Saturday, August 29, 2009

Embracing the Desert - Understanding the Dry Times

For so many Christians in the US, I am hearing about dry times, desert times and lack. It would be easy to blame it all on Satan and say, he has robbed me, he has destroyed my life or in some cases, killed those I love. For we know from scripture that is his job. (John 10:10). However, if we look at the symbolic meaning of the desert in the Bible, we'll see that many times it is ordained by God, and serves a purpose for the true disciple of Jesus. If you are not a believer, you simply see life as the "good times" and the "bad times" with life fading to black in the end.

It will only take a few moments for you to think of Bible characters that spent time in the desert. Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist and Jesus; to name a few. Each one was there for a different purpose in God's plan. Job in his own way was also in a "desert," and when it comes to suffering, he is the most well known. But there are many others did that did not live the life of luxury and happiness-- yet they fulfilled the calling of God, using their dry times to give perspective to their times in the refreshing river of God.

Joseph who grew into great favor with God, was thrown into a cistern in the desert long before he reached his destiny. (Genesis 37) Aaron met Moses in the desert. (Exodus 4:27) The Israelites camped in the desert. (Number 10:31) John baptized in the desert. (Mark 1:4)

I have never been to the deserts in an around Israel, but I have been to the ones in the southwest. One thing I noticed after a brief thunderstorm in Arizona as I was on my way to Mesa Verde in southern Colorado, and that was the ability for life to spring up from the dry and dusty desert, in what seemed like mere hours after the rain clouds departed. In the same way, God is at work in the deserts of our lives.

Here are some things God was able to do for a people that trusted him in the desert.
- God trains us in the desert. Genesis 21:20
- He meets with us in the desert. Exodus 5:3
- Feeds us in the desert. 1 Kings 17:1
- He gives us water when we are thirsty. Exodus 17:1
- We are tempted in the desert, but He is with us. Mark 1:13
- You can worship in the desert. Exodus 7:16

An finally God can deal with you in the desert. How will you respond? Are you looking for the cloud far off? Can you wait another week, another year, another generation? 1 King 18:44

And remember, form the from a valley of dry bones, God made and army. Ezekiel 37:1-14

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Motorcade Has Passed

As a resident of Hyannis for many years, Ted Kennedy was a neighbor of mine. I would see his limo around town from time to time. I would also see the limos of dignitaries and presidents en route to the compound-- Bill Clinton and Chris Dodd to name a couple.

My friends rescued him one of the many times he ran Maya aground on the sand bar off Hyannisport. Some of the locals called him the Rum Faced @$#%$. Others sported bumper stickers that said, "He Can't Sail Either." Me, I photographed him in the 80's when he spoke at the NEA conference in Hyannis. I remember thinking about all the pain that he must have suffered with the murder of two brothers, the plane crash in Springfield and the incident at Chappaquiddick.

I was five when brother John was gunned down in Dealey Plaza and I well remember sitting in 4th grade learning of Bobby's murder. I even knew guys in the Coast Guard that searched for John Juniors plane after it crashed in the North Atlantic. Of course there was Kennedy scandal after Kennedy scandal over the decades; even the kids were having trouble. I do have a fond memories as the Terminator was added to the clan.

So what do you make of the life of Ted Kennedy? Personally I voted against him year after year and found his life a bit of a train wreck. But I am not throwing any stones-- just observing. The news is filled with tributes of how he garnered federal funds into the coffers of my state -- the Big Dig fiasco. There are others of how he helped the parents of a missing girl find solace by initiating legislation in hopes of curbing future child abduction tragedies. There are others that said he was spiritual because he prayed, and good because his votes in the Senate affected everyday people. I am sad when people die, it causes me to come to terms with my own mortality? How about you?

I guess what I find unsettling about the Liberal Lion, is this: he was able to do so much for so many, what if he'd had a Biblical premise for all of his Senate votes? In the end, he will be given credit for a being a champion of the poor, the under dogs, and the working man. And in some cases, even a champion of mankind. I also heard it said that he was a friend to many.

If we can take away one thing from the life of Ted Kennedy, it is that his influence changed things in this world -- a big thing. What makes me sad is that is the job of the church to change the world, yet we are mostly caught up in our traditions, our programs and spending time tying to rewrite scripture to be more like the world calling it relevant. Don't you think that it's time we became champions of the poor, of families, woman and of the Gospel? Church, where are our Ted Kennedy's? Being the church means that we are to shape culture, not react to it.

