Wednesday, April 30, 2014


Two diametrically opposing scenes are revealed in the Word of God.  One is found in the beginning of the Old Testament.  The other shows up at another beginning; the church.

Genesis 11 calls attention to the harmony of created man wishing to build a name for himself.  Their fear was that they would be scattered.  They all spoke one language. Their goal was to keep this intact for in doing so it is said that there would be nothing impossible for them to accomplish.

Come let us build for ourselves a city, a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name; lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.

It was God who immediately broke up their self-designed union.  They had determined they could handle life without Him.  They could pull together this and that.  Ah, nothing would be impossible if they just banded together.

The flip-side of the story is then noted in Acts 2.  Nations and peoples who generations earlier had been dissolved and scattered in Genesis 11 are now found gathered in Jerusalem; each a representation of multiple languages foreign to the others.

A new power came in; not of man's conniving design of unity; but of God's dynamic...a holy unity.

And they were amazed and marveled, saying, "Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear each of them in our own language to which we were born?"

A marvelous matter occurred.  The unity of sin which instead divided the self-centered stronghold of Genesis 11 was soon to be restored in Acts 2 through unity; not of man's sinful manipulative ego, but by a new power which would unite foreign languages into one in order to give glory to God.  The unity of holiness abounded at this Jerusalem gathering.

Today, when man tries to give glory to his religious standard and conviction, it seems this unity of sin does not bring about a harmony with others.  Yet, when we use our voices from distant doctrines with varying  accents to give glory to God, a unity of holiness seems to arise from the ashes of division.

On the one hand, sin injures.  On the other, holiness heals.

On the sin hand, those formerly in sync find themselves in opposition.  On the holy side those who have grown distant seem to find a way to draw together in the love of Christ.

Tomorrow I will participate in something I once opposed.  Whether it is right (and I believe it is), my motive is of holy intent.  A gathering of the Tulsa religious will assemble at ORU (Oral Roberts University) for the National Day of Prayer.  I don't know why or how, but I have been invited to lead one of the prayers on stage with other pastors at whom I once sneered.

I'm going.

I'm not going to show them what a true Christian looks like.  They can look among themselves and find the more superior.  I want to participate due to the mercy of Jesus that would let me dare be allowed to be included among these whose voices also matter to Him greatly.

Where I once balked at such moments due to my arrogance, God has shown me my own lack; not theirs.  It isn't a matter of whether I grace their stage.  It is an issue of would a guy like me blemish their efforts.  By their kindness they evidently seem to think not.

All of us, within our ranks of drive and conviction, have enormous need for Jesus to cleanse day by day.  There are no exceptions.

The unity of sin keeps us apart.  The unity of holiness draws us together.  The first huddles with those who speak the same narrow language believing we can do all things by our assumed right ways.  The latter are the scattered in our belief systems who are now being called to a new kind of unity.

We are to be found bragging on Him; not our stances....finally.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014


Addictions run rampant.  Worse they boss us day in and day out.  One of these villains is the constant urge to say yes to each need, demand, and request knowing we can't possibly keep up this pace.

Now, understand that I know many who are lazy as well as unreliable.  These could use a good dose of stepping up to the let's get involved needs of others by saying yes. But these are not this post's target.  The committed and hard working sort are.

I had a good thing happen to me when I was 32 years old.  I became very ill.

I was hospitalized and knocked out of my occupational duties as a church minister. The anguish was intense.  The lack of strength to participate was discouraging.  I was a mover and a shaker and things needed moving and shaking.

But I learned to go to school at this seminar.  God showed me that the church didn't run due to me.  It flowed due to His Spirit.  Surprise me!

Living next door to the church, I would stand at the window on Sunday mornings and nights and watch the members/visitors move in and out.  Oh how this hurt my heart. They were getting along without me.  It didn't mean that they didn't love me.  Yet, it did mean that I evidently wasn't their source of energy and nor their dependent compass.  Surprise me!

We who are committed to kingdom matters tend to take on the thought that the church depends on us.  Not true.  The church depends on God and He showed me in stark moments that I don't run His show.  My yes is not the dynamic that makes people and things click.

He is.

Thus I learned to say no when I thought such was the honest spiritual answer; and even when I felt others would be displeased.  This latter element is a killer which seems to hold us at gunpoint to force a yes out of us.

Blessings flow, however, even from our no.  First, it allows others the opportunity to get to serve who wouldn't otherwise if we keep hoarding the labors.  Second, it allows us to rest for stronger service toward those areas He truly calls.  And third, God gets the picture that we believe He operates the kingdom when we can trust our no every bit as much as our yes.

I know.  I know that church leaders feel the greater need is to get the members to commit to a yes in service.  I get that.  But has it occurred that more yeses might come about if those whom we deem as very loyal would give room for these others to enter into the force by our saying no to those things which seem to pressure because of over-loaded schedule?

Yes-aholics eventually wear out and down.  At first it is called grouchy and eventually, for a few, it is labeled as burn out.  This isn't necessary.  Yes-aholics don't run God's show.  We never have.  We have fooled ourselves into thinking the church depends on me.

Yes-aholics, this isn't the case.

We are to depend on God by abiding by His call to let our yes be yes and our no be no.

