Tuesday, January 31, 2012
So what I did was to learn to adapt my messages to fit what I thought the critics of the church wished to hear; we were the only true church and all others were wrong. I thought I was doing the right thing, but that tickling their ears passage would not go away.
A problem began to develop within as I didn't believe everything I was preaching. Image of courage and force was important to me. We had been sufficiently warned in school that many others mistakenly yielded along the way to the deceitfulness of liberalism. It wasn't going to happen to me!
I finally went to an elder and told him I was lying from the pulpit; that I was not telling the truth but, rather, I was trying to keep my job. I had good elders who walked beside me at the time and one named Harriel Scarsdale counseled me that I had to be bold enough to make adjustments if God was going to be honored.
As the preacher, his words of assurance seemed to be what I needed in spirit to grow up a bit and move forward. I took my message to the pulpit and cleared the air. There was a significant stirring afterwards; both pro and con.
I hadn't thought of that conversation with Harriel in about twenty years; but it was a significant moment. When that really good elder gave me counsel that Saturday morning a new life began for me....and for Memorial Drive. I started a transition out of preaching Church of Christ into preaching Christ. There is a difference.
It didn't go down easy; but it surely bears Holy Spirit fruit to this day. The days ahead weren't necessarily easier for quite a ruckus ensued. But the stability of being honest with God, the people, and myself put me into a zone I desperately needed.
I had settled in as a preacher trying to keep a paycheck. However, my yielding to popularity had become unsettling. I don't urge any reader to become a trouble-maker. I am, though, saying the preaching of Jesus will stir the pot at times causing many great discomfort. Let it, best you can, be His timing.
Monday, January 30, 2012
Do not be discouraged Joshua heard centuries before. There was reason for the message. Working with God's design contains multiple testing grounds.
And us? Beware of the Messenger of Satan, just as the Saul/Paul warned for such messages are intentionally critical. Yes, you have critics, you who do very effective works.
Read that account in II Cor. 12:5-10. If Paul didn't have stressful attackers, God's work would be going so smoothly Paul might begin to believe he was actually running this show. Critics lead us to depend upon Father. That's why critics are a critical element in our work.
Do not be discouraged when you are under attack. Thank God. Do not wonder what is wrong with you. Rather praise Him for what is right with Him....everything!
We must have those who send messages of personal (even painful) disapproval to sharpen our focus. We must have them to remind us of what Paul declared of himself in that Corinthian text....he gets to do good stuff...but he is always never more than a nobody.
What a trip!
I'm so sore that I feel I'm about two degrees from hurt. Fatigue is abundant.
Joy is on overload, though, as God worked so much in so many ways I would make notes at the end of each day lest I forget.
These camps serve as refresher reminders of how it is He works in the most fundamental ways to place us in the simplest of connectabilities. I see Him work and I know what to do, how to reach, what to say.
Thank you for praying. Thank you for cheering.
Friday, January 27, 2012
Whereas yesterday I fielded each of eight opportunities flawlessly, not so much today. I didn't make one of my plays. And, as was true of me yesterday, when I made the final out to end the game...so be it today. Did I mention that of the twelve men on my team, I bat.....12th?
Although my play today was shameful, I did have five fans in the stands with signs and whistling and other benevolent attributes. Gerald Lovett from Memorial Drive was there as well as Phil and Shelley Crews of Longmont, CO. plus her parents.
Urgggh. However, not to fret, I made the other team smile many....many....many times!
But the kingdom stuff....ah, the real reason I am here....it is like the Maytag washer....it just keeps going and going and going. I am so appreciative of God.
You know I pray for eyes to see His moves day by day. At baseball camp it seems magnified while I am dealing with both the common and celebrities. Jesus gives the same answer to both...sheer and perfect reason to hope. My job is to watch for Him.
Today verified a significant breakthrough I began to notice yesterday. It pleases me very much. I feel that many of you are praying.
I was mindful of Jesus saying in John 5 that unless he saw the Father do it, he couldn't do anything. At first glance I thought Jesus meant he was staring at Father and if He moved to the lake, Jesus made same move.
From experience, I now believe Jesus meant that if he didn't see Father do it...nothing would be coming about in his ministry walk...Jesus was waiting on God to do the work. As was true for the Son, it is clearly similar with me and with all of us. If God doesn't do it...it won't be done.