Isn't there someone with influence that is willing to promote the Gospel?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Handshakes, Baby Kisses and Hemorrhoids - Politics for Dummies

Have you heard the latest news? The president is coming to Martha's Vineyard for vacation. The Cape (Cape Cod) and the Islands (Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket) prepare for his arrival -- Cindy Sheehan is already there, God Bless her soul. Close by Ted Kennedy has asked the Democratic governor and legislature of the "Bluest" State, Massachusetts, to change the very same law they put in place to keep Republican Mitt Romney from appointing a Republican in the event John Kerry had won the '04 election. The change would allow the Democratic governor to appoint a speedy replacement (without a vote of the people as the law is now) for him [Ted] should his brain cancer consume his life-- in particular, so that the US Senate can have a Democratic vote during the highly publicized health-care debate.

In other headlines there is the fallen Governor of South Carolina, Mark Sanford-- a Christian no less, and a has-been, the ex governor Elliot Spitzer; from New York. Sarah Palin is out on the road making noise and a host of others are conspicuously quiet in the wake of the economic recession such as Barney Frank and Chris Dodd-- who's ratings have dropped drastically.

Politics-- politics as usual.

Politics, and the issues it involves, are as big a deal now as the Roman occupation of Jerusalem during the time of Jesus. There were the supposed spiritual leaders of the day, the Pharisees; a legalistic group of Jews who the scribes (lawyers) were a part of, and the Sadducees. These opposing religious groups publicly argued over theology-- the resurrection of the dead in particular. There were the non-Jewish (gentiles) who were outcast by the religious called the Samaritans; hated by the Jews. Oh, and of course there were the greedy such as Zacchaeus who was not only a publican, but the text tells us he was the chief among the publicans. There were the regular old sinners like Mary Magdalene, the woman at the well, the woman taken in adultery-- and well, all the other Bible characters including Moses, Mary the mother of Jesus, Joseph and all of the apostles.

There is nothing new under the sun!

Some folks think that Christians should stay out of politics - separation of church and state, and others think we need to take over the Republican party and get going again. My friend thinks it might a great idea to have a Christian party. I broached the idea in a comment on a blog that I follow: What I Meant To Say... yikes. Thanks Tony! :0)

Politics and religion are polarizing-- the Protestant Reformation was polarizing! And God knows the church needed reform then and it does now! There is nothing new under the sun! Along the way we have had revivals and renewals too. You know those are times in the church when people are convicted of their sin, repent, and do something different.

Primarily, in the first world churches, but around the world there is a lot of debate causing splits from woman in ministry to allowing gays to hold leadership positions-- well that's what makes the news. The church runs the gammet from "we beleive in God," to "we have sold all our possessions to follow Jesus. " So, who's right?

I suppose that you think that I am going to offer some balanced view of politics and church-- or let's all get along or WWJD? Well, I am not. I am tired of the rhetoric, the lies and hypocrisy in general. Recently I tried to tell my friend that I am not liberal or conservative-- I think for myself. And hopefully after all these years, my twisted little mind is more conformed to that of Christ then it ever was.

Here is where I stand, and sometimes kneel-- before the altar of the most High God-- His name is Jesus. I do not get to have an opinion-- I don't get to be conservative or liberal -- or right or left, but by the Spirit I am to judge all things, not people, but that which goes on in my house, my city, my country and the world I live in. "Is it of God?" is the only question that needs to be answered. I am to be led of the Spirit, to love others and because of the work done in me, to be an ambassador for the Kingdom of God. I am to be humble, but not apologetic for the biblical world view. I am to be meek without shrinking back--I am to be strong because of Him, not persuasive with words, and I am to lay my life down for the sake of the Gospel (that Jesus died for the sins of all mankind-- even Ted Kennedy's.).

So how about it? Next time you hear someone out there spouting Bible versus, telling folks what Jesus would do, and supporting political leaders with views and policies in opposition to the Word of God-- next time you are out having a politician shake your hand, kiss your baby or promise to pay for your hemorrhoid treatments, ask yourself this. "Are my elected leaders, the ones I vote for, the ones who claim to be godly, to be Christian, Catholic, Baptist or Pentecostal-- or to have faith at all, how do they measure up to the Bible? And if they don't, do you challenge them? Do you write them letters, or shout them down at a town hall meetings? Do you?

Jesus turned over the tables of the money changers... some say that was because his focus was the church-- but they were all members of the political party of the day. There was no separation of church and state for the Jews, yet it the government was corrupt (at that time) -- Jesus took a stand. Will you?

The religious people of Jesus' day were involved in the local politics even as they suffered under the tyranny of the godless Romans. He called them whitewashed tombs and a brood of vipers. Some, however; had a real change of heart. Here is the story of one in a high place and this is the story of what Jesus did. John 3:1-20. And here is another story of a changed heart: Luke 19:1-10.

Where are you with politics? -- Before you close your browser, check out this passage. 1 John 3:1-20

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Moving On - Follow Your Heart

This week I negotiated for the 4th family automobile. It's amazing how easy it gets-- and how comfortable I am doing it. I have decided that they count on the fact that you don't do this very often. The average person buys a car every three or four years. But I am not average-- not even close buying four in two months!

