Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Questions Answered!

If you missed my Sure, I'll Answer That post last week, some of my readers sent me questions that they wanted to know what I know, or at least what I think.

GCT said
I know that you claim that you can't argue to god using reason, etc, but surely you must have some reason for belief in your particular religious faith vs. any other, correct? What is that reason and why is it compelling? Further, do you have any reasons that you feel are compelling coming from you but are not compelling coming from someone with a different set of beliefs?

These are tough questions because it is hard to explain God to someone that can't see Him, or has felt His presence - but as always, I'll try.

Me personal experience with God was a total surprise to me, and it wasn't in a church. I didn't say the sinner's prayer, or respond to an altar call. I was at an Alateen conference and they were closing it with the "God as We Understand Him" meeting. It was a bunch of kids that got up there and expressed their thoughts on the "higher power". I was an atheist at the time.I was telling some of the kids waiting in line how I didn't believe in God. Somewhere between that statement, and the microphone, I felt a strange presence. I was born again right there. The experience is still indescribable, and that was in 1978. HERE is more on that story.

To answer why I believe what I believe is more difficult - so I will explain that process. I am a programmer, so everything needs to be scripted, and orderly. In 1982, I decided to read that Bible for myself. I grew up in a church with no power, and no presence, but  lots of religion. HERE is more on that. I also went to a healing meeting where a little boy was healed of a club foot! HERE is more on that story. That kind of stuff gets your attention.

I have read that Bible 7 times cover-to-cover in 5 different translations. (NIV, RSV, NAS, AMP, NKJ) and I like the Message to just read. Each time I would read it, I would find something that was really cool - healing, prophesy, the coin in the fishes mouth - I wanted to experience it. I also read HUNDREDS of books about the supernatural and went ot Bible School, seminary, and ministry school.  I think I've heard it all. HERE is more on denominations.

I am a simple guy. I thought if Jesus came and found me at the God meeting, people told me that He could do stuff, and this little boy was healed, then I ought to get out there and see it for myself. I didn't really follow any specific denomination, but I spent years as a Charismatic Episcopalian, a few years in some evangelical churches, a few more in Pentecostal churches, and 10+ years in Vineyard Christian Fellowships. All of them had a mix of religion, and Spirit. I witnessed far more of the supernatural in Brazil, than in USA.

Americans don't have nearly as many needs, and therefore; they can often fix whatever is wrong on their own, without ever giving God a thought. Healthcare, bankruptcy, unemployment insurance, welfare, soup kitchens all insulate folks from a need for a supernatural God.

I don't worry about who is right, or who wins the debate. Debating God is basically pointless. If God heals your loved one, or provides some pressing need, that is much more convincing than some debate. Guys like the Bible Answer Man and John McCarthy bore me to tears with their debate and theory about God. I read the Bible, and if God does that very thing I read about before my very eyes - well, then I think I am right.

The bottom line for me is this, if God said it in the Bible, then it is possible that I can experience it. The rest - which I'll get to - like were Adam and Eve real folks, was Noah a real guy, did Jonah really go in the belly of  whale, and what is Heaven like? Are things that I can't prove, and honestly, I don't care too. I can tell you what I have seen, and you can check it out for yourself. I have 30+ years of experience in seeing God heal, prophecies come to pass, people radically delivered from addictions, as well as other miracles and supernatural events. I don't need anyone else's scholarship, faith, denominational doctrines or belief. I just as convinced of God's power, as I am of the fact that their is a car in my driveway.

I know there are lots of folks that claim to rightly divide the word, and in their own minds, they do. As we've discussed previously, if there is no fruit, I don't believe it. If it sounds plausible, I check it out against what I already know to be true. And unlike a lot of others, I admit the things I am unsure of. That doesn't make God wrong, or the Bible in conflict. It simply means that I don't know yet, and God hasn't reveled it to me yet. For instance, I am still waiting to see some raised from the dead after 3 days.

Here are a few blogs about how I know God.
- The Man From Argentina
- The Red Mazda
- Personal Healing
- Full Tank
- The Bald Man
- The Black BMW

The above stories are compelling because I was there, not because some body told me what, or how to believe.

Joyce Lighari said...
How important are rituals? Or are they important at all? If so, what is the one that you can't live without. Do you believe when we die we immediately go to heaven or do we wait for the resurrection? If we wait, where do we wait?

Good question Joyce. Rituals are good if they point us to God. It is the same with symbols. Otherwise they can stick us right in the middle of dead religion, where we won't see God. Certainly communion is a mandate - "do this in remembrance of me." All the other sacraments, water baptism, reconciliation (confession), confirmation (laying on of hands to receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit), marriage, holy orders (ordination) and the anointing of the sick are all in the Bible. It seems that more often that we do them, the less meaningful they can become unless we truly connect with God - that's always exciting.

I am New Testament guy, and I think the word, fellowship, communion and  prayer (Acts 2:42) are the essential personal rituals.

I believe that we go straight up. If we had to wait, that would present a theological problem. Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise." I know there are other verses that talk about sleep - but Jesus is easier to understand than Paul.

photogr said...
Are you a pre tribulationist ( Jesus comes at the beginning of tribulation and takes up His church) or Post tribulationist ( Jesus comes at the end of the tribulations and then takes up his church)?

I believe in a post tribulation resurrection. (You can Google a million pages on the Bible verses) Certainly there are good theological arguments for both - well, and even a mid-tribulation resurrection. I believe that the Body of Christ (church) will suffer like the body of Christ. It will be tortured and persecuted worse than the 1st century church. There will be be millions of church buildings destroyed, and hundreds of thousands slaughtered for their faith. Of course others see us getting out of here a la Left Behind, but I don't see it happening like that. I think real Christians will be very popular in the tribulation in preaching the final years of Gospel to a very lost and evil world.

Tony C said...
Why is vanilla ice cream white when vanilla beans are actually dark brown?

Because ice cream is 99% cream, which is white. Vanilla beans and extract are very dark, but not dark enough to turn the cream dark.

Did Lazarus get a refund on his burial expenses?
I'll ask him when I get to heaven, but I don't think they paid for those services, they were traditionally done by the family. I can send Candice a handbook when the time comes. ;o)

Do Asian people get English words tattooed on their bodies? Yes, see this link.

The reason we have interstates in Hawaii is quite simple...that's a way for the federal gov't to spend more money for 'defense' purposes which is the original reason for the interstate system. Grrrrrrr!

