Friday, February 26, 2010

The Thrill of Victory, the Agony of Defeat

Maybe you've watched ABC's Wide World of Sports a few years - sheesh - decades back like I did. I remember seeing that ski jumper take a spill at 60+ miles per hour just before hitting the end of the jump, taking out some sort of pole and clobbering a few spectators - the agony of defeat!

If you have worked with, been around, watched them on TV, are related to, or own your own teenager, then the phrase, "the agony of defeat" takes on a whole new meaning.

I am sure that you are able conjure up your own thoughts of teenagers - even your own teen-aged experiences - both the ones labeled victory and defeat.

19 years ago I was at Cape Cod Hospital, and I was enjoying the "thrill of victory," as my middle daughter was born. I was working alone at a Camera store in the Falmouth Mall - a Tuesday in the late afternoon. I was scheduled to close at 9. The phone rang about 6 o'clock and it was the hospital saying that my wife had been admitted and they were going to do an emergency c-section at 8. I called one of my sales reps and asked him to cover me. He showed at 7 PM, and I left for Hyannis. I arrived at 7:58, donning my surgical gown and mask as I made my way to the OR. Erin was born at 8:01.

Now at the pinnacle of her intelligence, I am constantly challenged by the one who thinks faster when necessary, and not at all when it really matters, than I do. She sufferers from "LMSWIPD" Syndrome - left my stuff where I put it down - syndrome. It is very common in this age/gender group. She also gets PMS, too much sleep, can only distinguish other teenagers voices, texts 48 words per minute and collects Dunkin Donuts iced coffee cups in her car. I am assuming that some day a carload will be worth quite a lot - well if she leaves the tags on them

That's the victory. I have a daughter that is pretty much normal in every way.

As a parent you never think you'll say what your parents said to you - "Can't we listen to some music in which I can understand the words?" And my folks thought Elton John and Robert Plant we hard to understand - try August Burns Red!

When Erin and I interact, there is a lot whining - she hates when I do that. I suppose we are making progress, but most days I still feel like I could do a better job.

As a child of divorce, there is a lot of agony in there. Sure, some of it seems to have calmed down, but the scars are probably always going to be there. Some days I hear about kids that are resilient, but I think kids that receive love and live in peaceful homes do much better in life.

I often think of the day Erin was born - how tiny she was barely 6 pounds. I also think of days when she called to tell me he mom was drunk, or that someone hurt her at school and there was nothing that I could do. Oh yes, and then there was the day she swallowed her lunch money and one of coins was precariously perched; nearly blocking her airway. They couldn't help her in Hyannis, so together we took the ambulance to Boston. I gave her the x-rays as a souvenir. I even remember the last time I carried her - it was to her last day of Kindergarten.

So, Erin, when you read this, remember how much I love you. How I wish I could still pick you up and carry you - how I could have let you cry on my shoulder when you were hurting - but that part of life has passed us by. I'm sorry for all things I seem to have messed up in your life, but I'm going to keep on trying to be the dad you need, and deserve.

Happy Birthday! Oh, and can you pick up your room!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Navigating the Boss Town - How Far is 14 Miles?

Today the most spiritual I am going to get, is mentioning the bumper sticker on my Honda DOCH Civic Si. It is a sure sign that it's me if I cut you off.

For a metropolitan area of nearly 5 million, you would think that someone around here would know how to use turn signals.

I have been living and working in greater Boston for over 3 years. You've heard about us on the radio. Songs like Dirty Water (Standells) and Beantown (John Cena) and Skinhead on the MBTA (Dropkick Murphy) only begin to tell the story. We are well known for the Sox, hockey great Bobby Orr, the band Boston, launching a few of the 9/11 terrorists from Logan Airport, the 22 Billion Dollar Big Dig and TRAFFIC.

Boston only rates number 8 in the Top Cities for Traffic Congestion - I am assuming that is on a scale from 1 to 5.

Each day commuters vie for position on the Mass Pike. They have added another Fast Lane on my route. Even with a speed limit of 15 MPH through the electronic toll, my record is 4 MPH with a strong tail wind and distance of 61 feet from stop to stop.

The traffic problem is 2-fold. First there is the road designed by freshman engineering students using Spin-Art. For which one unintended consequence is the Zipper Ride effect at the tollbooths. Cars entering on the right need to pass to the left lanes, and cars entering on the left, need to merge right. The well oiled process goes rather well, albeit slow, until someone from "outta state" screws things up.

For 22 Billion, our commuters save, on average, 1 minute and 40 seconds twice a day.

Personally, my 14 mile commute averages 2.657 MPH on a good day, and 1.903 MPH on a not so good day. That's certainly a safe speed. I just can't understand why my car insurance is $2,000 a year. And should I get in an accident, I have 5 MPH bumpers - that's a pretty safe margin of error. And hell, the airbags don't go off until 20 MPH - my thumbs are safe for now.

I meet lots of folks during my commute and I'd like to introduce them to you. (They are nothing like the ones on I-26 in East Tennessee.)

The Bagel Boy: He is diving a late model blue Lexus, and I often see him spreading cream cheese, on what appears to be a poppy seed bagel. (Probably works in sales or brushes teeth in the men's room) Apparently he doesn't speak Spanish, because at my Dunkin' Donuts, they'll add the cream cheese for you if you make the spreading motion with your hands and say "por favor."

The Blond Snob: She drives a black Volvo XC60. She does the Zipper while talking on the cell phone and brushing her hair. She's a real muti-tasker and probably an idiot marketing executive for some failing bio-tech company.

The Executive: He's driving a silver Mercedes Benz, taking blood pressure medication with coffee and trying to squeeze out subordinate drivers by pretending not to see them.

The Weaver: This is the guy who is new to the game. They drive various sorts of leased vehicles, but it seems that the BMW 325i is the favored model. They may on occasion, pretending to be from Ohio, use that blinding yellow turn signal. He is always searching for the fastest moving lane hoping to trim .006 seconds off his travel time. I know, that was the difference between Bode Miller's Bronze and the Gold Medalist last week. I'm just not that competitive.

The Skeptic: This is one of those drivers over 40, usually in a huge American made car, that just doesn't believe the GPS. (They didn't have computers when he was in High School). He is still out there looking for *cough* street signs in Boston. He can't even decide which lane to use at the tollbooth. And on occasion, our friend is known to use a left hand signal to cross 14 lanes of toll traffic just to make a U-Turn west bound. If I only drove a snow plow!

The College Punk: I am not sure what he drives, it's got so may bumper stickers on it. Some of it is interesting reading, and I don't get the Wall Street Journal any longer. The Darwin Loves You is a bit much. I am scheduled to cut him off on the 23rd.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Judgement, Revival and the End Times

Have you thought about where we are headed as a global society, what needs to change, and is there really an Armageddon?

There was a pretty good discussion about who is going to Heaven a few days ago, maybe you read it. The Bible says on the great and mighty day of the Lord, we'll find out. Before that day comes, Jesus said the following would take place.

Matthew 24:5 For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many. 6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.

Some of our commenters are of the mind that Christianity is hoax because Jesus never really lived. Others are fine with Jesus the man, Jesus the prophet, but not with Jesus the God - and that's OK with me. However; in the last year we've had some really devastating quakes, and they weren't from Ted Kennedy rolling over in his grave because Scott Brown was elected.

Here is a list of quakes for 2009 and another for 2010. Except for 1 in Illinois; a 3.8, they were all over 6 on the Richter Scale with Haiti being a 7.0. As Jerry Lee Lewis once said, there's whole lotta shakin' going' on.