The last Yari (plural of many Yaris) I bought, from a previously tortured salesman, in a town where they have a water ban because of a high bacteria count. He offered me a a bottle of water. "Has it been boiled, or do you save the tap water for customers you don't like?" He tried to smile.

The thrill of the hunt has gone and now, buying a car is little more annoying than standing in line at the check out counter. We should be good for five or six years. I'm moving on.

It looks like it is the season for moving on. For three years I have endured the local church-- and if you read some of my older blogs, you'll see that I put a lot of effort into local ministry. It doesn't have to do with anyone in particular, I just haven't connected in any meaningful way. I had hoped to do some ministry, hit the coffee shop and get to the shooting range once in a while. It didn't happen. I am better friends with the Brazilian guy that pumps my gas once a week. And my best ministry is online-- pretty shallow.

The question I ponder is this: what do you do when 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. Or at least that's what I have done.

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? I did. Have you sat down to think about why this is happening over and over again? I do.

I went to a really cool church two weeks ago,-- great worship and deep teaching (and a few laughs) with a friend of mine. I even got an invitation to coffee. It's over an hour away-- and probably more than I can do on a regular basis-- but I liked it! Jesus is refreshing.

About a year ago I listened to a testimony from guitarist and Christian artist, Lincoln Brewster. He simply talks about playing what's in his heart. I have to tell you it blows me away that he has become free to what God put in His heart. In the end, that is all I want. How about you?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Why Jesus Anyway? - Come On, Does it Really Matter?

I received an email from a fellow that I belong to a Facebook music group with. He basically said, "Why not just worship god-- what's all the noise about Jesus?" This blog is a response to that email. Keep in mind it's hard to answer any theological question without doing one or more of the following.

-1 Agreeing that the Bible is the written and infallible word of God.
-2 Answering the question intellectually. God knows there are a hundred denominations that interpret the Bible differently- or we'd all be the same denomination. The argument would have to be orderly, and pretty persuasive.
-3 God would have to revel himself personally to you.

If you are looking for a treatise on the doctrine of the divinity of Jesus, I suggest that you Google it. There are a lot of writers out there that have far more education then this suburban software geek. If you are looking for the reason that Christians think that the Bible is true, you will encounter hundreds of web pages that will start out like this, "Let's see what the Bible says about itself." But if you are looking for a real God, one that does what He says He is going to do, that I can help you with. You see, without point number 3, the first two are just talk-- most of which you have heard.

My Facebook friend said that I make Jesus sound really cool. I think that that in itself is a testimony to the difference between religion, and relationship with God. The Bible is very clear about who Jesus is-- well if you look into seriously.

Depending on whether you have been in a main stream Christian church, having received any basic teaching-- or have followed a liturgy, are a Muslim, a Jew, an atheist, or participate in some other religion, who you perceive Jesus to be, will vary greatly. Most Muslims regard Him as a prophet, Jews saw him as a great teacher, atheists -- a good man, some the son of God (but not God) and varying other intellectual and hopeful characterizations. Add to that some sort of perception of heaven and hell, and you've got yourself politics on steroids-- umm, I mean religion.

I'd like to start with point 3-- it's the safest ground to be on for dope like me. And, for some perspective, I'd like to toss in one verse because of point one -- well even if it's not true for you-- it's short, humor me. :o)

Revelation 12:11 They overcame him [the devil] by the blood of the Lamb [Jesus] and by the word of their testimony.

Let me give a layman's interpretation. What Jesus does in you and me (if we let Him) is more powerful than any religious debate! If you read the story of the woman at the well, the Garasene demoniac, the woman taken in adultery, or the paralytic who walked, those testimonies changed lives and caused others to believe. Why? Because there was no other explanation. These folks were well known in their villages and towns for either, being sick or sinful. Even if you don't believe any of the Bible stories have even a shred of truth, let me relate the following story from Sunday School well over 40 years ago.

The teacher (my mother with a degree from Yale!) was talking about the Israelites crossing the Red Sea-- "the tide went out" she said. And the story ends with the entire Egyptian Army being drowned to death as the "tide" supposedly came back in. Well, unless you live on the St. John's River at the Bay Fundy, tidal changes are generally a few feet. The closer you get to the equator, the difference between high and low tide is mere inches. Next time you are not too busy, check out a tide chart for the Red Sea. I'm going to go with God making a way for 5,000,000 Jews to walk across the Red Sea on dry land. But I have digressed.

Many of us, even Christians, have a perception of God out there in the sky-- a great spirit that we send our hopes, perceived needs, and wishes to, based on our day-to-day lives. Ask yourself this, how could that ever work on any reliable basis? There has to be some sort of real God that we can touch and relate to, or we are just a clanging religious gong.

