Friday, January 29, 2010

Revival!

Is there anyone that thinks we don't need revival?

I have studied revival pretty extensively, and I'd like to share a little bit of that knowledge with you. Revivals have come and gone since the beginning of Christianity. The Spirit of God ebbs and flows like the seasons described in Ecclesiastes 3. Because God is sovereign, He gets to determine the seasons of the Spirit, not you or me. I also know that He responds to events in creation by answering prayer, and raising up standards against evil.

As we take a quick look at revival, I'd like to mention that we have had renewal over the seasons as well. A renewal is that which happens in the church to believers, where a revival encompasses a community or region, involving both renewal in the church and the salvation of the lost outside of the church.

Many Catholics were responsible for renewals and revivals at various times over the centuries. St. Patrick brought a miraculous revival to what is now Ireland. After the Protestant Reformation, which was a revival in itself (1514-1648), there was a Counter Reformation that got the attention of Rome.

With each revival came a new denomination, and since 1648 we've had quite a few. The First Great Awakening left an indelible mark on American religion. Congregational, Presbyterian, Dutch Reformed, and German Reformed, Baptist and Methodist denominations came face-to-face with the conviction of sin and the holiness of God. It had little impact on Anglicans and Quakers - but their time was coming.

More recently we've had the Pentecostal Revival that started at Azusa Street on April 14, 1906. In a time of segregation it was a powerful revival that included both backs and whites. The participants received criticism from secular media and Christian theologians for behaviors considered to be outrageous and unorthodox. This was the catalyst for the Assembly's of God. Almost 100 years later, it is the fastest growing denomination in the world.

There have been healing revivals with Christians such as John G. Lake, Smith Wigglesowrth and Kathryn Kuhlman; sometimes called the mother of the Charismatics.

In my life time we've had the Charismatic Renewal (Catholic and Anglican), the Toronto Blessing, the Brownsville Revival (Pensacola) and others in Africa, South America and Europe.

The Spirit of God is at work throughout the nations.

With each move of God, there are different expressions of His presence. With each wave of the things of God, we went deeper. Fresh revelation, scriptures opened and often powerful manifestations of God which are not easily explainable - many times involving the gifts of the Spirit.

I am not a prophet, but I hope that we have another mighty move of God, one where millions get saved, and every Christian falls deeply and passionately in love with Jesus; hearing His voice and taking territory for the Kingdom. I have a plan so we are in position if it happens.

As God prepares his bride for the coming of His Kingdom - for the last trumpet, where will He find you?

Will you be pointing fingers at other Christians - debating theology, or at work preaching the Gospel, loving your neighbor and waiting for His return?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sermonetics - The Relationship Between the Pulpit and You

L. Ron Hubbard, a fiction writer and founder of Scientology (there's your sign), coined the terms Cybernetics, a form of thought control and Dianetics, a study of the metaphysical relation between the mind and body. Good luck Tom Cruise.

I am coining the term Sermonetics - the theory of the stuff you hear every Sunday from the pulpit.

Take a minute and think about what you have learned from the pulpit over the years - your participation in Sermontics. A preacher once said, "I don't remember every sermon that I have heard, nor do I remember every meal that have ever eaten. I just know that in both cases, I was fed." Unless of course you were doing something ELSE.

What comes from our pulpits should be life to us every week.

I happen to feel that there are some misconceptions regarding the pulpit. The first being that the pulpit has, unfortunately, become an icon for church, and sometimes the central focus of church ministry altogether.

We we look at a church, we should see that everyone is trained in the basics of one-on-one ministry. That, in itself, is probably one of the biggest tragedies in the American church today, that we have become primarily spectators. Of course there are many facets of church life, but the pulpit has taken over, pushing aside just about everything but occasional evangelism. It seems that every Sunday is word and song worship, coffee and Fellowship Lite (less calories and commitment).

Let's take a look at what the pulpit is meant to be, and what should happen there.

First, preaching is meant to reach the heart. (Acts 2:14-40) Second teaching is meant to open the scriptures to us, so that we can understand them as Christ intended them to be understood; "putting on the mind of Christ." (1 Corinthians 2:16)

Teaching is a role (Eph 4:11) in the church, and preaching is not. Because preaching is meant to reach the heart, it is intended to be an agent of permanent change. Therefore; we preach the Gospel unto salvation. Preaching is a spiritual wooing that our human spirit must respond to. Teaching on the other hand, is the understanding of what we have received in our spirit.

Preaching is a message from God directed at changing us. Teaching is the understanding of the ways of God meant to build us up.

During the salvation experience the Holy Spirit becomes a seal - a decision that we make with eternal ramifications - changing our heart for eternity. That is the result of fruitful preaching. Preaching often comes with a demonstration of God's power, that is why it changes our heart. We can preach the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the impartation of spiritual gifts and repentance. Responses to preaching are supernatural. Responses to teaching are intellectual (with an internal witness).

Teaching is an essential process in the life of the Christian. We need the knowledge of God to become like Him. A lot of folks think that the church is basically not well taught. Here is my opinion - hey, isn't that why you read Fire & Grace anyway? Liturgical churches use basically that same liturgy week after week; 52 weeks a year. The homily is usually a simple application of a selected Bible verse. That is a pretty limited diet.

Evangelical churches tend to have their own calendars. New Year's is a sermon on vision, Christmas is the story of salvation, Easter is the resurrection, Mother's Day is Proverbs 31, Father's Day men don't go to church, the 4th of July is freedom and Summer is Vacation Bible School and evangelism... we have lost over 30% of the year, and then we add to that a sermon on tithing, one of serving, and one on ministries in the church and half the year is gone to repetition - also a limited diet of milk. More on that by Dave T. HERE

Without looking at the bulletins in your leatherette zippy Bible case, can you name the other 26 topics that were supposedly preached to you in the last year? Was there lasting change in your life - permanent victory?

Last week I experienced a wonderful thing in church, we had a testimony of a man healed of lung cancer! I would have like to hear a few more of those - now that's exciting, faith building and memorable. Burp! And it fed me. I don't remember what the sermon was on.

I honestly feel that the preaching should be reserved for evangelism and other demonstrations of God's word. How about a teaching on healing, followed by healing? How about one on each spiritual gift with a demonstration of each one afterwords? An what about one on relationship that is deeper than "be nice to each other," followed by foot washing, or a call to action?

We need good preaching.

When it comes to teaching, it can be pretty boring - so it better be God! I always wondered why we had recurring themes in church. Are we that thick or unengaged? Can we please test out of Sunday morning?

Unless there is a really great book I haven't read, I don't want a book study. And if you are going to do a Bible study, can that be God too? Just askin'.
We need good teaching.

Other than the basics of salvation, what are the topics of the most useful and memorable sermons you've heard - the ones that changed you? Or just tell us what you never want to hear about again.

Messages should cause us to become doers of the Word and add to the understanding of the work done on the cross without becoming biblical fairy tales.

Mad Libs: An Unforgettable Church Service

Hopefully you have heard of Mad Libs(R)! They are stories that you blindly fill in the blanks for articles of grammar and then read the completed story. Since I was a kid, these have always been a hoot. I decided to make up my own. Just fill in the blanks next time you are at small group and then read it back. It is sure to shake up a few religious spirits.

An Unforgettable Church Service

We arrived at _________ (time of day) at the Church of the Holy _________ (noun). It was ___________ (day of week) and we got out of the _________ (mode of transportation). We were dressed in our __________ (day of week) best. We all held _________ (plural body part) as we crossed the street. Today was special because it was ___________ (holiday) and the kids look forward to receiving _________ (noun) as part of the celebration.

Pastor _________ (name) was there to greet us and shake our ________ (body part). He welcomed my __________ (family member) with a big _________ (bodily gesture). He said __________ (slang greeting), and welcome.