A freeway system linking cites throughout the United States - that is  states with an "s."

KB said...
What is your vision for the perfect church?

I happen to think that the 5-fold church model (Ephesian 4:11) is the most biblical, along with a spirit led meeting format outlined in 1 Corinthians 14.

Here is my take on the Ascension Gifts.

Rick Yushenko said...
I trust that you believe in Biblical infallibility, that the Bible is true for matters of the spirit.

What are your thoughts on Biblical inerrancy, that all details of the Bible are completely true, and that contradictions do not exist?

I believe that the Bible is the true and inspired word of God. I don't think there are any mistakes in it. I do think there are some difficult passages which are hard to understand. I do not think any one person knows every thing there is to know about the word of God, nor do I believe God wants that to be so. The reason is that we are a body made of many parts. These parts are meant to function together. That said, I know there are difficulties when we try to understand the Bible on a completely intellectual level. It contains parables, allegory, poetry, historical passages, symbolism and the trouble comes when intellectuals interpret passages using the proper literary type.

For example, folks get all widgy about creation. The Bible simply says that God created the heavens and the earth in 6 days. Now, some folks think that humankind as we know it in the Bible is about 6,000 years old. Of course scientists say that the earth is a bajillion years old or whatever. The Bible does not need to be accurate in this detail - it is a not a science book. However; that does not make the Bible untrue, or in conflict. If we read Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

The real question is how long was the earth formless? A day, a week, a million years?  The Bible does not say.Amazingly, this is the kind of stuff people who could care less about God debate every day.

There are other theological questions. When does one receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit for example? Some believe that it is at the moment of regeneration (faith in salvation by Jesus Christ) and others believe that it happens by the laying on of hands.

I will say this without reservation. It is impossible to understand the Bible apart from the Holy Spirit. I am concentrating on the parts of the Bible that are true for me.- loving my neighbor, helping the poor, bearing one another's burdens etc. I pray for others when the opportunity presents itself. And from time-to-time I see positive results.

Are there parts of the Bible I do not understand? Yes. Am I worried about it? No! Perceived contradictions are not contradictions. For instance, the Gospels are not a completely homogeneous work. Each one is written from a different perspective; for a different audience. Because one does not give the same eye-witness account doesn't mean that eye witness wasn't there. Look at all the work that has gone into investigating the JFK assassination. There are still conspiracy theories even after they have confirmed that the trajectory of the bullet is consistent with a shot fired from the Book Depository. It is the same thing with the Bible.

Of all the historical accounts, I find the book of Acts fascinating. I have experienced many similar acts of God.

I don't worry about whether Jonah was swallowed by a big fish, a whale or a non-species fish - I believe that it happened.

Eagle Girl asked...

How often do you speak in tongues?

Interesting questions about tongues, Carol. First, I make a distinction between those used as a "personal 
prayer language" and those meant to be interpreted in a church gathering. I don't knew that the content or quality is actually different - just the purpose.

How often? Pretty much every day for some reason or another. Usually while I am driving/praying, but also when I am worshipping to music, spending a quiet moment, or looking for words that I don't have when I am praying with a friend over the phone. I have often prayed through an entire church service (when I am not Facebooking on my Blackberry)

Do you understand any of the words you speak in tongues?
Nope, not yet. What I do know is that my spirit is edified, and it is the power behind the gifts of the Holy Spirit. If you want to increase the anointing, this is the key. Folks who desire the spiritual gifts, will have a harder time if they don't add this fuel to that which God has gifted them to do.

Have you ever translated [interpreted] anyone else speaking in tongues?
Yes. One time I was watching a web-cast from Friends of the Bridegroom with Mick Bickle with a friend of mine. He started to worship in tongues and it was if I heard it in English. He was giving glory to God, giving praise and thanking Jesus for various things. It was a shock to both of us - but that was exaclty what was on his heart as we were listening to this wonderful testimony on the web.

Has anyone translated [interpreted] your speaking in tongues? 
No, I am very quiet and pretty much don't use them on public settings - maybe in a small prayer group. The church needs some help in this area. Tongues have been abused in many setting. But when the real thing happens, it is captivating.

David I will always remember when you came to Cincinnati to visit an old friend of yours along with other believers and we all had such a great time in the Spirit.

Thanks, Carol. Yes, that was a fun time and God really did a lot those few days back in Cinci. it is those types of meetings that confirm to me that God love us, and is at work in our lives.

And there you have it - David's answers to your questions.

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Monday, June 28, 2010

For Better or Worse

It was 7 years ago today, that I said "I do" - and so faintly, no one heard me. Mary Anne took my breath away then, and still does now. We stood there looking into each others eyes - her hands shaking. I think we also said "for better or worse." I certainly couldn't have done any better, and she couldn't have done much worse. ;o) My bride occasionally reminds me that men who are married live longer, and woman who are single, also do.

I maintain, she's the best thing that ever happened to me. Thank you God!

Today I wanted to take a few minutes to let you know how, and remind myself how awesome Mary Anne is. Not too long before meeting her I received a prophetic word about how marriage would heal me from not only divorce, but from some other issues. God is like that. He uses everything in our lives to bring us to the the fullness of His plan and destiny for us.It has definably been healing.

Mary Anne and I met 9 years ago tomorrow. Since that time here is what I discovered about her:

- She is kind
- She is patient
- She is beautiful
- She is a great cook
- She is a great mom and step mom, always putting others before herself
- She is a faithful Christian, and not prone to some of the immature stuff we see too much of.
- She is a devoted daughter - how I wish my parents were around to enjoy her
- She is creative
- She is intelligent
- She is sincere - amazingly sincere
- She is sensitive
- She is a very funny
- She works hard
- She is a pet lover supreme
- She is loving
- She is turned off by cheap talk
- She Enjoys making others happy
- She is  GREAT friend

and most important of all, she's the love of my life.

How about you, do you have a significant other? What are their best qualities?

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Everyone Gets to Play - Come Join Jesus

John Wimber, founder of the Vineyard movement, used to say "everyone gets to play." What he meant was that the leadership wasn't going to be doing all the ministry. And that is a good thing because, in most denominations, the pastoral and overseeing authorities were really separated from the laity. They were the paid "holy men," often doing all the praying, all the teaching and all the administration and counseling too. Bigger churches just had more paid holy men to carry out the so called ministry of the church.

