Wednesday, April 29, 2009

So, Why Would Anyone Want to Be Like You?

In our world of political correctness, economic uncertainty, divisive politics, and church that can't even keep half the people that come through the door, what's the big deal? You're probably a Christian, one of about 30 who read this blog each day. So, why would anyone want to be like you? What would cause a sinner to want to be saved by grace and become like you?

No kidding, as Christians we have our own language... we're going to a meeting, you know like PTA right? Or maybe mass... which sounds like the name of a heavy metal grunge band, don't you think? I wonder if mass is ahead of Ozzy in the charts? One guy told me the glory showed up at his service... I am like, "dude, I have never heard of them, do they have a MySpace?" One new mother was trying to get some anointing to use her toddlers diaper. Crazy.

Some of us tell folks they are going to Hell, and many think, I have already been there. And when I get there all my friends will be there. But the ones that really know about Hell, they are certain that Hitler is there, and rapists and murderers and everyone else that has really harmed them. Have you seen the confused look on people faces when you tell them need to be saved? "Why, did my plane land in the Hudson?"

And it's not just what we say, but worse, it is what we do. Forget the Catholic Sex Abuse Scandal, Ted Haggerty and Rick Warren lying coast to coast on TV, I am talking about what happens on Sunday morning between the rest room and the pew. Have you stood around talking to your buddies from home-group, the worship team or Bible study, while newcomers looked for the coffee pot and someone to listen? Do you stand around fellowshipping, while strangers walk out the door, maybe to never come back? Did you give someone your email, or get theirs? Do you already have enough friends? Do people know what you do when you are home alone and no one is watching?

So, you call yourself a Christian, what do you believe? Does God answer prayer? Do you pray? Come on, really? Does God love you? Did you share His love, not the word love, but the action love with someone else? Do people know that you are a Christian by what you wear, what you say, or how you act? Are you a good parent? Are your kids serving God? Do their friends know they are Christians? Do you believe that God delivers people from addiction? Did you know that 1 in 10 kids live with and addicted parent? What about them, do you have time for them?

If we are going to preach a Gospel, then it needs to real, because we are real. If we can say to ourselves that so-and-so needs Jesus, the we need to model it for them. Otherwise who can they turn to? The pastor? If those who come to your church don't feel significant, then where else should they go? They are already in counseling and taking sleeping pills and anti-depressants by the handful. Ask yourself, are addicts getting cleaned up in your church? Are people getting healed, needs being met, and the Gospel going out and returning with new converts?

It's a tall order for weak people. We need Holy Spirit power. without out is we are just being religious. Power? I like what Bill Johnson says "The Church has been without power so long that when it shows up we think it's a devil"

Matthew 16:6 Then Jesus said to them, "Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees." NKJ

The Pharisees were model citizens, upright in so many religious ways. But they were far from God, far from His power, and caused others to follow them down the path of destruction. We just can't afford o be like, yet with half the people that have been to church switching to other religions, we need to quickly find out what we are doing wrong as a church.

The good news of the Gospel is that we don't have to do it. We just need to be willing and show up.

If everyone on church treated you the way you treat them, would church reach more people for Christ?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Getting Started - So, What If...

I am writing to myself today. What if we launch a whole new church model? What if you are an apostle or prophet? Even if you're a pastor, a teacher or an evangelist, then what? So many are not functioning in unity. There are too many para-church ministries that are profitable (who would leave)-- ones that should have been part-of-church. Do you think we could talk them into splitting the glory?

Conversely, there are loads of loaners out there, people-- well people like me, that care about the kingdom, and see the American church in disarray. We have tried to plug-in, got our newcomers gift at that door, and now the candy is gone, the coffee mug is lost, and the CD is at the bottom of the pile. Sure, we did the beginner's class, and the spiritual gift assessment... hell, I wrote the the darn thing!

I am wondering, is my personal revelation in the past 6 or 7 blogs a total miss? I am wondering if the church will adopt this new way of thinking? Or will what is left of the church as we know it, just go away? What if we start a new work, will we just have another Christian Ghetto? You know, a place where there is limited opportunity, people hurt each other in the name of Jesus, and power, money, and titles become the goal of discipleship? A place where no one really commits to another, they just say hello in the men's room and will pray fr you if you show up at Bible study. Hmmm....

I have a few thoughts - hey, isn't that why you read my blog? In order for this 5-Fold thing to work, we have to get buy-in from someone besides ourselves. Because they are foundational, apostles and prophets need to start linking up and committing to get something going. Make a commitment to local expression in your area. Me, I would try having a small-group that follows the 1 Corinthians 14 format... well just to get things going. We need to be led by the spirit. We need God's vision, not ours. In the process, we need to remember the following.

-1 Love/Covenant - We are to love people. This is outlined in 1 Corinthians chapter 13. It involves being kind, not making a list of wrongs etc. HERE is more on love.

-2 Power/Gifting - We need Holy Spirit power, and nothing less! I like the Quakers, they only did something when God moved, and otherwise they waited. We need to impart gifts, and receive those that are not like ours. It is about body building, therefore; every part is needed.

-3 Teaching - Good biblical teaching is essential. If you can't teach, pray for a teacher! For God's sake, don't rehash a bunch of junk that you read in a book, or have heard over the years. People are looking for manna, not wonder bread. We need to address relationship, witchcraft, covenant and so much more.

-4 Mentoring/Modeling - Do you have a gift? Teach someone else how to do it better than you!

-5 Accountability - Can you just stop being a jerk, and let someone love you enough to be involved in your inner most secrets?

-6 We need to be fruit inspectors. If those we are in contact with are not feeling connected or loved, than we better take a close look at how religious we are.

Anyone want to join me?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Apostle (Part 7 of 7)

The Apostle is a controversial role/gift in most of the church today. I honestly don't know why. If we read carefully Ephesians 4:11 and some of Paul's other letters, in particular 1 Corinthians, we can plainly see that the apostle has a place in the contemporary church. If we reject the notion that the pastor is the quintessential calling, and look at the 5-Fold as a necessary entity; a sound church model, where all are on equal footing, we've made some real progress. Like our beloved triune God who is three-in-one, the church structure is five-in-one. Each facet of the 5-Fold is necessary, and presents a different, but equally important face of the Bride of Christ to the world.

I'd like to take a moment and say what I don't think an apostle is.
- He is not specifically a missionary, or church planter, yet the actual word in Greek means "sent."
- He is not a pastor, although he may take that title for a period time to get a church started.
- He is not a person with all 12 spiritual gifts in 1 Cor 12!
- He is not "over a region" such as a Cardinal in the Catholic church.
- He will not be offering us any new "governmental" revelation-- but hopefully he will set sound church government in place.
- A person is not a 5-fold minister, pastoring, prophesying, evangelizing, teaching and apostling. The is simply contrary to the idea of being a body with many parts.

I think to understand the apostle, first we need to see him (or her) in light of the other 4 roles in the 5-fold ministry. Second, we need to see him as foundational as Paul recorded in 1 Corinthians. Third we should see him as the "sent one" as his title implies; not sitting in a local church for years and years, and lastly to see him in light of things that the apostles did in scripture.

If we look at the mission of the church "to go into all the world and making disciples," then we need to divide that mandate up into the five segments; the Ascension gifts.

- Someone needs to bring in the harvest. This is the evangelist.
- Someone needs to care for them once they are there. This is the pastor.
- Someone needs to teach them about Jesus. This is the teacher.
- Someone needs to provide direction to the church, the local body and the individual. This is the prophet.
- Someone needs to have vision for the church (how it all fits together), and the ability to gather believers for the purpose of fellowship, healing, casting out demons and the like. This is the apostle.

Together these "someones," work as a team to equip all the church for the purpose of unity and the work of the Gospel. If we take a look at the current number of denominations, we can quickly see that we have failed. Unity is not everyone agreeing on everything, but working together to gather the harvest.