This takes off the pressure to make things happen while, simultaneously, awakening us to prayer that God would be active among us.
This is what I wait on patiently in any part of ministry; God's activation. We are not called to manipulate nor to self-impose. We are called to believe Him.
Day 3....oh how very sore I am in body....and how elated I am in Spirit. I saw Him work today.
Thursday, January 26, 2012
A busy day...every where I turned...God opportunities...much counseling....thank you for praying.
A good day...scored first run for our team as we won our first game...lost our second...got no hits...made several plays with no errors...looked terrific in my uniform.
A safe day...no injuries...trainers worked on me twice because I'm old...and put me back together.
A very sore day...but not a hurt one.
A very encouraging day...I ministered to many...many ministered to me.
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
I checked into the Double-Tree early this afternoon and spent immediate time in prayer continuing to set the stage for what I yearn to be His agenda.
We report to Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter early tomorrow morning. I've already had great interaction with many of the former stars and campers.
While I love the game, I marvel at the hearts so open to God-concepts and Life.
Jesus came that we might have an abundance of it...and Great Life is easy to market.
Pray, if you would, for God to work while I'm here.
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Jesus helps us.
The Master possesses that God-knack of drawing people. While it could be legally noted that Jesus reached out; he did so by inviting others in. In simple terms, Jesus found that the way to a person's heart was to ask him or her for assistance.
Take the woman at the well. How did Jesus break the ice on that warm day? He asked her for help. Could he have a glass of water? Thus the story unfolds which eventually drew an entire city to his feet.
Consider the man up a tree. Jesus inquired if he might go home with him to get a bite to eat. The kingdom story not only unfolds; it continues to inspire.
And then there was that kid with a sack lunch and 5000 who needed to be fed. The disciples ask the kid if he would give them assistance. How do you think the lad felt as he skipped back to the house?
A neighbor of mine showed little interest in the church. We had baptized his wife. In the midst of a Joy Bus explosion in Illinois, I asked him for help; would he go with me and drive a newly acquired bus to the church parking lot? Eventually he was baptized and became the Joy Bus driver for my wife's route. Today this man is the head of a Christian organization in Dallas that ministers to abandoned children.
Another neighbor lived on my Tulsa street. I rang his doorbell seeking his help to remove a car battery. This led to a study, his conversion, and his faithful service to this day.
The Master Evangelizer clearly shows us the path to a neighborly encounter. Simply find a way to seek their help. This both softens our approach and ushers a confidence that works so much more effectively.
Sunday, January 22, 2012
Others never do.
Some should change.
Others never should.
We live in a day of open mindedness...of sorts. It is more of the norm to be open to all sorts of gods.
How is one to know which is the True God...or if there is only one True God?
Jesus narrows the list to the One who sent him. This list will be consistent as the same One brought him back from the dead. In seeking the True God, I would look for the on who claims Jesus and all that goes with him.
There is a large list of gods. Jesus simplifies the matter. It isn't that he is narrow-minded. It is just that one is only one.
Saturday, January 21, 2012
If not careful, one will work against the kingdom of God by practicing concepts domestic to our earth nature and, yet, foreign to the spirit nature. This is always a challenging task. We must not give up, out, nor in to the pressures of such noble pursuit.
As for me, I am a very strange person, indeed. I feel like a very little child every day...every day...clueless, directionless, and pointless. However, I get to engage in the most fantastic moments of kingdom progress. I begin every day as a blank page (not by choice but because I am nothing) and conclude by evening time with the same emptiness of personal skill, talent, and ability.
I am not being superficially humble when I tell you I am a void. Before all eyes, I am a complete dork.
What makes a plain man tic?
The answer is biblically clear. It is God's grace.
I want to be full of grace. Such a term means not of me and always of Him. I don't do good work. God rents and chooses to set up shop from my---and your--- space. His works are fascinating to us! We can never claim any of the credit for we are completely empty of ability while desperately desiring to be full of His grace.
What are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become a plain; and he will bring forth the top stone with shouts of “Grace, grace to it!” Zech. 4:7 Mountain ranges topple without dynamite? To move a mountain problem we would say, Bulldozer, bulldozer to it! Or apply God grace to see it melt?
For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. John 1:16 His fullness is His Spirit (Eph. 3:14-21) that the work done comes through us but not of us. It is God who is to be glorified for the accomplishment.
