Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Love, Is it Humanly Possible? <3

heart

Love, it makes your heart flutter, the world go 'round and a host of country singers millionaires! It's pretty popular on Google too, with 2,390,000,000 pages found! That's not quite the Federal deficit, but it's still huge. Contrast that to a search for "Jesus" with just 264,000 pages found.


Jesus had a lot to say about love, and based on the Google queries, there is a boat load of other information out there. Do you suppose that some of it could be wrong? Here are a couple of verses that I rarely hear about in song; which are pretty well known. 1 John 4:8 "God is love." 1 Peter 4:8 "Love covers a multitude of sin." The favorite seems to be one that we have heard at every Christian wedding, and it is so popular that I have heard it at non-Christian weddings. 1 Corinthians 13:4 "Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails"

We have probably heard a hundred people quote it, and maybe we've been taught it. So, what do I think is missing that makes it worth writing about? That fact that it isn't happening. We are to be doers of the word, not just hearers. Hopefully the next little bit of insight will make this verse more do-able for you.

Love is patient - I would say that it allows others not to be where we are. Maybe our spouse, our kids or parents aren't on the same page as we are. I am not so sure this is a type of "anti-road rage" patience, but it is more the grace filled patience that allows us to wait while others grow in our midst. It is the part of love that makes us tell our fumbling kid that did a good job washing the car, in spite of the spots they missed. Allowing others to be human. Can you imagine the amount of patience that God has with you? The root, selfishness-- me first.

Love is kind - This one pretty much evades a lot of folks. In our stressed out, have-it-now world it is hard to be kind when we don't have any patience left for the hamburger that still has onions on it when we asked specifically for them to not be there! As someone interested in relationships, I watch how other men and woman treat their spouses. When I am out with my wife and we witness unkind behavior, we often give a look to each other that says, "if you said that to me in that tone, you'd be on the floor!" The beginning of kindness is being polite. Remember, doing the right thing for the wrong reason is still sin. Lack of kindness is simply selfcenteredness.

Love is not jealous - This one is a bit foreign to me personally. When I want something that I can't afford, or have, I am not jealous of others who have it. I am more whining before God about it, which is covetnous-- and still sin. Jealousy is a very strong emotion compelling us to be angry with one who has, and contemplating ways to harm, or avoid them. In the final analysis, it is unloving to want what someone else has been given by God. We are to rejoice with them for receiving it.

Love does not brag - At first, it seems that bragging is a simple character flaw, but not something that would repel us from others we love, and are loved by. But deep down that root is pride. Whenever we elevate ourselves about another, we are in sin. Paul said that we should brag about Jesus. I am all for that!

Love is not arrogant - This is a close cousin to bragging, but bragging is an outward "I am better than," where arrogance can be an internal disgust that may not be easily seen by others. Either way, it says that "I am better than," or "above" someone else, or their principals. The root again, pride.

Love does not act unbecomingly - In the Greek this means not acting in a way that is disgraceful to another. I am sure you can think of many words and actions which would disgrace one another. To act this way is to remove grace from another person. The very thing that we desire from God, we are to show to others. Act in a way that shows grace.

Love does not seek its own - This is a very powerful word in the Greek which literally means the following: to seek after, seek for, aim at, strive after to seek i.e. require, demand, to crave, demand something from someone. With all this energy focused on "getting" for us, we can see how it is selfish and unloving.

Love is not provoked - The Bible says that we are to encourage others, and provoke them to "good works.' The fruit of our love will be fruit in the lives of others. Do you love your kids, are they doing good works. Do you love your spouse, are they engaging in good works? How about your friends? How about your co-workers and classmates? How about the homeless, the poor, the widows and those in jail? How about your enemies, are you loving them in such a way that they are doing good works?

Love does not take into account a wrong suffered (list) - This portion of the verse is pretty much self explanatory. Love does not bring up the past to get our selfish way. It is not leverage for us to "win" or be right. Let me say this, it does not mean that we don't confront chronic bad behavior problems or addiction. As you will see, love rejoices in the truth, and sometimes the truth is that "this has been going on for along time!" and it needs to be dealt with. However; on the day-to-day we CANNOT continue to bring up past hurts to leverage a conflict. The tell-tale words here are, "you always" and "you never." It is the thing that allows past errors to be in the past. What your friend/kid/spouse did last week, last month, or last year should be off limits. The problem is that we shouldn't let the sun go down on our anger. We need to resolve it now. That is the loving thing to do. The problem is that we have decided what we need from someone else in order to "let it go," and when we don't get it, we keep it in our hearts to boil over at a later date.

Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness - You know, some days we feel like justice is served. It sounds like this. "They got what they deserved," "I had a right to do it because they did ______," or "I am glad they got away with it." In the end, the root of this is judgement. We somehow feel that it's OK for certain people to to do certain things, and it is not OK for others. This is the cause of things like stereotyping/racism, heard mentality IE: cheating on our taxes because everyone else is, or laughing at another's misfortune. This is that reason that ethics training will fail, because people get to judge; there are no absolutes. So when we see a child that has been abused strike back at a parent, we have the opportunity to rejoice in unrighteousness, or have compassion on both sinners. You see, love wants to get in the deep places of the heart.

Love rejoices with the truth - Truth is meant to set us free, not put us in bondage. However; freedom is not getting everything we want, it is the ability to embrace God's truth in a way that draws us, and others closer to Him. Truth is not a bludgeon that we get to use on those we "love" when that is not loving at all. Honestly, I have heard a lot of truth over my years in the church, much of it was opinion, or versus that although true, we're not timely. The application of God's Word needs revelation as well as substance. Throwing verses at problems is not always fruitful. In the end, we must be led by the Spirit and not our own understanding.

Love bears all things - You know, I just think that this means you are there for your family, your friends and others, regardless of how you feel. I know that some times we need to end toxic relationships, but at the expense of a 50% divorce rate? Something is wrong. I have written about the mechanics of relationship before- check it out HERE. For more musings , and some additional thoughts about all things, click HERE. I think that marriage and kids are forever, everyone else we get to choose. Choose wisely who you spend your love on.

Love believes all things - This is another one that is up there with "be perfect as you Father in heaven is perfect." What is it that we believe that is loving? The simple answer is God. The more difficult one, is what about God is rehema for us personally? Does it believe in our failures? Or over look theirs? The answer is yes. But there is a supernatural element to this love, it believes in the healing, loving, infinite God, and His ability to bring wisdom, wholeness and peace to a relationship. There is not a specific "thing" that is represent by "all things." It is done in faith. This is a good time to check your heart, don't you think?

Love hopes all things - This is the part of the above, where we are not sure what all things are, but we hope for resolution, wisdom and the ability to find truth and apply it to our loving relationships. As we are required to love our neighbors, our wives and our enemies, this is for sure, a tall order. It is not wishing for things, but meditating on ways to make His love show though us-- and doing it.

Love endures all things - There is place in life where we may not have feelings of love, nor feel like putting any more effort into a relationship. And here is where God asks us to do it one more time, for one more day. He asks us to be forgiving, while displaying the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians (NIV) 5:22 ) He asks us to do this while not being sinfully angry.

Love never fails - In terms of God's love for us, how cold he fail? He is love. How is that we respond to mankind, that is really the measure here? Love pursues others without hoping for a return. If love is to never fail, it must not have any requirements for dispensing it. Are we always loving, that is the question.

You may have noticed that I did not use the word feeling but only once in this blog. That is because we can't rely on feelings. We need to act; love is an action. When we do that, we are likely to have feelings of love... but maybe not. That doesn't mean that we have missed God, it means that we don't have the feelings.

You see, love is not at all humanly possible. To act according to the Bible, we must have God to do it, and even then we'll fail at times. It is religion that is a killer because it is only with a deep and abiding relationship with Jesus, that we can even begin to hope all things-- and then do it.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Closer than a Brother... What is a Friend?

My folks used to say, you can never have too many friends. They were wrong. The Bible says Psalms 18:24 "A man of too many friends comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." I wonder how many friends is good? And, who is the friend that sticks closer than a brother? If it is Jesus, do we need other friends?

I often ponder the things that I see go on in church. I am not looking for the negative, but I am looking for teaching that helps us put on the "mind of Christ" and find a deeper more meaningful relationship with Jesus and His people.

There are lots of teachings out there. From the the debates ranging from the origin of the earth to the end of the age. I guess that it is awesome that someone really cares about stuff like cherubim and seraphim. I am not even saying that I don't care about those things. It is just not at the top of my list. What is important is that we engage both God, and a relationship with His people, while attracting others to the faith. What good is "love one another" if we don't hang out with people that need loving? It doesn't really matter what the cherubim are doing if we are all alone.

When I read about the end times, or the end of this age, I think about how is it possible that Matthew 10:21 NAS "Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child ; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death." That is pretty heavy. For sure, that is not loving one another! What is it in our society that will usher in this facet of the end of the age? I don't really have a name for it, but in my 50 years here on earth, I have seen a few changes. When I was 5, I could play with other kids in the neighborhood. We pretty much knew all the folks in our neighborhood of about 20 families. Today, my neighbor won't even respond to a friendly hello. The cul du sac is virtually empty most days, where ours was full of kids. There are kids around, I see them getting in the mini-van from time to time. And we've been out to say hello and chat with anyone in the neighborhood that will engage us. Thank God for Halloween, they came to us!

But what about the church? Aren't we under a different mandate? What about church friends? What about being a friend? Do we get to be too busy to care? Do we feel like it's someone Else's job to see how our church family is doing? How is it that we don't show friendship based on the following versus?