We made our way past the _________ (plural noun) and the ________ (herding animals) and took our seats on the ___________ (noun). There we people everywhere, but no one ______ (verb ending in ed) us. I guess that is how they share their ___________ (strong emotion).

The service started with invigorating ___________ (action verb). It was so __________ (emotion), people were ___________ (verb).

Next were the announcements. I was surprised to hear they were having _________ (activity) for the youth, and _________ (activity) for the adults. There was going to be an outreach to the ___________ (class or group of people).

We wrote a check for $_________ (amount of money) and put it into the ___________ (noun) for the work of ___________ (deity). This made us so ________ (emotion) we couldn't contain ourselves.

The pastor began his sermon based on _________ (Bible verse). As he broke it down, I just _________ (physio-emotional response). During it he shouted _________ (interjection) ________ (positive number) times. I looked at my watch and it was ________ (number) minutes since he started. ______ (exclamation)! He finally ended with the ________ (numeric ordinal) ________ closing.

Next they had a call for anyone wanting to get _____________ (verb ending in ed) and _______ (number) went forward. Some people ________ (verb) and others ________ (verb ending in ed) at the altar. People raised their __________ (plural body part) and shouted _________ (religious interjection).

The _________ (kind of team) team played another song and we filed out to the ___________ (name of a room) to have _____________ (beverage). We stood there waiting to ________ (verb) to someone. _______ (number) people came to welcome us.

All in all it was a(n) ________ (adjective) day. Praise _________ (deity)!

Want to print it? HERE is a link.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

300 Blogs - 14K Visitors - Many Thanks

I have passed the 300 blog mark, and I wanted to take a few minutes to express my thanks for reading along - some since 2006! And no hateful comments; amazing! I have written about a lot of things over the years, but mostly Jesus, Holy Spirit, Stupidity, Politics (some think that that's the same as stupidity) and Relationship.

I have been most passionate about the the 5-Fold Ministry.

My top 2 most read blogs are The Role of the Holy Spirit and The Cost of Following Jesus. That sort of makes me happy - because they are important topics. I am also a little impressed that my blogs on the Demonic are also well read. The most commented blog on Fire and Grace is yesterday's on No More Church a Usual!

I was a little disappointed that my series on The Top 10 Stupidest Things Christians Do, did not become a best seller.

I have written some other blogs that don't appear here, but you can search me out at Tony C Today, and Kingdom Bloggers if you just can't get enough sarcasm. :o)

While I've been blogging Obama was elected president, the shooting at VT Blacksburg took place, the Underwear Bomber (sometimes known as the Crotch Bomber) was caught in Detroit, I reconnected with old High School friends on Facebook, lost a job, got a job, went on a car safari, 3 friends got cancer; one died, one was healed and one hangs in the balance, the maylee at Ft. Hood happened, we bid farewell to Falwell, Senator Kennedy died - oh, and Scott Brown was elected.

For my 99th blog in '09 I decided to make a list of issues that are important to me. Check them out HERE - not a lot has changed.

And thanks again for reading along. If you would, I'd love it if you would post a comment - even a hateful one, that's what bloggers live for.

Monday, January 25, 2010

A Seed is Planted - No More Church as Usual!

Some years ago I had a dream. The Lord simply gave me the word "Antioch." At the time, all that I knew was that is was a biblical city where one of the apostles went. The first thing that I did was a word study on "Antioch."

What the Lord was trying to show me was that in the book of Acts there was a rich history describing the working of the spirit-filled church of the 1st century. Here are a few bullet points.

- The church was planted after the persecution of Stephen in Jerusalem. (Acts 11:19)

- The church was evangelistic having outreaches to the Greeks (Acts 11:20)

- It was overseen by the Apostle (Greek "sent one") Paul and Barnabas for about a year.

- Prophets from Jerusalem went there to minister. (Acts 11:27)

- The new church had apostolic, prophetic and teaching gifts. (Acts 13:1)

There is a lot more about the church at Antioch that one could glean just by reading Acts. It was a well known center with the ENTIRE 5-Fold ministry operating in it for about the first year. Apostles and prophets should move on once a local church has a pastor, good evangelism that fits the community and teaching.

I can't imagine that Antioch was "church as usual." The richness of teaching, miracle working apostles imparting gifts to the local body for the work of ministry and prophets hearing God for individual and corporate direction. How exciting to work together in relationship with other gifted folks, doing outreaches and growing in grace!

The difference between a formula and model is this. The formula is a patterned way of working, while a model is a principled way of working.

Having a church model allows the players to be diverse, yet uniquely individual while providing an invisible structure that God can use. For example, an apostle may stay for a year, but it certainly could be longer, or shorter. The same is true of prophets.


In the end, the local church must have pastoring, teaching and evangelism so that it will not become a Dead Sea. Every church needs an inflow of unbelievers that get saved, get discipled and then released into their destiny and ministry; some becoming leaders - reching outward.

The fruit of a healthy church is savlations leading to mature disciples. The problem sometimes is the lack of vision for various parts of body life when churches put a single holy-man in charge.

- Pastorally centered churches retain members for a long time because their needs are being met. They usually fail to bring unbelievers in to experience Christ, and become a Christian ghetto for others wounded by other churches.

- Prophetic centered churches provide lots of personal revelation, which is very encouraging and exciting, but little in the way of grace and fellowship.

- Apostolic centered churches breed miraculous excitement for a time - but without deeply committed pastors they can be a flash in the pan.

-Teacher centric churches can by relationally dry. Good teaching and theological training is essential. But it is not the end goal of the local church.

- Evangelistic churches are a wonder in the kingdom, bringing many through the door of salvation. However; they concentrate on evangelism, and not the deep and needed discipleship that a fruitful life as a Christian requires.

The above churches can also lead to spiritual abuse in extreme cases.

Any church the relies on just one man to get things going, and stay running, is going to be a lopsided and crippled expression of Jesus. It is essential that an apostolic/prophetic foundation be laid so that pastors, teachers and evangelists can work together for a balanced local ministry that creates gifted disciples for Christ.

Today I am writing to myself too - as I brood over the events of a church planting meeting yesterday. I am reminded that it is His church, and He has chosen leaders for his purposes - I just have to do my part - and nothing more.

I am also excited to see the apostolic process talking place for the very first time in my Christian life. Is it possible that there is an Antioch just out side of Boston that will grow into a living breathing church where God's creation is reached, taught, and released for His glory? I pray there is.

No more church as usual, are you with me?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Perspective: Left or Right?

The fodder for many of my blogs come from behavior that I observe, and posts on social media sites. Today I had one with a fellow that identified himself as very LEFT. As an independent, I occasionally agree with the lefties on issues - like getting off foreign oil and renewable energy - but I think Global Warming is a buffoonery. And of course I agree with the righties when it comes to smaller less intrusive government, pro-life and similar issues.

Here is Lefty's post: "Personally, I can't stand right-wingers of ANY stripe, though the "religious" hypocrite American variety particularly annoy me. What kind of Christian robs the poor to enrich the wealthy? Lets people die in the street for lack of health care? Has a death penalty in the Age of Grace? The list goes on and on.... they arrest over half a million people for the "crime" of smoking pot (smoking a flower!), yet allow the Madoffs of the world to rob and plunder with wild abandon. Capitalism is based on greed and selfishness, therefore totally out of sync with Christian virtues. You also can't jail and punish people in moral behavior nor common sense."

Wow, "religious hypocrite Americans." Because I happen be an American I guess I need to give myself the hypocrite test, and come up with a thoughtful reply. As I have stated many times, Christians are to first seek the kingdom of God, then we can work our way into things that are not specifically outlined in the Bible.

