Monthly Archives: February 2004

Where Is the Focus?

I recently read a stastics that 80% of the time, energy, and money spent by many churches goes towards making weekend services happen. But this drives “Sunday-Centric” churches to always be looking for something new to keep the consumers happy.

Should a churches’ focus be the appetites of men or the glory of God? Why are we always trying to be culturally relevant when much of what this culture stands for goes directly against the Word of God?

I am starting to wonder if one of the reasons that we have not seen God pour out His Spirit in greater measures in our lives and fellowships is because we have asked for something else.

Oh, God. Make me ready to be a true worshipper. Focus my attention where it should be. Help me to stay on target and walk in greater revelation of Your love for me. Purge me. Turn my appetities to crave spiritual things. Consecrate me. Make me fully devoted to You!

Porches & Fences

While driving through Church Hill today, I was struck by how many of the old homes have porches on the front of the buildings. Many of these homes were built 100 years ago – back when people were not as busy and life moved at a much slower pace. Then I saw a handful of older African Americans sitting on their porches talking to each other. This is not an odd thing to see in the city. Many of the older adults spend a lot of time sitting on their porches watching people go by or talking with neighbors. I have often wondered, ‘Don’t these people get bored? They should be doing something.’

But maybe these people are the ones with the right idea. Maybe I can learn from them. I wonder if they think, ‘Why is everyone else always busy and in such a hurry? Is the next destination really that important?’ Then again maybe we both can learn something from each other.

A few streets down the road, I saw a house with a fence around it. The fence basically said to any possible visitor or thief, ‘Go away! You’re not welcome here.’ In the city, many have fences because they fear drug addicts or thieves looking for anything to steal to turn quick buck. Fences can be a good way to protect your family and yourself. Let’s face it. Not everyone walking the streets is someone that you may want to let into your life. We even need to be careful with how we give people access to our heart. Some people just can’t be trusted to do the right thing.

As I thought about the differences between fences and porches, I weighed the pros and cons looking for a reasonable answer. Then I remembered the saying, ‘Fences make good neighbors.’ A second later the Spirit said to me, “Porches make good neighbors.”It’s hard to argue with that because Jesus never really erected a fence around anything except for saving time to be with the Father and His Disciples. Jesus opened up His life and called us to do the same.

There must be a middle ground between doing nothing and being busy to the point that you are in reality doing nothing of eternal worth. Where is the balance between tall fences and shallow porches?

I am too busy. I need to slow down, but it seems like something I have a hard time doing. I have always been a doer. Rush, rush. Plan, plan. It just seems to be the right thing to do. But there is a way that seems right to a man that leads to death.

Oh Father, help me to submit ‘my’ time to you. Enable me to let go. You need to steer this pinto. Guide me to the center of the road. I desire to protect those things worth protecting and to be open in all of the other areas of my life. May my life be more like a porch…especially when it comes to spending time alone with You. Amen!

Violent Grace

It can be real easy to lose the shear horror of the cross. The Passion of Christ captures it well. Sometimes it can be easy to disregard Jesus’ humanity because of His deity. I can get in the mindset that Jesus was just “pretending” to be human. This portrayal of Jesus’ final hours reveal how violent God’s grace really is.

I found myself relating to the pain, trial and struggle of many key characters including Peter, Judas, Mary, Pilate and the adulterous woman. The scenes with Judas really hit me. I thought about all the times that I had betrayed Christ with a kiss? I whisper praise and worship to him on Sunday while denying the cross the rest of the week. I think we all have a bit of Judas in us. But thank God, some of us end up like Peter. Although he messed up, he found forgiveness in the end.

The move is very graphic and violent. But so is reality. Much of what is in the Bible is R-rated.

As far as the movie goes, I would like to have seen more on the resurrection and the flashbacks with Jesus’ life and teaching. These scenes help us to identify with the radical nature of Christ’s message as well as the humanity of Jesus. The more human you can make Jesus, the greater impact the scenes of his scourging and death have on the audience. I was captivated and amazed the entire time.

Truly Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is the greatest love story ever told.

A Prayer of Daily Surrender

Holy God, I bow before You and submit my life to You this day.Take my will, heart, mind, emotions, and body confirm them to Your will. May the use of my time, resources and relationships bring You glory. Help me to see people as You see them.Thank You for saving and loving me when I am unlovable. Equip me with a greater measure of Your spirit and spiritual gifts that I may serve Your Body. Provide opportunities to impact the lives of others today and to enjoy being with You as Your child. Revive my heart with the wonder of Your love. With child-like excitement, may I discover the deep mysteries of Your Kingdom.

Search my life and show me any wicked way in me. Forgive me of my sin and cleanse me from my past. Keep me from acting with mixed motives.