Sunday, April 27, 2014


If you are like me, you have significant discussions within yourself as to what you should do and how you should proceed.  Inner talk can prove to be either positive or negative; dependent upon which route we choose.

Self-talk is very real.  It is potent.  It is so potent that it can determine the mood and outcome of our day.  I know because I lived in the swirl of beating myself up with lectures....that others had started.  If someone said something negative about me, I could embellish the matter into enhanced depression.

Words must not be taken lightly.  They are the tool God used to create the world and everything in it.  Therefore, we must give this attention.  Parents make or break children by words used.  Bosses make or break companies because of things....said.

Gloom grows when words say so.  Hope, though, can arise by the very same means.

So the war of the mind is the receptivity of our words we use on ourselves.  Our words can be used to shield incoming word-mortars.  Our words can design hope in very rough terrain.  Our words are our secret weapon as self-talk is the incubator for both effectivity as well as productivity.

The war of the mind is the major component to the physical/spiritual person.  It isn't what we hear that shuts us down.  It is what we say to ourselves about what we hear that determines the outcome.

I know.  I suffered self-slaughter on many battle fields because my self-talk was my most bear-ish monster.  And it does no good to give myself an insincere, yet upbeat, tongue-lashing.  No, I must speak in the God-realm about His work, His glory, and His skill....within me....II Cor. 3:4-5.

Our personal capacity to succeed?  Nada. us?  Oh, yeah!

Saturday, April 26, 2014


Churches are in such a strange and complex situation.  We want to be the church; that one Jesus himself said he would build.  The oddity is that church is the slipperiest of all slopes in that it can so subtly slide into the very thinking that crucified the head of the church; Jesus.

It is easy for churches--any brands, any doctrines--to slip right into the very personalities that would cause us to be ineffective.  Where we would wish to follow Jesus, instead we shift to appearance and safety.  Jesus, the head of THE church, did nothing from appearance of pleasing others nor did he guard his words and actions to play it safe.

In essence, Jesus was regarded as barbaric to religion.  The latter is the group that put him away....they assumed.  They detested him for ruining the smooth and pious style of their spiritual(?) walk.  Jesus blew into Dodge and ruined what religion had worked so diligently to build.

Erwin McManus makes a noteworthy point, A barbarian invasion is taking place right now.  They are coming from the four corners of the earth and they are numbered among the unlikely.  From the moment Jesus walked among us the invasion began.  And just as with those who crossed paths with Him here on earth, those who are most religious will be most offended and indignant.  Barbarians are not welcome among the civilized and are feared among the domesticated.  The way of Jesus is far to savage for their sensibilities.

We just must be on our spiritual toes regarding the church today.  If it is to be of Jesus it will most likely not be what the brotherhood--any one's brotherhood--will want.  He is too disruptive.  He is too energetic.  He is to much like His Father.

When we take up our crosses and follow him, it is not because the doctor used the word malignant.  It is because we are going to the challenged for believing in the radical Son of God and his ways.

We must always be reminded of the sobriety of this call from above.  Slumber has draped our pews.  Safety first has become our motto.

Yet....the Kingdom of God is awake and at risk.

May we have the courage to enter in...again today.

Friday, April 25, 2014


There have been many contests where I have wished to finish well.  Sometimes I might finish close to the top. At other times I wouldn't rank.  There is one issue where I seemed to be the greatest loser.  When you wish to please others you set yourself up to lose.

This has been one of life's toughest lessons for me.

I'm driven.  I believe.  If I felt that I simply wasn't performing well enough for others's expectations, I would step up my pace.  But for some, it was never enough. It turned out I was too weak to budge their approval.

What disappointment.

For personalities such as mine, to fail to please others is the major crisis of any moment.  Rejection feels like emotional death.  The penalties are stifling.  For me, there was nothing worse than someone basically telling me I was useless.

As I watched Jesus and studied people, I began to notice that I had become addicted to approval.  He couldn't/didn't please the crowds.  Why did I think I could? Furthermore, I woke up one day realizing that those who were aggressive in pointing to my lack also had very much lack as well.  We....we were all just alike.

Superiority doesn't belong in the human camp.

One must guard, though, the temptation to point at others' failures rather than our own.  To bring a person down does not truly build us up.  We are merely playing the same game.

The addictive thought-life that betrays all of us is that we in some form should be accepted by all.  After all, we are us!  Not everyone will like us.  We don't like everyone; yet we feel justified in the latter.

I see only one way out; Jesus.  Tullian Tchividjian pegged me (and maybe you) when he wrote, I was learning the hard way that the gospel alone can free us from our addiction to being liked---that Jesus measured up for us so that we wouldn't have to live under the enslaving pressure of measuring up for others.

Now, I have said all of this to make a significant point.  I believe much of the heroics of mankind are buried in the caves of addictive thought-life.  Men, women, and teens are afraid.  Very good, blessed, and gift believers are suffocating beneath the smothering of wishful acceptance.

I watch men, women, and children live in the church as if drugged.  Afraid to move for fear of getting an effort wrong, they simply dumb-down and move with the herd. No ambition except one prevails; I want to be liked.

Imagination, risk, creativity are abundant among us; but too much of it is lost in the shredders of addicted minds just wishing for that one major goal; Like me.

