Thursday, July 29, 2010

Useful Tactics for Avoiding Responsibility and Getting a Lesser Sentence

For the love of God, will somebody tell me why everything bad has to be the fault of someone, or something? I have read a few blogs in a row that address, or question who's to blame. A plane crashes, a child drowns, you don't win the lottery... the list goes on and on.

If you watch the news, the Republicans blame the Democrats, Obama blames Bush, and BP blames the contractors; the contractors blame the well drillers. The finger pointing is epidemic - and for the big guys, they pay their image consultant and lawyers to make it go away.

We live in a Culture of Blame!

Even separating couples with "no fault divorce", waste their time assigning blame as a smoke screen to some ancient principal of "personal responsibility."

Folks play a lot of emotional games trying to get the upper hand in life. HERE's a book full of them. The Blame Game is the worst. It squary tries to put all the responsibility on any other party or object that was within a few miles of the incident.

HERE | V2 is a story of an infant named Laurentiu who was drowned during baptism. That's right, Fr. Valentin immersed the child three times and it was game over for the 6-week-old baby in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

If you read the comments on either story, you'll see that people enjoy assigning blame - this incident is no different.

So here's the ballot with some sample responses:

Mccoinseric "Religion never fails to amuse me."

Tucci "Another reason to ban religion. THERE IS NO GOD. Stop these nonsensical rituals. THEY ARE POINTLESS. Kyrie: You are extremely ignorant, like most religious fools."

TheRighteous "It had to be God's will... there's no other explanation."

Betmatrho "Baptism is a pagan ritual and should be banned across the globe immediately."

cackim444 "The baby is with GOD now. Everything happens for a reason."

Livinginterribletimes "OMG ....are you serious? How did he not know to hold the nose? I know these parents are regretting not waiting till the child was older."

The Parents:
PresidentBizzarro "I blame the parents. I don't see how people could put their children through this sadistic ritual."

It Never Should Have Happened  The Religious Version:
Adrian Wayne "The kid is not old enough to believe, so the baptism is pointless.. Heathens.."

The Baby:
newsflash12 "The bradycardic response prevents this from happening as described in the article. Unless this LINK is totally wrong, there is no reason that a 6-week old baby would attempt to breathe underwater."

The Church:
nobigdeal "It was in a church, shouldn't there have been a lifeGod on duty?"

ImissNY "OM FREAKING G! I would sue the church and the stupid priest!"

The Priest:
Rod J "Father Valentine is a murderer who deserves a swift execution. In the name of Jesus, of course. "

Here is my take. Isn't that why you read my blog?

Folks blame religion all the time. Some people that call themselves Christians are not. Everyone does stupid things, even born again Christians. One can "usually" tell by the consistent fruit of someone's life if they are a Christian. (Galatians 5:19-22)

But folks like to blame - they're still talking about the Crusades.

For those that blame humanity we get into the "no one is perfect" and who is a "good person" debate and that's a load of bologna. People are sinful - some more than others. No one is perfect, and at some point, we all fall short. We can't depend on humanity. (Romans 3:23)

Blaming God - yeah, this is an easy one. For if he loved us he'd give us an easy life: prosperity, an HDTV in every home, defenseless folks would never be the casualty of stupidity, lust, anger, deceit, murder - and we'd always win the lottery. And if we don't, God is somehow evil. Are you looking for a life with no pain and no sickness - you'll have to wait until you get to Heaven.

Let's put the blame where it belongs: Adam and Eve. Well, and Satan who had free will like you and me. What if God had forced the devil to make the right choices?

My question is this: Why does all this have to be blamed on someone other than the idiot priest. Can we get him to say "I'm a freakin' fool?" "It was me, I did it." "I was wrong." "I deserve to die." Even, a "I had no idea that would happen."

The real tragedy is that his priest didn't do the same to him all those years ago when he was an infant. Where the heck is Darwin when you need him?

5 1/2 The Home Group Experience

For years I have attended small groups, or home fellowships as they are sometimes called. They are an interesting blend of intimacy, arm chair theology and the real Jesus. Here is my take on the anatomy of a home or small group meeting

-1 Worship: This is the time when we tell the Lord how much we love him in song. We praise him as the wight of the world lifts off our shoulders and we come into the presence of Almighty God. Err - get something to drink, take a large handful of chocolate covered pretzels because we skipped dinner, and make a plan for the soft couch instead of the miniature folding chairs from kids church.

-2 Unofficial Potty Break: On the 15th chorus of I Could Sing of Your Love Forever (how come no one dances to that song?) it's a good time to beat the rush. Beware, once someone gets up, it is a sign for others to make their moves for the coffee pot, the peanut dish and the brownies. It is a little bit like musical chairs. Some times, though, there is a line at the bathroom. Don't you hate it while others gossip fellowship right outside the door while you are trying keep things quiet on the other side?

-3 Teaching: Usually taught by someone that has read a recent Christian book such as My Utmost for his Highest. Then a discussion takes place on whether The Shack is biblical or not. Sister ratchet jaw states her point, and challenges some ex Marine with a camouflage zipper bible case. This is the "peace the surpasses all understanding" part. Regardless, it always runs over because the teacher is certain that those there aren't getting enough good teaching or their problems would be solved.

-4 Prayer: Is it me, or does it bother you when we pray for the OJ Simpson trial or whatever the current news is? I want to pray for the folks that are there, and the loved ones they are connected to. I don't care about the gulf oil spill when those that live right there in the same part of town are hurting. Don't these folks pray about this stuff in their own prayer closet?

-5 Fellowship: Ahh, now its time for a snack and a chance to get to know the brethren! What! Who ate all the brownies? Hypocrites! This is the time when old friends pair off, and and newcomers often sit in a corner wondering if this the right church for them. I'm so tired by this time, I skip to -5 1/2

-5 1/2 The ride home...