Accept one another (Romans 15:5-7)
Be Kind to one another (Eph 4:32)
Lay Down Your Life for one another (1 John 3:16)
Put up with one another (Eph 4:2)
Honor one another (Romans 12:10)
Love one another (John 13:34; 15:12; 17) Fervently(1 Pet 1:22)
Serve one another (Gal 5:13)
Submit to one another (Eph 5:21)
Wash Feet of one another (John 13:14)
Bear Burdens of one another(Gal 6:2)
Greet one another (Romans 16:16)
Admonish one another (Romans 15:14)
Confess Faults To one another (James 5:16)
Comfort one another (1 Thess 4:18)
Edify one another (1 Thess 4:18)
Exhort one another(Heb 3:13)
Forgive one another (Eph 4:32)
Sing to one another (Eph 5:19)
Pray For one another (James 5:16)
Spur on one another (Heb 10:24)
Judge not one another (Romans 14:13)
Envy not one another (Gal 5:15)
Provoke not one another (Gal 5:15)
Bite not one another (Gal 5:15)
Devour not one another (Gal 5:15)
Lie Not to one another (Colossians 3:9)
Defraud Not one another (1 Thessalonians 4:6)
Show no Partiality To one another (1 Tim 5:21)
Forsake not Gathering one another (Heb 10:25)
Put No stumbling block before one another (Rom. 14:13)

It's amazing don' t you think, that most folks can go to church for some long period of time and get nothing more then a friendly hello. My wife and I call this being "niced" to death. Sure, it's more then we get at the grocery store-- maybe, but is it really what God is all about?

I guess today I have more questions then scriptures or answers. What does it take to be a friend anyway, commitment, sacrifice, effort, time, love-- interest? Are we waiting for someone else to take the initiative? Really, what does it take to get with someone for a few hours and let them tell you what they are interested in? I can't even imagine the hours that Jesus listened to the 12. How close is close? Close enough to confess our sins to?

In the end, I think it is great if we have one or two friends that listen to us. It might good to have a few acquaintances to have some fun with too. Are you one of those people?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

What Is God Actually After?

Do you even wonder what God is actually in the business of? What does He really want? In the past few weeks I have had a number of conversations with long time Christians. Oh yes, and not to mentioned that I have stirred up a few religious spirits with my recent postings on this blog. It seems that no matter what perspective I try to point out, someone not only opposes it, but they offer some standard denominational argument. Every sentence starts with "we need more of ______!" Or worse, "we need less of _______!"

First, I am not against denominations. I am against theology that keeps us from an awesome and supernatural God. The problem is that most of us have been taught "somewhere." That somewhere is usually the place where we came to faith, while giving us the foundational teachings that support that faith. And, that is how it works. We are taught, we believe it and hopefully go and "do" it. The problem with teaching is that it really has no value unless it is applied. Then we experience it. Did you ever wonder how a cult gets started? It is because the teaching is never challenged. The amazing thing about truth is that it always works... and lines up with the word of God. Thank God my own prayers snatched me from a cult in my early years of Christianity. I was looking for both milk and meat in the wrong places. My heart was begging for the truth. God honored that. Actually it was the transition from my own understanding to that of actually hearing God's voice.

So, what is God after? Converts? Character? Sacrifice? Obedience? Tongue talking believers? Radical believers that "sold it all" for Jesus? And while we are at it, what is the purpose for the church anyway? Social change? Miracles? Healing? To make disciples? Blessing? Preach the gospel? Love? Oh yeah, and what makes a "true" believer anyway, faith, belief or fruit? Let me answer those questions, YES! God wants it all. You may have heard you can't put God in a box. Well, you can't. The Bible says "His ways, are not our ways." Then in Ephesians He says, he "chose the church" for this task. What task? The great commission? Yes! And all the other tasks of loving, serving, sacrificing and being obedient.

That is the broad view, or apostolic view. The detailed (prophetic) view can be very focused right down to one person obeying one command from God. Whether it is written in the Bible, for example; "love one another", or directly from God; "go pray for that person over there." The Bible does not command us to pray for every one we see. But God certainly sets up encounters that bring about His will and destiny. You may remember Phillip and the Ethiopian in Acts 8.

You may be thinking, how do we do it all? I am glad that you asked. We are to be a body. Paul uses this analogy over and over in His letters. We can't do it all, and we shouldn't do it all. Our church can't do it all, our pastor can't do it all. Each one of us has a destiny that God has appointed for us. I once met a young man that was going to be a tattoo artist and do only Christian tattoos. The problem with this "natural" talent, is that the Bible forbids tattoos. (Lev 19:28) He ended up choosing missions, and last I heard he was bearing fruit in the mission field. God's destiny for us could be a part-time ministry or a full-time one. It could be as simple as greeting someone new or offering to help a neighbor. Who cares, don't you want to be doing what God wants you to do?

