Tuesday, April 27, 2010

My Other Own Thoughts!

Here I go having my own thoughts again – in between the last ones and some time with the Lord. Hopefully you read Part 1 of this 2 part blog series.

-1 Church is boring, are we going to blame that on God?
I read the Bible and it says that David loved the Law – that’s right, he delighted in God’s law. Some how He saw His savior and messiah reveled in it, and that made him joyful. I also read about the Puritans and how they spent all day in church. Some Pentecostal churches have watch night services that go from sundown until sunrise. How do you think they do that and stay awake - and not get bored? I mean without Law & Order to watch on TV, how do you think they survived?

It is an interesting question. I have been to quite a few revival meetings in my tenure as a Christian – some long weekend retreats and even a few of those watch night services. I am from the entertainment generation of radio, TV, movies, music and yes, we had Pong. I would say that it takes more to keep me, and my kids interested than It used to… in the flesh anyway.

The presence of God comes in two types, and an endless variety of flavors. There is the abiding presence of God – John 14 and the manifest presence of God. Without the presence of God nothing of value in the Kingdom can be done. Nothing!

I confess, I don’t even bring my Bible to church anymore. I do have one on my Blackberry, and if I get caught off guard with a verse that I don’t know, I can read along in between Tweets and Facebook posts.

I was at a service on Sunday. The preacher was on fire teaching something that he was passionate about. And God was anointing it. The revelation was amazing, so amazing I needed to take notes. Not only was the revelation amazing, but he had someone demonstrate it. Wow2! Honestly, I could have gone for another helping of the word, the ministry demonstration and the testimonies that followed. I don’t know if I could have spent all day, but certainly more than the 3 hours I was there. I was with Jesus.

Church, we need more of Jesus, not more of the word, or worship or prayer. We need Him! He knows what He wants to do – how about we ask Him?

-2 A lot of folks don’t feel valued in church for a variety of reasons. Relationship is the “big one” along with having a gift that is not recognized.

I have written about gifting and relationship on a number of occasions. We often try to have one without the other. It is really hard. Those that are gifted want to release that which come through their spirit. They also want to be in fellowship.

Have you ever seen those movies where folks get stuck together in an elevator or something. Like Speed or The Breakfast Club.  That’s more like church than church.

-3 I believe that everyone should be passionate and excited about church.
Passion comes from fulfilling our destiny and reaching goals. If God calls us to do something and we never do it, how on earth would we ever be fulfilled? If we have a goal that we never reach, how can we possibly feel like we are in God’s will? If we have desires – especially ones that come from Him, how can we give birth to them?

Passion is a response to deep relationship with God, not hyped up religion.

-4 Leadership models tend to focus on the pulpit, not on reaching the lost, making disciples and releasing ministers to follow God and make things happen in the Kingdom.

Paid Holy Man shows make me crazy. If we are a body, then I want to see the body functioning doing the work of the Kingdom. If church is only on the platform or at the altar, I believe that you are missing the point of relationship with Jesus.

-5 Accountable, deep and meaningful relationships are few and far between.
I have written about this so many times, I can’t bear to do it once more. Are you tired of those the are so nice to you every Sunday and never call, stop in, or check in to see how you are?

-6 Regardless of what size a Christian gathering (meeting or service) is,  can we use some of the guidelines from 1 Corinthians 14? (basically to bring something from Heaven to His people.)

I think  the greatest problem with church as usual is that many come expecting to get fed, and not give selflessly to others. Leadership has also done a good job of making it hard to express gifting by making rules and things like membership separate the sheep from the pastor.

I like to see a services where folks show up ready to give, not receive.

-7 (is such a spiritual number – I like it.) As Nicodemus asked Jesus, what must I do to have church like God wants it?

I have often talked about what church might be like if passion and biblical structure were to be implemented. HERE is more on that.

Monday, April 26, 2010

I Can Have My Own Thoughts, Can't I?

There is one good thing about having your own thoughts – well, if you can remember what they are! For over 10 years now, I have been contemplating church. Until then, I accepted church at face value. Whatever you think church is I am talking about my biblical perceptions. I have studied and thought about all kinds of worships styles, models, teachings, and moves of God from the Charismatic Renewal of the late 70’s to the more recent and short lived Lakeland Revival.

Have you said to yourself, “this is what’s wrong with church?” Followed by a thought or an idea that you felt would make things better and more spiritual? I know I have. I have been teaching and blogging about it for years. I suppose that many of my ideas and insights are not new, but bear with me for a bit.

I recently was talking to the elder of a church I visit from time to time. He told me that I should check out some of the books by Frank Viola. I didn’t buy any – sorry Frank. But I did go and read some of the reviews online. Any good church guy is going to stir up some stuff with new ideas. Isn’t that what Jesus would do?

Apparently Frank is not to hip on the institutional church and doesn’t care for a “hierarchical” leadership model.  In some respects, I am with him.
Listen, I didn’t read his books, and I am not going to review his books. I like having my own thoughts, even if they are a little off base, not opinions polluted with others thoughts. I want to hear from God, not from Frank Viola. In many ways, I am not into institutions or single leader controlled churches. But who cares what I think about that. What God thinks is really what matters. What I identified with in some of Viola’s quotes is that he was bored with church. Can I get a few sleeping teenagers to take out their iPod ear-buds and stop texting long enough to say “Amen!”

I an see this blog getting rather long – so let me get right to the points I’d like to make, and then I can follow them up with more detail.

-1 Church is boring, are we going to blame that on God?
-2 A lot of folks don’t feel valued in church for a variety of reasons. Relationship is the “big one” along with having a gift that is not recognized.
-3 I believe that everyone should be passionate and excited about church.
-4 Leadership models tend to focus on the pulpit, not on reaching the lost, making disciples and releasing ministers to follow God and make things happen in the Kingdom.
-5 Accountable, deep and meaningful relationships are few and far between.
-6 Regardless of what size a Christian gathering (meeting or service) is,  can we use some of the guidelines from 1 Corinthians 14? (basically to bring something from Heaven to His people.)
-7 (is such a spiritual number – I like it.) As Nicodemus asked Jesus, what must I do to have church like God wants it?