And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people. Acts 6:8 Performance comes from the God-skill through the pipes of the human willingness to yield. The human is the zero. Father is the complete power. Grace is Father actively renting our space.
From there they sailed to Antioch, from which they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had accomplished. Acts 14:26 The work they accomplished only due to their nothingness open to His fullness...His active grace-power.
But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace. Romans 11:6 If it is by grace the results are so powerful one can immediately perceive such did not come about due to personal muscle; but rather the emptying of such so He could use such a disciple.
....of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me according to the working of His power. Eph. 3:7 We are the dork. He is the Master-worker.
Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebr. 4:16 When we have need---and we have it every day for it begins as a blank page---confidence is never ours due to skill evaluation; but always due to the might of the Gloried One.
If not careful we will try to hone one's skills to be kingdom productive. The sharpening to be done is not upon the workman's table of refinement; but is to be found in the laboratory of developing the ingredients of faith, trust, and love.
It is God who does the work. Never me. Never us. Never.
If you want to live on top of the world, empty yourself of personal agenda. Accept the blank page you are. And then hang on! For when one dares to say Grace, grace to it! stunning and remarkable and unexplainable wonder takes place.
Get out of the way and then prepare to rejoice. He will fill the blank page with excitement and overjoy...day after day.
Friday, January 20, 2012
As Whitey Herzog said three years ago in front of the entire morning meeting, Everybody knows Terry is the last guy picked for a team..... Uh, thank you Whitey for informing me in front of the other 99 guys and 20 former players.
Not-to-fret....while I would have thought the two blind men would go after me...I pretty much knew I was near the end of the selection list. At 64, I am always excited that I'm on some team...even if they were forced to take me.
It becomes more of a challenge for the coaches to figure where to hide me. I'm just not very hideable! There is sort of a rule in baseball: no matter how hard a coach tries to hide a guy, the ball will surely find him.
Each year is tougher on the body and, yet, easier to connect with more and more of the guys in the spirit. I love watching God work in a most unlikely place. From security guards, to umpires, medical personnel and trainers, to present day players in camp early, to the eight teams of cronies, we have surely carved an inroad to many hearts.
I still attend for the reason I stated when headed to the very first camp. I believe God will work. He has and He does and He will. Some of His moves are sweet, others are outlandish, and then others are in process.
I don't look forward to the aches and pains; but I really get enthused over watching for God's surprises.
Thursday, January 19, 2012
Our tribe, though, is guilty of parroting said convictions without faithful follow-through. In a few places we are guilty of adding to and subtracting from scripture while using scripture to prove why one must not.
I was converted with repeated admonition to go only by the sure Word of God. Soon confusion arose as quite vocal stances were issued of which I assumed to be true. The deliverer surely seems convinced so why should I doubt? He was one of us and certainly a respected leader to boot.
But then respected leaders began to wrangle over "what it said". For a young guy intending on always getting it right, such clamor was a major disruption for my training had been based upon the simplicity of the understandable Word.
This was a positive dilemma as it forced me to develop my own faith. I wished all would approve of my conclusions--tried to work it so--but such was inevitably a dream-world of which even Jesus could not succeed.
What to do? How to think? Where to turn?
Fortunately, Father and many of the church hung (hangs) in there with me while I perpetually sort out what He says in the Bible. The early admonition to go by the Bible continues to be the correct avenue to Truth.
When I would hear boisterous claims or read of passionate directives, I finally had to take the verbatim and ask myself, Where is that sentence in the Bible?
I began to re-investigate what I had been told and what I was holding on to in my heart. Where did the Bible say:
- The Holy Spirit no longer works in a believer?
- Churches cannot have garage sales?
- We give God our best?
- If you step from a curb having neglected to ask for forgiveness of your last sin, you will go to Hell?
- You cannot have two acts of worship going on simultaneously?
- You cannot take up a collection for God's causes on any day except Sunday?
- You cannot bounce on your toes during songs and please God?
- Silence of scripture is authoritative?
- Interpretation of the Word is by direct command, apostolic example, and necessary inference?
- The KJV is the only correct Bible translation?
- A church that has a Mother's Day Out program is liberal?
- You cannot have Christmas trees in the building?
- You should sing Christmas songs in July to show we are different than denominations?
- We are not a denomination?
- There is only one reason for divorce?
- You cannot forgive anyone until they ask for it?
- Women can sing in church but cannot say Amen or speak?
- It is wrong to drink anything alcoholic?