Foundationally, the apostle is the one that overseas that the teachings of Christ are not compromised. He is responsible for doctrinal integrity. They are the ones that warn when the church is adding something to the scriptures.

In business, most large companies have a brand which is identified by a logo, a specific font, and other elements of perception to create "the brand." Having worked in marketing on and off, there is usually someone in the organization that is prescribed as the "brand police." It is their job to make sure all advertising and marketing efforts adhere to the brand objectives. The apostle is like that in the church. Christianity has elements that set it apart from any other religion. IE: A living God, communion, spiritual gifts and sacred text to name a few. One of the tasks of the apostle is to make sure that what we do and teach in church, adheres to biblical principals and the law of the covenant. The apostle is not a legalist, but sort of an attorney for God. He is the authority on doctrinal errors and corrects them. (You could think of this series as that sort of correction.)

A New Testament apostle is "sent" by a some sort of local church expression. I believe that he is sent, most often with a prophet, so that he can establish a work, that will become a local expression in a new location. The church at Antioch (Acts 11:22-24) is a great example of the interplay of the 5-Fold working together which was sent from Jerusalem. I have found a number of good commentaries on this subject, so I won't get into any detail here. The point is that an apostle gets a work started, for which the prophet provides direction, so that a pastor can take over and care for the sheep, with the help of the teacher, while the evangelist brings in new converts to be discipled. It is not intended to be a one man show, and never will be. The church is always looking for new terms to provide insight to basic principals. This is probably best known as an "apostolic team" in the contemporary church.

If we look at the acts of the apostles we can get an idea of the fruit of this particular role in the church. I like to look at what Paul did, because he was not with Jesus from the start of His ministry, and he was not there at the crucifixion. And yet, he was an apostle, called by God, who had a tremendous impact on the New Testament church. Here are some bullet points.

- They are responsible for doctrine. Paul wrote most of the NT addressing errors, and giving us knowledge of the purpose of the Old Testament, and it's relationship to Christianity. He addressed critical issues in the church in terms of practice, law and grace. And he helped us identify the works of the Holy Spirit, and pointed out false teachings, false prophets, and false apostles. This is a governmental role of sorts, and has a very specific type of authority.
- The fruit of their ministry is supernatural. The 13 apostles performed healings, miracles, and power backed up the things they taught, and the life they lived.
- They brought impartation (Romans 1:11). The apostle is meant to leave a deposit when he is sent to a another place.
- They are generally strategic, and seem to have revelation about how the pieces fit together. They are often the folks that identify the gifts and leaders in a local church setting. If they are prophetic, it usually to in terms of a strategy.
- The apostle is a big picture person, using his view of the kingdom to set foundational elements in order. Generally the prophet will provide the insight and detail for the placing of these elements.
- Because they are sent, they travel. These are more than missions. Each trip has a purpose and an impartation to leave. A true apostle called of God will have lasting fruit, not the biggest church.
- They are taught by God through revelation. This is not to say that they shouldn't have a commanding grasp of the scriptures. To the contrary, it is their job to see that the Gospel is preached, and that the church refrains from activities that bring in worldly influences that will compromise the mission of the church. The are the sound doctrine police.
- I also believe they are supported by offerings, not by paychecks. In truth, I believe that all workers are worthy of their hire, but when it comes to salaries, I am not so sure.

In the end, our 5-Fold ministers are not to sit down and see which title they should put on their business card, but what is their role, and how can they support the work of the church and adnceve the kingdom of God. The apostle will be concerned about what is next, while he sets in place a sound biblical foundation for the futrue work of the local church.


Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Prophet (Part 6 of 7)

The current state of the prophetic ministry and role within the church, is probably the closest to biblical intentions as any of the 5-Fold gifts. The New Testament prophet, and prophetic gift has some substantial depth and teaching in both the Charismatic and Pentecostal circles. If you have time, John Paul Jackson, Dennis Cramer, Graham Jones and Rick Joyner all have excellent materials available.

Our New Testament prophet is essential to that which the church is doing on a day-to-day basis around the world.

Ephesians 2:19-20 ...God’s people...[are] built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.

1 Corinthians 12:28 And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers...

Like all the ascension gifts/roles mentioned in Ephesian 4:11, there are also the same gifting available to folks in non-leadership roles-- like you and me. After all, you can all prophesy-- well if you want to. But that doesn't mean that you will be at the level of a seasoned prophet. Like any calling, there is a blending of character, experience, shaping, anointing, release, timing and always God's sovereign hand.

In the church, especially with the prophetic, there are three levels of functioning that seem readily apparent. What I find, is that there is usually a believers level (all), a ministry level (set apart) and leadership/equipping level (5-Fold).

While I am on the subject, this is a great place to mention raising others up. I believe that we should all be training someone to do our job in the grand scheme of whatever you call church. If you are training someone to do your job cleaning toilets, lading a home-group, pastoring, helping, administrating, prophesying, leading worship, or evangelizing, that is is a great thing. If you do that, one of two things will happen. You'll get promoted to a different ministry, or you'll become the leader or equipper, in the ministry that you are currently in, that you were destined to be. There is no set path, or formula that I can find. We are to use the little we are given so that it can be increased. We will reap what we sow, and in the process, God will reveal the call on our lives and the destiny that we have in Him. Our priority is to be obedient.

Back to levels:
- There is the believers level. If you can all prophesy, then everyone can play. This should be encouraging and generally edifying revelation that is helpful to the group(s) that you are a part of.
- The prophetic gift. This is a person that has a high degree of prophetic ability. They are able to have success in not only bringing encouragement and direction, but will often function in words of knowledge, and possibly dreams and visions along with dream interpretation.
- The third is the prophet. His is a person with a very specific calling to be part of the leadership circle of the church. And, they may not be specifically in a local church. Most of the prophets that I know of, have an itinerant portion of their ministry. Our New Testament prophets often function in all of the revelatory gifts. Prophecy, word of knowledge, wisdom and faith, as well as dream interpretation, visions and dreams.

If the prophet is foundational, and he is according to scripture, then he will need to work with an apostle to get the foundation of the church in place. I often envision this relationship as a project manager and construction supervisor working together (not one over the other), to build the structural portion of the living, breathing church-- which is people. They are to set in place the framework for the pastor, evangelist and teacher to launch their local expression, gathering souls and discipling believers.

If we look at the Old Testament prophets, much of what we see is them constantly after the character of Israel. If Israel is a type for the church in scripture, and some times it is, then our prophets will need to be concerned about the character of the church. As Nathan went to King David, exposing his sin with Bathsheba, the prophets role will be one of character building. As other kings, even Saul, used prophets to guide Israel in times of battle, and Joseph was used to save Egypt from destruction by famine, the prophet's role is to help the church navigate her course to achieve her destiny both locally, and globally.

In the Old testament, prophets came in many different packages. There were the whiners; Jonah and Elijah, the criers and those with bad attitudes. In the New Testament we find the likes of John the Baptist. Prophets always seem to have some strong and distinctive character traits, and the doesn't seem to have changed. The purpose of the New testament prophet is to provide direction to the church, bring correction and warnings, foretell events in the world and in the church, equip the saints for the work of ministry, and encourage and edify the body. This direction often carries out the blue print of sorts, that an apostle will have. Both roles require revelation, but one is more visionary; the apostle, and the other is more directive and focused.

In the end, that prophet is essential for keeping the church on track, and working with the apostle to build a foundation on which the local expressions of the church can exist to win souls, and disciple its saints.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Evangelist - (Part 5 of 7)

The third role in the 5-Fold church model is the Evangelist. In the modern Protestant church an evangelist is often an individual in a para-church organization that does not have a Bible degree, where as a pastor does. The difference between a pastor and an evangelist is a degree?! That just seems silly to me.

