Wednesday, August 22, 2007
I guess, I was thinking about times when I was sure that I heard God. Four or Five years ago my kids wanted to go to a conference about 120 miles from the house. The registration fee for the three of us was nearly $100; plus the price of food and gas. I had heard so many good things about Acquire the Fire, that I wanted them to go... and me too! I talked it over with my wife who says "yes" to just about anything she thinks I will like. As we talked, I saw she had a lot of concern about the cost. I was about to cancel the outing, thinking that $100 was a little extravagant for this time in our life, when I head the Lord say, "just go, I will take care of it." I did not know how it was going to happen, but I felt that it was going to be taken care of. So, the girls and I got in the car an headed for the conference.
We arrived there a little early and walked into the arena area where we enjoyed the first meeting. At the end of the meeting and the music, we saw a friend of ours from church. We got to talking about how good the conference was. The topic of the cost of the conference came up, and we realized that we didn't have wrist bands. "How did you ever get in without them!", she exclaimed. "They have five or six people checking at every door for them." We never even saw anyone selling them, nor did anyone check us when we went in. (Sometimes day meetings are free at these type of events, I honestly did give it a thought.)
Just before the second meeting, absolutely not wanting to sneak in, we went to a table where they were selling the wrist bands. I went over to see what it was going to cost for the rest of the day. They were charging the full admission price for the entire weekend; one meeting was the same as the entire conference. I spoke the to gal at the table and told her that I was sorry that we had gone into the meeting earlier without knowing about he wristbands. She said that it would not be a problem, but that we couldn't go in like that again. "Thank you anyway," I said. I went to the girls to tell them we were leaving. I didn't even have $100 if I wanted to stay. They seemed a little disappointed, but they understood that it was expensive for me at that time. They started to say how much they had gotten out of the first meetings' dramas, message and worship. We headed for the door when the the gal from the table said that God had told her to just give us the wristbands. I told her that she didn't have to. She held them out and said, "You know we never do this. Ever!" I told her again, that she didn't have to and that we had just enjoyed being there for the time we already had. She insisted that we take them. One more time I said, "are you sure?" She simply said, "God bless you," and held them out for the us to take. Then I heard the Lord say, "I told you I would take care of this."
The voice of God is a wonderful and sometimes scary thing. However; we have His assurance that we will hear His voice and know it." The rest of the meetings were really life changing for the kids. They still talk about some of the things they heard that day. Me, I am just glad that God speaks to His people.. and especially me. On the way home, I thanked God that He had made way for us to be there.
Monday, August 20, 2007
I have been pondering miracles lately. If you have been reading this blog for a few months, you'll know that I believe in a supernatural God, one who does supernatural things. I love reading books such as "Like a Mighty Wind" and "Caught up in Paradise". They inspire me to believe God for amazing stuff. And you know, He has done it in front of my very eyes. As I look around at the people that I am in contact with, I see lots of needs. From finances to cancer, I know folks that need miracles.... or so it seems.
Here are some of the things that I have heard about miracles over the years. "If you have faith, you'll have miracles." "If you pray for potatoes, God will give you a hoe." Or, "coincidences are God's way of remaining anonymous." "We don't need miracles, we have science." And today's winner, "miracles ceased with the death of the last apostle." All of these statements are intended to illustrate a particular paradigm or worldview of God. As you can see, each one has its limitations.
As always, we want to clear up any misconceptions and understand our part, while leaving God His part in the process. First of all, God hasn't changed. He is still in the business of doing miracles and healings. I am also convinced that God is not trying to remain anonymous. I assure you that He wants credit for every sunrise, every healed cut and all the supernatural stuff that we didn't expect, or can't explain. Those are the easy answers.
The more difficult answers pertain to how to get a miracle. Before I go there, I want to take a moment to discuss the reasons that we may not get one. God's desire is to be in relationship with us. He wants us to know Him. There was once a prophecy floating around the Charismatic church stating that we wanted to see His hand move, be we didn't seek His face. I think that is certainly a factor. God is not in the business of dispensing miracles. They are often a byproduct of our relationship with Him. We'll call it the privilege of adoption. Membership definitely has its benefits! However; God is much more gracious then to only give gifts to those who know and love Him. He loves all of mankind in spite of their sin. He pursues each person for a relationship with Him. The start of that relationship may, just in fact, be a miracle. Yes, one spent on a dirty smelly faithless goat.
Is it true that God only does miracles for "good" people? Nope, you can't earn one.
Well, then what is it that can get God to move in a miraculous way? Here are the factors as I see them. Most of the people that I know that speak of miracles are baptized in the Holy Spirit. The miracles seem to follow those folks more then they do in other denominations. You can certainly be at odds over how one is "baptized in the Holy Spirit," but I assure you, these are the folks that are getting more consistent results. So you are spirit-filled. Then there are only three more criteria that seem to go along with God moving. The first is practical need. I meet lots of Christians that are in a fix, where the think they need a miracle. My question is this, how did you get there? Are you out of money? What did you spend it on? Are you working full time? There always seems to be a path to destruction. It might be a very level one, not necessarily a cliff. Do you really have a need, or did you create one? Real miracles come out of real need. It is doubtful that you'll walk on water if there is a boat or bridge.
Number two: It appears that the folks that experience the bonafide miracles are folks that have a deep relationship with God. I said experience, not receive. They may the vessel of the gift. They are the ones that not just read that Bible, but they live it. They may only get a few minutes a day, but they are in the word, not just reading it. I don't mean they are "good" folks, I mean they are dedicated folks. They are humble, teachable and open to God; they desire to know Him, not about Him.
They pray, but it is not a matter of the amount of words or time, but it is about the personal words they speak to the living God. The people that I know, that experience angels, miracles and other types of angelic activity look for it, wait for it and lastly, they expect it. Not only for themselves, but for others. Their lives are passionate for Him, and the blessings they witness are byproducts of putting Him first, not something that they deserve.
The last thing I believe that it takes for a miracle is faith. Someone has to believe and it's not always the receiver. However; where miracles are happening, they is usually a Christian not far from the scene, whether in prayer or there laying on hands.
There are a few facts about miracles you may want to be aware of. First, healing is not a miracle. In fact, within the church there should be lots of different types of healings, both physical and emotional as there are "gifts" of healing. There are curses that need to be broken and demons that need to be cast out. These supernatural events are the nature of the spiritual realm in relationship to the physical body. But miracles, they are a different sort of thing. They are walking on water, turning staffs into snakes, water into wine and things of that nature.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
The question is when is grace appropriate versus consequences, or punishment for our actions? As I write this, it sounds a little harsh, but it is the actual point of this blog. I understand that punishment is greater for seemingly greater offenses. Certainly murder demands punishment. But what about more minor offenses like, not calling someone in the church that you promised to call? Is it OK to decide not to show up as a greeter because, after all, you are just a volunteer? That is the type of dysfunction that I am talking about. The quandary is this. If leaders put pressure on parishioners to do what they say they said they were going to do, is it OK to reprimand them if they don't? The truth, in some cases, people will just find another church where the pressure is off and the grace appears to be greater. We used to call this extravagant grace for just about anything "sloppy agape"; a condition where people gave grace as an excuse for bad behavior.
It is the age old conflict: grace vs. legalism... and who is right question. I think this is a far more important question then "are we predestined or not," don't you think? The answer I suppose needs to be balanced erring on the side of grace. The prefect answer would be to always know what God's will is and do that. Didn't Paul say we must be led by the Spirit?
As Christians we need to grow up. We need to mature to the point of not just doing the right thing, but being led by the Spirit in all things. Spiritual maturity is not just "not drinking, not smoking and not cheating" while touting our testimony as if we have done something great! That behavior is shameful and needs God's mercy and grace. I doubt that acting on our addictions is taken lightly in the throne room.
Spiritual maturity is acting like Jesus did; the healing Jesus, the loving Jesus, the honest Jesus, the preaching Jesus, the teaching Jesus, the praying Jesus, the confronting Jesus, the disciplining Jesus and yes, the overturning tables Jesus. Everything He did was done without judgement, and except for the tables (maybe) without anger. He set boundaries, standards and taught them to those close to him. He was not concerned that few, if any, were going to be there at the cross with Him while he suffered and died. He knew His destiny, and never wavered from God's will. I bet he thought of other things to do while He spoke to the Father about the cup. And it seems, He had less grace for the religious leaders of the time then He did for the tax collectors and prostitutes.