Today?  I still die on the inside when I discover or am reminded of those who don't like me.  Many don't.  Yet, I must not reduce my efforts to pleasing the critics or I'll never step out of the house.  Please--you who live with nagging inferiority--try to step up and step out.  A world of lonely people--hurting people--need you.  Don't deny them because you are hunkered down within the safety of your personal turtle shell.

Jesus didn't just rescue us from our past just to hand us a future.  He rescued us for the present.  No longer slaves to fear and self-preservation, we are able to reach out. Others need us.  They cannot afford for us to live buried in our fears.

Please, think life!  Think hope!  Think wonder!  Think value!  Think need of others!

Thursday, April 24, 2014


Fluctuation between determining to follow God, or not, goes on within the hearts of the masses.  On one hand there seems to be absolute reason to jump right in.  Yet, for the seeker, on that other hand there may be thought for hesitancy.

Regardless of terrain for every individual, each will face the moment where a decision just has to be made.  It is at this intersection that bravery is paramount.  We take a deep breath and commit to something well over our heads as far as explanation and reality.

Enter faith.

Faced with behaviors we need to tweak (stop doing some things and start doing others), there will be various issues we seem to manage effectively.  Brace yourself, however.  There will be one battle which will rage within your own heart.  Get ready.

The war will be whether you can believe Jesus hands his righteousness over to you for your very own possession while he yanks yours sins from your hands.  Yes.  This is one major battle of faith.  Did he?  Could he?  Would he actually trade places with me?

To read II Corinthians 5:21 seems to be with ease as far as verbalizing the English wording.  The challenge is to internalize these words as facts; reality.

Do not be surprised that this concept would hit you as too good to be true.  Such is the very meaning of gospel; too good of news to be true.

We can't undo.  We can't earn.  We shall not gather human persuasion to debate the divine.  We are guilty as sin.  And just as we can know such very deeply, we are called to believe Jesus the Lamb traded us places so that we would walk unaccused and free.

The big battle for the one who wants to believe is whether we can trust Jesus to make us right with God.

Yes.  He can.  He did. He does.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


What does like have to do with the greatest system to hover earth?

  • Do you like your church?
  • Do you like your minister?
  • Do you like your classes?
  • Do you like the youth group?
  • Do you like the missions program?
  • Do you like the direction the church is going?
  • Do you like the music?
  • Do you like children's programs?
Understand, I do not think the use of the word like is illegal.  I do think it has become an assumed position in spiritual contexts that affects the church negatively.  Dislike tends to produce quitters.  Love seems to reverse such order and allow endurance.

It is surely permissible to like or dislike.  It is not justifiable, however, to refrain or resist ministering in the kingdom due to our preferences with either people or programs.  There have been, are, and will be many things that I don't care for in the church and in me.  But I will not quit.

It's one thing to find a congregation similar in spirit and direction.  However, we must guard against a laziness that refuses to learn new ways and adapt to things that don't seem to run to our "liking".  

Church won't go right simply because the anchor to it is the cross. Suffering is church oxygen.  We must breathe it in.

So I cheer you on.  Because there are things and/or people in the church that bug you, grow from them rather than go from them.  Some of the elders are difficult, you say? Stay put and let God teach you something you haven't learned from struggle. Preachers bug you?  Learn to pray. Programs are done poorly?  Seek ways to implement improvement rather than add complaint.

Jesus was at his best when he was roaming the hillsides as well as the streets.  He was also at his best when being publicly humiliated.  He was also at his best best when strung up on a cross.  And Jesus was his best, best, best when he exited the tomb!

Ours is such a pattern.  Look at Him.  His walk contained a few dislikes.  Yet....each of them brought us favor.  May we give our whims and moods a remodel so that even the very things which we do not like turn out to bless others because we chose to suffer rather than quit.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Man has forever confused theology with methodology.  How we do church has done as much to take away from being divinely authentic as any premise.  What the scriptures teach remains ultra-important.  Their silence, however, still bugs the control obsessant.

How oxymoronish of us to try to be so correct in all matters; yet, we sometimes think nothing of operating from fear which is one of God's most major warnings.

A challenge for me is being 66 and liking what I like and disdaining what I choose to disdain.  So especially now I must be willing to perpetually yield to the newness of God.  The Holy Spirit, however, offers such a life of strong flexibility (Jn. 3:8), that we must speak and listen, study and learn from the Divine Funnel which lives to invigorate His offspring.

We are to be swept away by the creativity of God.  Never is He old hat.  Neither is He rote...nor mundane.  Always is He the sharpest knife in the drawer.

Ours is the job to walk through life very, extremely, highly....awake!

Keeping up with the creativity of God is an eternal effort.  That's why that even heaven will never be boring.  It will be a fountain springing forth awe and wonder, charm and energy, spectacularism and full life.

Keeping up with God is a full-life job.

Monday, April 21, 2014


Eminent sociologist, Benjamin Barber, once said, I don't divide the world into the weak and the strong or the successes and the failures....I divide the world into the learners and non-learners.

If I were to try to express why the elders at Memorial Drive seem to bless this congregation so much, one area would be that these men are learners.  They seem to be driven to want to know what God has in mind regardless of herd-pressure of teaching what we have always taught.

