connected to the Cardinals asked me if I would reach to Mr. Landon, although he was ill, if she could arrange a meeting. I agreed. We made it through all kinds of road blocks. Then, basically at the front door (so to speak), we were denied access.
I get all of reasons why we were held at bay in both of these cases. Yet, God can work through others and I trust He did just that.
What I want you to get is to see and try. Don't see and then deny by non-effort. Jackie Gleason was dying and we succeeded in reaching him. A few months back I wrote Jack Nicholson regarding faith. I've never heard from him and that is neither the issue nor the goal. In him I see a lonely man who may have the seed of God cracking open with him. I've written Larry King with the same concept.
We see our neighbors and we watch eagerly for good ways to reach them. But those in the publick eye seem to be avoided with our poor case of hopelessness. See....and then try. Michael Jackson said twenty years ago no one wanted to be his good friend. We must figure ways to see...and then be better friends to those nearby and then those we would have otherwise deemed unreachable.
I charge you. See with your eyes and take action. Just try. Keep sowing that seed. God is working. Society is depressed; thus truly struggling. We have the treasure they want; they need. Don't look at people with a dismissive shrug as if there is nothing in our power to do any good. Yes there is. It is the seed of God. See the possibilities....and then sow it!
Some may have noticed I misspelled public with a k. I would rather wish you notice that everywhere we turn are people quietly wishing they had a Savior. If they only knew!
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. II Cor. 13:14
Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion....Phil. 2:1
How is it exactly we are to obey or at least respond to this? If we are to fellowship the Spirit, what might that entail? Is it hocus-pocus as those who quench Him believe? Or, is there something to this which a believer might need to probe? I believe it is the latter.
First, to fellowship means to engage interactively; have a relationship. This immediately poses a problem to we flesh-oriented disciples. Invisible attributes tend to not mean as much as flesh to flesh conversations and dialog.
Second, to fellowship with the Spirit means to carry on dialog with the Spirit of Christ...the invisible realm contacting the visible. So how does this go? I can only share what frailty I experience at the moment.
I have learned over time that when I awaken in the night it isn't because I can't sleep. It is because God desires fellowship time. I've been with Him for about an hour and a half early this morning. It is a joy.
What goes on? I learn. He speaks to me and the only way I know how, descriptively, is to say "ideas occur". Couldn't that happen without God? Yes, and they do. But when God speaks it is usually ideas I wouldn't have considered on my own.
Can I give a book, chapter, and verse for this? Yes, James 3:13-18 speaks of wisdom coming down from above. Earlier in that book James urged that if we lack wisdom, ask for it. When we ask we can expect it to come down...from above. Wisdom from above does not arise from fleshly assertion.
What does He say? We volley back and forth ideas and concepts. This morning He was giving me two ideas: (1) this blog article, and (2) ideas for the workshop.
How do I know it was Him? He said He would send wisdom in. He has great desire to fellowship us. We regard that as Sunday Schoolish and move on to "actual" fellowship moments where there is food and people and time. He clearly yearns for us to walk with Him, talk with Him, admire Him, and worship Him. He clearly calls for us to relate to Him; that's why He created us.
To the fleshy person this is all hog-wash. I get that. I've said that. But the Holy Spirit-inspired Word says the fleshly man can't understand the things of the Spirit......I Cor. 2:14. Therefore, accusations against such has zero bearing on its truth.
How can we be sure what we think we hear from God is from God? We watch for fruit. We have a way of measurement. The Word makes it clear. The fruit of the Spirit is continually arising from the messages given by the Spirit.
Therefore, we don't need to become defensive nor testy when challenged to the validity of this concept of fellowship of the Spirit. It is backed by two things: (1) His Word, and (2) His results.
But let's say you don't believe this at all. You have that freedom. Furthermore you might be right. Then the question would be volleyed, When you obey the two passages above, how does your fellowship with the Spirit go? I would hope very well.
Blessings as we find room and excuse to fellowship one another because we meet in fellowship of the Spirit.
Friday, September 11, 2009
There was a huge flaw in me. I was preaching a TRUTH handed to me by the church fathers. The problem? It identified more with the Pharisees slant on TRUTH than on Jesus' slant. The two, as you well know, were of opposing views.