Famine? According to an estimated 1.02 billion, 1/6 of the world's population, goes hungry and 16,000 a day are dying of starvation daily.

Wars? We have a few going on besides Iraq and Afghanistan. HERE are the details. Rumors of war? Let's see, North Korea, Pakistan with both China and the former Soviet Union doing some saber rattling as well.

Without trying to decipher the symbolism in Revelations, there is some more plain talk about the last days in the Bible. See if any of it resonates with you.

2 Timothy 3:1 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.

Here are a couple of sites that are bolder than I am in interpreting the End Times if you care to look. 28 Signs and 26 Signs.

Armed the potential knowledge that Jesus is really coming back - and soon, I have some real issues with the following articles on Yahoo News. (And you thought Pat Robertson was off his rocker!)

It is wrong on so many levels, I don't know where to start - but I'll try:

"Praying and singing, the group was trying to conjure spirits to guide lost souls when a crowd of Evangelicals started shouting." (and throwing rocks)

Are you kidding me? Flesh against flesh - what a horror show. When Elijah confronted evil (1 Kings 18), he called on God to prove himself - sure, he did a bit taunting, but really rocks and shouting?

"Religious tension has also increased: Baptists, Catholics, Jehovah's Witnesses, Scientologists, Mormons and other missionaries have flocked to Haiti in droves since the earthquake to feed the homeless, treat the injured and jockey for souls. Some Voodoo practitioners have said they've converted to Christianity for fear they will lose out on aid or a belief that the earthquake was a warning from God."

Ah yes, the every religion melting pot. It really bothers me that the writer of this article lumped them all together - but as Christians we should take note. If all we have to offer is a different deal devoid of power, maybe it's best we are lumped together.

"Many missionaries oppose Voodoo. I hope this does not start a war of religions because many of our practitioners are being harassed now unlike any other time that I remember."

Where in the Bible does it say we should harass people? I'm just asking.

"We would give food to the needy in the short term but if they refused to give up Voodoo, I'm not sure we would continue to support them in the long term because we wouldn't want to perpetuate that practice. We equate it with witchcraft, which is contrary to the Gospel."
-Pastor Frank Amedia

Help me out here Frank, where in the Bible does it say that we should not feed the poor if they participate in voodoo or any other sin for that matter. Isn't the point of ministry to show the love of Jesus and go beyond that which the world would do? When we are different, it is easier for them to see what they are doing as futile, no? Even Paul let the slave girl be - well, for a little while. (Acts 16:15-20)

Carnal weapons can only be used in a carnal war.
2 Corinthians 10:3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

I think it's time for a revival, how about you?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How Mad Do You Think God Can Get?

Lot's wife wanted to go back to Sodom, and she turned into a pillar of salt. The time of God's wrath is mentioned in both the old and the new testament. It is a historic event in which God starts to deal directly with the satanic forces and the evil people responsible for the destruction of the earth.

How about you, do you think God's mad at you? Do you feel guilty for anything, and you can't seem to get relief? Are you certain your eventual face-to-face meeting with God Almighty is going to be worse than a bad interview at fast-food joint?

A lot of people see God as a "Mad Dad."

If you read the Bible and do a search for the word "Hell," there are only 14 results in the NIV. If you search for Heaven, there are 606. Think about it, Heaven is much more on God's mind than Hell. And there are 42 verses with the phrase "Eternal Life!"

I am not sure why we think that God is mad all the time, or that He is sitting there trying to find us doing things wrong, just so He can whack us. The Bible says quite the opposite - but I suspect that you've read it and don't really believe that. I mean after all you are certain that grace is good, and judgement is bad - aren't you?

A lot of folks didn't have the best father, and I was one of those. Beyond all your own personal "father" experiences; whether good or bad, think about the father that you might have looked up to. What would he have been like? What qualities would he have possessed? What would the best father you could imagine be like?

I hope you'll take a few minutes to visualize the perfect father at the different stages of your life.

You're 3-years-old, and in bed. You hear a strange noise in the faint glimmer of the nightlight and start to cry. What does the perfect father do?

You laying in the bed and you look forward to your dad coming into kiss you good night? When he shows up, what does he say? Is it predicated on your behavior? Would it be different if you broke his favorite electronic gadget that day?

You are on just horsing around and your dad tickles you until you say stop. Was it fun?

You graduate from Kindergarten. What does he do then?

You get in a fight with your sibling, what does the perfect dad do?

You put a baseball through the the neighbor's window, and your dad finds out from Mr. Smith. What does he say to you? What do you say to him?

You scored the winning goal on the football field. What would your dad say then?

You cheated on your income taxes, what would he say now?

You got a promotion at work?

You were divorced?

You were arrested for DWI?

We all make mistakes, and have troubles. That is part of life, and living in a fallen world.

Let me just say that perfect dad, always says the same thing.

Acts 13:38 "I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.

The real problem is that no matter how good God is to us, or how bad we think our lives have become:

Romans 3:12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.

That is why we need the Good News.

Romans 8:39 Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Do you beleive it?

Monday, February 22, 2010

How Does it Stack Up, Terrorist or Hero?

Everyone has heard about Joseph Stack and how he purposely flew his plane into an Austin IRS building, killing himself and one government employee. As usual, the commentators went crazy the past few days since his daughter called him a hero - just as crazy as they did over the Tiger Woods apology.

For the record, let me say that I hate celebrity worship and publications like People Magazine. I used to like the tabloids because the they had outrageous headlines like: Elvis Returns from the Afterlife to Date Jenna Bush, and Aliens Abduct Obama, Biden Now President - Aliens Return Obama Upon Finding Out! As a kid I did have a few sports heroes, and wanted to be like some of my favorite music legends. But that is what kids do, not adults! I took down my Jimmy Page and Bobby Orr posters when I got married - I think my wife took the Mark Spitz one.

I don't really care where Tiger Woods keeps his putter. If I was his friend, I would suggest keeping it locked up - well at least when his wife is mad. If she can take out the window of an SUV on the move, then she could kill him with it too.

Stack, now that's another story. So what makes him a hero in some folks eyes, and a terrorist in others? Perspective. In my eyes, he is neither. Let me start by saying that no one that flies a plane into a building, taking lives in the process, is a hero. He did, however; bring to light some things that he felt were unfair in this society. If our US legislators were listening, it might have turned out differently - who knows.

He died for something that he believed in. As ridiculous as it may sound, Christians should take note.

He is not a terrorist because he was taking his anger out on a group of folks that he had intimate knowledge of, according to news reports. They were not random infidels that he was unfamiliar with. I am sure that the IRS made some portion of his life miserable and he was simply trying to get some sort of sick revenge. It is doubtful that there will be a movement of affluent pilots taking revenge on the IRS.

The other man killed in his suicidal joy-flight, was a Vietnam vet, and the only hero in the story.

As a Christian, I can only defer to the words of Jesus when it comes to taxes. Mark 12:17 Then Jesus said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's." And yet we know that when it comes to obeying the Lord, like Daniel, we are to are to stand for our Christian beliefs regardless of the consequences. My suspicion is that Mr. Stack violated this principal and was mad about those consequences.

For the record, I am not thrilled with the US tax codes either. I think it is way over complicated when a Flat Tax or Fair Tax could easily work. As has been demonstrated over and over recently, Washington is out of touch, and based on some of the new candidates, they are not getting the message.

I guess what makes this a much more newsworthy story is that a lot of Americans identify with Stack. Many of them are members of the TEA Party movement. Few if any, can identify with an egotistical golfer.