The acceptance of grace is not a license to coast until we get to Heaven. The process of sanctification is life long, and it is never completed. The point is this, we that are more mature, need to teach others, set boundaries that are loving, yet cause others to grow in grace and maturity. We need to teach others to be led by the Spirit, while working out our own salvation with fear and trembling. Then we have a starting point.
Hopefully we will stop doing "let's get through the week sermons" and starting teaching and ministering reconciliation and spiritual maturity through example, mentoring and real relationship; the kind where folks are committed to each other for the sake of Christ and the good of the church. Hopefully we can hold each other accountable for that which we said we are going to do in love.
You know, I am not so sure my dad did me any favors letting me off for the rock incident. But I'll never forget the grace that I received that day.
Monday, July 30, 2007
1) NONE - The gifts do not exist since the apostles died. Any supernatural activity in the church, is of the Devil.
2) EXTREMELY RARE - They are not something that you have, or can even predictably enjoy as part of your faith, they are something that God sends when he darn well pleases.... and that is not very often. Or they exist, but we don't know how to use them.
3) WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU IF YOU DON'T HAVE THEM? - The "Everybody has them all" and your faith is so low you can't operate in them... or worse yet, you are not even saved!
All three positions, in my view, are biblically off. There is just too much information about spiritual gifts in the Bible for this issue to end up in one of the above named "catch alls". If we look at all this scriptural information as historical, then Jesus and the church become the same, historical.
If Jesus is alive, then He ought to show up once in a while; or send a representative, don't you think? I know, blessed is poor Thomas that had to see when the rest of us can't. For crying out loud he saw Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead! Wouldn't you be convinced?
I don't think that who Jesus was, was in question with ol' Doubting Thomas. The question was, how poor pathetic Thomas would live and work with His church after the resurrection! After all, this had never been done before, and it has never happened since! Thomas had no frame of reference for working with a dead but living God. That is the struggle of Christianity... engaging with a supernatural God. It takes faith, stepping out, being humbled, love, hope and a personal relationship with Jesus.
How do we reconcile the scriptures, relate to an invisible God, and participate in the supernatural ministry of the church while doing all the regular religious stuff... and how are they connected anyway?
One question at a time. First, the Bible is very clear on spiritual gifts and there use in the body of Christ. Paul, likened them to the parts of a human body, each working together for the good of the whole. Read Romans 12, Ephesian 4 and 1 Corinthians chapters 12, 13 and 14. In my opinion that is a hell of lot of ink for something that doesn't exist. Therefore; I am going to assume that they do exist.
How do we get these gifts from God? Well Paul believed that he could impart them; probably by the laying on of hands, and prayer. Romans 1:11 For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established... some scholars think these are intellectual gifts... why don't we just make "natural" that which is supernatural! Just call me Thomas!
Paul also said, "Romans 11:29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable." If you read the context, I think he is referring to ones that you receive when you are born again by faith. It appears to me, that we are either born again with spiritual gifts and/or they are imparted. I subscribe to both revelations.
If these gifts are so readily available, why don't we see more of them in action? That is a question that needs to be asked by everyone in the church, especially leaders. There are a number of facets to this answer. First, the baptism of the Holy Spirit and how that happens is in question. I believe that the fastest growing denomination in the world is A of G. Why? They understand the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. There are some other Charismatic and independent denominations that get it too. HERE is the basic doctrine if you need to look it up.
While you are asking questions, here are a few more: Do you want them? Do you covet the gifts? 1 Corinthians 14:1 Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.
Another facet to the "why" question is training. I find that most "spirit filled" believers can't find a scriptural example of each of the 12 gifts defined in 1 Corinthians Chapter 12. Amazing, even pastors don't always know exactly what they believe. Add to that signs and wonders such as gold teeth and olive oil flowing from people's hands, and we don't seem to understand the ways God may be at work.
For those of you who edgy about gold teeth, the smell of frankincense or lilies and other signs and wonders in the church, try this verse. John 20:30 Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. For cryin' out loud, He healed a blind man with spit and mud!
I also believe there is sovereign element to spiritual gifting. I don't believe it is specifically character that God uses as a prerequisite to gifting His people. There have been hundreds of anointed Christians that were of poor character and vice versa. It also is about timing and release.
Some of the most gifted people I know, have a hard time working with a pastor that doesn't understand their particular gift, so it goes unused. Sad. Reread Ephesians chapter four, it is pretty obvious what the team is supposed to look like, what type of people should be on it, and what they are supposed to do as part of it.
The spirit is energized, so to speak, by a persons devotion to Jesus, Bible study, worship, prayer, and their ability to love others. These things affect the use of the spiritual gifts. The spiritual climate we live in, and the principalities we live under, all influence the gifts and there workings in the natural realm.
Another common question is this, "Why doesn't everyone function in all of them?" A good question with a simple answer. We are part of a body, therefore; we rely on others with gifting and they rely on us. We each need to function in our gift, working with others functioning in theirs. That is simply how the body is designed to work.
It is rare to find someone that is a great at more then one thing. Most great ball players are not great musicians. Most great organizers are not always great at details. It is the same in the spiritual gifting realm. Those who prophesy, aren't always great at healing. Those that preach, aren't always good at helping others. That is why we need a a body; a team.
Now that you see that this is possible, how do you proceed? I think that it is good to be with others that believe similarly. I also think that you should seek it out like gold. Go to conferences and churches where you hear of these things happening. Then read your Bible and do your best to judge for yourself as the Bereans did. Be careful not to fit God in to your particular worship style or denominational paradigm. You don't know everything about God and you never will.
Here is an example stereotyping in the church. I once met a man that went to a very charismatic meeting during, what was called the Toronto Blessing (I never went). I asked him what he saw there expecting to hear of salivations and healings as I had from countless others. "Well, they didn't have any pews or chairs; everyone was standing during the teaching and I noticed that no one was carrying a Bible. I just don't find that Christian," he said. "No Bibles at church."
I met another man that went to Pensacola during the "Brownsville Revival" (I never went to FL, but I did see the team in Providence, RI.) and I asked him what he saw there? He said he didn't really know how to explain it. He spent so much time on the floor after an altar call, the he said he didn't have words to describe it without tears. I asked him why he was on the floor and he replied, "because the presence of God was so great, that I couldn't stand up or get up!" In the end, he simply said, "I know I was a Christian when I got there, but now I am soooo in love with Jesus, I can't speak of it all." I believe there was a gifted preacher and ministry team there as representatives of God.
If you ask me, the gifts work where there is a need and Christians love. Reread 1 Corinthians 12 and 13.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
If you're not a Jay Leno fan read what he wrote anyway. My respect and esteem for him has really increased.
"The other day I was reading Newsweek magazine and came across some poll data I found rather hard to believe. It must be true given the source, right? The Newsweek poll alleges that 67 percent of Americans are unhappy with the direction the country is headed and 69 percent of the country is unhappy with the performance of the president. In essence 2/3s of the citizenry just ain't happy and want a change.
So being the knuckle dragger I am, I started thinking, ''What we are so unhappy about?'' Is it that we have electricity and running water 24 hours a day, 7 days a week? Is our unhappiness the result of having air conditioning in the summer and heating in the winter? Could it be that 95.4 percent of these unhappy folks have a job? Maybe it is the ability to walk into a grocery store at any time and see more food in moments than Darfur has seen in the last year?
Maybe it is the ability to drive from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean without having to present identification papers as we move through each state? Or possibly the hundreds of clean and safe motels we would find along the way that can provide temporary shelter?
I guess having thousands of restaurants with varying cuisine from around the world is just not good enough. Or could it be that when we wreck our car, emergency workers show up and provide services to help all and even send a helicopter to take you to the hospital.
Perhaps you are one of the 70 percent of Americans who own a home. You may be upset with knowing that in the unfortunate case of a fire, a group of trained firefighters will appear in moments and use top notch equipment to extinguish the flames thus saving you, your family and your belongings.
Or if, while at home watching one of your many flat screen TVs, a burglar or prowler intrudes, an officer equipped with a gun and a bullet-proof vest will come to defend you and your family against attack or loss. This all in the backdrop of a neighborhood free of bombs or militias raping and pillaging the residents. Neighborhoods where 90 percent of teenagers own cell phones and computers.