- Videos with instrumental music can be shown in church before the opening prayer or after the closing prayer and we will not have sinned?
- It is wrong to eat in a church building?
These are twenty ideas I soon heard when I became a serious believer. I immediately wanted to do the right things by believing only the right things. We go only by the Bible is still a most noble calling. Our challenge will continually be to honestly note which is a Bible teaching and which is a factual and traditional preference of one or many among us.
This gesture is neither demeaning nor discouraging. We have great work to do...John 6:28-29...to believe in the One whom He sent.....Jesus.
There is a healthy bend in the church toward Jesus.
Hasn't such always been the case? Surely not. Our slant has been forcefully and emphatically upon doing church right. Still, in too many communities, the church isn't about Jesus. Rather it is about one-up-man-ship on our religious neighbors; they do--we don't, we do--they don't.
Jesus changes the rules, the playing field, and the goals. Pride goes out, humility enters, and a great awakening of what can be arises as the early morn. Jesus puts life in well-oiled church organization and power in routine works. Without him, we remain a testy and belligerent sort who whittle every other group and congregation down to unanimous disdain.
With him--oh with him--darkness cracks open and light rushes in. We see nothing become something and the dead begin to live. This is to be our obsession; not the preserving of the true church but the aggression of reaching the Truth: Jesus.
As Jesus stated in John 5:39ff, many simply are unwilling to come to him. Thus the annoying claims of going by the Bible continue to chant. Jesus, though, pleads that we are to use scriptures to get to him; not to declare ourselves the correct of religious correctness.
We have work to do. We must shift toward an obsession with Jesus.
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
To me, the kingdom of God is robust with present experience as well as intended potential. What, other than God's realm, would be more meaningful? He is our purpose.
So don't be discouraged when you discover repeated days of heavy lifting. It was our Brother who could not carry the weight of his own cross for he had been beaten so severely. Severity, whether we want it, is a part of the marriage contract with our Jesus.
We will not run. Instead, we will learn.
We will not complain. Instead, we will praise.
We will not hide. Instead, we will speak up.
We will not fight the system. Instead, we will volunteer to die that others may find life.
God's church is not for sissies. For every comment we could offer as to our personal mistreatment is surely our true testimony of being intimately connected to the Jesus nature.
Whether frustration, tears, or sleepless nights, do not disregard the value of things going wrong where you live. These are the very fiber of an authentic disciple.
In these situations are our tests as to whether, even here, we believe God and His resurrection power.
Monday, January 16, 2012
Please understand that I'm not anti-goal. I want to see specifics develop in my family and in the kingdom. I have a firm goal of paying my bills. On the other side, I am also aware of the potential to miss-God-in-our-lives if such an infraction is due to our infatuation with a worldly orientation called "setting goals" where we muscle and mind our own fleshly ways.
God has chosen to let me do several things of which I surely feel blessed....and I didn't plan any of them. I didn't intend to preach anywhere but Quincy, Illinois to the extent I told the Memorial Drive elders in 1977---twice---that there was no way I was moving. But God entered in.
I didn't plan on going to the St. Louis Cardinals' Legends Camp more than once. But God entered in and I head out next week for my twenty-ninth year. I didn't see this coming.
I never gave a thought to hosting a nation-wide weekly television program for three straight years in which hundreds were baptized. I didn't have such a goal; but God entered in.
Since truth is stranger than fiction in places, I had no goal of writing a blog. I accidentally set this one up when all I was trying to do was make a comment on Tim's (my son) blog. I didn't understand how blogville worked and in making that comment to him, I established a living blog site that had two hundred and eleven hits the first day....and there were no words. God entered in...and thus you are reading this post.
The list goes on; but enough. I am not against the setting of goals. We at Memorial have Baptism Sundays and Missions Days, etc. where we intend to reach kingdom marks.
I am, though, not enamoured with the idea of establishing high-pressured goals as if we are on a humanistic sales campaign. It is my conviction via observation that Jesus stands at the door and knocks is not only for a lead into an invitation song. It is God's effort to get us to open to Him that He might enter with His surprise mode of operation for the moment.
It also seems to me that during the very times I was trying to appear active and leader-ish in the church, I was simultaneously missing God opportunities while I was trying to reach up the ladder.
We should have goals. One of our first ones should be to note God in the very center of situations we might label as mundane...or even hopeless.....Romans 4:17-25. You see...even in the tomb of dead Jesus....God entered in.