If I would to try to estimate why some preachers seem younger as they age, while others seem old while very young, it would be discovered in the territory of learning vs. non-learning.

The very theme of the Restoration Movement implies to some, discover Truth and never budge from it.  Yet, others in the very same movement see the reverse, discover Truth and continue to investigate as it is surely the same size as God.

I agree with Mr. Barber, the world isn't divided into the haves and the have-nots.  It is split between those who hoard information and those who explore it.

Truth is of utmost importance.  It is too big to be contained in a vacuum.  It is too raucous to be cornered by tradition.  It is too God-synchronized to be anything but luring as it bids us perpetual entrance into the yet to be discovered.

We must be on our spiritual toes; otherwise, we will reach errant conclusions before we finish learning.

Saturday, April 19, 2014


It had been quite a week.  Anger mixed with sorrow flooded the hearts of those on the streets.  Jerusalem was a wreck; soldiers, prayer meetings, the sound of hammers and spikes.  Much wailing and second guessing went on Thursday and into Friday.

And then there was the hush of the dead space.

The tomb.

The dread.

The hoarse whispers of those who had cried maxing out their vocal chords.  The silence rang clear.  Jesus, the certain hope of all of the world for all time, had been silenced.  The dead space was all wrong; yet was reality.

For two days....nothing.  No thing.

The dead space seemed to declare far too much.  Evidently the disciples appear far more foolish than they even originally seemed.  It looks like the talk of another king and kingdom were just mere and fading words.  Proof positive that Jesus too was a fake due to the dead space that made hearts sick; except for boisterous soldiers out of Rome.

Make a note; Jesus silenced silence by a greater than nuclear power resurrection. The dead space gave birth to eternal life!

So it is with us.  A reason for an authentic theological pattern.  Our dead spaces are pregnant with God moves.  We can count on it.  Whether it be disappointment, or setback, or loss, all of these dead spaces are each pregnant with God-hope of life!

Therefore, we never lose heart.  Even though our outer man is decaying we are to be renewed day by day.  Newer everyday is due to the life beginning to take steam in all of the dead spaces.

Only God could design such for His children!!!

Friday, April 18, 2014


This weekend is celebrated world-wide as Christians remember the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.  While many of us observe these three weekly in communion, the world is now on high alert to this activity some 2000 years past.

The truth of Jesus finds itself challenged in a web of disorderly followers as myself. Our critics are often such due to proper judgment.  For our moments of cynicism and swagger, we put a blemish upon the beauty of Jesus the Lamb.  If these traits and others go out publicly, and they do, we then find the perception of goodness and holiness of the Christian life becoming blurred if not completely disregarded.

Christians live on a strange and complex stage.  Where we can cause rebuke because of our mis-steps in following Jesus by our arrogance or ignorance, there is also the likely rejection by the same people if we were to follow spiritually closer to Jesus in the first place.  After all, a huge part of this weekend's celebration is that he was crucified.

One of the challenges before us, therefore, is that we live devotedly and humbly enough in faithfully following Jesus that we would properly be dismissed by those who reject the Son of God anyway.  Because we are silly about our faith or snobbish about it does not give us room to crow.

What we want the world to know is not our religious correctness; but our Savior.  We want them to meet him just as we did a few years back.  Jesus is neither a magician nor is he a figment of history's imagination.  He is a real person who walked in our sandals and begged for a signal from above that he did not have to be punished for our sins.

Yet....he took them on....and won!

This Sunday will bear the fruit of full houses of worship.  Once a year--other than a similar trend at Christmas--churches are packed.  I say Hurray!  Yippee!  Way to go!  Awesome! and Cool!  America still has embedded within its populace a recall of what Jesus did for each generation.

A lot of people will be visiting our places this Sunday.  Would you pause for a moment when you begin to brush past those you don't know?  While we mean nothing by it, some are watching to see if we have eyes like Jesus to notice those who wish to touch him; even those up a tree who wish to just look at him.

Visitors will be abundant Sunday morning.  I'm pumped.  May our messages be full of hope and our greetings be full of welcome!

It's is coming....and I'm really glad.

Thursday, April 17, 2014


We don't need more critics.  These are a dime a dozen.  What we need are sympathizers who care enough to stand with us, instead of run, when we fall very short of the mark which God has called.

Fellowship and relationship within the body of Christ are essential.  Religious activity seems to want to skip the connected-to-others part by focusing upon standards and measures.

Hospitality, a trait even necessary for elders of the church, has a unique personality. It understands others who suffer so deeply that it offers direction and guidance into fruitful labor.

I very much like what Henri Nouwen penned as he connects hospitality with our common struggles.  This is so because shared pain is no longer paralyzing but mobilizing, when understood as a way to liberation.  When we become aware that we do not have to escape our pains, but that we can mobilize them into a common search for life, those very pains are transformed from expressions of despair into signs of hope.

Through this common search hospitality becomes community.

To note value in our own pain is not a call to obsess over our sorrows.  But rather reaching out to those who are down finds that we have a meaningful and wonderful new mobility to effectively boost others.  Our agonies do not shut us down.  Instead, they thrust us into compassion for neighbors of hurting hearts with both experience and understanding.