As a Christian I am offended by Obama's comments about Christian's "guns and religion." The is like saying people are idiots if they support the 1st or 2nd Amendments - or any Constitutional Amendments.

We simply need sane leadership, a balanced budget and to address important issues, like the economy, ending the wars, health care and unfair taxation coupled with wasteful spending. That I could feel good about voting for.

I wonder what it would have been like if Colin Powell flown a plane into the IRS building? Would celebrity status have changed things? I doubt it. To the contrary, if a no-name golfer cheated on his wife, who would care.

What do you think?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Who Gets to Go to Heaven?

Who do you think gets to go the Heaven? Tiger Woods, George Bush, Mother Theresa, Adolf Hitler, Billy Graham, President Obama, The Pope, Benny Hinn, Joseph Smith, Buddha - who? If you are like most folks, you are thinking, "that one, "nope, not that one," or "Hitler; definitely not." There are others that will say, "We just don't know, we can't be the judge. God alone is the judge." Now that's playing it safe.

So, who gets to go to Heaven when they die? And more importantly, how do you get there?

If you read yesterday's blog entitled, Have You Wondered Why Man Can't Fly and the Church Can't Get Along?, then you know that there are many opinions - and a lot of myths about the Christian religion.

Most Christians would say the Bible is the 411 on the "Who Goes to Heaven" game. And for sure, there are other thoughts on the afterlife. Billions of folks claim to be Christians, we've discussed that before. For those that are atheists, we have previously discussed that too. For those that just want to believe in god, any god, I have addressed that as well HERE.

Today's blog is addressed at those that want to go Heaven. It is not a debate, but a discussion.

As we discussed yesterday, there are many views as to how to worship God as a Christian, but few disagreements as to what the "central truth" of the Bible is. The Bible contains the Jewish Torah; the Law and the Prophets, as well as the Gospel Accounts of Jesus, the Book of the Acts of the Holy Spirit, the Revelation of John, and the Epistles of Paul. There are 66 books in what is called the biblical canon.

It took a few hundred years for this collection of writings to be "approved." And yes, there are some other books that were written, but like most church folks, they could not agree on them. The reason, they were not used is that they were NOT consistent with the "central truth." Their inclusion would have caused wide spread contradictions to the 66 collected books.

I know, it all sounds a lot like "chance," so how could it be God? First, take a look at the "central truth" which is called the Nicene Creed. If we can't agree on this, then we are not Christians. Whoa, brother David! Look, you can't be a Christian because you decided to be one, you can't be a Christians because your parents were, or because you were baptized, or because you attend church, joined a church, or signed a commitment card or think that you are a good person because you didn't commit a sin that someone else did. You, can't. That would mean that Christianity is a philosophy subject to the whims of man, changing culture and intellectual pursuit. It's not.

The difference between all other religions is NOT that Jesus said: "I am the truth the way and the light, and no one comes to the Father but by me." It is the simple fact that Jesus rose from the dead to prove his promise to you and to me as a sacrifice for your sins.

If Jesus did not rise from the dead, Christianity again, becomes a lie, not a religion. Think about it. How stupid would billions of folks feel to get to the end, and find out Jesus was not there? Heaven then becomes an eternal paradise without love, light, or the promised lack of pain and sickness in which we live as floating souls. That does not sound appealing, now does it?

For the record, the historical Jesus was written about in both the Bible, and by Jewish historians; most notably Josephus. Only agenda driven; narrow-minded intellectuals will say that Jesus did not exist, and that He did not rise from the the dead. Why? According to the Pharisees and the Scribes, the lawyers of Israel, everything was to be recoded with the utmost accuracy. That is one reason why the Old Testament Scriptures have little, or no meaningful discrepancies, in nearly 6,000 years! Furthermore; it was a Jewish law that everything legally be established by 2 or more witnesses. HERE is the account of everything that happened to Jesus pertaining to the central truth, as prescribed by the laws of Israel.

For those that think that the Bible is filled with mistakes, send them to me. I'd be glad to take a look.

For the moment, I am going to assume that we can glean something meaningful from the Bible - namely how to get to heaven. Good evangelicals will use some "tools" like the 4 Spiritual Laws or Romans Road to convince sinners to repent. They both contain excellent truth - but seriously, unless you are convinced that you to are a sinner, it is just more Bible talk.

If a heavenly afterlife is the benefit of some moral merit, then what is the criteria? As humans we tend to focus on others behavior. I am sure you can think of one person right away that does more bad stuff than you. Name the act: smoking, drinking to excess, promiscuity, cheating, stealing, pornography, abortion, murder, speeding, lying and the list goes on and on. Who makes these rules anyway? If you don't believe the Bible, how do you know it's wrong? Just because you detest lying, doesn't mean that it bothers me to cheat on my income tax.

So, what about heaven? Here is what I think - ain't that why you read this blog? I think Heaven of like going to the gym. We go to the gym to get exercise because we know it's good for us; that's the reason. One of the benefits of membership is losing weight, meeting others, and some casual talk as we wipe our ugly germs of the hand-grips for the next person.

Profound don't you think? Some of us that go to the gym are in near perfect shape, and others, like me, are more than a few pounds overweight. The facts are like this: all of us are going to die, all of us have germs, and most of us would like to think that the afterlife is going to better than this. HERE is more on Hell in case you are worried about that.

The real question is this? Do you need some spiritual exercise, are you happy with your life, do you feel a real purpose to your being, are you guilt free, not having any cares in the world? If you can close your eyes and sit quietly for 5 whole minutes, try telling yourself that you've never done anything deserving punishment. But please, don't tell yourself that there is someone else worse than you - I'm sure you don't hold a candle to Hitler - or Mother Theresa for that matter. Just remember, even she needed a savior. Can you sit there and be certain that you are going to Heaven? Can you sit there and tell yourself you are free of guilt?

Where are you going, and do you know for sure? Tell me about it.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Have You Wondered Why Man Can't Fly and the Church Can't Get Along?

I have an online buddy that is becoming a great friend. We keep up online, and talk on the phone about once a week. Yesterday we had a chat about some denominational differences. It wasn't a debate, but a sincere conversation about what the Bible says, and what man has added to it. In the midst there were questions about religious practice.

A denomination is simply an emphasis on certain biblical truths; often "colored" by a culture, a religious experience or a move of God.

The truth is there are lots of denominations. We have many expressions of Christianity in the US, and also some cults which seem Christian on the outside but reject the central truth that Jesus taught: Jesus is God. A cult is defined as any so-called Christian organization that denies the divinity of Christ - Jesus is/was/always has been God. I am not going to try to answer the age old question regarding theology: "Who's right?" (I am writing this blog because I think I am!)

Please keep an open mind and explore the links. In the end, you will be challenged in your own beliefs.

If we look at the major denominations, we'll find some interesting information in how they have arrived at their denominational traditions and bylaws. Each one emphasizes a certain portion of the truth. Be sure, I am not picking on anyone, I am just trying to bring some enlightenment to the Body of Christ for the sake of unity.

The largest denomination in the world is Roman Catholic and over 1/3 of Christians (little Christs or little anointed ones) belong to this group. They have been well established since the 3rd century and for over 1,200 years they were pretty much the only show on earth - we'll talk about them first.

One of the traditions that makes Roman Catholics different from any other denomination is Priests that do not marry. Why? 1 Corinthians 7:27 Are you married? Do not seek a divorce. Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife. 28 But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.

38 So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does even better.

It is not a sin to be married, nor a requirement not to be. Paul is simply stating that marriage requires focus that could be used on the Lord and serving Him.