How is it I (and those in the church like me) can be so bold as to believe we stand for the unblemished truth of God when, in reality, Jesus stands against those very things? Consider then and now:
- You can't eat that grain on the Sabbath!
- You can't have a garage sale in the name of the church!
- You can't heal that man's hand!
- You can't use that version of the Bible!
- You can't claim to know God!
- You can't claim God speaks to you!
- You can't..........
I (and those like me) have made a huge mistake. We believed our studies and our syllogistic proofs won debates and thus promoted the real truth. However, we were promoting Pharisaism in its most polished form which is still killing congregations. All who remain there feel good about their religious position by one main criteria....they know of whom they disapprove. Ah, so Pharisaical.
A great challenge for the Churches of Christ is to lean into the Christ more than the Law which got us to where we are. We reference New Testament church as if we are it. Yet, we reflect the disposition of Jesus' opponents more than we do Jesus. At times I have been more the Church of Us.....than of Him. This is rotten religion robed in garments of self-absorption.
We have pick-pocketed the Word to use a handful of conscience soothing nuggets like; few are chosen and the narrow road. As was Saul, I was big into ravaging the church with my spewments of harsh approach to the New Testament standards. My problem was I was more on the side of Jesus' opponents than I was his. I had to change.
The church has to change. Otherwise, it will die off bragging it is on the narrow road and are the few chosen.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Where else would unity be so divisive as in the church? It is regarded as a dirty five-letter word among many. The Tulsa Workshop is accused---that's right "accused"---of leaving the patriotic theme of evangelism for a new theme.....the dirty five-letter one. How shameful is that?
According to Jesus, evangelism is primarily affected by our unity....John 17. Yet the more evangelistic among us seem to resent this. Why is that? Why can we not allow Jesus' very own words to register in our minds that he is telling us something most important? He is saying the world will know him by our love for one another. So we do what with that? Of course...we divide over the slightest gesture of unity. That's brilliant!
Why do we divide? What is it about us which makes us bent on extracting good reason to split up? Two things come to mind: (1) the evasion of the Holy Spirit, and (2) the evasion of sin.
(1) If we shut the Holy Spirit out of our walk, the deeds of darkness which includes divisiveness must be the fruit. This is spiritual law. Only He can lean His unifying work into God's people and if we shut the door on the Spirit....then the deeds of darkness are all that's left. We are a divided people because we can't stop it.
(2) We've lost the size of sin. We regard it as a few bad crumbs which fall from our otherwise goodness table. We sweep them under the rug; our bitterness, our hatred, our divisiveness, as if a pinch of bread and sip of grape juice on Sunday morning surely persuades God we aren't all that bad. The tiniest dot of sin wrecks an entire world. Yet, we behave as if the cross is a great topic for a sermon; but not that necessary for we strive to abstain from doing anything wrong.
When we lose sight of the size of sin, this opens the doors wide for the sinful (yet very acceptable among us) moves of judgment. We smirk and sneer at the stupidity of others while we smugly disavow our personal sin to be any big deal in the face of God.
Therefore, when our sin is small and His Spirit is unwelcome, we become a people so horribly disfigured we actually label a call for unity---not evangelism, but---weak and liberal teaching. Oops! We are exposed to what the world already knows about us. When we practice this form of religion, we are laughable to the world and sinful in the sight of Him who died for us.
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
- Things Unseen by Leonard Allen
- Same Kind of Different As Me by Hall and Moore
- The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns
Now, I pass along a fourth recommendation: God Work by Randy Harris.
God Work will become a "how to sort through the religious maze" for every serious Bible student. Of course, Randy is such cornbread irony. He masks his brilliance by his aw-shuckness which all who know him love about him.
God Work includes good humor; but its message is sobering....and, indeed, helpful. It is a breath of fresh air for the young and the old as we wrestle with the honorable truth of God. I think the magic of Randy lies within his appropriate high regard for God combined with his acute awareness of man's ridiculosicity.
Sometimes we come over the hilltop to an ah-ha moment which pleases our eyes as well as our hearts. That's how I feel about God Work. I think you will, too.
Tuesday, September 08, 2009
Sometimes....we don't know what to do because we can't see the opportunities in front of us!
Sometimes we think possibilities are for others.
Sometimes....we just aren't thinking.