How about the complete religious, social and political freedoms we enjoy that are the envy of everyone in the world? Maybe that is what has 67 percent of you folks unhappy.
Fact is, we are the largest group of ungrateful, spoiled brats the world has ever seen. No wonder the world loves the U.S., yet has a great disdain for its citizens. They see us for what we are. The most blessed people in the world who do nothing but complain about what we don't have, and what we hate about the country instead of thanking the good Lord we live here.
I know, I know. What about the president who took us into war and has no plan to get us out? The president who has a measly 31 percent approval rating? Is this the same president who guided the nation in the dark days after 9/11? The president that cut taxes to bring an economy out of recession? Could this be the same guy who has been called every name in the book for succeeding in keeping all the spoiled ungrateful brats safe from terrorist attacks?
The commander in chief of an all-volunteer army that is out there defending you and me? Did you hear how bad the President is on the news or talk show? Did this news affect you so much, make you so unhappy you couldn't take a look around for yourself and see all the good things and be glad?
Think about it......are you upset at the President because he actually caused you personal pain OR is it because the "Media" told you he was failing to kiss your sorry ungrateful behind every day.
Make no mistake about it. The troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have volunteered to serve, and in many cases may have died for your freedom. There is currently no draft in this country. They didn't have to go.
They are able to refuse to go and end up with either a ''general'' discharge, an ''other than honorable'' discharge or, worst case scenario, a ''dishonorable'' discharge after a few days in the brig.
So why then the flat-out discontentment in the minds of 69 percent of Americans? Say what you want but I blame it on the media. If it bleeds it leads and they specialize in bad news. Everybody will watch a car crash with blood and guts. How many will watch kids selling lemonade at the corner? The media knows this and media outlets are for-profit corporations. They offer what sells, and when criticized, try to defend their actions by "justifying" them in one way or another. Just ask why they tried to allow a murderer like O.J. Simpson to write a book about how he didn't kill his wife, but if he did he would have done it this way......Insane!
Stop buying the negativism you are fed everyday by the media. Shut off the TV, burn Newsweek, and use the New York Times for the bottom of your bird cage. Then start being grateful for all we have as a country. There is exponentially more good than bad.
We are among the most blessed peoples on Earth and should thank God several times a day, or at least be thankful and appreciative."
"With hurricanes, tornados, fires out of control, mud slides, flooding, severe thunderstorms tearing up the country from one end to another, and with the threat of bird flu and terrorist attacks, are we sure this is a good time to take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance?"
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Undersea remote submarines equally amazing. They have ruined the myth of the Titanic and exposed the secrets of the Bermuda Triangle by finding ships that "supposedly" vanished. Those very mysteries, along with the illusions of Harry Houdini, intrigued me when I was in fourth grade. Even more intriguing is the NTSB as they reconstruct an airliner from a crash site. It is astounding how they seem to find all the pieces, let alone reassemble them!
Have you ever thought about the thousands of years of ancestry each one of us has? I know a little bit about my grandfather and heard about my great grandparents. But I don't know much beyond that. I wonder how many family trees would be altered with a few DNA tests? Isn't it scary the things which technology can bring to light?
If you watch the news you'll hear a lot about the right to privacy in medical records, cell phone calls and more... where do we draw the line? This blog really isn't about privacy invasion or the "big brother" of Logan's Run. God knows we all have something to hide. It is really about the way we live our lives. With technology, we need to be careful where and when we do things. However; as a Christan, we need to be careful what we do, regardless of the fact that there are no security cameras, or witnesses present.
If you ran for office, what dirt would they find on you? If they confiscated your hard drive, what would they find on it? If they published your Internet log, or cell phone records, what would be there? There has been a lot said about our private lives being in the light, what do you think? Here is a story I read some years back. I think it is the perfect illustration of my point.
The Room... Brian Moore
In that place between wakefulness and dreams, I found myself in the room. There were no distinguishing features except for the one wall covered with small index card files. They were like the ones in libraries that list titles by author or subject in alphabetical order. But these files, which stretched from floor to ceiling and seemingly endless in either direction, had very different headings. As I drew near the wall of files, the first to catch my attention was one that read "Girls I have liked." I opened it and began flipping through the cards. I quickly shut it, shocked to realize that I recognized the names written on each one. And then without being told, I knew exactly where I was.
This lifeless room with its small files was a crude catalog system for my life. Here were written the actions of my every moment, big and small, in a detail my memory couldn't match. A sense of wonder and curiosity, coupled with horror, stirred within me as I began randomly opening files and exploring their content. Some brought joy and sweet memories; others a sense of shame and regret so intense that I would look over my shoulder to see if anyone was watching.
A file named "Friends" was next to one marked "Friends I have betrayed." The titles ranged from the mundane to the outright weird "Books I Have Read," "Lies I Have Told," "Comfort I have Given," "Jokes I Have Laughed at." Some were almost hilarious in their exactness: "Things I've yelled at my brothers." Others I couldn't laugh at: "Things I Have Done in My Anger", "Things I Have Muttered Under My Breath at My Parents." I never ceased to be surprised by the contents.
Often there were many more cards than I expected. Sometimes fewer than I hoped. I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the life I had lived. Could it be possible that I had the time in my years to fill each of these thousands or even millions of cards? But each card confirmed this truth. Each was written in my own handwriting. Each signed with my signature.
When I pulled out the file marked "TV Shows I have watched", I realized the files grew to contain their contents. The cards were packed tightly, and yet after two or three yards, I hadn't found the end of the file. I shut it, shamed, not so much by the quality of shows & but more by the vast time I knew that file represented.
When I came to a file marked "Lustful Thoughts," I felt a chill run through my body. I pulled the file out only an inch, not willing to test its size and drew out a card. I shuddered at its detailed content.
I felt sick to think that such a moment had been recorded. An almost animal rage broke on me. One thought dominated my mind: No one must ever see these cards! No one must ever see this room! I have to destroy them!" In insane frenzy I yanked the file out. Its size didn't matter now. I had to empty it and burn the cards. But as I took it at one end and began pounding it on the floor, I could not dislodge a single card. I became desperate and pulled out a card, only to find it as strong as steel when I tried to tear it.
Defeated and utterly helpless, I returned the file to its slot. Leaning my forehead against the wall, I let out a long, self-pitying sigh.
And then I saw it.. The title bore "People I Have Shared the Gospel With." The handle was brighter than those around it, newer, almost unused. I pulled on its handle and a small box not more than three inches long fell into my hands. I could count the cards it contained on one hand.
And then the tears came. I began to weep. Sobs so deep that they hurt. They started in my stomach and shook through me. I fell on my knees and cried. I cried out of shame, from the overwhelming shame of it all. The rows of file shelves swirled in my tear-filled eyes. No one must ever, ever know of this room. I must lock it up and hide the key. But then as I pushed away the tears, I saw Him.
No, please not Him. Not here. Oh, anyone but Jesus. I watched helplessly as He began to open the files and read the cards. I couldn't bear to watch His response. And in the moments I could bring myself to look at His face, I saw a sorrow deeper than my own.
He seemed to intuitively go to the worst boxes. Why did He have to read every one? Finally He turned and looked at me from across the room. He looked at me with pity in His eyes. But this was a pity that didn't anger me. I dropped my head, covered my face with my hands and began to cry again. He walked over and put His arm around me. He could have said so many things. But He didn't say a word. He just cried with me.
Then He got up and walked back to the wall of files. Starting at one end of the room, He took out a file and, one by one, began to sign His name over mine on each card. "No!" I shouted rushing to Him. All I could find to say was "No, no," as I pulled the card from Him. His name shouldn't be on these cards. But there it was, written in red so rich, so dark, so alive. The name of Jesus covered mine. It was written with His blood. He gently took the card back. He smiled a sad smile and began to sign the cards. I don't think I'll ever understand how He did it so quickly, but the next instant it seemed I heard Him close the last file and walk back to my side.
He placed His hand on my shoulder and said, "It is finished." I stood up, and He led me out of the room. There was no lock on its door. There were still cards to be written.
"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."-Phil. 4:13 "For God so loved the world that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." If you feel the same way forward it so the love of Jesus will touch their lives also. My "People I shared the gospel with" file just got bigger, how about yours?