For so many Christians, they have a particular gift and they always want to see more of it. Evangelists want to see more souls saved, intercessors want to see more prayer, teachers want to see more teaching, prophetic folks want to see more prophecy, helps folks want to see more service and discerning people think, "why don't they get it?," and pastors want to see more folks loved on. It is natural to have these inclinations because of our gifting. The problem is that we are a body working together. And yes, we do need more souls saved, more prayer, more prophecy, more teaching, more service and more people loved on. That is why we have a diversity of gifts available in the first place.

In conclusion, beyond all that we do, we need to see that the big picture is comprised of individual actions. The church is comprised of all believers and their actions. The sum total of which, has gotten the global church to where it is today. That said, the greatest tool in the church is the personal witness.

Acts 22:15 "For you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard. "

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,"

Matthew 5:16 "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."

I love this last verse because it says men; all men, not just Christians. I think that is what God is after.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Bump

Everyone is getting a "bump" these days. The presidential poles, the stock market and me, as a result of the construction, on my commute to the citadel of the money changers each day. A bump is an increase, well except for drop off on to the freshly grooved and planed pavement on the way to work. Much of our life is "gauged," as we turn the ebb an flow of every day life in to chunks. It is life without highs nor lows. Then we spend our time looking for the "bump." It could be cash, a vacation, a hoped for raise or promotion.

Most of us us are looking for something to give us a boost. For some, things are so tough that they are simply hoping that things don't get any worse. I often think about the church and how we look for a bump there to get us through the week. You know, something to turn our week into a memorable chunk. We can be so Sunday focused that we look for our weekly infusion to get though the week. In some ways that is good. Church should be providing us with something of value.

There is something that I discovered a long time ago about God. That was the practice of the presence of God as Brother Laurence wrote about in his monastic book. He looked for God in the everyday things like doing dishes. I really worked hard practicing thinking about the things of God while I was at work, or going about my business each day. It was tough because I have a very active mind. By the way, it seems normal to me living in here, but I once had a friend that said, "I can't imagine what its like to live in there." Staying focused on the presence God was not easy. Later I read a book by Watchman Nee entitled the "Release of the Spirit." In the book there we Christians so hungry for God, but they couldn't figure out how to enjoy His presence apart from church. So here are some things that I felt were important to enjoying God's presence apart from church.

-1 Listen to worship. If you want some suggestions, see my other blog. The purpose of worship is to create and environment for God to be present. There are lots of ways to worship, but music is a great one. I admit, I am a junky. I have worship playing endlessly in my home, at work, and in the car. I don't listen to secular music much, not because it is sin or something, but because it keeps me from Jesus.

-2 Hear the word. I am not talking about sermons (I am sure those are good) but listen to the Bible on tape or CD, read it to your kids or your wife. I have a CD of healing verses which is about 90 minutes of every conceivable verse in regards to healing. I can hear it now, "and Jesus healed them all." "And the blind man saw," 'the paralytic walked" ... wonderful. After some point, these verses will begin to well up in your spirit. And there will be the presence of God. I also think reading and meditating the Bible is great, but hearing it is better.

-3 Find the place where you connect with God. Mine is walking by the ocean. I also enjoy driving alone. The more you practice, the more you'll find that you can be present with Him anywhere.

-4 Find a way to praise God whether in English or some other language, it helps.

Some things that don't work for me. Just reading the Bible. I love it, but it is not a presence grabber like listening to it. Just pray, well that isn't all that great a method for me. I do that while I am at the beach, and I grab some time in the car or before I go to bed. I used to make my self read and study and pray. I learned a lot, but I was not getting fed. Why, for me the presence of God is not something I do, but something I receive. Sometimes being in church doesn't do it for me either, and I use that time to pray.

Need a bump, try receiving from Him today.

Monday, September 15, 2008

If It's Not Broke, Don't Fix It. But If It's Broke, Then What?

About a year ago I went and test drove a few cars. While I was looking, I just decided that I should take a spin in some of the more exotic 2-seaters. After all, I can always look for a used Honda some other time, right? What's the big attraction for me? I guess they have always been exciting and I simply decided that this was my opportunity for a little fun. They were cars that I have always wanted to own, but I haven't been able to afford. As I looked past the Estimated MPG window stickers(which was 12 on the 427R Mustang!) into the luxurious and sporty cockpits, I was in another world. In the end, I was impressed with the Corvette, an American automotive legend. The Crossfire, well that was underwhelming to say the least. I really liked the Mustang which I now own. It is amazing how the Mustang and Corvette have come of age in 50 or so years. It appears to have taken a long time for the automakers to return to their roots in some of the long standing classics such as the T-Bird, the Mustang and VW bug. Each one has retro styling in their newer version. The new VW even has heat in the Winter, not just the summer!

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 there. What happened, that is all I can ask? I decided to dissect what was going on then, and compare the results to things today.

