Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Faith triumphs over loneliness

After my previous post of doom and gloom I think it's profitable to balance that out with the reminder that our feelings of loneliness are very real yet... bogus according to our faith.  The reaction from all over the internet revealed a resonance with my sentiments that I did not expect.  It is my hope that this post will aid many who feel themselves to be in the middle of a dry and empty wilderness to praise God for the manna and continue to look forward to the promised land.

For starters, and most importantly, even when we "feel" all alone we would do well to remember that we cannot trust our feelings.  We are never alone, I am never alone, you are never alone.  We may not be able to trust our feelings but we can certainly trust the promises of our Lord.  He promises "I will NEVER leave you or forsake you".


Loneliness is a lie.

Building upon that truth, knowing that Christ is always with us, implies that He is everywhere.  Since Christ is everywhere and He is always working, then everywhere we go there are places and ways that He desires us to join Him in His work.  Which brings me to my second point:  wherever we are, there are opportunities for ministry.  For instance, Christ is at work in the hearts and minds of our spouses, our children, our co-workers, our checkout cashiers, our next door neighbors, our relatives, our twitter followers and Facebook friends.  Jesus was at the party we attended last week, he was waiting in line with us for doorbuster deals, he sat around the table with us as we passed the turkey, he sips coffee with us at Starbucks.  Wherever we are, Christ is there and He is working his way to the center of our affections and the affections of those around us.

The possibilities are endless when you think of it.  Now would be a good place to recognize that when Jesus was in a body of flesh there were many around Him that He did not minister to.  This calls for some discernment in the way of prayerfully seeking where God is at work and obediently joining Him in that work without occupying ourselves with work that is outside of His will.  Intimacy with The Lord must precede our movement toward reconciling others to Him.  These truths build on one another.  When our focus is not on doing the work but on joining with Christ who is already working, the power of God will be conveyed in all that we say, everything we touch, and everywhere we go.

So we are in constant need of the reminder that Christ is near and He is active.  Loneliness becomes fellowship when we remember to share our time, resources, and selves with our Lord and our neighbor.  After all, we are never, really, alone.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Breaking the silence

It's been a while since I have done any writing here. Not because I haven't had any good ideas for writing or reasons to do so. My absence from the blogosphere is mostly because I haven't made it a priority. There is also the issue of my not feeling worthy of talking about things in an intellectual frame that I am not experiencing. Here is my effort toward putting a foot forward in that direction.

In much of my most recent soul searching I have come to realize the dangers in being somewhat of a loner in my walk with Christ. Aside from the most obvious feelings of loneliness and isolation as I have yet to commit myself to a body of believers who meet regularly, there has also been a void in my progression of spiritual growth. All my dreams of belonging to a family of believers who are devoted to learning to live by the indwelling life of Christ together remain in the dreamworlds. Maybe my dream is too big. Maybe I'm just growing impatient. Maybe my dreams are toxic to others and The Lord is protecting everyone from me. Maybe I'm about to round a corner and see some light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe I should just give up.

The stillness is unsettling

The darkness is unnerving

The uncertainty is uncomfortable

The doubts are overwhelming

The temptations seem inescapable

What do I do? Where do I go? How do I respond? Who else has had this experience? When will it end? I'm full of questions without answers. So my pen remains horizontal and my pages empty. Hopefully, that will change...soon. As I attempt to overcome all that I lack and share what it's like to be inside my own head, be prepared, I suggest you be on guard. They say that an isolated Christian is a dangerous Christian and




Thursday, August 23, 2012

Building the Mystery

Before time, before creation, before anything was made that was made, You saw me O Lord.

You formed me.

Before I came into the world, you built me and put my parts together.

You set me apart for your purpose even before my parts were placed together.

A body you prepared for me to display your nature and character to the world.

For I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Behold, I tell you a mystery hidden through the ages. This mystery is Christ and the church.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Is Christ on my desk or my heart?

After an unscheduled break from writing, I welcome you all back to get a glimpse of the places I have followed Christ. I'm exceedingly glad to have the time to release some of these thoughts that burn within me. On that note lets dive right into the subject at hand. Today I want to talk about the Word, both written and Living, and how the body of Christ is built up in the spirit.

In recent times I have been involved in numerous discussion groups and face to face discussions about the importance of scripture. It's a bit of a convoluted subject because I have experienced and fallen into the pitfalls that come when the written word is elevated to a position that is higher in importance than a living relationship and practice of listening to the spirit of God. I know how we so often subject the scripture to our own interpretations and can make it say what we want it to say. I've heard it said before and find it to be very true that "every heretic has his prooftext". I say all that to make the point that while I still firmly believe that scripture is both hihgly valuable and valid for the body of Christ today, understanding what it is that the Holy Spirit is conveying through the words of the text is of the highest value. In fact, without the guidance and illumination of the Spirit, the Bible has no value to transform us by revealing Christ.

While having a ear to hear what the Spirit is saying through the scripture is important it is also important to recognize that He speaks to us in numerous ways and is not confined to a book. Christ is alive, Christ is all, all things were made by Him, through Him, and to Him and all of creation puts on display His divine attributes. This is a truth and a way that was unknown to me until I was led out of the confines of a system where the Word of God was spoon fed to me like an infant and I became a hunter for the word of truth in the wild. Now that I have entered into this place where there is freedom and I am surounded by others who are in the wild like me, I have noticed a trend that makes me, well...concerned. There are many who are shouting and sharing about the importance of listening to the spirit and abiding in the Living Word but at the same time they are degrading and disregarding the value and validity of the written word.

The way I experience it, deception works in both ways. One day I discover I have been decieved into believing that the scriptures say something that they don't and another day I realize I have been decieved into believing that the spirit I have been obeying is the spirit of God when it's demonic and clothed in light. Now, maybe there are are some who have been walking and listening to the Lord long enough to be able to easily discern between the two, but I'm not at that level of maturity and I get the feeling that I am not alone. I need both the written word and the indwelling word of Spirit to agree with one another before I can be sure of anything. This is why I say things get so convoluted.