If you read the table of contents in Viola’s books, he and I think a lot a like. I can’t say that we agree on the solutions – but the fact that someone is addressing the issue of the passionless church is very refreshing.

I hope get deeper into these seven issues over the next few blogs, but I think this a good time to discuss a few root causes for the problems – well, in my estimation.

To get to a place where the church is without passion and love, we must have missed something (read that sinned!), wouldn’t you agree? I mean if it is working, why fix it? Here are a few thoughts for you to ponder with me.

-1 It seems that the love of the church has grown cold. I see less affection, less hanging out, and more of the ships-passing-in-the-night scenario than ever before. We’re too busy.
-2 It seems that folks in church are not desperate for much these days – save healing from a deadly illness. We have health care, money (or we file bankruptcy), cars, TVs and in return for 40+ hours a week, we still live paycheck to paycheck. We’re too self sufficient.
-3 Church folks seem to be easily left out, judged, and sad to say, even ridiculed – and all that, causes offenses that can become deep roots of bitterness. We are too selfish.
-4 Barna says that somewhere around 70 to 80% of professing Christians do NOT see the Bible as the only authority on the issues of morality. I think we’re getting a little arrogant too.

Before we can fix any real problems, we need to cut off the roots.
What can we do if the love of the church has grown cold?  At the very least we need to turn our calendars over to the Lord. I know that busy-ness has become a way of life. For years I have had negotiate real 40 hour weeks where I didn’t have to sit around for a 1 hour lunch. I arranged my hours to work from home, or drive during non-rush hour times. I did my 8 hours and ate a sandwich on my break.

I recently lost the battle to the 9 hour-a-day plus commuting schedule. Now I am busy too. I make time to get a 20 minute cup of coffee with my wife before the shower/traffic/parking garage waltz. When I get home I’m tired, need to unwind a little and get a dinner with my family. Then I try to spend some time with my little one, and whatever 20-something happens to be in the vicinity. My wife and I try to get some time to talk before bed, and have a date night once a week.

Busy is easy to do – and it is hard to make time for Christian fellowship.

Amazingly we are such a rich nation with many so entitlements that we need little from God. Sure, there are poor folks, but nothing like some other countries. But that is another story. Most of our citizens have shelter, have food, and  a large percentage even own homes, cars and TV – the basics of American living. So, why would we need God? Oh yeah, that cancer scare, the unemployment line, something big – that’s when Americans seem to need God the most. 9/11, lots of folks got back on church on 9/12.

In the dysfunctional church, we seem to have produced a generation of offenders and victims. There are problems with the hierarchy of control, management, pastoring - whatever you want to call it. There is a better way, but it takes digging deep into the word of God for answers and revelation. More on that later.

And finally, if the word of God is not the final authority, then honestly, how can we call our selves biblical Christians. I suppose I can call myself anything I want to, but if what I am does not match up with the biblical description, am I really that which I have called myself?

How about you, do you think the church is passionless for the most part?

Stay tuned for 7 radical answers fresh from the mind of yours truly.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Mission Possible the 12 Steps - Part 3

If you are out of excuses and thought about what a mission trip might be like, than maybe you're ready to see what the next steps are. What I love about God is that once we hand over the keys in certain areas of our lives, He is able to get a lot of things done. Here are some practical steps for heading in the direction of Christian missions.

-1 We admitted that God was right and we were wrong. We could do this in His strength.

-2 We sought God in prayer not trying to figure out how any of this would come about.

-3 We asked a few trusted friends to pray too. We didn't ask their advice - just prayer.

-4 We got a passport in faith.

-5 We prayed about where we should go - did a little research online - and and kept the eyes of our heart open.

-6 We read the book of Acts with a new viewpoint.

-7 We looked for mission opportunities and local outreaches - maybe God would illuminate one of those?

-8 We spoke to others about their experiences on a mission trip.

-9 We asked God for specifics like where and when we were to go..

-10 Hopefully we've begun to grow a desire in our heart - looked with expectation for God to ignite a passion for a particular culture or country.

-11 We decided to make it a priority and find a trip that would work for us. We asked for prayer backing and financial support.

-12 We bought a ticket packed our bags - and said. "Oh God, what am I doing!"

Hopefully you had a chance to read Part 1 - Excuses for Not Going and Part 2 - Reasons to Go.

So, are you ready?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Mission Possible - Part 2

Well, if you are not going on a mission for a specific reason, rationalization or excuse outlined in Part 1, then maybe you need some motivation to start thinking about why you might go. I do know that some folks are called to missions, but every Christian should do a short term project or two to serve someone else.

Reasons to go on a Mission

- It’s biblical. Starting Genesis, the purpose of mankind was to populate the earth and be fruitful. "Go into all the world spreading the good news." The great commission might be you neighbor or a small village in the South Pacific.
- The Gospel has not been preached to every human being, you might be just the person to show up and close the deal.
- Because there are lots of poor folks in other countries that need to be served – and many are much poorer than in the folks in the US. It really does change your perspective on "stuff." MORE BTW - Missions are not just to poor folks. When I lived on Cape Cod we had a pretty bad hurricane and a group of folks came up from South Carolina to patch roofs, cut fallen trees and make converts in the midst of middle class America. They put on meetings every night, made friends, and brought souls to Christ.
- Being where many of us are it’s easy to get complacent and missions can refocus us. For some, it's easier to focus on the Gospel when we're not at home or work - breaking the routine can get us closer to the Lord.
- Although missions are not vacations (that's a bad reason to go), they can give you time to focus on spiritual things and be an opportunity to use your gifting. A good mission leader will concentrate on devotions, prayer and relationships with the team members.
- Most Christians know that serving the Lord is the most rewarding work that anyone can do. (It always amazes me that certain ministry workers get burned out - and I suspect they are simply doing what they know how to do, not what they are called to do.)
- Go because God called you.