I can hear the minds spinning-- but how do we know that the Bible is true, or accurate, or written by God? We test God, that's how. What, you don't think that He is up to the challenge? Maybe empty religion isn't, but the living God -- Jesus is. After all Jesus is the only god out there that is still living. The rest have tombs with bones in them.

The Christians who read this may quibble with my "test God" hypothesis because we are not supposed to test the Lord thy God. But that is for Christians and Jews-- but you read your Bible and knew that any way. I think that if you don't know God, you should do some experimentation. We should have faith in what we have not seen you might say. Hmm... that was Thomas-- and He saw Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead. So what was it that Thomas had not yet seen? God raised someone from the dead in his presence-- came right out of a tomb after a few stinky days dressed in grave clothes!

What we need to have faith in, is the unseen power of God - not the hope that He is out there in some spirit form possibly listening to our desperate requests for help. The 12 apostles turned the known world upside down with power, not just preaching and trying to be persuasive. And if you don't believe in Jesus and His power, I suspect that you have either never had the opportunity to, or seen the power of the His Holy Spirit in action. And if you are a Christian that has never seen a healing, heard a true prophecy, or seen someone delivered from a serious addiction in the twinkling of an eye -- and still believe, than you have a lot more faith than I do!

In the end, it is the testimony of others that persuades us, and then experiencing God first hand that changes us from mere followers of religion (for which there are many), to believers in Jesus Christ who love others, and bear supernatural fruit for the Kingdom of God.

Here is a brief list of blogs that I have written about my experiences with God if you have time to read them.

- Came to Believe
- My Personal Healing
- A Time of Ministry
- Prophetic Word
- God Has a Sense of Humor
- Me and a Car

If you'd prefer a book about this wonderful and awesome power, I suggest you read this one: Like A Mighty Wind - it's cheap (and so am I) and available from Amazon. And while I am suggesting testimonies, here is another by Kathryn Kuhlman. You are never going to come to grips with a real live God until you understand that He is powerful, loving, and not made in the image of man!

If you are looking for my Biblical reasoning for what I believe, that is HERE.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

99 in '09 = 11

As my friendship with Tony C grows, I am jealous-- he just reached his 100th blog, and I am few behind for '09 anyway. Secretly, the more I write, the more I want to be like him. He's funny, relevant, and has the nerve to take his wife to Hooters. Well, he posted 10 issues that were important to him, and I thought I would do the same for my un-birthday celebration. But I needed to out do him, so I have 11. :)

1) Family - I think the greatest life one can have is to be part of a family with a mother and father, children and extended family. It is the model of the church in its fullness. It is great place to learn to love one another as He has loved us.

2) Parenting - I think kids need to be parented until they get married. They need to be taught how to dress, save, tithe, make friends, say no, have fun, work, serve God and be a friend. That's our job if we have kids. Even the kids of divorce need parents that teach.

3) Faith - It is essential that we see our faith in the living God as a first priority. Can we trust Him before we head to the doctor or take an aspirin-- before we choose a mate, buy a house, join a church or take a job? Real faith allows God to invade our life in such a way that we are in God's will. Then our life becomes none of our business. We flow with the Spirit, and do the things that the Father is doing. In the dry times, we continue to be faithful-- why not? He has.

4) Discipleship - When will the church go to the mat for every member? How is that we could even leave a single person to suffer with need when we are the church? It is your job to bearing others along with lesser faith then yours. If you are not helping someone grow, you are missing the point of discipleship. If we did this many more folks that get saved would become much more productive and accountable Christians.

5) Stuff and Money - You'd be amazed at what you can live without. Take a trip to a third-world nation and serve the poor. Go visit the slums and see if you can make a difference. I dare ya.

6) Baptism of the Holy Spirit - Don't miss out on this electrifying aspect of being a believer. Read Acts 2!

7) Spiritual Gifts - The church needs you! Find your gift and find a place to use it. You'll be glad that you did. In the process you'll grow and produce fruit. Just use them in love.

8) The Church - how she is perceived and how she acts matters to me. I think the US needs a few changes -- well a lot of changes. It starts with loving, not just being nice on Sunday morning. They do that at Wal*Mart.

9) The US - As the greatest nation on earth, I am disappointed at the dismal choices that we've had to vote for since Reagan. It is hard to tolerate deficit spending, health-care insanity, the hatred for Christianity, and the lawlessness of immigration in our government, all when there are practical and sensible solutions for each one. Christians need to vote for Biblical principals regardless of party politics. As a nation we have outlawed prayer, legalized abortion, legalized gambling, supported laziness and allowed pornography to become one of the most successful businesses in the USA. That happened on our watch church. And today, many so called Christians vote for everything but Biblical principals. It's a slippery slope-- it'll be interesting to see if we can recover.