About the Author:
17-year-old Brian Moore had only a short time to write something for a class. The subject was what Heaven was like. "I wowed 'em," he later told his father, Bruce. "It's a killer. It's the bomb. It's the best thing I ever wrote.." It also was the last.
Brian's parents had forgotten about the essay when a cousin found it while cleaning out the teenager's locker at Teary Valley High School. Brian had been dead only hours, but his parents desperately wanted every piece of his life near them-notes from classmates and teachers, his homework.
Only two months before, he had handwritten the essay about encountering Jesus in a file room full of cards detailing every moment of the teen's life.. But it was only after Brian's death that Beth and Bruce Moore realized that their son had described his view of heaven. "It makes such an impact that people want to share it. You feel like you are there." Mr. Moore said.
Brian Moore died May 27, 1997, the day after Memorial Day. He was driving home from a friend's house when his car went off Bulen-Pierce Road in Pickaway County and struck a utility pole. He emerged from the wreck unharmed but stepped on a downed power line and was electrocuted.
The Moore’ framed a copy of Brian's essay and hung it among the family portraits in the living room. "I think God used him to make a point. I think we were meant to find it and make something out of it," Mrs. Moore said of the essay. She and her husband want to share their son's vision of life after death. "I'm happy for Brian. I know he's in heaven. I know I'll see him."
Saturday, July 14, 2007
Here is a quick list of the thoughts presented: Hell is a place for evil people only, hell is reserved for the "baddest" people on earth, Hell is a representation of pain, living on earth is Hell and everyone goes to Heaven. They interviewed people that quote, "know they are going to Hell", and folks that don't want to go, as well as folks that aren't sure. The interview with rocker Marilyn Manson, a recovering drug addict from Alaska and some murderer from New Orleans brought to light the most significant views. All three were brought up in Christian homes! The drug addict had something of an out-of-body-experience, Manson seems content with his lot to be there with all his friends and the murderer didn't seem concerned about it at all.
I have said it before (SEE MY BLOG), there are many nice sentiments regarding the after life, but the Bible is pretty clear on most aspects of it. There are a few things I would like to clear up.
-1 It is most unlikely that anyone can prove or disprove that actual location and decorum of Hell. I'll leave that for the super-educated.
-2 The idea of being bad or good as a way to earn something in the afterlife is not Christian, or Biblical. The apostle Paul said that we all fall short of the mark of perfection. The word "all" that he used in the Greek means all. Therefore; no one is born, or acts good enough to go to heaven, not even Mother Theresa... she too, needed the salvation of Jesus by faith.
-3 The notion that certain acts, or combination of acts deserves an eternity in Heaven or Hell is also not Christian. There is a the law of the Old Testament and the code of conduct in the New Testament, and again, we all fall short in some way. These laws simply point out what it is that we should be doing and not doing. And yes, the more we follow them the better our Christian witness will look. In the end (pun intended) it's is who we have faith in, not what we have done. Remember, Christians are not perfect, just forgiven. Even those who don't believe in Christ can benefit by Kingdom principals, as the laws of Heaven are not subject to the whim or ideas of man. God said there would be a blessing in giving generously and loving unselfishly, and there will be. The problem is when the carnal mind tries to understand the things of the Spirit.
-4 Jesus said that He was the only way to Heaven, this is to the exclusion of all other religions. He has also willed that all men and woman be saved, and made himself known in various ways so that this would happen. That is why it is good to find Him. Salvation is not a specific religious prayer or act. It is the acknowledgement, in our hearts, of the existence of God who came in the flesh to die for our sins and rose again (alive) .
-5 By signs and wonders God backs up His claims which are true. Because Jesus is alive and the Holy Spirit is at work on earth as He is in Heaven, we can see the results of His working here on earth. No other god or religion claims this. They are all waiting for "some day" in the afterlife. Jesus said, "the Kingdom of God is at Hand." And it is not yet. Satan may have some look-alikes, but who would consider Satanism a way to heaven?
-6 Spiritual realities cannot be understood in terms of earthly experience. It seems that you can ask anyone who seriously believes in Non-Christian religions, psychic and/or the paranormal, that there is another realm that exists. The apostle Paul said "we see though that glass darkly (dimly)." He meant that it was difficult to see the supernatural realms, but most agree that they exist. The notion that life on earth is Hell is simply that, a notion.
With all that said, what about Hell? The Bible is clear that it is a place of torture and a place of separation from God, what could be good about that? It is also says that it is a dry an lonely place, what could be good about that? Is it a place where all the murders and rapists go? Without salvation, we would all be there. Salvation is by faith, not works. James said that faith would have good works as evidence of that transformation, not as a requirement. I guess I can't imagine why anyone would ever think that Hell was a good place? I know that some folks think Heaven will be boring without beer drinking and sex, what will they do when the get to Hell and there is no beer drinking and sex? The promise of Heaven is perfect health, that lack of tears and pain; both physical and emotional. Wouldn't it make sense that Hell would be the opposite? Heaven is the place where we live forgiven for anything that we have done... Hell the is the place where we live condemned for everything that we've done. What would it be like to live eternity in a place where we are totally and completely loved just as we are, now that's Heaven!
Friday, July 13, 2007
It appears to have taken a long time for the automakers to return to their roots in some of the long standing classics, the T-Bird, the Mustang and VW bug all have retro styling in their new versions. The new VW even has heat! So what does all this have to do with spirituality? The church has long needed to return to its roots. I attend a denomination that was thriving about 10 to 15 years ago. Today, I don't see the exciting life that once was. What happened? I decided to dissect what was going on then, and compare the results to things today.
I used to own a 1968 Shelby GT-500KR and drove one of the new Shelbys, there is no comparison. The old one had more power, period. The new one handles better and has more creature comforts. I think the church is a bit that way. The old one had raw power, and the new one is made for comfort. For whatever reason, the two just don't go together. You can't have wild revival meetings in a neat little box where everyone is comfortable all the time. If God is there, the Holy Spirit will cause things to happen. It has always been that way.
There was a time when Baptists and Nazarene's (The original Holy-Rollers... yes the rolled on the floor laughing!) both spoke in tongues. But it didn't fit the package and the supernatural wasn't natural enough. It happens all the time. You make a fast car and someone gets hurt, so you remove the engine, right? Or you quench the Holy Spirit and sing a few songs and go home. Amen. Poppycock! You don't limit the car or the Holy Spirit, you train everyone to handle the power. It's about character, experience and training. Read Ephesian chapter 4. The church is meant to be equipped for the work of evangelism, teaching, prophecy, apostleship and pastoring. Last time I looked we were training people in homiletics and counseling. What happened?
Here is what happened. We took a good thing and made it comfy and explainable (natural). In the midst we got all religious about some prayer that worked 40 years ago. And when it didn't work we began to interpret the Bible to fit our needs, our cultures and the lack of understanding of the supernatural. For those that did experience the supernatural, we stopped working at it. We didn't want to pay the price of the anointing.
Now back to my original rant about my denomination. They have a list of of things that make them a denomination; a family, a way of worship. When I read the list I couldn't find one thing that we are doing to that fit. That IS what's wrong. One of our values is to see the gifts of the spirit moving. I would think that it might be in everyone, not just one. We used to train people in those things, now we have the "How Crappy was My Week" time and go home. Honestly, if we are going to race, we are going to have to train.
I'll see you at the finish line.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Every entity has some sort of leadership; the church is not exempt from that. It seems I have come across more then few uniformed church people in the area of leadership. They don't seem to understand the fundamentals of leading, but have no problem taking control. They don't seem to get that leadership is not about them, but about those they lead. Simply stated in the Bible, "But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first." Leadership in the church is about getting at the end of the "blessing" line and encouraging others to join you. Church leadership is really a place of self sacrifice.
Within the church there are different visions for leadership. Some churches have a board, others have a voting deaconate, some seem more like a corporation and others are one man; one vision, take it or leave type operations. There are also different leadership styles, some are aggressive, some are not. John Maxwell has written some good solid leadership books. He details some of the key principles of leadership. Real leadership seems to have a persuasive nature to it. A leader interfaces with people in a fashion that motivates them to do things your way. Leaders take responsibility for their actions and choices. Good leaders are an example to their followers and know how to delegate to others. A good leader considers lots of ideas.