"What kind of Christian robs the poor to enrich the wealthy?" It is a sin to rob, I think we can all agree on that - well, unless you think Robin Hood was a hero. I don't see, as a nation, how we rob the poor - well, unless you take the volunteer poor tax as an example - it's called the lottery. Statistics show that the poor and uneducated purchase the largest percentage of lottery tickets. And in my state (MA), this is used to fund the education of our children - so that would make it right? No. I don't know of any states that have taxes on the poor unless they purchases taxable luxury items, cigarettes or alcohol.

Do we as a nation enrich the wealthy? It is a matter of perspective. Every few years taxes seem to go up and down depending where you are on the income latter. Last time I looked, making over $122,00K per year places you in a 50% tax bracket. Add to that, Social Security, and state income taxes and/or property taxes and were talking some dough.

I have a few points regarding the poor:
1) Americans that have not been to a 3rd world slum have no idea who the "poor" that Jesus spoke of really are. More on that HERE.

2) Jesus said "the poor you will always have with you." It is the CHURCHES responsibility to take care of the poor. Look around your church, are you seeing extravagance in lieu of ministry to the poor?

3) Helping those that can not work at all should be the highest priority once we have taken care of those in our church. More HERE.

When it comes to health care, which I have written about a number of times, I have some detailed thoughts. But first I want to say America is not leaving folks in the streets to die without health care. We have mandatory health care here in MA (darn, I can't say, the Bluest State anymore). Our emergency rooms are still, even though we were promised that it would stop happening, treating the uninsured and even illegal aliens for most illness; not just life threatening ones. All US states required hospitals to treat life threatening illness.

Here is where I stand, and as close as I can tell, it lines up with scripture.
-1 We need to cap malpractice suits to bring down insurance premiums for our doctors, thus lowering the price. I don't know what Jesus would do exactly, but lowering the price so more folks could have it makes sense to me and I believe Him. It is one way we can care for the poor.

-2 We need to legislate insurance companies to cover anyone, regardless of their health history, if they choose to pay. Jesus would not discriminate.

-3 We are already taking care of the very poor, as well as marginal income families, while offering subsidized plans for the elderly and free care to our vets. What I want to know is why some folks own houses, HDTVs and expensive cars while they don't have insurance? Apparently it is not a priority - that is why there is a tax deduction for it in MA.

-4 Scott Brown's plan is for each state to get their own plan like the one here in MA. America is a republic, and you can participate in your state, which is probably the best place to exercise your Christian worldview, as opposed to giving it up to a bunch of power-brokers in the nations capital. Call your state reps and get them going! Don't wait for Nancy Pelosi.

Christians certainly take different sides on the death penalty. Jesus was all for consequences to our actions. The Hebraic Law afforded the death penalty for certain offenses. Grace however is reserved for us as a pardon for our sins and entrance into the eternal Kingdom. Read Genesis 9:6 and contrast that with Jesus in the account of the Woman Taken in Adultery in John 8:1-11.

Justice vs Mercy. By the way, this is the same theological argument for going to war. Where the government takes action on behalf of the nation, while individuals are to obey the commands of a personal relationship with Jesus. And quickly, the 6th commandment is properly interpreted "thou shall not murder," not "thou shall not kill." In the end, most theologians believe that God instituted the death penalty, and the government (not individuals) should carry it out. I report, you decide.

"The crime of smoking pot." Sorry, I am having a hard time not laughing. 1 Corinthians 6:18-19 Well, the Bible is pretty specific about being sober (sound mind) of thought. 1 Peter 5:8 This type of behavior is tied directly to witchcraft. HERE is a long list of verses on the topic.

And redirecting to something Bernie Madoff did, and is is serving 150 years in prison for doing, is also a joke.

As a nation of laws, we need to start enforcing the ones that we have. This would solve most of the issues with immigration, profiteering and a load of other things that the government can't afford to prosecute, for which there are already laws.

Capitalism operates as a microcosm of every society, where it is outlawed, there is a black market. Greed in itself is the issue, not the form of monetary society. Jesus talked about receiving a reward for our investments, and Paul spoke of work as a way to provide for us and our families. Both are "lawful" under capitalism.

If, as Americans, we had stuck by our roots of biblical Christianity, Bible reading and prayer in school, family values and godly lives, I promise this would have turned out differently. At some point we will become like Communists or Muslim countries where we will be persecuted for visible signs for Christianity.

And the final statement, if I understand it, is that we can't legislate morality. Poppycock. As a nation we did that for many years. It doesn't stop folks from sinning, but it added consequences for bad behavior, which in many cases, now seems common place. We ask ourselves why kids aren't polite, do things that are for more intensely violent then they were even 10 years ago, and I simply shake my head at the stupidity of it all. It is because we taught them, and we allowed behavior to go unchecked. I suppose that we could legislate that murder was legal, but would that make it moral - and by whose standards?

I am surprised that the poster's tirade didn't include something about abortion. It has been the work of Satan to kill those that would eventually rise up as leaders. It happened in the time of Moses and again in the time of Jesus; and now since Roe vs. Wade.

Jesus said that we should be doers of the Word, are you?

As a Christian, I believe that the Bible is a perfect authority for both individual and societal behavior, what say you?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Politics and Religion - Does it Make You Mad?

Elections always seem to raise the level of rhetoric - in the same way the gossip reaches new heights in church when someone has a well publicised affair or other significant moral failing. Bad news and character assassination are as popular as Celebrity Worship.

Over at Kingdom Bloggers we have written about grace all week. It is a term that the church tosses around when, often, they simply mean salvation, or when someone needs it to cover some sin whether unintended or not. BUt today I am talking about Sloppy Agape.

Hypocrisy in the church makes most folks about as mad a broken political promises do. Today we are going to switch roles - politicians are going to take to the pulpit and Christian leadership is going to take to the Senate Floor.

As the CSPAN cameras focuses on the speaker, a famous pastor says: "I think today we are here to create new amendment - we have a religious precedent for it, and now it's time to make it law. Men attending the "true churches" must wear a coat and tie, and woman must wear dresses and head coverings. Are there any comments from the congregation?"

"Pastor, with all due respect, that first century church did not have this type of attire, how is it possible that we can make it church law."

"Are you actually a tithing member of the church, sir?"

"Did you know that nearly 70% or Americans don't tithe?"

"That's not the point sir. It is outlined in our bylaws and as a member you must agree to to bylaws, they were voted on by the elder board and approved by the deacons."

"Let's appoint a committee to study it."

"But our forefathers in Acts 2 . . ."

Now imagine the lawmakers at church. The video ministry zooms in.

The floor welcomes Mr. Speaker and he begins.

"We'll have 4 praise songs this morning, followed by announcements and a short sermon by one of our elders.

"Liar, it won't be short!"

"Yeah, we were here until late on Christmas Eve."

"You can't use the word Christmas, it's a pagan holiday."

"This morning we have past President Bill Clinton on sax."

Whispering: "Don't you know what he did, he had an affair. Shhh..."

Fade to the lobby around the coffee pot.

"Hi I am so-and-so, a big-shot here at church, and I am running for head of the worship team, can I count on your vote?"

As preposterous as both scenarios sound, they aren't that far from the facts.

1 Corinthians 14:1 Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. 2 For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit. 3 But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. 4 He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. 5 I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. He who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may be edified.


1 Corinthians 14:26 What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. 27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. 28 If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God. 29 Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. 30 And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. 31 For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. 32 The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. 33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.

As in all the congregations of the saints, 34 women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. 35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.

36 Did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? 37 If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord's command. 38 If he ignores this, he himself will be ignored.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Bible BS - What do you Believe?

The Bible is a good book, don't you think? Or, maybe you don't, and think John Edwards is a saint. It doesn't matter. The fact that this very blog might be about the Bible may already have you thinking "I'm bored," or "religion is not for me." If it was my kid listening to this, she'd might slip in one earphone from the iPod as she was talking to me - or disappear into a text message frenzy ending with a one word sentence, "Hunh?"