I am sure there are bad reasons to go - but they are all the same bad reasons that make people religious right here at home.

Need some ideas on short term missions. Click HERE.

Been on a mission, tell us about it. Thinking about one, let us know.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Mission Possible - Some Days are Better Overseas - Part 1

As my 757 taxied toward the gate, disembarking instructions came over the PA system in Spanish and Portuguese - but not in English. The flight attendants were spraying some stinky stuff and I haven't got a clue what it was for. Outside the window, Sao Paulo International Airport and my first trip overseas.

Why would anyone want to go on a mission trip? It’s a good question. I am sure, like me, you can probably think of a few excuses not to go.

If God has already called you to a mission trip, then you can skip this post. The rest of you get to read on. ;o)

Missions; “to go” have been around since the time of Adam. It has always been the plan for man to share the Gospel message. Even before the fall, the mandate was there. Adam was meant to be fruitful and multiply.

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

When you have time do a word search for “nations,” you’ll be surprised at how we were not only meant to be nations, but to go to them also. Going to the nations is biblical.

In the New Testament, the word apostle means “sent.” The idea of going or being sent is not a new idea, or foreign to the heart of Christianity, it is God’s heart.

Here are a few tidbits about missions. They can be local, or foreign, they can be long or short term, but they must always be led of God, and have His purposes in mind. The world needs God ideas, not good ideas. Most missions promote the central vision of the church where you attend. And there are some great organizations that train you and take you to large variety of cultures and countries. Some churches serve bu building and doing other types of construction or working with orphans. Another may evangelize in the streets, while another brings edification to the body of Christ by visiting or encouraging other Christians. I have done all three types.

What we don't want to do is impress our culture on others. We want to be Jesus in their midst.

Here are the main excuses for not going to another nation or far away city on a mission trip.

I Don't Speak the Language – the truth is most mission trips provide translation. Maybe God would want you to remain a "Press 1 for English" Christian. And they have missions in English speaking countries.

It’s Too Hot, Too Cold, and They Have Bugs (I won’t be comfortable) – that may be just what you need.

I Don’t Want to Leave My Family or I Can’t Bring Them – I am sure there are some real concerns here. Most trips average about a week to 10 days. Groups such as YWAM and Teen Mania have family missions!

Too Old or Too Young  - If you are old enough to be a Christian and can travel without significant difficulty, then go will ya!

Too Busy – so when will you have time to be a Christian and live out the destiny that God has called you too? Even for those not called to be missionaries, getting on a short term service project is a good way of building a relationship with Jesus.

Can’t Afford It – most folks can’t afford lots of things. For the price of a big screen TV you can go somewhere. Maybe you need to give your vacation time to God and see what He has to say.

I’m Not Gifted Enough – right, and if you bury your talents what will Jesus say on the last day?

We Could Spend the Money Here in the USA – sure we could. Amazingly some African and South American nations have very high conversion rates. Poor folks are much more desperate for God's help than middle-class Americans. The cost of soul in those places is dollars compared to the thousands we spend to do an event in the US where maybe a few families show up after we do the give always, the Moon Walk and prayer tents.

Waiting on God to Call You – and you are used to what, having God send you email, certified letters, what? God rarely calls us to do something that we are mandated to do. Did you get a voice mail saying pray, or study your Bible this morning? I didn’t either.

If we look at the above list, doesn’t it contain most of the reasons that we do not make headway as Christians right here at home?

There are 4 types of folks involved in missions: those that pray, those that finance them, those that go, and those that talk about it.

Interested in overcoming your rationalizations and excuses for going on a mission? Check out this site http://www.shorttermmissions.com/org/ .

How about you, are you interested in "going?"

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Membership Has Its Benefits - A Few Good Reasons to be a Christian

Regardless of where folks are with God, or not, personally I feel that being a Christian has a lot of benefits.

As an entrepreneur a few years back, I always  thought it was cool flashing my American Express Gold and Platinum cards to make purchases. Their theme line: Membership has its benefits had a nice ring. Umm but I don't know what they are.

Here are some things that I like about being a Christian.

Coffee - I have to say, for all the years I have attended church, I don't think I've had a bad cup of coffee. In fact, I really like the coffee at my current church. Good job!

Music - Certain types of Christian music is pleasing and I look forward to it. Live music is a little more engaging than the CD player/iPod/Cassettes/8 Tracs. I do wish there were more talented Christian guitarists like Lincoln Brewster. And I liked Eric Clapton better when he was a heathen.

Hours - Except for Midnight Mass an Easter Sunrise service, the church hours are pretty good. Not too early or too late - actually just right - well, unless their is a boring teaching or sermon. But that's what Facebook Mobile is for.

Kid's Church - I like kids church. It is usually a craft or some fun video. And I get a little extra time with my little one.

Testimonies - I love to hear about how God Is working in people's lives. There are way too many opinions out there on what/who/how God works. I am not talking about coincidences, I mean I was sick and now I am healed, I was demon possessed and now I'm not, I was an addict and now I am clean, I was lost and now I'm saved. If you can sit through years at church without seeing God do anything, you have way more faith than I do!. When God shows up, there isn't a lot too say except GLORY!

Heaven -  Eternity is cool, because all the debate will be over. There will be one theology, one church - I like that. Then I will have received the goal of my faith. I used to think about all the people that I would see there that I have known. Honestly, I just want to be with Jesus. Let me know if you want to come along.

How about you, what do you like about being a Christian?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Enter His Gates! - Why Worship God with Music?

A few years ago the Christian Rock genre was cranking along and artists were occasionally crossing over to secular media. U2, Amy Grant, and POD just to quickly name a few. During rival in Australia, many artist were heard on secular radio.

It's hard to say if music influences culture or reflects it, however; it is certainly a driving media force. I don't think that I know anyone without an iPod.

