Wednesday, August 31, 2011
At every turn of others and ourselves, pride may intercept, interrupt, or destroy otherwise good works....and good people. Pride is an ever-constant battle.
One reason is the possessor is usually so oblivious to its presence. My pride makes me defensive when I ought to listen; yet I'm too busy blocking out important info for I assume I am right...already.
Too, pride shields me in the name of self- preservation when I should be losing my notoriety and popularity for the cause and benefit of others. New life in Christ is not about me. The only way one can really find life is to let go of the one we possess.
True, humility gets a shot at us here and there. But when the day is done, pride makes sure we were covered well.
Right and righteousness are never from our mental conclusions nor are they from our deliberate efforts of service. Righteousness must be from God; that found in Jesus and never in and of ourselves....Mt. 5:20, Rom. 1:17, I Cor. 1:30, and Titus 3:5.
Right and righteousness are from Jesus for us because we can't reach them from our own education or service. Wrong and wrongedness are ours. Right and righteousness are His. The trade was made...II Cor. 5:21. Jesus became our wrong that we become his right.
Therefore, we are never, never, never in a position to boast of how right we are and wrong others are. We are right only due to Jesus and he is to be the one promoted from our lips as the only one who gets things right or makes people right.
Right and righteousness are two wonderful traits. Subtle pride ruins both from our very core.
May His grace spread from among us as we recall how much He paid that we could open our mouths in order to bless and not curse. May we use our voices for vision and not retraction; for offering hope and not condemnation.
Monday, August 29, 2011
What's with it among us that the alignment of unity is such a mean and fierce battle?
I can only answer for myself.
I was converted at age twenty, entered preaching school at age 22 and graduated at age 24. I possessed an eagerness to reach the world; which has not faded over the decades. However, as peeling away the shucks from an ear of corn, I continually find the need to shed the concepts and stances added to me which came from ego; not from Bible.
What changed? Hasn't the Truth always been the Truth? Oh, yes. But I haven't been of it. What changed was my focus on Jesus and not what impresses the brotherhood. There is a stark difference; one is of light and the other is of dark agony.
I'm still a work-in-progress regarding this unity thing. But I can tell from adjustments I have made that our staff is much more cohesive, our staff-elder relationship is tight, and the congregation is at a strong position of effectiveness.
I didn't create any of it; but merely learned a little here and there to get out of the way. My hatred for other brands and insistence that all around march to my drum was never in the mind or will of God.
When the Unity of the Spirit is sought, something holy and graceful begins to develop that wasn't present before.
That something would be called God. He lives among the harmonious...He seems to be clear about it.
Don't be afraid to say, I got it wrong, I said it wrong, I was wrong.
Ten years from now we will need this reminder.
It is permissible to enjoy the many things we do and say accurately. But it is, in my opinion, a healthy reminder to be aware of our vast short-comings for we are only strong by the grace of our God and the depth of our spiritual family.
Ten years from now? How about two hours?
Enjoy the Life He gives us. And in it, be open for improvement.
Friday, August 26, 2011
I know. Inferiority spelled another way is t-e-r-r-y.
Would it be all right if I told you God has helped me come a long way? You won't make me feel inferior for saying so, will you?
God has really helped me. I write about it should it help someone you know.
To combat my struggles a leader would say to me something like, Well, remember Terry, we all put our pants on one leg at a time. Wow! That was a truth which offered no help!
Here are some thoughts which did introduce me to a new kind of life:
- Every person has superior qualities and inferior ones; no exception. I have lots of company.
- Every person from celebrity to homeless has inferior feelings about themselves; I didn't draw the short straw.
- I am adequate; but only because God's Spirit in me makes me such....II Cor. 3:4-5.
- God can make something of a nothing person....Rom. 4:17.
- My job is to stand by and watch for God and His work....Ex. 14:13-14.
- My trust is to be that I can be still knowing He is God....Ps. 46:10.
- The apostle Paul was a nobody and yet God used him....II Cor. 12:9-11.
- Life doesn't always have to be moving and shaking to be meaningful...Acts 1:4.
- Self-consciousness is an unnecessary dis-ease due to an assumption that life revolves around me. It doesn't.
Inferiority is a killer. It develops unwritten laws and inner secret codes for ultimate satisfaction of always being something else...something else that I'm not.