Regardless of our style, Christians need to adhere to Biblical principals. What amazes me is that many don't know what they are. Here is one that shows up a lot, but I don't see it in the Bible. Voting! No one in the Bible voted on anything... save Paul before his conversion to put Christians to death. They cast lots to give God and opportunity to show His preference. But they didn't vote! They relied on wisdom, council, prophecy and hearing the Holy Spirit. You may remember that Peter and Paul addressed some conflicts, but this was an informational meeting for the uninformed, not a vote. When we understand church leadership is being led, we come up with some very different models.
In the church we seem to have a CEO mentality... I am the boss you are the workers; or worse, the spectators! This view is an American corporate teaching, not a Biblical teaching. In business I guess it works, but in the church it separates the leadership from those that need more intimate attention. It turns people in to commodities, not parts of a body joined together by grace to perform the work of the church. Certainly we have to have authority in the church, but that comes from God and it is not controlling everyone, or trying to make everyone like us. The church is meant to be a body with all the parts working together to fulfill the mandates of Christ. There are many scriptures regarding the body and it's functioning. Read 1 Corinthians 12, 13 and 14 along with Romans 12, and Ephesians 4. These chapters talk about the body and the gifts that are used both in the and outside of the church walls. Ephesians 4 specifically talks about how we are to train and equip all believers.
If you look over your life I am sure you can think of people, teachers, pastors, parents, coaches and managers that taught you things, not by control and manipulation, but by modeling principals and behaviors. They answered your questions with interest and information in a way that that you could understand. They allowed you to do it and helped you to become your best.
Over the years I have heard of all kinds of discipleship movements. My favorite was the matrix model. I liked it because it took those in leadership and asked of them to raise-up someone to take their job within the church. From pastors and worship leaders to Sunday school teachers and toilet cleaners, everyone serving in the church was to raise someone else up! It was something like an Elijah and Elisha type relationship. Or a better example might be Jesus and the 12 apostles. He trained them for a time when He would be gone they took over. I am sure that they were glad that He was around when they had to feed the 5,000 men and their families. But on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was with them and thousands were added to their number. We may only be making coffee, but that is an important job in the church and when we grow into something new, we'll need someone to take our place. If you are a leader, don't be threatened by your protegé, he might just do a better job. Wouldn't it be great if those we inspired did a better job then us! We don't have to be experts or super spiritual, no, we need to get at the end of the line and put someone before us. And if God sees fit, we'll get a promotion to do something else.
Monday, June 18, 2007
Not a day goes by when we hear some saying that pertains to so-called wisdom. "Seat Belts Save Lives", "Two Wrongs Don't Make A Right", "Low Fat", "Low Carb", "Easy Does It", "Jesus Saves"... the list goes on an on; while the more popular ones are bumper stickers. If you have ever been in a church, you've heard a lot more of them. Here is one, "It Take Two to Tango"; meaning that both partners are responsible for negative outcome in a relationship. Another version is "relationships are 50/50%" when they are really 100%/100%. And my favorite, "good intentions paved the road to Hell." Oh yes, and let's not forget the "money is the root of all evil."
I think in an effort to make things more understandable, some actual scriptures get changed while the original meaning stays intact. Other times well meaning folks try to make these sayings more palatable while they entire truth is circumvented. Here is a worldly example. In US courts we swear to tell the truth, right? Wrong. We swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. The two are different. If we only had to tell the truth, we could tell part of the truth, or a combination of truth and lies. As long as we told some truth, then we would be within legal boundaries. However; in order to tell the whole truth and nothing but truth, that is what we have to do. I don't see any loopholes... well the 5th amendment. Therefore; the saying, "money is the root of all evil" is incorrect. The actual passage is, "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil." You see, it is the love of money that CAN be a root of evil. "All" is inclusive and "all kinds" is not; they are different things.
If you are one that thinks that the saying "Good intentions paved the road to Hell" is Biblical, head over to Crosswalk.com and try and find it. There are some similar verses, but none quite like that saying.
I think you can see my point. There are many ideas about God, spirituality and Christianity. Some of them are "nice" sentiments, but they don't carry any truth. I once met a man; a monk, and he said that everyone was going to heaven no matter what because of the sacrifice of Christ. I really liked the idea. John 3:16 says that God wills it. "shall not perish but have eternal life. When you take a closer look at the entire canon of scripture, you will find many verses about faith, Jesus being the only way and more. When you compare all of those, you'll see that because God wills salvation to all mankind, they do not receive it without faith in in Jesus.
As a father, I have children and I want the very best for them. I have taught them for years about certain aspects of life, in particular, Christianity. A couple of them are legally adults. It would be my will for them to work hard, get a good education and serve God all of their days. However; if they choose not to do those things I have taught them to do, I can't make them. That is how it is with God the Father. He can impose consequences and penalties for disobedience and sin, but He can't make you love Him. The problem with this analogy is that when my kids finish their lives, I won't be there to review it with them. As adults, there are some rules that I just can't enforce any longer. The penalty for sin, which God will enforce, will be there for eternity-- unless we choose Him.
I am sure there are some readers that have had bad experiences with Christianity. I know I have. There are others that have simply heard bad things about Christianity and believed it, but never checked it out for themselves. I am the only one in my family that ever been to Norway. I recommend it to my friends and family members. If I had gotten mugged there, I might not be so quick to say how great a place it was. The same is true with church and other Christian venues. You really should go and experience it for yourself. If you have and it was bad, I am sorry... keep trying! I think it is possible that you might give up long before God.
Are the benefits of loving and being loved by God worth it? The truth is yes.
Friday, June 15, 2007
I thought to about the events leading up to his acceptance of the Lord. When we first heard the word "cancer" I decided to take my family and go visit him. A few nights before I was praying on the phone with one of my close friends. I felt the Lord say that my youngest daughter (at the time) would be the one to minister to my dad. As we prepared to go see grandpa, she busied herself with finding a suitable gift. She chose a plaque that had been on the wall in her old room at our previous home. She picked it because of the sunset and the cross with purple cloth on it. We did not have any gift wrap, so she used newspaper to carefully wrap her treasure for "Grandpa nice guy". I am certain that she also used all of the tape left on the roll and lots of love to finish the job. She made a card and on it scrawled the only words she knew how to spell; "love Erin". It was just like the one she gave me yesterday.
The next day we left on the 4 hour journey to Vermont and upon arrival Erin jumped from the car clutching her gift for grandpa. She ran past the dog she was usually afraid of and onto the deck where dad was sitting in his wheel chair. "It's for you!" she exclaimed, "open it" She stood back and watched dad struggle with the miles of tape, her impatience rising. She said "you'll need some help" and she began to tear the paper off the plaque with him. When they were finally done, dad commented quietly, "That's very nice honey."
Erin said, "Read it to me Grandpa!" So he did, it said "I asked Jesus how much do you love me and He stretched out his arms and died." There was a strange silence on the back deck that day. Dad gave his life to the Lord about a week later. The rest is history, or should I say eternity.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
I am sure you're wondering what is so important to me regarding this situation. Here it is, we have people breaking the law and public support is subsiding quickly as parents scramble to find suitable care for their kids. The law and the court order is being enforced. I remember my mother getting a ride to local pokey after six or seven days after her teacher's union decided to strike. She had a court appearance and a fine. Justice was swift.
The details of this strike seem clear. The teachers received a 4% pay increase and then were asked to pay 10% more in insurance; virtually wiping out the pay raise. Who wouldn't be upset? I know I would. The issue of how we get to a place like this is another story. That fact is they are here, breaking the law. $150K fine is pretty hefty and could have been better spent on health care that they are not getting.
What I find most shocking is that when it comes to immigration, we have a whole different attitude about the law, imposing fines and taking swift action. It is a double-standard, one where "if we like the law" we enforce it and if we don't, we ignore it. The law is not subject to such subjective interpretation at a level where we like or dislike a law. The legal process goes something like this. We elect officials to make and amend laws as well as stipulate punishment for breaking those laws. We expect the police and designated federal agencies to implement the law by arresting lawbreakers and the courts to carry out justice for lawbreakers. And finally we expect the sheriff or warden to make sure that prison sentences, public service , parole and probation is carried out. There are checks and balances to the system to make it fair and occasionally bureaucratic.