When I was doing missions in Brazil, I found it really difficult to just be a regular guy, trying to do what I saw the Father doing. Everyone wanted to address me with some sort of title -- out respect for sure -- but I wasn't ordained at the time. The separation between me and them was perceived. Sure, I studied the Bible in a formal school... but really, who gives a flying epistle? Paul the apostle was a very well educated Jew, but he didn't count his formal education as anything that made him special. Me, all I wanted to be was David... I even insisted on it.

I once ministered in a Korean church. They required that I have an ordination certificate, so I went out and got one from a local congregation that was a plant of a mega church in OK. It's been in a packing box for nine years. I remember ministering in the sanctuary, and my friend Holy Spirit came in a mighty way. For many there, this type of ministry was new, however; the pastor was very savvy. Instead of having another altar call where the manifestations of the Holy Spirit could be misunderstood, he simply sat me in the front pew, and let folks come in one at a time to let me minister to them. Wow! All the paradigms of church went out the window as God healed a woman with a deaf ear, caused demons to flee, and provided insight and wisdom from His Spirit. And the Asian Buffet next to the Waffle House was great too!

I have come across all kinds of religiousness in my day, and sadly, been one of its promoters too.

Another thing that I loved about the Vineyard movement was that they trained everyone to pray for others. My church taught me the laying on of hands, how to pray with someone for salvation and/or the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Sure, I knew how to do some of that, but this was a complete package. It took only four two-hour sessions, and changed the paradigm from "we are the senior holy men" to "you too can partner with Christ for the work of the kingdom." I don't promote any denomination, but the training was freeing for me. Since that time, I have received ministry training from a number of other big name venues... but it all comes down to, be loving, listening for God's leading, be willing to mess up and be accountable, and getting out there and doing it.

What is the impact of this type of Christian life? I find it exciting, amazing, humbling and little scary sometimes.

When I was in Brazil the first time, I went to a Full Gospel church... one where they believed in the gifts of the spirit (1 Cor 12). I traveled with a team (see top photo); one with a healing gift, another a preacher with a doctorate in theology and another a real evangelist. As the worship played, I just prayed in the spirit-- mostly because I didn't understand the words. This particular night my team decided that one of us would preach, and I would do a time of ministry and the laying on of hands.

Something was a little odd about all that was going on there. From the outside, it looked like a standard Pentecostal worship service. But as folks came forward during the ministry time (altar call), there was a lot of speaking in tongues and flopping around on the floor... honestly, this isn't a problem for me, but this night there was something wrong. As I laid hands on people, they began to jump around like pogo sticks, praying in tongues - but they were false tongues. You might be thinking, how do you know the difference if you don't understand tongues? I dunno-- some sort of Holy Spirit insight is all I can say.

After a few of the folks went bouncing off, a young woman came forward and started the pogo stick-ing along with the false tongues. I simply said, as she went up and down while I laid my hand on her forehead, "I break the spirit of religion in the name of Jesus!" In the spirit, I heard a loud snap, just like a breaking bone, and she hit the concrete floor and lay there under the power of the Holy Ghost. After a few moments she began praising God-- and then something stranger happened, she began to speak in tongues; Holy Spirit tongues. It was beautiful, just beautiful. As she did this, tears streamed down her face to the floor. I continued down the line of bouncing congregants.

After a few minutes she got up and began to speak very loudly, and with such authority. The worship team stopped playing, and she gave a short testimony. Through the interpreter, she said. "Brothers and sisters in Christ, I have received this prayer and God has changed me. I know Him now and I didn't know Him like this before. Come, get in line with this pastor (they just can't help themselves :o) ) from the the USA. Don't pray, and don't hop, just receive." That night many religious spirits were broken in the name of Jesus. By the end of the service we had such an amazing turn out that they scheduled a special meeting the next morning for us to minister again.

Formal religion can be tough because there are so many perceived expectations of so called leaders. They must be this and that, gone to school for this and that -- yikes. No wonder we feel separated from them, and worse, less useful to the Kingdom! They have been given the job that is rightfully that of all believers. You don't need to have a degree-- thermometers have degrees and you where some people put those. You just need to have a heart for the Kingdom of God. Jesus said it is at hand-- your hand and His. Jesus said that we could do greater things than He did. So why aren't we?

Paul Cain, a man I perceive to be a prophet, gave a mighty prophecy about a nameless and faceless generation for workers that would simply be Jesus to a lost and dying world. A generation of sold-out and equipped Christians, that would go out and make a difference for Jesus. I don't know about you, but that's what I am looking for-- a place to just be me, and do His work.

End-Times Topics: False Prophets/Christs

I have never had a guest blogger - but it seemed like a good time to have one - mostly because there is some stuff I don't know, which; today's guest does.

I was thinking about writing a piece or two on the things that will happen in the last days before the return of Jesus. HERE is the last blog I wrote on the topic. As I was researching - trying to get my thoughts together - I read some of Les Young's research. I decided to ask him if he would write a blog on the subject. In the process, I learned: never ask a soon to be graduate of doctoral studies in theology to write a short blog. So here is the first installment, and there will be others as we have time. You can read more of his Les's writing over at End Times Encouragement.

False Prophets/Christs

There is no better place to begin this topic than with the Word of God. The Bible is full of warnings concerning false prophets, going all the way back to the Torah. I think we can learn much by looking at the first (based on Thompson Chain Reference) reference to false prophets:

Deuteronomy 13:1-5 (NIV)
1 If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder,
2 and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, "Let us follow other gods" (gods you have not known) "and let us worship them,"
3 you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul.
4 It is the LORD your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him.
5 That prophet or dreamer must be put to death, because he preached rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery; he has tried to turn you from the way the LORD your God commanded you to follow. You must purge the evil from among you.

Most of us are familiar with the sure-fire way of discerning a false prophet: he prophesies something and it does not come to pass. That test is valid if the prophecy is short term; but what good is the test if the prophecy is far-off? Should Isaiah have been stoned to death because the Messiah wasn't born of a virgin within the next generation? I think not. I believe that what we have in the Deuteronomy passage above is a test that can always be used to test for a false prophet (or false prophecy) and it is this: does the prophecy move you away from God and His righteous commands, or does it move you closer. This test works, even when the prophecy comes to pass.

Now concerning false prophets/Christs in the end-times, Jesus was not silent. At the beginning of His Olivet Discourse He said:
Matthew 24:5 (NIV)
5 For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many.

And again, a few verses later:
Matthew 24:11 (NIV)
11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.