Superiority isn't its antonym. Peace is. Joy is. Gratitude is.
Because of God, I have learned to like being me. Of course there are many things about me I would redesign; still, God lets me be the luckiest man I ever met!
The whole of the good life is due to Jesus and from Jesus and through Jesus. It does not depend upon my self-image that I spent so many years grooming in order to look good in front of others.
It is a relief to know that no one is impressed with me. My job is to let the Holy Spirit rent out my body that I might be one more from whom He could work.
So what should we do with vicious inferiority? Show it the door!
Life........may we walk in its fullness!
Regardless of what we wish or envision, when God gets done putting us through about ten or twenty years of church boot camp we find ourselves broken down to nothing that He might build us back up.
Little is a kingdom necessity. From experience with God and His Word, I now would guess that each of the "heavy hitters" in the kingdom--whom I both enjoy and find benefit in reading their materials and hearing them speak--could share grave days of being smashed to zero-istic size.
Little. Nothing. Mustard seed. Nobody. Dead. All signify a zone we normally wish to avoid; yet each is found to be essential for vast and abundant church life!
A disciple gradually learns a trade secret that few choose to believe; power really is perfected in weakness. It isn't found in either pedigree or degree. Power is only found in the Spirit of Jesus.
The emotion of being a BB in a kingdom barrel is exhilarating because one never knows what in the global world He is going to do next.
Hang on! Jesus is here!
Thursday, August 25, 2011
All? No. Many. Worth considering.
Thinking outside of the box is joyous phraseology to the dreamer. The why is because if there is one thing God is good at it is His relentless talent of creativity. Born again ones are called and challenged to let creative juices flow for they are from God's cabinet of skill. Didn't He say that whatever we could imagine, He would trump it...Eph. 3:20-21?
Don't you love the David/Saul's armor story? The tried and proven was assumed by the lead guy as to be precisely what the rookie would need to do effective battle. Yet, God's wink gave the nod to youthful and very green David to face nuclear threatening Iran with a water pistol (so to speak). Who else but God coupled with a dreamer!?
The key issue is to remember that tradition festers boredom and boredom inhibits creativity. David's story illustrates how innovation may deliver us of giants. But take stock of your hang-ups! Many are more afraid of abandoning tradition than they are of fighting giants.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Francis Schaeffer spelled it out when he wrote, One of the problems with humanists is that they tend to "love" humanity as a whole---Man with a capital M, Man as and idea---but forget about man as an individual, as a person. Christianity is to be exactly the opposite. Christianity is not to love in abstraction, but to love the individual who stands before me in a person-to-person relationship. He must never be faceless to me or I am denying everything I say I believe.
It is a right goal that for every encounter we may have with a face, we must work at noticing it is a person who needs our loving affirmation. This doesn't require rocket science. For starters, it just needs a Hello or Thank you or Good morning.
When you see people realize it is an opportunity to see....people.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Tension is similar. We have our good tension and then we have our bad. Which is it? The same answer as cholesterol. Both.
The good tension is the stress and strain which disciplines us to become stronger in faith, in hope, and in love. It is the weight lifting of the useful and spiritual struggles in the workout gym of God's kingdom.
Bad tension robs the same stress and strain by replacing love with fear. Worry sets in which leads to control-effort which leads to aggravation which leads to poor spiritual health.
For the confident-in-Christ believer, tension is that experienced when all six strings of a guitar are loosened tightly so that ideal harmony exudes from the most attentive tune-up. Tension is not only a good thing; but a necessary part of a kingdom believer.
Be warned of the bad tension which serves as a distraction. Furthermore, be ultra careful not to label the good tension as bad. We need significant stress to play the music of God. We must not let the stress play us.
Wow! Well said, me!
Monday, August 22, 2011
There is always reason to hope...Rom. 5:1-5
We live in resurrection power...now...Rom. 4:17-25
Weak servants have a place in the kingdom....II Cor. 12:9
It is up to God; not us....Rom. 9:16
Jesus is the goal; all religious hoops are vain without him....Jn. 5:30-43
Praise and glory belong to God and we are to learn to be vocal about Him....the Word.