Sunday, January 15, 2012
Just about the time we think we have things figured out, God will move the yard markers. He warned us to remain flexible like being blown about by varying wind currents...Jn. 3:-3-8.
Whether church shepherd, pulpit minister, or committee chair, we are to be on our toes to avoid imposing humanistic reason onto the church scene. God's ways are not our ways. We quote Him on this....only too often to proceed with "our way" of conducting business.
Just about the time the church has God nailed down, He slips the knots. He is a master at doing business beyond the minds of the one or the many. We can't figure God. We can only believe Him and trust Him.
Considering the scramble God caused that one Sunday morning in the cemetery, we surely can afford to be reminded that God can do anything when He gets ready. Our job is to be ready for His readiness. However, our habit is more inclined to believe God operates under the same umbrella as we....reason.
Fortunately for us....He doesn't.
Saturday, January 14, 2012
The Matthew 28 text known as the Great Commission has not done it. Yes, I am all for evangelism. Outreach is my heart. However, for too many decades the bulk of the church membership has given this proof text more lip service than foot action.
I wouldn't want to be held too literal on this next statement, but I will say, I have found the Greater Commission is found in Mark 5:19. I say Greater because this passage bears two fruit; powerful evangelism and church contagion.
Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you.
The avenue for a congregation to be contagiously evangelistic is not found in the organization of our twenty-five top verses. It is found in the testimonials of those who experience God.
The more we conversationally share of God's personal handiwork the greater awareness of His walk with us begins to be acknowledged. Members begin to tell clusters of friends about their God-stories. Excitement follows. And, God does seem to inhabit such praises while He gives us even more to praise Him about.
The contagion churches dream about resides in the many hearts of the moment which are fearful to share. Encourage His people to tell of His excellent greatness which it actually residing in front of our eyes everywhere we turn.
If you want to motivate your church to reach out, before you remind them of Mt. 28-18-20, maybe it would be to the kingdom's advantage to rehearse aloud exactly what it is we see God doing among us. This will build an automatic contagion....for the good.
Friday, January 13, 2012
I've never been tempted to exit due to difficulty. I am highly self-conscious, to the extent I seek guidance from my elders, as to whether my time is up. Each day I am here is one day closer to my departure.
My friend, Wade Hodges, www.wadehodges.com , now has a second book published.
When to Leave (How to Know It's Time to Move On...Because You've Stayed Way Too Long) is a call to all in such positions to weigh two of our tougher and conflicting questions: Should I stay? Or, Should I go?
Wade discusses openly the arguments that seem to await upon our pillows about 10:00 pm. We surely hit these walls.
I'm in a rather unusual position on this topic as I have been at Memorial Drive for 34+ years. It hasn't been easy. Yet, it is still thrilling. Hundreds have left because I wouldn't. I believe I have single-handedly caused more attendance growth for area Churches of Christ than any other minister in Tulsa. This saddens me; but I must grow up and grow on.
Honestly, there are those who would not walk across the street to hear me preach...and I don't blame them. If I were still the yeller and shouter I once was as a preacher, I wouldn't go to hear me either.
From When to Leave, Wade issues humorous declarations shuffled alongside sobering ponderizations.
- "There is always an easy solution to every problem---neat, plausible, and wrong." H. L. Mencken
- When you leave too soon, especially amidst difficult circumstances, you miss the opportunity to learn lessons that only hardship, resistance, and disappointment can teach.
- Why do so many great professional athletes play one season too many and retire only after it's become painfully obvious that they no longer belong on the court or field anymore?
- His followers didn't want him to go. They had just gotten him back from the dead. They wanted to cling to him, to hold on and enjoy the new reality of the resurrection with him. He left anyway.
- So at some point you have to ask: Am I actually doing a disservice to the church by staying? Am I hindering people from developing a faith of their own?
- If you sense you're losing your ability to dream, and if you can no longer summon the necessary energy to take bold and risky action that could lead to something wonderful, then you may have stayed too long.
- You started going along to get along.
- "The only thing holding some churches together is lack of communication." Randy Harris
One thing about Wade Hodges that has remained true from the get-go; regardless of personal injury and pain, he never quits imagining what God might do to guide us to our best. I like that about my friend.
Thursday, January 12, 2012
Oh how I love to learn and share the God-stories. The more we tell of them it seems the more of them He gives us for yet additional testimonies. Keep it going.