I desire to live Your divine life today. Guide me by Your Spirit. May I walk in love, humility and supernatural strength to be what You have called me to be. Amen!

In the Shower of God’s Love

Every day I wake up and God cleanses me anew. As the shower washes sleep out of my eyes, I awaken to a greater revelation of God’s love. The past is washed away. The day is made new.

I hope in the power of Christ’s blood and the transformation of the soul by God’s Spirit. Oh God, wash me with Your Word ever morning. Renew my mind.

Am I clean? I am clean. I am clean!!!

The Colors of Heaven

“Let the colors of heaven fill our lives that we would color this world with the love and glory of God.”

This is a paraphrase of a prayer that I heard the other day. Wow, we are God’s crayons as He draws a masterpiece on the canvas of eternity. Let that sink in and it will change the way you look at yourself.

Belief Projecting

After writing “Religious Persecution – Made in China,” I have stopped to consider the ramifications of taking a strong stance on something. In a Technicolor world where everything is ‘relative’ is there really room for people that see life in black and white? If there’s an issue, you likely will find people on every possible side. And most ‘true believers’ usually think their opinion is the only right one. Not that there’s anything wrong with thinking this way… right?

Maneuvering the maze of public opinion and peer pressure can be dangerous. This is especially true if you get caught up in the beliefs of others without having personal convictions of your own. One of my big mantras is “Know God for yourself.” You may be thinking, ‘Which god are you talking about…Jesus, Allah, Yahweh, Buddha?’ If you’re really postmodern, you’re probably thinking, ‘Do I have to start off with the presumption that there is a god?’

Wait a minute partner. Before your intellectual defenses go up, stop and listen to what I have to say. Over the past several years, being ‘open’ and ‘tolerant’ has become the backstage pass to being culturally relevant – not that anyone has effectively defined what these terms mean. Doing such a thing would be very un-open and intolerant…right?

From woman as senior pastors to condoning homosexuality to discouraging children from reading Harry Potter or playing with Pokemon, there are tons of issues where Christians do not agree. Add on top of all the cultural issues going on today the traditional dogmatic disagreements over doctrine and it’s easy to see why the modern Church is so divided. But I must stop and ask, ‘Are differences bad?’

Notice how I quickly twisted together differences and division and made them almost interchangeable. I believe that many people live with the mindset that differences of opinion must always lead to division.

As we see from the original twelve disciples of Jesus, this does not have to be true. Some of these men would have just as rather beaten each other up as look at each other had it not been for Jesus bringing them together. Despite their political, religious and personality differences, the love of Jesus Christ overcame any division. Jesus’ last prayers before the crucifixion focused on the unity of His disciples. Throughout His earthly ministry, Jesus taught that a house divided against itself will not stand.

Some may think that I am making an underhanded pitch for relative truth. Quite the contrary, I am calling people to embrace the way, the truth and the life. Christians should be able to co-exist without having to agree on every little detail. Yet truth remains the domain of God alone. We do not determine truth. God does. The living Word as seen through the guidance of the Holy Spirit is the ultimate source of truth.

Yet there are some things that are more a matter of personal conscience and not pure Biblical doctrine. Whatever you do, it should be done in faith (Romans 14:23). If your conscience bothers you, you probably better reconsider what you are doing. Some people can watch R-rated movies or drink a beer without it bothering them one bit. For someone else, it would be a sin. I am learning that it is not my place to bash people over the head with my personal convictions.

While I may be free to share my opinion, I should be willing to let things go. I must trust God to deal with them if they even need to be ‘dealt with’ at all. God has called me to love people where they are to where He wants them to be. Raising public awareness on social injustice or holding to old fashioned standards may be a God thing. But it can quickly lose the anointing if I try to make a personal crusade out of a God thing.

The American Dream

The commercial begins with a well dressed, average-looking American male smiling into the camera. He introduces himself and describes his ‘life.’ First he says he has a wonderful family, but before the ad is over you get the feeling that they are not as important to him as they should be.

The man says, “I live in a four bedroom house in a great neighborhood.” In the background there is a big house with a manicured lawn. “Like my car?” he asks. “It’s new.”

The next frame shows him swinging a golf club. “I even belong to the local golf club,” he says. Then you see him standing beside a grill. In the background, there is a pool and his family sitting around a picnic table.

“How do I do it?” he says. “I’m in debt up to my eyeballs I can barely pay my finance charges.”

The man rides across his perfect yard on his top-of-the-line mower. “Somebody help me,” he pleads with the same hollow smile plastered on his face. The commercial finishes with a pitch for refinancing so the guy can keep up his lifestyle.