The person with the role of evangelist is to bring others to Christ! He is also an equipper, so he needs to equip others to bring folks to Christ. Evangelists care about souls, and not too much else, I have found. They ask, "Are you right with God?" "Do you know where you'll go when you die? " And they are quick to turn any Bible passage into the Gospel message. They are most often preachers and not teachers. Sure, we are all to preach the Gospel to the lost, but teaching is for believers so they may "put on the mind of Christ." Preaching is to the heart, as Peter's first sermon cut to the "heart," and 3000 were added to their number. Teaching targets the mind and it is different from preaching. One works on our spirit, and the other renews our thoughts. As we are body, mind and spirit, each one requires a different type of nourishment. Amen? These definitions of delivering the Word of God are certainly in the Bible, but often overlooked. I mean, why would we continue to preach the Gospel to a group of saved sinners? Wouldn't it be better to teach them to be disciples and get them past the elementary teacings?

On April 24th, 1999, I met a Brazilian fellow, in the hallway at the Salvation Army, after attending an evening service with a couple of friends and my family. I felt impressed by the Lord to pray for him as I was making my way to the parking lot. So, I asked Carlos for permission to do so. As I was praying, I felt the Lord say to me, "he's an evangelist." I said that as I was praying over him. He said, "Oh no brother, I am not an evangelist, I am a pastor."

The prophetic gift in me pressed on. "How many people got saved the last time you preached?"

"57... that was on a street corner in Belo Horizonte." he said in a very humble voice.

"57! Are you kidding me? I exclaimed. "I don't know a church within 400 miles of here where more then a dozen got saved in the last year!!!!! You, you're an evangelist, says the Lord"

"Brother I am a pastor." He replied, "I have been to Bible school."

"I don't care where you've been, my friend, you are an evangelist. The kind that preaches the gospel with power!"

We later talked about Phillip in Acts 8, and some other instances where the gift of evengelism was in use.

In the ten years that we've been friends, he brought 44 people to Jesus on a tour bus of 60, as it negotiated the mountinas in central Brazil. On the streets of Brazil and the restaurants of Cape Cod, I have watched him lead many to the Lord. In one church meeting with about 100 people, there 14 more. These were people that thought they were already saved, but when the anointing of the evangelist came, they were convicted and repented. I have rarely seen such a gift in operation. From Jerusalem to Bogota, New York to Boston, he has brought the message of salvation in four languages to those the God had prepared their hearts.

I one attended a church where the pastor was an evangelist. People got saved just about every week. One week we were praying over the chairs in the cafeteria of the school where we met. I stopped at one specific row, and proclaimed, "this is the row of salvation." He sort of rebuked me and said, "all these rows are rows of salvation." As he finished his fifth or sixth closing, that particular row had a couple that were living together, sitting on the right of the main aisle, and a lone woman on the left. As he gave the call for those that wanted to give their heart to Jesus, three hands went up. The couple went on to get married and became the youth pastors of the church.

The problem with that type of church, is the pastor is so focused on souls, that their ministry has little depth in terms of pastoring, or teaching. When believers become hungry for more of the Lord, they either get pressed into the model of soul-gatherers and become like the pastor, or burnout on getting saved each Sunday, and move on to greener pastures.

The evangelist primarily belongs outside the walls of the church except when they are teaching to equip the church. There are many expressions of the Gospel. From friendship and servant evangelism, to tent meetings, altar calls and street evangelism, all should end with an opportunity to receive Christ, and the evangelist is the perfectly equipped for the job.

The Blood of Jesus and the ministry of reconciliation are the tools of the trade for the New Testament evangelist. He or she may have other gifts, but their appetite for the lost is insatiable.

Evangelists seem to work well with prophets and apostles. Many, but not all of the ones that I know, are strong personalities. I find they generally accuse the pastoral types of being too "soft" from the pulpit, and having too much grace for sin. That is the best reason, to get them out there were they have the greatest opportunity for reaching those who don't know Jesus.

The evangelist coupled with prophetic revelation of who is ready to join the kingdom, are the most effective workers that I have seen. Given the opportunity from leadership, they go to work diligently bringing in the harvest.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Teacher - (Part 4 of 7)

As we make our way though the 5-Fold ministry callings, I have chosen the teacher as the second one because it, like the pastor, seems familiar from the old church traditions. If you have previously subscribed to the pastor/teacher model, hopefully you'll see the problem with the pastor's focus being split between study/teaching and relationship building-- a tall order that many cannot achieve.

Romans 12:7 “ If it [gift] is teaching, let him teach.” In the Biblical language this meant to communicate the truths of the scriptures so that those that heard put it into practice. Teaching makes difficult truths understandable over time. it is not logic, for the ways of God are higher than ours. It is instructing with the goal of reaching Christians with the "rehema" understanding of the Biblical passages.

True teaching brings God's insight to prophetic, allegorical, symbolic, historical and instructive passages of the Bible. True teaching sees the layers of understanding in a single passage. For example, we have all heard the story of Jesus' first miracle at the wedding of Cana. For many, this is simply a historical passage. And it is. But to the teacher, it is seen as a prophetic parallel to the story of salvation. Jesus turns that water (Holy Spirit) into wine (salvation) while in the earthen vessels (you and me). Then it is taken by those that know Him, to the master of the feast (those with out the Holy Spirit) and so forth.

On another level we could see this as a miracle that needs to be done in our life. A place where we need Jesus to transform us. We may identify with the struggle with timing or release, the natural response of His mother, versus the supernatural response of Jesus. Although this is more preaching than teaching (see Evangelist in Part 5).

When teachers equip the saints, building up the body of Christ, the saints are taught to do their part in the building process, it is not just the job of the teachers. This is why scripture says that ALL believers should be able to teach the fundamentals of the faith; not just the teachers. In fact, teachers should be called to a much higher level of teaching, than merely the fundamentals. Hopefully, with the help of the pastoral staff, the believer goes from being a hearer of the word, to a doer of the word.

The New Testament teacher's sole purpose, is to cause Christians to understand the written word of God-- to put on the mind of Christ. The true teaching gift brings out nuances of the word which EQUIP the saints for the work of ministry. These are not "how to get through your crappy week" sermons. They are life and instruction for being heirs of the kingdom, and children of the living God! This the kind of teaching that prepares you for the work of ministry. I don't believe a great teacher needs to be strapped to a local congregation week after week. Because the teacher is an equipper, he trains teachers for Bible studies, home-groups, kids church, youth teachers and even pastors. He may even be a professor in a Bible school setting.

If the teacher is able to participate in the process described in the following verse, he has done his job.

Proverbs 2
1 My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you,
2 listening closely to wisdom and directing your heart to understanding;
3 furthermore, if you call out to insight and lift your voice to understanding,
4 if you seek it like silver and search for it like hidden treasure,
5 then you will understand the fear of the LORD and discover the knowledge of God.


The Pastor - (Part 3 of 7)

For most of us that have attended both protestant and Catholic churches, we are used to a priest or pastor at the helm of our local church. That is the way it should be. However; as we've seen in Ephesians 4:11, there is more to it than that.

For our Catholic friends, their priest has the help of deacons, bishops, cardinals and the pope. It has pretty much become a corporate structure at this point in time. I am not sure how all the hierarchy works, but there is one over the other with the pope in the highest position. Our Protestant friends, in most cases, are accustom to a senior pastor, a deacon board, elders and occasionally some sort of self titled apostle (church planter). Outside of the church they may have itinerant evangelists and possibly a prophet. They are almost exclusively para-church organizations, with no real connection to the church.

In the end, the pastor most often turns out to be CEO of the local church, and rarely reports to someone above them. Sometimes his elder board are co-equals, but rarely have I seen it this way. It is most often the pastor over the elders, over the deacons, over the other ministries, over the congregants.

