Friday, January 30, 2009

Still Alive and Well

Some days I just love what Jesus can do to change a person. Look what's happened to the guitarist on Hang on Sloopy, Free Ride and Rock 'n Roll Hoochie Coo.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Raising the Bar - Christianity that Touches Heaven and Changes Earth

I have a friend that used to say, "Some folks are so earthly minded, they are no heavenly good." There are also some folks that became so heavenly minded, that they were no earthly good. The point is simply that our focus can't always be on the day-to-day, and it can't be 100% religious either.

If you read the Bible, you'll find that when persecution came to Jerusalem, many Christians fled the city. In the process, Christianity spread throughout the known world. Persecution was a way of life, or so it seems.

During the first few centuries, until the time of Constantine, it was not just tough to be a Christian, but deadly. Christians were fed to the lions, burned at the stake and set afire on iron chairs; brutal and agonizing torture. We have read about Joan d'Arc and others like her. And then there are the more modern day martyrs in places like India, Turkey and many other places as well.

What did these martyrs have in common that was worth being tortured for? I don't know exactly. It's been a long time since I had a gun pointed in my direction.

The Bible predicts a falling away. Some think that it will be because we are deceived. However; the Bible does not say that this is sum total of those will fall away. It says in Matt 24 "For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect." The means simply that, prior to the second coming, there will be many that are looking for Jesus in the wrong place. My guess, is lack of interest in being persecuted will contribute more to that number than those who stupidly had a tarot card reading.

As an American Christian, I don't see the hardships that my of missionary friends have reported overseas. From the Philippines, to China, Vietnam and Mexico, they have seen persecution, poverty and torture. I travelled the Caribbean and parts of South America, the poverty is incredible in some places, but the church overall was well received. In Norway, this was not nearly the case.

Many of our high-profile Christians have come under scrutiny, and in the end, they may or may not stand. Large churches like Saddleback in California, New Life Church in Colorado Springs and the Catholic Diocese of Boston have made national news. Some is good, and some is not so good. Six major US ministries are under financial investigation by the government. I heard a pastor preach once, "if you look for defects, you'll find them." Bill Mahr has it down! As I survey the wondrous cross, I wonder what Jesus is up to, don't you?

We are meant to be the light of the world, how is business?

Some years ago there was a prophecy about a nameless, faceless generation. I often think about the underground churches in China. There are no mega churches there, but there seems to be a real under current of Christianity; complete with sign and wonders.

In my estimation, the church has a much bigger problem then persecution in most of western culture. Matthew 24:12 - "Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold."

In the past 15 years I have heard a bajillion sermons on busy-ness. I think I may know more Christians on antidepressants, then there were patients using them at the detox I once worked at. With Christian divorces, teen suicides, abortions and domestic violence statistics nearly the same as the world, I'd say we have a problem Houston!

Add to that the pressure of the economy, an increasing potential for persecution, where will you be when the trumpet blows?

So, what do you think those early Christians had that was worth dying for? I would guess that it was a deep and abiding relationship with Jesus, one based on His meeting their spiritual needs, and I am sure in some cases, their physical needs. One where their lives ebbed and flowed from the presence of the Eternal God. It wasn't theory, theology, philosophy or opinions.

Is it possible that we have organized our lives in such a way that we could be the ones that fall away because our love has grown cold? What about our programs at church, do they show people process, or the true love of Jesus? How is it that we will touch heaven, and change earth?

How is it that Jesus will defeat evil, violence, witchcraft, and the New Age, all while manging earthquakes, wars and a host of other disastrous plights mankind will inflict upon themselves?

The Church empowered by the His Spirit, that is how.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Not Right Now - Obedience Part 1 (Preview from my upcoming book)

John 10:4 "When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice." NAS

In the late 1990's, as my little ministry grew, I was invited to attend a lot to meetings, and occasionally speak at some of them. One night I decide to take my preteen and teenage girls to a Acquire the Fire meeting a local church where I had preached three or four times. The multi-media presentation was very cool! The kids were really engaged in the music and the Gospel movie. It was powerful to see the death of Jesus on the cross (years before the Mel Gibson movie).

Everyone seemed to be weeping and they did an altar call. Most of the kids went forward to receive Jesus or make a new commitment. Both of my girls went forward. The young woman, who was the speaker, asked anyone that was released to pray for others by this church, to come forward and pray for the kids. I started to walk forward and I was abruptly stopped by my friend Holy Spirit. I remember thinking that I had prayed a lot for this meeting, and I could feel the anointing of the Spirit. I just stood there to see what God was doing.

To obey is better than sacrifice 1 Samuel 15:22

As teens and young adults made their way to the altar, the speaker said that the first thing that those who were going to pray should do, was to ask each of the kids if they needed a hug. And, not to stop hugging them until they were asked. Now I understood what God was up to. I was so used to meeting needs with a prophetic word, or the raw power of the Holy Spirit, that I missed some of the more obvious needs for understanding and affection. I just began to cry as God ministered to me too. I had been the religious one, trying to be the spiritual gift, instead of a loving, feeling human being that God could use. That was my Jesus that I seen dying on the cross during the movie, not theirs.

What amazed me was that many of the kids responded to the hugging for a long time; some of them for twenty minutes. They stood there in the sweet embrace of Jesus through His people, where they wept, they prayed, they cried out for salvation and received healing. It was a really a joy to watch God at work.

The kindest of God’s instructions, “not right now.” That was powerful one me that day.

The ATF crew ended the night with a call to action, a call to missions and almost everyone who had been at the altar, left with a booklet of mission trips they could participate in.

After the meeting, I was talking with one of the staffers, and all of sudden, I had an opportunity to pray for her. God reveled a specific country for her to minister in. It was a surprise to her as she had been wrestling with God about two different opportunities; one to be a lead staffer doing presentations such as the one we had just seen, the other as a long term missionary in Africa. All week she said, I have been asking God which of the two opportunities I should take. It was very powerful, and she invited the entire team to let me minister to them as well.