Before I exit the car analogy, let me say I used to own a 1968 Shelby GT-500KR and drove one of the new Shelbys. There is there is no comparison between the two. The old one had more power, period. The new one handles better and has more creature comforts like a 6 CD changer, A/C and electric seats. I think this is what has happened to the church too. The old one had raw power and in some cases may have been unsafe, and the new one is made for comfort and not much else. Oh sure, there are lots of similarities in the styling, but years of automotive laws, supposedly for our protection, have zapped power and even changed the style. 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 when God showed up. We try and wrap our pet theological understanding around what God is doing. It rarely works. One of my pet peeves is that people often say that God is a God of order. Well, sorry, the verse says. 1 Corinthians 14:33 "For God is not a God of disorder but of peace." Although I do think that God orders things, it is not always logical.. you know, that might be our understanding and not His.

Did you know there was a time when Baptists and Nazarene's (The original Holy-Rollers... yes they rolled on the floor laughing!) both spoke in tongues? But it didn't fit the package and the supernatural wasn't natural enough for denominational leaders. It happens all the time. You make a fast car and someone gets hurt, so you remove the engine, right? Or in biblical terms, you quench the Holy Spirit and sing a few songs, stick to the bulletin 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? Let's take a look. We took a good thing and made it comfy and explainable (natural). In the midst we got all religious about some prayer, some verse, or some manifestation 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. We didn't listen for God, look for fresh revelation from the Word or change the prayer that once worked. For those that did experience the supernatural, we stopped working at it. We didn't want to pay the price of the anointing. The anointing breaks the yoke, and where yokes are broken there will be opposition! There will be a cost, personal loss and sacrifice for the real work of the Holy Spirit.

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. They actually had some things that were working quite well. When I read the list I couldn't find one thing that they were doing that fit the list. 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 person. 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.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Game Changers

This week Sarah Palin was called a game changer for the 'bump" she gave McCain in the election polls. Tom Brady of the Patriots is out for the season. That changes things for his 3-time Super Bowl winning team. I would call that a game changer too.

Christians come in many different flavors from Catholics to Word of Faith believers. We have a wide variety of potential experiences in the mainstream church. And within the churches believing in the triune God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), we have different theologies including Evangelical, Pentecostal and Charismatic beliefs. Some find diversity in the church good, and others are looking for unity. There are others that are so certain of their own theology that they separate themselves from others. Some times it is hard to see that we have salvation in Jesus in common. Real faith is based on the relationship, not the religion.

What does all that have to do with game changers? Well, the church has had many game changers since the 1st century. A change from the practice of Jewish traditions, persecution by Jews and Gentiles, the writing of the New Testament letters, the advent of actual church buildings in the 3rd century, the rise of Catholicism, the selling of indulgences, the crusades, the Protestant Reformation, the Great Awakening, Azusa Street, the Charismatic Renewal, Toronto, Brownsville and loads of other revivals in nearly every country on earth. The church has seen some real game changers in two thousand years, don't you think?

The question I have it this, what will change the game for Christianity next? Will it be squabbling over theology a little more until no one will be in a church? Church attendance is on the decline, and I doubt that God is going to take the blame for it. Without prayer in schools, the Bible as a book in our educational curriculum's we have seen people who would normally have been taught about God, flocking to other places for their spirituality like AA (which is good for getting sober), horoscopes, tarot card readers, psychics and para-normal experts. Why? We want to see the supernatural because we are made to receive it as God's creation. We are supposed to connect with Him because He is a supernatural God! The problem is that we want to legislate God.

Imagine if you favorite sports team went out and did the same exact play every time they had the ball? And worse, they did it all season long! Can you imagine the outcome? Honestly, we get so used to seeing (or not seeing) God week-to-week, that we never change the play. We practice the definition of insanity-- doing the same thing over and over expecting different results? Are you kidding me? Most of the church could care less about church services proven by the amount of believing Christians that DO NOT attend services. And a load of others are bored to death with the same-old, same-old! We hire "savior pastors" to fill the pulpit, and allow enough lack of commitment to seep in that leaders are overburdened. Add to that so much control that we barely see the supernatural. Ask yourself this, why is it unbiblical to go to a tarot card reader? Then ask yourself why we won't let the spirit move in so many churches? Are we so afraid of being ambushed by a false prophet, that we do nothing? In the same way it is good for a man and woman to be married as a God ordained "place" for sexual relations, the church is to be the place for authentic supernatural occurrences.

I am not saying that we need to do something different to be different. What I am saying is how are we doing? If we say that Jesus saves, how many are saved? If we say that Jesus heals, how many are healed? If we say God is a God is love, how many are loved? We need to let God be God and start measuring success in terms of fruit, not nickels, noses and egos. What we need is Holy Spirit led ministry that is RELEVANT to those that are not attending regardless of the reason.