The problem is in a few areas. One, we have judges that legislate from the bench with bizarre stretches of the law. Two, we have politicians that want to overlook certain issues and won't enforce them. Immigration is one such instance. We have 12 million illegal aliens here and we are doing virtually nothing to get the mess straightened out. If the laws are wrong, then let's change them. If they are right then let's enforce them. How can we stand by and let them come and break the law. How can we not have a better and more well defined immigration policy? It is not enough to work and pay taxes. Two rights have never changed a wrong. If I work and pay taxes and shoplift, I am still wrong. Conversely we have underpaid teachers being fined and concerned about rising health care costs? Honestly, what are we thinking?
Monday, June 11, 2007
It is a bit of an amazing story how I actually met Carlos in the first place. He had come here legally to bring a message of salvation and love to the US; as a missionary to this country. There we were in the midst of something that God was doing, in back hallway of the in Salvation Army, in downtown Hyannis. That was nearly 10 years ago. The rest is history, good history. He has been a friend, a best man and the iron that sharpens iron in my life. We are as close as Johnathan and David were. We often talk about that. We love to travel, eat sushi, enjoy cars, music, worship and the spiritual gifts... it is a truly unique friendship.
The relationship I have with Carlos has given me insight into life in other countries. Brazil, although nearly as big as that US... actually bigger if compare it to the Continental US, is basically poor. Something I have learned about the American perspective is that our world-view is so much different from the rest of the world. Londrina, my favorite city in Brazil, has beautiful parks, a motor speedway, a football (soccer) field and slums that make even the worst of New York or Boston look civilized. There, people that live in lean-tos and cardboard boxes. Only 40% of people that live there even have one car and 59% have none at all. The US in comparison is the "land of opportunity", real opportunity. If they can get here to enjoy it.
I once worked or a man that came here from Columbia in the late 60's. He was a very successful entrepreneur. He had worked hard to get to New York. In Columbia he was told that here "in the USA you could simply pick money up off the street." When he arrived at JFK and went through Immigration and Customs he saw a $20 bill on the sidewalk. He looked at his watch; 5 o'clock in the morning. He bypassed the the $20-- it was to early to start working! Or so his tale goes.
The problem with immigration is that is unfair, a bit racist and a bit politically motivated. It is much easier to get the coveted "green card" if you are from a first world country then is it is to get one from the third world. If you are from a previously Communist country, there was a time when you could almost get on a plane and be assured that you would have citizenship here in the US. I know Europeans that have come here and had little issue in getting the brass ring of citizenship.
I think we have done quite a bit of injustice to those that would want to come here. Why? We have made it easy to be here illegally. First work is not all that hard to find. Second, we don't prosecute false paperwork, overstaying your visa, and other infractions very aggressively. I have seen it first hand. We have had a couple of ridiculously high-profile round-ups and that is it. Third, our boarders are pretty much a joke. Period. However; this is what I find to be the worst of all. My friend came here eight times legally and was denied a green card every time. He has spent over $10,000 in airline tickets doing the right thing flying back-and-forth to Brazil. I have another friend that was illegal for seven years, he received a green card just by waiting around for the system. How sad is that? We have trained them to do the wrong thing. That is injustice, not compassion. I have been to Brazil three times, I know that people are trying escape.
In the same way that a bad parent would only feed their kids junk food, we have supplied immigrants with a very wrong perspective of what most people in this country value. In America, most people believe that hard work and doing the right thing will get you somewhere. Citizenship in the most powerful country on earth is a privilege. I know I wouldn't want to live anywhere else. I guess there are others that rely solely on the government to provide everything. I don't think that is very healthy.
What is the answer? First we need to make the line to come here to the US an actual line. It is more like and offensive football play with 10 years to go, then it is a line! What we are doing now is ludicrous, unsafe and unfair to everyone on both side of the border! Second we need to shut the border down for our own safety and as a way to create a line to get into. I have walked portions of the Canadian and Mexican border... getting in is a snap and I don't think it should be. Once we do that we need to figure out a humane way to deal with everyone that is here illegally. Some of these people have been my friends and my brothers and sisters in Christ. Their are friendships, relationships and families at stake. I don't see how we are easily going to ask anyone that has basically done the right thing here, to leave. And lastly, once we have a line to get in, then we need to insure those that work are in the line. We have the opportunity to deport those who don't work, don't pay taxes and commit crimes. I don't believe that we can make it any easier then that. It's been broken for too long and we're going to walk with a limp for some time to come.
Tuesday, June 5, 2007
As I sit here and think about Theodore's impact on my life, I remember when we first met. He was part of a team in doing a mission in Vietnam. He was located in California arranging things for Bobby and the gang over there. In 2000 the team finally got kicked out of Hanoi for their work. (Which is better than torture and martyrdom I think.) Theodore and I had talked on the phone quite a few times, and he had prophesied over my life; powerful stuff.
After the team got back to the USA they were given an RV and began to tour the US gathering support for whatever was next. They stopped in to see me on Cape Cod in the summer of 2000. I set-up a few church presentations for them that week. Bobby did an incredible teaching on "What Do You Need" at Living Waters and Theodore sat there with me filling in the blanks. After the service we all went in the RV and were just hanging out and talking about missions, Jesus and things like that. I remember Theodore just full of the Spirit, peaceful and energetic in his own way. After all he was 80 at the time. As we were talking I said to Bobby, "there will be a time when they say he [Theodore] is dead, but it won't be true." Bobby proceeded to talk about some of his close calls thus far, but in my spirit I knew that I heard God.
They left on their tour of the US and finally ended up in Mexico ministering to an obscure indian tribe. They have been there since that time. One day Theodore was taken to the hospital and was suffering to from pneumonia or something like it. He was nearly comatose for a few days as I recall. Here is the e-mail Bobby sent me the February of 2002.
David - Just a note, I am off to the hospital. Grandpa is on a ventilator now and they have been spending the last 24 hours trying to find out why he seems to be unable to process oxygen in his system.
Last night, they had him on 100% oxygen with the ventilator and we need to know if he can make it with his own lungs. He is sedated so the tubes will stay quiet but he is active and moving and seems to want to live badly.
We love Grandpa and want God's will for him. I am going to talk to the doctors now as I am the only one who is able to make decisions for him. Theodore is in God's hands and we could sure use your prayers.
Grandpa is fighting hard to stay with us.
Bless you and keep praying,
If you read between the lines, I think that you'll see that Bobby was not convinced that Grandpa was going to make it back in February of 2002. When I read the e-mail that day I could only say to myself, he will live even though they think he is going to die. God was right. He preserved Theodore here in the mission field for nearly 5 more years. In that time, I know that he was frustrated with the lack of funds to do what he had given his life to do, serve the poorest of the poor, risk his own life and comfort for the sake of another salvation. Bobby told me that from the day he retired from the service about 25 years ago that he gave 100% of his social security check to the work of the Lord.
Last words are important, and here are Theodore's to me.
Dearly Loved and Blessed David,
It was a real blessing for me to have Bobby share your recent E-Mail with me. The years that have passed since we first met you have filled our hearts and encouraged and uplifted us with your steadfast faith and love in Christ.
In prayers last night, my heart was filled with desire that God would fill my sleeping moments with dreams, to be a blessing for you. In dream He showed me that you had the prophetic gift and like all his deeply faithful ones would not always have a soft road. Jesus told us as written in Holy Scripture, many things He went through we would also experience. Our eternal joy is the Triumph we will always have over the evil one. Again our ever abounding joy in your toils, and for me who has been close to death these past few months, have been a heavenly reward.
With our grateful loving prayers, from Bobby and all of us,
Theodore I'll miss your e-mails, but I am sure I will see you there when I finish the race.
Monday, May 21, 2007
There are lots of reasons people don't know about the Bible. Partly because we now have the largest generation of Americans ever; one that was completely raised without prayer or Bible reading in school, amongst us. But I think the other part, which is worse, is that Christians don't even have time to read the Bible and pass it along to their kids; that is the few that still go to church. It isn't all their fault. Church attendance is declining because the church is not relevant for so many. The numbers prove that something is wrong, very wrong. If church was touching lives in the scale that Americans purport to be Christians, then we would be in revival!