The corporate types say, someone must be in charge. Someone should have the final decision in a disagreement. I don't see it in the 5-Fold model per se. I believe that the elders are the authority in the local church. This is where gifting comes in. A God designed leadership that compliments each other, makes for the most effective local church ministry. Deacons are often seen as servants. If that is the case, why do they vote? I can't find voting in the Bible-- just the casting of lots.

As you can see, there are some problems with a corporate church structure. And add to that, the exegesis of Ephesians chapter 4 where some scholars believe that in the Greek, it says pastor/teacher, really making it a 4-fold collaboration, then we start to see the root issues with pastor controlled churches. I just don't see it that way. If the 5-Fold giftings are to be co-equal as equippers, then all must do some sort of training and teaching. Each facet of the church ministry needs to be taught, and demonstrated.

Remember roles, are not gifts, and gifts are not roles. Anyone can have a gift, only those that are called have a role.

Many pastors are relegated to fill the visionary roll, the administrative role and the teaching role, not to mention being the paid holy-man, toilet cleaner and resident evangelist. It is sad. Many good men and woman are burned out doing things that are required of them, while they spend little time working out the details of their call.

Most Christians can't really tell you what a biblical pastor does. When we look at the 5-Fold model of "church" there are some things that he doesn't need to do, and other things that could be done by others around him. A pastor is often required to be a visionary, but isn't that really the job of the apostle? The details of the vision are often given by the prophet. Administration? Why does that pastor have to be good at organizing people? Again, this is a role probably better suited to an apostle.

So what does a 5-Fold pastor do? He always responsible for relationships, helping people become whole through counsel and prayer, and he is available for confession. In short, he is the one that facilitates making others feel significant to Jesus. He is the salt and oil-- the gentle Jesus in the flesh-- there to heal the soul. A good pastor is relational, perceptive to the needs of his flock, understands brokenness and people in general. He should be able to teach others to do the same. Folks with the helps gift will often be by his side.

The pastor is the one that leaves the 99-- not boasting about how many sheep came to the service-- going after the one that didn't. He is the one that finds out why people are not involved in their local church, and does something about it. How awesome would it be for a pastor to go out and find those that have stopped going to church because they have been hurt, offended, unloved and rejected by the body?

Our new pastor, he lives to meet needs, and he is dedicated to seeing folks healed and become productive as disciples of Christ. Certainly he prays, makes sure the sheep are fed, knowing that he doesn't have to do all the feeding. He is the role model of forgiveness, mercy and grace. He knows that a real shepherd leads from the back of the flock, not from the front.

As I diagrammed in the previous blog, a pastor may have other spiritual gifts, such as a word of knowledge, or healing. Whatever gifts that he has, they will augment his basic role as pastor: healing, reconciliation and relationship.

I have to confess, my pet peeve is when a pastor is not a pastor. Because our traditional model is not completely biblical, we can end up having teachers, prophets and evangelists pastoring churches. However; it is not unusual for an apostolically called person to be sent to start a church. Apostles are visionary/structural/gathering folks by nature, and may pastor and teach for a period of time to get things going. A mature apostle, knows that the sooner he fills the role of pastor, that sooner he'll be able to move on to a new work.

Churches pastored by a teacher, are by nature, not very relational and can be a bit legalistic. Teachers tend to be black and white, with little room for the grace that some need to get going in Christ.

Churches led by evangelists will have a high turn over of shallow converts. Without pastoring, seeds are planted in thin soil, often snatched by the devil. Evangelists often lack the nutruing side of a New Testament pastor. These converts don't grow relationally, or work through their spiritual and soulish issues. The nature of an evangelist can be very intense, and powerful, but ultimately, they have a hard time when there are no new souls to be had for Christ.

Prophet led churches are full of vision and revelation, but the nature of the prophet is the least forgiving of the lot. They are the plumb-line of the 5-Fold and grace is rarely on tap. Christians in these churches will be the poster children of "iron sharpening iron." Prophetic folks, hearing from God, tend to be stubbornly "right," often bringing on conflicts as they try to straighten the path for others. This is why the pastoral, relational person is required for long term, and deepening relationships in any church.

As with many things that God intends to teach us, some of it is a bit general, and very personal at the same time. Therefore; there is no perfect job description for our New Testament pastors. Each one, will hopefully fulfill that basic calling to make sure that his flock is safe, cared for, nurtured and fed as God supplies their needs.


Monday, April 20, 2009

The 5-Fold Ministry - Prerequisites (Part 2 of 7)

Now that I have committed to writing about the The 5-Fold Ministry, I had some other thoughts as I spoke with my brother about it. There are 3 main gift lists in the Bible. These are often referred to in gift assessment questionnaires. They include Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4. There are others too, some of which are included in my Power/Government/Gift-Grid below. Keep in mind the following generalities as you read on:

- These gifts are available to all believers. (1 Cor 12)
- No believer that I have ever met, has all of them. Why? We are meant to be a body. (1 Cor 12)
- I don't believe that God takes a gift away for bad behavior. (Romans 11:29) Sure we all have dry times!
- Some gifts seem to come with salvation and/or the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Others are imparted by the laying on of hands. (Romans 1:11)
- Gifts do not have a one-to-one correlation with character. God is sovereign, merciful, and full of grace, and you're not. So, get over yourself. ;o)
- I also subscribe to the Biblical principal that one can receive a one time "power shot" from Heaven, that uses you as a vessel. That too is a gift. IE: You can all prophesy, but not all are prophets, and all do not have the gift of prophesy. The point is that some will get these manifestations of the spirit one or two times, and for others, they can do it like water flowing from a faucet.
- In the healthy church, the Kingdom flows from Jesus, through His leadership, and church structure, to all His people... and then hopefully to those outside the church.
- The gift "pool" as I like to call it, is available to every one that is saved, and I dear say, to those that are baptized in the Holy Spirit, at an even greater level of impartation.

I have written extensively on the gifts, and complained a lot about the lack of a viable 5-Fold model in the church. You can search this blog for the terms "gifts" and "5-fold" for more.

This first diagram simply shows the power flowing from Jesus through the church to all the believers in the church global. This power is not all meant for use in the church, but to empower all believers (the church) flowing through the gift "pool" to use in/for ministry to all mankind. I believe the 5-Fold gifts are structural gifts (callings), and they are for the church global. I further believe the pastor is the center figure in leadership of the local church. But I don't see him as the only authority in "the church." The authority of God rests in the corporate functioning of the 5-Fold, working in unison, not one over the other. As my brother likes to say, "no one calling stands taller than another." That is why you'll see them on the same line in no particular order, other then the apostle and prophet as foundational to the 3 other callings. That simply means that the a pastor needs an apostle and a prophet, as does the evangelist, and the teacher. In the end, the truly need each other. I've put the local church on the second line, because there is a greater sense then a local church having a resident apostle and prophet. These particular callings are more often "sent," while having a bit of and itinerant definition. The "Gift Pool" is a well anyone can dig into, serving first the local body, and then the community. (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

The second diagram is depicting the outflow of gifts to all men and woman of the church who are under the rule and reign of King Jesus. As you can see, the structure remains constant. While someone with the calling, or gifting of an apostle, could also prophesy or preform miracles. Certainly Paul prophesied on the ship before it broke apart in the latter chapters of Acts. Just because one prophesies, does not make him a prophet. I have seen a number of evangelists (those that preach the Gospel to the lost), may also have a healing gift. A teacher certainly has a teaching gift, but he may also have the gift of discernment. The point is that those with structural callings, may also have ministry gifts as well. The purpose of the gifts is to minister. The purpose of the structural gifts is to equip the ministers-- and that's YOU! (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

I see the church as a vessel for the Kingdom of God to be "at hand" here on earth. The structural gifts, or offices, as they are sometimes called (callings), are the essential channel for distributing (equipping) the power of God to advance his kingdom. I prefer to call these the governmental, or structural gifts. Mostly because Paul said that the foundation of the church was built on the prophet and apostle.