What is it going to take for the church to be mature enough to handle the manifestations of the Holy Spirit without blaming it on the devil, or quenching the Holy Spirit for fearful or selfish reasons? Paul never said to stop operating in the supernatural, he said to make sure that in all things, you participate in love. (Eph 4, 1 Cor 13, Gal 5)

1 Corinthians 13.1-3
1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Ephesians 5:18 NAS
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit...

Now those are game changers! Does anyone want to play?

Friday, September 12, 2008

What the Hell Is Going On?

Have you sat down and thought about your life for a few minutes recently? Have you looked at the church, your friends, your folks, your job, or your waistline and thought damn? If you are like me, you do a life evaluation every so often... and as you get older they get closer together. I remember thinking at 20, that half my life was over.

Some people are content to go about their business until a crisis happens... maybe not 9/11, but that is a good example. An event like that changes the way that we live our lives. Do you ever find yourself looking back with sadness or pain? I am not saying that every one does, but how will you feel after the honeymoon is over, the vacation ends, or you don't get promoted? Maybe you've sat down with yourself, or with a significant other, and made a plan and it's working. You are on your way to happiness or some sort. Hmmm...

Sure, most of us have some things back there that we are not proud of. I am not talking about those moments that come before a failure where we might have chosen something else, but feelings that last for eons after one. Did you ever wish you did more of this and less of that? Oh, and skipped "that" all together! Amazingly, many folks live like the wages of sin is gain and not death.

Well, today you are closer to your earthly end than you were yesterday... but to be positive, let's say today is the first day of the rest of your life... or maybe that yesterday was and today is the 2nd day... whatever makes you feel good about the years hat have passed.

One more question. How long has it been since you sat down and said, "Hey God, how am I doing.. I mean am I in your will, am I in your calling for me?"

What made me think of this is a story I heard about 7 years ago. There was a Christian woman that posted prayers on a Yahoo I group I have been a member of for over 10 years. She requested that we (I) pray for a specific flight attendant she saw regularly on her trips from Boston to LA. She just had a heart for her, and asked that she would simply receive Jesus. One day in August 2001, she did, right in the galley of the plane. A few weeks later that same flight attendant was one of those killed in the 9/11 attacks. She had been a Christian but a few weeks.

Who knows the terror she felt that day, or the thoughts she had about Jesus those weeks prior to her death.

The illustration is simple. Because we don't know when the end will come for us, or for this age, things can seem a little more urgent. The Kingdom of God is at hand, and it is coming too. We can experience Heaven now in many ways. Yes, I know, there is a lot evil out there, but we are to be overcomers, not swallowed up by selfish pursuits. In the end we're running a race (a long one for most of us) and the stopwatch will end with a review of sorts.

1 Corinthians 3:12. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each man's work will become evident ; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. 14 If any man's work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward.

Many are caught up in work, sleep, family or friends, and occasionally getting off to church. Possibly they are even serving in the church some. The real question is what is our life made of, and will it stand up to the fire? Are we doing things that have eternal value?

Take a look around, what the hell is going on?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Should the Church Be Involved in Politics?

I guess that I still find it funny that Christians and non-Christians have strong opinions about national and local leadership. Some think that the church should control politics; a Christian nation, and others think that candidates should never be mentioned in church. (I know, you can lose your 501C3 status.)

I remember when I first heard about the Moral Majority and the Christian Coalition. It kind of bothered me. It may not be the same reasons that it bothers others, but it certainly mattered to me. I am always concerned about the perception of the church... especially by non-Christians. We are not of this world, but we have to live in it-- and being salt and light isn't easy. Our job is not to judge, but to live a godly life as a witness to others.

If we take a quick look at Jesus, he didn't seem to be all that worried about the Romans who occupied Israel at the time, but more about the "whitewashed tombs" called the Pharisees (the religious leaders of the day). Even amongst Jews, there were factions that also included the Scribes and Sadducees. They were all prisoners to their own understanding (good ideas, religious practice and programs that were not of God). If you recall, the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. They were wrong, or should I say dead wrong! Jesus was concerned about souls, relationship and glorifying the Father. But He is also the King of the Nations.

Jesus must have been aware of how countries would war and come against one another as the End of the Age came to a close. However; he did not promote any particular leader, but chided many of them. He didn't wear any political buttons, and it is very likely that he was not allowed to vote as an Israelite in a Roman territory. I guess that begs the question, would He, if He could have? I think the answer is yes. As a minister of reconciliation, He would have wanted to use every means of promoting the Kingdom of light. I don't think that He would have been all wigged out over who was running, nor elected. One might support a group like the Christian Coalition, which is fine. Bringing light to a lost world is good! My concern is at what cost or gain is it to the Kingdom?

This discussion leaves us with a few different possible scenarios.

-1 We can not vote, and not participate.
-2 We can vote, but be quiet about our views.
-3 We can vote and be vocal about our views.
-4 We can vote and only support Christian leaders.
-5 We can vote our own beliefs even if they are contrary to the Bible.
-6 We can vote for the person that best represents Christian principals regardless of their religious affiliation.