As I drove home, again, I was amazed at what God wanted to do, and how He did it. My kids were excited about Jesus, and talked about how much the "hug" ministry time really impressed on them the love of God. They chattered all the way back to the house about which country they would like to serve God in.

To obey is better than sacrifice 1 Samuel 15:22

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Obedience Part 2

If you are a Christian, then you've been a disobedient one. I am no different. In the late 1990s I was having a personal revival. I attended a lot conferences, prayed, wrote, ministered and went to church. It was very important for me to include my family as much as possible. My heart’s desire was to minister with them at my side. I often think of Dave, Joyce Meyer‘s husband sitting there in the front row being, her biggest cheerleader.

I was invited to preach in VT and I set a date. A few days before I was supposed to go, I called and cancelled. I had wanted my family to go, and it was in a bit of disarray at the time. That Sunday I went to my church and prayed before the service. After about two songs, I was just over come by the spirit of God. There I lay on the floor between two rows of chairs, my family on either side of me. The music ended, and I couldn't seem to get up. Twenty or so minutes passed, and I finally heard the voice of God, “Why are you here David? You are supposed to be in Vermont, you gave your word.”

“I’m sorry Lord, please forgive me.” I said quietly. When you are on the floor, you don’t feel like making a lot of excuses, or trying to blame it on some else.

As I left church, I pulled out my cell, and called the pastor in Vermont. His wife answered. “Hello, David.”

“I am so sorry; I know I was supposed to be there this morning.” I said sheepishly.

“That’s right.” She quipped and handed the phone to the pastor.

I apologized again, and he said that he had been looking forward to it. We set another date.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Making History

Today the USA had a historic first. We'll see how it all turns out as decisions are made. I had already written many things, but a friend of mine beat me to it. His post is excellent and is far deeper reaching than mine would have been, take a look Did God Elect Barrak Obama?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Chuch-ianity! - Are You Kidding Me?

This morning I awoke to more snow. It is the sequel to "Winter I" that was all about subzero temperatures just yesterday. I used my very cool Snow-Joe to clear the walk and the driveway and brushed off the cars for the three drivers at my home. I got in the shower and in the midst, I lost all motivation to drive 30 or 40 minutes in the snow to church. I asked God, what should I do? I decided that the answer to my prayer was that it wasn't important to be there today. And no one was upset! Wow, what is going on?

A few minutes ago, I decided put on some worship and look at one of the blogs that I follow "Cruciformity"-- and there it was. "Sometimes taking a day off for a real Sabbath is healthy for the soul. And it's productive." Excellent blog mate!

I also had a brief discussion with my wife about our nearly eight years of church history together. We have survived the "sin police," we have been "niced to death," we have been "programmed," we've been dumped by mentors and pastors, and we have come to the place where the crippled relationships we have experienced, are more than we can stomach for another day. As a couple we have now experienced religious duty. (Pun intended.) And yes, I know I am the common denominator.

I am firm believer of being part of the solution or keeping quiet. Today, I am not keeping quiet. I have had enough shallow religion and I can't take any more. Now I know why more than 70% of the church stays home on Sunday morning! We the people of the church desperately need to look at how we interact with others. There was a time when I would have said, "Oh, it's the cool New Englander' that are not reaching out." When you look at the stats, and see where a lot of our teens are spending time, it's everywhere that people are not going to church, not just my local.

When I studied US history in grade school, they used to tell us that Puritans spent all day in church on a Sunday. I have to say my early religious experiences were minimal-- and if I had to sit next to that smelly neighbor kid for another 20 minutes, I would have killed someone right there in church. I want to know what it was the Puritans were so attracted to, don't you?

I hear the buzz word "relevance" all the time, and yet my kids roll their eyes at wimpy worship, and boring sermons. For the record, a lot of adults are bored too. If there is no anointing on the word, then make it short! For God's sakes, can we start making people feel significant instead of running them through the greeter-wringer and filling out cards? Ooooh and a free gift! If the church is going to be a light, then we need to put oil in the lamp!

Before you dismiss this as one of my sovereign rants, I have a few questions for you.

-1 Does the gospel you preach daily, get people to want to go to your church with you?

-2 If you filmed your Sunday service and posted it on the Internet, how many hits would it get on YouTube?

-3 Did you talk to a stranger today about something other than what you wanted to talk about?

-4 Have you invited a newcomer for a non-religious activity-- like coffee?

-5 Have you scheduled an activity in your home that was family friendly?

-6 Have you asked God who you should be fathering/mothering/mentoring?

-7 When are you going to pick up the phone and ask that person for dinner? You know, the one that you keep on promising that you'll have them over? It's been a year! Be sure to ask their forgiveness for not keeping your word.

-8 Is all your talk about your Jesus, or theirs?

-9 Are you calling folks, or waiting to be called?

-10 When was the last time you did something in secret?

Our men's group had a friendship questionnaire booklet that we found online. It was a good start. You can probably find one in Google.

We need to be Jesus to others, not act like religious zealots. Christianity is in, Church-ianity is not. If we can't relate to one another, then we'll never be relevant!

Friday, January 16, 2009

'Til Death Do Us Part - Living Without Regret

The last few days I have had my fairly regular phone calls, with some of the guys from my men's group-- yakking about the little things that make up our mostly quiet lives. Kids, concerts, church, health, the cold weather, challenges at work, at home and in our spiritual lives... it is really the glue that relationship is made of.