When a message is not received, it doesn't always mean that the message is flawed - but it might be the messenger is - I'll take my chances.

Have you asked yourself if you really believe the Bible from Genesis to Maps - and why? Do you think that Adam and Eve were real people? How about that Noah fellow, did he really build an ark that housed two of each? Do you think the ark smelled after 40 days? I do. And the Gaterenian Demoniac, was he just mentally ill?

It's hard, isn't it, to read the Bible and understand it? But you know it's the truth - and if God said it, you believe it, right? Or maybe you think it is simply inspired writing - a collection of history, poetry, allegory and crazy prophetic visions written by religious folks to inspire people to do good.

Do you have an authorized version of the Bible or GAK! an unauthorized version? For some The Message is absolute blasphemy, for others the NIV, written on a 6th grade reading level, is inaccurate.

How authoritative is your Bible? Has it changed your life? Tell us how in the comments section.

Do you bring your Bible to church? I don't. I kept losing them. They are not very authoritative if you can't find them. And my pet peeve is people that found my bibles; inscribed with my name and phone number, and never returned them! Some Christians need to be whipped.

I used to be a religious underliner - well until someone gave me a Sharpee marker that bled through 18 pages of John, obscuring the odd chapters, starting with 3.

Do you share what you know about the Bible with others? I try.

Jonah had a real struggle with getting the word of God to needy folks, and God slowly but surely narrowed his pathway to success until he got it. Do you think that is a historical account? HERE is a great blog about Jonah by my friend Joyce Lighari.

In light of John Edwards admission of guilt this morning to fathering a child with his mistress a few years back, do you think that matters to God? Can God forgive him? How about David Letterman? What does the Bible say about it? Do you still watch him?

If we're honest, most of us don't have all that much time for Bible reading. Many of us probably spend more time brushing our teeth or putting on make up; even spending more time wolfing down lunch or breakfast at a fast food joint, then we do reading the Bible. Hopefully we do make time every day - at least read a chapter or look for a juicy verse to post on Facebook or Twitter so people know that we are religious folks.

I have met a lot of people that believe the only will of God is in the Bible, so I looked in there to see which job I should take when I had two offers. It didn't help - I thought about putting out a fleece like Gideon - but is that really faith?

And all those supposed biblical errors - I don't know what to do about them. Do you?

I once went to a church that worshipped the Bible. The sermons were filled with proof texts and little else - they called it the truth. So, I asked them about John 14:12 - doing greater things than Jesus. It was puzzling because if Jesus was limited to only the very things we see in the pages of the Bible, then how could we do something greater?

I further inquired (read that , blasted them) regarding 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.

For fun I asked them to tell me what the unforgivable sin was.

Tell me, what do you believe about the Bible? Are their parts that are not true? I'm hoping for a lively discussion. But don't give us any BS (Bible Stupidity).

An Accord, a Pick-Up Truck and a Big Green Tractor

Vehicles are a part of life, and this week my life is characterized by three.


As you are probably aware, Scott Brown, a candidate that I supported for Senator, was elected yesterday. He drove a pick-up truck which was part of his campaign commercials; one that became the butt of Democratic jokes. He showed real character and passion during his campaign. We'll see how that translates in Washington. My friend Tony C broke the STORY in Blogville earlier today, so check it out. We think alike; he just does the thinking faster than I do.

Today I am working and then off to practice with my new band, Up Country playing the likes of Big Green Tractor and Sounds Like Life to Me. It's been fun playing with real people. I'll get some MP3's posted eventually so you can judge for yourself.

The third vehicle is an Accord, but not a Honda. It is something in the church that I have been talking about on-and-off for 10 years, but I wrote about it again last week.

Acts 2:46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

Within just a few days of writing that blog, I received an email from a friend that I have known for a few years. He and I have played Christian music on a pretty regular basis and occasionally grab a meal together. A few others from his town are seriously thinking about starting a church and he asked for my input. He distributed my blog series on the 5-Fold ministry and we are going to discuss their new church Sunday afternoon.

If you have read this blog for any length of time, you know what I think a local church body is supposed to look like. Of course it all needs prayer, and has to be a God thing, or it isn't worth doing.
I think it will be interesting to see where this goes - and if my broodings turn out to be the direction this new group will be taking. I don't have any specific expectations, except to be passionate about my Lord Jesus. Passion worked for Scott Brown, and maybe it will for me. I'd appreciate your prayers.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Race to Armagheddon

Tomorrow’s the big day in Massachusetts as voters head to the polls to replace Ted Kennedy. It is also a big day for US citizens, as a Republican upset could change the balance of power in Washington, thus affecting everything from health care to the war in Afghanistan.

Even if you don’t like politics, you’ll want to read on.

As an unenrolled voter, there is no onus on me to vote one way or the other. I’m glad. I think both parties have their shortcomings. I champion myself as a free thinker with biblical principals. I do my best to vote for people that support issues which benefit the kingdom of God. On election day I will end up voting for the lesser of two evils simply, because there aren’t any Born Again candidates in this race.

In the final analysis, it comes down to hearing God, and godly wisdom. God is not fickle, nor is He a Republican – but He does have a choice.

I have said it a few times, and it is worth repeating, As Christians, we are to seek first the kingdom of God, not the 1 book of opinions. We are not to be left or right, Republican or Democrat. We are to pray, and participate as the law allows us.

Many think that there is something at stake here – and they are right. But it is not a bunch of pet partisan legislation. Nor is it a battle of ideologies or opinions. It is first about following God. Secondly, it is about understanding the rising tide of End Times evil. Yes, in the end, evil will come to a head in the Valley of Armageddon. The Bible says that the day and the hour are unknown for the return of Jesus- yet we are to discern the season. Other interpretations of Daniel, the Gospels and Revelation seem to point to 12 kingdoms. I suppose they would be something like the European Union. How long will that take? I don’t know. There are other interpretations that point to a cashless society. I suppose as long as crooks like cash that too, will take a little while.

Since 9/11 it seems that wars are no longer one country against another. If you remember, within hours, there were protesters in various places with anti-American placards. But if you looked closely, the same rallies were also against Israel. The feud between Ishmael and Isaac, Abraham’s two sons has been revisited. Ishmael, the illegitimate son of a concubine is the father of Muslims. Isaac, of course is the father of Israel and the Judeo-Christian linage - one religion against another. If you take a few minutes to read over the account of Armageddon, maybe you can see this taking place in the future.

As we head into the future, we can’t, as my friend Daryl said yesterday, “Drive down the road with binoculars.” We need to comprehend the future, while living out the day-to-day, using God’s wisdom and instructions to achieve our personal destiny. We can’t sit around waiting for the last day hoping that we’ll be caught up in the sky with Him - as glorious as that sounds.

What’s at stake in this election? Lives: millions of lives. The lives of our troops, unborn children, the poor, those in prison, the widows, the homeless, and countless other lives affected by the policies and generosity of the United States of America around the world.

For Christians, the key issue that will take center stage tomorrow in the Massachusetts Special Election for Senator is religious freedom in the USA. That’s right. You are probably not going to hear it on the network news – it wasn't even on Fox as far as I know. However; our Attorney General, Martha Coakley, made a statement that was so jarring, I had to listen to it a few times. HERE She said that Catholics that were opposed to abortion should not work in hospitals where abortions must be legally preformed. Say that again? If my religion doesn't allow me to participate in what I morally believe is murder, then I should consider working in another field?


Church, can you see where not voting, not caring and not participating has brought us? And for the record, tomorrow’s election is a dead-heat. This could come down to a few thousand votes; dramatically changing the landscape in the US.

Tomorrow I am going to vote – well if I am still breathing. I am going to go work because my family needs to eat, and hopefully in the midst of that, I will hear His voice and do whatever else is on His mind.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Thank God, I'm a Country Boy - WHAT!?