So what is wrong with the church? I am glad that you asked. The church has always had its issues from the crusades, the selling of indulgences, the PTL club scandal of the 80's, the clergy sex-abuse scandal of the 90's to Ted Haggerty just few months ago. It seems that poor character and sin find there way into the very place that God has chosen to send the message of love and forgiveness. Why? Sin is always going to be sin and brokenness is always going to be brokenness and 2 + 2 will always be 4. When sinful people come to faith, the process of regeneration starts. Like the car being towed through the car wash, it takes some time. If the faith is just religion, the process won't happen at all. The people in the process, they are likely to make mistakes. Remember King David was not removed from his office, nor put in jail for murder and adultery.
The Christian population, in some cases, is dead in religious acts. They do their music, their teaching and people hit the door. I have been to them all, from Catholic and Anglican to Baptist and Charismatic and Pentecostal; each one has a place in the Kingdom and a place of religiousness that is dead. With people looking for life, how is it that we get caught up in acting? It is just easier, safer and more logical. The problem is a that a supernatural God does not function entirely in our wordily realm. Somehow, miraculously he connects heaven and earth through His word, worship, giving, praying and other acts of faith. The caveat is this, these acts must be done in faith, but more importantly as an instruction from Him. Obedience is better then sacrifice.
The inner workings of faith are to be done by the Spirit and in the Spirit. Not by man in his own wisdom. There is no one way, no one liturgy or denomination that has it all. I think teaching is awesome, but not if it insulates us from God and his people! I think prophecy is essential, but not in lieu of character. Yes, we need to evangelize, but not fill our church, but to extend the kingdom of God. Communion is a wonderful sacrament, but not if there are poor sitting on the sidewalk in front of our new building!
Acts 2:42 And they [the group of believers gathered together in communal living] continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.
What is church supposed to look like? Read 1 Corinthians 12, 13 and 14. When you get to the "orderly" verse remember that it needs to read in the context of tongues and prophecy, not in in the measurement of centimeters between the pews!
Teaching or preaching is supposed to demonstrate the nature of Christ (His work on the cross and divinity) and the reality of the supernatural realm and the faith it takes to see it. The Word of God IS power when mingled with our faith and His will.
There is another dimension of church which I have never seen in its fullness.
Ephesians 4:11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers...
It is the interplay (body) of these offices and gifting that build and edify the church while equipping the saints (all believers) for the work that church is mandated by God to do. Is anyone listening?
OK, if I am so smart, then what is the answer to having a church that reaches the lost in every splinter-group, and loves those in the church in such a way that they understand it is different from what they'll get in the world? Well, I have a theory and here are the bullet points.
-1 We preach a pure Gospel, one of love, one of power, one of compassion, one of accountability and truth of Salvation through Jesus.
-2 We don't haggle over theology, God said we should speak in tongues and prophesy, that we should treat others with love, then we should do it. Period. It is our job, not someone else's!
-3 We share our faith by the way we live our life always looking for opportunities to expand His kingdom, not close a deal.
-4 We discover our spiritual calling and do it. Skip doing that which we are good at.
-5 We become doers of the Word. If we simply did what we already know and have been taught, the church would be in revival. I don't think we have a lack of teaching; or even good teaching, we have a lack of doing. We have a lack of Godly motivation.
-6 Be open to something new the revels the true nature of God. How about not having a new program. How about asking God where the apostles are that are mentioned above?
-7 Take care of the poor, the sick, the widows and those in prison. I don't think we need a theological interpretation here.
-8 Work hard at relationship, that is why we're here!
-9 Worship as much as we can, for in it is the power to become intimate with God and know Him.
-10 Keep trying, keep showing up, quit complaining and do something.... and yes, make a mistake trying to do something for God, you'll be in good company when you get to Heaven.
Friday, May 18, 2007
I also thought about my missed opportunities, the fact that my mother never my met my wife of youngest daughter... the day I quit a job I wish I had now... the regret of selling my vintage guitar collection for thousands when it is now worth hundreds of thousands... there are a lot things that I wish I had done already. And a boat-load of things I wish I had skipped, like calling a neighbor kid some foul name right before he punched me in the mouth, one too many drinks at the school dance... the vapor of life.
When I think about time, I think how much has passed; the fact that some memories are a little faded and others perhaps gone. I hesitate to say forever because there is going to be some sort of judgement, or a least a review. That means it will all be there in black and white and God isn't going to miss anything. The Good News is that by faith, He will forgive them all and remember them no more... however that works. The other Good news is this. Most of us still have some time left. We can squander it and have more regrets a year from now, or we can change our life and thinking and create something new. We could commit to doing something for God, something of value, something of eternal value.
1 Corinthians 3:11-15 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. 14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.
We could, if there was time.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
History bears out the sins of a a nation bringing judgment on themselves. It happened to Israel a number of times. It also happened to the Roman Empire and the early Greek states. Where a nation runs wild with sin, there will eventually be judgement. The inverse is also true, when a nation humbles itself, there will be revival and blessing. Revival starts with one person humble before God. It is about individual hearts changing, not nations. I think we'll see where things really are in the '08 elections. There you will see the heart of the nation. It will not be about the right-wing nuts and the left-wing loonies. It will be about the heart of the nation as it expresses where we stand on the issues.
Is it important for a Christian to speak out against that which is wrong? YES! But please do it with love and kindness. If you are a sign carrying protester for Jesus, I really want to know how is that working for bringing the lost into the kingdom? Are people being offended or evangelised? How is the evangelism business in your church? Are people coming to get saved? Leaving healed? Has God made an indelible impression of His love on them? Or have they left saying, "religious nuts"?
In the final analysis, I am sick of loud mouth politicians on both sides of the fence playing the schmooze game. Some of the evangelical leaders are judging others while they refuse to see themselves. If there is going to be a judgement, then it should start in the house of God.
Monday, May 14, 2007
The apostle Paul said this, if you confess salvation with your mouth and believe it in your heart, then you have it. (Romans 10:9-10) So where is the argument? The Christian; Sharpton, claims to know, but acts like he doesn't know better. Romney, a very nice guy, thinks that we need to be tolerant of all religious practices not just his. Sharpton may know the answer, but it was not presented with love. *Gong* both sides in error. Why? Defending the truth without love is being a clanging gong... see 1 Corinthians 13 to see what I am talking about. Not believing in Jesus as a savior is an eternal error. But who can prove it?
So, what is it that made Jesus say what He said? How could he say, I am the only way to heaven? Arrogance, culture, delusions, the "Messiah Complex", what? Let's just think for a minute... most things that we believe in, or want to believe in require proof or at least a very compelling theory. Here are a couple of examples. Evolution, Global Warming, Santa Claus, germs and Jesus. To believe in them requires a high degree of scientific logic or solid proof. I personally think evolution is a farce. Why? Not because I am uneducated. I studied it in high school and three times in college, where I got some pretty good grades in the biological, sociological and and anthropological views. Why doesn't this theory work for me? There are no "transitional" creatures, you know, half fish and half cow or whatever has the most "like" appendages that link them are. The evidence is not there. Period! And What amazes me is the scientific sounding inkhorn terminology that is somehow meant to impress us as being knowledge.
There too, was a time when germs were unknown and unseen. Today, we can see them under a microscope and so much research has been done that there would be few skeptics. Conversely, if we believe in Santa Clause, we are likely to wake up some night and catch mom and dad signing his name to a few gifts.
The world often sees Christianity in a negative light. Some because of theory, and other times because of the unloving and stupid acts of Christians. We have preached the gospel without power, without passion, without evidence, and worst of all, without love. Click HERE to read more. It's be said that we are better known for what we oppose, than what we stand for.
The big question, how does one know that God exists? I am going to answer that question. If no one sees God do anything, if no one feels His presence, then no one is likely to believe in a real God. They will be inclined to believe a philosophy, to worship the Bible or the church and not God; to see Jesus as a good man, a prophet, but not as a loving and powerful God that provides forgiveness for sin and an eternal destiny. They key? I think that it is signs and wonders. Sure we need character, but anyone can be good for a reason (I have a 3-year-old that can do that). Yes, we need faith in that which is not seen, but if God can't touch a life, or do something supernatural then our faith is simply beliefs, and there are lots of those. That is how we get other religions. People want to believe in something; something supernatural. Disney would be out of business if this wasn't true. Psychics and palm readers too!