In less than a week, three out of four of us have lost someone that we were close to at one point in life. Most of them were friends from church. But one was a lifelong friend of one of my "guys." Every human being deals with grief in our own way. It is part of who we are-- life experiences, temperament and the depth of relationship we have with God. More importantly we are challenged in our faith when people that are close to us die. And for me it always makes me think about missed opportunities. Even as a Christian on the road to Heaven, I wonder what was down some of those paths along the way? What if I had started saving $5 a week when I was 16 instead of 40?

It is also a time for me to think about the multitude of bad choices that I have made. Time to think about relationships that are broken and I know I had a part to play. Even ones where I left the altar and went to make amends. I wonder how that might turned out if there had not been an offense in the first place?

Today, I am teaching myself how to live without regret. Can I make a change now, that will affect the rest of my life? I read the Purpose Driven Life. It didn't have that much of an impact on me personally. There wasn't enough depth to the relationship section. Over the decades I have read hundreds of books on Christianity-- maybe over 1,000. At one time, I even reviewed them for a Christian bookstore before they put them on the shelves. I am looking for meaningful relationship.

If you follow this blog at all, you'll see that relationship with Jesus, and each other is high on my list of priorities. I mean real relationship, not just how was your day stuff? Why? Because God is relational. But you knew that. Here are some observations that I have made about life that I want to incorporate into my last few decades here on earth if I live that long.

- As the news reports are still pouring in about the US Airways plane which crashed in the Hudson River, I hear survivors saying things like, "It made me realize that I should have said "I love you one more time. I mean, if this was it, it wouldn't have ended well." I want to make sure I leave the house everyday as if its my last. Sooner or later it will be.

- Some years ago you may have read Erma Bombeck's "If I Had My Life to Live Over" which she penned as she came to grips with the fact that she had a fatal disease. It was all about the little things. Interestingly, my wife bought me a decadent chocolate cake the other day. The woman at the register said, "That sure does look good."

My wife replied, "I am just getting this because my husband likes it so much."

The woman in line behind her holding a cheesecake said, "It's my husband's birthday too."

My wife replied, "Oh it's not his birthday."

The woman with the cheesecake chuckled in disbelief. She didn't believe that someone would buy such and extravagant cake for no reason. I enjoy the little things. Money doesn't make it easier, I tried.

- Time is the currency of relationship, without, forget it. I look forward to making time for things that mean something to me and my loved ones. It is always hard to balance because I am looking for less to do, not more.

One day my mother called to say that she had cancer. I had already bought tickets to visit some friends that were thinking of doing a church plant in Ohio. While I was there I made the trek to Indiana to visit her. As I said good bye to her that day I knew that she wasn't going to make it. Oh, we had some time, but the cancer was going to kill her. No matter how I tried to summon faith for healing (how I wanted her to live and not die), and take captive the thought that I was going to lose her, I just knew it was going to be over.

On the drive back to Ohio, I just cried out, what should I do Lord? Peering out at the horizon; over miles of corn fields, I heard the still small voice say, "call her everyday." And so I did. Each morning between 8:45 and 9:00 I called; usually on my way to work. I would usually say, "I love you." and hang up as I walked down the hall to my office. In the beginning it was easy. She was still getting around, going to concerts, a trip to London; she was even working a little. As time went on, she got sicker and sicker.

One morning I called and my step-father said that she was asleep. About an hour later she called me to say that she was sorry that she missed our call that morning. She told Gene to make sure to wake her whenever I called. She never missed one after that.

I visited her four times during those final months. I would usually stay for four or five days. Each morning at 8:45, she would ask everyone to leave the room. "So how are you today, David?" she would say, knowing that I was in her house the whole time. At 9 o'clock, after I kissed her on the forehead and told her that I loved her, she'd have me open the door. I had know idea how important those calls would be to her or me.

Enough of emotional sentiment that pertains to this life. The point is this, what are we doing with our lives, and how is that impacting the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth? The vast kingdom that includes our families, friends, co-workers and neighbors. Are we in tune with Jesus, or are we just going about our day-to-day routine?

It is easy to feel that what we have isn't much too offer, or maybe we are satisfied with what we are doing now. Or worse, we think that we just don't have time for God stuff. These mindsets are traps.

What we have to offer isn't much, that is true. But what God gives us to give, that is the secret. He said that we are new men and woman, how about we start acting like it? We need to stop trying to be good, trying to get it right and learn to allow Him into our weakness. It is not a requirement to struggle in a struggle. We don't all have to wrestle the angel of the Lord.

We need to ask for His power, His Spirit, and His gifts. God is not looking for talent, He is looking for "acknowledged weakness" and availability. The greatest times in my Christian life are those when I was before needy folks, sometimes thousands, and I didn't know what to say. (My wife will never believe I didn't know what to say, but it's true.) I saw the power of God amazingly at work.

I also know that I have failed in ministry attempts. I have discovered when you fail and your heart was only to please the Lord, He is quick to minister to you. When you fail and blame it on someone else, or rationalize the failure in some way to minimize it, you'll spend some time in the desert. God has both grace, and discipline in His character.

So, how is that we live without regret? We must live a life that is turned over to God. It is one where we hear His voice, and obey His commands. We don't just "follow" the Word, we live it. It is simple and it is difficult. We must be slow to speak, quick to forgive, and mindful of every thought. I often think of Martin Luther trying so hard to keep up to date confessing his sins. He couldn't do it. That is where grace comes in. We realize that we can't be perfect, and after killing ourselves trying, we abandon ourselves to Him. We finally recognize that even that which we can do, is better off in His hands. I think about a few things that I am very good at, even educated in, and yet the thing that I am best at, I can't do without Him. And finally, we need to lavish love on everyone that we meet.

And in the end, our works will be tested with fire, not our checkbooks, children, jobs and the other things that we'll leave behind. Paul longed to be with the Lord, yet he struggled with staying here on earth to make sure the message got out. 2000 years later, I'd say he did a good job.