How about you, what goes on at your small group?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

5 1/2 Items Needed to Worship Jesus

I don't know about you, but when I go to church, there is some pretty specific paraphernalia that Christians seem to need to make the experience fuller, and engage God more deeply
-1 The Bulletin: An essential accessory for every service. A list of this week's happenings, contact info for all the important folks, and maybe some sermon info - well if the pastor plans ahead. It doubles as a "shut the kids up" personal coloring device and a fan when the A/C wasn't turned on in time for the service. Usually free for the taking.

-2 Leatherette Zipper Bible Case: The coolest ones have a Jesus fish or a cross on them. But they have them for kids, camouflage, and bright magenta! Or you can have Footprints and verses about swords on there too. They can hide sermon notes, bulletins from 1996, high-liters, pens, "Jesus Paid it All" personal checks, small handguns along with phone numbers and emails of folks that you'll probably never have time to contact.

-3 Personalized Liquid Refreshments: They range from Dasani bottled water to Iced Mocha Latte Fudge Swirl Cappuccinos with a Double Shot of Blueberry Spice. Amazing that some adults have not learned the art of not slurping that last sip during a quiet and reflective moment. But water is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, and caffeine; motivation for the long sermon ahead.

-4 Child Care Kiddie Kraft Kits: Crayons, markers, coloring books, paper, blunt scissors, origami sets, plastic jewelry making sets, Easy Bake Ovens, Barbie Cars and Chia Pets. You need to be prepared to bribe every kid for long enough to get them to Kids' Church.

-5 Electronic Spiritual Reception Enhancement Devices: Gameboys, iPods, Cell Phones, Smart Phones, iPads, laptops, console TV's and the like... It's important to have these if the worship service starts going south. You can flip on DC Talk if the worship is lame, you can check your E*Trade account during the offering to better prepare your tithe check, flip on Andy Stanley or the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) if the homily is a repeat, and have a "text social" during fellowship time.

-5 1/2 Bible...

How about you, do you bring anything special to Sunday service to help you engage God?

Monday, July 26, 2010

5 1/2 What if Big Business Ran the Church

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if churches were run by big corporations? I have.

-1 First Church of Walmart - it would be be the biggest church around for miles. A real come as you are fellowship. You'd be sure to be greeted, but don't expect too much expert help after that. The pastor would man the Customer Service desk single handed. Sermons would be broadcast from the mother-ship in Arkansas to big screen HDTVs in every price range. Folks that serve would receive rewards cards. There would be an express line for folks only wanting a little church on Sunday. And Kid's Church in the Toy Department! Hey, you might even get a roll-back on tithes and offerings.

-2 Dunkin' Donuts Family Church - Fellowship time would rock! The decor, a bright pink and medium brown would give spiritual comfort to caffeine deprived. The kids would be on a sugar high until Monday morning. Double-Shot Latte Sermons, Iced Home Fellowships and Sunday combos! You might even get a drive-up pastoral counseling session with someone that speaks your language. DDFC has systematic and cultural difference from the Starbucks Christian Fellowships - but there are no baristas (Italian for bartender) here. And they'd have coffee and donuts everywhere - even for communion.

-3 British Petroleum First Congressional Church  - Wrought with scandal as immense as the fall of the PTL Club in the 1980's, it's the most prosperous non-profit in the USA. Well, if oil is a sign of the anointing, then you won't find a yoke within a thousand miles of this church. Off-shore church plants would provide a multitude of mission possibilities. No altar calls, lots of suits and ties. Just don't mention getting "saved" or "cleaned up" too loud, it could be bad for membership.

-4 Toyota Prius Evangelical - Another mega-church with programs to fit every make and model of family. Their in denial that some of there membership has run off ahead of them causing incessant PR problems - especially the selling of indulgences.Often accused of looking much like other Eastern religions, they still hold a place as one of the largest denominations in th world. None the less, spiritual tunes-ups, body work and an occasional overhaul have driven love offerings to an all time high. For the average Christian, they've got an average gospel, but the cross has been displaced by the thing that looks like a stylize water buffalo.

-5 Microsoft Unitarian Church - Every thing would be under the control of Pastor Bill. He'd regularly denounce the competition down south as a product of the fruit, the flake and the nut state. With billions in yearly donations, the word "corporate" takes on a new meaning. A real multi-cultural church, with legions of programmers, yet you won't find anyone from Apple-asia, here. Evey new program is the same as the old, using more resources and offering a mediocre Christian experience.

- 5 1/2 Apple - based on the book of Jobs...

Friday, July 23, 2010

You Know You're At the Right Church When....

In life the average person will change jobs 10 times, and move to a new living situation 11.7 times. In 2009 the Pew researchers discovered is that 44% of Americans have changed faiths at least once. Some converted from one religion or denomination to another; others grew up with no tradition only to adopt one as an adult; still others left their childhood faith and found themselves with no religious home.

That's a lot of change!

I think that the trend shows that Americans are looking for something they can't easily find. It probably shows some immaturity as well. Why tough it out, if you can move on?

So let's say hypothetically that you are able to move - put your house on the market, look for a new job and find a new life. How would you know that you were at the right church? I have some ideas.

- Inner Witness: Everyone is going to answer, "God said this is the place." so here I am. I am not buying that as the only way to know. If we were that certain, we wouldn't need a church for too long.

Think about it, haven't you missed hearing God; run off to do something that "felt" right, and ended up somewhere else?

- Relationship: The Vineyard churches once did a survey and discovered that a person needs to make 6 meaningful relationships in order for some to stay over a year. I think there is a lot of truth to the statistic. Honestly, why would anyone want to stay where no one seems to care about them?