1o) Friendship - Stop talking about what's wrong and do something. Invite people over and act like Jesus. Find them at church, at work, on the playground, or the Y -- grab the kid's friend's parents. Act like Jesus and do something with your faith and your love. Be a committed friend, not a church going idiot. Being a Christian is knowing God, and others.

11) Jesus is very cool. How is Jesus cool? Because the real one, can do that impossible. He is not rattled by pathetically religious folks who give Him a bad name and expect Him to do nothing. He always loves, always does what He says He is going to do, he is patient, kind, he has a sense of humor (take a look in the mirror sometime), He is holy, perfect and never late. He did not come to make bad people good, but to make dead people live! He is well, you get the idea-- He is everything.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Take the Test - How Religious Are You?

In the past few days I have received some emails from folks inquiring what I mean when I say I dislike religion, but love Jesus. What do I mean when I say a "living God?" It is interesting, so many have some sort of religious training and don't really like religion. That seems odd, don't you think?

There's a Bible story that illustrates the problem with religion very well.

Mark 1:21 They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.

Hmm... Jesus taught with authority, not as the teachers of the law. There's your sign, authority, not legalistic teaching of the rules. What was the authority that Jesus spoke in? He taught the Old Testament as if it was alive and personal. If you read the 5 or 6 verses and finish the story, you'll see that Jesus also displayed power, not just words.

There are others stories about selfish religious people too. You may be familiar with the prodigal son. Luke 15:11-31 What I find amazing is that this is often taught as a heathen unbelieving young man who has run off to blow his inheritance, and ends up eating pig slop. The problem with that type of thinking is that in verse 21, he calls the wayward son, his son. You know, there are lots of kids who once went to church and end up getting into trouble. I was one of them.

If you read the passage, you see the religious older brother shows his true church going Christian colors.

28"The older brother became angry and refused to go in [to the party]. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!'

Wow, that doesn't sound like Jesus! But in church this happens every day. Someone comes in who is sick, addicted, damaged in some way (Jesus said the sick need a doctor.) and the church only seems to be looking for good looking people that have their act together. No wonder folks that need Jesus stay home!

So here is a little quiz to see if your too religious or not.

-1 A good church has music, prayer, some preaching ("the word") and social time? YES | NO
-2 A Biblical church follows a regular "order of worship" because God is a God of order? YES | NO
-3 God has set the church up so that the pastor, priest or other leader does most of the ministry? YES | NO
-4 Good Christians don't have real big problems if they are good? YES | NO
-5 Working in a soup kitchen is one way to make points towards heaven? YES | NO
-6 Giving to a church should be minimal, just enough for it to stay running? YES | NO
-7 If you really loved God, you'd be at as many church activities as time allows? YES | NO
-8 If you volunteer at church, it is not as serious a commitment as work? YES | NO
-9 People are either saved or they are not, if they don't receive the Gospel, dust your feet and keep moving? YES | NO
-10 There is no sense in sharing your beliefs because religion causes arguments? YES | NO
-11 You need at least an hour of music to "enter in?" YES | NO
-12 A church needs a building. YES | NO
-13 A church has to have bylaws. YES | NO
-14 A church has to have deacons. YES | NO
-15 A church has to have a priest or pastor. YES | NO
-16 A church has to have chairs or pews. YES | NO
-17 A church needs a cross or crucifix. YES | NO
-18 A church has to celebrate communion. YES | NO
-19 A church has to have a respectful dress code. YES | NO
-20 A church has to have an altar call. YES | NO
-21 A church has to have prophesy. YES | NO
-22 A church has to have tongues and interpretations. YES | NO

The more yes-es that you had, the more likely you are to be religious and not spiritual. It's easy to be the "older brother" and look down on others, but God wants us all to be focused on Him. There are many different ways to worship (give worth) to God. It is best to be passionate about Him, and get to know Him; whatever that looks like. There is a time to study, to sing, to pray, to prophesy... but when we do those things and push others away from Him, we should take a closer look.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Living Water vs. Dead Religion - Get a Life!

A lot of people spend a lot of time talking about religious themes-- and a host of others avoid them like the plague. Like politics, whether or not we participate in religion, it will eventually affect our lives. The truth is that the folks that are elected vote for laws that affect us, whether we ever give them a thought. In the same way the principals of the Kingdom of God are at work as are the laws of physics. And Kingdom principals will continue to operate for eternity.

So why is it that folks get all wound up about religion? Because they try to understand God with their mind. Even the most mature Christians step off into intellectual assents trying to make a case for a Biblical worldview. The living God, however; is not going to be understood by the human mind. Putting on the mind of Christ, memorizing Bible passages, and spouting scripture does not, in itself, make us a Christian.

