Posts You Have Never Read, But Should

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October 11, 2008 at 9:53 am Leave a comment

New Blog.

I have not posted in a while.  I have plenty of thoughts, just none I want to make public.  Buy me a cup of coffee, and I will be happy to chat about culture, community, and the church.

I am bored by every blog I usually read, because it is the same stuff over and over.  What was once interesting because it was new and fresh has become what everyone is saying or writing about.

I did find a new blog that has potential to be on my new list of favorites.  Check it out HERE.  I will speak to why I think I will like it later, but for now go read it yourself. 

An excerpt that I found most compelling:

“A missional Christian in an American context is the same as one in the international context. He is first and foremost a theologian, but also is a student of other disciplines such as world religions, contemporary cultures and sub-cultures, and current affairs. In studying world religions, he learns to understand the core beliefs and religious practices of those to whom he will minister. In becoming a student of other cultures and sub-cultures, he learns to pay careful attention to the people group he is working amongst. He seeks to understand their beliefs, feelings, and values, as well as their patterns of behavior and material trappings. From current affairs, he gains an understanding of the broader regional, national, and international context within which he ministers.”

Most people I know would agree with and practice every part of that statement except for “He is first and foremost a theologian.”  That is too stuffy, too much work, and it difficult to get immediate results.

Have a good summer.

June 11, 2008 at 4:47 pm 2 comments

Thoughts on Serving.

I think being a Christian is, practically speaking, largely about serving other people.  I think this, because it is in the Bible.  As I think back over the course of my life, I have had plenty of opportunities to serve.  I took some.  I ignored some.  I generally take the ones where I think somewhere along the way I will be repaid or recognized or rewarded for my service. I think of one time when I led a team of 30 high school students on a mission trip to Chicago.  On the last day the team decided to serve the pastor of the local church by totally cleaning his entire house.  It was a wreck, so we knew it would be a blessing to them.  So, there I am on my knees with my face six inches from the toilet seat scrubbing all kinds of germs off the porcelain throne.  It was not long before word got out that I, the leader and youth pastor, relegated myself to such service.  Several attempts to take my place were offered by my disciples, but with sponge in one hand and cleaner in the other I was not about to let anyone else get my recognition.  At the time I had no idea how capable I was of such self promotion, but now I know.   (I feel gross admitting that, but the truth can be ugly.)  On occasion I take the tough ones where there is little chance of being repaid, recognized, or rewarded.  But, the innocence of those is foiled, because on the inside I am patting myself on the back for serving without being repaid, recognized, or rewarded.  (Ugh!) 

God rewards service.  However, the majority of our reward is given to us after we die.  We get crowns.  There is the crown of life, the crown of glory, the crown of righteousness, and a few others.  It seems that the number of crowns we get is linked to how we serve others by living and speaking the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I wonder if I have ever served with pure motives so that I will get one of those crowns.

I have wondered why we don’t get those crowns now.  Come on!  The kingdom of God IS here.  We don’t have to wait to begin receiving the reward of our inheritance, so why not give us our crowns.  I have a perfect place in the entry way of my house so people can see them as they enter.  Or, I could hang them near my college diploma and my ordination certificate which I have strategically placed in my office to intimidate people.  If I could get two, then one could go on the hood of my car and then I could give the other one as a gift to the local newspaper.

I guess the reason I don’t get those crowns before death is because there is still a part of me that thinks all this (life, church, service) is about me.  It seems possible that this russellanity has grown out of my ongoing battle with the pre-Christ Russell.  Or, maybe it is the fact that the church is teaching me that Christianity is all about finding my purpose, my passions, my blah blah blah.  There will be a day, though, when I will be struck so deeply by the wonder of Jesus Christ that all those that I (and all those in Christ) will lay my crowns at the feet of Jesus while singing: “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” Revelation 4:11  

I look forward to that day, because today the potential for my service to be motivated by the potential  for reward, for recognition, and for reward is great.  (as the plane is landing for a week long mission trip to Chula Vista, California)        

May 14, 2008 at 11:29 pm 7 comments

Oprah, False Gospels, Hungry People

Aw Ha!  I have finally put my finger on it!  For two weeks I have been receiving forwarded emails with a link to this video done about Oprah Winfrey.  It has been viewed 5,000,000 times.  It basically takes clips from things she has said in interviews and on her show that make it clear that she is not a Christian.  Also, she is accused of being the cult leader of the largest church in the world.  Okay, so I was laying in bed the other night about to doze off when a segment came on Showbiz Tonight about this Oprah thing. I have been thinking about this entire situation: about the possibility of Oprah being a cult leader, about the video circulating calling her a cult leader, and about the way the secular media is portraying those who are accusing Oprah.  It has caused a dull ache in my heart for reasons I have not been able to put my finger on until now (specifically point #2)… So, I think the following things should be considered.