As a believer of any kind, you should jump in the gift pool, and begin to walk in the power of God to affect your church, your community and your neighborhood.

A word about offices and titles. For get them! That is man's box for the ways of God.

I once worked at a photography store. A man came in to have some film developed. He had these very expensive pearl business cards. It had his name, and the title "Professional Photographer" printed underneath his name. It said "specializing in weddings." Honestly, I was surprised. Wedding photographers of that era, well the really excellent ones, did not use 35mm film cameras like he did. They used medium format cameras such as Hassleblad, Bronica or Mamiya. The second give-away was the department store film. No one would have trusted a wedding to something less then one of the major brand name films. And finally, the pictures we awful. That poor bride!

The very same week, another man came in, he was dressed in jeans and had long unkempt hair. He said, "I am looking for a job. Here is some of my work." He pulled out six 4x5" slides and laid them on the light table near the register. They we astounding. One a landscape, and another a shot of Stubing Glass, the third was of a still life of pots and pans, and the others were portraits. Each one was beautifully lit, perfectly composed, and had an indescribable sense that I can't explain. Not to mention the photography of reflective and shiny objects is a nightmare! I wasn't able to offer him a job, but I was able to refer him for some other work. He was the true professional, no card, no title, nothing about his looks, or speech said what he did, or who he was-- it was simply the fruit of his craft. That is what the kingdom of God is like, quietly, but powerfully bearing extraordinary fruit.

Our focus is to be on the King of Kings, not the anointing, not an experience, and not the words we say. You see, the fruit of the Spirit in us, is love joy peace and longsuffering (Galatians 5:22). The fruit of our ministry is healing, compassion, love and encouragement in the lives of others. This is is called significance. Everything that we do should make others feel significant to Jesus.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

5 Pillars - A Stable and Growing Church (Part 1 of 7)

When your car is making a funny noise, or not performing as expected, you take it to someone that can repair it. When you are not feeling well, you go to a doctor to see if there is something they can do to heal your body. When you are in emotional pain, you might see a therapist or counselor. When your house has termites, you call the exterminator. Barring supernatural intervention, most folks in church are smart enough to know when something is wrong.

The question, what do you do when your church is has no passion, every new vision seems to be the same old thing, every sermon is one that you've already heard, and you have 800 pseudo invitations to dinner, but never get a date and time? Like most Christians, you go to another church, meet a few hopeful friends and start the cycle of disappointment all over again.

Have you sat down to think about why this is happening over and over again? Do you blame yourself for not pressing in, the pastor for not caring, or some other excuse as to why there is little in the way of power, love, invigorating teaching, or intimacy with Jesus?

May I suggest this? Many churches subscribe to traditional church structures that are more corporate (business) like, than biblical. Trust me, if all was well in Church Land, I'd suggest not changing anything. I am firm believer in, "if it works, don't fix it. And if it's broke, shoot it twice!" Honestly, if you are happy with a car that has one tire, or a broom with no handle, then you can stop reading here. Don't you believe that God has more for you? More for your church?

Today, I am drawing a line in the sand. For just over ten years I have been pondering this verse. Ephesians 4:11 "It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up."

My church background is varied, but it includes years in Baptist, Anglican, Charismatic, and Pentecostal churches. I have also attended services in the Church of God, Word of Faith, Congregational, Roman Catholic, Full Gospel and a host of independent denominations (which I would group in either Charismatic or Pentecostal like experiences). What I have not seen is a fully function leadership team that included the 5-Fold ministry gifts, sometimes called the ascension gifts. What I have seen is arguments over the gifts of the Spirit, the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, whether the deacon board should vote or cast lots, whether woman can teach or be elders, and I have also heard that lobsters are the cockroach of the sea (see Jewish dietary laws for an explanation.)

I have studied church history and revival quite extensively, and in a nutshell, here is what I think happened. In the first century church there was great power from On High. So great that Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead for lying about their contributions to the offering plate. Just think about that for one minute. You lie about something you did, or didn't do in church, and your smote right in the restroom.

The 5-Fold gifts were in action, but until Paul wrote about them, there were not really defined (understood). Most folks were Jews and eventually the Gentiles got in on the salvation deal. People brought all kinds pagan and current religious ideas to "church." That is why Paul wrote them letters, known as Epistles. He was instructing them on the way that the Holy Spirit would change them, while challenging them in their own ideas.

Men being men, tried to gain power and position, and the result? The intensity of the New Testament church waned. Instead of rekindling the fire through prayer and repentance, they just got more religious-- like the the Pharisees had been in the time of Jesus. By the third century they had church buildings, and the equipping structure (ascension gifts) of the church started to fail spiritually. The early apostolic movement (gospel spreading/church planting), became nation building followed by the Crusades. Prophets virtually ceased to exist. The role of the evangelist was taken over by "being born into faith," not "born again by faith."

Finally, all that was left was the Pope, the cardinals (elders) and the local pastor who submitted to Rome. His role was more that of an administrator of the local church then a caregiver for the flock. Teaching came from Rome, and no one questioned it really-- well until Martin Luther. People were split over all of this, but many found a true salvation. Since the time of Martin Luther, we've had many revivals in different counties.

I often think of Paul as a somewhat of a music theorist, except that he was a student of the wonders of the New Covenant (Kingdom). Bach didn't know music theory per se, what he did was write music that sounded good to him. Some time later, after his gift was well recognized, folks sat down to analyze what it was that he was doing in this amazing music. Paul did something similar. He saw what God was doing, heard His voice, saw His wonders, and prayed and brooded over the things of the Spirit. Then he wrote them down. He challenged the worldviews of the day, while chronicling for all ages, the will, the heart, and the wisdom of God Almighty.

So what's wrong with the church? Except for some remote areas, the power of God is more talk then action. All around the world church folks are religious, denying the power of God, snipping out chunks of the Bible, to suit their own ideas and personal logic.

I don't have all the answers but, I believe the Bible. So where are the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers? Paul said that the prophets and the apostles were foundational to the church with only Christ, the cornerstone more important. You can read it in Greek, and read every commentary on earth, but the word is true. I believe it, do you?

When we look at the myriad of problems in the church, over a long period of time, you've got to agree there is something is wrong!

I'd be interested in your comments. Over the next few weeks, look for a short series on what does the 5-Fold look like in the New Testament church.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Now You Know Why It's FIRE and Grace...

I am sure many of you have heard about Rick Warren's (he prayed at the inauguration) back-pedaling on CA Prop 8. It doesn't matter to me where you stand on gay marriage, and I am not going to debate what I believe the Bible says. What angers me, is that Rick Warren lied on camera (no better if it's off camera-- just that he is caught now). If you listen to the first clip, he specifically endorses Prop 8.

However; if you listen to the first 48 seconds of this clip, he denies it. Or maybe he doesn't think that what is on tape is a statement or an endorsement.

I just have to say, this is why the American church overall, is displeasing to the masses. In my book, you either believe the Bible and preach it, or you are a hypocrite. I just can't see a way to make this a mistake or a gaff, it is spoken from two side of the mouth.

Now for the grace part. I hope that Rick Warren will make himself clear on his mistake, so we can move on.

Monday, April 13, 2009

What's Your Carbon Footprint? - How Are you Impacting Your Environment?

Did you know that cows are one of the major causes of greenhouse gases? That's right, Bovine Betty and her band of flatualating Guernsies, appear to be a significant cause of common greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere. There are others including water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, and chlorofluorocarbons. I didn't want to bore you with the chemical symbols for each of them. (My wife will be amazed at my restraint.) Amazingly, according to the experts (you know an "ex," something that used to be, and "spurt;" a fast moving drip.), the earth has supposedly been around for millions of years, weathered an ice age we are certain of, and an asteroid hit, that we are not certain of. Amazing, don' t you think?