Sunday, August 21, 2011
For the past few months I have been overwhelmed as I prepare for the actual sermon delivery. The experience is so foreign I don't know that I can express it well to you...and that is a large part of my point.
In years past my obsession was that of most ministers; what will I say? Can I find enough material? Will the outline flow? Lately, the question I have regards my delivery in that I know I have a message from God; but I don't understand it clearly.
Now such a comment might set me up for immediate mocking. That's okay. I speak to those who are growing with me in the Spirit of Jesus. While the Word assures us we co-labor with Him, His ways are always higher than ours. This truth means we are engaged in areas over our heads....literally.
I love preaching. It is exciting and fulfilling. Yet, it remains illusive in that I must submit to it when its grasp seems a bit out of my reach. God is in the details. It is God who delivers sharply through our fumbling phraseology and our mindless comments. It is God who whispers and calls hearts over to His corner. We are His mouthpieces.
What an honor. What a privilege. I love every day of it. But I must say that as time advances, I feel more insecure about my skill and more insistent He loaned me His.
I'm in over my head when it comes to preaching....and it feels oddly right.
Friday, August 19, 2011
I so enjoy life in the church. Study is a daily ritual as learning is still so amazing. My goal is to grow old by becoming newer every day. Why not? It is His idea!
For you younger sort---any younger than me---be encouraged about the process of church life. It will all be all right when you can learn to step back and let God lead. This is simple sounding, I know, but a most glorious road of emotional satisfaction. God works. Our faith works to believe God works. If we fail to believe God works, our works wither.
For me, I found the 20s, 30s, and 40s were God's time to prove to me I didn't run the show. I never once demanded authority, etc; but I did think my creativity and ingenuity could do magic in the kingdom. Wrong. Very wrong. I could have quit; yet I knew He was out there somewhere and somehow. My job was to seek Him out.
In my 50s I found myself out of innovative and resourceful steam; yet the work seemed to be more productive and even more fun. The Spirit of God is so willing to help. Even at this age, I find life as a preacher in the Church of Christ to be what He promised....well beyond my imagination.
Troubles? Stinking attitudes all around? Hurt by others who have no mutual vision? Don't shrink back and do not quit. Use these stresses as classes to go to school and learn of Him. You will find a new world open right where you live that at one time you would have deemed possibly a lost cause. Be prepared. Your discovery will likely be you (as I did) may find it is your lack of hope in Christ which has held back progress.
God is an awesome God! He has ideas no one has yet thought to seek. One of my talks with Him is often that I would like Him to show me His possibilities which have long been overlooked. Oh, time has proven me flawed, faulted, and failure-full. Each time, though, has proven Him power-potent and ready-to-roll.
Learning to trust God is a process of Life which really begins to kick in when you reach the necessary end of your frayed rope.
We need to know this and then remember it well. God knows how to do life; my life...and your life. He knows how. He is the Man-ufacturer!
This Truth of His character is why we can always be filled with hope every second of every day. Joseph-like pits and Jesus-like graves are God's stage. In moments like these He shows His stuff!
Be neither forlorn nor discouraged. God is with you. Be still. Don't comment. Let Him do the battle for He is expert. Your position is to be arrestable as was Jesus. God will reverse both the mob and the penalty of death. You live upon the God power-yielding stage of Wow!
Shift from being down to praising Him...when the break hasn't happened yet...for the breakthrough is well on its way. It is up to us to believe Him. It is up to Him to provide a life that bears much, much, much glad fruit.
So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy...Romans 9:16. This is my sanity-saving verse. Hope is up to God and it is up to me to leave it up to God.
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Jesus died on the cross and darkness overtook the scene...for three hours.
For one, the message was clear as his critics began to mumble, "Oh, we have killed the light." Imagine standing for 38 minutes and then 51 and then 98...not knowing if light would ever return. Those hours had to be history's longest three.
And there is another possible yes to the darkness. Jesus had been stripped and beaten. Could it be that Father tenderly clothed with darkness His beloved that such shame would be hidden from enemy eyes?
Calvin Miller points this out, But God's darkness was not brutal---it was rather a drape of friendly shadows that hid the naked shame of his beloved. The cruel crucifiers who came in God's light to gloat victoriously over the martyrdom of Jesus would not have his light to see them home. His darkness matched the blindness of human hearts.