Conversely, I think it is a bad idea to choose a church based on the pastor - he might leave and then what would God's will be for you? Follow him (her), or start shopping again?

- Testimonies: I don't think anyone really knows what to expect from a church until they hear about how other have engaged with God at that church.

- Doctrine: I used to get all widgy about this. I have NEVER been in a church where I believe everything they teach. Never. And you probably haven't either. It is better to approach this from a strong baseline, than an absolute match. I have been in churches where our doctrine matched, but God didn't want me there. I have also had lots of good years in churches that were far off from what I believe. God can use you. Can you imagine a Charismatic in a Southern Baptist church? That was me. Although one pastor was a really ticked off when one of his deacons god baptized in the Holy Spirit and started speaking in tongues and spouting powerful revelation from the Bible. I swear it was an accident.

-Programs: Most Americans in the manicured church have a set idea of what church is supposed to do for them. A lot of churches fail because the focus is on good ideas, not God ideas. They have programs that focus on something other than Jesus. I have rarely seen a VBS program that focused on Jesus. Usually it is a chance to teach kids Jesus songs, and try to close the salvation deal during the making of a craft.

It is about Jesus - and he like cute crafts and kids songs - but it is hearts and worship that He is after.

So what do you think, how would you know that you are in the right church?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

5 1/2 Things I Don't Think I Need to Hear in Church Again as Long as I Live

I read some blogs and they are outlined in perfectly numbered topical points. Matt at The Church of No People often uses three examples. I think it is a Japanese thing. The Japanese almost always use odd numbers - particaulry 3 and 5 in the number of objects in a painting. Maybe Matt is Japanese, I don't know.

Then there is Brett that writes Godly Sheep; he has his Monday High 5 series.

Of course there is Tony C, he rarely makes a point. I am not sure if he can even use numbers yet, but I'm glad to call him a friend - and he does make me laugh.

Well, I don't want copy those guys, even though I worship them - so I am going to do a 5 1/2 series. You'll get 5 complete points, and a 1/2 finished one - sort of like teenagers clearing out the dishwasher.

So here is my first one. Five and a half things I don't think I need to hear in church again as long as I live.

Let's face it, the Christian-ese vocabulary is limited and that is a formula for redundecy. And because there is no lexicon for the vernacular, one is likely to hear phrasology from the pulpit and the faithful that is well - down right annoying after awhile. Here's a short list.

-1 "Can I get an amen?" This is sort of like a comedian telling a joke twice because no one laughed at it the first time. Amen means "so be it'. Can't I just nod my head in agreement and contuniung Facbooking on my Blackberry?

-2 "How's your walk?" It was good until I sprained my ankle tripping over that plank in your eye. Now I am going to need a healing.

-3 "Let's get together some time." Is this code for something like, "I have no intention of calling you, hanging out, and I probably won't even remember your name next time I see you?

-4 "We're doing a special love offering." It sounds like a title for a NAMBLA web page. Really, is the church a non-prophet organization that doesn't have the revelation of how annoying this is?

-5 "Could you please come and get your child?" You know, I put my kid in Sunday School for you to take care of. If she punched some snot-nosed toddler in the eye, they probably deserved it.

-5 1/2 "Every eye closed - "

How about you, what phrase in church makes you nuts?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road - Or is He Just Lying There

If you are as old as me, you might remember Louden Wainwright III singing Dead Skunk.

You got yer
Dead skunk in the middle of the road
Dead skunk in the middle of the road
You got yer dead skunk in the middle of the road
Stinkin' to high Heaven!

It sort of makes me think about what some folks call truth - I mean you've got your whole truth, your half truth, your stinking truth, your subjective truth, your absolute truth, your objective truth, your personal truth, your universal truth, your human truth, your social truth and your relative truth - and white lies.

And after all that vomit, there are theories of truth such as correspondence, coherence, pragmatic, consensus, and my favorite - performative.

But, I am simple guy. Here are what I think, the top reasons that people don't tell the truth.

- Shame: I think that a lot of folks that I know lie because they are ashamed of what they have done. If you stole your grandmothers food and she died, I think you'd feel ashamed. Christians can get pretty judgmental, so fessin' up is no fun in most churches.

- Selfish or Greedy Motives: Look, you have something that is not yours, and somehow you feel that you deserve it - you've rationalized. Folks cheat on their income taxes all that time.

- Guilt: Let's face it, no one likes getting caught, or punished. Let's just say forensics sucks.

- Arrogance: There are folks that have a self-made image that needs to be protected. they lie because they perceive themselves to be better than. it happens a lot when people have power over others.

According to the Bible, lying is a sin.

Proverbs 10:10 and Proverbs 28:23 identifies telling the truth completely.
Ephesians 4:15 and Proverbs 11:3 identifies telling the truth consistently.
Ephesians 4:29 and Proverbs 13:17 identifies telling the truth lovingly.
Proverbs 12:18 identifies in telling the truth tactfully.

How about you, what motives have you had for lying?

Friday, July 16, 2010

5 Excuses for Preaching Too Long

I got to thinking - I have probably attended about 3,000 church services in my life time. On an aveage of an hour each, that gives me about 3,000 credit hours; enough to have a few dozen degrees in church-i-anity. I am feeling good about myself, my church experience and while that lasts, I am going to do a little analysis.

I have noticed that in our church culture (a nice way of saying religious Pharisees) preachers some times run on a little bit. On occasion, God is done, and they are not. So here are five signs that they know this is true, but are in denial.