See you at the finish line.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Making Them True Disciples

Over the many years I have spent in, and around church, I have heard the word disciple used many times. Its meaning is as varied as the denominations is was spoken in. "Those that follow Jesus," "Born Again believers," "the crew that became the 12 apostles," and people that had passed a basic class in Christian doctrine or Catechism. I have heard it preached about using the Greek definitions from "learner" (not expert), "follower," and even "witness," to pull out the meaning and depth of the word. But no one has left me with a distinct impression of what a true disciple is, and how we make one.

Sometimes is is easier to define a word by what it is not. Discipleship is not about having a spiritual bellhop in the heavenlies at our beckoned call. It is not following a pastor, teacher, denomination, church doctrine or program. If these things are in sync with God, then great.

For the better part of 30 years, I have listened to a bajillion "How crappy was your week?" sermons. How does the church expect people to get out there and cast out demons, heal the sick, preach the Gospel, and set the captives free-- all without any substantive training or teaching? I am not saying that a sermon that brings insight or encouragement to your particular brand of suffering (which is relative), is a bad thing. It is, however; self serving and not Kingdom serving.

Some folks think that if they just try harder to fix their multitude of character defects (which are never as many, or as bad as so and so's!), press in and keep moving, that they will become solid, effective disciples. I agree and disagree with these facets of traditional Christian thinking. I thought those very things for a long time; as evidenced by my own failures. What I finally discovered, was that the church is practically void of fathering individuals who could make a difference in a converts life (at any age). My life! Wasn't there someone that wanted to know my story? Wasn't there someone that could be more than an acquaintance? Oh sure there were pastors that wanted my gifting, but not me. Only one man ever said, "I am proud of you." outside the context of my ministry.

Discipling is not how many "spiritual" sons or daughters we have. It is not about praise for teaching Sunday school or leading a rockin' worship set. It is not about nickles and noses in our offering baskets and pews. It is much more. True discipleship is adopting and fathering the (spiritual) fatherless.

It is about following a living God, as sheep that know the voice of the Shepard, they follow Him. It is doing what the Father is doing! It is about a relationship with Jesus that causes us to invest without expecting anything in return. (Oh yeah, that is love.)

Fathering is finding the unlovable, the outcast and providing encouragement, vision and discipline; while showing a great amount of love. It can be done by woman, but generally they are the nurturing type. (I am not against woman in ministry, not one bit.) But when it comes to fathering, it is more natural for men-- if you get him be committed.

The fruit of effective fathering is children that do not depart from what they have been taught. The fruit of the disciple is the fullness of Christ.

I don't like to use the word mentor, because that is really training someone to do something that we are good at. Mentoring is growing someone up to be like us. Discipleship is growing someone up to be like Jesus. It is allowing them to reach their destiny with your help.

Once we have disciples that are fathered well, then we can train them to do something of value in the kingdom based on the gifting that they receive from on High. True mentoring is training someone to do our job better than we can do it ourselves. Like Elijah and Elisha, for example. The fruit of mentoring is a double portion protogé.

True disciplers are committed, serving, loving, sacrificing men and woman who are passionate about Jesus. They go the extra mile and they are the ones that calm the storm, and they are calm in a storm. They may not exude any other particular gifting, but they are always there regardless.

True disciples walk in the power and grace of God, always grateful for those that have invested in them in a personal and meaningful way.

Without a discipler, there will not be any disciples. Won't you adopt one today?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Not Sin, Not God - Is it OK to Golf?

I think we'd all agree, that the continuum of supernatural entities ranges from the hell of Satan's fiery inferno, to the city of Light and precious stones called Heaven. As Christians we can confidently say anything that God instructs us to do is not sin. We can also confidently say that anything that He instructs us not to do, is sin. We also know from reading Paul's epistles, that not everything in itself is evil. Between sin and not sin is realm I like to call "not sin, not God."

Certain things are sin for sure, we're not going there. What about stuff that just is? Like playing guitar, golf, hiking, board games and other types of hobbies or pass times? I haven't even added TV or mindlessly surfing the Internet.

Paul said Romans 14:20 NAS Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense.

This is really the verse that allows us to have the freedom to do all things. It frees the men's group to play a game of touch football, and kids to have an ice cream at church. It is the verse that allows us to listen to music written by artists not considered "Christian."

Simple, right? Not really. God has a will for us, and our flesh is usually in conflict with it. Here is a test. Listen to and entire worship CD, like Michael W. Smith Worship or a Chris Tomlin CD each day for a week. Choose one that is meaningful to you personally-- one with songs that you'd pick if you were the music director or worship leader at church. The following week, try listening to something else that you like right after your chosen CD. Close your eyes and really listen. Is it really the same? Do you think God cares?

One of the things that I have noticed in all my years as a Christian, is that the environment which we create in our homes, our cars, and at work impacts our spiritual life. Many things are permissible, but they may not edify us. In fact they may just erode our spiritual communication. Do you remember the days when you left church excited, full, and expecting the things of God? What happened on Tuesday, or Thursday? Why was church so energizing? Hopefully because there was a greater presence of God than we could enjoy on our own. (I am not saying that God lives in church! Read Watchman Nee, The Release of the Spirit)

Jesus slipped away to pray, and who among us has time for that? He couldn't be with the multitudes, eating with sinners and tax collectors without some place to to be directly communicating with the Father. If prayer is communicating with God, then it should be energizing. If you think that pressing in is all that God requires in prayer, you probably need to lighten up, or you are an intercessor by gifting. (Prayer is the place were we see the Father's Heart, His plans, His hope for the destiny of his people. As His sheep, we know His voice and we are able to see what He is doing-- so we can do it too.)

What is important to note is that things that are permissible can be abused, they can be deadly and they can keep us from what we really want; a relationship with a loving God. Moderation is probably a good idea.

I haven't even gotten into whether R movies are permissible. I'll leave that up to you.