There is an amazing story in John chapter 4, and it is worth reading even if you are not a believer. Even if you hate Jesus, you should read it. Jesus gets a bad rap when things go wrong with stupid, religious church people, and when humans have pain they do not understand.

The scene unfolds between Jesus and a Samaritan woman.

John 4:9 The Samaritan woman said to Him, How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan [and a] woman, for a drink?--For the Jews have nothing to do with the Samaritans--

10 Jesus answered her, If you had only known and had recognized God's gift and Who this is that is saying to you, Give Me a drink, you would have asked Him [instead] and He would have given you living water.

Why is this amazing? Because Jesus (assuming that He was God) was talking to her about the prejudice the Jews had against the Samaritans. Notice He didn't' say, "let's be tolerant of each other and all get along." He simply pointed out her error. "If you had only known and recognized God's gift" (Him!!), then you would have known life. He didn't say, "Hey, let's go to church and get on a kneeler and have communion." Or, "Are you saved?" Or maybe "dude-ette, let's read the Word together and pray." He simply said, "If you knew me, you'd have life." Do you see? There is no debate. You know a living God, or you don't. You can't debate God. Again, you know Him, or you don't. One might debate how you know that you know Him, but not that you know Him-- umm, if you do.

I mean if Muslims don't pray facing Mecca, are they hypocrites? If a Satanist stops for someone in a cross walk without running their butt over, is he a hypocrite? If a Christian Scientist takes an aspirin, are they going to hell? Religion is killer. Religion is a list of rules, laws and practices that people cannot endure, and can never adhere to perfectly. That is why we get the principal of "good." It's like a doctrine for religious folks and atheists trying to feel good about themselves. Look, quite simply no one is perfectly good no matter what religion you look at. If you look closely at the common denominators, everyone is trying to find purpose in life and make sense of an afterlife. Biblically speaking, if you faith does not produce good works, you need to examine your faith.

Back to the story. Our little girlfriend at the well doesn't get it. She goes on the religious bent one more time.

John 4:12 Are You greater than and superior to our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well and who used to drink from it himself, and his sons and his cattle also?


Jesus stops her and again speaks life.

John 4:13 Jesus answered her, All who drink of this water will be thirsty again.

Even after Jesus tells her exactly what the living water is, and who He is, she is like "What church do you go to?" You see, that is the problem with religion! She should have known that Jesus was the Church, and by choosing life, she too could be the church.

In the end Jesus convinces her not with words, but with supernatural power. By the way, there is not another religion on earth that contains the love of God as it expresses itself in the supernatural. Not one. The living God still listens and and talks to those that know Him - and He performs miracles, provides revelation and heals sick bodies to name a few.

Amazingly, the woman goes back to some more religious upbringing-- she just can't help herself and talks about the Messiah to come. Jesus is so cool. Verse 26 Jesus said to her, I Who now speak with you am He.

I don't know about you, but after He told me nearly every major event of my life, I'd be wanting to know more too. How about you? Do you want to know more? Are you tired of religious people being judgmental and hypocritical? The living God, Jesus, He is out there waiting for you to call on His name. How do you know you've met Him? You can feel it-- you can tell. I can't imagine having a relationship with someone that you just believe in like a character from a story book? Honestly, isn't that a little religious?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

I Had a Dream

This morning I woke up preaching in a dream-- it used to happen more often. I was at a church praying for sick people to be healed, for those without jobs to find them, and for those there with addictions for them to be broken. I read from 1 Corinthians and invited those with a word to come and share it, for those with a song to sing it, and for those with wisdom to give it. The Lord was so very alive and at work in His people-- it was extremely vivid. I remember asking people to stand up and to look around and see if the Lord impressed upon them any particular person in the sanctuary to remember it.

Then I began to ask those that were moving to a new home or apartment soon to stand up. I solicited volunteers to help them. I asked those that needed babysitters to stand up, and asked this congregation to volunteer to do it. I asked those that were lonely to stand up, asking the brethren, "is there anyone here that can be a friend to these people?"-- and then I woke up. Hmmmm...

I began to ponder what was going on-- I guess it is just a way of me longing for a different time, a closer walk, for more love and more power. Or possibly it was a future message to deliver somewhere, at some point.

As the church community in my region struggles to be relevant, I wonder how I can be the church? What can I do? And just when I think I am making progress, some of those I did have some relationship with just can't make the time; another suffers with cancer. It seems a little bizarre-- even sublime what is going on.

It's a dry time, but I have learned not to freak out, but to find life in difficult places. It is not easy, and sometimes it is downright painful. Where are the people that used to lavish love on me, pray for me, grab a coffee or check in if they didn't see me in church? I don't know. You see when things are plentiful, you can concentrate on church activities, conferences and the like. During those times, it's easy to overlook life outside the walls. In dry times, one where the church is not a place of refreshing, we need to find life in the desert. An experienced desert guide knows how to find water and food in a barren place. As a mature Christian, I need to do the same. Regardless of what is going on, I can still feed on the Word, listen to my own worship, and have relationship and fellowship with others.