Take a look.....Escalator
Monday, September 07, 2009
It took me decades into ministry to learn to relax. I was a nervous neurotic. It's a wonder I didn't smoke. I would have been a good one.
My problem was I was a wish-controller. A wish-controller is one who doesn't control much but wishes he did. "If I would have only said", "If I would have done", "If things had been different", and "Oh yeah, well I coulda done better but I...." and on the self-talk of big-ism went.
But.....I learned. I learned two things; (1) I wasn't much, and (2) God knew it and was just waiting on me to accept it as my value point...II Cor. 12:9.
Living able to relax is unlike the opposite; steady and moody tension. Now I can like right now...every right now. It stuff works out, if I don't get my way, if my team wins, or if I lose something valuable.....I like right now. I've learned to let Him worry if He wants to....and He seems to have no taste for it. If I fail, I'll capitalize on lessons to be learned. If I succeed, I'll thank Him for letting something go right.
I've learned to let things go. All those mountains I wanted brought low and all those streams I wanted replenished with fish? They all take place in His timing, with His industry, IF He wants. I just can't seem to boss God.
Maybe you are miserable in your work because others won't cooperate. Relax. God will take care. Often, to my personal surprise, it wasn't the "others" God was trimming. It was my heart of setting a course for the kingdom and then obligating God to fulfill the task.
Ministry is a blessing to one's heart. It will go much better if we will learn to let things go....Ps. 46:10.
Sunday, September 06, 2009
You noted my blog last week about receiving the baseball signed by John Grisham? From his work of The Painted House, I knew the Cardinals and baseball were in his zone.
So this morning I sent him a Thank You letter and then thought....ah, why not? So, I autographed a Voice of Silver, Heart of Gold Jack Buck book!
I figured I hadn't had a John Grisham autograph and he didn't have a Terry Rush autograph. Now he can be happy!
Ah, that is a strange twist, don't you think?
Saturday, September 05, 2009
When I initially wrote the manuscript for The Holy Spirit Makes No Earthly Sense (which is now rewritten under the name Empowering the Ordinary), I sent it off to two of my good friends at Gospel Advocate publishing in Nashville for their review. Later I traveled to that city to meet with these good men as to the possibility of them printing the book.
They explained they believed what I wrote but could not print it for it would cost them business. They expressed the hope I would understand. I didn't. They reiterated they just could not print such a work. So, Alton Howard of Howard Publishing jumped at the manuscript. The book became so popular the Gospel Advocate later pictured it in their catalog and evidently made a profit from it.
What I want you to get is the certainty that the truth is the truth regardless of who or how many join together to say it is not. Be free to accept rejection. It isn't the end of the world but the beginning of a new opportunity. Each time we have a dream or vision and it is shut down, we haven't experienced loss. We have wonderfully eliminated something that won't work. So, we try again.
The Holy Spirit book is now being rewritten for a third time. More and more believers are accumulating the courage to stand with the Word of God; the Holy Spirit does operate directly in a Christian's life. When it is the truth; we are free to accept rejection...even from our close friends.
Friday, September 04, 2009
I understand the fear of the topic. The church has received adequate propaganda over the years to intentionally misguide the church from this entity. You see, the Holy Spirit is the presence of God in Spirit form. He shows up no other way. He is Spirit.
If Satan can convince the church through its very own doctrine to deny the existence of God among itself.....then guess who wins? The church without the Holy Spirit is the church without God while shouting from the rooftops it is God's church.....it's just that evidently He can't attend it.
What will the Holy Spirit do? Whatever God does. Scary? Hardly! The Word is very clear; he gives us the ability to be patient instead of panic, loving instead of snippy, a controlled calm rather than a hand-wringing fret, etc. The Holy Spirit wants to do all the good things for us that we all want; yet, we opt for trying to do it on our own because we are afraid of......God?
The Holy Spirit is God. He is Spirit and He is Holy. We have mistakenly jumped the faith track to deadening religion. We have become religious. Religion doesn't need the Holy Spirit. It can chart its course by attendance and performance. The Spirit, though, cannot be understood by the fleshly mind.
To disbelieve the Holy Spirit activity for and among us is the lazy man's move. It has always been easier to trust what we can see; not what we can't. Thus, we assume we are not going to be caught as foolish by believing in something invisible like.......God. Bad move. Costly move.