Today is the 30th anniversary of the "Footloose Event" - you know that little conservative town in Texas where dancing was forbidden at Elmore City High School. They finally got a prom, and of course the movie Footloose was based on it. It's hard to dance without music.

So what does all that have t do with church or even God? Like all art forms, it is an expression of the soul and creative spirit - the souls that was created by God. Artistically there is really no "right" or "wrong" - just popular acceptance and obscurity.

The Bible is pretty clear about the role of music as part of our worship. Unfortunately the word "worship" is not constantly translated from Greek and Hebrew. The English word means to give; or ascribe "worth" to God. I'll leave it at the. At church we often use the terms "praise" and "worship" as if music has some sort of "giving" style - giving praise, and giving worship. All worship is certainly not music.

In a religious sense, Christian rock, praise and worship are just genres of music like country, rap, hip-hop, blues jazz and classical. Some would like to think that the only thing that sets these genres apart is the lyrics. Of course there are those too that claim rhythm in itself can be demonic. And worse, there are those that prohibit music during a service altogether

I am of the mind that all things are legal, and one needs to discern things by the spirit of God when it comes to music; or anything else the is not specifically forbidden by the Bible. We can toss verses around all day, but with out being led by the Spirit, we cannot come to a godly conclusion. That said, there are many verses about music and dance in the Bible - too many to outlaw it.

For those that are earth bound, musical styles are important. Everyone has musical tastes. Even I prefer certain types of music, although I play lots of them. The truth is that what makes music worshipful is the anointing of God. For those that really worship, you know it is not a song that you connect with, it is God. As one teacher put it, if the anointing of God is there, you could play "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and your worship would be pleasing to God. Without the connection to God, you could easily be bored during Handle's Messiah!

As a musician, I can easily be attracted to worship that fits my personal style. As I look back over the years I can honestly say there have been many musical styles that have connected me with God. The quiet plain chant at morning vespers, the acoustic guitar songs at a folks mass, Handle's Messiah, Christmas hymns like Come Let Us Adore Him, a blues rock version of Nothing but the Blood, and rock songs like Jeramey Camp's Take My Life or quietly listening to Surrender on the car CD while waiting at a traffic light - they all have connected me to God. And that should be the only reason we worship with music - to engage with God.

Worship is a powerful tool! When it is godly, it gets the attention of God, it can be used in spiritual warfare and it edifies the worshiper. It is a way to show God our love and our passion.

A friend of mine wrote a couple of worship tunes. I had a chance to play some electric guitar on the cuts. HERE is a link if you'd like to listen to them. Click on Praise to the King and My Heart Adores.

How about you, do you worship God in song?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Hello World! - Technical Retardation

Many years ago (1960's) the first Internet message was sent from one computer to another. It said: Hello World! As a computer geek, I have been designing, writing and engineering websites since the early 90's. A lot has changed during my tenure. Do you remember the metallic "hiss" and "boing" of your modem? 15 years I ago I was a guest on a television program  where the advent of the Internet was likened to Alexander Graham Bell's telephone.

One might be tempted to think that with all this technology and science, life would be better. I suppose in some way it is easier, but I am not sure about better. If you have a digital clock or DVD player flashing 12:00, then you know what I am talking about.

Amazingly, advances in communication have always had an impact on civilization. If you have been to the Epcot geo-sphere, you toured the history of communication. From stone writings to hand penned sacred texts - to the Gutenberg press and on to Internet chat and video conferencing - it is really mind boggling. I am sure the display now includes hand-held cellular devices like the the iPhone.

There are some technological advances in the last 50 years that should never have been near the word advances (But this is not an original thought chcek out LIFE magazine).

Cell Phones without keyboard locks - Did anyone think that someone might store this in their back pocket? I mean, even Phillip Morris created Marlboro box packaging. This is so retarded (opposite advanced) that it has caused the term "butt dialed" to be added to the vernacular. And why didn't Flip phones make it? You can even close then with your chin.


Electric Knives -  These beauties were the centerpiece of any 1970's American Thanksgiving Day celebration. The couldn't be sharpened, it took hours to clean stands of meat out from between the blades - all after a number of glasses of Cold Duck. And there was always a strand the was hard as a rock the next year.

Digital Clocks - I don't know about you, but I sweated bullets in second grade learning to use the hands to tell time. In fourth grade I got my first Timex watch and the rest is history. It really irks me that my kids have only had a digital life, and can't even read a real watch. Don't get me going on education and the Y2K hoax!

The Clapper - I'm speechless. My wife would put my lights out if every time I came into a room I "clapped." And if you are applauding your little one's first time on the potty while the lights go out and they start screaming, it's just not the family moment you were hoping for. No wonder they invented a remote for the Clapper!

TV Remotes - No matter how hard you try, there is going to be a search party. Under the couch, in the seat cushions, the laundry basket, behind the TV, or in the bathroom - don't even ask! Our remote is a fan of Lost, and like John Locke, it's dead one week, alive the next, in London a week later, and on the "island" the next. Like Ben, when I find the person who lost it, I want to pound their face in! I get to live my vicariously through the TV set, pressing button after button. Wasn't it easier to just get off the couch and flip the dial?

The Air Bag - Why would you want something to pop-out at 200 MPH to shove your Vuarnets up your nose and break your thumbs when you have an accident at 20 MPH? Good question, don't you think?

The question is really this: What have we gained from the Internet? It is cool for banking, shopping, buying tickets, blogging, Facebooking - and you can even listen to/download my latest worship tunes on MySpace (Praise to the King and My Heart Adores).

As much automation as there is using the Internet and cellular technology, I think we've lost something.We've saved so much time we don't have any left. We used to work 9 to 5 and have an hour for lunch, Now we work 9 to 6 and are lucky to get to the washroom. If you are like me, your life can be a schedule in a daily calendar.