The truth continues; there is always something new to ponder about the old, old story. There was a yes hovering at the cross, don't you think?
In my circle I believe that the church suffers a low-grade fever. Something is ajar in our system; yet it doesn't stop us from going to work. We are suffering malady due to diversion and division.
Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. The way is Jesus; not our multi-five-step approaches. The truth is Jesus; not the gathering of connected Bible texts. The life is Jesus; not aggressive work and energetic enthusiasm for shuttling ministry throughout any week. Jesus is the frame and the heart. We are to come to him....John 5:39ff.
Evangelism is to be about Jesus; not our programs and not our approach. The latter matters, for sure, but if the goal is not to develop Jesus in the heart of the student we will possibly baptize for the count; but not for the discipling thrust.
Worship is to offer intense glory to God in the Spirit of Jesus. To check off the five main features with little relationship to Jesus during the exercise...is merely religious exercise which ultimately dries and withers the heart.
Service is about the presence of Jesus. Activity can be a mask for failing to spend time learning of the person Jesus. A relationship with him can be absent while the church calendar is jam-packed.
Preaching is to be about Jesus. Sermon outlines may be creative; yet Jesus is the life in the sermons. The delivery isn't as key as we preachers would like to believe. The relationship to him and his presence leaves us able to "get" the message. Due to his magnificent grace he will override both our creativity or our fumbling. Jesus will communicate (beyond the formation of our English words) and the listeners will have heard him for they know his voice.
How shall we measure these challenges? Take note of two things.
- When you work do you think about him and the joy and the provision he brings or are you oblivious of his presence at the expense of rolling up your committed sleeves and jumping in with both feet? We must be sober about developing our lives directly into Jesus. All else is futile and the result is disappointing failure.
- Do you spend time in prayer talking it over with him or do you roll up your committed sleeves and jump in with both feet?
Monday, August 15, 2011
We are told, for instance, that 80 percent of all evangelical and fundamental teachings today came from the Plymouth Brethren movement of the early 1800s. That seems to be an established historical fact. But you could never have convinced theologians in the early 1800s of that!
It was not until the mid-1800s that the mainstream of Christianity began to read the writings of the Brethren and, finally, realized the wealth that was there. Forthwith ministers began preparing sermons based on what they read of the Brethren writings. The Sunday morning congregations were very impressed. But structure could not handle everything the Brethren had said. What they taught had to be watered down a bit to fit.
The problem was easily solved; men simply left out the main point. (Now you know why God veiled His work among the Brethren for a whole generation.)
But why did the Lord ever allow the work of the Brethren to come into public view anyway? Why did He ever allow their wonderful insight and experience to become common and diluted? It seems that when the Brethren's message became good sermon material for Sunday morning sermons, their major contribution to church history began to end.
Why? Because He had moved on. God had moved on, leaving the brethren as one of His past works. He had moved on to do a work of recovery somewhere else, a deeper work, and a work hidden from full view.
So, dear reader, this book goes forth for all of God's people, but this time it goes forth mostly for those who wish to experience the depths this book speaks of in the context of the life of the church. It will be only the Christian who places himself in the atmosphere of church life who will know the full depths of Christ. It seems the Lord made things so that His fullness is known only there.
The Old Testament told all about Christ, but when men of old read the Old Testament, they did not see Him there. God is like that. He keeps His highest revelation slightly veiled. Why? So men will not trample it under foot.
But then one day Christ came! All at once God lifted the veil. Men could turn to the Old Testament and so easily see Christ all through it! But at the same time God lifted the veil on the old, He did something else! He placed a veil over the new. While Christ lived on the earth, men who heard Him could not quite get the full meaning of His words. Christ was veiled to all except His handful of disciples (and even His disciples did not fully understand Him until their Lord came into them).
Sunday, August 14, 2011
May this become the issue of someone's age! Yes, the issue of the restoration of the experience of that beautiful thing called church.
You and I have no alternative if we plumb the infinite depths of Jesus Christ; eventually we will be driven to the issue of the life of the church. God's ultimate desire is not that you be rich and happy, or that you have a nice devotional life, or a thousand other things you might think. Reread the record. The passion, the centrality of the Scripture is Christ and the church. You and I cannot know Christ as we should without also knowing the living experience of the church.