Well, old age seems to have taken it's toll on my musical sensibilities! Those that know me have often caught me wearing Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin t-shirts, along with a few from ChristianRock.net and ChristianHardRock.net. They probably think I've flipped out or that I am having hallucinogenic flashbacks from former drug use. Who knows?

Recently a couple of guys from my church asked me to audition for a band named Up Country. That's right and I said: "Sure, I'll give it a shot."

Before you get all widgy about your own musical tastes, giving this post a thumbs up or a thumbs down, let me explain.

In August of 1978 my friend Dennis and I went to Guitars Unlimited in New Haven and bought our first guitars. I bought a used Yamaha electric, and he bought an acoustic. He wanted to be James Taylor, and I wanted to be Jimmy Page. Fall of '78 came, and we went off to different colleges. I started to play every day - became a music major - transferred to a real music school (Hartt at U. Hartford) - learned classical, jazz and played in a rock band - got a job teaching music at a private high school. How did I turn out? Here is a recent iPhone Video for your listening enjoyment.


Original Video - More videos at TinyPic

For the last 20 years I have only played worship on stage. Since I moved to Boston area a few years ago, I have tried put together a Christian rock/worship band that fulfilled my need for some not so wimpy praise music - but didn't find the right chemistry. I had better luck playing with the youth band - you know, the old guy with short hair playing lead guitar.

What was God saying?

Enter a guy with a British accent asking, "Would you have any interest in playing in a country band? The guy that we have now isn't really that passionate about it."

Do I look like John Denver?

"Sure, I have some chops and it might be fun." Heck, I've been playing Honky Tonk Woman since college - and if you can bend a string in the second fret like the opening riff, you are half way to country. "When do you rehearse?"

He sent me a bunch of MP3s and some chordsheets. I don't know why he thought I needed chordsheets, all the good country songs are in D. I practiced a dozen tunes for about a week as I laughed about all the references to tractors and traumatized wives.

It did open my eyes to a whole new world. My wife is a big fan of contemporary country and secretly watches CMT and drinks coffee when I am off doing guy stuff. I'm afraid to ask her if she knows that song that: One More Last Chance by Vince Gill. "Good book in er left and a rolling pin in her right." That's serious Christianity.

Our first rehearsal went pretty well. I noticed that a few lyrics were made a little more umm - let's say sanitary.

My friend Rich was at a TEA Party and held a sign "Down with Taxes" and wore a t-shirt saying "Down With Country - Why Waste A Good Protest!"

My pal Dave Tvedt says that I could lose my salvation just for saying the word "country" in the context of music.

Anyway, now that I'm a convert - or should I say cowboy; twanging away on my red Stratocaster - my favorite song is Big Green Tractor by Jason Aldean. Don't ask why. . . I just like it. OK! Probably for the same reason you still listen to Smoke on the Water. "Some stupid with a flare gun" - glass houses, if you know what I mean.

When you get a chance check out Livin' on Love by Alan Jackson - "But love can walk through fire without blinkin'." Now that's a good message for Christians that are too busy to call you once in a awhile.

I like songs for different reasons. As a guitarist for all these years, I like guitar music, and sometimes I don't even listen to the lyrics. But there is one tune that the lyrics really grabbed me; Montgomery Gentry's Some People Change.

Maybe you identify with a few of them like I did.

On the road to no-where fast,
Till the Grace of God got in the way.
Then he saw the Light an' hit his knees an' cried an' said a prayer:
Rose up a brand new man; left the old one right there.

Here's to the strong; thanks to the brave.

Don't give up hope: some people change.
Against all odds, against the grain,
Love finds a way: some people change.

Thank God for those who make it:
Let them be the Light.

How about you, did you make it? Are you light?

Here is the rest of the lyrics and a video too.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Apostolic Reform - Starting Over

"I'm tired of trying in church, I've be hurt too many times - I never seem to fit in."

"There is too much hypocrisy, and we don't seem to be getting any better."

"The programs just don't seem to grab me - it's the same old stuff."

"Church is boring, and we don't seem to be making any progress."

"No one seems to be getting saved any more - we should do something about it."

Maybe you've said something like that at some point in your walk with Jesus, I know I have. Today I am going to compile a few thoughts from previous works with a new spin, so that maybe you'll be saying, "That makes sense to me!"

I have had some exciting devotions as I search for the Lord's heart.

Most of you know that I think the key to church growth is Ephesians chapter 4 - but not in some sort of corporate structure. At the very least, I believe that it means we are have ministers that are co-equal and complimentary in their gifting.

One thing that needs to be settled is this. Ephesians 4:11 uses nouns, while the church uses a mixture of nouns and adverbs. So-and-so is a teacher, while someone else is prophetic. Why aren't they a prophet? There are 5 plural nouns with specific adverbs attached. They are apostles/apostolic, prophets/prophetic, evangelists/evangelical, pastors/pastoral and teachers/teach.

It seems that we are not certain if the actual nouns exist, therefore; we tend to soften our theology by saying that person is apostolic or prophetic and not call them an apostle or prophet. It is a bad interpretation of the passage.

Moving on - so what is exciting about this? What if a seasoned team were to show up at your church, or your home, and not only teach this church model that has been around since the time of Paul, but also demonstrate it? How exciting would it be to see 5 ministers acting as one - working in unison and complimenting each others weaknesses with their own strengths - and equipping the church? That's you!

What would it be like for you to BE the church, and not just attend the church?

On a more personal level, what would it mean to you to have solid teaching, mature disciplship training, all with an increase in love, power and revelation thrown in? What would it mean for you to be recognized for gifting you already have, or receive the impartation of a new spiritual gift, be encouraged and then released in an accountable relationship, so that you could be what God made you?

Me? I'd be doing back flips!

At this very moment a team is forming that needs prayer. You can pray for this apostolic team. There are a couple of more integral people still needed. Eventually we'll need things like a web site, a way to schedule trips, administration, grace, more anointing and wisdom in choosing our next moves. If those are things you do, feel free to contact me.

What's the time table? I don't know exactly. When the right people come together, and God opens doors, that will probably the best indication that we have arrived.

If you are interested in reading more, I have received quite a bit feedback on my 5-Fold Ministry series about Ephesians chapter 4. Here are links so you can read them, if you haven't already.







Monday, January 11, 2010

You Don't Always Know What's in the Cup Until . . .

I was talking to a relationship starved believer and she said, "Why is it that you go to church, and for the most part people don't talk to you - and when they do they tell you that God is on the move?"

It's an interesting question that I believe reveals the character of others, and also reveled her anger.

It got me thinking about what makes a Christian sound like a Christian and not a hypocrite? Hmmm... As my thoughts skipped across one synapse to another, I came to the conclusion that it is easier to act like a Christian or religious person than it is to respond like one.

When we are in control, it is easy to play the part - even acting like others think we should. When others act, especially badly, our reaction is a far better indicator of where we are with Jesus.

You don't always know what's in the cup until it gets knocked over.

When people push our buttons, our reaction is controlled by us, or by God. Pick one! It is easy to say this is how I feel, and react. The Bible however says this:

Ephesians 4:25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26"In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold.

This passage does not say that we will not be angry, it says not to sin when we are, and for us to get rid of it before we fall asleep, or the devil will get a foothold in our lives and we will have even more trouble.

For those of us that come from dysfunctional families and churches, anger can easily be a way of life. It is something to consider. We must find a sin-less way to vent our anger. Anger can easily fuel the sin that easily besets us. The Bible also talks a lot about roots - sometimes called a "root of bitterness." And we know that when a plant's root is plucked out, it can't live any longer.
During the race around my cerebellum I found a few causes for anger that maybe helpful for you.

Betrayal or Injustice - We get angry when someone that has been committed to us acts as if we didn't exist, or worse uses us for their personal gain. Immature people betray us by committing to something, and then dropping it for a "better deal." It is painful when perceived friends and family members say negative things about us to others.