During these portentous times in which we live, do we see any of these signs, increasing in intensity and frequency, like birth pains coming upon an expectant mother? I believe we do. Not only do we see certain people appearing on the political scene claiming to have connection with the divine, or to even possess a spark of the divine. I know it was with tongue-in-cheek for some (but not for all) that Barak H. Obama was labeled "The Messiah." The dictator of North Korea claims to be a god. The mad man of Iran claims to have a divine mission to usher in the age of the 12th Imam.

Paul wrote a couple of things that should make those who revere the Bible as the Word of God stop and question at least a few "false" religious practices, endorsed by false prophets who proclaim them to be true.
1 Timothy 2:5 (NIV)
5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,
This excludes Mary and the "saints."
1 Timothy 4:1-3 (NIV)
1 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.
2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.
3 They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth.

And the list continues. There are whole denominations (so-called Protestant/Evangelical) for whom the following Scripture paints a condemning picture:
Romans 1:32 (NIV)
32 Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

Then we could travel to India, where Maharesh Yogi types are considered divine, and who enslave millions in a false religious system which embraces everything from child-prostitution to bankrupting lending practices to slavery. And from this dark and demonic system, the west has imported elements to develop all sorts of "eastern mysticism."

Within mainstream protestantism, there has developed a number of streams of thought that cause the discerning person to at least take a second look. How many 20th Century "revivals" have occurred that resulted in more focus on man and his program than on the Lord Jesus Christ? I don't have the specific answers here, but when wierd behavior and "signs and wonders take "center stage" and the Gospel of the Kingdom and holiness unto the Lord are lost in the shuffle - well, you decide.

Other streams of thought which may distract people from being prepared by God for the days into which we are entering include: The Prosperity Gospel, or "Your Best Life Now." This sort of teaching, along with a pre-tribulation rapture theology (only about 150 years old) do little to prepare Christians for lives of sacrifice and persecution. What was it that Paul said?
2 Timothy 3:12 (NIV)
12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,

As Jesus was about to conclude the signs leading up to His Second Coming, He stated that one certain thing would happen before the end would come.
Matthew 24:14 (NIV)
14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

Just before that, Jesus makes a statement that includes one of those divine buts; which in this case describes the exception to the destruction and mayhem that are unfolding.
Matthew 24:13 (NIV)
13 but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.

This is the passage of Scripture upon which Encouragement for End-Times Endurance (www.endtimesencouragement.com) was founded. False prophets/Christs wil arise, and in fact are so doing. To keep us from deception, we must have a clear understanding of the Gospel of the Kingdom. It is always better to focus on what is true rather than on the myriad of forgeries that are in the world.

Be encouraged by Christ, so that you may encourage one another.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Don't Give Me that Ship! I Want the Good Ship.

I love James' description of church.

James 3:4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.

I am all for church, and I always hope to be an agent of change for the better - one that brings us closer to Jesus, and in line with His will for individuals (destiny), local church bodies and the entire Kingdon of God. On the decks of the ship called the church, we're should be taking take part in body life.

Acts 2:42 They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

I would say, for the most part, what I see is a lot of teaching, a fair amount of communion, various types of so-called fellowship and some prayer. In many ways I think the church experience almost has it backwards. We talk too much, pray too little, seem to have communion in balance (literally meals together), and we are delusional about fellowship.

First, I find it interesting that the translation is "the fellowship" which grammatcially makes it a noun, not a verb; which many think is. It is a bit of an unfortunate translation because the connotation is some sort of dedication to "the fellowship," or in this case, a body of beleivers, not the act of meeting and interacting with others.

The Greek word for fellowship (and communion, and sex) is koinonia (Strong's 2482). ;In every case it means some sort of intimacy.

I don't know about you, but for the most part, I haven't experienced intimacy with very many folks from church. Honestly, even the telling of testimonies seems a little clinical to me. I know that transparency aids intimacy, but something was missing.

"Communion by intimate participation" is a definition that I found - sounds good to me.

I am wondering how that love of church could grow cold in the last days when God is love? Does that mean that He is going to be far off in the worst times of church history?

There are lots of verses on love in the Bible, but I thought I would try to break it down to a few do-able steps we could use in our times of fellowship.

- Talk to the person that you've known the least amount of time.
- Shorten the Bible study and music worship by 15 minutes and use that time to intereact with others.
- Ask God if there is a "project" person(s) in your church, or small group that you can work on getting to know.
- Contrary to popular belief, discipling is NOT teaching others what they don't know about Jesus, it is being Jesus to them.
- Everyone is not always good at initiating contact. Small group leaders and other leadership may fancy theselves as Bible teachers, but they are responsible for drawing out the quiet ones.

So, do you think we are hitting the mark?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Remembering my Dad on Father's Day

My earthly father passed away om February 13, 1998. Certainly I miss him very much. He never had the chance to meet my youngest one, or my wife Mary Anne. He wasn't there for high school and college graduations - he missed a lot, and we missed having him there.

I have written about him a few times in the past. HERE is the story of his illness and death due to cancer. HERE is a little about him on Memorial Day. HERE is a blog I wrote to remember him.

I had the honor of speaking about my dad at his funeral. Due to his illness, we had some time - some good time together. The Lord gave me a wonderful perspective of his life. There were a lot of not so good times, so  seeing the Lord's hand - actually using my dad's life to show me His character was surprising.

As I stood at the little podium in a Brattleboro funeral home; my daughter Erin giving me a pinky hug, here is what I said.

I know most of you know my dad as Bob, some of you know him as Robert and a select four of us call him dad. Dad was a very unique and interesting man. A man’s man, a veteran, a fisherman with a fish story or two, and a compulsive tinkerer. He was talented mechanically. Bob, Bob could fix almost anything. He just needed a Sunday afternoon and a can of beer or two. He could run an electrical switch, solder a pipe joint, fix the sink, and put a fan belt on the car. He was a man who loved his machines. The boat, the ‘65 Mustang, the lawn tractor, and in his later years his 30-06, the chain saw and his pool. He had an endless love for machines. He had a similar love for football and baseball.

Although he held people at arms length, he had many friends. Most of them loved his kind of quiet gentle nature. When he retired from his first job in the seventies, I was there and everyone cheered him on. Everyone loved him. As an adolescent I had the customary trouble most kids have. My Dad and I were at odds from time to time. Most of the time he just let me be me.