Attention is not for our difficulties to be duly noted; yet, it frees us to give attention to all others with unusual spiritual insight.  Hospitality sympathizes because we have endured similar discouragement.

Jesus understands us best from the Cross.  He became the sin of our independent lies and our dependent false gods.  He absorbed humanities foul sins as gigantic Kitty Litter upon Golgotha.  He knows sin.  He knows us.  He alone knows how to save.

Because we fight the battles of injury and discouragement and raging agonies, we are qualified to offer a hand to our neighbor through the wild and effective means of hospitality.  We can reach because we have been reached.

What every neighbor wonders is, Does anyone understand my demise and failure? We can arise with strong voice, Yes, I do.  Enter meaningful, sympathetic hospitality.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


I don't know of an individual who has not at one time dreamed of making a big difference from where they lived.  I regard myself as like all other youngsters growing up.  Being heroic and/or successful by accomplishing very great things filled my imagination.

To give you insight, my brother and I had one Sunday shirt each for church; white, short-sleeved, wide-collared.  Simultaneously, I dreamed of being a Major League baseball star.  I was nine at the time and one of the 1956 bubble gum cards that I loved was of Roy Campanella; number 39.

Not having a uniform, I designed my own by taking a ball-point pen and drawing 39 on the back of my Sunday go-to-church shirt.  Granted it appeared very unauthentic; but it was my imaginary uniform.  And...I was proud as the imaginary crowd roared immediately upon the Public Address Announcer calling out, And no-ow batting-ing---num-um-ber 39--Terr-err--y Ru-u-sh!!!  (cheers were deafening).

Some of us, maybe most of us, never reach that stage by the means we assumed. Stardom just isn't in the cards for the most of us.  Fame seems to leak badly.  It turns out we are most ordinary and rather plain; in a good sort of way.

So how do we really make a difference in life?  We make it, not by fame, but by giving ourselves away.

In the Parable of the Talents, I believe we discover a buried secret within its wording as to how we are to make a difference in life.  It is by the simple process of giving away.

Too often our assumption is that the way we get ahead is by grasping, clinging, and hoarding.  We call it saving up.  But God has a different direction, which from experience many of us can testify He has it figured correctly.

Matthew 25:16 shines light upon the man with the five talents.  He went and traded. When he risked losing by trading away, he gained.  The same procedure is accredited to the two talent man.  The one talent?  No trade.  No risk.  No exchange.  Hid in fear of losing....and he did lose.

The way to make a difference is not to self-groom nor to accumulate.  It will always be found luxuriously in the reverse; let go, trade, risk, yield.

Oh I'm in on wanting to be the local hero, or the famed one being interviewed; but it isn't going to happen.  My job is to trust God; give Him my goods, my personality, my dreams.  He will use them as He wishes; not as I imagine. says Ephesians 3:20....will faithfully trump my imagination with His glory and creativity.

So it is for all of us.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Today's post will be a bit different.  It simply contains quotes from my good friend, Philip Yancey.

Breathe the thoughts in.  I believe they will enrich your heart.

The problem of pain meets its match in the scandal of grace.

Grace is not about finishing first or last; it is about not counting.

Grace cannot be reduced to generally accepting accounting principles.  In the bottom-line realm of ungrace, some workers deserve more than others; in the realm of grace the word "deserve" does not even apply.

People are prepared for everything except for the fact that beyond the darkness of their blindness there is a great light (Frederick Buechner).

Grace baffles us because it goes against the intuition that everyone has that, in the face of injustice, some price must be paid....God gave up His own Son rather than give up on humanity.

In Christian theology, Jesus reversed the ancient pattern: when the servants erred, the King was punished.  Grace is free only because the giver himself has borne the cost.

Monday, April 14, 2014


May we mature in treating one another with loving kindness.  Our mission is not to demean nor berate another; even when our judgment may be on target.  Rather ours is the role as God would do to us; someone please believe in us when we can't believe in ourselves.

Yes, the behavior of people is often offensive and sometimes injurious.  None seem to be exempt from taking our turn.  Yet, as we have received a pass from God because He loves us, we can offer relationship to the tough cookies because we have an ability to see within them something good that they cannot see within themselves.

Our enemies are to be loved; the Word of God expressly calls.  We can do it.  To do so does not turn a blind eye to errors; rather it sees by faith what isn't yet seen; the gold buried in those hills of personality distractions.  We are called to believe the gold is in there....even when unrealized by the very one who holds such treasure.

We are never to accept another on the basis of there lack.  We, instead, believe that all can be and might be becomers.  This changes the course of future.  When each of us has encounter with the one, the few, or the many who are difficult, we are not to accept that this is the best these can do.  We possess a faith that believes these can reach another level of maturity and effectiveness.

When we treat others with such grace, we can expect it to return our way for we, too, are in great need of improvement.  Let us not be discouraged because we or others fail.  Let us be encouraged that we are pulling together to build a better us which in turn builds a stronger church family.

Saturday, April 12, 2014


How many times have we said or at least heard, I'm afraid of what this might lead to? While wisdom is essential in kingdom matters, living in fear is a mistake of the moment; not the future.  Hesitancy in the name of being careful stymies the great walks some could have upon the stormy seas.

Bravery and courage are not villains as some would imply.  Rather, these are for the faithful who can dare run headlong into the Red Sea only to experience the glory of God's sweeping hand.