Injustice is really the same, except that the target becomes something or someone we care about that is betrayed.

Jesus was betrayed by Judas.

Being Lied To - When we find out that someone has lied to us, especially about intimate and personal things, it is painful. I had a friend that told his wife "she was the only one, ever." 20 years into their marriage it somehow came out that it wasn't true, though he had never cheated on her during their courtship or marriage, she was still devastated by to proliferation of a 20 year long lie.

While we are on the subject of lying, that means withholding the truth and telling half truths, as well as fabricating out-and-out lies.

Being Verbally or Physically Attacked - Abuse and violence are damaging for obvious reasons. When others inflict pain on us emotionally or physically, our normal response is anger. As a tool for self preservation, it should be. The problem is when we are unable to escape painful and abusive situations, the scars of anger can rarely be completely healed. We are caught in a situation where anger upon anger is compounded.

Frustration - This is simply the inability to get what we want in a timely fashion. We all have a threshold for frustration. For some it is short, and others it is longer. Eventually, we will be stretched beyond of ability to control a situation to our satisfaction and become frustrated.

Unreasonable Expectations - We are shaped by many factors eventually beginning to have expectations of ourselves, of our lives, and of others. Marriages often see tiffs over unrealistic expectations. A couple goes on vacation and one wants to relax while the other wants to sight-see. They expect to visit one of others parents and the week before Thanksgiving those expectations clash. We can have expectations about work, marriage, services we purchase and many other things. When they are unreasonable, situations that do not match our expectations make us angry.

Unmet Needs - At work, at home, at church and in our relationships we are trying to have our needs met. We work to make enough money to eat, own a car, or a home, pay college tuition etc. When we can't make enough money to subsist we are drained emotionally.

At church we may expect a pastor to "do it all" and be angry when he can't make time for us.

In relationships we all have a love language or two that needs to be met. When it isn't, we feel unloved and this is a cause for anger.

Judging Other (Labeling) - I see this a lot with teenagers, they label kids putting them into certain groups. The most atrocious examples of this were Nazi Germany and Apartheid in South Africa. Of course this is judgment, and when people we see don't fit into our we liked Groups, they are move to our well disliked groups. For example, a teenager shows up at church with tattoos and piercings so we assume they are "not our type" and ignore them.

I once read about a pastor that wanted to make sure that his congregating "got it," when it came to judging. So he dressed as a homeless drunk, and lay to the side of church steps. After the worship team finished a few tunes, the leader segued to the offering and then the sermon. As he announced the sermon the homeless man came up the center aisle and took of hi overcoat and hat, and removing his gloves, he stood in the pulpit. As you can see, this is a dangerous practice.

Rationalization or Entitlement - Some how we grow into the belief that we deserve something. There are some healthy pursuits. If we go to the gym 3 times a week and eat right, we should have a reasonable expectation of losing weight. The problem for us is when we feel as if we deserve something. Christian in the process of judging others as worse than themselves (see above) often tell themselves they deserve some because they are are better, more talented, more spiritual and the like. The truth is we all deserve death, and that is why we need Jesus. In the process we build a little glass house of entitlement because we are "good."

Controlling our anger is essential. It is often beneficial to understand things as we work to bring them under the submission of Christ. But beware, we cannot think our way into holiness. We must submit to Christ, deal with our own sinfulness and continue to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.

It is essential that we align our expectations up with the Bible. So many times we feel entitled to more than we are actually promised. That doesn't mean that God is unable, it simply means that He has priorities and they need to become our ours.

When we allow God to give us our desires, and not TV, Cosmopolitan magazine and a zillion other forms of media, He can then give us joy as He releases our desires. If you are not happy, let me simply ask, is it because you don't have what you want, or you don't have what He wants?

As I have said before, if we are in God's will, then our life is none of our business. We can go along knowing that He is with us, loves and and will empower us as needed to accomplish that tasks and circumstances set before us. When we expect more out of life than life has to offer, we get in trouble - becoming angry.

Just like a budget, we can cut expenses or make more money. Anger is like that. We need to have a remedy for what we already have, and that is forgiveness. That is how we will increase our spiritual bank account. We can cut "expenses" by learning what God wants for us, and not wasting our time on things that cause us frustration.

In short we need to grow up, and learn to focus on the treasures we have in heaven. And finally we need to apply stress relieving Biblical principals to our lives.

Matthew 6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Some Days the Flesh is the Best Thing - An Unexpected Guest

This morning I received a text-message from my best friend, Antonio (2nd from left); better known as Carlos. To make a long story short, he and I have known each other since the Spring of 1999 and our history of ministering together is as long. We traveled to Brazil on my first International mission trip, he was the best man at my wedding and there is no one friend that I have shared more of my life with. We have often said that we are like David and Jonathan.

As you may have read a few months ago HERE, he was picked up by INS for an immigration violation. His friends and I prayed and collected money for his bail. For the time being, he is legal, but that could end fairly easily and he would be deported.

His text message was simple, are you available to get together today? Are you kidding me, I pretty much would have dropped everything to see him. The good news is that I didn't haven't any plans for the day. He arrived with a friend, and my wife made us coffee.

As much as I enjoy some of my "online" friends - even rely on them, there is no substitute for being with the folks that you love. Flesh can be a good thing!

As we sat across the table from one another, he told us the story of how he went to attend a wedding in California, and help a missionary that he met 17 years ago in Brazil. His friend, like so many other missionaries returning the US, eventually fell on hard times. After the wedding, he was going to move his friend from Arizona to Oklahoma to hopefully start a new chapter in life.

En route, his friend fell asleep at the wheel and rear-ended a gasoline tanker truck at a rest area. A fire started, and with only moments to act, the driver pulled my friend Antonio; who was also asleep in the passengers seat, from the burning SUV; along with two suitcases before the explosion. Wow!

I don't know about you, but I have noticed that God has a way of getting our attention, and He often uses trial. Today I looked across the table at my closest friend, one that spent 2 months in prison. God got his attention. And even more wonderful, God used him in the salvations and re-dedications of nearly twenty inmates! He is going to write a testimony about it which I will publish on Fire & Grace - so look for that in the near future.

So, what happens when God gets our attention? If you are like me and my friend Antonio, you stop and evaluate your life, and start looking for places that you can line it up with God's intentions, that's what.

For him, and for me, we've both worked hard to get our lives comfortable, well funded, and filled with life's simple pleasures. Sure, we go to church, give what we can, and help others as part of our everyday lives, but it looks like God wants more. He has a destiny, a call, and a mission for each one of us. It is easy to settle in, acquire a few luxuries, and go to church; letting life slip by.

Then what? Those are the times when God needs to get our attention.

Today as he and Gelson left, the Lord gave me a simple word for each of them. The fire of the Holy Spirit burning in my heart, was overflowing with the things of the Kingdom. How I've missed that. Honestly, I had more intimate communion with God in those 5 minutes then I have had in so long, I can't remember.

We enjoyed a few tears of joy, and a group hug. God is good - especially when he comes to visit unexpectedly.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Setting Up Road Blocks - The Way to Freedom

It is almost time for Massachusetts residents to vote in a successor to liberal Democrat Ted Kennedy. Scott Brown is within 8 or 9 points of Martha Coakley in the polls. If he were elected, then things like Cap and Trade, Health Care reform, and adding troops in Afghanistan would not have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate - meaning that there would probably be more moderate and less expensive solutions.

It is interesting that I take some comments from Christians who think that you can't be both spiritually minded and politically active. I have two response.

1 - I seek first the Kingdom of God, and so should everyone else.

2 - It is this very thinking that has caused a significant decline in morality in the US and many other countries. Why? When folks don't care about godly principals they vote form other motivations - financial, social etc. - or abdicate altogether! Christians have sat back as prayer and Bible reading was banned in public schools, abortion was made legal, and even the 10 Commandments are stripped from our culture.