- "In closing" Why don't they just say, I am not done yet, I have more to say, and those who want to, can leave now. Here's why. If they did, it would sound like a commercial toilet flushing as folks headed for the door. Mary Anne and I usually close our eyes because we know there are going to be 4 or 5 closings.

- "Paul preached all night" Yes, and he was beaten, stoned, shipwrecked and imprisioned - I am not seeing the comparison.

- "Can you give a few more minutes?" I already did and you wasted them on some stupid illustration about a frog in a bucket of water.

- "I'm under the anointing." I asked God and he said it was NyQuil.

- "You come to church once a week, and I need to fit this in." Yes, and this is the reason I only come once.

I apologize for my sarcasm. I actually have a reader that likes my blog better when I am not so caustic - I am hoping that they'll see the humor in it.

I have been enjoying church much more than the previous few years. We've had prophecy, healing, teaching on deliverance, great worship, a cool communion time and some of the other regular church stuff.

How about you, are you engaging God on Sunday morning?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Meat Makes Your Heart Stronger

I have a real heart to see the true church change in such a way that she becomes more effective in people's lives, and that the Kingdom of God is advanced.

Recently I have been back doing some simple ministry at a new church - it's a safe place with some folks that love me. That's a real change from the last few years. Thank you Jesus.

In the process, I am beginning to experience personal revival - yes - even yours truly needs to press in. Hanging onto our faith; the substance of which is the power of God to work through us to accomplish Kingdom objectives, is not enough. I have been studying, reading, and worshipping. I was before, but I seem to be connecting with God better. In the process I have uncovered few things that make some sense to me now.

The first is healing prayer. Luke 5:31 Jesus answered them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. If you take even a few moments to look over your own life, there is going to be some soul sickness there. There will be wounds, curses will have been spoken over us, and in the worst cases demon possession.

I realize that getting "well" is an ongoing process, and sanctification takes time. What I have noticed is that spiritual health is a blend of truth which we put into action, divine intervention; both sovereignly and through prayer, and confession of our sins one to another.

Here are some areas that we can address in order to have greater spiritual health. It is unlikely that we will have any success without surrounding ourselves with others that can minister to these areas in our lives.

- Sin: There is nothing that can replace heart felt confession. The greatest healing we can have is to confess our sins to God and another; getting relief from guilt and shame. Peter says that in that alone we will be healed.

- Appropriating Truth: Is your life stressed out or filled with worry? What keeps you from apprehending the truth of a verse like this: Matthew 6:34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." We have to partner with God to mature into a faith that believes His word and maturity that puts it into action.

- Functioning Relationships: We cannot be lone rangers. Without loving relationships, we will have trouble relating to God. He has given us each other, and spiritual gifts, as well as limitations so that we will minister to, and need each other in the body.

- Purpose: We need to have desires and a purpose that is from God. The American dream is not a biblical reality. There are many Christians throughout the world that do not have a family with children, a house with a white picket fence, and 2 cars in the driveway. On a good day our "lot" in life is only a small part of our purpose here on earth. True purpose comes from being valued by God, and understanding His destiny for our lives and being obedient to follow His will. Letting go of our own ideas is the hard part.

- Curses/Possession: You cannot counsel out generational curses or demons. It is a purely spiritual matter. I am not sure that one can even do it on his own. I do know that getting free of oppression, and possession is through prayer. There are lots of ways this stuff manifests in our lives. Some we bring on ourselves by dabbling in various forms of the occult, and some is brought on by simply being the next generation. Addiction, divorce, hereditary physical ailments - it is all under God control, and can be stopped in its tracks with prayer.

- Healing Prayer: It is essential that we recognize our need and get with folks that can help us get free of the "fleshy" things that keep the "old man" from dying. Our "new man" is perfect, and waiting to be fully released!

How about you, do you feel spiritually healthy, and free of bondage?

Monday, July 12, 2010

I'm Glad it Wasn't Me - Gratitude

Some days, am just glad that God is in charge. Here are some folks that should be convinced of that fact.

Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

War, Famine, and Earthquakes

by Les Young

When war, famine and even earthquakes are referred to as signs that the end-times are approaching, a common retort from the skeptic is, "These things have always been around." To this I would have to say, "You are right, but......" If there were no "but" it would make little wense to write this short article, but there is a "but."

Allow me to phrase it this way. In the Olivet discourse (Matthew 24-25, Mark 13 and Luke 21) Jesus stated that there would be wars and rumors of wars, and that nation would rise up against nation. He also speaks of famine (sometimes caused by natural disaster; often a byproduct of war) and of earthquakes. In all three accounts of this discourse, Jesus allegorically compares these, and other events, to the birth pains of an expectant mother and/or the budding of a fig tree. In the one case, the baby is not far behind; in the other - summer is close at hand. So here's where the "but" comes in....

History tells us that these things have indeed happened on planet earth for thousands of years, BUT, it is only recently than man has been able to connect them to the birth pain/budding fig tree allegory. Jesus' words made little sense to the majority of the earth's population until the dawn of the last century. Record keeping and communications improvements have made it possible to: 1) record the frequency and intensity of these events, showing that indeed they are increasing; 2) communicate this information to the vast majority of the earth's population. These phenmomena can now be observed, as it were, within the context of Jesus' words. God is giving due warning.

As bad as these events have become, the bible assures us that they will get worse. There is a strong parallel between Matthew 24 and Revelation 6. When the first seal is opened, a false peace is ushered in by what appears to be a false Messiah. Immediately following that, there is war, famine and death. As the fourth seal is opened, we see that the death toll has reached 1/4 of the world's population. We have seen nothing like that yet. When the sixth seal is opened, nature seems out of control, and a "great earthquake" occurs.