I don't know about you, but I am very concerned about the impending Ice Age those pot smoking scientists told us all about in junior high school. By now I thought we be living in equatorial igloos somewhere on the shores of the Caribbean. In my minds eye I was planning harpoon trips for polar bears in the upper Amazon. But nope, I was wrong... I mean they were wrong, I just believed them. Amazing.

Speaking of stories, you should have heard the ones were heard about the Titanic in 4th grade. These tales about that mean old, nasty ice berg that tore her open from stem to stern. As it turns out, once they got a sub down there, they found a few broken rivets, but the damage, was nothing like what the experts predicted we'd find.

Well, this whole thing with global warming was amusing until the presidency starting allocating bajillions of dollars to the cause. I am not laughing. But I do ponder the abstract math problem for which we would determine how many college degrees one needs until they become a fast moving drip.

Of greater concern, is that amount of garbage we toss into the air and water on any given moment. I'd like to see something done about that! I'd like to see us get off foreign oil for safety's sake. I'd like to see the government stay out of the banking and car business. But most of all, I'd like to give Al Gore a carbon footprint, mine, size 13.

If we can somehow calculate carbon credits, then I am assuming that we have some baseline metric for assessing the impact of our use of fossil fuels and the size of our cow herds have on the environment. In the same fashion, we should be able to calculate the impact on the same environment that we make for Jesus. There will always be fruit from the hand of God. Here are some stats for you.

US Population: 303,824,640
US Abortions: 760,000 per year. Source
US Murders: 20,000 per year. Source
US Rape: 90,000 per year. Source
US Divorce Rates: 8,028,000 per year. Source

What's more shocking is that since prayer was taken out of school, most crime indexes have doubled. Take a look HERE and see for your self. Some have dropped off since there peak in the 90's-- while prison populations have soared.

If you're like me (and my wife hope's that your not-- at least as far as personality goes), you may have had enough. I am concerned that we've doubled the US national deficit in less than 100 days, and there doesn't seem to be an end in sight. I don't care who's side your on, that can't be God. Maybe tomorrow you'll write your reps or attend a TEA party.

Even if you don't dabble in political things, maybe tomorrow you'll reduce the statistics by loving your neighbor, or better yet, your enemy.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Power of the Resurrection In Your Life

It's Easter when people celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, not just from the dead, but to His long awaited place in Heaven. Who cares really? Although I believe that Christians should be better taught about what they believe, I would much rather see them doing 1/10th of what they already know! Topics such as "what goes on in Heaven,?" and the Biblical meaning of Easter aren't as relevant to the troops on the ground. Once we understand the hope of Heaven, can't we move on to walking in our destiny until the end of our days?

These past few weeks I have been angry about the church. Why? Because I am saddened by the lack of leadership, one which does not promote character, power or love. Let me explain. I have seen too many cases where the children of Born Again Christians have been neglected, abused and mislead. When the world sins, I think, "well they don't know Jesus. Should I be surprised? No." When a Christian sins, I think, "who are they accountable to? Who is mentoring them, loving them, and correcting them?" Then I think, "the church doesn't really care."

I don't know about you, but Christian parents that continue on in destructive behaviors are old enough to ask for help-- real help. But kids, they don't know where to turn. Kid's parents tell them Jesus will never leave them or forsake them, and then their parent hurts them. I am not talking about a raised voice once in awhile, nor do I expect Christians to be perfect. I am talking about sin that is unchecked, apparently unpopular in the pulpit, and down right destructive to others-- kids in particular. I just want to know what the hell leaders are teaching that continues to allow this behavior, and why?

As I see it, the church has the following responsibilities once people get saved and the Gospel has been preached.

-1 Love/Covenant - We are to love people. This is outlined in 1 Corinthians chapter 13. It involves being kind, not making a list of wrongs etc. But to love like Jesus did, we need to understand people, marriages, parenting and it's biblical application. Who is teaching you that? HERE is more on love.

-2 Power/Gifting - This is a touchy subject. Some people think that power is only in faith (faith is a vehicle for power, not the power), and others think that if the presence of God can't be felt, that the power is not there. Both are wrong. The power of God is subject to many biblical principals and conditions, including: Faith, love, anointing, holiness, character, timing, the circumstances of the age, and of course God's sovereignty. There is not one specific element that causes God's power to erupt. Because we love, or we are of good character, doesn't guarantee that God's power will flow, nor does the fact that we have sinned stop it either. God's power is a little bit of a mystery, but when the church structure is in order (Ephesians 4:11), I have noticed that it is more present.

-3 Teaching - Good biblical teaching is essential. The problem with that is there are too many opinions, to many overly logical thinkers, and not enough anointing. We have burdened too many pastors that are not good teachers, with the responsibility of teaching. Why? We have also held down good teachers because they were not the pastor, banishing them to an occasional home-group. It's time to raise up teachers, regardless of their position in the church.

-4 Mentoring - I don't like this term, but it is really a better term than discipleship because the church doesn't really seem to know what a disciple of Christ really is. The bottom line is that we need men and woman to take on others for the purpose of modeling the Christan life, or at least some aspects of it. I believe more is a caught then taught in the body of Christ. To quote a line from a John Ruben rap tune, "everybody's sayin' it, and nobody's doin' it." Everbody's doin' it and no body's sayin' it." Let me translate, every one's talking about loving and discipling, and no one is really doing it-- everyone is being a hypocrite, and no one is saying anything about it. Why is it that our teenagers come to church, and sit in the back during worship without engaging? Why are they in trouble, acting out, and getting pregnant? Are we going to blame that on their friends? And if we blame the parents, what is the church doing to oversee the process of sanctification in the parent's lives?

-5 Accountability - This is also a touchy subject. People want, and need to be held accountable. But the policeman mentality of many leaders is pathetic. Without relationship, yanking folks aside for biblical infractions is stupid. Sure, there is the occasional visitor, or new member that doesn't get it. But for the most part I see people that want to exercise their authority without love. If things go wrong, they are the first one to call someone on it. That couldn't be more like the world. And just because you use the word, love, that doesn't make what you do, loving. And lastly, when some one is really out of line, what are the same leaders that have a person "step down" doing to restore them? Setting up an arbitrary time-line for going back to do the very same thing? How committed or involved are your leaders in seeing you through your sin, and depravity?

In the final analysis, I just plain think we can do better-- much better. It is essential that we get in touch with the power of the resurrection in a way that changes us, and empowers us to change the world around us. We can't be religious robots, or so conformed to the world that we are no good to the kingdom. We must be born again of the Spirit, filled by the the Spirit, led by the Spirit, and able to hear that voice of God. If we are unsure of those things then we have been short-changed.

Won't it be a great day in church, when the only thing that is visible in the church, is the Kingdom of God.


Friday, April 10, 2009

Who's Line is it Anyway?

I recently watched a clip of the Drew Carey hosted show, Who's Line is it Anyway? I have to say, I haven't laughed that hard in awhile. But what does that have to do with church?

I think about the different ways that God manifests Himself to His people. We have all been taught about the abiding presence of God; He is in me, and I am in Him (John 14). But there are other times when God's manifold presence (here and now) invades earth. (The kingdom of God is at hand.) This presence is as varied as the names of God in the Bible. I have seen the presence of God manifest in the aroma of lilies and roses, frankincense and myrrh. Other times His presence was so incredible that my knees shook in the sense of awe and reverence of the Most High. Other items it has been like a warm tropical river or blazing fire. And other times the stillness was amazingly alive.