We have all heard it said, and many of us have repeated, that the Bible is the word of God and is the only objective standard we have. But is that always true if the scriptures themselves are necessarily subjected to our interpretation and understanding of them? Then there are some who would say that the indwelling Spirit is the only objective source of truth but we are taught from scripture to test the spirits...and we know that the Living Word will not disagree with the written word so what do we do? We make sure they agree, thereby subjecting one to another no matter which direction it is the truth is coming at us.

If you are expecting me to wrap this all up and tie a nice neat little bow on it you are going to be very disappointed. All I can say with confidence is that we reap what we sow. If we sow doubt, whether in the validity and value of the written word or the voice of our indwelling Lord we reap, a house that is destroyed by every wind and wave that comes its way because it has no foundation. My advice to myself and to anyone else who is facing the same issues and questions is don't abandon the search for truth. Dig deeper until you're confident that you are building on a rock. Dialogue and discuss with other believers who are as intent on submitting to the Headship of Christ as you and are learning to dilligently search the scriptures for Him and live by His indwelling life.

We don't understand all truth therefore as we search together there will be disagreement. As long as we all admit that we could have possibly been decieved into believing a lie, there is room for the truth to transform our minds. Disagreement doesn't mean disunity, in fact, unity through disagreement with humility will eventually lead to a knowledge of the truth so solid it will stand against any storm that blows our way.

How are you learning to discern truth through God's Word?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

$20 buys more than you bargained for

Often, when I am around town shopping, I am approached by someone who is going through hard times and is in need of a handout. Every time I give a 5 here, 10 there, or a 20 when I feel led. I just ran into a fella that was a recipient of my last $20 about a month ago. When it's your last $20, you leave them wondering if you now have to go without lunch for a week so that they can have a crack rock and be high for a couple hours. This was one of those times.

I remember after having giving this particular guy money having the inner desire to pray for him. I prayed that no matter how the money was spent, the man would glorify God for the gift and see it as a way that God was revealing himself to him. By the time I had arrived home, after praying in my car during my return, I was no longer concerned about how the money was spent only that God would have used it to reveal himself to the man.

I just saw him again. It's been months since the night I gave him my lunch money. He recognized me and remembered me as someone who had once invited him to church. We all know I certainly did not do that. But what it impressed upon me was that God had answered my prayer and somehow revealed himself to that man and the man had made the connection between me, the $20 bill, and God. Of course he would equate that with an invitation to church since that is how most people think we must connect with God. Nonetheless, a simple gift followed by a prayer in my car all alone had led to this man equating me with a connection to God.

This time I had no cash in my pocket to give so I invited him to come to my house for dinner. Maybe he will, maybe he won't, I don't know. Pray for me, that if he does, the Spirit would move me according to His plan so that I would not get in the way but join with Him in the work that he is obviously working. My entire household is sick so we will likely spend time on the front porch. It really couldn't be a worse day to have someone over for dinner. Especially someone strange that I just met begging on the street, but now he has my address so we may see him at any time in the future.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Preschool lessons in Christ

 I’m so blown away right now I cannot help but share.  I’ve just begun reading a book by T. Austin-Sparks entitled “The School of Christ”.  I made it through chapter one and had to stop.  Before moving on, this stuff has GOT to sink in.  In the book, Sparks presents a somewhat elementary or kindergarten lesson that must be learned by every disciple of Christ.  No, wait...its lower than kindergarten, its preschool stuff.  They are base line principles where we learn how to learn.  The lesson is comprised of three parts:

  1. God the Father finds His ultimate pleasure in His son, Jesus Christ, and has made it His purpose to conform us to the image of Christ.
  2. Christ is wholly and completely “other” (I think holy is a good fit here as well) than we are.
  3. We are utterly incapable of bringing about God’s purpose by our own strength, it must come about by God’s own miraculous work.

That is meaty stuff.  These three statements are bursting at the seams with meaning.  Just take the first point; God finds his ultimate pleasure in His Son.  He is completely and totally satisfied with Christ and Christ alone.  Christ is His treasure.  Christ is the object of His love.  The Father is pleased with Christ.  I have to take a moment and think about God being pleased.

God is happy,
full of joy, 
and elated.  

Christ puts a smile on His face.  

Can you imagine?  Have you ever stopped to consider the pleasure of God in Christ?  And to think, it is His purpose to conform us into the image of Christ!  He wants to make US the objects of His pleasure in Christ!  (makes me want to sing)    That is His purpose, set forth from eternity.  God does what He wants and gets what He wants and He does all things according to His good pleasure.

Blessed (happy) be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  According to His great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  (1 Peter 1:3-6 ESV)

Oh how far we have to go.  Christ Jesus is so completely and utterly beyond our comprehension let alone our imitation.  It is in the presence of One so mighty that we fall on our faces as though dead.  Angels created for the purpose of ministering in His presence must have their eyes covered as they cry out


for there are no words higher that may be employed to praise the One whose glory surrounds them.  We are made of dust and He makes us a home for himself.  The uncaused first cause has moved into the neighborhood and called the dust of the earth known as man his friend and lover.  Not only that but in Christ he has torn down the wall of sin that separated us from himself and reconciled us that we might be called sons and daughters of God.  Children of the Most High. [again with the singing] His mercy, grace, love and humility are beyond words and understanding.

It is such a high calling to be destined to be conformed to Christ.  Do we really get that?  Can we wrap our minds around it?  Conformed to Christ!  This is no task we can set out to do by our own strength.  No amount of laws or goals could bring us there.  There is not enough human effort that can be accumulated for a lifetime to attain it.  The hope we have is dramatically beyond our grasp.  By our own strength we are totally hopeless.  In short, it is impossible.  Our only hope is for a miracle.  Try as we may the end result is always the same:  despair.

We despair of our inadequacies, our inability, our smallness, and our powerlessness to live up to such a high calling., but in our despair there is real hope.  A broken and contrite heart God will not despise.  We fall down as though dead before Him and He lifts us up with the same power with which He raised Christ from the dead and that is an awesome kind of power.  He throws aside our fig leaves and He clothes us with Christ.  He removes our heart of stone and gives us a heart of flesh.  He crucifies our old man of flesh on the cross with Christ and gives us his own life, his divine life.  By this life, Christ in us, we can now discern God’s will.  By his life we are transformed from one degree of glory to the next.  By his life we can be a light to the world.  By his life we are conformed into the object of his pleasure.  Happy is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has caused us to be born again!