A recent survey said that couples that have a TV in the bedroom have sex half as often as those who don't. Is TV permissible? Yes. Is it profitable is probably a better question. Another survey said that 80% of Christian men that had a computer in a room with a door looked at Internet pornography. I'd be interested to know how many men have a TV in the bedroom and a PC behind closed doors.

Not everything that is permissible is edifying. And I believe a steady diet of entertainment and hobbies is easily a problem for our spiritual life. Here is simple test you can do. List your top 10 favorite things to do. Then track your time in hours for all your activities during an entire week. And lastly, take a look at your checkbook. The health of our spiritual life is gauged not in works, but where our heart is at. Where we spend our passion, our time and our money is a pretty good indicator of where our heart is at.

If we are led by the Spirit our life is not our own. As a matter of fact, if we are in God's will our life is none of our business, now is it? We can't just decide what is not sin even when it is permissible. In truth, we need to obey God, not just follow His rules. There are things that the Bible commands that are neither prudent or acceptable at certain times. I am not suggesting we "break the rules." I am suggesting that there are so many things that we could do at any given moment from loving our neighbor to praying without ceasing. We need to hear God, and obey Him. That is why obedience is better than sacrifice.

If we are to obey God at every turn, and take captive every thought, then God is going to have an opinion about everything that we do. If He has an opinion, and we reject it, is that sin?

What we "do" under supposed grace has to be more than deciding is it a matter of choice, sensitivity, or legalism? Like Abraham, it has all got to go on the altar. Everything we do needs to be presented to God. Then we'll see what He provides for us in the process.

Enjoy your golf game.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Misunderstanding the Gospel - Biblical Mythology

Isn't church supposed to have nice people? Do you know any good people? Do you think that we should be tolerant of others? Does Christianity make your life easy?

Stay tuned for the answers.

I am amazed every day when people present the Gospel as if it is people being nice, to other people, for the sake of getting those people saved. The Gospel, or good news is not just getting saved! The Gospel is an eternal relationship with God; starting with receiving Jesus as our personal Savior and Lord. It is much more than the recognition of our sinfulness and need for a forgiver! That is simply the "door" to this spiritual and profound relationship with a supernatural God. The Bible speaks of this relationship as the deep calling deep! Salvation is living the Kingdom life here on earth and on into eternity.

Let me say that nice is not even in the Bible. So, if being nice is on your list of positive, personal attributes, it is no big deal to God. Yes, I know love is kind, but only when attached to grace, while acting in faith! It we teach our greeters and parishioner to be nice, we have done what Wal*Mart does for their greeters. And amazingly, the Wal*Mart greeters are not talking to their friends as newcomers mill about looking for the rest room.

I often hear that so and so is a good person, or someone will say, "I am a good person," when challenged with the question of personal sin. Yet, the Bible is clear that no one is good, not Hitler, and not Mother Theresa. God did not die on a cross to make bad people good, He did that so the dead people would live!

Christians get a bad rap when they come out against things like abortion and gay marriage. If they take a stand, then they are intolerant. There is movement in the church to be more tolerant. The difficult part of that is that tolerance is not in the Bible. Love is, but not tolerance. Love is not tolerant. It is a lot of other things, but tolerant is not one of them.

By the way, Christians don't make, nor enforce the rules. When Christians get legalistic about these types of things, they will come under fire for being insincere and hypocritical. Remember, no one is good. When we come off as not abiding by our own rules, then we are hypocritical. We need to live as humbly as we can, knowing that grace is the only reason that we even have a hope of Heaven. If our focus is serving and loving one another, the true Gospel will pour out of us.

I am not sure what you signed up for when you got saved, but a lot of folks are looking to have a spiritual bellhop now that they know Jesus. Life will be easier because Jesus will solve every problem! The is a dream that will never come to pass. The only place that the word easy is used in the Bible is here: Jesus said, "My yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

John 13:35 "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

Can we stop just being nice, and love. Can we give up on being good and let the old man die, so that Christ can shine though us? Can we stop thinking in terms of tolerance, and think in terms of loving regardless of the actions or beliefs of another? Can we just get to work bringing the Kingdom, and stop looking for easy street? Can we?

Friday, January 9, 2009

Preach the Gospel at all times - if necessary, use words. - St. Francis of Assisi

I don't know about you, but I am tired of canned biblical teachings. How to do this, and how to do that like a real Christian. After 35 years it seems a bit trite... even my own writing. I am no longer enamored by the revelation of another man. I need to hear from Heaven, and now is good!

What makes is even more urgent, is that fact that since I started to write this blog a day or so ago, three people have died. One a woman younger than me with two children; 23 and 21. Another, a hero of mine in the faith, Jill Austin, and the husband of another sister in Christ. I believe he was also younger than I am.

Aren't you hungry for more than a simple "get through the week" sermon, and some Jesus music on Sunday morning? I am! I want to hear from Heaven.

I have been meditating on this verse for some time now.

Matthew 5;16 Even so let your light shine before men; that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

Where are the good works? I guess what I am having trouble with, is not the there is sin in the camp, but how we deal with it. From the failure of the PTL Club to the Clergy Sex Abuse Scandal in Massachusetts and Ted Haggarty, the church is not being a very good witness.

What I want to know is how do we get into the Christian life so that it is thoroughly in us, and pours out of us? I have a few thoughts.

First, just acting religious does not make us a good witness. From my perspective, non-Christians have the following opinions about the church:

-1 We only care about money; hence the investigation of Paula White, Joyce Meyer, Creflo Dollar, Eddie Long, Kenneth Copeland and Benny Hinn.

-2 We are intolerant of homosexuals - IE: Rick Warren

-3 We need to clean up our own house (take the speck out of our own eye) when it comes to folks like Bishop Law and Ted Haggerty

-4 We need to get rid of arrogant showman and minsters IE: Benny Hinn and some other popular televangelists.