It must occur to us at some level of Christian commitment that God's true kingdom is riddled with crosses of weakness, insecurity, inadequacy, imprisonment, confusion, and even death. These aren't rare innuendo; they are reality for the believer.
If you are in this for the long haul, surely you realize disappointment and disturbance reign. From Moses' burning bush to Joseph's pit to Gideon's army reduction to Jesus on trial to the early church scattering....the kingdom is all about things not going right and God's ultimate delivering of absolute and definable victory.
Try to refuse a life of seeing that all goes well. It will; but only after the stage is clearly set so disparagingly that if God doesn't come through....come through doesn't come.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
When I began preaching full-time I would try to think of a good story or illustration and build a sermon around it/them with linking passages. Today is different. I love to find a main text and two or three supportive ones. After that, I then look for a way to illustrate their meaning.
Do not lose confidence nor focus of the Bible. Life resides within such texts. Read them once or repeat them over the years and the truths of God continue to ignite Life in us.
Preach the simplicity of the Word. Preach the Jesus of the Word.
Watch him. Notice his eyes, his touch, his vulnerability as he passes a street corner or a tree along the route. Hear his tone as he heals the one or the seven. Watch him turn his back on the throngs for an escape route to the shore.
Watch Jesus in the Word.
Let the Word teach you and then relay it. After all of these years I still find my preparation, as well as my delivery, in need. But I never find the Word of God anything but current and lively.
Our people are deserving of perfect hope. We best not dilute His message of firm hope with our distractive education nor our unfocused indifference. The world is always brighter when God's children are aglow with the glory of the message preached from the Word of God.
Old hat? Nope. New life...Sunday after Sunday!
Verifiably, faith has within itself an embedded nature that arouses protest from unbelievers of every corner. I am becoming even more convinced that the sweet nature of Jesus is so right based on how prohibited it is throughout the human system. The flesh just can't take it.
(Ooops...I've got a meeting at 7:00. I'll be back to finish this in a bit.)
So an hour and a half later I return from a meeting to pick up. Now where was I?
We are not to be scorecard Christians to the extent we determine how the kingdom is doing according to our victories---or the number of responses at the invitation song, the attendance at Ladies Class, or the number of baptisms for the year.
We are not called to a scorecard faith. Rather, we are to live in the garden where fruit is born.
We are to find the Holy Spirit fruit in our orchard. Oddly, the fruit is the answer or the solution to a persecuted, loser-feeling, individual who must find help in time of need. Don't you get it?
Anyone (including those who do not believe in God) can show signs of any of the fruit listed in Galatians 5 as long as everything is going in their favor; yet no one can display it under severe pressure. It must come from the Spirit for the flesh just can't be kind and patient in unfair and inflammatory failure. Without the Spirit we can't pull it off.
We must do what we can to refrain from a scorecard walk. Love does not keep records. Our move is to be one of availability to the Holy Spirit sort of fruit. Thus, our confidence is in Him although we are inadequate in the flesh...II Cor. 3:4-5.
Sunday, January 08, 2012
Saturday, January 07, 2012
I want to put something into print to hand to our food pantry clients which would awaken them to their value. In the process, to draw them into Jesus would be the ultimate goal.
Our food pantry is a wonderful and meaningful kingdom mechanism at the moment. These friends not only receive much-needed bags of groceries. They also find friends from this flock who sit with them, listen to them, and pray with them. One lady recently sobbed under suffocating duress, I'm not a crier, but this is the one place in my life I can come and cry and know it is alright.
It seems to me that while we are thinking of ways to reach out into the community, this is one place where the community is coming to us. I'm sure similar circumstances dress the stage where you live and serve.
So I want to write a page, a booklet, or a book--something ultra simple and yet professional--which would give these valuable friends a boost to the next level of encountering God. Over dinner last night, while explaining this concept to Mary and our friends David and Lisa, Lisa discussed great stresses of the past and said that you reach a point when you want to say, Just tell me that you love me!
Ah Lisa, I want to call this writing we are discussing Just Tell Me That You Love Me!
Would you think with me? Your comments matter. Some might open a door that you didn't have in mind, but would cause me to realize even another concept. All thoughts are valued.
My feeling is the same for these as for celebs; each possesses pockets of insecurity where they feels themselves to be failures, lonely, useless, and very unimportant. I want to put together a message which would reverse this thinking due to the magnetic love of Jesus.