What absolutely wonderful news!  I can’t hear this enough.  It’s as though we must come to each of these three things before any progress can be made.  God has a high purpose for us.  He is holy, we are not.  We depend fully and completely upon him by grace through faith in Christ to take the next step.

…and so it continues.  A perpetually necessary preschool curriculum, for the children of glory.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Help Wanted

How’s this for a classified ad?
Wanted:  leader for local church.  No salary, no power, prestige, or assumed authoritative position.  Benefits include opportunity to set an example for others in order to bring glory to God and a reward in heaven.  Applicants need not apply.  If interested, walk in a manner worthy of your calling and let your light shine before men by serving others, your leadership will be recognized.

One of the biggest hang ups one will run into after leaving institutional Christianity is lack of specifically defined leadership.  Well…leadership in a living and active form through the members of Christ’s body anyway, we always have the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us.  The biggest obstacle is being submissive to recognized leadership in its present form.  While much of the example that is set is worthy of imitation, the claims of God given authority over the laity have a way of choking out our desire to look to them for guidance.  That kind of emphasis on position is “not to be so” among the family of God and therefore should be rejected.

As I’ve been thinking, praying, and listening to the Holy Spirit about this I’ve come to a realization.  Leaders are everywhere, you just have to look.  Typically you have to look pretty hard because true leaders aren’t showboating themselves and their works.  The humility they have keeps them far away from the spotlight.  I’m finding that a lack of leadership isn’t a problem if we begin looking in the right places and to the right people.  Leaders aren’t the guys who want to be out front, they aren’t necessarily the smartest or the best in oratory skills.  They are simply the people who are walking by faith in obedience to the leading of our indwelling Lord.

So, maybe the ad should read:
Wanted:  disciples who know haw to recognize and follow the Godly example set by others.  Must be willing to look in unexpected places and have the ability to discern between what is commendable and what is “not to be so among you” .  If interested, whatever things are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent or worthy of praise in the lives of others, think about and emulate these things no matter the source.

What do you think?  Which ad would get the most response?  Which is the greatest need in Christianity today?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

You Don't Know Jack

...or Jill.  In fact, apart from your spouse, children and closest co-workers, you probably don't know anyone.

There was a time in my school days when I skipped a particular class for several days in a row. The class was completely boring and I didn't see how it would have any practical use in my life after school. On the day that I returned I discovered that there would be a test on the following day. No problem, the class was such a breeze I could easily cram for the test that afternoon and probably score an "A" on it with ease. So that is precisely what I did and with confidence I went to class the next day well prepared to ace the test. There was just one little issue: I studied the wrong material.

That is precisely the dilemma one faces as they venture out in search for community in church life. Anyone who has Christ in them has this intrinsic desire for deep fellowship and community with other believers. It’s evident by the programs and meetings we plan and put together. There are community groups built around all sorts of interests and needs. People get together for bible studies, accountability, addiction recovery, marital status, and many other commonalities. I’ve been a part of each of these types of groups. The problem is that these groups do not form lasting communities, at least not in my experience.

Take accountability groups for instance. The idea is that if you can get a group of people together who are willing to share their deepest struggles with one another what you have is a recipe for growth and community. The problem is, we have all been studying the wrong material. We don’t know how to be transparent and honest with one another. What we know is what we’ve been trained for. We know how to hide our struggles and put on a happy face. We like our shallow conversations. When we get together and try to break those habits by confessing sins to one another other habits begin to appear. Some are judgmental and unforgiving. Their attitude is perceived by the rest of the group and slowly people retreat from being honest. Everyone sticks to the script and answers a list of predefined questions. Some learn to hide their deepest struggles by confessing the ones that the group finds easiest to talk about. Others ignore their own shortcomings by focusing on trying to fix the surface level confessions of everyone else. Like a pool that has been drained for cleaning they play in the deep end but there is no depth to the waters.

Shallow living can only be overcome one way that I now of. The only way to grow beyond empty surface relationships is by sharing life together. We have to hang out with each other, share meals together, go out together, and call each other when we are apart. All of our trash will float to the surface and be revealed eventually by those we spend the most time with. Just ask your co-worker and your spouse if you don’t believe me. The ability to love one another amongst the floating filth and the desire to join in the cleaning up process is what living in community is all about. This only happens if we jump into a pool that is full of life and are willing to wade out past the shallows and into the deep end.

Let’s be honest. If we were given a test about how our brothers and sisters in Christ are doing, the bubble next to “I’m good, how are you?” would be the only option we would be comfortable filling in. Most of us don’t know jack about our family in Christ because all our lives we have been studying the wrong material.  All we know is how to get along together without any friction.  We have no idea what it means to be totally diverse in personality and function but completely and perfectly united in Christ alone.

So….what are you going to do about it?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Tough in the Tunnels

When we get lonely and are craving community all sorts of things that would normally not be even remotely interesting suddenly seem like our light at the end of the tunnel.  I know this because I’m in a pretty lonely place right now in terms of church life.  The lack of shared life is evident in the lack of what I share on the blog.  I’m sorry about that.  Often, I sit down to write and I just can’t.  I’m like “open a vein already and just let it spill” but nothing comes.  I guess in a minor way I share in my daughters suffering, full of things to say but cannot find my voice to say them.


I didn’t begin writing this to throw a pity party.

I’ve just been thinking about how attractive “going back to church” might be.  I want so badly to be a part of a community of believers.  I want to have brothers and sisters to pour myself into and to be ministered to by them.  I thought about attending some worship services, church shopping, and even going to an accountability community group.  The problem is that my knowledge from experiencing these things gets in the way.  From what I know about these forms of gathering, I will not find what I’m looking for.  What I will find is a bunch of people busy doing things to build community with one another but to busy to actually have relationships.

I’m not interested…well…I am kinda interested…I mean, something is better than nothing, right?

[sigh]  I don’t know what to do.  The two groups of believers I am most interested in sharing life with both have a leader among them that doesn’t want me around.  That makes things pretty tough.  The shared life experiences I’ve had in the last couple months or so have been so sporadic that they aren’t even week to week let alone day by day.  The truth of how much we need each other and how important community is for the Body of Christ has been made very real to me through experience.  I thank God that Christ Jesus never leaves us or forsakes us.