You cannot have salvation without a living Christ. You cannot have the full ends of the deeper Christian life without a living experience of Christ and and living walk inside the experience of church life.
God simply set up His grand design with Christ and the church as the center. He made it the very nature of things. You can fight it if you chose. but cannot beat it; God made Christ and the church central. The fact is in the very bloodstream of the universe. You can try some other approach, but it won't work. You are moving against God's designs. Christ and the church are the sum total of God's schemes. The universe flows in that direction; any other way is upstream.
Friday, August 12, 2011
A revival of an experience of Christ in the depths will naturally issue into a longing for this indefinable thing sometimes called "church life".
What is "church life?" I do not know how to give a definition, but it is the church glorious, stunning and all-consuming; the church jealous, devouring your whole life; the church magnetic, claiming every moment of your being; the church living and free; the church winged in flight. Not a place, but a people---living in the heavenlies, constantly consumed with Him and blind to all else. The church as she once was, ought to be, can be, will be! A bride ---passionate, wooing and madly in love with her Lord and her Love. A people who know and experience Him!
Consider this, dear reader: Jesus Christ loves you. He saved you. You love Him. That is one reason you are reading this book: to know Him better. You, an individual, wish to know Him. But God never intended for you to pursue Him solely as an individual.
THE ISSUE OF THIS AGE
Jeanne Guyon once made the observation that in every era God raises a spiritual issue. During Paul's life it was "works and faith." Every age since then has also had its controversy; and in every age since Constantine, our God has set about restoring those precious experiences of the early church that had been lost. In her own age God used Jeanne Guyon to raise the issue of the indwelling Christ. That is, that the Lord is within you---working from the inside out---that you can know Him and experience Him by living in that chamber where He makes His home. (It would still make a good issue today!) She raised the issue of the interior Christ.
But God did not stop raising issues with the 17th Century. He raises yet other issues; He is a restoring God.
Is there a spiritual issue in our age?
Well, if there is not, there should be! If men and women today, by the thousands, began experiencing the depths of Jesus Christ in a real and transforming way, there would be simply no place for their experience to fit into the present-day rites of Christianity, be they Protestant or Catholic forms. Neither movement is presently structured to contain a mass of devoted people who walk in spiritual depths. Or, to put it another way, both movements are structured toward other emphases; it is, by its nature, a structure that hinders the torrents of unleashed love meant to be poured out on God. The very element, the very soul, the very composition and structure of present day Protestantism and Catholicism frustrate a deep encounter with the living God!
Thursday, August 11, 2011
But just as we grow up and lose the stunning fascination of Christmas Eve where we can hardly sleep in anticipation of Santa's wee hour visit, we likely grow dull in the realities of our God's activities among us.
But it doesn't have to be this way.
We can be in the church every day of the exact spirit of teens their first day back from summer camp. Wound up! Committed to one another! Devoted to God!
I practice avoiding becoming numb to wonder. I notice my eyes see and my ears hear and I tell Him about my gratitude. I told Him yesterday about my continued appreciation that I can still drive a car...and have such a nice car to drive.
However, I still believe we must be on guard against living very spoiled in such a rich time. Being more demanding has rushed into the church just as in secular settings. Impatience and ungrateful is not the mark of a Spirit-led believer.
Avoid being numb to wonder; first by being aware it is a viable threat and second by using your eyes to really see and your ears to really hear. I think one measuring stick as to how we are doing with this can be based on how much we tell our Father we are most appreciative.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
We either are too heavy or too sagging or drive a car that gets poor gas mileage or have mustaches too gray or own auto policies which are too costly. An hours worth of television or radio programming will assure us we are a pitiful sort....but help is around the corner.
Is is any wonder men, women, and children go through days feeling that, in whatever state, we have sorely missed the mark? The ultimate product for self-improvement is only an 800 number away. And, don't forget, if we place that call within the next ten minutes we can have two of the one thing we really must have in order to be top notch.
I experienced this in my earlier days of ministry; believing that regardless of what I brought to the table I could not possibly be close to adequate. I was too short or too uneducated or too silly...well that's enough for now. But I learned something from God which has reduced my complexes as well as my envies and jealousies.