-5 We need to stop proselytising; faith should be kept to ourselves.

-6 We need more positive and motivational preaching, not so much about sin. IE: Joel Osteen

I agree with the observations, NOT the reasons behind them. In my view we, the church global, are basically concentrating on the wrong things. Not that the guys mentioned above have done anything wrong. Of course the world is focused on their pocketbooks, not the fruit of thier ministry.

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,"

The verses in this blog are very clear what our witnesses should see. If we are going to be witnesses, then men, all men, not just saved men, are going to glorify God, then we are going to have to do things which glorify God. If we are going to release ministers, then we need to have accountability. Yeah, right, how? It is called relationship, not attendance. These are deep relationships where we are transparent with our leadership group. The one man in power model is never going to work. Read Ephesians 4:11. We have got to work as a body, not as a group of soloists.

The world sees us talking about healing, and not many are healed. They see us talking about family, and our divorce rate is the same as theirs. They see us voting against the homosexual agenda, and then some of our prominent ministers get caught in the lifestyle. They see us vote for traditional marriage, and yet they don't feel loved.

What do we do? The Bible says that we have become a new man, and yet most of the preaching efforts I have heard for 30+ years are aimed at trying to fix the old man. How about letting the old man die and just let the new one out?

James said, "Faith without works is dead." We can't give lip service to our belief systems, that makes us like all other religions and philosophies -- we are just one more to pick from. Our faith needs to show like were pregnant with it! Those around us need to see it working for us. If we have it, and we are being led by God, we'll be attracting converts like the apostles did.

The evidence of true Christianity is love and supernatural power. Do you have it?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Do We Really Believe the Bible?

As a Christian, most of us want to grow in faith, or do we? Have we received a series of teachings or done Bible studies that put God in a box? As a Christian, I have had pastors tell me that certain Bible passages were difficult. Here are a couple of examples:

Matthew 27:51-53 (NKJ) 51 Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, 52 and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.

This text in Matthew is authentic, and as much as I have researched, I have never found it contested. For that reason it has simply been avoided. Honestly, I have heard more preaching about Lazarus' grave clothes. Why? Because the verse about Lazarus gives us a wonderful illustration of the work that Jesus does in salvation. All while avoiding the obvious message. Lazarus came to life after he died and started to decompose! He was raised form the dead. Jesus said "Lazarus come out!" and he did. If He had just said, "come out", the entire cemetery would have been awakened!

What is difficult, is that this verse does not appear to be difficult in Greek or English-- just supernatural.

Here is another verse that pertains to you and I.

Mark 16:17 "These signs will accompany those who have believed : in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues ; 18 they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover ." 19 So then, when the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed.] [And they promptly reported all these instructions to Peter and his companions. And after that, Jesus Himself sent out through them from east to west the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation. ]

This particular verse, if you read your NIV study notes, does not appear in all reliable manuscripts. It is contested as an authentic scripture. Therefore; it shouldn't be in the Bible? Or it should? Or we can't determine if it is really God?

Let's take a closer look to see if there more authoritative scriptures than this. We'll look at each portion of the preceeding passage and see if we can verify it, or dismiss it.

Regarding Signs and Wonders (Miracles):
Acts 2:43 And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.

Acts 4:16 16 saying, “What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it.

Acts 5:12 And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people. And they were all with one accord in Solomon’s Porch.

Acts 14:3 Therefore they stayed there a long time, speaking boldly in the Lord, who was bearing witness to the word of His grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.

Romans 15:19 in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and round about to Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.

2 Corinthians 12:12 Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds.

Regarding Casting Out Demons:
Luke 10:17 ESV The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!"

Luke 8:2 ESV And also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out,

Mark 3:11 ESV And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, "You are the Son of God."

Matthew 17:14-20 ESV And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, said, "Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him." And Jesus answered, "O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me." And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. ...

Matthew 12:22 ESV Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw.

Regarding Healing:
Luke 8:47 NKJ Now when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before Him, she declared to Him in the presence of all the people the reason she had touched Him and how she was healed immediately.

Luke 8:48 NKJ And He said to her, "Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well. Go in peace."

Luke 5:17 NKJ Now it happened on a certain day, as He was teaching, that there were Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting by, who had come out of every town of Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was present to heal them.

Regrading Snakes:
Mark 16:18 18They will pick up serpents; and [even] if they drink anything deadly, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will get well.

Luke 10:19 Behold! I have given you authority and power to trample upon serpents and scorpions, and [physical and mental strength and ability] over all the power that the enemy [possesses]; and nothing shall in any way harm you.

Acts 28:3-6 Now Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and he was laying them on the fire when a viper crawled out because of the heat and fastened itself on his hand. 4When the natives saw the little animal hanging from his hand, they said to one another, Doubtless this man is a murderer, for though he has been saved from the sea, Justice [[a]the goddess of avenging] has not permitted that he should live. 5Then [Paul simply] shook off the small creature into the fire and suffered no evil effects. 6However, they were waiting, expecting him to swell up or suddenly drop dead; but when they had watched him a long time and saw nothing fatal or harmful come to him, they changed their minds and kept saying over and over that he was a god.

Regarding Poisonous Food:
2 Kings 4:38-41 38Elisha came back to Gilgal during a famine in the land. The sons of the prophets were sitting before him, and he said to his servant, Set on the big pot and cook pottage for the sons of the prophets. 39 Then one went into the field to gather herbs and gathered from a wild vine his lap full of wild gourds, and returned and cut them up into the pot of pottage, for they were unknown to them. 40 So they poured it out for the men to eat. But as they ate of the pottage, they cried out, O man of God, there is death in the pot! And they could not eat it. 41 But he said, Bring meal [as a symbol of God's healing power]. And he cast it into the pot and said, Pour it out for the people that they may eat. Then there was no harm in the pot.