No doubt, during this time God has been near and revealing Himself to us in ways that are nothing short of miraculous.  His mercies are never failing and His faithfulness continues.  This I also know from experience.  I guess we all go through seasons and all seasons have their goal and purpose.  I’m just anxious for this season to be over.  This hallway between one door closing and another opening seems to go on for miles.

So much for not throwing a pity party.  Maybe the veins are finally opening.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Repent of...what?

Is the worship at your church stale? Is the preaching bland? Is the music dated, or even worse, boring? Well, if you want to hear powerful messages with maximum spiritual impact, be stirred by spiritual songs, and find joy in worship once again… try repenting of your sin and believing in Jesus. Seriously.  from Joe Thorn's blog

Let's be real.  If the service you attend on Sunday does not seem like the place God is moving, that might be because it isn't.  Just because a well known pastor from across the country (or a local pastor who thinks this is worthy of putting on facebook for his congregation to see) thinks its your fault and it is sinful for you to feel that organized Christianity is stale, bland, dated and boring, doesn't make him right.  There are plenty of people who believe in Jesus and have had enough of the rituals and liturgies.  Some of these brothers and sisters have left all that behind and found a closer, deeper and more intimate relationship with Christ because of it.

When I read this the first thought that came to my mind was "more guilt from the self proclaimed heads of the church."  Now, I don't know for sure if that was the intent, it's not my place to say what spirit this post was sent in.  Since it is vague enough for anyone to judge either way, I won't go there.  It IS my place to examine the kinds of issues that grow from the guilt shifting intentions of a post such as this one.  That brand of guilt is merely a diversionary tactic to take our eyes off the failures of the institution and make people feel like they are not spiritual enough to get the desired response from the service.  The best laid plans of the clergy cannot fail so it must be the laity's fault.

I'm calling BS on that.

...but that's not all...

There is a truth to the fact that when we are not abiding in Christ we cannot see Him and enjoy Him in all things.  Yes, even worship services.  I mean, some people really dig worship services and they seem to enjoy God much through ritual and tradition.  Hey, more power to ya.  If that is what God is calling you into then you should do that thing to His glory with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.  But just because others have been given a desire for God's purpose in Christ outside of the four walls of the building does not mean they are wrong.

I'll be honest, when I attend a worship service I end up leaving with both sets of feelings.  In some ways I have seen Christ and in others I'm left wondering "why did I waste precious time being subjected to that?"  Does that mean I should repent?  Maybe, but for what?  Not enjoying the service or for being a bad steward of the limited time I have?  I guess that all depends on the conviction of the Holy Spirit now doesn't it?  Here's the thing:  all too often, church leaders take it upon themselves to be the vessels who dole out sinful convictions.  This may or may not have been the case with this particular post.  There may have been someone who needed to hear this.  It's my opinion that they would have had the same conviction had they been admonished to abide in Christ and not live a life of grumbling and complaining but hey, I'm no professional.  Nevertheless, we would be wise to be more careful about who we accuse of sin.  We may find ourselves calling what God has ordained and put in the heart of a believer a sinful response to the service.

We wouldn't want to do that now... would we?

Truth be told, if the whole body of Christ were abiding in Him and functioning according to the grace given to each member;  stale, bland, dated and boring wouldn't be anywhere on the radar as a description of the gathering.  The response from repentant believer and unrepentant non-believer alike would be something like this:

But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.
(1 Corinthians 14:24-25 ESV)

Friday, March 30, 2012

An Interview with Christian Smith on “The Bible Made Impossible”

Read the complete interview with Christian Smith on “The Bible Made Impossible.”

Have you read this book?  If so, what did you think?

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments or post a link to a review post.

Asking Why? When Things Are Better Than Good

Turmoil, anguish, conflict, uncertainty, confusion.  These are words that describe how my mind has been operating lately.  There is so much going on and it is happening so fast.  I have no control, no way of making sense of it all.  I believe that is a good thing.  I’m learning to trust in the grace of God by not having to make sure everything is right.  If He is at work in it, I know it is all right.  My interference would probably just make a mess of things.  Somehow, knowing that causes all of the above emotions to transform into an inexpressible joy.

This whole ordeal with Chloe’s fundraiser is astonishing.  I can see God’s hand at work in ways that completely blows my mind.  It doesn’t seem real to me.  Its like a dream.  Yet even as I watch this miracle unfold before my very eyes the unsettling thoughts and questions still plague me.  Where is the line between covetousness and provision for my family?  There are so many others that are facing much tougher trials and difficulties, why aren’t they receiving the miracle?  Why me and my family?  Surely it is not because of our efforts.  This whole thing is so much bigger than us.  It seems so unfair.

I had more peace about Chloe’s disability when I came to the point of accepting that it was all my fault.  But now, with the riches of God’s grace and kindness being poured out upon us, I feel so unworthy.  Something inside me wants to return to the time when I was content with having little because I don’t know if I can handle being content with much.  I’ve never had much therefore I’m comfortable with that.  But I know that to whom much is given much is expected and I don’t know if I’m ready.  Abba thinks I am and I know I should trust Him but it’s not Him I’m worried about, it is me.

If I were the only player in the game I would just as soon push all my chips into the pot and fold but I have a daughter who needs me to keep my poker face on.  She needs me to stop thinking about myself and think about her and her needs.  God as obviously overlooked my inadequacies in order to bless her.  She needs me to see myself through His eyes and let grace be grace.  But that is the thing about grace…to the natural mind it is unbelievable.  We just have to take it for what it is.  I mean really, if I can believe that God would give His only Son for me, why is it so hard to believe he would give all these blessings to my daughter?  Because I know how unworthy I am, that’s why.  And that reveals how much I really don’t understand the grace of God yet.  There is much about the riches of His grace that we have yet to receive.

Oh the breadth and the depth of His unsearchable riches toward us in Christ.  How far His ways are past finding out.  How overwhelmingly blessed we are to be vessels of God’s mercy.  Sometimes it is simply too much.