How about you - what is the dumbest invention of your lifetime? Does all this automation make it seem like you have less time?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Date Mania - Time, the Currency of Relationship

For most of the years our little one has been on this earth, my wife and I haven't gotten a lot of time together. It has only been in the past year that we have had regular date nights. This week was the jack pot. A friend of Charlotte's high jacked her for the whole day on Saturday - all very unexpected - we caught a movie and went for Chinese. Sunday she had a Princess workshop and we went for Italian. Tonight I drove Mary Anne to an appointment and we went to TGI Fridays on the way home. Our regular date is Thursday and who knows what that means.

All our days together have converged this week, it's almost like a honeymoon.

We have to work at talking about each other, as it's easy to spend time on the kids, in particular our little star. Last weak my wife broke her ankle picking up Charlotte at school. We ordered pizza and when the the delivery man came to the door our 6-year-old opened the door and said "hello." He sort of brushed her off, so she said with a bit of sarcasm, "OK, how about olah?"

He answered her back, "olah."

I know that some times that  married couples get in a rut, but for us date nights make things better. More so for me than my wife, but "time together" is my love language, and every one knows that guys like to do stuff. She thinks I am sexiest when I am taking out the garbage and working up a sweat mowing the lawn.

Most relationships (for married folks anyway) include a physical, an emotion and a spiritual element. What's your relationship like, and how do you nurture it?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Do You Really Need a Miracle? - Do You Even Believe in Them?

It's been awhile since I have written about miracles. If you have been reading this blog for a few months, you'll know that I believe in a supernatural God, one who does supernatural things. I love reading books such as Like a Mighty Wind (Mel Tari), The God Chasers (Tommy Tenney) I Believe in Miracles (Kathryn Kuhlman) and Caught up in Paradise (Richard Eby). They inspire me to believe God for amazing stuff. And you know, He has done it in front of my very eyes. As I look around at the people that I am in contact with, I see lots of needs. From finances to cancer, I know folks that need miracles.... or so it seems.

Here are some of the things that I have heard about miracles over the years. "If you have faith, you'll have miracles." "If you pray for potatoes, God will give you a hoe." Or, "coincidences are God's way of remaining anonymous." "We don't need miracles, we have science." And today's winner, "miracles ceased with the death of the last apostle." All of these statements are intended to illustrate a particular paradigm or worldview of God. As you can see, each one has its limitations.

As always, we want to clear up any misconceptions and understand our part, while leaving God His part in the process. First of all, God hasn't changed. He is still in the business of doing miracles and healings. I am also convinced that God is not trying to remain anonymous. I assure you that He wants credit for every sunrise, every healed cut and all the supernatural stuff that we didn't expect, or can't explain. Those are the easy answers. If the glory is God's, then we need to give it to him.

The more difficult answers pertain to how to get a miracle. Before I go there, I want to take a moment to discuss the reasons that we may not get one. God's desire is to be in relationship with us. He wants us to know Him. There was once a prophecy floating around the Charismatic church stating that we wanted to see His hand move, be we didn't seek His face. I think that is certainly a factor. God is not in the business of dispensing miracles - being our spiritual bellhop. Miracles are often a byproduct of our relationship with Him. We'll call it the privilege of adoption. Membership definitely has its benefits! However; God is much more gracious then to only give gifts to those who know and love Him. He loves all of mankind in spite of their sin. He pursues each person for a relationship with Him. The start of that relationship may, just in fact, be a miracle. Yes, one spent on a dirty, smelly, faithless goat.

Is it true that God only does miracles for "good" people? Nope, you can't earn one.
Well, then what is it that can get God to move in a miraculous way? Here are the factors as I see them. Most of the people that I know that speak of miracles are baptized in the Holy Spirit. The miracles seem to follow those folks more then they do in other denominations. You can certainly be at odds over how one is "baptized in the Holy Spirit," but I assure you, these are the folks that are getting more consistent miraculous results. So you are spirit-filled, that's important.

Then there are only three more criteria that seem to go along with God moving in a supernatural way. The first is practical need. I meet lots of Christians that are in a fix, one where the think they need a miracle. My question is this, how did you get there? Are you out of money? What did you spend it on? Are you working full-time? There always seems to be a path to destruction. It might be a very level one, not necessarily a cliff. Do you really have a need, or did you create one? Real miracles come out of real need. It is doubtful that you'll walk on water if there is a boat or bridge.

Number two: It appears that the folks that experience the bonafide miracles are folks that have a deep relationship with God. I said experience, not receive. They may the vessel of the gift. They are the ones that not just read that Bible, but they live it. They may only get a few minutes a day, but they are in the word, not just reading it. I don't mean they are "good" folks, I mean they are dedicated folks. They are humble, teachable and open to God; they desire to know Him, not about Him. And they "earnestly desire" the gifts.

They pray, but it is not a matter of the amount of words or time, but it is about the personal words they speak to the living God. The people that I know that have experience angels, miracles and other types of angelic activity look for it, wait for it and lastly, they expect it. Not only for themselves, but for others. Their lives are passionate for Him, and the blessings they witness are byproducts of putting Him first, not something that they deserve, not some religious service or chant..

The last thing I believe that it takes for a miracle is faith. Someone has to believe and it's not always the receiver. However; where miracles are happening, they is usually a Christian not far from the scene, whether in prayer or there laying on hands. If someone does not have faith for healing, then it is not happening. Even Jesus cast the skeptics from the room when He raised Jairus' daughter from the dead. (Luke 8)

There are a few facts about miracles you may want to be aware of. First, healing is not a miracle. In fact, within the church there should be lots of different types of healings, both physical and emotional as there are "gifts" of healing. There are curses that need to be broken and demons that need to be cast out. These supernatural events are the nature of the spiritual realm in relationship to the physical body. But miracles, they are a different sort of thing. They are walking on water, turning staffs into snakes, water into wine and things of that nature.

And lastly, miracles do not prove the existence of God, they prove an abiding relationship with God.