The debate over divorce and marriage rages on in just about every denomination. We have a number of other catholic denominations including the Anglican Communion and the Eastern Orthodox churches who split from Rome over things like marriage and divorce. The Anglican church is considering splitting over gay marriage. There is nothing new under the sun.

Catholics also have services in which they "adore" Mary. This too; is not unbiblical. (Luke 1:46-55) See verse 48b From now on all generations will call me blessed.

I think Evangelicals adore Paul an awful lot from the pulpit. I'm just sayin'.

Catholics also have a liturgy to exercise or cast out demons. (Mark 16:17) I would have to say not too many Protestant churches even think about this as a possibility, never mind practicing it.

After the Protestant Reformation (Martin Luther) in 1517 we saw the rise of other Liturgical denominations, including Lutheran, Presbyterian and Congregational. In doctrine, they are pretty much agree on the Nicene Creed as a basis of their belief. Over the centuries their differences in worship style certainly begun to separate them.

John Wesley (1703-1791), who embraced Areminianism, was an Anglican that developed intensive, personal accountability, discipleship and religious instruction among members. His great contribution was to appoint itinerant, unordained preachers who traveled widely to evangelize and care for people in the societies.

There are many historical documents in church history. Some of the major ones you may read HERE.

With each nuance of change, reform, cultural differences and new ideas, our beloved church has changed a lot over 2 millennia.

Over the centuries there have been many notable men and woman of God. Here is a brief list of folks that changed the face of Christianity. Some names are controversial, but each in their own way has contributed something to the Kingdom of God.

St. Patrick - He lived in the 4th century and spread the Gospel to Ireland. From slave to missionary; he confronted the Druid darkness in Ireland. He operated in the supernatural stopping a snow storm and raising the King's children from the dead.

St. Francis - One of the most influential missionaries of the 13th century was known as a man of peace; one who traveled to Egypt and the Holy Land as he witnessed to Muslims. When he preached, Christ was known to appear among those listening.

Smith Wigglesworth - (1859-1947) Known as the Apostle of Faith. He claimed to have never read any book but the Bible, he was sought after for healing, carried an amazing presence (anointing) of God, and standing up to the Devil.

John G. Lake - (1870-1935) A businessman who became known for his ministry as a missionary and faith healer. He was influenced by the healing ministry of John Alexander Dowie, and he received the baptism of the Holy Spirit in 1907 in the wake of the Azusa Street Revival.

Kathryn Kuhlman - (1907-1976) A Methodist, sometimes called the Mother of Charismatics, she had a TV and radio show called, I Believe in Miracles. She was responsible for thousands of healings.

Oral Roberts - (1918-2009) A Televangelist that withstood the test of faith and the critics. He touched the lost and the saved for 6 decades.

Benny Hinn - One of the most charismatic and controversial faith-healers in the world. He is responsible for thousands of salvations and physical healings. As I write this, his wife has filed for divorce [Article].

There are a number of American denominations and their traditions differ based on their interpretation of the Bible. Here is a brief list.

Lutherans are of course followers of Martin Luther. The main theme is salvation by faith, through the grace of God. (Acts 2:21) The are the original evangelical movement.

Calvinist's used the Apostle's Creed. Those who follow the teaching of John Calvin are called Presbyterians in the US. The doctrine of being "predestine" (Romans 8:29) as opposed to act of the will, is predominately the major difference from other evangelical denominations.

Followers of John Wesley we called Methodists. They placed primary emphasis on Christian living, on putting faith and love into action (James 2:26), both in the local community, and abroad.

The Baptists were refugees from England as were the Puritans in New England. They first gathered in the backroom of an Amsterdam bakery in 1609 to read the Bible together. There most notable doctrinal difference is baptism by submersion. (Matthew 3:13-17)

Pentecostals are named after a revival that took place on Azusa Street in Los Angels in 1906 and lasted to about 1915. (Acts 2:1-13) The particular revival was characterized by speaking in tongues and resurgence of the 12 gifts of the spirit (1 Cor 12:7-11) The Pentecostals had another well known revival in Pensacola, FL at the Brownsville Assembly of God.

Four Square - A spirit-filled denomination following the 4 tenets of Christianity: prayer, fellowship, Bible study and communion, outlined in Acts 2:42.

The Vineyard Movement was a group that followed John Wimber and were the churches in which the Prophetic Reformation, the Apostolic Renewal and the Toronto Blessing grew out of. Their main differences from other Charismatic and Pentecostal denominations is the emphasis on spiritual gifts, the laying on of hands, small group community and "one man, one vision," church government.

For the past decade a new movement of churches are making their way onto the Christian Landscape. It is based on the 5-Fold ministry laid out in Ephesians 4:11.

As I type the last words of this blog, I want you to challenge you to think, to pray, and worship outside the box!

I have previously written more about some of the subjects I have only mentioned here. I have tried hard to recognize biblical differences not identify the tradition of man. Religion is the quencher of the Spirit of the Most High. For it is only in loving one another, agreeing on the basics of salvation and coming together for the work of the Kingdom, that we will ever be unified by the Holy Spirit.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Good Wife - Not Just for Married Folks

This year The Good Wife has been airing on CBS. It is about a Chicago prosecutor that ended up in jail for a number of indiscretions; for which we are not entirely sure actually happened. It's an interesting show, a mix of CSI and Law & Order, with a personal story line. Each week a legal case is solved, and the struggle of the Florrick' over these said infidelities, plays out in small vignettes.

The Bible has a lot to say about wives, but a well known favorite is in Proverbs 31. "A wife of noble character who can find?"

The Proverbs passage is acrostic, each verse beginning with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. I also happen to think that it is about the church more than it is about an actual wife. Substitute the word "church" for the word "wife" and see if it makes sense to you.

Back to the subject of wives. I have a great one that I met through Yahoo Personals. Thank God it used to free or who knows where I'd be today! She is really the best thing that ever happened to me other than making a decision for Christ. There is no one that I'd rather be with and no one else that makes me feel the way I do.

I really have it made. She brings me coffee in bed just about every morning and makes a breakfast sandwich for my lunch on weekdays. She manages our finances with professional expertise. Not to mention all the other stuff that matters to me, like she's good looking, a great mom to Charlotte, she let's me have time to unwind each day and some guy time too.

I like to walk with her on the beach, along the Charles River and especially in Nantucket.

She likes dinners out, animals; horses and dogs in particular, Stephen King novels, Country music and time with Charlotte. I wish I could buy her a horse farm near the ocean - well one with a hot tub.
Sometimes it is hard to notice the benefits when you are 8 years into a relationship and other parts of your life are difficult. But she is funny, faithful, reads my blog because I asked her to, she cares about how the house looks, works at keeping a peaceful home life and basically makes me happy to be at home. I can only say that wasn't always the case in my life.

How about you? Feel like braggin' on your spouse a little if you have one. If not, brag on your church, it's kinda the same thing.
If you enjoy Fire & Grace, why not Tweet it, add it to your Facebook links (links in the right side bar) or email it to a friend (Envelope icon below)? Thanks for reading along. David

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I'm Thinking Summer

While Al Gore has egg on his globally warmed face, and our southern friends get a taste of Jack Frost and his band of snow-making demons, I'm thinking Summer!

I survived the Blizzard of '78 and I also remember what I was doing when the lights went out (November 9th, 1965). I had been hoping to play with some paper punch-out airplanes (paper dolls for boys, OK, next) that I got at the school book fair at William Douglas School.

When I lived on Cape Cod, we had two blizzards and a snowstorm leaving 6' to 8' drifts in 1987.