Put yourself in my shoes, how would you feel?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Paternal Provision for Palooza

The love of God is truly amazing.  As of late He has been showering me and my family with blessings enough to make our head spin.  If you follow me on twitter or are connected with me on Facebook you have probably noticed the build up for an upcoming event we are planning to help meet our daughter’s needs.  We decided to call it Chloe-Palooza.  The purpose of Chloe-Palooza is to fill in the financial gaps we are faced with as a result of Chloe’s disability.  Even with the generous offers that have been placed in our lap there is still a long road ahead before we can make any tangible progress.  Not to mention the month to month struggle we have making ends meet due to the salary cap I have been put in bondage to.  The whole thing is quite disheartening and overwhelming but God is using this time to reveal Himself in extraordinary ways.

Not only have family and friends stepped up to the plate and provided for immediate needs at just the right time with money for a house payment here, a utility payment there or, “oh, your checking account has been in the negative for nearly a month?  Well that is funny because we felt like God wanted us to give you this $500 check.”  We do not have very affluent friends and family so we know that whatever we receive is probably a great sacrifice for them.  The whole ordeal is quite remarkable like a modern day miracle.  One day my wife and I are sitting together discussing how we might have to walk out on our mortgage and let the bank take the house while we pack our family into one of those rent by the week long stay motels just to be able to eat and the next thing we know those needs are met and we can breathe again.  It has been a thrill ride of emotions to say the least.

In the last week Chloe-Palooza has taken shape in ways that have far exceeded our expectations.  We’ve prayed and trusted God to take care of Chloe’s needs but we didn’t want to just sit on our hands.  So we (and when I say we I mean especially my wife) have acted on that faithful prayer.  God began by having several local musical artists agree to perform (or minister as some like to call it) at the event.  There is even a nationally recognized country artist coming in from Nashville to sing.  Our city has offered us to use the recreation center to host the event free of charge.  Someone has designed a logo for the event, another has offered to design and print fliers to distribute and yet another will pay to have t-shirts made.  Someone else is having one of those cool little squares you can scan with your smart phone created that will take you straight to the event flier when you scan it.  As far as the goal of the fundraiser is concerned (a home that isn’t falling apart, making our family sick and is adequate to meet Chloe’s needs for equipment and mobility), a general contractor has offered his services free of charge and has already begun lining up sub-contractors to donate their time as well, a local lumber company has offered to donate the building materials, and of course Jessica’s aunt had already offered us a lot right around the corner from our present home to build on.  There have been groups that have promised to pay for advertising costs on local radio stations, the local news stations want to do promo spots to get the word out and familiarize the community with our family and another person has offered to establish a non-profit for Chloe’s Voice.

I’m sure I’m missing something.  It’s all happening so fast.

Like I said, God has been blessing us in miraculous ways and it’s not because we deserve it but because we need it and we believe He will provide just as He promised.  His love astounds and overwhelms me.  When I remember that this loving, compassionate God lives within me and every other believer I rejoice at the potential for His love and life to alleviate so much suffering as we work together as a body.  I cannot imagine facing all this without Him and I cry for the ones who are trying to face life on their own.  With a heavenly Father like ours willing to take care of His children it is time we all left our lives of wallowing in the mire, squandering our inheritance on fleeting pleasures and came home and let Him throw a banquet in our honor.  Like the prodiagal son we won’t even have time to say “I’m sorry” before He runs to meet us and squeezes us so tight He takes our breath away.

How has our Daddy been blessing you?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Coming Revival?

If revival comes to the United States again, what will it look like and how will it differ from the past two revivals of the 20th century?
This is an interesting question asked by Frank Viola at Beyond Evangelical in his post called thoughts on the coming revival..  Of course all the responses will be purely speculative but surely we can base our assumptions on how we define the cultural trends today and project that into how a revival might look.

My perspective is one of a person born in the year 1980.  That makes me one of the kids born on the cusp between two recognized generations.  My older peers make up what has become known as generation X and my younger peers make up the door busters generation Y, also known as the millennial generation. Millennials are those who were born between that years 1980 and 2000. It is this generation that I believe will be the group largely affected and involved in any upcoming revival.  Right now we range between the ages of 12 and 32 but many of those in their 30s also share our thoughts and ways.

Millennials are a peculiar bunch.  We have several things in common that are held by the majority of our age group but it is impossible to pin us down.  We are way too diverse for that.  For instance, most millennials have a deep love for relationships, especially familial relationships.  We love our family and we stay in contact with our siblings and parents.  We also use multiple outlets of communication.  Millennials can easily be spotted in the local coffee shop sitting in front of a laptop that is open to Facebook, Twitter, Skype, and Google+ while listening to iTunes or Pandora and keeping an eye on our smart phone which is placed next to the laptop.  We are a generation that thinks staying in touch is very important.  Also, millennials are typically a very ambitious bunch.  Over half are in the workforce today and a large percentage have been educated beyond high school.  All these characteristics unify the mindset shared by many within the generation.  “We can and we will change the world”.  Just look at the influence of this voting group as they played a role in the election of Barak Obama.  There is no doubt in my mind that he got a lot of votes by promising change, the mantra of the millennial generation.  The millennial generation is a collective voice to be reckoned with.

Even amidst many commonalities, millennials are a very diverse group.  Some of the things that defined prior generations are sewn into a coat of many colors within this age group.  Racially we are incredibly diverse as the melting pot of American society has brought families of different ethnicities together to form an indefinable mixture of folks.  Race is not an issue with this generation.  Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream is coming true.  Add to that the age old foundation of unity found in religion.  For a millennial, diversity of religious views is a non issue as long as it doesn’t hurt relationships.  Three out of four millennials say they are spiritual but not religious and only 13 percent considered spirituality to be important.  Basically, most people in this age group have a mix and match mentality about spiritual matters and take what they like from every view they hear to form their own spiritual views.  These views typically maintain a constant state of  change as we meet and interact with others.  That is a drastic shift from the previous generations in both areas of ethnicity and religious views which largely shaped and defined the popular mindset of those generations.

Can you see the promise of such a wonderful group of people?  Here you have a generation that is flooding our schools, colleges and workplaces and they are on a mission to change the world.  Their top priorities are their relationships with their families and friends.  Although only 1 in 20 people of this generation would claim to be orthodox evangelical Christians, at the same time a large number of professing believers who gladly make that claim are themselves leaving the edifices of organized religion and working toward a more relationship focused faith.  This is why I think that very soon the Church will begin to have more of an impact on the millennial generation.  As they see the gospel of our Lord Jesus not only preached but lived out in a familial fashion they will recognize that Jesus is the only source for true and lasting change.  This will fall right in line with the importance of fulfilling God’s eternal purpose and advancing His kingdom as opposed to the previously popular focus of saving individual souls.