How about you, where are you with miracles?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Take Note - And Listen to a Few Too

Growing up I was forming my musical tastes. My influences came from my family, and then those that I had as friends. In Kindergarten Mrs. Gannon would play all the kids tunes on the piano. Bingo, If You're Happy and You Know It and of course Happy Birthday. One of the girls in class brought in a 45 rpm of the Beatles, I Want to Hold Your Hand - I liked it.

In first grade my teacher, Miss Carol, who wore Go-Go boots, played guitar (and probably smoked pot - but I don't know) and we sang folk tunes, Puff the Magic Dragon, If I Had Hammer, and Michael Row Your Boat Ashore.

At home my dad listened to the radio - stuff like Winchester Cathedral and tunes by *GAK* Lawrence Welk, Tommy Dorsey and Al Hirt. On the other end of the house my brother played Bubble Gum music including: The Archies, 1910 Fruit Gum Company and of course the Monkees. As his musical tastes evolved he turned to pop by the McCoys, Status Quo and other chart toppers of the 60's. Everyone had a transistor radio playing the sounds of British Invasion bands: The Beatles, The Who, The Rolling Stones and later Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin.. Then Woodstock happened and the music scene exploded with CSN & Y, Richie Havens, Joe Cocker and Jimi Hendrix - and everyone knew the fish cheer, even if we weren't allowed to use the word.

I was listening, and of course building a repertoire of favorites. I became a fan of everything with a cool electric guitar. I liked everything from Cream to Deep Purple. One day my friend Dennis and I went out an bought an electric guitar, and then an acoustic and then a classical. Then I was off to music school where I studied classical, jazz and modern guitar styles. I played in a rock band.

My life changed when I met Jesus. Of course I started to listen to Christian music. Different songs affect me different ways and here are a few of my favorites to play on guitar or listen to any time

How about you, do you have some favorite tunes that minister to you?.

Set Me On Fire - Burn Service


Happy Day - Tim Hughes


You Never Let Go - Matt Redman

Monday, April 5, 2010

They Are Going to Tax the Rich!

Health Care is law! I don’t know anyone that is against people having health care – I certainly am not. I have been working hard to quantify the cost of this new legislation. And they are going to add to the tax burden of those making over $200,000 per year.

Some think that because the Good Samaritan paid for the injured man, we should too. It’s a strong statement.

Here is what we are paying for the is new this year and in future years because of the health care plan. To quote Ric Edleman from who I gathered a lot of insight, "Life just got harder."

2010
- 10% tax on tanning (because we have, count em', 3,000 emergency room visits due to tanning bed injures each year!) in addition to your state and local taxes if there are any. (But we did get off on the botox clause because it was considered discrimination against woman and John Kerry.)
- To pay for a deficit in it's mandatory health care system, Massachusetts, increased sales taxes, had a freeze on lowering property taxes and they are proposing a hike in income taxes.

2011
- Non-Qualified distributions from Health Care Savings Accounts goes from 10% to 20%. That means that elective procedures will be taxed at a high rate.
- Pharmaceutical Companies will pay an excise tax of $2.5 Billion. Just divide that by the number of prescriptions and you can be sure that will be passed on to the consumers.
- Capital Gains tax rises from 15% to 20% - a 33% increase.
- Flexible Spending Contributions will be lowered to $2,500 from $3,500. And over-the-counter drugs will no longer be allowed. This would include folks on aspirin regimens, allergy medications such as Claritin and other doctor prescribed (recommended) medication. This will increase your federal and state tax burden by the cost of taxes on an additional $1,000 amount plus uncovered treatments. That's between 4% ($40) and 22% ($220) for the average middle class household.

2012
- You will pay a surcharge of $2 per year for your private health care plan. It seems insignificant compared to some of the others listed here.

2013
- Medicare Payroll Taxes will rise 62% from 1.45% to 2.35% for those making over $200K.
- 3.8% tax on gross investment income: dividends, capital gains, rental income, annuities and royalties.
- Capital Gains Tax increases to 23.8% - a 59% increase.
- Employers no longer receive a subsidy for retirees prescription drug coverage. Many companies are talking billions of dollars including AT&T, John Deere, Caterpillar and 3M. Undoubtedly these increased costs will be passed on to the consumers for goods purchased and possibly reduce benefits for US employees all while increasing retirees health care costs.

2014
- Small business 50+ employees will pay fines of $2,000 per employee for whom they do NOT provide health care for after the first 39. Good luck to those companies who hire spouses of insured individuals. I wonder if it will be legal to ask if you have health care on the employment application?
- Tax (fine) for individuals without health care of $695 per year or 1% of their income depending on their income. So much for self insuring.
- Taxes on insurance companies, drug companies and medical device manufacturers. It will be about 20%. In my book, it is a job killer. Everyone will be trying to save 20% or adding it to the price.

I read on some sites such as CSM, who are only reporting on sticking it to the rich part of the legislation.

Obediah 1:12 You should not look down on your brother in the day of his misfortune.

Psalm 20:5 We will shout for joy when you are victorious and will lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the LORD grant all your requests
.

The plan also proposes to cut Medicare and Medicaid by $455,000,000,000! This affects senior citizens and it also affects you. These cuts will need to be absorbed by the states. That is why we had the Corn Husker Kickback and the Louisiana Purchase where Sen. Mary Landrieu, (D-LA) agreed to vote to start debate on the bill after scoring a $300 million bump in Medicaid funding. How will your state make up the deficit?

But the worst part is the new bill DOES NOT guarantee coverage for all, it simply makes it accessible.

Now, I take aim at the church. We have missed our opportunity to serve the poor that we always have with us. We have abdicated on important votes while we had the majority including: prayer and Bible reading in school, abortion and marriage. We have handed over our religious freedom in our slumber, and now, we have let big government go against the will of the people.

If you are a Christian, HERE is a blog that you should read regarding God's will and politics.

Christians, have you been praying? Have you been feeding the poor? Have you been voting for social justice? Or have sat around and complained and hoping the somehow mankind would get it right?

What do you think, can you afford this overhaul? Was there a better way to do this?