We should be praying for our leaders regardless of their religious position. (I Timothy 2:2, Romans 13:1) That is a given. But who do we vote for, and should we care? Come on, yes, we need to get involved. If we are salt and light, then we need to promote that in our governments as much as we are able.

Jesus is a very good example, He always voted for love, and for righteousness by the way that He acted. And He did turn over the tables of the money changers. This is a revealing passage, he took spiritual authoity in an area where He had authority; the Temple. This passage is not a license to destroy property or inflict bodily harm. Umm that isn't the best way to show someone that you love them. But when we have a chance to effect potential change in our school boards, or local, state and national governments we need to get involved.

Something funny happens with religious and political people, they become passionate about what they believe and discussions can get heated. I always wonder how God feels about that? Paul peacefully debated the Greeks on Mars Hill and by the power of the Holy Spirit, he made converts. Remember how angry that silversmiths were with the disciples as "their" God came in power overshadowing the idol worship at the Temple of Artemus? People are passionate because it affects their "secure" beliefs, their pocketbook and their ability to be in control. Even in the church! Consider this, Jesus commanded the CHURCH to take care of the poor, the widows and those in prison, not the government. No wonder they are clamoring for entitlement from the capital, the church global is not doing its job!

I think it is interesting that the churches of the candidates come under fire because of their beliefs and potential prejudices. The church should have a right to profess her beliefs regardless of the consequences. But it isn't always like that. As believers it is our job to proclaim the Gospel.

In the final analysis, we need to get involved for the good whenever we can. In the same way there is NO perfect church, there is no perfect candidate, or dad or mom or kid or friend. We need to get past judgment and be led by God to choose what he wants. After all He is the one that raises up the governments of the word ummm and tears them down. (Romans 13:1) It is in this sovereignty that we can trust our vote to be manifest for the good. We can vote for the lesser of two evils, and we can participate in His will for the nations. I think about the "hanging chad" election that came down to about 1,000 votes in one county and that was the difference between a win and a loss. God can use a donkey, he certainly can use any of the candidates... but he has a choice to carry out his will.

The last issue seems to be character.... or sometimes personality. Certainly character matters, but Biblical principals trump that. Our leaders need to best promote principals regardless of whether we like them. Even if they have a well known "sin." it is just too easy to choose a sound byte we don't like to make a decision. Again, biblical principals trump personalities and even character flaws.

I often think of Bible characters that lived in godless nations such as Joseph, Nehemiah, Ester, Moses and Daniel. They had a greater impact on nations that were pagan than on the believers of Israel-- sometimes by serving its leaders! How about we just get over ourselves, and become an example to a great cloud of witnesses, they are watching everything we say and do.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Fruit, not the Tree....

Since the beginning, the existence of the tree has not been the problem, it's the fruit on the tree that is either tasteful and life-giving, or bitter and poisonous. As it was for Adam and Eve, so it is for those of us that are taught each week from the pulpit, read religious literature and watch televangelists. The Bible does not ask us to debate our religion (we will need to reason with others at times), but to be a witness and proclaim (not browbeat) our fellow man with the Gospel. This Gospel will be accompanied by demonstrations of God's power (Mark 16:17). We can only judge by the fruit using the spirit. I see people judge the church all day long. Listen to Bill Mahr some day, he couldn't be better at pointing out hypocrisy in the church while being sooo very wrong about salvation.

I recently had a good discussion with a long-time friend about a particular minister that claims to be certain things. The core of our discussion was centered around the issue of spiritual gifts. My view of the US church; having been a missionary in Brazil and Norway, is that we don't have a lot of experience, or good teaching surrounding the gifts that God has given believers in the church. And worse, the moment we see something supernatural happen that is outside our personal experience, we scream "don't be deceived." Personal experience is not always theologically sound, but I trust the Lord has demonstrated a few things to you and you went, "ah ha, now I know what that verse means." Or we say that it's "not in the Word." Let me end the, "I must see it in the Word, to validate that it is God" issue. John 20:25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. Therefore; I am not really concerned about gold fillings, legs growing back from stumps etc. I would assume that Jesus was the vessel for many signs and wonders (that is why they are called wonders, because they are too amazing to comprehend!) that no two were exactly the same. Look at the number of different ways blind people were healed in the Bible.

I think there were some types of wonders that are simply not recorded, but I am sure they happened. We are talking volumes of testimonies! But, some people will desire all the books that we don't have room for.... and then possibly they would never be convinced of the existence of a supernatural God.

The problem as I see it, is in the three lists of gifts in the Bible. Well meaning teachers have been lumping them together for decades if not centuries. They are: Romans 12:6-, 1 Corinthians 12:18- and Ephesians 4:11. God has a very distinct structure for the church. This includes the roles/offices of the apostle, the prophet, the pastor, the evangelist and the teacher, as well as a list of supernatural gifts available to all believers, along with a call to action to serve others using these gifts. When all these gifts are lumped together as co-equal, we will fail to see the intended governmental structure of the church and make it virtually impossible for the average Christian to exercise these gifts!