The millennial generation is ripe for the harvest.  Not because they want a get out of hell free card but because they want to change the world for the better.  As we millennials grow and learn from the world around us it becomes more evident that the practices and attempts of making lasting change have either failed or succeeded with undesirable effects.  Once this generation learns about God’s plan and desire for creating all that there is I believe the news will spread like wild fire.  With such deep convictions of the importance of relationships and the desire to make the world a better place, the believers from the millennial generation will be the raw building materials for God’s dwelling place on earth and give Him a physical body to display Himself to the world.  The millennial revival will be the like an amplified “Jesus only” movement with modern technology offering connectivity that has never before been possible.  When Jesus begins changing the hearts of this generation we will likely turn the world upside down and God’s eternal purpose in Christ will become more of a reality in time.  There could be a revolution in the church hand in hand with a revival of many coming into Christ.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sinner Saved by Grace?

I formerly used that phrase often, then one day I realized that my use of the term "sinner" for myself was nothing more than self pity which is the same as pride. It says "look at me, I'm just like you". What we need to learn to do is point others to Christ and not to ourselves. That is impossible to do while referring to ourselves as we formerly were. I think of the words of Paul where he said " we no longer recognize Christ according to the flesh and so we no longer recognize one another that way either" (my off the cuff translation).

Nicole at Modern Reject got me thinking about this subject today when I read her post Are You a Saint or a Sinner?  Here is how her post begins:

We’ve all heard Christians say it and we’ve most likely said it ourselves: “I’m just a sinner saved by grace.”
We tell unbelievers that we are sinners just like them, only difference is, we’ve met Jesus, accepted His gift of salvation, and been saved.
And let me just say, this is completely false.
That’s right. We are lying when we speak these words. We are not sinners. We are something quite different…
You see, somewhere along the way Christians got the idea in their minds that they need to refer to themselves as “sinners” and not saints. Yet, the Bible, more specifically, the New Testament, does not refer to followers of Christ as sinners in the present tense.
(She has much more to say and there is some good dialogue in the comments so be sure to give it a look see and share your thoughts there.)

I recently read an article that made the argument that a Christian can no longer sin at all. In the article several points were made from different angles to prove this.  A couple of the points came to mind as I read Nicole's post.  The most notable is the argument that since sin is a violation of God's law which we are no longer under, then "sin" for a believer is different than sin outside of Christ. We can disobey and misbehave but we cannot violate the law since it no longer has jurisdiction over us. This is from a purely legal standpoint.  In terms of the progressing timeline of our faith, the old man was sold to sin under the law, the new man is free from the letter of the law but under the law of the Spirit. Interesting thoughts in my opinion even if it amounts to nothing more than mincing words to distinguish between the transgression of the believer and unbeliever.

How do you think the popularity of calling ourselves "sinners" even after we are in Christs affects our faith?  Do you think we should we discontinue using the term entirely for believers?

Monday, March 5, 2012

What if the resurrection is a hoax?

That is the question Jeremy asks on his blog Till He Comes.

In the post he talks about the bones that have been discovered that are supposedly the bones of Jesus. He pokes holes in the theory but then asks this very challenging question.

Here is my response:

It wouldn't change much in what I believe and do because as it is I believe something that I did not see, I cannot prove, and still have doubts about from time to time. Even so I have experienced the power of the resurrected Christ in my life and if he is not raised from the dead then what is that? My over active imagination? If so, then I'm content with that in the same way I am content with my occasional doubts.

If they could somehow prove that those were the bones of The man who claimed to be the son of God it wouldn't change much for me because it would still take a certain amount of faith in the legitimacy of the "proof" to nullify our hopes for eternal life in Christ.

Here is the link to his post, sorry it isn't neat and clean but I'm on my mobi.


What if it was a hoax? How would it change what you believe and do?

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

N.T. Wright Interview: “Simply Jesus” & Wright Responds to Critics

I recently read Simply Jesus by N.T. Wright.  I haven't written any reviews on it or anything but I did thoroughly enjoy reading it.  In fact, in many of my recent conversations I have found myself referring back to many of the things I discovered through this work.  I highly recommend it to all of you and if you are interested in a review of the book from my perspective just let me know.  I would be glad to provide that.

Recently  Frank Viola posted an interview  he did with Wright about this book.  If you are considering the purchase of Simply Jesus you should go and check out this interview.

A little shameless promotion never hurt anyone, right?

The Shepherd and Ewe: a story of restoration

I heard an illustration once about how shepherds bring a wandering sheep back to the flock.  I don't know how true it is.  I've never asked a real shepherd about it and I'm too lazy to Google it to find out.  Not that it matters.  It stuck with me and it has given me a valuable insight into our relationship with Christ.  Even if it is untrue, I'm sure it would work for the shepherds.  Here is a story based on that illustration.

The Shepherd and ewe

The shepherd looks out over the meadow, counting his flock, considering each one.  Like a father to his children he knows his sheep better than he knows himself.  He has even given them all names that only he knows.  He moves his gaze from one sheep to another, taking in how dramatically different they are.  All that diversity and yet they form one cohesive group.  They live and move as one.  He basks in the beauty and enjoys his work.

He stops.

One is missing.

Suddenly his care, concern and joy in the flock is transferred to the ewe that is missing.  He is compelled to leave the flock and restore the one that has wandered.

He searches relentlessly.  The shepherd knows every thing there is to know about this member of the flock so he knows in which direction to start looking.  He finds some tracks and spots the lost one in the distance.  As he draws near he can see that it is stuck in some thorny weeds and unable to free itself.  He moves in closer and begins to free the animal from the entanglement.  He is ever so careful as he pulls away each weed.  The shepherd does not want to cause the creature any more harm than what has already been done by the thorns that have been piercing from all sides.  With great love and affection he is able to completely free the ewe from the mess.