Although he never said it, I found out he was proud of his children. It seemed he might even be more proud of his grandchildren. There were a lot of things he never said. I remember the first time in my adult life he said, “I love you son.” I was 33. I know there were times when he felt it, but he never said it. He kept so much to himself. It was part of who he was.

He was quite a guy though; he watched me fail over and over in life and never said a word. He would just ask if I saw the Patriots play last night. When I did succeed he told everyone he knew. There were so many times when someone would say “your dad is so proud of you.”

I guess at every funeral we spend time repeating the fond memories that we have. And I confess, I have a few of those my self. The day dad took me fishing without my brothers, the time he took us to the Fireman’s Carnival - and there was the water skiing and motorcycles. He helped me with my cars. He came to my wedding and never missed sending the girls a Christmas gift. Even this Christmas, there were gifts with his name on them.

I hope that you all have fond memories of my dad. I have one more. I remember how mad I thought he was going to be when I broke the neighbor’s window. Dad did something that surprised me, he paid the neighbor the price of the repair and never mentioned again. That was a way that he showed me his love.

So as we remember him today I want to tell you about the last few months we had together. They were more special than the all the years before.

When we got the first news of his illness I came to Vermont with my two daughters. We didn't know how bad it was but we wanted to make some memories just in case. My 6-year-old Erin wrapped up her favorite plaque to give him. She used lots of paper and tons of tape. She even had to help him open it.

She had him read it to her. It was about God and his love for us. Shortly after that time dad gave his life to Jesus while my brother Lee was at his bedside. I was at the beach praying for him and a message came over my pager. It said DAD DARTMOUTH HOSPITAL BORN AGAIN. That was on June 27,1997 at 3:42 PM. As a Christian I believe that being born again is essential for spending eternity in Heaven. At that moment my relationship with dad changed. Every time we spoke he told me that he loved me. He came to spend a week with us down on Cape Cod. We watched football and baseball. We had lunch together on the harbor. We went to the beach and watched the waves. He told me that my mom was a good friend and his wife was a good woman.

We talked about love and fear, faith and hope. He came to church with me and it didn't fall down. He went forward for prayer and he told me how much better he felt after. We talked and held hands. We laughed together. He tried to help me with my new home. “You know  I would have done it that way” he said looking at some rough wiring in the newly framed second floor. He said he was proud of me. And those girls he said. Quite a hand full?

A few months later my mother brought dad to church Springfield where Lee and I played music together. After Lee preached the sermon Dad came up for prayer. Again he told me that he felt better. After that we had lunch and talked and he teased the grand children. A few more months of calls and I love you’s and then the news of the last months of life.

As I prayed that morning around 5:30 AM God told me that he was not going to heal my dad. He told me that he wanted dad’s death to be sign to his family that He is real. God wanted you all to know that He loves you and that my Dad was to be in heaven with Him. He also wanted me to take a minute and pray with you all. If you’ll bow your heads for a moment I’d like to do that...

Friday, June 18, 2010

Sure, I'll Answer That!

After hundreds of blogs, about 500 between Kingdom Bloggers and Fire & Grace, I thought it might be fun if my readers asked questions that I could answer. Yeah, I know, its sort of lame, but I need a topic for next week. Maybe you want to know what Bible translation I read, or what brand of toothpaste I use? Who knows, maybe you want to know more about the End Times, tough scriptures, or how awesome my wife is - it's up to you.

I should be able to answer most questions in an upcoming blog. If you write a blog, I'll be sure to add a link to it and give you a not so shameless plug.

Until then, I have some questions for you to ponder:

Why isn't phonetic spelled the way it sounds?

Why are there interstate highways in Hawaii?

Why are there flotation devices under plane seats instead of parachutes?

If you can't drink and drive, why do you need a driver's license to buy liquor?

Have you ever imagined a world with no hypothetical situations?

How does the guy who drives the snowplow get to work in the mornings?

If 7-11 is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, why are there locks on the doors?

If a cow laughed real hard, would milk come out her nose?

If nothing ever sticks to Teflon, how do they make Teflon stick to the pan?

If you tied buttered toast to the back of a cat and dropped it from a height, what would happen?

If you're in a vehicle going the speed of light, what happens when you turn on the headlights?

If a black box in a plane is indestructible, why can't they make the whole plane out of it?

What do sheep count when they can't get to sleep?

When you choke a Smurf, what color does it turn?

Is there another word for thesaurus?

Is it true that cannibals don't eat clowns because they taste funny?

If there is no God, who pops up the next Kleenex in the box?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Religion - Stumbling Blocks to Doing God's Will

Religion is a tough task master. I have been participating on LinkedIn discussion group. I posted two discussions, one about what the church needs to do to turn around is declining membership in the US. The other was specifically on WHAT YOU WOULD do to engage your local culture or community.

The first discussion was a lot of back and forth on what's wrong with the church, and what's wrong with society. Some thought we should move forward and other back. Some blamed education, others government and liberalism. There were some edgy remarks regarding woman in the church, Pentecostals, that role of politics and some other subjects such as edification and authority.

It was almost out of control, and certainly needed some moderation.

I tried to press for solutions, and I got some pretty standard answers.

- Prayer
- Returning to our first love
- Repentance
- Humility
- Ridding ourselves of worldly influences
- Just do God's will
- Read the Bible

Nothing surprising to me at all.

What I find interesting, is that no one said what they would do exactly. I then posted a follow up discussion asking that specific question. You are going to engage your culture, and I gave them 5 like minded individuals, $1,000, and God's blessing. Still more theory. Today, I am going to answer my own question.

Let me preface it by saying, I think the church has issues, God is not asleep (maybe we are), and if YOU don't do something, then who will?

Any church of 2 or more, needs a foundation which includes the following elements according to Scripture. In particular, Ephesians 4.

- Vision: the church, regardless of what stage it is in: new, maturing, experienced congregation or mega-church etc., has to look like something when it is done. It needs a burden from God, a goal and a mission; which are the elements of vision. Without vision, how would we know what to pray for?

- Apostolic Plan: the church, like any other project needs a plan. In the kingdom, plans need to be flexible enough to allow God free reign, and structured enough to achieve a godly vision. Remember the church is a living breathing organism that consumes raw culture and turns it into the Kingdom of God.

- Prophetic Insight: A church that just does programs and imitates other supposedly successful churches is in trouble of falling into the religious quagmire. Prophetic people bring a fresh and focused sense of direction. Prophetic revelation is a detailed way of moving ahead, ultimately achieving the plan.