I think it's still sort of funny at the first sign of snow, my rough-and-tumble hillbilly friend - the mountain man of the Appalachians - 4-wd drivin', shotgun totin', power lifting, football star and former Marine, still runs to 7-11 for bread and milk in case a few flakes hit the ground! How much milk and bread do you need for a *cough* snowstorm? HERE is Tony C's take.

There he sits, cursing the 10-day forecast, trying exercise the demons from I don't think anyone has ever seen him like this.

My friend in Dallas, she is planning on staying home all week for 4 inches of slush? Poor baby. What did you buy the Hummer H3 for, prestige? On page 90, there is a section called 4 Wheel Drive. The little lever next to the shift, that's for 4WD, use it!

They don't even close the office here in Boston unless we are going to get over 12" inches - and that would have be during a commute time. The snowplow drivers hate it when we pass them at 60 MPH so they ask us to stay off the road.

I just think it's amazing to see 581 cars in a pile up because every one was in a panic and needed bread and milk. Work with me here, the car has at least 2 pedals, one is the brake. That would be my first choice on a slippery road - that and driving SLOW. I checked out the Driver's Manual for Tennessee (page 16) and Texas (Page 51 section 8-2) online. Maybe that question wasn't on your written test, but it is in the book. (I checked out the Driver's Manuel for Hawaii - page 70, it's in there too!)

I am still wondering, if you are going to risk your car and well being to go to the store at the first sight of snow, what value does bread and milk have that the other food, which is already in your fridge, doesn't? They're both white? They match the snow? What? I would think if one was going to die in a blizzard or be snowed in for a few days, they'd like to go down with caviar in one hand and champagne in the other- no? At least some Trail Mix to survive on... and don't forget the Blizzard Babies - think of it as a souvenir!

Last year we got over 100" of snow, and my consumption of neither milk nor bread went up. Most of my state is on the TOP 101. I did find it interesting that when Wal*Mart knows that a storm is coming, the computers automatically stock up the storm "forecast region stores" with Pop-Tarts. Really. Not bread and milk, Pop-Tarts. It's no wonder we need health care reform!

Just picture me snow shovel in hand, standing on the roof of my neighbor's 4x4 (I don't have one) and shouting: "It's going to snow honey, fetch me a Pop-Tart!"

So, today, I am picturing myself sitting at the beach, looking at the sailboats - feet in the warm water, butt in the beach chair, gentle wind on my face, sunglasses pleasantly sliding down my nose as I fall off to sleep with a copy of The Call of the Wild on my lap.

Spiritual Lottery - Faith and Disappointment

Disappointment is a common emotion. And every Christian I have ever met has been disappointed. I am sure that Jesus was disappointed at times - He did have emotions.

For the record, disappointment is not found in the Bible. There were, however; many disappointing circumstances in the lives of Bible characters. Think: Joseph, Jonah and Peter.

I think that as Christians we see faith as the ability to just know something will happen: place coin in machine, turn key, out comes candy. I suppose sometimes God works like that with us. We have a thought, desire, need, or want, and we ask God for it - like parking spaces or arriving at the scene of an accident. I call these the "Oh my God!" prayers. The process is a bit like a spiritual scratch ticket.

I have found that my faith works like a muscle - a puny one most of the time. Some days I have a walk in the park, and other days it is a marathon for which I often feel unprepared.

When we contrast faith and disappointment, there are some subtopics such as doubt, anger, God's will and expectations that come to mind. Expectations are an essential part of disappointment and faith. I have written about the other three topics previously which seem to be ready comrades of both met, and unmet expectations.

Expectations come in a variety of flavors: Realistic, Unrealistic, met, unmet, perceived, entitlement and delusional.

I often find that relationships get a little off kilter based on expectations. For instance, when couples first get married, I find that most often haven't talked much about where to go on the holidays, when to have kids (or not), and what type of vacations to take. More than a few arguments ensued because each partner had a different expectation. One wanted a relaxing vacation, the other wanted a tour with a daily itinerary, one wanted to go to his mother's for Thanksgiving and the other to hers. And even more difficult to negotiate, one partner wanting children while the spouse does not.

Christians all have expectations of God. Some may only expect Him to take them to Heaven on the last day, others may expect Him to provide a various array of promises and heirlooms based on our Scriptural inheritance. Some of you may feel that God has personally promised you something - a spouse, a business or some other earthly desire and it has not yet come through.

We all need to ask ourselves if we have faith like a roulette wheel, or a deep abiding faith built on trusting God with everything: relationships, work, school, play, finances, church, and most importantly, our desires.

Faith of course is believing God for that which is unseen until it becomes a reality. Lots has been written on waiting on the Lord - an active posture - doing all that we can, while allowing God to do His part.

Dealing with disappointment can be hard. Most humans just want an easy life. The Bible however only says that the yoke of Jesus is easy. The rest is hard work some times. Remember, you are in an army. You have been given weapons, and yes, you are expected to use them!

Having realistic expectations of God is not an easy thing to do. On one hand, it is hard to always know what He is up to. On the other, many of us have seen Him do the unexpected. There in lies the key, do we have a deep enough relationship with Jesus to know what His desires are for us, and to apprehend that which He has destined us for? Our Father desires to speak to us, to love us, to communicate with us. Like any good relationship, good communication leads to realistic expectations.

Here's a nice list of verses for a little devotional when you have some time.

The question today is this: Is your faith adequate to overcome your disappointments?
If you enjoy Fire & Grace, why not Tweet it, add it to your Facebook links (links in the right side bar) or email it to a friend (Envelope icon below)? Thanks for reading along. David

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Nothing Profound

Some random thoughts:

Why is it that no matter how hard you try to do the right thing, you still make mistakes?

Why don't alcoholics stop drinking the first time they get arrested?

Why is it that kids never want help from their parents?

Do you think that is how God feels - that we don't want help?

Why don't people tell you they don't want your help before they start telling you their problems?

How come, even with a new PC, the Internet is still just as slow with the old one?

Why do you have to stay at work for lunch, if you aren't going to eat?

How can it be the same temperature in FL as it is in MA, yet everyone thinks that it is warm there?

Why is the braille on drive-through ATM machines?

How does Stevie Wonder know the car is red?

If magic tricks aren't really magic, why don't they just tell us how they do them?

If life is just a vapor, then how come we still have long days?

The CD that was playing in the hospital when Charlotte was born, is on now.

Have you seen any polls on Al Gore's popularity since the global freeze in DC?

If we are supposed to hear from God, then why does everyone start their sentences with "I think?"

Did Joe Biden know that Scott Brown was a military lawyer before he chastised him about trying terrorists in civilian court?

When is vacation?

Is anyone still trapped in Haiti?

What are you thinking about today?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Hooty Ville Store - Remembering Dad

Bob stood behind the counter smoking an unfiltered Camel, adding up a small grocery purchase on the back of a paper sack using a blue ball point pen, and talking a customer about his favorite fishing spot along the St. Lawrence River in Northern New York.

Bob, passed away February 13th, 1998 at the age of 72 from brain cancer. HERE is that story.

For many reasons, my dad seemed to be happiest shootin' the breeze about fishing, hunting, football and his kids if they weren't in earshot. Always more talkative after a "couple of cold ones" he was a fascinating storyteller, always exaggerating - and could have easily given Garrison Keiler a run for his money.

An Army vet with two purple hearts and tours of duty in the South Pacific, Normandy and Korea, he was a bit tough, a bit shy, but well liked by just about everyone he worked with.