I learned we do not work as individuals but as a body. Today I can be expressively grateful for Rick Atchley because he advantages me. To have him in the loop and on the team; I just got stronger. I don't have to try to be a good as Liz Pence. I can now enjoy the fact that her labor in the kingdom compliments my efforts (and mine hers). Furthermore, what little God can get from me is a plus for preachers here and teachers there for God's body in Jesus is fluid and effective---via each of us---by His Holy Spirit.
Room for improvement? Always. Discouraged because we are not ideal? No more. The body of Christ is ideal and we are set on maturing in him.
You are enough in Jesus. Your efforts are linked to those of believers miles away and even centuries away. God's synchronization is perfect and pure. We matter. Due to the Spirit we are good enough to be significant. We co-labor with Him.
We have reason to believe our size fits into the body with all others! Each of us counts. Each shines the light on the glory of another. God is to be praised. Honor is His alone.
We are in that ever-threatening position of believing that what makes church click for us is what the unchurched need. Maybe what has been enough for us isn't for others.
Church stagnantism is the result of a religious group subtly shifting from robust theology to numbifying rote lethargy. Pattern---the pattern of course that we like---edges God from His throne and takes over the mind-set of the gatherers for self-pleasing consumption.
It is our ever-constant duty to find the methods which will do two things; align within biblical boundaries and draw the community's hearts. A matter of right and wrong isn't necessarily the issue. Putting together spiritual movement that hooks unbelievers is.
It is possible and probable and even normal to find those things which lift our spirits while drawing others. This post is simply to awaken any who could be stuck in churchianity to the point of neglect should we have forgotten to ponder what we might do differently to win our neighbors.
May we obtain a flow of wisdom from above which pleases God, engages us, and reaches seekers.
Tuesday, August 09, 2011
Why heart eyes and not the flesh ones?
This topic was born in the Garden. Sin happened and what was it of Adam and Eve that was opened? Their eyes. From such a negative moment, God has pleaded that we not fall for the deceit of what those carnal eyes see.
When carnal eyes evaluate (from the opposite system of faith), they are connected directly to human reason. Our bodies respond accordingly. What, therefore, is expected when carnal eyes take the back seat and the heart eyes lead?
Eyes of the heart see God in potential, possibility, and provision. Flesh eyes didn't see any of the three coming in the wilderness; except for Joshua and Caleb's heart eyes. Their faith led to the reality of God's promise. All others folded in the center of potential. Carnal eyes lack the vision of God. Heart eyes are invisible goggles with the ability to see into the....invisibles.
We are to walk by faith and not by sight; so Paul exhorted. The difference in the two depends upon the set of eyes used. Carnal eyes, if permitted, will talk the heart and mind out of effort for kingdom use (think back to the wilderness failures). Yet, the heart eyes will believe what the carnal eyes refuse to confirm (Joshua and Caleb).
The dynamic of faith is it can see probability when the opposite prefers to retract and hide in fear. The first word I learned on my first day at first grade in the Dick and Jane book was Look!
The entire message of God's book is wonderfully the same; Look!
Saturday, August 06, 2011
To say I find joy in God is an understatement. To experience His hand is the ultimate. And it goes on and on. How merciful can He be?
Baffling to my mind is the reversal God has made in my approach to kingdom work....when I wasn't suspecting such a need. I have become the very kind of man I was trained to oppose. I get the critic's disdain for one like me for I was groomed to stand against what I now stand for.
My goal was to make Church of Christ out of Baptists and Presbyterians because we did Bible right. Furthermore, I was at the top of the charts in the Church of Christ as far as proper perspective and mighty goals.....so I thought.
I thought wrong.
I was a biblical character; to be sure. I was a Pharisee who was clueless as to the nature and mission of Jesus. Law was my sword. Debate was my glory. Jesus was my demise. Now I am the very kind I could not and would not tolerate.
I get my critics for I was hatched from their incubators. The grasp for "that's not right" can be all-consuming. Jesus? Well, we close prayers in his name. The Holy Spirit? Don't even go there.
The conversion of Saul to Paul is reflective in places. It wasn't just that he shifted from Judaism to Christianity. Transitioning from a law man with six-gun and holster to operating under the influence of one named Jesus was stark in its polarization.