At first, I laughed at the commercial, but the more I thought about it, the more disturbed I became. Unfortunately, it accurately describes what many Americans are living for. Although the American dream typically collapses under the weight of its own emptiness, most do not know the truth until it is too late. Even the Church does not seem to be immune from the allure of the world. Materialism has many people living for nothing while burning out in the process. The more stuff you get the less it satisfies. At least the person with very little still has the dream that if they obtain a lot of stuff, they will be happy.

Modern society has a warped sense of what will make someone happy. Recently, one of the leaders in my local church fellowship sold his big house with the swimming pool to downsize his life. He moved his family into a smaller house and even left his high salary job as president of a company.

This leader went backwards according to what the world says is the mark of success. But he was responding to the leading of the Holy Spirit. He took a part-time position overseeing the church’s missions program. Every time I see the man, his smile keeps getting bigger. And this is not the hollow smile that the guy in the commercial had. No, this man is smiling because he has discovered the joy that comes with following the dream that God placed on his heart.

John 10:10

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so they can have life. I want them to have it in the fullest possible way.” (New International Reader’s Version)

Are you living the abundant life that God designed for you to live or the empty American dream?

A God I Can Understand

While driving to work this morning, I thought about the many things about God and Biblical truth that I don’t really understand. Afterall, the Christian view of God shows us many truths that could be considered contradictions by the limited human mind.

God is love, yet He allows sinners to burn forever in hell. God is merciful and long suffering, yet He will punish unrepented sin and try our works with fire.

God gives us free will to make decisions, yet He orchestrates everything and His purposes will not be thwared. The heavens cannot contain the glory of God, yet He chose to put His Spirit inside the hearts of His people. God loved Job and found pleasure in him. But He allowed Satan to test him to the uttermost limits. God is the ultimate source of peace, yet He leads heathen kings into battle as His instruments of justice. I could go on and on.

The ways of God and the mysteries of the Word are too great for me to understand in my mind. God spoke universes into existence that I cannot even see. God set the foundations of the deep. God knows the very number of hairs on my head.

I don’t want to serve a God that I can fully understand. I agree with King David who wrote, “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” My soul takes comfort in that there is a life that is smarter and greater than me.

The mystery of God is part of what keeps me coming back for more. This sequel is worth it because each new revelation gets better and better. Part of my problem is that I try to understand a spiritual being in the realm of my mind.

Paul showed the futility of this when he wrote, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (I Corinthians 2:12-14).

Organic Discipleship

Recently, someone posted the following question on a Christian ministry discussion board:

Do you think that Jesus’ model of discipleship is for today? And if it is how do you see it being applied and lived out?

Here is my answer:

Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. He must have known a thing or two about discipleship. Yes, I belive that Jesus’ way of discipleship is relevant today. The reason…people are fundamentally the same across time. Sure our culture and technology changes. But the inner workings (the will, intellect, emotions, heart, soul, spirit, etc.) remain the same.

Here are some of the lessons that I believe we can learn from Jesus:

-Jesus did the will of the Father. He was guided by a call not need.

-Jesus focused on a small group and really concentrated his focus on three men.

-These men shared life together. They didn’t just meet once a week. Is this possible today? Not in quite the same way for most of us. But we can sure be a lot closer than most in the Body are today.

-Jesus looked for teachable moments.

-Jesus got away to be alone with the Father. We all need to recharge… even the best mentors.

-Jesus walked among the people and even went into the Temple to teach. I believe this shows us that there are hurting people both inside and outside of the Church that need to be discipled.

-Jesus loved those who nobody else would.

-Jesus let the disciples learn on their own and be tested. I am reminded of when Jesus slept while the storms raged around the boat. This was a test, and the disciples didn’t pass.

-Jesus sent the disciples out to minister. He gave them room to grow.

-Jesus told the truth. Jesus let the disciples know that they would all deny him, even Peter. When the disciples were foolish, he told them they were acting foolish.

-Jesus served the disiciples. From making them breakfast after the resurrection to washing their feet before it, Jesus met their needs and never asked them to do something he was not willing to do first.

-Jesus sacrificed to save them. Later the disciples would be called to do the same.

-Jesus lived the divine live, the highest life, as a model to the disciples. They later learned how to tap into this supernatural power source.

-Jesus called them to follow Him. He never begged anyone to be His disciple.

-Jesus did the impossible to show the disciples that all things are possible with God.

-Jesus never demonstrated fear of men only fear of God.

-Jesus forgave the disciples. Stop and think about how Jesus restored Simon Peter after this boastful disciple denied Christ.

-Jesus knew the Scriptures and spoke about it to His disciples. -Jesus loved because He is love.

I believe this model works today. We’ve tried being “relevant” and following the latest minister fad. Why not try what Jesus demonstrated works?