As a Facebooker, I have found some meaningful, albeit not the same as real folks, fellowship with others. I communicate with those that God has given me, some in CA, others in IA, OH, TN, WA, VA and more. As I was writing this, a Facebook chat window popped from someone that I have known since probably 3rd or 4th grade-- "Hey, it looks like we have Jesus in common." As limited as it is, I am glad for online relationship. It makes me remember to engage with real folks, a new co-worker at the coffeepot, the sales associate at the coffee shop or someone else I may come into contact with. Why? Because I am the ambassador of Heaven.

Yesterday I was driving and scanning through my phone numbers wishing I had someone that could talk for a bit, and on the screen came a private number, followed by my default ring tone. These are usually employment recruiters. Even though I no longer need a job, I picked up anyway. "Hi, this is just a random call to see how your doing today?"

"I'm doing OK-- sitting in traffic at the moment-- but it's Friday," I said expecting the voice on the other end to offer me a job in NJ or something.

"Wow, traffic sucks, I am sorry to hear that. Well this was just a random call to see how your doing. Why don't you call someone else and see how they're doing? Pass it on." said the voice.

"I'll do that," I said.

"Alright, well you have a good day." And the conversation ended.

Hmmm...

One last thought on my dream. What was it that I told people to remember in my dream? To find someone the Lord pointed out to them, and make them a project.

Hmmm...

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Road Ahead - Have You Thought About It?

The other day I rounded a corner while taking an afternoon ride with my family, and saw a sign that I have never seen before: "Caution Church Ahead" Wow, I guess it must be a big church, and when they let out, there is a lot of traffic or something along those lines. Then I had this thought, is this church a safe place? The next morning I got up and was watching the news with my wife when they showed a clip from a police "dash cam." It was of a 7-year-old that had stolen his grandmother's car because he didn't want to go to church that morning.



It seems a little odd that someone would be running from church, don't you think? I mean, isn't that where the answers are supposed to be? If you catalog your own experiences at church, how would you rate them? For some, church is a great place; they fit in, and seem to grow. For others, it is the last place on earth they'd like to be. Why is that? Are they too damaged to receive God's grace?

For many years I have been taught the same things over and over, there is not "fresh manna" very often. I guess, somehow we get into a routine that eventually leaves the Holy Spirit out of the picture. When I read passages in Acts and others such as 1 Corinthians 14, I wonder how we got so far off track. Do you?

This week I made a difficult decision. I have belonged to a small-group for about three years. Due to many different things going on for me and the others, it was a month since we'd last met. During that time, only one of the three others called me to say hello. I admit, it was a test. Two of the guys I would pretty much call each day on the way home from work. The other one rarely even returned my phone messages, so I stopped calling him some time ago. I decided that if this is the type of fellowship that I am attending, that I should probably look elsewhere.

This week I also was emailed the following graphic, I think it's revealing of what many think about church. Does it bother you?


In the end, it is time for the true church to wake up, and do something different. What we are primarily engaging is not working. Still not convinced, here is a blog you might want to read STUPID CHURCH PEOPLE.

But if you are looking for something different, something alive, then let's talk about reaching out, loving others for real, committing to doing the work of Jesus, and for God's sake stop blaming God for our stupidity. It is time to read the Word, live the Word, and preach the Word; or shut up. It is also time to be led of the Spirit and to learn how to do what the Father is doing. If you are confused about this, you need to ask God to show you. If you know how, then teach others.

Our primary responsibility is to be obedient to God. This may not look like Sunday morning service. I am not saying that all churches are wrong, I am sure there are some safe places where people are passionate about Jesus, and only want to please Him. If you know of such a place, I'll meet you there next week.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Black BMW - God Cares About Cars

As we grow in relationship with Christ, and begin to hear the voice of the Shepard, we may find ourselves deeply in love with Jesus. I did.

As I began to experience God’s presence-- as I heard His voice and looked for His divine steps, I realized for the first time that I could fail Him. For so many years God was at my service, He was to meet MY needs. Sure, I also wanted Him to meet your needs, and those around me. But something was impersonal about the arrangement; even selfish and a bit childish.

One day, I was praying and running errands in an old junky car that I was borrowing from a friend at church. I had been unemployed for about 6 months and I was just starting to get caught up. My new business was doing well too. As a company we were able to give and to be a blessing to our employees. That same morning, as I drove by a used car dealer not to far from my home, I saw a black 1988 BMW 325, and on the windshield was written $4999 in fluorescent yellow numbers. I heard the Lord say, “I want you to have that car.” Although I was used to hearing from God on occasion, this time it seemed selfish. After all, a good Christian does not need to have a nice shinny BMW! I felt like I didn’t really deserve it and I dismissed God.