I identify. To move from carrying my Bible as a snare for the stupid to being snagged by the Savior is a thrilling, surprising, and stunning journey. I wasn't looking for it...for I had no need....so I assumed.
As it turns out, I am the very kind of Christian I earlier opposed. Should you have a yen for living under church law, Jesus is looking for you, too.
Friday, August 05, 2011
I had to think again. It could. It was.
What I am about to say could be regarded as overly simplistic. While it is, it is not to be disregarded with a shrug of indifference. I learned a major fact about a major deficit in my earlier ministry efforts; specifically my preaching and teaching. Both were Jesus-less.
I had no idea this was a problem. Because I salted and peppered his name into sermons, I assumed I was preaching him. I wasn't.
I was devoted to preaching Church of Christ. I read R. L. Whiteside and J. W. McGarvey to find out what I (no really what we) believed and why. When one preaches CoC with defensive gusto, quarrels and all sorts of divisive squabbling follows. But when Jesus is preached....long enough....two things seem to occur: (1) it quickly separates some, and oddly (2) and new kind of harmony begins to develop. There seems to be basic reasons for both.
Separation quickly arises because Jesus will not co-habit a doctrine(s) where he is not supreme. On the other hand, harmony develops because, as Jesus is pondered, our own personal guilt of blatant sinfulship abounds to the point we yearn for his righteousness for ours wreaks of denial and bias.
Both positions tout the Name. The legalistic me referenced Jesus to give him credit for the textual stories. The grace me sees him from a completely different stage. I now see him as a person. I watch his walk. I note things like his lack of panic. His tenderness with each underdog and underdogette is a slap in the face of legalistic tendencies.
Legalism is much easier for one doesn't have to study; but rather parrot and judge. Jesus, though, is ever drawing and ever growing and ever changing....us.
Just as some say they believe in grace when they seem to believe in the word (itself) and not in the activity of it, Jesus can become merely a proper pronoun. I hear others say, Well I believe in the Holy Spirit. Yet, they speak of Him restrictively meaning they believe in His existence but not His immediate activity.
So it is with Jesus. Do we drop his name as an endorsement of faith? Or, do we believe him to be alive, in person, and reigning Lord of the now? He is a personal savior and friend; not a mere religious brand icon.
As we grow into his personality, we will find ourselves more ajar to our religious habits. Jesus is a train wreck that did happen....to me. And....I'm grateful. It is ongoing. When I see him I am forced to lay down my plea to look at what I thought I had believed well and seek his mercy to be allowed to participate again tomorrow.
Thursday, August 04, 2011
So what shall we do?
For too long I tried to maneuver each barricade with analysis and plot. Failure usually followed. Being a dreamer I would then do my best to create yet another set or two of concepts which might resolve the puzzling dilemma. More failure.
Finally, I learned to use these exasperating moments as "training seminars" to teach me how to rely upon God. Simply said, I know; but not easily encountered by my control-timed brain.
My mistake was in persistent effort of trying to fix things and people. Seldom would I succeed. When God convinced me I couldn't, He began to persuade me He could. Thus, from the "training seminars", I learned that God runs the show....and I don't. How quick of a learner must I be?
What can we really do to succeed when success isn't within our abilities?
When facing a mountain range of trouble, try to remember God's Red Sea power. When tempted to write off a failing friend, think about Jesus' compassionate style with the woman at the well. When suffocating by thoughts of distress and grief, lean upon the call to lift the eyes of your heart to the riches and the power and the glory of God....Ephesians 1:18ff. When buried in situations which kill the heart, apply God's resurrection power toward us who believe...Romans 4:17-25.
God isn't God only to call us to a church assembly. He is our God to walk with us and live within us day by day for the good, the bad, and the ugly. Jesus died to heal. Draw near to him when without explanation or proof such a move will be of any benefit. Let Him be Him. He knows how to bring about hope. We learn this when attending "training seminars" that He knows how to bring about hope. Good days or bad...hope reigns...Romans 5:1-5.
A threat we must take seriously is that we would be attending one of God's specially designed training seminars....and not realize we were there.
Wednesday, August 03, 2011
I am sure this role is coming about due to my age (which, by the way, isn't nearly as old as I once had assumed). Regardless, I am honored to be in touch with whomever because I first believe in whomever.