These things are coming; the birth pain/fig tree allegory can be clearly seen; we have been warned. So what should we do? Peter says: 2 Peter 3:14, 17 (NIV)
14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 17 Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Gold Dust - God's Glory Manifest

I've had a lot of history with the Charismatic Renewal and the more recent Charismatic Movement for which the "gold" phenomenon or miracles are usually identified.

First, let me speak of my own experience. In 1999 I took my kids a meeting with Kathy and David Walters. There were about 200 in attendance. During one of the meetings, my 8-year-old was radically baptized in the Holy Ghost. She went up for prayer 7 or 8 times, and the last time she was out for nearly an hour. That night she began to pray in the spirit. For over an hour she pressed in until she finally went into some sort of glory land. I left her there in her room. The next day she couldn't wait to get back to the conference. She went to the ladies room during the 2nd meeting, and from there, all the way in the back of the church, so everyone could hear, she cried out, "I have gold dust on my face!" I saw it.

A few months later I was at another meeting with the now deceased, Larry Lambert. We had a wonderful time during his meetings. After the Saturday meeting, we went to a Chinese Restaurant in town. When the waiter came to take my order, he seemed somewhat puzzled. My face was covered with gold dust, and he pointed it out. Everyone at the table got a bit of surprise, as all had never seen it before. The next night a woman that is a friend of mine, received a gold crown which was previously porcelain. Her dentist later verified it, and said that the work was of the highest quality.

That is my experience. Does the Bible make room for it? I believe it does.

John 21:25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

I believe that God does everything with purpose - but does everything have a purpose? The water turned into wine had no real purpose, but certainly it somehow pointed to communion. When Jesus walked on the water, it was simply a sign of His miracle working power. I would also agree, gold dust and gold teeth are unusual manifestations.

Often time folks think this sort of stuff is from the devil. They talk about counterfeit miracles - yet many of them have never seen a miracle. Signs and wonders do make you wonder -amen?

Others say that some worship the sign and wonders. There were a lot of folks that worshiped Jesus until he hung on a cross.

I have a friend that was overseas in a hotel in Asia. At check in, he was told the cable TV was down in the hotel going on 3 days. He told the front desk that he would pray for it to be restored, and he did right there, and it was! They were so grateful, they let him preach at the indoor pool. And in the process, folks got saved and baptized. Worship signs and wonders? Silly.

In my case. the gold dust opened a door for us to witness to the fella at the Chinese place; he later got saved. The dentist for my friend was astounded at the gold dental work. He did come to church for a short while. I do not know if he made a decision for Christ. I do know that he was impressed with God's handy work.

I believe that the gold is a sign of the glory to come. I don't focus on signs and wonders, but I believe that the true church is to be filled with them. And cautiously, I also believe Satan's counterfeits are always there for those that don't really know Jesus; to led them away.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

I Wonder Where the Signs Are?

Do you believe it? God repaired a water pump on a Toyota pick-up. Yes, he removed a lump, and healed bronchitis too. He gave a word of knowledge about a persons life so that they would know that He was speaking to them about their future in Christ. Yes, God multiplied invitations to a Christian conference on the streets of Oslo, provided the exact amount for a plane ticket to minister in Ohio and shortened the miles to the airport.

This morning I am pondering the supernatural. All of the above happened to me personally. As I type, I can feel God's presence - as if He is knocking on the door - something seems eminent, yet, I can't put my finger on it. I thought some sort of revival was going to break out last Sunday in church - like a glass filled to the rim. I feel the same this morning.

I actually don't know what a revival is. I have read about many of them. There are the renewals (in the church) and the revivals - the presence of God spilling out into the streets and communities with an infectious and captivating sense of urgency. Maybe it is just the end of a long time in th desert - but I don't think so.

Online I was looking for testimonies of miracles and supernatural acts of healing and deliverances. I didn't find any from this week. It seems that most of them were a year old or more. It's certainly true for me. I haven't been away from the Master, but I haven't been around to any conferences. Such are the season of the Spirit.

How about you, are you interested in revival? Have you heard it's coming? I have, and for too long.

Here are 6 steps to personal revival - one in which you can experience signs and wonders, healing, and hopefully bring others closer to Christ.

-1 Get Your Foundation In Order! - You can't build a Christian life on the fact that you are saved. It is not about a ticket to heaven, it is about relationship with Jesus. HERE are the prerequisite steps.

-2 Repent! - When we get far from God, or experience difficult times, it is easy to sin, or worse to become indifferent.

2 Chronicles 7:14 Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.

-3 Remember What God Has Already Done! - Don't be one of the 9 lepers that did not thank God for what He had done.

Deuteronomy 6:5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

In other words, lets start testifying to what God has done - tell a friend, write a blog, but let's start talking up our God.

-4 Create an Environment of Worship! - Church, it is our job to be the air conditioner where we work, where we live, and wherever else we go. We need to make more room for God, and less room for the Devil.

Look, if this were easy you'd already be doing it. Try trading one activity for another. Trade a TV show for some quiet time with inspiring music. Trade the sports page on your break for 15 minutes of Bible study. Pray on your way to work - but do something to give God more room to act in your life. The true nature of repentance is to change our ways.

-5 Seek God Out! - Through the Bible, people who heard about Jesus flocked to hear him speak, get a healing or find relief from the Devil. We should be the same. You can sit there week after week, or you can pray and find a place where God is really at work. I doubt we are waiting for God.

-6 Overcome the Devil, Testify! - Let's get current with what God is doing. We can't just be museum keepers and claim that we know a living God.

Revelation 12:11 They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony

Church, where are the testimonies kept? If we are going to overcome the Devil by the blood (which was shed on Calvary), and the word of our testimonies, than it is time for us to do our part.

Amen? Tell me what God has done in your life recently.