In any case, the insanity and deficit spending is a problem for us all. Most folks are for "free" government services until they have to pay for them - it's fine if someone else is paying.

I guess what matters to me is that we have sane solutions, retain personal freedom to choose products and services that we want - just like religion and speech. So far no one is telling me what religion to be or what to say. No thanks to anyone telling me what school my kids need to go to, or what insurance I must have.

I don't mind giving up some freedom for the good of others, but I don't like giving it up to pad someones pockets.

Look, I know the end of the age is coming. Until the last trumpet, I'll keep on praying, keep on hoping and keep on speaking out for the kingdom. I believe that the Jews and probably a lot of others in the days of Jesus were praying for a release from a controlling Roman government.

Did you know that in the end, everyone but the true church will be deceived into voting/supporting the Antichrist? For those Christians that still think 1 Opinions is their favorite book, there will be a price to pay.

If you live in Massachusetts, please vote on December 19th. If you don't, please write your Senators, Congressmen and woman to endorse Scott Brown. It is chance to bring some balance to the ever important debates on Capital Hill.

Please pray, please vote and be vigilant, He is coming soon.

And while tour at it, let's see if we can get CSPAN to televise the health care negotiations.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Where is the Best Place to be Happy?

Each year a couple of researchers rate the US states from the highest happiness quotient to the lowest. Everyone is trying to connect the poll data from 1.3 million folks that simply rated their personal happiness on a scale of 1 to 10, to some sort of real data to substantiate the polling. The data is simply asking the question, what makes you happy? Here's my take.

I am a bit of a statistics geek, but please bear with me - in the end it will all make sense. I just need to give proper credit to the guys that did the work.

Andrew J. Oswald of the University of Warwick in England and Stephen Wu of Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., both economists, compared the happiness ranking with studies that rated states on a variety of criteria ranging from availability of public land to commuting time to local taxes.

This poll has been reported in dozens of online journals - just Google it. Here are your top 10 Happiest States.

1. Louisiana
2. Hawaii
3. Florida
4. Tennessee
5. Arizona
6. Mississippi
7. Montana
8. South Carolina
9. Alabama
10. Maine

In order for the poll to make any sense, there must be some common element to measure happiness against, don't you think? I don't know what commutes are like in Louisiana but I do know what they are like in the states ranked 43, 50 and 51. I live(d) there - they stink.

If we rank them on climates that are warm, sunny and friendly, how the heck does Maine come in number 10? Maine is certainly friendly and more laid back then the rest of New England, but it sure is cold up there. Sun, however; does look like a factor.

Perhaps it is based on the cost of living - that being the common denominator, how does Hawaii rank number 2?

Well, let's take a look at the bottom of the barrel. Here are the 10 unhappiest places to live in the US:

42. Rhode Island
43. Massachusetts
44. Ohio
45. Illinois
46. California
47. Indiana
48. Michigan
49. New Jersey
50. Connecticut
51. New York

If unemployment is a part of the happiness issues, than MA, CT, NJ and NY are in better shape then the rest of the least, and should be higher then the Midwest manufacturing states, which are all in double digit unemployment.

If you think it has to do with crime - you'd be way off. According to WalletPop.com, most of the top 10 happiest states are also the most dangerous. Apparently happy people commit more violent crime.

Top 10 Most Dangerous States

1. Nevada
2. Louisiana
3. South Carolina
4. New Mexico
5. Florida
6. Tennessee
7. Alaska
8. Arizona
9. Maryland
10. Michigan

As a Christian, I would think the states with the most churches would be on top. However; according to adherants.com, you and I would also be wrong.

1. Utah
2. North Dakota
3. Rhode Island
4. Alabama
5. Louisiana
6. Mississippi
7. South Dakota
8. Oklahoma
9. Minnesota
10. Wisconsin

So what is the common denominator? Politics! The happiest states are by and large Republican. And the unhappiest, Democratic.

Hey, I didn't make this stuff up.

James 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Local Mission - Making a Difference at Home

This morning I received a prayer request for a young man that is out partying it up, working part time, and in trouble financially. He is the son of a Christian couple that are church goers, happily married and decent folks. I spent a day last week with another young guy in the same predicament.

You can't look at one of of these teenagers/young adults without asking yourself, how does the child of a solid Christian couple become more interested in the ways of the world, than Jesus himself? It is easier to see it, if a kid is the child of divorce where one parent is off in the weeds, while one has a working faith. Kids from single parent families are even more at risk.

So why do kids make bad decisions? I have a few ideas.

First of all, we are created for real relationship. The lack of healthy relationships is part of the problem for our kids.

Genesis 1:28 God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.

Even after Noah survived 40 days of rain, the Lord's plan was to populate the earth with His beloved.

Genesis 9:1 Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.

Populating the earth tends to overlook the obvious. Couples have children who need to be trained, parented and molded into adults. It amazes me when parents say, "kids need to have as long a childhood as possible - one free from the reality and pain of the world." Are you kidding, a life where the parent waits on kids hand and foot until they are "of age" is not healthy. And based in the divorce rate in the US, it appears that childhood is lasting well past age 40. I agree with Dr. Phil, "We are not raising kids, we are raising adults!"

Look, I am all for protecting our kids from danger. For the record, I am appalled at some of the training that is proposed for elementary age kids regarding sexuality. There is just stuff that they don't need to know until later on in life. We do need to shelter them from certain influences, while we teach them about those things, and put them in context of Christianity. Christianity has a lot to say about sexuality.

I happen to know Christian parents that allow their kids unbridled access to television, computer, music, movies and video games. The deluge of media, when not in context of the Christianity, is very influential and often counter to the Bible. It needs to be a privilege that kids earn, and one that is highly monitored. Do you know what sites your kids visit on the web, what's on their iPod, what movies they are watching, and who are they online with? Do you know their friend's parents?

Christians all know that according to Proverbs 22:6, that we should train up a child in the way they should go, and when they are old, they will not depart from it.

Therein lies the key - yet most Christians do not know what type of training a Jewish child received, so it is a shock when kids depart from it. We innocently think that we need to teach them a few Bible stories, maybe some memory verses, how to sing Jesus Loves Me, and wrangle a decision for Christ out of them at Vacation Bible School. All this is accomplished on Sunday morning between 10 and 11 am and in one week during the summer.

If we take a brief look at Jewish culture, we'll see that "training" was done daily in Hebrew schools. I guess that it is akin to a contemporary Christian school. And during times of occupation and exile, it was done at home - like our homeschooling is done today. Training was immersion in the things of God, and scriptural context for other non-spiritual disciplines such as math.

The Jews NEVER would have put their children in Greek or Roman schools.

I am not coming down on you for having your kids in public schools. I am just trying to provide insight into the training that the Hebrews gave their kids - like Mary and Joseph. Think about it. If we dip our kids in the world five days a week, and only once in church - for an hour no less - what do you think the predominant color will be?

Training did not end there - it also took place at home. Deuteronomy 6:1-9 is a wonderful description of home life and the training that went on there. It describes the head of the house explaining the law; the commands of God to the children at the table. It was a place for the parents to remind their kids of what God did for them. Honestly, if you don't have any testimonies to tell your kids about, you might want to take a closer look. I'm just sayin'. The table was also a place for the husband to pronounce blessing over his wife and family.

The family is not only about children, the entire dynamic that goes on between the husband and wife is a great predictor of our children's future behavior. When husbands and wives work through their conflicts, and treat each other with respect, it often shows up in the kids. A peaceful environment, not one free of conflict, but one with peaceful resolutions to inevitable conflict, is the best place for kids to be trained. Working out boundaries in a family can be tough - even tougher in a blended family - but it is essential.