You, see, the Bible is an amazing book, the human owners manual. With a little effort, faith is not really that difficult. It is accepting the supernatural as a way of life, that can be beyond the average believer.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Role of the Holy Spirit - The Power to be a Son or Daughter of God

As Christians, we may not have ever been taught about, or experienced a personal relationship with the Holy Spirit. We all have been encouraged to have a personal relationship with Jesus by praying, reading the Word and going to church. He is our savior, friend, forgiver and strength. We are often taught of the role of the Father as Creator, Judge, the One who is slow to anger, and the One that knows the date for the end of the age. What is puzzling to me is this, for some reason the church global, often excludes the role of the Holy Spirit and rarely teaches us to have a relationship with Him. Experiencing the Holy Spirit as the manifest presence of Jesus here on earth, should be part of our daily activities and spiritual life.

So what is the difference between having a personal relationship with Jesus, and one with the Holy Spirit? There is not a difference per se. However; understanding the relationship between the persons of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are essential to a full and intimate relationship with a living and supernatural God.

Understanding the relationship of the godhead (trinity) is simple, and complex at the same time. God is not three separate entities, but He definitely has three distinct persons (roles). Just as your earthly father functioned in the role of father. Assuming that your parents were married, he also had the role of husband. Most men also have a title at their job; thus a third role, The trinity is similar. His role as father was to provide and protect His children. His role as husband would have been as a mate to his wife and he may have been a general manager or carpenter at work. It is the same person, with three very distinct roles, distinct responsibilities and distinct relational "qualities."

We might think of these roles in a more simplified fashion. The Father is law and judgement, Jesus is love and grace (by faith) and the Holy Spirit is power and wisdom. Without power, no matter how much we participate in religious activities, and obey the law, we are as helpless as a car with out gasoline. Without wisdom, we are directionless as a sailboat without a centerboard.

If you are over 17, you have probably noticed the difference between the actions of men and woman. The difference between God the Father and God the Holy Spirit is analogous. The Holy Spirit, for the purpose of understanding His role, is a bit like the wife. The Holy Spirit is submissive to the will of the Father and subject to the rule of Jesus-- and coequal at the same time. The Holy Spirit is not the head, but the one that carries out that mandates of Heaven on earth. The role of the Holy Spirit is to glorify Jesus and be a witness to His work on the cross now and throughout eternity.

As we meet, and get to know that person of the Holy Spirit, our passion and love for Jesus will grow. That is His purpose; to point to Jesus. This is why Jesus sent the Holy Spirit, as a sign that He had been glorified (John 7:39).

Here are 9 important roles the Holy Spirit plays in the part of our sanctification and walk with the Lord.

1 Helper (John 14:16) - The Holy Spirit is a helper; literally "called along side." This is the same Greek word that is sometimes translated comforter in other contexts.

2 Comforter (Acts 9:31) - Literally, "one who pleads another' case" It is the job of the Holy Spirit to express our pain, and bring peace as a judgement of Heaven.

3 Counselor (John 14:16) - The Holy Spirit is the one that brings peace in our relationships.

4 Convicts Us (John 16:8) - The Holy Spirit is the one that guides in what is right and wrong as God sees it. This is not our moral or ethical compass, which is subject to emotion, rationalization and human logic, but a powerful prodding by God Himself.

5 Peace (Romans 14:17) - The Spirit of peace and relationship maker. The Spirit reminds you of Him (John 14:26).

6 Teacher (Luke 12:12) - Literally "speak for us" with God's voice. The Holy Spirit is the one that recognizes the "rehema," the living word of God. The Holy Spirit is alive and He will challenge our beliefs, our traditions and our religious acts. Preparing our works to be judged with fire. The Holy Spirit will prompt us to be doers of the Word, not just hearers.

7 Witness to Jesus (John 8:18) - He will witness to Jesus, not to Himself. His work will cause all men to give glory to Jesus. It was the work of the Holy Spirit that caused John to say, "we write of what we have seen."

8 Seal of Salvation (Ephesians 1:13) - The Holy Spirit in us. is the assurance of our salvation. Only the Holy Spirit can bring us the assurance of our faith in the eternal Kingdom. The coming of the age of the Holy Spirit is was Thomas was lacking. He had seen Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead and participated in the feeding of the 5,000 men and their families. He knew what Jesus could do, but until that day of Pentecost, He did not have the assurance of the power to do it by faith.

9 Power to participate in Kingdom Activities (Luke 1:17, Luke 1:35, Luke 4:14, Acts 10:38, 1 Cor 2:4, Gal 4:29)

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Realtionship With God is Key - A Preview

Many Christians seem to fall into three groups when it comes to the level in which God is allowed to act in their lives. The first group doesn’t believe that God will act personally on their behalf, therefore; they can’t expect anything from Him. This type of faith is characterized by this sort of belief system. “We should be glad with salvation and try to be good until that last day.” “If miracles happen, it is purely by chance.”

The second group gives lip service to that fact that God does miracles and heals the sick, but deep down they do not have faith that He will do something especially for them. In some cases this is unworthiness at work. They will often use excuses like these: someone else “deserves it more,” or “needs it more” than I do. “God would heal someone with cancer before He’d heal someone with a cold.” Theologically they believe that God can, but do not have faith that He will.

The third group seems have some sense of entitlement to the miracle and healing hand of God. I call this “hyper faith.” These people feel as though they can get God to deliver whatever they want, simply because they deserve it as a child of the Most High. When God doesn’t deliver, it’s the devil’s fault.

Do not misunderstand; we are entitled to the benefits of the kingdom as heirs of Christ, but on God’s terms, not ours.

In the 80’s there was popular, and thankfully short lived teaching called, “Call, Claim, and Command”. Like many teachings, it was based on the biblical principal that what we speak has power. The method of relating to God was to speak out our need, claim that which we have as heirs in Christ, and Command the heavens to provide it. As you might guess, this is a not a relationship, but a formula. It was later known as “Blab it and Grab It.”