He wasn't always easy to live with, but he loved his family to the best of his ability. He was fiercely proud of every goal scored, every note; sour of otherwise, played, every job well done and was the world's best Grandpa to over a dozen grandchildren. His house was a shrine to his family, and hunting and fishing trophies.

Bob was a memorable character and my step mother always had a humorous tale to tell. She didn't mind telling him how it was, and one day she said to him, "Bob, we're incompatible, I'm a Pieces and you're stupid." I am sure she was diffusing one his more stubborn moments.

Dad loved living in the more rural parts of the North East. There were less people, less rules, and - he often carried a loaded .357, mostly because he could. It was a way of life that was just him. He just liked the woods, the peace and quiet, the mountains and the beer.

As far back as I can remember, he was an early riser, putting on the coffee, and listening to the local news. I am sure that he snuck in a beer or two when he could. As the story goes, one of those mornings during hunting season, a 12-point buck came down the power lines in his backyard stopping at the fence at the edge of his property. He went to the hall closet and got his 30-06, chambered a round, propped it up against the aluminum sliding-door frame on the back deck and fired.

The problem was that he had failed to let anyone else in the house know what he was doing at 5 am. My step-mother thought he had taken his own life until he came in the room to let her know he the he "bagged a big one!" At which point she let out a lengthily stream of cuss words - well as the story goes.

He was a bright guy, a mechanical genius, and insatiable tinkerer. He loved tools, and had an endless array of unfinished projects. In retirement he worked for a pool company selling and repairing pool filters, as well as analyzing pool water. He seemed to love the work, and was always happy if I stopped in to see him there.

In the late 50's through the early 70's he worked as a machine shop foreman, and later a manger. He took an early retirement in 1972 to run and manage a little general store in Harmonyville, Vermont - known by the locals as the Hooty Ville Store. In some ways it was his downfall, a double wide beer cooler and nothing more to do than open the front door and sit behind the counter on most days. He finally sold it as he tried to get his life back on track.

My favorite time with dad was a fishing trip we took took to a local fishing hole called: Brush Shop Pond. There we sat on the fieldstone dam, eating sandwiches beneath the fragrant evergreens, listening to the waterfall, and talking about the "big one" as we cast lures into the still waters. I don't think we caught anything that say - but I sure wish that it had never ended.

The last time I saw dad, he lay peacefully in a casket at a little funeral home up north. A Staff Sargent from the DAV came and saluted Sargent Johndrow and the attendants closed the casket.

I am looking forward to the next time I see him - I hope I can introduce him to you.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Dynasty New England - The Race to the End

This morning I awoke to the news that Patrick Kennedy will not be running for re-election in Rhode Island.

Just weeks after he called Scott Brown's campaign a joke, the recently passed Ted Kennedy's son calls it quits. All I can say is that it's stunning. I mean the Kennedy' have been a family of politicians for 60 years!

I was alive when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. I remember watching the whole thing on TV - well, there were no cartoons for a week! The babysitter sat crying, and Americans basically were in shock. It still has a haunting air about it - the conspiracy theories - and the fact that no one is particularly certain about what happened that day in Dealey Plaza.

In 4th grade both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were gunned down in cold blood in the Spring of 1968. For some silly reason we stood at the flag pole in front of school and said the Pledge of Allegiance in both English and Spanish.

At the time the Kennedy' were heroes in America. Who knows the entire truth behind either Kennedy killing - or Ted's car accident in Chappaquiddick in 1969 in which Mary Jo Kopechne drowned.

For me, my conservative heroes also fell. Richard Nixon left office in disgrace because of Watergate. Even my favorite president Ronald Reagan suffered the Iran Contra Scandal. How much better it might have been if his last days in office were marked only by the end of the Iron Curtain and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

In these past years something has changed about politics. They have become polarized in such a way that losses on one side are applauded by the other side. I just remember the comments n the Huffington Post when Bush II's press Secretary Tony Snow passed away from Colon Cancer. The more disgusting ones seem to have been removed.

Both sides have their character defects from Bill Clinton and John Edwards to Mark Sanford, Larry Craig, and Mark Foley.

A newscaster put all the current Democratic resignations on Obama - especially since VA and NJ went Republican along with Scott Brown's win in MA. If the jobs were here, it would be different I am sure. However; Chris Dodd (D-CT), Bill Ritter (Gov - CO) and Diane Watson, and Mary Anne Berry (D-AK) to name a few, are retiring Democrats.

Although I am no fan of Pro-Choice Catholics like Martha Coakley and John Kerry, nor the arrogant Patrick Kennedy. I would, however; very much like to see some quality folks take over and run. As an independent, I am looking for strong character, fiscally responsible, socially conservative and thoughtful candidates. I care about solutions that benefit the citizens, not the Beltway Power Brokers and their lobbyists.

And today I am sad that the family that once represented "America" ended in partisan defeat. It is far better to lose a race well run, then to not race at all.

1 Corinthians 9:24-25 In a race all the runners take part in it, but only one of them wins the prize. Run, then, in such a way as to win the prize.

Truth for $100 - What Kind of Christian are You?

If we look over church history, we see lots of heroes of the faith. Some are called saints because of their work, their influence on society, and the fact that they have preformed a couple of certified miracles.

In the world there are billions that are/claim to be Christians - I know I was surprised when I looked HERE. How many are in what denominations? HERE is that info.

2.1 Billion Christian worldwide with 84% of the US claiming to be Christian - that's a lot of bread and wine every month!

I find it interesting that only 1% define themselves as non-denominational or "other." That leaves a lot of folks that tow the party-line of their denomination. I am a little jaded living in New England, where we are predominately Roman Catholic; about 72%, where as the national average is only 22%. Oh yeah, and one more tidbit: only about a third of so-called Christians attend a church service every week.

This blog is not about denominations, it is about Christians. Regardless of what your basic doctrine is, or style of worship, saving faith in Jesus makes us a family; brothers and sisters in Christ. If we look at the subset of "true believers" - those that agree on salvation by faith, we can still further divide that group into a few groups - the very ones that I want to talk about today.

Lets say we have 5 levels of Christians - like a Jeopardy category. Pretend that I am Alex Trbek, and here is your category "Committed Christian."

$500 - The White Hot Christian, loves God and wants to serve Him.

$400 - Passionate Christian - loves God, fits Him in as much as possible - well, around work, family and church meetings.

$300 - Luke warm Christian - Gets up and goes to church each week, occasionally attending other events, and lives their life with a number of other priorities before God.

$200 - The Fair Weather Christian - It's what Christians believe, not what they do that matters. It is more fun to go on vacation then be at church. If God needs me, He'll find me.

$100 - The Nominal Christian - disconnected for church, the Word, from God.. thinks about church in religious terms, but not really motivated to seek after God.

Sure, this is the same type of "get better sermon" you have heard a hundred times. You might be thinking I just need to get going here - that's all - just get more into prayer, reading the word and getting to more church stuff.

What might be better is to just be honest with God. Hey, I'm just a $100 question. It just might be that if you are, you might get the Daily Double. The very little effort that you put into being up front with God, may in fact return you more than you thought possible. That's what I love about God. When we are real, so is He. When we get all plastic and religious, He may as well be too.

So, just be real and remember that God thinks you're worth a million even if you chose Commitment for $100.

Matthew 25:14-30

Thursday, February 11, 2010

What If You Were the Pastor?

You just walked out the front door of your church. How do you feel? Was it a good service? Do you feel the presence of God? Are you looking forward to going back?

I received some comments from folks that really like their churches. That is great to hear! More often I hear from folks that are in the fringes, or not attending at all. That's one reason I am pushing for reform.