The newly liberated animal is now free again and so it proceeds to scamper off and flee from the reach of the one that just set it free from its own prison of piercing and choking weeds.  The shepherd takes chase, his own determination to reconcile this lost sheep driving him to not give up.  But the sheep has a mind and will of his own and is not going to submit to the shepherd easily.  The ewe wants to do things its own way.  The shepherd does the only thing he can do in order to bring the wandering one back to the flock.  He catches up with the animal and uses his staff to break its legs.

The crack of its bones is like thunder in the sky.

Now utterly incapable of running away, the sheep howls in pain as the loving shepherd picks it up and places the burden of its weight upon his own shoulders.  Without the use of its legs, those tools of independance and self will, the creature could not follow him even if it was willing to.  The ewe is completely helpless and must be carried.

Once restored back to the pasture where the flock has been grazing together the shepherd must give special attention to the newly reconciled one.  It's wounds must be tended to and it must be fed by the shepherds hand as it is unable to move about on its own.  The sheep is totally dependant on the shepherds provision to sustain its life.  Once it has been nursed back to full health it will know and trust the shepherd.  The desire to have its own way somewhere out in the wilderness will be seen as complete foolishness.

Even so, it is still a sheep and sheep are stupid.  Even with such a loving shepherd you never know what a stupid sheep might do.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Smoking in the boys room

I'll never forget my exodus from church camp at the age of fourteen.

It was a summer like every other.  Flocks of kids from clean-cut middle to upper class homes all gathered together for a week of fun in the sun.  Pool time, prank time and time away from the adults to make your move on the hottest girl in Sunday School with short intermissions of cheesy songs and uncomfortable looking counselors talking about things from the Bible that they thought we would find interesting.  It was good clean fun, you know: diving competitions, kickball, shaving cream fights, hanging someone's underwear from the flagpole, and midnight adventures to the local graveyard.  Everyone always had a blast.

At camp I felt like I was the only one who didn't fit in.  Not because I wasn't accepted by my peers but because I knew nothing about their "have what you want, when you want it because Jesus loves you" lifestyle.  That kind of thinking didn't even show up on my radar.  On the days prior to and following the week of church camp, my food was purchased with WIC vouchers and food stamps.  In fact, if it had not been for some generous folks in the congregation, I would not have been able to afford to attend camp at all.  This was the deepest darkest secret of my adolescence.  I was ashamed of living in poverty and did not want to lose the bond I had with my much more affluent friends.

It all came crashing down in the summer during my fourteenth year of age.  At this point in time I had picked up a habit demonstrated by every living adult who meant anything to me; smoking cigarettes.  It's true, every single person I can remember that loved me for who I was and not for who I fooled them into believing I was, was a smoker.  Smoking and being a loving person went together like love and marriage.  So, I tried it and after choking up a lung decided I liked it.  I liked it so much that I began hiding it from every adult in the tri-state area, sneaking a few out of the packs that were laying around my house from various adults which eventually led to shoplifting cigarettes to feed my addiction.  Over time, I got more sophisticated in my techniques and was able to find adults that would buy them for me.  Those were the best...the ones bought with my hard earned money in my very own brand of choice.  This was the pack I carried with me to church camp that summer.

I had it all worked out.  I had friends who were in on my secret and they would be my lookout.  I had the schedule memorized and the optimal times to sneak away for a smoke all figured out.  It was not a flawless plan.  Once an adult caught wind of nicotine in the air, the hunt was on and eventually I was the marked target.  I would now have to pay for my sins and be put away from the flock.  As they say:   little leaven leavens the whole lump.

I vividly remember the pastor bringing be into a private room, taking out my delicious pack of Marlboro Red's and going completely mental as he broke every one with veins pulsing in his forehead and the look of pure disgust on his face.  "I'm doing this because I love you" he tells me.  Huh, I thought.  Strange love.

After he took out all his emotions on my helpless pack of cancer sticks he escorted me out to the pool where all the other kids were playing.  He got everyone's attention so that I could obey his command to confess to everyone my addiction to cigarettes and let them all know that I was leaving.  It is my most embarrassing memory to date and I owe it all to the Pastor who "loved" me enough to put me through it.

Whenever I return to this time in my mind the feelings come flooding back.  Embarrassment, shame, fear, guilt, rejection, anger, sadness all coursed through my veins simultaneously.  A sweaty little teenage boy hoping to find someone who would accept me in spite of my failures.

That is exactly what I found at home.  My mom seemed surprised when the pastor walked me up to the door and exposed my errors.  After suggesting some of what he considered to be justified consequences for my transgression, he turned back to his truck and made way back to the campground.  My mom sat me down and told me that smoking was stupid.  She should know.  Then she told me that it wasn't my smoking that disappointed her.  It was my lying to her and hiding from her.

Everything changed within me at that moment.

My emotions all began twisting and turning at this new revelation.  I hurt my mom and she was one of the only ones I knew who really did love me.  It was the first time I understood what my sin really was and it had nothing to do with nicotine.  It had to do with my relationships.  As I thought about the importance of my relationship with my mom and the other people who cared for me I had lied to I felt like smoking was no longer even an issue.

I wonder if it ever occurred to the pastor just how damaging his "love" would have been to me if I didn't have my mom there to demonstrate what love really was.  She didn't go mad, put on a furious face and seek to embarrass me.  No, she revealed to me the importance of our relationship and accepted me, cigarettes, failures and all.

Because that is what love does, that is what God does.


Do you have a story that has changed your view of love?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Quarantine and community

For the last two weeks I have lived in a petri dish. The CDC put a huge white bubble around our home to confine the infection and protect the surrounding neighbors. My wife and I were reduced to pill popping lumps beneath a comforter on the sofa.



Rendered completely useless

There is no way to be a productive member of society in this condition, or good parents for that matter. Thankfully, several families stepped up to bring us meals on some of the worst days. We even conned a couple folks to keep Chloe away from the quarantined area for a few days. Our boys, on the other hand, were subjected to the dangers of their highly contageous mother and father on a consistent and daily basis. Through much prayer and a broken record of "get away" and "dont touch me" playing, they were able to avoid infection.

So far, so good.