Robin Mark -Revival

I hear the voice of one calling, prepare ye the way of the Lord.
And make His paths straight in the wilderness
And let your light shine in the darkness
And let your rain fall in the desert.

As sure as gold is precious and the honey sweet,
So you love this city and you love these streets.
Every child out playing by their own front door
Every baby laying on the bedroom floor.

Every dreamer dreaming in her dead-end job
Every driver driving through the rush hour mob
I feel it in my spirit, feel it in my bones
You're going to send revival, bring them all back home

I can hear that thunder in the distance
Like a train on the edge of town
I can feel the brooding of Your Spirit
"Lay your burdens down, Lay your burdens down".

From the Preacher preaching when the well is dry
To the lost soul reaching for a higher high
From the young man working through his hopes and fears
To the widow walking through the veil of tears

Every man and woman, every old and young
Every fathers daughter, every mothers son.
I feel it in my spirit, feel it in my bones
You're going to send revival, bring them all back home

I can hear that thunder in the distance
Like a train on the edge of town
I can feel the brooding of Your Spirit
"Lay your burdens down, Lay your burdens down".

Revive us, Revive us,
Revive us with your fire!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

God Shortens the Miles

Since I wrote my very first couple of blogs, I have been of the mind that God's people should be giving glory to God for their miracles, not me. I still feel like that is true. MORE on that. I did however; in my recent studies, come across this verse.

Daniel 4:2 It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed for me.

So, once again, I am going to brag about my Jesus!

I heard John Paul Jackson talking about translation (time travel), and how God shortened the miles for him and Bob Jones one time. One day, not long after, I had a chance to use that story, as a basis for my own faith.

In 2001 my friend from church, Will, needed a ride from Air Station Cape Cod, in Sandwich, MA to T. F. Green airport in Providence, RI. He was going to see his wife after a long separation. The trip is exactly 70.1 miles. His flight was scheduled to leave at 5:05 pm for SC. I arrived at his apartment on the base at 2:50 pm (by the clock on the dashboard) as he was supposed to meet me at 3. He sped in at 3:47, grabbed his suitcase, and we took off - well, after I stopped for a little gas. We passed gate security at 4:01.

He was disheartened; sure he'd miss his plane. After all we'd have to average 70 mph to get there with 4 minutes left to spare. Even with a small airport - there was security and possible a line at the ticket desk.

At a traffic light I said let's pray. "Lord, we need you to hold up that plane, or shorten the miles. Amen" Will  joined me in an faint "amen." The light changed and I raced off McAurther Blvd. towards the Interstate. We made good time on I-195, my little Honda pushing between 65 and 75 mph - on average it looked like we could make it on time - well to the parking lot.

We had almost made it to the intersection of I-95 in Providence; about 9 miles from the airport when we hit rush hour traffic on the bridge - it was stop-and-go. Will used my cell to see if the flight was leaving on time - it was. The time, 4:51. "Lord we ask you again to shorten the miles. Amen" I prayed.

I dodged traffic for what seem like an eternity trying to get every inch of pavement behind us.

We raced into the airport and it was 4:56. Will, just looked at me in amazement - "PRAISE GOD" he yelled. Gave me a quick hug, and ran to the gate. He caught his fight which left on time.

God - is so good.

Hebrews 2:4 God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.
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

Monday, July 5, 2010

Deceived-a-holics - Integrity and the Supernatural

A. A. Allen, John Arnott, Kathryn Kuhlman, and even "The Apostle of Faith"; Smith Wigglesworth have been tagged as heretics, false prophets, and "tools of the Devil." I find this practice of bashing despicable. 

For the record, I am sick of hearing all these cockamamie Bible proof texts that supposedly prove that God doesn't do a damn thing anymore. There is a world going to hell in a  hand basket, and a small group of religious idiots seems to get a lot of air play when it comes to denying the supernatural power of God. I wonder if these folks have ever had an answered prayer in their lives?!? It is obvious that almost all of them have not been to meetings with the preachers and ministers they are bashing.

For whatever reason, the church seems to have limped along without power for so long, that when it does show up, some folks think it's the devil. All this severely negative talk simply makes the church look stupid. HERE is more on that.

Certain folks spend a lot of time telling you who is deceived, and the truth is, a lot of them are. Their prideful arrogance is sure sign they are full of bologna. (I have such a hard time using that word. Maybe I need a better thesaurus.)

Matthew 24:24 (NKJV) For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect." 

They are worried about guys like David Koresh and Jim Jones? People who don't know Jesus come along all the time. Those that have not read the Bible, and do not know Jesus, are susceptible. I know, I fell prey to the Way Ministry for a short period. As cool as the "twig meetings" were; friendly, interesting, something didn't seem right, so I checked them out.

That said, the true church has survived lots of heresy, sin, and misdirection since its inception. It happens because anyone can get religious, or be uneducated; or both. These tirades against certain churches, phenomena, revivals or pastors, do nothing for unity in the church. In the end, they make the church look foolish. (And yes, some are false, but not all!)

Church where is true discernment?

I think that some days it is essential to state the truth, yet I could be accused of the same thing. The problem that I have, is at the core, we believe the very same thing! I don't know about you, but I don't get to look at my feet and decide I don't need them because I don't like walking. Here is a rational and logic list of scriptures that hopefully tell the story.

First, we must be saved by faith: Romans 10:9 That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

Most of the folks that write this junk agree that we are saved by faith in Jesus.

To be clear, Jesus is God: John 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made .... 14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

So far, unless one does not believe that Jesus is God and that the god-head is Triune, all the main line denominations are on the same page: Catholics, Baptists, Anglicans, Evangelical Free, Orthodox, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Vineyard, A of G, Methodist etc. all believe in a triune God.