There are lots of different reasons why folks are down on church. Some do not feel significant in church, others don't feel that their church is really doing everything they should be according to thew Bible - others are just hungry for more of God and thirsty for the things of Jesus and can't seem to find it.

If you can't be part of the solution, then don't complain. I like that.

We all have ideas of what the perfect church should be - and many would say there isn't one. Certainly the catalyst for our church solutions should be from the Lord - His wisdom - not ours. It is often true that the impetus for other ideas come from our culture, our experience, our denominational background and our own observations - thinking is a good thing too.

Today I'd like to hear from you - what was your favorite church experience? I want to know what you love about your church. I would also like to hear about a problem in your church that you were part of the solution.

Whether or not you go to church, if you were the pastor, what would be different?

If you don't want to comment - even anonymously, just email me:

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Valentines Day - Romance by the Numbers

I LOVE holidays, especially Valentines day. I think of Valentines as a mini-honeymoon. My wife and I have a fair amount of family and kid time - but not always enough alone time - well, until we start getting into the CSI and Law & Order repeats - that will free up an hour each day.

Valentines Day is a good excuse to focus on being together and enjoying love.

I wrote about the the real Valentine's Day three years ago HERE. The holiday seems to have a few standard requirements according to Matt. But I have my own list:

I like to buy my wife flowers, and any day is a good excuse - even the dog's birthday! With three dogs the odds of hitting one of their birthdays is higher than the average - but just today is a good reason. Pre-Dave Ramsey, I used to get flowers for her more often. I stupidly agreed to a budget without flowers - but it has guitars as a line item, so I am afraid to renegotiate.

I don't know why flowers work for my wife (and lots of other women), but I'm not fixing what ain't broke. She loves them. They look nice, they smell nice, and they are cheap at the grocery store.

On Valentines, or any day, flowers give you a big bang for your buck.

Having three daughters is like living in a perpetual sea of female hormones. I have discovered that anything with hearts is considered "cute," and if I get an awww... I am well on my way to achieving the needed points on Valentines Day. I do have a few qualities that still need to be redeemed and hearts help. My wife might leave a list in her comment.

Chocolate is an essential ingredient to having a successful holiday celebration. It doesn't seem to matter what it is in - boxes, baked goods, pie and even whipped cream, they are all winners.

Stuffed animals make me Superman for the day! The softer and cuter, the bigger the win. On Valentines Day, the volume of gift giving we see at Christmas is significantly reduced. Therefore; I can concentrate on Plush Factor!

Cards are of extreme importance on any holiday - especially Valentines Day. Forgetting the card is like for forfeiting the game. Remember, a romantic card seals the deal. Without a thoughtful card - POOF! - you don't have a chance of getting lucky. WARNING: Be sure not to leave the sales receipt in it - the sales date is a contributing factor to the sincerity quotient. The closer the sales date is to V-Day, the romance factor is reduced logarithmically.

We are skipping the heart laden sexy underwear section because Christians get a little widgy about things like that. How many "Feed My Sheep" t-shirts have you seen in Victoria's Secret?

It is a good thing that Valentines Day is basically designed for men to romance woman, otherwise the requirements would be: showing up naked and bringing hot wings.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Some Things Gotta Change

There are a lot of things that make a church tick. The more I listen - especially to those that have complaints, the more I see things have got to change. As we transition from the old religious way of doing things, to a spirit led body that is able to respond to the the commands of Jesus and the needs of a region, the church has some adjusting to do - a new wine skin if you will.

I also hear talk of revival, but even passionate believers with charismatic magnetism need to have a plan; a method of working that accomplishes the deeds of Heaven. It cannot be a legalistic framework, but must be a living breathing organism that can adapt to the changing needs of the church, and the surrounding community.

I talk a lot about what the church must do to jettison religious paradigms. Today I thought I would spell it out with opposites in no particular order.

Knowing about God Knowing God
Services Spirit Led Meetings
Programs Spirit Led Teaching
Pastor-centric Cells 5-Fold Equipped Elders
Efforts of Man Works of God
Believe-ism Faith
Clergy Dominated Participating Communities
Leader/CEO Team Led
Religious Meeting Oriented Highly Relational
Attending Church Being the Church
Member Focused Community Focused
Cloning Staffing for Weaknesses
Controlling Release
Talent Gifting
Congregations City Church
Corporate Structure Biblical Structure
Back Room Meetings Full Financial Disclosure
Talk Walk
Spectatorship Participation
(Believers Ministry)
Sloppy Agape Accountability
Leading Mentoring
Decisions Disciples
Natural Supernatural

I'd be interested in what you think - but if you don't comment, at least vote.

Are You Listening? - How About Those Saints!

Sarah Palin was the main speaker at TEA Party convention in Nashville over the weekend. No matter what you think of Sarah Palin or the TEA Party movement (personally I am mixed over both), here are the messages you don't want to overlook.

Many are familiar with the saying: Neither a borrower nor a lender be, and some attribute it to the Bible, but it is a quote from Shakespeare. The Bible is clearer on the issue. "...the borrower is a slave to the lender" (Proverbs 22:7).

If the Bible is true, we have become slaves to China and other foreign investors. If you don't believe that, just look at the manufacturing labels next time you are in Wal*Mart. Unbridled consumerism in the US has forced manufacturers to secure the cheapest labor they can find. The past prosperity and easy credit only fueled the competition. Had we had tariffs in place to level the economic playing field, the bubble of economic happiness would have been much smaller.

Our country is trillions of dollars in debt and the message to states and the Feds is: STOP spending what we don't have!

Even after the State of the Union speech, that message doesn't appear to be something that resonates with Washington. In November, Americans will vote to extend terms or replace many in the US Congress. The economy and out-of-control spending will most likely have a referendum. As a Christian, I hope to vote for those that will cut the deficit, just like my wife and I have to in our personal finances.

Part two of the message was National Security. After hearing this: "An attempted attack, the priority is certain, I would say." Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair. (MORE) Apparently more needs to be done to secure America. Beyond the politics, the spin and rhetoric, doesn't it seem reasonable that we get our act together in terms of the State Department, CIA, FBI and NHS? As a Christian-American and human being, I prefer security over insecurity and war.

The current administration (that is the one that can do something - and the blame Bush credits are all used up MORE) needs to rethink their noble peace initiative. It appears to me, that Washington does not believe that we have a problem with domestic terrorism. I am sure that would have changed if the Underwear Bomber had succeeded in doing more than burning his crotch. (I am so tempted to make an off color comment.)

Part three of the message was accountability, responsibility, and policy over politics. As Christians, and now, finally, it seems as Americans, we need to vote for people that will do what they say regardless of their party affiliations. We should be praying, and looking for godly wisdom, not having "Christian sounding opinions."

And finally, Palin said "If there is hope for Massachusetts (voting for Republican/Independent Scott Brown) then there is hope for the Nation.

In November we have a chance to put things back on track. Regardless of the promises of man, we have the promises of Heaven. As Christians we can work for biblical principals without choosing parties, titles, labels, and wings. We can be strategic about who we support, and we can say NO when needed. Our views, and our votes, are not to benefit us personally, but to promote the Kingdom of God.

Won't it be a great day in the US when an election turns the course of this nation to a more biblically influenced society, and we can say, "how about those Saints?"
Even if you don't comment, please vote below.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

OK, So You Really Hate Organized Church - Then What?

Some folks are really sick of church and don't even want to go any longer. For many, it is irrelevant and life-draining. Engaging with God and his people no longer seems worth the effort.