Today were all back on the up and up thanks to many prayers on our behalf along with a couple shots in the rear end, eye drops, cough drops and enough ibuprophen and antibiotic pills to choke a mule. As I reflect on what the Lord was teaching me through all this (because all things work for good and He loves to discipline His children), I realized just how helpless we really are on our own, even when we are in perfect health.  We really need each other.  A member that has been separated from the body doesn't form another body.  It dies and decays and then stinks really bad until it becomes nothing and is blown away by passing winds.  Which brings me to my next point.

The Body of Christ is not confined to the membership roles of those who gather at a particular location.  Even if that is how a person thinks of it, it is not true.  We are all inter-connected with one another and we all receive life and instruction from the same source, the Head.  My eyes have been opened to the beauty of being a member of the Body of Christ.  Even as someone who has abandoned traditional church services and doesn't have his name on any membership roles, I am still intricately connected with, necessary to and dependent upon the other members of Christ body.  As long as I remain attatched to Christ the Head I also remain attatched to all those who are attached to Him as well.  Even if I'm not attatched to a pew every Sunday.  The fullness of Christ lives in each one of us and in Him we all live and move and have our being...together.  We can be separated by wide areas of geography and still be one and share the same life while two others can sit side by side but feel miles apart inside.  It all depends on the level at which we abide in Him.
I am so very thanful to be a part of such a loving body of believers.  Yes, I am simply speaking of the believers who know and love us in our community since we don't really "belong" to any particular group or organization.  And I'm looking forward to the ways the Lord will serve them through me in the coming future.

Anyways, that's my rambling for this particular day.  Oh, by the way, the CDC never really came to our home, but I was expecting them to at any minute.

So what has the Lord been teaching you this past week?

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Life as an avatar

We've all done it.  We scour the web and our computer files looking for the perfect picture to use on our profile.  Some picture that sends just the right message, an image that defines who we want to be...at least for the moment...to everyone who happens to get a glimpse of our online presence.  Obviously, I like to be known as the edgy guy with supposed to be purple but somehow looks pink hair.  Hair that I am very proud of and love telling others why I did it.  Well, my hair has grown back to its natural color now but you cant tell that from my profile pic.  Why?  Because my natural hair is not as edgy of course!

Even if you saw me face to face, chances are I'll still have on a sort of profile pic.  I'll be sporting my avatar around every quasi-acquaintance I come into contact with to promote an image of myself that is, well...false.  Only those who really know me will know I'm a fraud.  I think it is in our nature behave like this.  We are fake and we don't even know it.  Maybe it's because we actually believe the lie ourselves.  Maybe it's because we hate who we really are, or were ashamed of what people would think if they got to know "the real me".  Or maybe we are just deceptive at our core and have become conscience-seared habitual liars.  Either way, I don't think there is a person alive who has escaped this tendency.  We've altogether become a society of avatars.

So how can we overcome such debauchery?  Surely Jesus was the most real dude that walked the face of the earth, right?  No guile in Him whatsoever.  Some things we know about Christ is that His appearance wasn't all that favorable.  He may have been downright homely looking.  He never spoke well of Himself before others in order to paint a picture of Himself that could be projected as their impression of Him.  What Christ did was work and He let those works speak for themselves.  He let those works speak for Him.  His works defined who He was and is.  We are told that He increased in the favor of both God and men.  Even during the missing years of Christ's life we know that people liked Him because of what he did.  Not just people, but God.

All the masks and facades we put on are all the manifestation of our sinful flesh.  The only way of escape is to live as Jesus lived by the same power that Jesus lived.  The power I'm referring to is Divine Life.  God's life in us, lived through us, to share life with others.  Going out and doing good works may be a good thing, but we will still be doing them for the wrong reasons.  We may increase in favor with man by that path but we will not increase in God's favor.  Instead if we live and work by the indwelling life and guidance of our Lord Jesus, His works will speak for themselves.  People will rise up and say that is a "godly bunch of folks right there" because the works they see will actually be God's works through us.  The only room for boasting will be the boasting we do in the Lord.

So let us burn all our masks and be satisfied with an appearance that may not be America's Next Top Model.  Let's go to Christ and learn to live by His indwelling life so that our works will speak for themselves.  May we always be working because Christ is always working and have good reason to look forward to the day when we may hear "well done my good and faithful servant" from the lips of our Father and creator as we take shape into the image He has made us in, His image.  As we leave behind our self life and live by Christ's (who is THE image of God) others can look upon us and our works as the living works of God and by them see the glory of God Himself.

Now go and be His Body, (but take off that silly mask first).

Monday, January 30, 2012

When it ebbs it flows

At least that is how life has been for me lately.  I know, its been a while since I've given you all a peek into my so called life and you're probably wondering what gutter I just crawled out of.  But here I am, back and just as plain and ordinary as ever, using this platform as a voice to shout the things that have been boiling inside me and also to jot down the continuous monotony of life in words that hopefully let someone know that you are not alone.  We're all in this together.

So as a bit of an update allow me to peel layer after layer off this stack of laundry that's been piling up.  Some call that cleaning out a closet but I'll settle for just describing the mess since my closet never seems to come clean.

A few months back I was contemplating the idea of taking time off from blogging and other social networking in order to focus my time and attention more on real face to face relationships.  Sounds all good and pious, right? Well it didn't actually go down like that.  Yes, I took time off from my usual online activity but only because I got sucked into a game from the Apple store.  That's right, Bobby has been mindlessly attending to a game with absolutely no eternal significance whatsoever.  And you know what?

I liked it.

Turns out the yearning I had to take a break wasn't so much because I wasn't doing enough to please God but was just simply the fact that I needed a break.  So, I took one, and it was good.  Sure, I could have spent that time building relationships with my family and teaching my children more about Christ.  You could say I probably should have and you might be right.  Lord knows I'm not the father I'd like to be most of the time.  That's probably because I shoot for the stars and have a goal to be just like my heavenly Father.  Hey!  It could happen :)  Even so, to be the best father I can be I need to have a break every now and then and quite frankly, by the end of last year I was burned out.

So this is one of the ways I've been....well.....ebbing.  Hopefully soon I can share with you some of the ways life has been flowing as well.  Till then pray that I do not fall into another bottomless pit of seduction known as an Apple App.

Also, it would be nice to know if anyone missed me.  I don't want to believe that this blog is a complete waste of my time and as any blogger knows:  comments are like currency.