That should be good enough, and we should be able to get out there and preach the Good News - and leave the differences in worship style, the doctrine of predestination and the meaningless debate over the timing of the 7 years of tribulation, right there at the altar. I'd be glad too.

The real divide comes when the power of God shows up and the supernatural happens. This very same power struggle was played out between Jesus and the Pharisees (believed in the resurrection of the dead), and to some degree that Sadducees (believed in the eternal dirt nap - no resurrection). The Pharisees had been without power for so long, that when it showed up in Jesus and the apostles, they thought it was the Devil. Sound familiar?

Jesus did lots of supernatural stuff. He healed disease, preached the Kingdom of God, loved people, drove out demons, changed the water into wine (for no apparent reason), calmed the storm (for no apparent reason), He walked on the water (for no apparent reason), he fed the 5,000 men and their families, and messed around during the transfiguration - Avatar doesn't compare to that! He also did a load of stuff that was never even recorded. John 21:25

So what is it that precludes one from prophesying, healing, receiving gold teeth, smelling frankincense, cars running without fuel and speaking in tongues?

Hebrews 2:4 God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

As always, we can find folks that have bad character in the church - so what else is new? Conversely; we can find godly men and woman who are passionate about Jesus, focused on His kingdom; and their job in it, who are being used in miraculous ways. Bad character does not make one a false prophet or apostle - ummm Judas maybe?

The very thing that marks the hand of God, can also be a counterfeit.

2 Corinthians 12:12 The things that mark an apostle—signs, wonders and miracles—were done among you with great perseverance.

2 Thessalonians 2:9 The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders.

If you read on, the ones that are deceived are the unsaved.

Worried about manifestations that look like mysticism? Maybe the mysticism is the counterfeit. I'm just sayin' I am far more worried about kids brought up on Disney magic,Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny and Harry Potter that would trade a life in Christ for the counterfeit. But that does't make God any less supernatural.

Mark 13:22 For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect—if that were possible.

If you truly know Jesus, it does not seem possible to be deceived. Mark is just sayin' What do I have to say to those bound by religious spirits, and legalism as were the Pharisees? With all undue respect: SHUT UP! And be careful when you turn around you don't knock anyone out in the first pew with those planks!

Daniel 4:2 It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed for me.

If you want to be a natural person walking with a supernatural God, watch for some of my personal experiences here in the next few weeks. Or better yet, meet me at church and we'll have one together.

How about you, do you have any verifiable supernatural stories?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

4th of July - Happy Independence Day

Happy 4th to you. Today we celebrate our independence as a nation. I am grateful for my freedom. Regardless of what is going on in this country - even the stuff I don't agree with, our freedom has been bought with the price of American lives.

Today, I hope you'll take a few minutes and read the Declaration of Independence to see why we split from England 200+ years ago. It had been may years since I read it, and some of the specific reasons ring true today.

And honestly, what could be more American than Larry Carter playing the Star Spangled Banner in church! If you like him, buy a few CDs. He's a great guy, and his music touches the soul.

God bless America!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Front Line, are You On It?

At 50+ years of age, I have had the chance to visit thousands of places of business, and hundreds of churches. If I haven't leaned anything (according to my teenagers nada), I have leaned that first impressions count, second impressions count - and somewhere down the line, the sum total of all our impressions create a perception which is reality. What?

You go to Walmart and the greeters says "Welcome to Walmart" You head over to electronics and look for some help purchasing a new HDTV (hint hint Mary Anne), and you cannot find anyone to help. How important was the greeting that you just received? Because you are mad, you head over to best Best Buy because you have some questions that you need answered. The man in the security booth greets you. "How are you today, welcome to Best Buy." You smile back and walk towards the sea of plasma in the back of the store playing Ice Age. A sales associated approaches, "looking for a new TV?"  As if you can't find the bathroom.

You nod your head yes, and takes you to his favorite model - it's $6000. He keep telling you all the features, and it sound like Charlie Brown's teacher after a few sentences. "muah, mu muah mon." For some reason you can't seem to get a word in edgewise, such as your budget or the fact that you want to use it as a computer monitor.

Off to Radio Shack, you go ... they don't have what you want, so you decide that your 28" bubble screen TV is good enough for now - well, until the Super Bowl next January.

Think of this analogy like shopping for a church. You show up with a specific set of questions, desires, and needs. You get the standard handshake and bulletin, maybe embarrassed by being singled out as a new comer during the announcements, and possibly a gift bag with an old CD, a coffee mug with lead paint and a few mints. If you fill out the visitor card, you might get a weekly email and a follow up note in the mail.

Where did you get to express your needs, wants, or desires - or have your questions answered? It often goes something like THIS. How do we end Church-ianity? Here are some guidelines I wrote for the front line folks which we called the Welcome Ministry, at a church I once attended.

The purpose of the Welcome Ministry is to help visitors, newcomers and members take the first, or more importantly, the next step in their journey with Christ. A simple vision of meeting whatever the next need a person may have can be life changing for them.

If we view welcoming people to our church like we might welcome them to our home, you begin to get the idea. First we open a door, take someone’s coat, point them to a seat, or offer them a drink, or make sure they know where the restrooms are. If they have children in tow, we will work towards making sure they are comfortable as well.

If we view our place as one that makes taking the next step closer to Christ, we can see how important it is. One must think for moment about the churches they may have gone to in the past. Some have been good experiences and others have not so good experiences. If we look at all the little steps that have brought us to whatever point we are in our walk with God, then we will probably see many small turns and stops along the way. Who was there at those turns? At the , it was often the Greeter in the early days.