If you are not attending church regularly, how would you answer the following question?

Church is _____________ and that is why I don't go.
A. Boring (I'd rather watch Good Morning America or Yo MTV Raps.)
B. Unfriendly and Hurtful (To hard to make meaningful friends and feel significant to leadership.)
C. Too Intellectual (All Word and no Spirit)
D. Doesn't Believe What I Believe (Not biblical, or too literal.)
E. All of the Above

Let's say you are one who has refrained from doing the Top 10 Stupidest Things Christians Do, you are pretty serious about Jesus with a strong foundation, but just can't stomach another church service for one or more of the above reasons. What do you do then? Good question.

Possibly you have weathered a desert experience and you still love Jesus, do some praying, listen to worship music, read the Word and give when you can. On the outside you say, isn't that enough? On the inside, you KNOW there's more.

Are you are looking for something refreshing and invigorating? Do you believe God for a drink of living water?

I have written a lot about what's wrong in the church, but today I am going to look forward, and try to provide a framework for what I believe God can use to dig a well - hopefully where you live.

To have a significant church that expresses the fullness of Christ, YOU need vision, perseverance, an apostolic plan (good blog outlining what that is) and some passion to reform your thinking too (I wrote about the HERE).

Let's get started with some bullet points.
- Tag, you're it! You are the church. Some churches are just 2 people and Jesus, others are big and have buildings. Your local church expression depends on you.
- If you can't find a church that God wants you at, then start a new one.
- You need to have vision. What's going to make your new church different from all the rest? (The answer has to be, by following Jesus.)
- The best foundation for a church is the one laid out in Ephesians 4. To get going you'll need prophetic revelation and some sort of apostolic plan - but without good pastoring, teaching and evangelism, you church will not grow to be healthy.
- No one needs titles and it is not necessary to select elders and deacons etc. These roles will fill themselves with prayerful consideration, right-sized egos and godly timing.
- You need to identify your role. You CANNOT be a do-it-all pastor. You will need to surround yourself with at least a few others (eventual elders) to have a balanced team. Staff for your weaknesses, don't try to clone yourself!

Remember, personal burden + previous and current revelation + God's timing = New Church Plant.

Check list for gifting - how do YOU fit in:
- If you have a heart for people's spiritual and physical needs, that's pastoral
- If you have a heart for the lost, that's evangelistic.
- If you just seem to know what God is doing, and have a proven track record, that's prophetic.
- If you have a heart for the church to be functioning on all cylinders and making disciples, that's apostolic.
- If you have a heart for the Word of God, that's teaching.

So what are the elements of the plan?
-1 Vision: A vision that comes from God, and is practical - outside the box is always good if it is God. It is best to write it down, pray over it, and look for a few individuals that feel that God is in it. If you need clearer vision, find the person that you know who always has good ideas about church, and see if they can get some folks to come together. The vision must end up relieving the personal burden, be doable, and most of all has to be God. (Apostolic)

-2 Direction: You need to identify steps that will get you moving towards the fulfillment of the vision. Some will be very practical, but others will need to be by revelation. How will you choose one location over another? How will the vision be accomplished when obstacles arise? You need supernatural wisdom and revelation. (Prophetic)

-3 Meeting Community Needs: The most important reason for a local church is so that folks in your local can experience Jesus, his love, and become His disciples; hopefully replicating the vision over and over. (Pastoral)

The church must begin to meet the personal and spiritual needs of the community - not the religious fascinations of a few.

Here is the point in which a church is established - when 2 or more come together in His name. There are lots of practical things to be done: Format for the services; 1 Corinthians is a good place to start, meeting places, buildings, tax issues, worship team etc. I am a big fan of leadership getting paid, but never by salary. Love offerings are the way to go. (Pastoral)

-4 Reaching the Lost: A new church will probably attract other Christians at first, but beware, the purpose of church is ultimately to preach the Gospel message and reach the lost. There are lots of opinions on how the first year should go in a church plant, but all the members need to be looking for opportunities to share the gospel. (Evangelism) No church is going to survive without reaching the lost. God is not looking to create another Christian Ghetto for unsatisfied believers from other churches to hop to - He wants to reap the harvest.

-5 Teaching: All disciples will need to be taught. There are some folks that are excellent teachers, and they are not always pastors. The 5-Fold ministers are mandated to equip the others, while the teachers will bring insightful teaching to many aspects of the Christian life from relationship to marriage, addiction, victory and supporting doctrine.

The 5-fold roles will initially be the elders of the church. Eventually, the prophet and apostle will be moved on to another work in another location. The maturing church will probably replace them with additional teachers, evangelists or pastors. The apostle and prophet will hopefully have built a meaningful rapport with the pastor, and his resident elder-ship of evangelist(s) and teachers(s). In the same way that Paul the apostle wrote letters, they will keep in touch, be prayerful and supportive as the Lord sees fit.

The apostolic process is exciting - well, for the apostolic types. For everyone else it is a real adventure in faith.

Are you with me? Tell me what you think! And if you don't comment, at least vote!

There is much more about this HERE.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Til' Death Do Us Part - The Living Sacrifice

In the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake, if you are like me, you had some strong feelings. On one hand there are folks suffering - many have died and not all them quickly - that's torture. All this, while the US plays out Katrina, the Sequel, as its bloated bureaucratic engine inches forward.

The media spends time a lot of time finding the "worst" and the "best" of stories, but on the ground, things stink for Haitians - really stink.

Another story that caught my attention in the midst of the turmoil, was this one: US Baptists charged with Haiti child abduction face 15 years in jail. Wow! A group of nicey-nice church folks go down to do some good, and end up in prison - and even if not convicted, they could spend three months in jail while the Haitian judge makes up his mind regarding their fate.

Let me take a minute to describe what I think is going on here. As previously stated, things on the ground are unbelievably difficult, the media is making money reporting pain and suffering and an occasional "miracle" rescue, while the Christians are going in to help in practical and humanitarian ways; along with a host of others. Hopefully the Christians were there to pray as well as serve. I don't know anything about them.

How are they going to get out of there, back to their families, jobs and American life? I can tell you the media isn't cutting them any slack.

"I believe that religious beliefs have no privileged status in a democratic society." Jonathan Sacks

I have traveled quite a bit on short-term missions, some even after 9/11. Other countries are not the US, that I am sure of. There are a lot of bashers out there who don't like it here in the US. I am not a fan of the present regime, but this is home. I feel safe in many ways.

So will the Haitian government get these folks who were probably not doing anything wrong - stupid - but not with any ill intent - home? I don't know. It's hard to tell in the media because they bash Christians enough where we might not ever see the back story.

Here is what I do know, and Christians of everywhere should be aware of it.

Revelation 12:11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.

Let me be cliche - there is no testimony without a test.

It seems rather romantic to head off to another country and do the work of God. As Americans, many of us have those kind of resources. Missions, or any work we do for God, is not just some nicey-nice religious activity. It is an assault on the Kingdom of Darkness. (Matthew 11:12) The people of God are meant to be light in a dark place - and dark places are sometimes dangerous. Missions are not vacations - yet, we may enjoy many things about them. God has a plan.

Satan? He plays for keeps. You should remind yourself of that fact.

Prison, although not a normal part of life for American Christians, is certainly part of the deal.

Acts 16:25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody's chains came loose.

Will you pray for those in prison for the sake for the Gospel? Or maybe you'll join me on a trip.

What do you think, would you be cool with God if you ended up in prison as a living sacrifice - well, long enough for you to lose your job, possibly your home and end up in ruin?
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