Ideas? What thinketh ye?
Friday, January 06, 2012
Not everyone has a their own bubble gum card. But everyone can make up something creative.
I intentionally include statements about me that are cutting. Weakness opens doors here and there!
When I hand this card out, some are intrigued and others are ho-hum. But when they read the back; all laugh and I'm in the door.
What are simple ways we can reach out? I share some of my tools for caring.
- Create a business card they will remember.
- At the bank today I invited the teller to our church with the reminder that the first three visits are free. Some laugh, but one of more recent visitors has been the lady from the loan office that I mentioned such to her at our house closing.
- Pray. Pray for people when you see no sign of them having any attraction to God or the church. Pray...thanking Him for reaching to hearts.
- Believe. Believe that every person you come into contact with is filled with loneliness and/or self-doubt in pockets of their spirit life; especially those who try to hide it the most.
- Relax. Move through life robust for the day. Enjoy God, His creation, and His community.
These surely aren't the most professional; but then we are simply ordinary people reaching to everyone of whom He would think. What a life we have. We are walking invitations. Believe it...there are so many who wish to be invited!
Yet, while Jesus has finished the work, faith leads us step by step. Faith is ever ongoing due to or in the finished accomplishment of Jesus' saving grace.
....the unity of salvation is a single piece, and yet a flowing stream. I became a Christian once for all upon the basis of the finished work of Christ through faith; that is justification. The Christian life, sanctification, operates on the same basis, but moment by moment. The whole unity of biblical teaching stands solid at this place. If we try to live the Christian life in our own strength we will have sorrow, but if we live in this way, we will not only serve the Lord, but in place of sorrow, he will be our song. That is the difference. The "how" of the Christian life is the power of the crucified and risen Lord, through the agency of the indwelling Holy Spirit by faith moment by moment (Francis Schaeffer).
...but in the place of sorrow, he will be our song is the verification of the one-time conversion. Who is singing in the center of sorrow? Only the faith-full.
Stress happens to all. Grief is unbiased. The singers of the Jesus song are the believers who get it. Salvation is a done deal. To partake of it at the moment of disruption is surely a sweet aroma to all.
Sing His praises!
Thursday, January 05, 2012
One of God’s verifications is found in the simplicity of this age thing that goes on within each of us. In my mind, I don’t feel as old as I am and then Could anyone help me out of this chair is a norm for the coffee shop.
In my spirit I can see the ground ball coming. Yet, my feet say Huh? Well, feet, you were a smidge late for that one.
As the pitcher releases the ball toward the plate, my spirit announces it is high time to swing. However, my hands and arms plead for a bit more time only for my low-grade ears to hear the ball smack the catcher’s mitt.
The spirit and the flesh argue over age. My mind feels like I’m fifteen years younger and my body reports me to be ten years older. I have a 25 year war going on in here!
Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day (II Cor. 4:16). As I aged it became noticeably more difficult for me to throw from third to first. Today? Well, it is a bit more challenging to see from third to first.
Aging? No. Renewed in the inner man. Newer today than ever! God said.
My friend if you insist that today should feel old to you….give it ten years.
Wednesday, January 04, 2012
The accounts of feeding the 5000 and then the 4000 portray Jesus as taking the bread and blessing it when in the other he offers thanks for it. Thankfulness is the kingdom match which sets the forest of miracles on fire.
Ann Voskamp wrote of the significance of gratitude in her world. The real problem of life is never a lack of time. The real problem of life---in my life---is lack of thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving creates abundance; and the miracle of multiplying happens when I give thanks--take the just one loaf, say it is enough, and give thanks---and He miraculously makes it more than enough.
We are a one and two loaf people. We always will be as long as we live from stingy or even hoarding hearts. But when we let go of the loaf in our hands, the indescribable wonder begins to unfold.
Offer blessings and thanksgivings for whatever you have. The work of God then has its chance to show its stuff.
Tuesday, January 03, 2012
So, what do seeing (into the invisibles) eyes do? Being rather small in kingdom dimension, surely I would know only a speck of Truth. Yet, what I do know makes for a good life experience.
Faith eyes see potential when flesh eyes are clueless. Faith eyes believe in people and circumstances when head eyes didn't note a possibility.