It is important to also understand that we are not just being friendly when we welcome those into our church, but we are to show the love of Christ to all; even the unlovable. The ministry is to make sure that people connect in meaningful ways for “them.” It is hard to know what someone needs when they walk through the door of the church, for this we need to ask, listen and look for the Holy Spirit.

Studies in the  show that for those that become active members and “stay,” each one must make an average of six meaningful relationships; ones in which they feel valued in some way. For those that have been in the  for some time, you most likely have these relationships in place. They are ones which you feel close enough to another, to ask how they are, and probably know something about their family and background. When a person is known by name and asked about their family or background, they begin to have some value in the process of salvation and sanctification.

As Christians (literally “Little Christs” or “Little Anointed Ones”) we are His representatives on earth. To this end, Jesus was concerned about people’s relationship with the Father. Jesus also was concerned about people’s emotions; remember His response when He heard that Lazarus had died. He cared for their physical needs too. You may remember how He treated those that were hungry by multiplying the loaves and fishes. He also healed people’s bodies. Jesus truly does want to meet our needs, both spiritual and practical… all the while pointing the way to the Father. Our job or ministry as a greeter is always to point to Him by meeting needs and showing love.

Like any journey, experiencing the  begins with a single step. The first place visitors encounter the  is pulling into a parking lot, or walking up to the building. The goal is to help them connect with those six or so people that they can call friends as quickly as possible. We have a number of programs where this takes place from small groups to  training classes, as well as through the greeters. Studies show that people enjoy meeting others on a one-on-one basis, as opposed to being singled out at some point during the service; and then being mobbed by greeters and sheep.

Our purpose is make others feel welcome, and connect in meaning relationships with others, while showing the love of Christ. Our vision is to help others take the next step with Christ by serving them, answering all their questions, and directing them to the people and/or ministries that can do that. Our goal is to get everyone that we come in contact with to "their" next level.

Team members need to learn to spot regular needs. IE: I a visitor who has children, offer to get them to children’s classes. New comers often come early, be prepared to offer water, restrooms, a cup of coffee - but be there early as well.

There are other needs too. The spiritual needs, by taking a few moments to pray and seek the Holy Spirit, you may discover these needs and offer prayer or direct them to another ministry within the church that might help them. How many greeters teams have prayed before a service like most worship teams?

All members of the Welcome Team should be trained in the 5-Part Ministry Model (see appendix). Thus, they can stand in the gap if a need arises.

Be aware that god may have chosen you to do something much more personal, such as make an invitation to a meal or cup of coffee, offer to meet a need for transportation, make a referral, stop everything and pray, give a hug - there will be many opportunities to be Jesus, and that can't be scripted, rehearsed, or done by following rigid guidelines.

Nuts and Bolts:

PARKING LOT: It is important that visitors have clearly marked parking spaces near to an entrance. For larger fellowships, a parking attendant who can direct them is helpful. During inclement weather, it is also a good idea to have some greeters armed with umbrellas to walk visitors in.

THE FRONT DOOR: Greeters should be stationed at the door to make sure people are able to get in and find the sanctuary, restrooms and other information. (Refrain from visiting with your friends)

INFORMATION TABLE: This is a table where visitors can obtain information about events such as Pastor’s Pizza,  Training Classes, Home Groups and other ministries that they may need, or even want to eventually participate in. It is especially helpful to have a New Comer’s brochure describing things that they will see during the service, how to contact the pastor, how to ask questions etc. A Welcome Packet is also a good idea, but should never be forced. This could be a fuller view, Statement of Faith (What We Believe), home group contacts and current events.

THE SANCTUARY: Greeters should stand just outside the sanctuary until worship is over. Sometimes new folks get there late, or were uncertain of the service time, or may have had trouble finding the church. This is a good place to hand out bulletins, make invitations to Pastors Meet and Greet if there is one.

It is good for the greeters to keep an eye out for unfamiliar faces in the service. Many churches have a greeting time; this is a good time to introduce new people and visitors to other church members. In larger churches the pastor may ask all members that consider it their home church to stand up. This saves the embarrassment and the number one “turn-off to visitors by not making them stand up. Church members can then easily identify those that are not members and greet them while they are sitting down.

POST MINISTRY TIME: Greeters should stand watch to see if new comers and visitors respond to the ministry time. It is always good to get their feed back and make sure that they have also connected.

GOOD BYE GREETERS: Visitors and newcomers often feel at ease after the service. They may have been nervous not knowing what to expect their first time or two. Again, this is a good time to debrief and see if there are any needs that might be met before the next service. It is also a god time to suggest a home group or other event for new people.

COMMITMENT: In order for the church to be successful, greeters play a very important role in being the first few “touches” of Jesus. The church further grows by adding and discipling committed members. People feel important when they A) feel that the pastor is available; B) have people they feel they can connect with at some level that is important to them and C) sense the Father’s love for them. Committing to making sure someone meets those first 6 new fiends is the most important step in the process of becoming a potential member. Once this goal is met, the Membership Class is the next step.

VCF 5-Part Prayer Model

Where does it hurt?
How long has is been this way?
When did you first become aware of this condition?
Describe the incident, please.

Pinpoint effected area

Command the back to straighten
Rebuke the afflicting spirit
Lead the individual through repentance/forgiveness.

Each is an example of a particular and strategic prayer strategy. We want to select the prayer strategy that best suits the condition.

Invite the presence of the Holy Spirit on the individual
Join the Holy Spirit as He ministers to the individual

Prescriptions, Referrals, Instructions

Often a prayer encounter will set as many things in motion as it resolves. You may wish to prescribe:

- Rest / exercise / diet
- prayer / study / fast
- sin no more…

You may wish to refer an individual to further ministry. Referrals may include:

- Small Group/ Care Group
- Professional Care
- Pastoral Care
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