- Prayer: The church is a house of prayer, and it should be praying into existance the apostolic plan, and the supporting the prophetic vision. It is the oil that keeps the church running smoothly. Prayer is the communication between the the planners, the builders, and the workers.

- Ongoing Pastoral Care, Worship, Teaching and Evangelism: It is essential that the church be able to disciple its own, and bring new folks into the fray. These services need to be part of a bigger plan. Having a Sunday service is NOT a plan.

That is the foundation for the church I envision. I do have a vision to train and disciple others. I am just looking for places to plug in with my gifting.

What do you think, should we just set out and pray, or repent, or try to be loving?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Touchdown Jesus! - Vessels of Grace and Channels of Power

My blog title is grammatically correct. Jesus did not get a touchdown, that was the nickname a 62 foot tall, upper torso sculpture, of Jesus was given. The sculpture, off I-75 in southern Ohio, was struck by lightening and burned to the ground. HERE is the Yahoo News story.

I an not going to segue into some prophetic sign of how the End Times are upon is. Much more interesting, and relevant, are the comments on the article by some 3,500+ readers.

Here is one by Joshua - "God and Jesus was just made up in a book too. Same with Lucifer and every other angel. Anyone who says Zues is just made up cant prove it. Nor can anyone prove Jesus or God is too. Anyone can write a book and make up some higher being and some poor fools will buy into it."

This is one of my favorites from What122: "I wonder if their insurance will cover it, or will the insurance company say it was an act of God?"

One commenter characterizes Christianity by using the Bible against itself. Ben: "Well, Jesus did warn us of false profits. It seems obvious to me that he was referring to himself."

Susan presents a more fundamental Christian viewpoint: "Exodus 20:4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:  This would include an "image" or "likeness" of Jesus Christ according to scripture."

And one more regarding the use of $250,000 to build the now fried Jesus statue from Exhort: "To all those that say this was a waste of money - what have you done with your money?"

My take is that a lightening rod would have been a good investment for such a large and costly sculpture. Does this act of nature or God have any spiritual significance? I don't know.

Does God have an opinion about sculptures on, or in churches? Yes - but only if they themselves are idols. As a student of music and fine art, I have studied hundreds of religious works of art. Even as a Protestant, I have seen quite a few stained glass windows in my day. In Europe, the Caribbean, South America and the US, the likenesses of Jesus, Mary, the Apostles and other Bible characters are depicted in translucent and iridized glass. Some of them are stunning!

I do believe that the manicured American church has a problem idolizing other things: pastors, worship leaders, Mary, the Apostle Paul, the traditions of man, and even the Bible as if it is somehow God in print.

Symbols are good. The statue of Liberty and the American flag, are a good examples. Symbolism is deeply rooted in Christianity: oil, salt, wine, bread, blood, and the cross; with, or without a suffering Jesus, are all symbols meant to remind us of the different aspects of the charcter of God.

Do I think that a quarter of a million could have been better spent? If it was God's choice, no. If not, yes. The leadership of that church is accountable to God, and my opinion is too.

I have a heart for lots of things: the poor, missions, and youth, just to name a few. If I had a 1/4 mil, I would want to spend it on those things. However; if I don't hear from God, I wouldn't know how to spend it. I have lots of ideas on local ministry, but without God's revelation, it doesn't matter. Because I happen to think that my ideas are so cool, here are a few:

- Buy a snowplow so that your church could take care of widows, disabled and elderly folks driveways. And you could get the church lot done too. Or lawn mowers if you live in the deep south.
- Buy a used limo and pick-up new kids up for youth group.
- Sponser a couple of yearly mission trips to serve the truly poor.
- Put your own Bibles in the local hotels.
- Hire a lost sheep pastor for go after the 1 and leave the 99. (nearly 40% of all Christians do not fellowship weekly)
- Have free community dinners once a month.
- The news says that the sculpture will be resurrected. I wouldn't do it.

As born again Christians we need to become vessels of grace and channels of God's power. How would you do it?

It appears there is a video too.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Greek Word for Set Free or Healing is Sozo

As I embark on a new church adventure, it never ceases to amaze me how pitifully retarded Christians can be. I was researching a prayer method this church uses for inner healing (That's right, Christian's still need help after salvation), and I came across some of the stupidest comments I have ever heard to date. Here is a sample:

"It sounds like a cult, the church would never put up with that." (See logo, forgiven, healed, delivered)

"Those people don't fall down under the power of God, they use ropes."

"The Bible is clear, woman have no place in the church."

"Why would they need 2 hours for prayer? They are just trying to wear people down so they can control their minds."

I'm still shaking my head. What is the purpose of posting stupid opinions that only show how unloving you are and occasionally your sheer ignorance of the true meaning of the Scriptures? Worse yet, I bet SinFinder45 has never been to a service or church where this prayer model has been used. How do they know?

If woman don't have a place in the church, how come most churches are 60+% woman? How come woman are about 90% of the prayer behind most churches, and the woman's Bible study is more popular than everything but Sunday morning service? I mean, if men are so awesome, then how come the church is steadily in decline? Maybe EyeKnowItAll can explain that to me?

And Lord help me understand, "It sounds like a cult?!?" Most Christians don't even know what a cult is by definition. (Denying the divinity of Jesus Christ as God). How does DiedInTheWool666 know that something is a cult because they used a catchy terms like "Father Ladder and 4 Doors (hatred, fear, occult and sexual sin)?" How come they didn't have a problem with the term "Presenting Jesus"?

And finally, 2 hours for prayer. Are these the same people that sit for an hour in a secular counseling session twice a week, and mange to sit through an hour service on Sunday morning? You have to be kidding me! If I understand the format, there is an interview time where some sort of trust and rapport is built, along with a discussion of the issues to be prayed over. And is an hour of prayer too much? Is confession to much? Is prayer for deliverance, healing and blessing too much? Think about it, if you could have a friend pray over your darkest secrets, and have an opportunity to get some relief, how long would that take?

There nothing new under the sun. As with most forays into stupidity, there are those that are misguided by clinging to their own understanding of Bible versus - or just plain personal opinions - and even more egregious, gossip and hearsay.

Galatians 3:1 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?

Even more bothersome, is the fact that people are willing to reject what God may in fact be doing, because it does not fit their religious paradigm or hearsay. That is exactly what the Pharisees did. They were Scripture lawyers and the ruling religious elite. They were the same folks, according to Jesus, that were far from God and leading others astray with ungodly teaching and religious traditions. Folks this was the Torah, the very Word of God; intellectualized for the sake of logic, understanding, intellectual elitism and personal gain.