Personally, I thought there was a better way.

Post Sugar Shock and Simulcast Sermons

It was an action packed weekend. Lunch with daughter #1 and a tour of her school's fashion display at the mall. The Up Country gig at the VFW - a fun time and a late night - but the new Les Paul sounds so twangy (that's right, split coils!), Easter service, brunch at the Tara Hotel complete with shrimp and prime rib, and a sleepy afternoon enjoying the warm weather with Mary Anne.

One of my neighbors dropped into have a beer - good thing he brought his own - except for viewing the Ray Bolz video from yesterday, watching him guzzle a Rolling Rock maybe as close as I got to Jesus all weekend. As the sun sets though, it was all very nice.

Some days I'm a little ADD, and this Easter instead of concentrating on the resurrection, I became fascinated with communion - err - I mean the elements.

There is something about symbolism that makes us feel close to Jesus. I am not sure if it this is a place where I am the religious nerd I often write about, or if we've crossed the line. I am used to having a large loaf of bread with torn off pieces of bread or matzo along with grape juice. To me, those elements seem much more spiritual then a manicured round wafer stamped with a cross which I last had in the Anglican church 20 or so years ago - um until today.

There is nothing wrong with using a wafer for communion, you can put away your burning stakes. Honestly, I suppose as long as it is not Coca-Cola and potato chips, we are within the biblical realm - I think. Today, I simply lost focus because of the presentation. You know it has taken me decades to adjust from printed hymnals to computerized projected lyrics without the 4-part harmony written out in standard notation. So, what was the shocker today? Short of changing the biblical passages that speak of the crucifixion and the empty tomb to include the Easter Bunny, having prepackaged communion elements that look like coffee creamers, that's what!

Right, communion is all about the heart. Good for you. Next time you have communion, you think of me eying the communion creamer trying to figure out how to free the wafer without squirting the grape juice on the iPod controlled teenager in the next seat. Then you'll understand.

BTW - I am little paranoid about these contraptions. Once when I was sitting at a coffee counter - let's just say very early in the morning after a night out, I tried to open one that sprayed the customer next to me. They cast a glance that could kill and I started laughing so hard-- well, it didn't end well.

We now have drive-thru confessionals, digitized music, simulcast sermons, Bible studies on DVD, and online prayers. Church is a little impersonal - or maybe I am just getting old. What's next 3-D worship with the Muppets, or fellowship in a box?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Watch the Lamb - Ray Bolz

I think this is the most amazing story I have ever heard. LINK for YouTube



Happy Easter. What do you think?

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Two Thieves and a Funny Bunny

No, I am not talking about the White House. Easter is here when people celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, not just from the dead, but to His long awaited place in Heaven and in hope of his return. Who cares really? For many years I have heard the joke, C & E Christians (Christmas & Easter). I wonder why that is funny and true? I don't believe that it is a special sin not to attend on these two holidays.

Although I believe that Christians should be better taught about what they believe, I would much rather see them doing 1/10th of what they already know!

Topics such as "what goes on in Heaven?", the "End Times" and the biblical meaning of Easter aren't as relevant to the troops on the ground. Once we understand the hope of Heaven, can't we move on to walking in our destiny until the end of our days?

The Easter message is central to the Christian faith. If Jesus was not resurrected after being crucified, then there is no Christianity - next topic please.

When the world sins, I think: "Well they don't know Jesus. Should I be surprised? No." When a Christian sins, I think: "Who are they accountable to? Who is mentoring them, loving them, and correcting them?" Then I think: "The church, for the most part, doesn't really care."

I don't know about you, but Christian parents that continue on in destructive behaviors are old enough to ask for help-- real help. But kids, they don't often know where to turn. Kid's parents tell them Jesus will never leave them or forsake them, and they hurt them. I am not talking about a raised voice once in awhile, nor do I expect Christians to be perfect. I am talking about sin that is unchecked, apparently unpopular in the pulpit, and down right destructive to others-- kids in particular. I just want to know what the hell leaders are teaching that continues to allow this behavior to continue in their church, and why?

As I see it, the church has the following responsibilities once people get saved and the Gospel has been preached.

-1 Love/Covenant - We are to love people. This is outlined in 1 Corinthians chapter 13. It involves being kind, not making a list of wrongs etc. But to love like Jesus did, we need to understand people, marriages, parenting and their biblical application. Who is teaching you that?

-2 Power/Gifting - This is a touchy subject. Some people think that power is only in faith (faith is a vehicle for power, not the power), and others think that if the presence of God can't be felt, that the power is not there. Both are wrong. The power of God is subject to many biblical principals and conditions, including: Faith, love, anointing, holiness, character, timing, the circumstances of the age, and of course God's sovereignty. There is not one specific element that causes God's power to erupt. Because we love, or we are of good character, doesn't guarantee that God's power will flow, nor does the fact that we have sinned stop it either. God's power is a little bit of a mystery, but when the church structure is in order (Ephesians 4:11), I have noticed that it is more present.

-3 Teaching - Good biblical teaching is essential. The problem with that is there are too many opinions, to many overly logical thinkers, and not enough anointing. We have burdened too many pastors that are not good teachers, with the responsibility of teaching. Why? We have also held down good teachers because they were not the pastor, banishing them to an occasional home-group or Sunday school class It's time to raise up teachers, regardless of their position in the church.

-4 Mentoring - I don't like this term, but it is really a better term than discipleship because the church doesn't really seem to know what a disciple of Christ really is. The bottom line is that we need men and woman to take on others for the purpose of modeling the Christan life, or at least some aspects of it. I believe more is a caught then taught in the body of Christ. To quote a line from a John Ruben rap tune, "everybody's sayin' it, and nobody's doin' it." Everbody's doin' it and no body's sayin' it." Let me translate, every one's talking about loving and discipling, and no one is really doing it-- everyone is being a hypocrite, and no one is saying anything about it.