Peoples responses to His presence are varied. Some cry, others laugh, some feel repentant, just to name a few. The presence of God in our lives should be so rich, that we experience Him different ways at different times. Even as I write this His presence is great. I enjoy the relationship that I have with Jesus. One day it is one of reverence, and another He is just a cool Dad talking with His kid one-on-one. Some days He is King, and I am royalty, others He's Dad, and I am the son. Some days He is the Savior and I am the broken soul. And some days He's the correcting Father and I am the rebellious child. Each day brings a new depth of intimacy when I focus on Him.

I have tried to set my life up in such a way, that I get to flow with Him. Some days it is all I can to get a few minutes with my Father. I might just take a minute and sit in the car in front of the house before going in. I don't have a routine, I have a relationship. The cool thing is that God always returns my calls, my texts and loves to hang out with me. I never feel rejected, put off, or unloved. When I pray, I feel like myself, the real me, the one that doesn't have to preform, do a good job, act a certain way, or be sensitive to others. Nope, I just tell it like it is, and He responds.

One of the things that I have learned to do is enjoy God. I keep a short list, I listen to worship music as often as I can. I tell Him that I love Him and I cry out when I need help (it might be better if I did that BEFORE). I look for opportunities to reach out in His name, and I take quiet moments to reflect as needed. I have fun with my Jesus.

Oh yeah, and sometimes I go to church. That's my line.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Logic and Stupidity... to the N-th Degree

Today I saw this bumper sticker. It's right up there with my least favorite, the one that says "Coexist" in different religious symbols. Add to this an Obama sticker and I am in road rage mode.

I am not sure who said it, but this statement is right on in my book. "Evolutionists have done to science, what hypocrites have done to religion."

I heard a scientist, you know, someone that has a theory or hypothesis, and does research and experiments to back it up with facts, call herself an "evolutionary biologist." Honestly, I think that is the best oxymoron I have heard in this millennium. Before you call me a creationist, or an uneducated jerk with a religious opinion, you need to know that I have studied biology, both in high school and college. I watched regeneration take place before my eyes as I viewed a planaria under the microscope. I dissected frogs, worms and fetal pigs-- all before I met Jesus. I also studied both invertebrate and vertebrate anatomy. And, I worked as a medical photographer recording cutting edge surgeries and research data at an Ivy League university medical center.

I have listened to the debates on both sides, and I have to tell you, my instructors and professors in school had me convinced that evolution was more than plausible-- even as a Christian. It was taught as "fact." Their logic was impeccable. The "links" just seemed to make so much sense. Schleiden and Schwann were my heroes as discoverers of CHON, coacervates, microspheres and liposomes-- that study cliched the deal. Furthermore; my mother was educated at one of the best universities in the world, and she believed that we, like the end of a movie, fade to black when it's all over.

Me, I was certain that I understood the mysteries of the universe, and what I didn't, I found many plausible theories for; evolution was one of those. What I didn't do, was my own research until I was a teacher at a Christian elementary school. I had a very intense discussion with the sixth-grade science teacher. She gave me a video that presented much of, what I now consider, flimsy evidence supporting the theory of evolution. The truth is that after thousands of years, there are just not enough connection fossils to support the theory. If there was, this would not be a debate. That fact remains that the "links" or "transitional" fossil just don't exist, and they never will.

Why is that we can find a fossil from stage 1, and then stage 2, but nothing in between? If you look at the fossil record for a place like New Zealand (check out FRED), you can't find a complete set in any one location, never mind in the entire earth. So, ask yourself, why is one present, but not the next? If these fossils were so well preserved over millions of years, why don't we have a perfect evolutionary progression in the fossil record? Did we forget to dig somewhere?

Scientifically, it just doesn't hold water. Even with genetic engineering and cloning, we can't evolve a species beyond a few "mutations." Again, the lack of a progressive fossil record is our best evidence.

Sure there is loads of debate over carbon dating, forensic anthropology and other scientific disciplines that have embraced the Theory of Evolution. For the last time, the fossil record is not even close to complete. Logic is not a substitute for facts, and you don't have to read your Bible to know that-- just watch CSI. There was even a court case where "Creationism vs. Evolution" which was televised on PBS. Creationism took a hit. The folks promoting the agenda apparently lied. Besides God is not on trial, and never will be.

My story is simple. A few weeks before I got saved, I fell off my motorcycle showing off for a girl in the neighborhood. I didn't get hurt, but she seemed concerned. "Thank God you're OK." she said.

"Thank God?," I laughed. "There is no God." I chided.

"There is to. I can't believe you don't believe in God," she fired back.

"Well I don't! The Greeks believed in gods and they were wrong. They just used the mystical to explain things they didn't understand." I said, kind of proud of my argument.

She looked a little sad, and said. "Whether you believe it or not, Jesus died for your sins, and He loves you."

It was a very awkward moment. "Yeah, right." I said in an unconvincing tone and fired up my bike and raced off down the street.

A few weeks later, the love of God invaded my life, my theories went out the window, and my heart was changed forever. I was stunned at the transformation in me-- something was definitely different! My belief system was shattered. Nothing made sense but the fire that burned in my soul. I loved to just close my eyes and feel His presence. When I tried to tell others what happened, I couldn't hold back the tears.

Therefore; all I have to say is, God made man from dust. I'd like to see some scientist do that!

For a previous rant, click HERE.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Spring in New England - April Fools in the North

It is commonly said in New England that Spring starts, not on the vernal equinox as first believed by many scientists, but on opening day at Fenway Park in Boston. I think that Fen was somehow related to Alexander Cartwright (not to be confused with a cartwheel). The northeast is sometimes called down east. I am not sure how they came up with that term, but legend has it that it was a drunk with a compass in one pocket, and a magnet in the other. I don't really know. I am more certain that the term "three sheets to the wind," first described a windmill going out of balance when sheets, covering the four blades, were put on under low wind conditions, while one came off as winds increased-- all this creating a terrible crashing sound before launching the forth blade into the Atlantic Ocean.... or something like that.

As we look forward to the new life of Spring, I wonder if things like braille drive-through ATMs were created in the dead of Winter? The crocus are almost done making their reach to the sun -- sometimes even through the snow. It makes me think of Cat Steven's "Morning Has Broken." I don't really remember the lyrics, but I am plowing through a host of random thoughts related to Spring trying to find something worthwhile to say.

Speaking of random thoughts, I like all the different answers to the "Why did the chicken cross the road jokes?" My favorite answer, to prove to the opossum that it can done! There is even a web site dedicated to the fowl jokes.

Back to my point. Spring in New England may mean daffodils and tulips to some, but for many of us, it means "Mud Season." I am not sure why they call it a season, you can't shoot mud-- or tourists for that matter. There is something about Spring that is different from Winter (the same kind that killed most of the Pilgrims) and that is the cruel April Fools joke of having a day where temperatures soar into the 70's followed by a week's worth of sub-freezing days, followed by a 33 degree day with torrential down pours causing more damage then the Blizzard of '78!

Lots of folks laugh about the changing New England weather by saying, "if you don't like it, wait a minute it will change." If that's really true, then why is Florida full? I mean no one down there talks with a southern accent!

And one last thought, where the hell is global warming when you need it? We had over 100" of snow starting December 14th.

Happy Spring, OK.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Are You My Mother? - What is Your Destiny Anyway?

"Are You My Mother?," you may have been read this book when you were little, or read it to your kids. It is kind of cute as I recall-- somewhat Dr. Seuss like. In the story, a little bird asks a host of other animals if they are, in fact, his mother. Of course, the story ends with a little bird united with his mother. There are some other children's books that have similar motherhood themes such as "Runaway Bunny." In this story the mother pledges her undivided love to her child, as she reassure him that she will be looking for him until the end of time.