Never do I disregard inquiries. If the topic was important enough for one to ask, then it is also important enough to give thoughtful response.
Don't misunderstand. I clearly get it I am not the answer man. We all have colleagues and elders, etc. to weigh our thoughts or vent our frustrations. Yet, I thoroughly enjoy being in touch with (especially the young) preachers who run into stubborn walls here and there.
I am merely gladly paying back what others graciously afforded me. No one flies solo in the work of the church. It takes sympathetic agonizers and energetic cheerleaders to keep us afloat. Ministry that is worth anything is one which is framed in turbulence for we follow the Most Turbulent peacemaker of all. They killed him.
While I am really not soliciting something to do---really---my email is email@example.com in case you ever hit a day where you think you just may not survive. Maybe together we could team up to form a winning plan.
We serve a God who makes something from nothing and causes dead things to come back to life...Romans 4:17. He can do it!
I'm not one of those who believes the Word needs help. I believe we do....and we always will.
One of the reasons Jesus died unfairly upon the cross is because the religious leaders of his day could not keep up with the moving hand of God. They not only refused; they rebelled.
We must be ever so alert to not possess such hearts as they. Sincerity was in their genes. Missing the mark was, also. We view ourselves as having stepped into Truth when the Pharisees and Sadducees simply were too hung up in their traditions to notice God had long passed them by. Their rituals were irrelevant.
We walk the same threatening trail. We are steeped in tradition to the degree it is/would be easy for us miss the Prince and His Promises for our future because our hands are currently to the plow looking backward at the field we have cultivated.
We live in a time of explosion. Wars and threats of wars are brought to our living rooms in high definition with a scroll of disappointments and crises streaming the bottom of the screen. Technology can't even keep up with itself; it has become so imaginative and so fast.
The Word still matters. In its perpetual power, however, it would call us to be current in our culture and this is where I/we may be asleep at the switch.
In my opinion both political parties in Washington have become mesmerized by their past traditional working habits. While surely weary of their pace and demanding schedules, the back door to responsibility and effectiveness seems to be wide open. Such has left us with icons with name plaques on their doors; but have long left both the intentions of the original government drafts and the representation of the common man they were so elected to serve.
Thus, the church must ever awaken to suspicion we might fit into similar shoes. We must look at the original draft (Word) and never leave it. The challenge is to take a look at "church" and see how close (or far) we are from the original. The one instigated by Jesus will most likely rock our current belief system; not because we are not sincere but because he is Jesus and his ways are always higher.
There is a great threat of irrelevance within us. The world will not only be better off when the gangsters lay down their weapons; but rather when Christians awaken from a sleep disorder which has become a haven to keep us busy while we keep our versatile programs well-oiled.
May we give attention to keeping up with the pace of the Savior and the need of the people.
Tuesday, August 02, 2011
One is under our control. The other is God's. We choose.
John 3:8 speaks of those led by the Spirit; not the Spirit but those led by Him. Such a one shifts according to the wind. Have we not sort of made fun of those whom we deemed absent of rock solid stability in their direction?
True, we are clearly called to resist being carried about by every wind of doctrine. Wind of doctrine is not the wind of the Spirit. Ironically, we have too long avoided the doctrine of the Holy Spirit engagement at His pace and direction.
To work beside the Holy Spirit of God has its ambiguities. We yield control. This alone is both tough for us to do...and vital that we do it. When He operates in His leadership, our role is to believe with anticipation He is working; although we can't guess where or how at the moment. To any who doubt the Spirit, such a position is useless and will raise an immediate, But where are we going?
Where is the church going? It is going to find funds for ministries it did not know God had in the kingdom mix. It is going to discover new members coming out of the local community due to brokenness that the church missions team knew nothing about. It is going to win souls in 2015 due to seed sown by authors and workers in 1549.
I have lived both positions; my effort or believing He works. I'll take His produce over mine any day.
Just exactly where is the church going today? If connected to the Holy Spirit of God, we are headed into more impossible-become-possible testimonies of the multi-faceted works of God.
Monday, August 01, 2011
Tell them of their gifts.
Let them know where they shine for it could be they have heard very clearly by far too many voices where it is they have failed.
Give 'em Life!