Our Christian call to mobilize has a far greater chance of success if we will shed our cloaks of fear.  We can't predict the future; how things will go or how matters will develop.  We can, however, step with confidence into the future terrain for God has it assessed and earmarked for His glory and our wonder.

Listen to Calvin Miller's comment on God's view of our moments.  Our future fears are completely groundless if we remember that God knows the future.  Time is God's visible captive.  He sees the front from the end and the end from the front.  Our insecurities about our future are needless.

And then you'll love how Kellogg Albran chimes in.  I have seen the future.  It is much like the present, only longer.

It is always God who runs our show.  No one and nothing else.  Short straws don't run it.  Odds don't.  Good or bad breaks don't.  And, sheer lack doesn't.  God does.

Fear is not our boss.  Love is.  Love inspired and shared by God is.  Dare to wade into the Red Sea of Fear and demand that it part.  As the raging Sea was used as His children's stepping stones, may you walk upon the sidewalk of fear.

Take a step...and smile.

Friday, April 11, 2014


We live in screwy times.  Maybe man has always lived there; but it doesn't seem so.

Born in '47, life began to fill my awareness tank in the early 50s as to pace and meaning and concern and direction.  The Cold War of the 60s was scary.  The hippies, to a Missouri farm boy, were silliness.  Church was for the good people and pool halls were for the bad.

Today feels much different.  We live high on the hog, have at our disposal the most elite technology, and communication happens instantly.  Yet.....something is cooking.  The political world feels to be in shambles and the religious culture is regarded with extreme suspicion.

Signals have subtly come along that seems to give reason to believe that the Christian segment of our society is targeted for possible trouble.  For now, it appears that many majority and minority groups can be given consideration from many poles; but not the Christian one.  Simultaneously, I wonder if the Christian element in America has grown fat and sassy.  Have we fallen into a dangerous religion of indifferent slumber?

Persecution may not be at our doorstep; but I do think it is traipsing up the sidewalk. This will never be the thing we want.  Yet, it may be the very thing needed to move us from our glut of mediocre indifference.

I look at past reports of China where God's kingdom was not welcomed.  I don't know, in modern times, of a place where greater explosion of His presence is coming about.  Philip Yancey wrote about God's movement in that country.

For several decades no one knew how the Chinese church was faring, especially in light of the leaked reports of social turmoil.  Had Madame Mao succeeded in her vow to destroy Christianity?  When China finally began to crack open its borders, some of these same missionaries returned to visit, astonished to find that the church had exploded in size.  Aikman estimates that the number of Christians today may exceed eighty million; others suggest a total of more than one hundred million.

Yancey's report is from 2010.  Just last week Roger Dickson informed us that one printing company in China is printing 100 million copies of Chinese Bibles.  This is in a country where some powerful people had pledged to drive Christianity from within its borders.  Charles Colson reported about eight years ago that he believed the Chinese Christians would take care of Iran's dictator and his regime.

Persecution is a fretful matter.  It is too big for me to give adequate emphasis. However, from the onset of the Jesus movement in Acts up to this moment in history, the persecuted nations are the places the church does what we wish it would do in the secure nations; explode.

Persecution; what the church may need is what the church does not want.  We will always have the call to take up our crosses, follow him, and die for our enemies.

Thursday, April 10, 2014


Every Christian entity is always in need of prayer.  The believing world is in need of prayer.  It is the same for the those who do not choose to believe God.  Prayer is essential; yet one of the most difficult disciplines to develop.  The latter, to me, is verification of the importance and impact in our relationship with Father.

Jim Cymbala makes two strong arguments when he notes, Am I the only one who gets embarrassed when religious leaders in America talk about having prayer in public schools?  We don't even have that much prayer in many churches.  And then he urges, Let's not play games with ourselves.  Let's not divert attention away from the weak prayer life of our own churches.

It seems consistent that church members can do many things except pray.  Why?  Why is it that even the most outgoing among us have little or no prayer life?  This, I believe, simply points to the necessity that communication with God is to be the backbone to the body of Christ.

Our small group of 24 which meets in a house church on Sunday nights just recently sent a group of 8 off to form a new prayer group.  While many of us shed tears at the separation, a new family has already connected with this new group.  The remaining 16 will eventually want to form yet another group that others may be added to the prayer dynamic.

I look forward to the day when Memorial Drive has 5 and then 12 and then 25 small groups which are devoted to prayer.  When we add such to the number who already pray individually, we will see great fruit from the Spirit.

I would urge any who feel led at the moment to transfer your group that gathers for study and fellowship to begin a period of maybe three months devoted to simply praying.  It will be a major blessing; even to those who are intimidated by the thought.

May He choose to expand our vision to be a praying people.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014


When we have eyes to see and ears to hear, we are in constant surprise of life's moments which bring both satisfaction and joy.

Today I offer one of those special times.

Today Ruth is traveling with her daughter and son-in-law to a family reunion.  It has been ten years since Rubye, Rose, and Ruth have been together.  These three sisters are close-knit; but sorta up there in years.  Because of the latter, their travels aren't especially numerous.