Family rules and boundaries come out of godly wisdom and biblical mandates. Kids need to know what the limits are, and the punishment for crossing the line. There are limits set for kids at different ages, such as computer use and curfews. Children need rewards for good behavior as well as chores within the family. Each child is an individual and will require different methods of parenting - but reaching kids effectively is always worth it.

The Bible is very clear about the sins of the parents being visited upon their children and grandchildren. And just because your kids didn't see you drinking, smoking or being promiscuous, doesn't mean that a generational curse will not rear its ugly head. They need to be spiritually discerned and broken.

Let me be the first to admit (with my wife sitting in the front row, raising her hand shouting "amen, brother"), I don't have a perfect family or marriage. I am, however; convinced that Mary Anne is the best thing that ever happened to me, and we are committed to each other. My kids know that God exists, the older ones have been saved, yet; like many of us, they have made decisions that would not reflect that upbringing. I only wish I had the wisdom I have tried to share in this blog, 25 years ago.

I ignorantly depended on Christian schools, churches and para-church organizations to train my children. What I failed to see was that my own example was a more powerful teacher than them all. I further underestimated the power of family curses which can be broken with prayer.

I have made some adjustments, but the biggest one is this: the dinner table is the altar of our family. For all of us, it is a sanctuary from the cruel world outside. It is meant to be a place of peace, a place to be who we really are, a chance to look into the eyes of those that love and care for us, and never a place for discipline. We try to talk about our lives on a day-to-day basis, to be known, to talk about what God wants, and how He has been faithful to us. My wife often reminds us to be grateful - some days it's hard to shake off a tough day at work.

The table, it is simple, but powerful place. We don't have cell phones, rude talk, or swearing. We say grace and ask God's blessing on our family, our marriage, our kids, our puppies and Charlotte's fish - especially Randy who has grown to be huge! We laugh some days, and occasionally cry, but we are there. Sometimes all of us including the older girls, some days just the three of us.

As a family we battle against the lies of this age just like so many others. We do persevere knowing:

- Kids are not adults at 18, nor are they on magically on their own at 21. In fact they are our responsibility until they marry.
- Kids don't have to fight with the same sex parent when they become adolescents.
- Fathers need to lead.
- Husbands and wives need to express their love to each other. That's how kids learn how to love - especially the love that Jesus has for his church.
- The big issues need to be discussed out of sight of the kids.
- Parents need to be on the same team when it comes to discipline.
- Couples need time alone without the kids.
- Boys left to their own devices will be boys when they are older - the same is true with girls.
- Kids don't magically know how to handle money, be reliable and take care of things if they never learn it from you.
- Girls shouldn't have to fix cars, but it is a good idea if they know how.
- Parents are not friends with their kids.
- Giving your kids wings is a bad idea if you haven't taught them how to fly.

And finally, what about kids in trouble? It all takes wisdom, love and perseverance. Use your leverage while you have it, that's all I can say. Once you lose your leverage, you'll have a hard time training your children. Make time for your kids, and if they are on the right path, make time for someone Else's kids - it will change the future for you, for them, and for the church.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Morning Brew - New Year - New Vision

Like many, I skipped the New Year's stuff. I still have a couple of days off before I go back to work which I plan on using to try to get some momentum towards a couple of personal goals. As a guy, I live my life in compartments which are not always related. I have work, family, church, music and writing - well those are the things that take up most of my time.

Christians often talk about balance in life. You know, getting our priorities in order: God, spouse, kids, work, church and free time. I know that as our little one has grown older, and we actually found a babysitter that wants to make money, my wife and I get more date nights and time together. My new job, for which I am grateful to have, costs me 2 to 3 hours more of my time each day. There are those compartments again. Something had to give, so I pretty much have given up playing guitar; although this vacation I have played a lot.

I don't think there is a formula for balancing your life. Whatever you schedule seems to be attacked by some other need. It always feel like we are stuffing 10 lbs of potatoes in a 5 lb sack. Honestly, it is a little too complex for me - and I am a project manager! I'd like my schedule to be on auto-pilot

I previously have worked hard to keep my priorities, but like so many other things that I thought could control, life happens. When I think about my "perfect" life, it always includes my family and Jesus. At the moment, they are the only ones that I can count on.

There are lots of things that I would like to do. I love to play guitar, and I am actually toying with the idea of playing in a country band. Why not? I have done blues, rock, jazz and classical. I like hot tubs, and enjoy travel and mission trips.

The next couple of days I am going to see if I can make some sort of inroad to add a little fun to my 7:00 am to 6:00 pm routine.

In the final analysis, I don't believe balance is really what God is after. I think that He is after relationship, and if our time belongs to Him, then He will set seasons in our lives for His purposes. Some days it is a honeymoon, others it is working the fields, and others it is a mountain top or walking in the desert - even the valley of death is in the hand of God.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven--

Until things change, I am going to praying this prayer. Or, until I change.

Friday, January 1, 2010

What Does the Super Bowl and Church Have in Common?

Soon, the two best football teams in the US will pair off against each other. I don't know how big the arena is, but there will be tens of thousands of spectators in the stands and 22 players on the field at one time.

That is what the church has in common with the Super Bowl - very few players on the field compared to the total amount of Christians in the bleachers.

Church, it is not supposed to be that way. John Wimber said, "everyone gets to play." (HERE is more on that.) What he meant was that Christianity is for everyone - each one of us a gift to the Kingdom; a part of the body of Christ; an integral part of God's work here on earth.

ALL Christians need to discover and use their gifts for the good of the Kingdom. From cleaning toilets to feeding the poor and praying for the sick, it is certainly not a one man job (paid holy man syndrome), nor is it an elite team operation; performed by a select few ultra-religious folks.

The problem with the personal vision of a single leader, is they spend a lot of time trying to get everyone to adapt to it. It will ultimately fail the mission, even though it may grow a local church for a time. The fruit of the biblical mission is not numbers, it is disciples that can replicate the vision and accomplish the mission! Jesus did it, then he sent out the 70, then the 120, and then He gave the "great commission" for us all to go out and do the work of the Kingdom of God.

We are created for a purpose, and that is on the playing field!

So what keeps folks from getting involved?

-1 Large groups where getting to know folks is nearly impossible.

-2 Small groups where newcomers feel left out of established cliques.

-3 A vision that is not clear.

-4 A mission that is not flexible.

-5 Programs that do not have mentoring and discipling built in. There always needs to be a spot in every church ministry for new folks wanting to get involved in the ministries of the church - all of them from pastoring to snow shovelers.

-6 Boring/Irrelevant worship services. If the teenagers won't stand during worship or are hanging out in the hallways, that is your first sign. If you have a short service, and a long one, and the short one is the best attended, that's another sign. Substituting a regular agenda for Holy Spirit lead gatherings is not going to bring Kingdom success. Vibrant worship services build passion in believers.

-7 Over emphasizing the basics: Salvation, prayer, Bible reading and tithing for long time members in lieu of solid teaching that leads to making everyone a minister. The basics of Christianity can be covered in a beginners class.

-8 Lack of training in the basics of the believers ministry: laying on of hands, solid understanding of salvation, baptism of the Holy Spirit, confession of sin, and loving your neighbor. I was at a church that taught this in 4 weeks (2 hour meetings) - then we went out there and did it.

If we teach and train those in our midst; while providing meaningful and relevant worship/teaching, prayer ministry and opportunities for intimate and accountable relationships, we will have provided the foundation for everyone to play the Kingdom game. If we don't, were just dropping the ball and allowing Satan to intercept that which God has had in his playbook since the beginning of time.

And lastly, there is one thing that the Super Bowl and church should have in common - those that are passionate about the game, and show it by an occasional shout, some clapping or a little high-fiving - after all Jesus has always been the player of the year - let's give Him some worship.

Parts of this blog inspired by one from Gene Jennings - How to Keep Church Members in the Stands.
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