The other important fact is how God presents Himself to us. He has chosen certain types of expression over the centuries, but signs and wonders are a huge part of His repertoire. From the Red Sea to those being raised from the dead in 3rd world countries, God is at work showing His handy work in supernatural ways. Just the way it used to be...
Acts 2:43 - Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.
Acts 4:30 - Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus."
Acts 5:12 - The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people.
Friday, April 27, 2007
If we look at church history, and we should. We'll see that the 1st century church was comprised of communal living and small home churches with occasional services held in synagogues. In truth the persecution of the early church caused it to be primarily underground in many respects.... or the parishioners would be stoned to death, fed to the lions, forced to burn to death on an iron chair over hot coals... it was ugly, very ugly. So, why did the early Christians claim faith in the face of torture and death? I would say because church was not a building, not a social club or a political vehicle. It must have been something of great value, or no one would have given their life for it. Actually I have read accounts where the joy of those facing the lions was so great that the onlookers would actually give the lives up to have what they saw in the faces of those facing death. You can read more about it here.
To get right to the point. The "true" church is a living, breathing, spiritual organism that most often manifests itself through human vessels, while being an eternal entity in its own right; an extension of God the creator Himself... it is a the Kingdom of all kingdoms. Most Christians are aware of the kingdom that will come, but there is also the kingdom that is at hand. So it has been taught, it is now and not yet. Salvation has come in the death of Jesus, one gets saved by faith and will be saved on the last day. To use a simple analogy, it is like a trust fund where we get a check, and we get subsequent checks, but we are entitled to it all at age 18. In this case we get it all at death, or so it seems that way. I can't imagine that a day in eternity will be all that boring.
If the point is that the church is for real, now and not yet, then what value does it have to the average guy or gal on the street? I think that is a tough question. Are we to be seeker-friendly or militant; humble and quiet or bold and relentless for the things of the Kingdom? Another tough question. Here is what I think we need to do. I think that we need to be so in love with Jesus that we only do what we see Him doing wherever we are. What does that look like? It looks like we are acting on faith and showing love. Then there will be times when others want what we have, even in the face of torture and death.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
I have to say that I am so stunned that I don't really have much of an answer. I do think that this man, A) only knows about church from the news media, B) has a family member that fits into one or both categories and is over sensitized to it, C) has never been with a loving Christian. Wow times two! Here is a very intelligent man, obviously well educated, one who is outspoken against the crazies on both sides of the spectrum... there are certainly plenty of religious nuts to go around, and doesn't know about real love. I find that amazing.
The church needs to do something here. We are past the point of damage control, it appears that we have lost a lot of credibility. And now we are in a place where our rights, which are the same as everyone Else's, are in jeopardy. Why? Because we are lumped in with the worst. Some of this is our fault. I think it is time that individuals, churches, states and nations humble themselves in service to others. To make public displays of love, not protest. I am happy for those that want to fight the good fight at the State House and Nations Capital; we can't let every right that we have be trampled. However; we also have a great cloud of witnesses and they are watch and reporting. No, it is time that those who have been hurt by the church were sought out and real amends made. Are we so militant that certain types of people are not welcome in our church? That's ridiculous! Are we so unprincipled that we don't speak against that which is sin (with love and not condemnation)? That's ridiculous!
I have been watching the potential candidates for president. A guy like Barak Obama, he just presents his views the way he sees it. He admits his mistakes (cocaine use) and moves forward with his agenda. A lot of people are finding that attractive. Don't get me wrong, I am not supporting him as a candidate, I am just watching what he does, how he does it, and the results that he is getting. At some point the church has stop covering up our sins, pretending we are something that we are not, and say it the way we see it without being jerks. We need to admit that we are human; redeemed but human, and move ahead. It seems for a long time we have had the extremes, we were militant or permissive neither of which Jesus was. Becuase of this we have been perceived as hypocritical and unloving. In the process we have not given the world the very salt and light that it is looking for. Isn't that our business?
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
The second guest was a father and his daughters. They seemed pretty normal to me, but I am a Christian. The father and his daughters had made a covenant for him to help them reach marriage without having sex. His church had a purity ball where the girls dressed in white and the fathers took responsibility for their purity. There they did symbolic acts signifying the covenant. I think most of it was a healthy Christian dad wanting the best for his daughter. After all he did have one daughter that was married and made the goal of purity; her first kiss on the altar of marriage. I have to say for a guy that for the most part has a no-nonsense approach to the human condition, ole' Phil seemed dumbfounded. The things the he suggests a lot of the time are actually Biblical. Being honest, being grown up, stopping bad behavior, taking the rightful place in families (where kids don't run the house) and things like that I applaud. This time, he certainly had an opposing view but didn't really voice it. The witness of the married daughter, and the unmarried daughter were really wonderful. To Phil's surprise a number of people clapped when she talked about how wonderful marriage was because of the commitment to purity she had made. Both girls seemed happy about their decision to remain pure. They also had a guest that had given up on the commitment as if practice was required for marriage. I was not impressed. She seemed a little rebellious in tone and began to justify her decision. I just didn't see any peace about it.
I'll be interested to see what the rest of the world thinks.
Monday, April 23, 2007
I know there are some readers that don't believe people actually hear directly from God; I have gotten a few e-mails. What I find interesting is this: I am very certain one of the skeptics has been to a psychic. They told me they were dually impressed that the medium knew exactly how many children they had given birth to. The truth is this, even this person believes in supernatural "hearing". However; what I find funny is that once you wrap the word Jesus, or church around that type of hearing, then people want to call it something else. It also falls under a different standard so-to-speak. The psychic can be anyone; even someone in jail, but the church person has to have been perfect their entire life (see the story of Joseph, you can prophesy from jail! See the story of King David, you can do it and be a murderer.).
There are some very good Bible passages that talk about the prophetic gift and the use of diviners, oracles and psychics. Look at the story of King Saul. He relied on the prophets of his day and when they didn't come through, he went to the oracles (which was sin). I honestly think that they in their functioning, they are all the same. The spirit perceives that voice of a supernatural being, it could be God or the Devil, but the same "internal speaker." I also think that people in church should be of good character, but I am certain they are not always. The Bible speaks of the New Testament gifts, and prophecy is just one of them. The fact that people get fairly clear messages from God doesn't surprise me all that much, there is a lot of information in the Bible about it. That is enough rationalization for the reality of prophecy, now on to the story.
I called my friend one day while he lived in Texas and simply asked, "what do you know about Jacksonville?" He replied, "well the company I work for has a office there." I think we were both wondering why I asked the question. Then I felt impressed to say "I think you might be transferred there." He replied, "oh I don't know about that." A few weeks later a position opened up there and he had a couple of interviews, neither of which he felt confidant in, but he got the position anyway. I don't remember all that details, but he was there for a few years before God brought him back to TX. We laugh about it from time to time because it was a tough time for him there in FL.
I have another friend that this happens with too. It was a similar situation. He was working with a small company and had been for some years. I called one Sunday and said "I don't know how much longer the job is going to last." That Friday they called him into the office and basically said there wasn't enough work to keep him on. We talked about the end of the job on the phone that Saturday. As we spoke on the phone I saw a picture of a building in my spirit that was orange and black and white. I decided that it was a big chain building supply company. My friend seemed interested figuring that if God knew that his job was ending that he would at least go and fill out an application. We had previously worked in carpentry together so this was not really a stretch for him; he knew the building materials industry well. He stopped in and filled out the application but didn't' hear anything from them. We decided that maybe I had missed it, so he applied at, and took a job at, another big chain building supply store. It didn't go well, I think he was there a week and just didn't fit in. We spoke again and felt impressed that the first one, was that place. I saw that picture of a man in my spirit and described him in detail. When my friend finally interviewed with the manager, it was the man that i had described. Needless to say, he got the job and has been there a almost 10 years. Once in a while we talk about those days when God amazed us both.
The prophetic gift should be available for those that need to hear from God. It is not the only way that it happens, but it is certainly one that will usually encourage you. The Body of Christ works with all of the gifts complimenting each other. There are 15 or 20 gifts to the Body described in the Bible (1 Cor 12, Romans 12 Eph 4). They are not parlor tricks, they are not for us... no they are a gift to the church. Used with discernment, love and humility, they are of great value to all.