For me, I sow seed. I plant crops all over the world and all over the centuries. I have farms coming up that will not be around until I have passed for I pray for some not yet born to have major impact for God.
I sow seed by prayer. Bill Mauer will most likely be clueless when he becomes a believer that I even exist. But I've been there fighting for him in prayer.
I sow seed by phone calls, notes, and simple interaction. Last week I emailed a present-day major leaguer whom I have not had contact with for about two years. My message was that, whenever his young family hits a crisis or trauma, he is welcome to seek my team for prayers for his family. His positive response came immediately.
The church is dull when it operates only in reaction. When the flesh eyes can't see past the seeable, kingdom potential is short-sheeted.
I say that we should do what we can to praise, glorify, and thank God for things to come which have yet to give us any indication such is even possible. In other words....believe and dream past the visible.
Monday, January 02, 2012
This caused reflection on something I learned a ways back; why I preached what I did and why I preach the way I do. I cannot speak for all preachers; only for myself.
Upon conversion I was immediately exposed to a severely critical brotherhood. According to the church chatter, few preachers and elders and congregations were doing church correctly; very few. With great eagerness, I did not want to be one of "them" who were surely sliding headlong down that brotherhood coastline known as the Slippery Slope.
My primary preaching goal was the Word with heavy slant toward brotherhood approval. Oddly, one way to gain such was to be loud in the pulpit, unbending, naming names, and taking prisoners. The base of many of those I was around at that time took these signals to be sound in the faith.
While my approach was later to be found out as Jesus-less, I stood against liberalism in the toughest of situations! I felt I was due great honor for not caving.
Then a very strange thing happened. This loud, self-proclaimer met Jesus. It wasn't a pretty sight for my preaching style was found to be more beat 'em over the head than Jesus sacrificing. My fire remains; but the noise has been curbed somewhat. The drive to win souls is stronger than before; but to the mean-spirited I appear to have lost my zeal on that fore-warned slippery slope.
Jesus doesn't cool us off, my friends. He redirects our muscle tone. He strengthens us with his Spirit rather than our own ingenuity. Jesus leads us to bear fruit rather than shout at the orchards. He takes us to the finish line rather than bellowing loud claims from the non-participating stands.
We are in the war to be loved by God. We are in the war for people. The war is intense. I had to move from loud barking at cars passing by to joining the ranks of many others on that infamous slippery slope. Middle-of-the-road, as I was informed by one famous brother that I needed to walk, may indeed be safer. But I know nothing more anemic nor unlike Jesus.
We are called to place our all upon his shoulders. Whether in the ditch or on our cross, may God bless us as we no longer serve with screaming pulpitudes; but with tender mercies of faith in His ability. Some will label this as Slippery Slope. I choose to call it Dependence Day on God.
My preaching? Oh, it gets weaker. My hope is the Spirit of Christ comes through....that which is regarded as the slipperiest of all slopes.
Sunday, January 01, 2012
Due to this I have learned to wait with great confidence for Him to supply parts to the sermon each week. He does so throughout; yet I have practiced noticing last minute details that show up as perfect fits.
This morning I was showering and He gave me this thought: My people are one of two categories. They are either needy takers (like in collections plates) passing themselves around specifically to be noticed and stroked or they are selfless givers like communion (fruit crushed or bread broken) which blesses others by their attentive ways.
The former have lines of worrisome foreheads and seldom are willing to get happy while the latter are those who hand out happiness with twelve baskets left over--and in turn--are a very delightful sort.
Not so strangely, both groups have equal burdens. It is the style of the crushed and broken (communion) who choose to be thankful in the midst of difficulty (sharing with others how they are blessed by their brokenness) that lets in the Light from above so that one may pursue His mighty riches beyond imagination.
The hope that excites me is I lived too long in the church as a Collection Plate person. How many times was it said to me, It isn't about you!? My misery was transformed when I learned by watching Jesus give hope to any nearby all-the-while being persecuted and facing a torturous cross.
I am sympathetic to the Collection Plate person. For their misery runs deep. The help and hope is to learn to transform the very things which crush them into useful tools in which to pay attention to others who hurt.
Life is miserably lonely for a Collection Plate person who arrives on the scene to spill their story (again) so that needy words of sympathy might return. Life is brand spanking new for those who convert to glorying in their crushing hardships by noticing the pain in others...for joy returns rapidly.
A Collection Plate person or a Communion person? Which will it be? We decide.