That same afternoon I drove by the car again and I heard the Lord say, “I want you to have that car.” I thought, you know, I should stop and at least look, but I didn’t. I drove by it again two more times in the next day or so; finally I pulled up next to it and got out to take a look. The salesman came out to great me and asked if I wanted to take it for a test drive “It’s a nice car and it won’t last long.” He said. He opened the door, started it up and turned on the Blaupunkt radio. It was so sweet.

I said. “I am little busy right now, but I will drop by later. I just live down the street.”

Later never came, and the next morning as I drove my kids to school, I looked over to see the BMW that God wanted me to have. It was gone! Like a missing front tooth in a six-year-old’s mouth, the car was gone. I slowed to see if it had been moved to another place on the small lot, it wasn’t there.

After I dropped off the girls, I drove by again to look into the service bay, it wasn’t there either. My spirit sank. I knew that I had not obeyed God. I had tried to figure out how He would pay for it, I’d been too busy to listen, and worse, I had been given a number of chances. “God,” I said as I began to cry, “I am so sorry for not listening.” I sobbed all they way back to my office. All day I thought about that car; about disappointing God -- I felt miserable.

That afternoon I decided that if God wanted me to have a BMW, then I would go and get one. I took my kids after school and we drove to every car dealer in town, and some that weren’t. I could not find one BMW, any year, any make, any color-- not one. I took the kids home and went in my office. I was beside myself. I cried out to God again, and asked Him to forgive me. The Heavens were silent. After dinner I went to visit a couple of more gas stations that might be selling a used car—and hopefully a BMW. I knew it was a long shot. These last few places usually only had about five to eight cars on the lot. As I slowed to pull into the last one, there was no BMW there. I sat in the parking lot and was solidly convicted for not obeying God.

“OK, God, I messed up, I am wrong, and now I don’t know what to do.”

I heard that still small voice. “David, if you want a BMW, then you need to go to the BMW dealer.”

I was flabbergasted. I am sure it makes sense to you, however; I never would have thought about the BMW dealer. The prices would be high; even for a used car, and it just seemed so far out of my league. But I went, and I went now.

As I pulled into the parking lot at the local BMW dealer-- the one place I did not go -- as I turned the corner near that service department, there sat a black 1998 325 2-door. Not just the same car, but the exact same car with $4999 written on the windshield in fluorescent yellow numbers. I got on my cellular phone and called the dealer that very minute. “I am very interested in the black BMW 325 that you have out front, can someone please call me?” After all it was 9:30 at night, and they had closed.

Sunday morning came, and I left a second message on the way to church. No one called and drove by to make sure that it was still there. Finally on Monday morning, the phone rang. The salesman said, “I am calling about the 325, we don’t have a title for the car, and we don’t know when we can get one. Can we show you something else?”

In my mind, I am thinking, you have no idea what I have been though, if you don’t sell me that car, God is going to strike me dead!” But out of my mouth came these words. “No, I want that car; may I come leave a deposit on it in about 10 minutes?”

“I am sorry sir, but we can’t take a deposit until we have a clear title.”

I covered the receiver and look at the sky. “God is this some sort of cruel joke?” I was ready to start crying again.

I said the man on the phone, “I really want that car, please let me know when the title comes in.”

“OK, God, now what?” The heavens were again silent.

I went about my day at the office and I was convinced that I had done everything that I could to please God. I went off to the bank and got in line for the teller. Suddenly I realized that I didn’t have enough cash to buy the car. I decided to talk to the manager and see what my options were. After a quick credit check, she informed me there was no way they were going to give me a loan as a self employed person in my first six months of business.

On the way home I asked God where he thought I was going to get nearly $6000 for taxes, registration plates and insurance. I didn’t get an answer.

About a week later the phone rang and it was the car dealer. They had a title to the car. Me, I didn’t have the money. I told them that I couldn’t get there that day, but I would tomorrow. They didn’t seem to mind. I confess, I was thinking maybe this whole thing was me, and not God. I was just mulling it over in my head and went out to get the mail. I was expecting a check for $6000 for a job that I had done for Kraft Foods and I was told it would take 90 days to get paid for. Again, it seemed just enough out of reach, that I began to doubt the whole process.

About 4 pm, there was a knock at the front door. There was a man at the door that I had never seen. He handed me an envelope and said, "This was delivered to my house, and after I opened it, I realized it wasn't mine. I am sorry I didn't get here sooner -- I have had it for almost a week." It was the check I had been waiting for.

I went to get the car that night.

Thank you God for being relationship with me, and being concerned about all these details!
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