Here is a test. You have a blind person in your church. Let's say one day you go out in the parking lot and there is a strange looking guy (not dressed like one of the regulars) stooping over and mixing some dirt from the ground with spit as he is praying for this person you know. What do you do? Stop him? Join him? Watch him? Rebuke him?

My point is pretty simple. How do we so easily know if this is some kook that read the passage about Jesus healing with dirt and spittle, or someone authentic? Can we tell by his dress, his church membership - exactly how can we tell? Where is the Bible verse that says this can't happen?

Let me ask you, what would you do if your life was characterized by one of these statements? 

- You have a sense of unworthiness. 
- You have a sense of shame. 
- Life just isn't working the way you want it to. 
- Life is chaotic. 
- You have a lot of fear and can't get to the bottom of it. 
- You feel like you've been “slimed” but you can't put your finger on it. 
- You feel like the Christian life isn't all it’s cracked up to be.  
- You don't experience much victory. 
- There seems like there’s a glass ceiling between you and God. 
- You've heard that people hear from God but you haven't. 
- You're tormented by negative thoughts. 
- You want to be able to trust God, but you just can't. 
- Your medicine cabinet looks like a shelf from Walgreen’s. 
- No matter what you do you can't get well. 
- There seems to be a “hit me” target on my back. 
- You're hanging on by a thread and all you can do is “survive”. 
- You struggle to maintain satisfying relationships.

I would be fast on my way to see if this was really God!

Well I have discovered that there are some folks that have way of praying, listening to the Father, and partnering with Holy Spirit to address the above issues without counseling.

I am going to check it out - and if it's God, I am going to join the team!

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Fragrances of the Lord - Stopping to Smell the Roses

Some days I am just looking for the little things - stopping to smell the roses, as the saying goes.

I have been at a few services where the presence of the Lord was a fragrance. One time it was Easter Lilies, another time roses, and another frankincense. I know, it is not your average church service, but it happened to me.

I love when the Lord suddenly does something supernatural and wonderful!

As noted not long ago, I have been pretty negative about a lot things since my move to greater Boston. When I sit down and have a talk with myself, I long for a few days to do nothing with my wife, rollerblading the Cape Cod Canal, fried clams in East Orleans at sunset, and some creative time that is not sandwiched between 100 responsibilities - and the ocean; complete with the sounds of thundering waves, that squawking of seagulls and the smell of the salt air.

For a few weeks I have been thinking about my day-to-day living: the kids, my wife, commuting, the office, time at home, trash day, trips to McDonalds, music, church, TV, and the swirl activity that contains the many flavors of my life.

Some days I wonder how I am going to fit sleep into my day, forget trying to squish God into the cracks between breathing and exhaling.
I'm sure it seems odd, but I decided to try an experience Him with the sense of smell. Here is sampling of the osmagogues of my day.

I wake up to the aeromatic aroma of coffee; Columbian coffee with a little milk, made by my wife. As a caffeine consumer for 30+ years, I can usually tell what kind it is before I even taste it. At 6 am, it is more fragrant than a rose. Then I am off to the shower and the scent of various soaps and shampoos tend to blend together until I get to the menthol shaving cream - that clears the olfactory pallet like sherbet and champagne between courses at an expensive restaurant. The smell of my favorite toothpaste and Brut deodorant preceed the picking of one of my favorite cologns. I have a dozen or so to choose from. My favorites are Perry Ellis, and a couple that I got in Brazil at o'Boticario.

It's Spring, so recently the incense of freshly cut grass (not mine, the nighbors!) and dew soaked hibiscus surround my walk to the car. In the car well, it depends on whether I had a fries and a burger on the way home as to the boquet. As I pull out of  my street they are laying new water mains, and there is the oder of "earth" in the air. On the Interstate, the ever so monotonous and familiar fumes of fossil fuel powered transportation pours through the dashboard vents.

As I concentrate on driving not much changes unless someone ahead of me is smoking a cigarette. It's been many years since I last lit up; I still find the smell inviting. As I pull into the parking garage, the dumpster at the 1st floor restaurant, which has been baking for a few days in summer like weather, is unaviodable as I swipe my parking pass. 3 floors up, the musty scent of concrete dominates the parking lot. It is even more pungent in the unventilated stairwell to the sidewalk.

From the lobby the tang of freshly vaccuumed carpet is in the air. As stand I in front of the mirrored elevator, a subdued redolance of hydraulic fluid is suspended, unmoved as the doors open.

My day plays in reverse as head home. As I walk in the front door something in the kitchen smells good for dinner - Mary Anne is a great cook.

Finally my day ends with a goodnight kiss from my wife, revealing the scent of lilac, her favorite body wash.

The sense of smell, what a wonderful gift. I have a few other unique scents that I enjoy when I can. The smell of a spring rain, the gun powder smell at the shooting range, the carbon smell of the 3rd rail on the Boston T, and fresh cut flowers.

How about you, what tickles your olfactory desires?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

How Come it's Not Easier to Know Where You are Going?

Sunday seems like a blur. I woke up with my regular dilemma: do I go to a church that is local with a short service so I can get something else done on Sunday, or drive over an hour each way and take my chances on being totally disconnected at a new church? I decided to start driving and see what God wanted to do. Either way I would be at church, and the distance/service times work, allowing me to be on time at either one.

As I started to drive, I was focusing the negatives - yeah, I have the problem. My thoughts went like this: "Nothing much has worked out since the move." I had sent an email to the new pastor, but he hadn't responded. "Maybe I missed it and last weeks blog was a false alarm." "Maybe just going to church and being faithful in that is enough for God and for me. I'm feeling pretty empty - I don't see how this is God." "I wish this new thing would work out."

*Flip on the Worship CD* Tim Hughes singing Oh Happy Day - I trail off into some deep groanings that I cannot express. Something is not right, but I don't now what it is. My groaning takes the form of prayer - prayer with intensity. *I miss the entrance the turn to my local church and take my foot of the accelerator* "Let's see what happens, God. I'll go north again." I flip the cruise control back on. *Great is the Lord on High comes on the CD player*

As I enter the Interstate I decide that I am going to pray like this for at least the next few songs. *Refuge in You rocks my little Honda* I keep praying. *Light the Fire Again, Let the River Flow and Trading My Sorrows play in succession.* And all of sudden the Lord speaks to me: "Keep praying, you'll need to be ready for an assignment this morning." I feel the strengthening in my spirit. I have no idea what is going to happen. I pass through a severe thunderstorm, lightening flashes all around, heavy winds and driving rain. Wow! I press in *the next song is Everything About You (Takes My Breath Away)* As the rain stops a few miles later, I just slow down to savor the presence of God. *That's Why We Praise Him comes on* As I'm driving though the little villages, passing farms and I just listening to the sound of Heaven. I turn the CD down low - and there is a wonderful sense of communion - the manifest presence of God.