1.  False Teachers DO exist, and when it taints the true Biblical gospel Christian Leaders are to speak out!  When Paul wrote to Timothy while he was pastoring in Ephesus there were false teachers in the church.  Paul told Timothy to guard, guard, and to suffer for the gospel.  Timothy is also instructed to stay away from foolish, ignorant controversies.  What seems apparent is that Paul’s remedy for the false teaching has little to do with spending a lot of time talking about the false teaching.  (Granted, Paul does call out two false teachers.  So identifying the false teachers DOES have precedence.)  What is notable is the fact that the false teacher in this situation where “members” of the church in Ephesus, not outside of the Christian church (i.e. Oprah).  Please correct me if I am wrong, but there are few (if any) instances in the New Testament where anyone spends much time focusing on the false teaching of admittedly non-believers. 

How did Paul tell Timothy to defend, defend, and suffer for the gospel?  First, Paul instructed Timothy to get the church leaders straightened out.  Call some Elder(s) who can teach the right doctrines, are morally pure, and have a strong character.   Find some Deacons and Deaconnesses who will do whatever needs to be done so that the Elders can study, teach, and pray.  Our first attention should be on our churches!  Do we have leaders who are trained, equipped, capable of teaching the orthodox doctrines of the church? (more on this at a later date).  Paul’s second instruction for Timothy goes something like this, “preach the Bible, preach the Bible, preach the Bible!”  Impart the truths of God in their hearts by getting the words of the Bible into their minds.   We must remember, the gospel will not be bound.  We have no need of fear that Oprah, Obama or Clinton, or any other public figure has influence over people that is greater than the kindness of God which will lead people to repentance when they hear the true gospel of Jesus Christ! So, quit wasting your time worrying about Oprah and her church!  Start using your time to pray, study the scriptures, and declare the wonders of God’s kindness in Christ Jesus to the person you sit next to at work, the person you pass everyday in the school halls, the person you share a bed with.

2.  The gospel is for many Christians merely words.  We hear the gospel preached, and by God’s kindness we are led to faith in Jesus Christ.  We believe the truths of the gospel.  Then, we go on with our lives working just like everyone else to raise good kids, do good at work, and save for a comfortable retirement.  Our evenings consist of watching our favorite television shows, eating half the food we prepare, and hopeing for Friday to come.  These things are by no means sinful, but they are not an outworking of the gospel we claim to believe.  

How should the gospel be fleshed out in our life?  At least part of the answer looks something like this, Matthew 25:35 “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” 

The dull ache in my heart over this Oprah thing is that by it I am reminded that five years ago I would have forwarded that email about Oprah to everyone I could for fear that she (the new gospel enemy) was going to win the race to convert people.  Now, however, when I hear stories like the one about Oprah it stirs me to pray, to study, to preach and live the gospel with greater fervor.  I preach the gospel from a stage every week, or while talking and playing ball with the neighborhood kids, or when I read bible stories to my children before bed.  I live the gospel by caring for those who have never heard it even it requires great sacrifice.  I live the gospel by responding to the plight of the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and the imprisoned with my money, my time, and my energy. 

If I am doing those things (preaching the gospel and living the gospel) I will not have time to worry about Oprah Winfrey.

      

April 24, 2008 at 4:56 pm 11 comments

Mornings. My first ministry.

I love the morning.  Usually, I stir to being awake around 6:30 or 7:00.  By “stir” I mean get poked in the back, head, or chest by Koby who is always the first one up.  Before Pryce was born Koby would crawl into bed and lay at my feet while watching some Curious George.  Now I immediately get up and wisk him into the living room so Pryce and Mommy can sleep for as long as possible.  We (he) enjoys watching: Backyardigans, Handy Mandy, or Max & Ruby.  If I didn’t get much sleep I will try to catch a few more winks on the couch while he lays in our oversized recliner.  At about 8:00 I go in to check on Keaton who is always, I mean always laying awake in her bed totally content just to make every morning a lazy morning.  I never rush her out of bed.  I just talk to her while trying to tickle her toes through the slats in the crib.  And, we talk about the 43 stuffed animals piled in one end of the bed.  Our conversation goes something like this, “Keaton, did you sleep good?” With her big blue eyes and long eyelashes she looks back and peeps, “Yeah.” Me: “Keaton, did you have good dreams?” Her: “Yeah.”  Me: “Did you eat a pickle?” Her: “Yeah.”  At that point I realize that she has no idea what I am talking about, so I scoop her up, change her diper, and take her to get her morning glass of milk.  At some point soon after Jeanie comes out of the bedroom with Pryce and they night’s production of dirty diapers in hand.  Then, without fail, I get a full report of how Pryce slept.  I like this report, because it reminds me how thankful I am that Jeanie is his mommy.  It is tough being a mom, and it is amazing that she is as productive as she is because the sleep report has not been good for 6+ weeks.  I DO wake up during the night, but not near as much as Jeanie.  So, the report gives me a chance to offer the following solutions to the sleep problem: 1. “I think he had gas.  Should I get more mylicon?”   Or, “Should we start letting him cry?” Or, “Should I get my rubber mallet out of the garage?” Or, “I’ll get some Vodka to help him rest.” 