So the Three R Sisters will one more time be reunited.  Oh just imagine the past that will be rehearsed along with the tears of thankfulness that will be shared.  The gratitude for God giving each an enduring faith will be intentionally enjoyed.

I don't know two of the sisters; only one.  Ruth Branum is a member of our Memorial Drive family.  And while there are many doctrinal or inspirational matters of which I could write this morning, I must bypass each of those zones to say to the Three R Sisters....have a fabulous time sitting together and enjoying the precious moments.

You see, the Three R Sisters are each beginning their second century of life; Rubye is 110, Ruth is 104, and the baby of the trio, Rose, is 101.  I believe we all celebrate the simplicity of just knowing such a gathering is going on this week.

A hearty congratulations to the Three R Sisters.  You bring us great joy in just knowing this much of your story!

Tuesday, April 08, 2014


People.  We act differently.  We want differently.  We need differently.  We are not alike.  Giving one another room and understanding is a fundamental courtesy that each of us needs.

There are, also, strong similarities.  Once we keep these in perspective as we bump into and bounce off of one another this might ease considerable tension.  Regardless of social level, from homeless to CEOs to celebrities, I wish to project a few of our commonalities:

  1. We each suffer from loneliness.  Knowing this will cause us to afford the irritating personalities to receive understanding rather than disgust.
  2. We each suffer from insecurity.  When we know this strikes at every social level of every individual, patience and understanding become a welcomed option.
  3. We each suffer from comparison.  To gage our value by placing ourselves beside another is a mistaken measurement.  Each is special.  No one has all of the gifts of life.  To begrudge the talent of another is to neglect the unique ability we personally possess which comes from God.  
  4. We each suffer from the striking snares of sin.  It as this juncture that one may tend to think more highly of self than we should.  It is here that we tend to judge another while we rationalize and dismiss our own unfaithfulness.  We are all the same.  One is guilty of immorality and another of embezzlement.  The Word says if we are guilty of one sin, we are guilty of all.
Hopefully, drawing attention to our commonalities would make us even kinder and gentler people who possess a tenderness for fellow man as we root for one another. There are no exceptions.  All of us are alike.  We want.  We need.  And we severely fumble....every one of we cannot come close to being what He desires.

We are not called to live in depression over our lack.  We are called to celebrate Jesus' glory for taking our places upon the cross.  Repentance is to be our move; admission to our guilt and confession that Jesus is the one, the only one, who does life right.

We....will claim his life as our own....thank you.

Friday, April 04, 2014


Taking up our crosses is not optional.  Spiritualizing the call seems to lessen the burden for us; in our own hearts.  We search for ways to convince ourselves that we are carrying our crosses in some fashion.  The truth is we are found reluctant.  It could be that many of us are fundamental cowards called to wander into a world which possesses enormous need.

People need God's children to cross their paths.

Would you think there would be a way that we could transition from hesitant to available?  Can one make the leap from the cowardly to the courageous?  Yes, it is faith in Jesus and not in self.

I have given many opportunities my best shot; well possibly my mediocre shot as well.  And many of these fell in failure.  Such results only serve to intimidate us even more...unless.  Unless we watch Jesus face obstacle after barricade...and always win.

Even when Jesus lost on the cross it was the most gigantic YES that the world could ever behold.

We operate under the umbrella of Jesus' resurrection.  For indeed he was crucified because of weakness, yet he lives because of the power of God.  For we are also weak in Him, yet we shall live with him because of the power of God directed toward you....II Cor. 13:4.

The power of God is laser focused to zero in on you and me in our weakened state. God puts the umph into us to bring us up from despair and place us upon the plateau of honorable and effective deeds.  He does.  We yield to His doing.

This truth gives us cowards enormous courage; courage to try, courage to risk, and courage to seek.  We do not hide.  We will not run.  We cannot ignore.  God calls the cowardly for permission to demonstrate His wonder.  Graves mean nothing.

Being cowardly is no threat.

He can!

We let!

Thursday, April 03, 2014


Every one's pants go on the same way.  We have heard that phrase to the yawnth degree.  We've heard it.  We tend not to believe its implications; but we HAVE HEARD IT.

The implication is that we are all just alike.  For the longest time...maybe three decades...I didn't believe it.  Now I do.  When we do, a new world opens.

I found I was approaching life in the wrong order.  I was seeing the success of others and hesitating to assert myself because I was not comparable to their skills and talents.  What I didn't realize is that every top-level individual, regardless of expertise, is the very same as me; deeply sinful.  We all put on our pants one leg at a time and there is no exception among our peers.

God is clear when He says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  One of our mistakes is to take "short" as being "pretty close" but not close enough.  Short means we didn't cut it.  Personal self-provision of working our way to salvation is not within any one's range.  No one.

Rebecca Pippert points out that, The good news is that while life is difficult and sin is ever-present reality, God offers hope and healing for all who need it.  The bad news is that we all need it!  The only way we differ is that some of us realize our need, and some do not.

Within every congregation there is a sin problem.  It isn't that someone(s) is committing sin that is the obvious problem.  It is worse.  When we deny our sinfulness and confess we have none, I can't really say this is worse....but it surely isn't good.

Enter Jesus.  As long as we believe we are managing our personal sin-points, we deceive ourselves by thinking we have no need of him.  We just need to suck it up and do better.  When we are in over our heads---and we all are---Jesus is crowned King of Life.  He is the only one who conquered the very place where we were sinking eternally.