I arrive at the church, shake hands with the greeter, swing by the powder room, and go in and grab a seat in one of the empty rows. There is a sort of shy kid that I sit with when I am there. We don't talk much, but I always look forward to seeing him. We have small talk about work, music, guitars and stuff like that. He did tell me a few promises that God made to him - ones that haven't happened yet. I tell him I'm wished that I lived closer so we could hang out and jam some time.

The worship was, well worshipful. There was sort of a "singing in the spirit" time which was really wonderful - an extension of my ride up. All during that time I had this weird feeling about being called up front by name. Was this the "assignment" for the morning? Puzzling. Hearing God's voice presents me with two problems: Was it Him? And what should I do if it was Him?

The pastor started his sermon after the announcement for the men's group Air Soft games next Saturday. Gratitude as a path to real praise. Hmmm... One of my online buddies wrote about being thankful last week. I decided that I would work on that because I really suck at it some times. I started making some Facebook posts that were positive - it's a hard habit to break even when things are going your way - "In spite of the gunfire in front of my house, no one was shot." Hey, it was a start.

OK, so I am convicted and I will start working on it (and after that, comes sarcasm which I guess is not a spiritual gift). I forgot about my "assignment" and settled in for part II of the sermon which was on the use of tongues in the church. Wow! I haven't heard that word used in years - and probably that was in relationship to the Acts chapter 2 story that took place on the Day of Pentecost.

I am paying attention as best I can. At least I am not Facebooking or sitting in the back row - I am doing better!

The sermon ended with questions and answers - an unusual format for a pretty good size church.

Having a lot to do to prepare for my daughter's college graduation party, I was ready to hit the road. And then it happened, the pastor called me up front by name to join the ministry team in praying for others. It was my assignment.

At some point I will tell some stories from this church - I just need a little time to assimilate what is going on.

I had a chance to chat with the pastor for a few minutes at the end and we parted with a high 5 or two. Jesus did some totally amazing things. It was very exciting.

It was so wonderful, the music that I played on the way up seemed so flat compared to the richness of the service. So, I just turned it off as I thanked God for the opportunity to serve him, for the presence of his Spirit and for the forgiveness of sins.

*I missed my exit on the way home*

Monday, June 7, 2010

Who Left the Lint in the Dryer Trap?

It doesn't matter how many rules you have, few folks, if any, ever empty the dryer trap. In my house, growing up, that was the first thing that you did before drying your clothes - then you'd leave it for the next one. It must have something to do with having your hands full of delightfully warm Levis with rivets so hot you could brand a calf.

It's that same at work and home with the K-Cup coffee maker. I never open the cup clamp and find it empty. I always have to toss someone else's Mocha Creme Latte Deluxe Comprede Alfredo before making the next cup of Columbian.

There is one more thing that never seems to get done by the last person that uses it  - changing the toilet paper. Is it just men, or do woman do this too? So you are all hiked up or zipped up and ready to roll (pun intended); is there is no time to put fresh roll on the roller? I'm guilty.

If I think about it, leaving the lint or K-Cup for someone else is a little selfish. I realize that it doesn't compare to acts made by others like Bernie Madoff - but it is certainly a sign.

What does left over lint, toilet paper and K-Cups have to do with the Kingdom of God? I don't really know. It does, however; remind me of this verse.

Mark 9:35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all."

How can we learn to become last? Here are a couple of thoughts.

Initiate - Here is how I see most churches. Folks go to sing along to the music, listen to the pastor preach, and drink coffee in the fellowship hall. Some serve - usually about 20% max. The church tries to fill the rolls in their programs and possibly some teaching positions in the weekly home studies. Various churches have a greeting pastor and people in charge of saying hello. The problem is that once we have welcomed folks, got them saved up for eternity, then what?

I suggest finding one or two folks and making sure they get to your house for dinner, out to coffee aside from all the other ministry, or meet them at an event. Just hang out, play cards, go to the beach, attend a local sporting event - do something and you initiate it.

How about asking God about someone that needs a call - or a regular call - better yet is friendless. Find a teenager that is getting in trouble and pursue them.

There are a lot of initiate verbs in the Bible, but very few take verbs.

Mentor - Many of us have learned a few things over the years, how about taking someone under your wing? Have you made coffee at church? Teach someone else. Or just come and hang out while they do it. Do you teach, prophesy, have a good marriage, play on the worship team, clean toilets, print the bulletin, prepare communion or teach Sunday school? Why not share that with others?

Train someone else to do your job! If you are leadership: a pastor, a deacon an elder, or worship leader it is essential. You're not there to be the "top dog," but to serve others. Train future worship leaders, missionaries, pastors, prophets, apostles, evangelists and teachers. If you are afraid of your underling outperforming you, you need to change your attitude. Even Elijah handed a double portion to Elisha!

At my last church I came onto the worship team as the bass player because there was an opening. I really am a guitarist. I started to teach bass to a couple of the kids at church and both seemed to have some talent. It wasn't long before I was able to get them to a spot where they could play on the team. They moved me to rhythm guitar and eventually to lead.

Give - Where our time, our passion, and our money is, there you are most likely to find God. Sorta makes the lint analogy go a long way. When we give by getting at the back of the line, preferring others over ourselves, life has a different perspective. Only giving can train a believer, it cannot be taught.

Some folks waste the time the could be giving by just doing religious stuff. It is far better to do God's will in obedience then to sacrifice time to make ourselves feel better about ourselves. Volunteering is to be done with excellence - as if you were making 10 times your salary. That is why it needs to be God.

Money - its easy to give - and some folks tithe, others don't. Actually, most Christians don't. If you are not supporting your local church, its ministries, and possibly some other things, I can only say, take a closer look at your check register.

Passion - if you don't have it, you need to find out why? What is it that YOU need to be excited about the Kingdom of God? It's a good question, and one that you need to answer.

How about you, how are you investing in the Kingdom of God, and the local church?
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