Why is it that our teenagers come to church, and sit in the back during worship without engaging? Why are they in trouble, acting out, and getting pregnant? Are we going to blame that on their friends? And if we blame the parents, what is the church doing to oversee the process of sanctification in the parent's lives?

-5 Accountability - This is also a touchy subject. People want, and need to be held accountable. But the policeman mentality of many leaders is pathetic. Without relationship, yanking folks aside for biblical infractions is stupid. Sure, there is the occasional visitor, or new member that doesn't get it. But for the most part I see people that want to exercise their authority without love. If things go wrong, they are the first one to call someone on it. That couldn't be more like the world.

Just because you use the word, love, that doesn't make what we do, loving. When someone is really out of line, what are the same leaders that have a person "step down" doing to restore them? Setting up an arbitrary time-line for going back to do the very same thing? How committed or involved are your leaders in seeing you through your sin, and depravity?

In the final analysis, I just plain think we can do better-- much better. It is essential that we get in touch with the power of the resurrection in a way that changes us, and empowers us to change the world around us. We can't be religious robots, or so conformed to the world that we are no good to the kingdom. We must be born again of the Spirit, filled by the the Spirit, led by the Spirit, and able to hear the voice of God. If we are unsure of those things then we have been short-changed.

It the cross of Christ had been empty between two thieves, then the Easter Bunny would probably a more productive character of faith.

Won't it be a great day in church, when the only thing that is visible in the church is the Kingdom of God!

Happy Easter

Friday, April 2, 2010

Stuff Yourself - What's So Good About Good Friday?

First, I had a miracle healing watching the traffic report. Usually at 7:30 am I am stressed out doing the Zipper Ride on the Massachusetts Turnpike. Today, I have off!

For anyone that knows even a little about Christianity, Good Friday is the symbolic celebration of the death of Jesus on the cross. It is the pivotal event in all of mankind, the perfect sacrifice (sinless lamb of God) hung on cross to be crucified in your place.

One of the most fascinating biblical facts is that Israel celebrated feasts each year. Not only did they have significance to the Jews, but they foretell the story of redemption. Jesus of course was a Jew. If we take a quick look at the major events of Jesus life, we'll see the God used the feasts of Israel as another confirmation of who Jesus was.

Birth of Jesus - Feast of Tabernacles

Crucifixion of Jesus - Feast of Passover/Unleavened Bread

Resurrection of Jesus - Feast of Firstfruits

Coming of the Holy Spirit - Feast of Pentecost

"In hindsight, we can all easily recognize that Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, and Pentecost were prophetic in that they foretold specific events that would take place in the early spring harvest. And not only that, but they were fulfilled on the exact days of the year on which they were celebrated by the Jews. Therefore, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that the main harvest feasts are themselves prophecies of specific end time events, and that they will be fulfilled on the exact day of the year as celebrated by the Jews according to the Jewish calendar!! "
Source: Roy A. Reinhold

And there is one more feast, the Feast of Trumpets. If the Bible continues on its prophetic path, I would think that next major event in the covenant with Jesus, is His return to earth to establish His Kingdom. In the book of Revelation, there are last 7 trumpets, each one bring a significant change to the earth. But on the last trumpet, the Bible says this.

Revelation 10:7 But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets."

Revelation 11:15 The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever."

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Green, the Slippery Slope - Because Cap and Trade Won't Work

Is the leadership of this country psychotic? Nope. President Obama is a politician. After raping the majority of the Americans over the passage of nationalized health care, he has decided to throw the Republicans a bone. OIL! But Californy ain’t the place, it is the East Coast and in particular Florida.

As our fearless leader steps well to the right as a damage control effort to keep the Congress as close to his side as he can during his tenure – and through the mid-term elections next November – he’s hoping that you and I will have forgotten that the average middle-class American will be paying from 4% to 15% more in health care depending on their current coverage – or lack there of.

I am sure that it is his hope that the start of this exploration will last until just after the 2010 House elections, and the finish just after the 2014 presidential election.

It’s an interesting turn of events for those that suffer, but did not curb their driving habits in the wake of $4 a gallon gasoline prices a while back. We did, as a family, end up buying 3 Toyota Yaris and a Honda Civic. (And I am driving less because I hate it more and more.)

What is unfortunate is that this is only a political move. It has nothing to do with getting us off foreign oil, nor does it do anything towards making the climate cleaner. A few years ago I suggested to my representatives that we should give a tax free year to Detroit if they could come up with an electric car that cost $15k or less.

Senator Ted Kennedy replied:

"Dear Mr. Johndrow, thank you for your recent letter regarding foreign oil. As you know, the reduction of foreign oil usage is at the forefront of the Democratic agenda along with the expansion of renewable energy resources. It is; however, imperative that we drill in an environmentally sound way to provide Americans freedom from the demands of foreign oil producing nations....."

Thanks Ted. How about the tax free year? How about the electric car?

Since then, we have bailed out two thirds of Detroit, made no strides towards getting of foreign oil (tied to Saudi support of Al Queda), cleaned up the metric tons of pollution that are emitted each day over the skies of American cities, and sadly, we have again been blown out the water by the Nissan Leaf which is going to be for sale in the American market for about $25k. Oh and to top it off, we’re going to pay another Japanese automaker twice what we gave them for the Cash for Clunkers deal. There is a $7,500 tax credit!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The government is going to stimulate the economy with my money right after they gave GM and Chrysler billions.

Is it just me, or does this make you mad as all get out? Is there anyone thinking on Capital Hill? The last two presidencies could be billed as Dumb and Dumber. Or Spender and Big Spender.

As Christians we are to care for our environment. It’s biblical. As Christians we are to be a part of voting for social change that is also biblical, even if we are the only one that votes. Check out Daniel.

When it comes to common sense, this college drop out thinks that there is little. Because of the sheer stupidity and political gaming, we have missed another opportunity to lead in manufacturing, to stimulate the economy, to get off foreign oil and clean up the environment?

WWJD? I’d like to think he’d go kick over a few tables.
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