Jesus isn't a name that closes out a prayer.  He is the Rescuer of all of us....all of us who are too sinful to save ourselves.

Our pants go on one leg at a time.  No exceptions.  We are all the same.  The rising stars and the depressed, the CEOs and the prisoners, the world travelers and the homeless; all of us have the same disease...sin.

Jesus is the only Physician who can render us whole and worthy in the sight of God.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014


Humility is the most backward concept to a most forward society.  Taking the back seat, being the least, moving without notoriety are all distancing mechanisms which seem foreign to the ego of getting ahead and claiming what's mine.

Yet, it is true that the call from above is for us to move with firm humility below.  This is what God did in Jesus.  Man didn't send an ambassador to heaven to bring God down.  God sent His Son to earth to bring us up.

The loud, the plotting, the scheming all find ways to promote self in the face of being lost within the herd.  Jesus, however, lived in reverse.  He was disrespected by his own family and disregarded by the religious leaders as being of any value.

The way to the top is to live from the bottom.  Glory and honor are God's.  Jesus did not point to Father from temple's peak.  Rather, he noted the glory of God from the Cross and on through the grave.

We look for notoriety and honor in all the wrong places.  We are not impressive.  He is.  We are not famous.  He is.  And when we yield to that truth it seems to be then that Heaven falls down around us to the extent we get to participate in the fascinating, the mysterious, the kingdom without explanation.

William Willimon wrote, In Gethsemane and on Calvary's hill, Jesus refined the sovereignty of God.  The one we expected to be the royal victor became the tortured royal victim.  The one who looked like the failed victim became the divine victory.

It will always be our call to grow downward into Jesus that we may grow upward into the Kingdom of God.  Such a trek isn't for the lazy nor is it for the cowardly.  It takes great muster to step against the grain of society; whether it be religious or non.

Christianity loses social respect from the rugged cross.  We have grown accustomed to the theme so it seems to be a rather neutral point.  But it isn't.  The Living God was hung out to dry on that torturous hill.  Three days later HE WAS BACK!

Some science fights it, some history balks at it, and other religions dismiss it. Individuals are free to give their take and from their conclusion, they move forward into their belief system.  For me, the Resurrection of Jesus is as factual as this day's calendar is given from the date of his birth.

Only through humility will one be able to ponder the mystery of the risen Savior.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014


Life has so many sticky wickets.  There are the ups and then the downs, the ins as well as the outs, and one must also factor in the sideways.  All of this says that we are necessarily going to need to pay attention to the unfolding of our days...and our years.  Our families cannot afford for us to go through life without measuring what to keep and what to discard so that we can become a better us.

Attention.  So many times I don't pay it.  I keep moving out of habit.  My ruts seem to give me guidance; thoughtless direction.  Life seems easier this way.  But easy isn't rut reality; laziness is.

Add to this concern the question of Jesus and his impact.  What do we expect him to do with, for, and through us that would not happen otherwise?  The answer is that we must anticipate that he will change us.

Looking back at my earlier days as a dad, I can see clearly (now) that I had set out to parent the way my dad did.  I wanted to be successful like he was.  I wanted to be liked by a host of friends as he was.  But, he also gave orders.  There was no room for discussion, question, nor consideration.  When he spoke that settled...everything.

So I took off being a responsible dad of three and I was a carbon copy of my dad; the dad that I liked and the dad that I resented in so many ways.  I was unyielding, unbending, and unfair.  But I was the dad and that's the way a dad I thought.

Now it's weird.  While my dad had many good traits of which I also possess, I had become the next generation of some of the very things that distressed me most.  I had two options; continue the Rush trend (and, thus, pass along such traits to my kids so they could parent the same image), or change.  If I did not change, three children would grow into adults with parenting techniques precisely as mine which I got from my dad and (as I learned later) he got from my grandpa.

What we expect Jesus to do is to help us make strides of improvement.  I was faced with a serious matter by the time my kids were in Middle School to Jr. High.  I had to learn a new way.  My self-assured parental copying was not complete.  Some of my strong traits were good; others...not so much.

Jesus is our leader.  My job is to follow.  Barking orders to my kids would last awhile; but resentment was sure to follow.  I did not want this to happen.  My kids did not need to behave better until first they had a father who did.

This was a challenge for me.  For one, being a man meant I was I assumed.  Yet...I was very wrong.  Jesus works with us to make adjustments.  We can't change others who wish to domineer or boss.  But we can change us (our methods and our dispositions) which will in turn positively affect our next generation.

Especially to men, I would encourage you to look at your Master instead of your family tradition.  Have the courage to filter the good from the ugly.  Face it.  Admit it.  And then do something about it.

What do we expect Jesus to do with us?  We expect him to change us.  From him we learn to yield instead of bark orders.  We learn to be tender instead of gruff.  We learn to stand upon solid ground; yet we do so with a love and gentleness of the Spirit rather than a closed mind which cannot ponder another way.

What do we expect Jesus to do with us?  We expect him to make us new day by day....which means a new kind and a new sort.  We believe Jesus will grow us to be of pliable minds and hearts where God could develop a terrific relationship...with His children.