Somewhere in the midst of all this, I get Koby and Keaton their cereal (golden grahams and apple cheerios mixed), drinkable yogurt, and either a blueberry waffle or some scrambled eggs.  Koby wants regular syrup on the top of the waffle and sugar-free syrup on the sides.  Keaton takes her in four strips.  Both of them are good eaters, and for that we are thankful. 

When Jeanie comes out I usually sneak back to the bedroom to find the least wrinkled shirt that I can get away with wearing for whatever day it is.  If getting ready involves taking a shower, there will ALWAYS be at least one child sitting at my feet playing with the 43 toys that are in the shower. 

Hugs and Kisses for everyone as I am walking out the door.  The crescendo of the morning is when I am parked on the street in front of the house with Jeanie, Koby, Keaton, and Pryce standing on the front sidewalk still in their pajamas yelling , “Go!” 

(Every once in a while if I give it just enough gas and the right amount of clutch I can peel out.  So, with a loud squeal of my tires I look back over my shoulder as my first ministry scampers back into the house for a hard day of toys, wal-mart runs, chik-fil-a with pals, and an occasional time-out.)

I love it.  

April 23, 2008 at 1:55 pm 7 comments

100+ Children Released from Poverty

“No one can do evertything, but everyone can do something.”

There is hope for over the 100+ children that were sponsored through Compassion yesterday at Sagemont Church.  In Awaken, we called one another to act with hope on behalf of those who were born into hopeless situations.  These children, most of whom have families who live on less than $1 a day, are hungry, are in need of education, are in need of medical care, and are in need of real life examples of Jesus Christ. 

Jeanie and I have sponsored Philemoni Lameck Saningu from Tanzania for about 8 years with $32 a month.  Until a few months ago, I had no idea how our small sacrifice on his behalf has literally changed his life.

There are many times that I leave a Sunday morning after preaching to hundreds of people a message I have spent many hours of preparation and prayer on where I am well aware of the fact that many who have heard it will have forgotten most of it by the time they get done with lunch.  There are other times, however, that God gives me an opportunity to see some evidence that people ARE listening and people ARE becoming more like Jesus Christ.  On Sunday, I saw in the eyes of the dozens of people who waited in line pick up their sponsor packets a tenderness, a nervousness, a sincerity that really was incredible.  I will never forget the looks in the faces of those teenagers as I shared with them the very real hope that they have made available to the child in the picture they were holding. 

In ministry, there are hard times and there are good times.  Over the years I have learned that I must really soak up the goodness of the good times, and so here I sit so tender to all that God is doing through the foolishness of my preaching.  May God continue to prosper His Gospel!

 

April 21, 2008 at 2:25 pm 7 comments

I am famous. They are hungry.

I am famous.  

Stirred. Moved. Unsettled. Passionate.

These words point to what is happening in my soul.  It all started when…. just over a year ago I had the opportunity to translate Romans and then the Pastoral Epistles into English as an exercise in my Greek studies.  I have read those books several times throughout the course of 32 years of living, but never like this.  In addition to being able to intimidate people with a 1% knowledge of the greek language I have found it most useful because it causes me to slow down, really slow down in reading the Bible.  In the process it seems that the truth of those words seeps deeper into my soul; specifically, truths about the gospel.  Or, from the Pastoral Epistles I discovered truths about how the church is to fiercely defend, promote, and defend the true gospel.  And, if I wasn’t being wrecked enough by those truths I endeavored to teach Luke’s gospel to those in Awaken.  With the truths of the gospel, I looked in on the centerpiece of the gospel – Jesus Christ.  His message of the Kingdom of God was (and is) breathtaking.  This kingdom message so wonderfully describes the way in which God calls the poor, the prostitute, the leper, and the religious leaders to himself.  Even before Paul wrote about the gospel, Jesus lived the gospel by dining with sinners, rebuking the pious religious people, and by touching the untouchable. 

So many times I have prayed, thought, cried, “Thank you Jesus that your kingdom welcomes the sinner, because I am one.”  The bigger God gets and the more impressive the gospel becomes to me, the more I believe that the gospel as mere words is no gospel at all.  It is, instead, a combination of truths about Holy God, Sinful Men, and Hero Jesus together with a care for those who Jesus cared about in the way that he cared for them.  What a tragedy to claim to believe the gospel while at the same being ignorant of one’s place in God’s plan to invite others to worship the King. 

I am more recently struck by my own calling to use the influence (albeit little) I have to lead the believers to see, feel, care for those who will never hear of God’s grace because they were born in a country where they will die of hunger before they are introduced to Jesus Christ. 

Maybe it is my frustration with how much church time we spend on worthless things, about how we have so many bible studies and so few missionaries, about how I am quickly becoming an alpha male in a church world that worships the alpha male preachers. 

What do we do?  Everyone can do something.  My contribution is to continue caring for Philemoni, a boy that Jeanie and I began supporting 8 years ago with Compassion International.  But, that is not enough.  I know it.  I know it.  The bigger God gets and the more impressive the gospel becomes to me, the more I believe that the gospel as mere words is no gospel at all.  So, Jeanie, Koby, Keaton, Pryce and I will do something more….

 

April 16, 2008 at 3:19 pm 13 comments

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