Having a boatload of girls ranging in age from 3 1/2 to 21, I have always enjoyed reading these particular books to them. Mostly because they remind me of Jesus and his love for each one of us-- a love that never fails. What would it be like for all kids to have dedicated parents -- well at least one that pursues them? Regardless of what the current culture thinks about family, I have never met a kid that didn't prosper better with devoted parents. It simply changes who kids become. How wonderful it is that we have a devoted Father, one who is on our team!

For many years I have read verses that include the following:

"For you formed my inmost being. You knit me together in my mother's womb." Psalm 139:13

"For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11

If you search for the word destiny, you will come up with another 15, or so, verses. The point is that we were made for something. I don't believe that our future is cut in stone and we are pulled through Christianity like a car in an automatic car-wash. We still have choices to make, prayers to pray and "divine appointments" to walk into! That is why we need to know what our destiny is. As adults, even teens, we can shape what others think about Jesus, about life, parenting, marriage, prayer, worship, and all the elements that go into making a destiny in God.

Today as I drove my 18-year-old home from church, laying on the side of the road, I saw a lonely palm branch discarded by someone on the way home from a Palm Sunday service. You may have been at one where the heard about Jesus asking the disciples to get Him a colt, simply by untying it and telling the owner, "The Lord has need of it." However if we were to update the story to something more familiar, it sounds more like a car-jacking. I saw that Palm Branch as a symbol of a time when Jesus was given glory and praise as he rode that colt in the streets of Jerusalem. It is all discarded as He draws closer to the the cross. By the time Jesus was in the Garden Gethsemane, He knew the immediacy of his destiny. If you remember His discussion with His mother at the wedding of Cana (John 2), she didn't fully grasp His destiny. I am actually not sure that she got it until the day of Pentecost.

But what about us? Do we know our destiny? Do you know your destiny? Are you sure? Have you taken any wrong turns along the way -- heck, are you on the right path now? For each one of us, we need to understand that God has a very specific path for us, which WE have to follow. He makes the road, and we have to navigate it. On the other hand, God also allows us freedom of choice, and He can make do with a plan B, or C, or D, if needed. And He can redeem past mistakes as well as time. However; that is not His first choice. But God is never caught by surprise, He has already seen the movie and knows how it will end. As the verse stated earlier, we have a future and hope, how we get there, and how close we come to the target is up to us. For there to be a happy ending, we need to obey God.

When it comes to our destiny, some times those around us can be a problem. Look Job and Jonah. Job's friends made it hard on him because they had opinions that were not of the Lord. All the guys on the ship tried to get Jonah to shore, almost thwarting the whale ride God had planned to get him back on track. The would probably be called enablers today.

Your destiny is yours. You need to work it out with fear and trembling, but you need to work it out. The best plan for each one of us is to be saved, married to one spouse (if we marry), to be free from addictions, negativity and be vigilant about our walk with the Master. When we fail, and we will, we need to keep our eye on on the prize-- His prize, that one that He has put in our hearts. The sad truth is many of us are led astray by the pursuit of happiness. Whether in relationships, work, and leisure, we usually want something different then God planned for us. Like the rich young ruler who could not sell his "stuff" to follow God, we can be like that too. Sure, there are some noble causes that God will honor in varying degrees because His principals work for every one, not just Christians. These include family, marriage, parenting and the like. However; eventually, having it our way is going to cause a bind with what God wants for us.

We must remember that He wants a relationship with us (read Song of Songs). He is less concerned about our stuff, then He is about our character and the relationship we have with Him. After all, this will be an eternal one.

Recently we've had a new foster child with us. My wife put her into bed the other night, and she was sitting up listening to a bedtime story. When Mary Anne was finished, she asked her if she wanted to lay down and go to sleep. "No, I'd like to look out the window for my mommy," she said.

Destiny, it starts with a family that trains us in the way we should go, then it should continue with a deep and personal relationship with Jesus. We need to hear that voice of God for ourselves. Sadly, some Christians never hear the voice of God, they just hear their pastor, or pick a favorite verse out of the Bible. Because the principals in the Bible are at work, they may even think they have "got it." When things go wrong they blame God. Often times they move on to another god, and then another. Why? Because they never were taught to have a relationship with Jesus, one in which they hear the still small voice of God and do it.

In between Princess Workshops, and bedtime stories, it breaks my heart to hear a toddler cry out for their mother. I feel deeply for those that have lost the ability to take care of their children, but the cycle is rarely broken. That is why we need Jesus, and that is why we need to hear from God. My family is probably God's plan F or G for the kids that end up at on our doorstep. I am tankful that we can possibly be small part of the destiny of one of these little ones-- that we might have enough grace and influence to lead even one, to the living God -- a chance for them to see the work of the cross as an act of love.

Happy Easter week.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Child Like Faith

Do you remember when you were a teenager at the pinnacle of your lifetime intelligence curve? Those were the days when you were surrounded by the friend-trust, a pool of genetically altered humans with a perceived combined IQ of 456,789. Do you remember savoring the defeat of the parental units in your well planned attack to use the car for something other than bringing a younger sibling to school! Those were the glory days. you said, I am eighteen, I am an adult and I am independent... well except that your mom was still buying your toilet paper and washing your sheets.

So what is it that we parents don't know that our kids seem so confidant about? After all, I am the one that has traveled to 15 countries, seen 42 states and 36 national parks. I have degrees in music, art, computer science and theology. I have read nearly 1,000 Christian books from Kuhlman to Lake, Wigglesworth to Nee. I have worked as a hamburger flipper, a carpenter, a music, photography and computer teacher, a radio DJ, a travel writer, a missionary and a software engineer.... whew, not to mention that I work in 21 different languages during the course of my day-to-day job. I thought I didn't know, but I think I do.

When I talk to my kids, I want to support them, and help them take the easier softer path. They don't often choose that, but my 21-year-old thinks I am pretty slick by the way in which I helped her get a great job in this economy. She went in like a typical kid to the interview. She didn't have a car, or the money to buy one. So, she thought that was important to tell the interviewer that. Apparently the interview went pretty cold about the time she finished that sentence. Thank God she is honest-- all the years of Christian school paid off!

She was feeling rather low as I drove her back to her dorm. After all this was the job that she really wanted after working years of weekends and summers at a pharmacy chain. Now that she is partially recovered from knowing everything, she asked me what I thought. I said, "how about you write the interviewer an email, and tell her thanks. Oh and BTW - my dad said that he would make sure that I can get to work if I get the job. I look forward to hearing from you." A few days passed, and I had her send another email. "I haven't heard from you, and I know that you need someone to start work on Black Friday. I am available that day as I am not going home for the Thanksgiving break. Just let me know what hours you need covered." She got the job.

After she started, the interviewer, now a co-worker told her that she was very concerned about the car situation, and would not have considered her except for the emails of reassurance. Score one for dad!

Now that she and I can talk more deeply using English instead of the tribal grunts and rolling eyes, I asked her about church. Actually I asked her why she doesn't like to go anymore. "It's lame, dad. and too freakin' looooong."

"What's lame about it?"

"Well no one talks to us (her and her sister). You know that girl that runs the young adults? She said she would call me and never did. So I sent her Facebook message and she still didn't respond. That's just retarded."

"Really, wow."

"Yeah, and everyone already has friends. I don't need friends like that. I am looking for someone to do stuff with, go to shows, and hang out. You know most of the kids at school drink and party, and I am straight edge and they don't really like me."

"Well what would you change about church?"

"Well I liked that church we went to in CT, the one where they had some really rockin' music, and the youth pastor was on fire. And all the kids said hello, and gave me their IM's and stuff. Can't we just go back there?"

"It's really far (like 170 miles), but maybe once in awhile."

"I just don't understand how they can call themselves Christians, they don't talk to anyone they don't already know."

"Maybe we could try some place else?"

"Why bother. When we needed help, during the divorce, no one called us either. No one really cares at church."

Maybe my kids are smarter than I give them credit for.
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