While stepping on religious preconceptions, the Bible clearly defines a very definite structure for the church. First is apostles (this is present tense, not past), second prophets, and third teachers. Paul also states in another verse, that the apostles and prophets are foundational to the church, while teachers and pastors are essential for discipling new converts brought in by the evangelists. If we can see the church as needing theses 5 roles/offices, not one paid holy man, then we will begin to discern the living, breathing church she was intended to be.

Too many denominational structures just did what the Catholic church did when they embraced Protestantism. I am not saying that structure is bad, but that many churches don't know or care what an apostle is, and couldn't write a Biblical job description for the position. Prophets and prophetic people are often difficult to manage, and lots of folks feel safer without some of the antics that often go along with prophetic ministry. Seeing that so many Charismatic/Pentecostal church-goers can't find a verse illustrating the use of each of the gifts of the Spirit described in 1 Cor 12, I doubt the the average evangelical would be able to recognize someone functioning in one of the 5-fold offices/roles.

Here is my take on all this.
-1 The church is decidedly poorly taught regarding gifts, offices/roles and callings and watered down with the infestation of natural talents trying to emulate the spiritual gifting required to do the work of the "true" church. In other words, the natural has taken the place of the supernatural. Ever wonder why the church is soooo pathetically ineffective? Where it is effective, I am not hearing a lot of theological debates, just plain ole' salvation, healings and miracles. Gifts are available to everyone, yet callings to roles/offices will not be fulfilled by every believer.

-2 The tradition of the pastor controlled church is NOT biblical. John Wimber (Vineyard) was right and wrong when he said, "One man, one vision." As he gained insight into the Spirit he was still perplexed regarding the 5-Fold ministry at the time of his death about 10 years ago. It is one vision, 5 men (or woman), and it may be a prophetic presbytery or evangelical troupe to fill the roles in a local church. That is why chapter 4 in Epehesians talks about unity and equipping the saints along with the structure. The roles are both local and regional. Look at the church today, how are we doing? Where is the fruit of unity?

How did we get here where we are now? The Catholic church took the spiritual leadership positions and naturalized them. Basically, like most denominations they continued to staff the organization in terms of perceived needs, not in terms of Godly wisdom. It's easy to do. Why work on listening to God which is hard, when you can have a good idea and motivate others around it. The problem is this, when people become filled with the Spirit, or have any other spiritual revelation that works for them, they camp out in their denominational tents and look at others as possibly lesser than, poorly taught, or outcasts. You may remember Paul had a lot to say to Peter on this issue!

-3 Churches would rather debate whether there is a comma in the Greek between the word for pastor and teacher or is it a slash? IE: pastor, teacher or pastor/teacher. Why? Because they can't connect with the supernatural. All teachers are not good pastors and all pastors are not good teachers. And the primary purpose of the church is not to get people saved, It is to glorify God and AND preach the Gospel regardless of the number of converts. This requires the Holy Spirit. And if God can use a donkey to bring a message to a leader, he certainly does not need talented people. He needs available, obedient people. And, character is not a requirement for anointing... the gifts and callings are irrevocable regardless of how often one sins. If this were the case we'd all be disqualified. Everyone that fails can't be a false prophet. Being deceived is easy when you don't read the Bible, pray, and have people that you are accountable to!

-4 We had a lot of bad teaching when the anointing hit during the charismatic renewal. Benny Hinn is an example of this. He said, "I am a pastor, a teacher, an evangelist, a prophet and an apostle." (At the time is was accepted that the apostolic role was to plant churches and do mission trips.) That is a load of turnips. He is a simply an evangelist with a healing gift. He is a lousy teacher and has been chided about it for decades, a lousy prophet, and doesn't seem to know what an apostle is. And a apparently he was rotten pastor. How do we know? The fruit. Most of his prophecies in the 80's never came to pass. (One or two accurate words of knowledge does not make one a prophet!) Of course he was labeled a false prophet, However; in the biblical sense that is NOT true. A false prophet will accurately predict the future using the power of Satan to gain position, power and prestige in the eyes of the world. When the real false prophets come on the scene they will make Rick Warren look like an amateur when it comes to global acceptance! Flesh is stinky stuff. But the real fruit of Hinn's ministry remains in salvations; most often marked by the witness of physical healing. In the end he is still a man with a bad comb-over, but one with the anointing of God. He also believes in salvation by faith, and a triune God. Now if we could just get him to fess up to the bad character?

-5 Lastly, the package is not always going to fit the American paradigm. How would you feel if your pastor took a group of people to the parking lot to get dirt and add spittle to it for a healing demonstration?

We are a body with all the parts needed-- not one more needed than the other-- why not act like one?
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