The church will one day apologize to God for harboring a doctrine foreign to His will. Possibly we will turn back before such is necessary. Maybe we can open the very Word the Holy Spirit delivered us and regain our composure. The Spirit of God surely is important among us.
If you struggle believing this, just read the Bible. It will encourage you to accept his activity among us.
I have some good news and some good news. The good news is men are in ministry. The good news is men like Rick, and Chris Seidman, and myself are pedaling as fast as we can with desire to help.
I'll happily do what I can to encourage such hearts. To any such men or women reading this, it would work best for you to email me privately at firstname.lastname@example.org. This works better for me, rather than phone, as I can get to more people in less time. Now let me give you Rick's home phone number.....817-......only kidding!
Here's what I would want to say to each of you regardless of whether you are on top of the world or buried by it. God knows where you are, is crazy about you now, and will offer His resurrection power for your work....Romans 8:11, II Cor. 13:4. Now you may not stay in that spot long, but you won't waste the valuable lessons God has in store while you are there.
Your work is not difficult because you drew the short straw. It is your opportunity to give up...as we all have at some point...in order for God to get to show His stuff. To His and for His glory....He shows up when all Lazarus situations are buried.
Thursday, September 03, 2009
My spirit wasn't dry so I wasn't looking for a pick-me-up. I am hungry to maintain energy for this work so I was curious as to Rick's approach to ministry. We volleyed questions and responses as if we were doing research for a test. A thing I like about Rick is he speaks the kingdom language in a way I get it. He is dead-on serious about extending the love of Christ to a hurting generation.
His love for Jesus and the Bible is pure, selfless, and strong. He's been put through the fire; yet, has zero interest in retaliation or bitterness. He moves about as Nehemiah when building the wall.
Chris Seidman entered the scene this morning on the golf course. These two are best friends and it was sheer delight to listen to their hearts.
It is very fun to fellowship with men who make the great commission of Christ their business. I want to get better at it. I'll always be in kindergarten; Rick and Chris helped me so much because they too are effective learners.
I'm a lucky man. I've been to a seminar.....and I didn't even need a badge; the speaker recognized me right off. And....we ate ice cream after 9:30 and stayed up 'til 10:40! Yippee!
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
It seems that every Christian principle in this country is being squeezed. Bias and tolerance are promoted on every front except one....the Christian one.
I believe the day is coming we are going to find America on that hill assaulted and murdered by its religious thugs who tried to do the same against Jesus. What will our duty be? To build better defense? To develop a plan of resistance?
Would it surprise you to consider dying for our enemies? I believe Christian America is being undermined while being kissed. We may one day find the plug of safety and decency is pulled and we are annihilated by an incredible firestorm that we become disoriented and unable to put ourselves back together again. I believe Christians from South Africa and China will arise to embalm our destroyed bodies and place us in our tombs while we wait for Him to do that marvelous thing....again....that He did to the original body of Christ.
Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you....I Peter 4:12....as if some strange thing were happening to you.
So don't be surprised. And don't be caught off guard. Jesus didn't call us to brand name churches to be sure the kiddies don't spill on the carpet. He calls us to be like him...even to the extent we die for the very ones who wish to destroy us. Love your enemy. Pray for those who persecute you. He will supply everything all need for successful resurrection power.
Wake up. We aren't toying with religion selectively walking only from the center of the easy trek. I think we are marching up that hill again....toward the cross....in actual life.
Irritations are overrated. Let them go. They aren't worth our earth-time; let alone our kingdom time. So the plumbing is clogged. Get it fixed. Think of how many went to their graves early who would have loved to live a bit longer to gladly fix a clogged shower.
Wake up to your own wonder! Wake up. You who constantly spoil your day by griping about it? Stop it! It's an insult to the Creator who gave us these days. So you are ten pounds overweight. Do something about it....and in the meantime be thankful you aren't 210 pounds overweight. Basically, quit harping at your body that has been very good to you.
Every morning we get up and face obstacle courses; not as spectators, but as participants. Hurdles are many and several are high. And by day's end we will have skinned our knees, run out of breath, and at times finished last. Glory. We were in the race!
Wake up to the spectacular day of now. It is not average....and you are not average. You are blessed!