There is spiritual confusion because the principals of the Kingdom are always at work, yet they are in conflict with faithlessness, our own understanding, incorrect understanding of the scriptures, the sovereignty of God and various and sundry forms of godlessness. For example, the biblical principal, of sowing and reaping will work for anyone; saved or unsaved. Those that sow will eventually reap—sometimes slowly; sometimes quickly. However; we cannot simply “give to get” out of compulsion, demanding a return from God on our time table. Going boldly to the throne room in faith is not the same as feeling some sort of entitlement to the things of God. This group is characterized by saying things like, “Just speak it out.”, “Well, you are sick because you don’t have enough faith.”

When it comes to healing, we need to see the entire spectrum of possibilities. With a careful examination of healing in Gospels, we’ll see that sickness is sometimes a lack of faith, other times the result of sin, and more often, a sovereign state in which God intends for His glory to be seen on earth. Simply stated, sickness is the result of living in a fallen world. God can and will use even the devil to achieve His ultimate purpose, relationship with the Most High.

Because God is sovereign, some things that we “believe for” are not what He wants for us. When the windows of heaven do not open, it is not always that devil’s fault, and if it is, like Job, God is allowing it. If we pray that which is God’s will for us, we will see many more answered prayers. God is not our spiritual bellhop.

Our personal relationship with Jesus is just that, personal and should be growing in intimacy. Our very creation can be identified with DNA, that’s unique! How much more would a loving God be concerned about our hopes, desires and needs?

God is many faceted, deep and a lifetime of searching is not enough to see the depths of who He is! In my own studies, I found 600+ names and attributes in the Bible. Initially He is the Father to us, the baby Christian. He desires to be known by His children, play with them, love them, talk to them, enjoy them, and guide them. When He sees fit, He corrects them too. God is not in the business of making bad people good, He is in the business of making dead people live. Job one for God is a vibrant living relationship with Him.

God is most interested in knowing us, and having us know Him, not performing parlor tricks and handing out blessings. He created us, and He is personal at every level of our life. He has counted the very hairs on our head; He has listened to our every thought, our every prayer, and every word that passed through our lips. He did not miss a single one. This idea of the depth in which He knows us, alone, is worth a good long meditation.

God is not just a receiver of our behavioral reports. He is not disconnected from us. It is us, who through sin, have become disconnected from Him! Our job is simply to get to know Him, and He will address our needs, not always our wants.

The truth is that we all simply deserve death for our sins. No one is good enough to deserve anything from God. That is what makes the Gospel so wonderful. By grace, and nothing else, God saves us, and wants to have a relationship with us! He is sovereign, and as one Anglican priest said, “He does was He darn well pleases, when He pleases, and it is not required to be fair, or make sense to us. Our job is to have faith, love God and one another”

To find out ways to build a deeper, more intimate relationship with Jesus, stay tuned.

I am working on a new book which I hope will be available sometime in the early Spring. These previews are rough drafts of stories and biblical insights that I'll be including.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Sharing the Holy Spirit with My Evangelical Friends - A Preview

In my enthusiasm for the Holy Spirit - the witness of Jesus on earth -- I just couldn't contain myself. I somehow rounded up a bunch of friends from the local evangelical church and invited them to one of the conference meetings. They were nice folks, loving, but always struggling. By there own admission, they were saved, but each one confessed that they didn't seem to be going anywhere with God. Religion for them was boring and bit dry. They had been told that tongues were of the devil, and that any worship of the Holy Spirit and not about Jesus, was a cult.

“Do you believe God?” shouted a loud and fiery preacher from the platform; right in the midst of worship. There was such a sense of the need to repent, that I hit my knees as soon as I found a seat. Closing my eyes, I quietly cried out, “God forgive me, God forgive me! Oh Jesus, please forgive me.” I wasn't looking around me—it was me and the Lord right then. A few minutes later, when I felt a release, I stood to my feet and I noticed that hundreds were on their knees around the sanctuary. Except for an Anglican mass, I had never seen such a sight.

The meeting went on going between worship and preaching, to prophesying and praying, and back to preaching again. The air was filled with anticipation. I hung on every word, every note expecting something to happen. What, I didn't know.

At the first of many altar calls that evening; a couple that I was with went forward. The husband asked for healing for his a lung disorder. As the presence of God came on him, the preacher asked him to recite the sinner’s prayer. He just began to cry as he mouthed the words.

“Are you full of the Spirit?” she asked. “You know, God won’t give you a scorpion when you ask for an egg.” She continued. “Do you want to be full of His spirit, His Holy Spirit?”

He barely eked out a “yes,” and the power of God caused him to lean forward 45 degrees to the floor. As he started to speak in tongues, he just hung there, almost suspended in thin air.

“Now do you want to be healed?” she asked.

“Yes” he said, and hit the floor, overcome by the power of God.

The preacher leaned over and grabbed his hand, “Get up and run! Show everyone what God has done for you tonight!” She exclaimed.

He got up and ran around that sanctuary! “I can breath!” he shouted as he took his victory lap down the center aisle. People clapped and gave God praise as he returned to the seat next to me.
Next it was his wife’s turn. They had been trying to have a baby for nearly five years. One of the ministers laid hands on her belly, and shouted. “I break the curse of bareness over your womb!” She fell to the floor.

A few weeks later my friend’s wife was sick in the mornings and went for a pregnancy test. The doctor determined, not only that she was pregnant, but that she had conceived the day of the conference! We laugh about it every time we bump into each other. Because of his healing that night, they went home and believed God for her miracle.

I am working on a new book which I hope will be available sometime in the early Spring. These previews are rough drafts of stories and biblical insights that I'll be including.
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