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Showing posts from 2009

Primal; A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity

In his new book, PRIMAL, Mark Batterson takes the reader far beneath the surface of the words of the Great Commandment as given by Jesus in Mark 12:30. With a mixture of personal experiences and broad research, Batterson challenges the reader to think very much outside the box. In his own words, this is "a re-imagining of the four primal elements detailed by Jesus in the Great Commandment." As with his earlier books, IN A PIT WITH A LION ON A SNOWY DAY,andWILD GOOSE CHASE, these are not"easy reads". I found myselfpausing time and again to think through what I had just read. Loving God with all one's heart is, according to Batterson, primal compassion; with all the soul is primal wonder, with all the mind is primal curiosity and with all the strength is primal energy.The beauty of this book is that it will challenge the reader to delve more deeply into their own personal relationship with God and to get in touch with the primal part of their own faith. I c…

Standing in The Gap

Perhaps the saddest verse in scripture is found in Ezekial 22:30 "And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach (gap) before Me for the land that I should not destroy it, but I found none."
Israel had sinned against God, and He sought an intercessor to "stand in the gap" between Him and Israel, and sadly, there was not one. The next verse tells the sad end of the incident "Therefore I have poured out My indignation upon them, I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath. I have returned their way upon their heads, declares the Lord God."
I firmly believe that this same situation exists in America today. We have deliberately sinned against God, and are in the cross-hairs of His wrath. Unless there are intercessors who will step between America and the wrath of God, we may well experience His wrath. For the past few weeks I have promised God that when I wake up during the night, I will intercede for America befo…

One Man's Opinion

To this point I've resisted the urge to give my opinion on some of the inane descisions, past and present, made by the elite politicians. From their own version of Mount Olympus (Washington, D. C.) and exempt from any of the restrictions their legislation puts on the rest of us, they have reached at point where it matters not what the public thinks. At the very least they have a term to foist their evil upon us. Un-doing what they do in the meantime will take decades (cite Roe v Wade) if not longer. Since I've mentioned the legalization of infanticide in America, have any of these progressive "thinkers" weighed the economic impact of killing babies? Because of the mass murder of over a million babies, there will be fewer people down the road to pay into the Social Security system, thereby hastening it's demise. Of course, those who passed the legislation aren't worried because they are exempt from Soial Security. Link the abortion issue with granting homosexu…

Guilt vs Conviction

I read a statement the other day that if people learned to deal with guilt and un-forgiveness, our hospitals would be relatively empty. It reminded me of the book by Dr. Carl Meninger entitled "What Ever Happened to Sin?" This morning I had a woman in my office dealing with what she perceived to be guilt over the death of her 27 year old daughter. The daughter died of a brain aneurysm. I explained to her that there was no way she could have prevented such an unfortunate death even if she had been sitting in the room with her daughter at the time. As we continued to talk about the myriad problems the woman had, I suggested that perhaps her guilt was connected to something else, but had just manifested at the death of her daughter. Immediately she said, "That's it!" I explained that when there is un-confessed sin in our lives that we have neglected or refused to acknowledge that "guilt" is really conviction, and sometimes manifests attached to so…

Living in the Moment

Last week, the night before I was to play golf the next morning, I woke up early thinking again about how golf is a metaphor for life. It occurred to me that the only shot you can do any thing about in golf is the one that you are taking at the moment. Your last shot is over and done with, your next one is a mystery because you don't even know where the ball will be. It remains for you to concentrate on grip, setup, direction, back-swing, down-swing and follow-through for the shot you are now making. In reality, you can only address each of these one at the time. I really like it better when I don't think about any of these, but, using the technique of John Daley, just "grip it and rip it".
Life is a lot like that. The only moment I can control is the one I'm in right now. The past is gone, even if only a few seconds ago. The future is yet to come, and once again, I have no idea what it holds. Right now, no, now, no, now...(you get the drift) I can concen…

Eden Revisited

You've heard the old sayings "What goes around comes around." and "There's nothing new under the sun." It occurred to me this week that modern society gives credence to these adages. The original sin was launched by the question, "Did God really say 'You can't eat from any tree in the garden?'" That seemingly innocuous question put a doubt in Eve's mind that led to her succumbing to the temptation to check to see if God was really serious about His admonition. Unfortunately for her, and for all mankind, He was very serious. All the enemy had to do was raise a doubt. We still face the same question over and over today in many ways. Some examples are:
The speed limit; conventional wisdom says that the posted sign of 70 mph allows you to go at least 75 without fear of being caught.Lying: we have created incremental lying; white lies, fibs, lies, and big honking lies.Theft: It is OK to take someone's work by plagiarizing, …

Where's the Passion for Souls?

Even writing this post is convicting to me. My passion for seeing people born into the kingdom of God is at best intermittent. As I look around in my city and county, I can't find a church that demonstrates a real passion for seeing the lost come to Christ. Most of the churches are content to hold on to what they've got, or grow by "swapping sheep" with other churches and hope they can get some two-for-one deals along the way.
This week I led a conference session on "Sharing Your Faith" for a group of Sr. Adults. Amazingly, fifty people showed up and packed a room designed for about half that many. (even in our planning we don't expect people to be interested in learning how to share their faith) As we discussed how to tell our salvation stories, how to share the gospel using only one verse of scripture (John 3:16), and how to use the "Bridge to Life" illustration, there was a genuine sense of excitement in the room. Of course the "…

Business as Usual

Currently I'm working with two churches; one a small, mostly Sr. Adult church and the other a First Baptist in a small town. Both are currently without a pastor. I'm serving as Interim pastor for one (the small church) and helping with pastoral ministries for the the other. The thing that I'm finding true in both is that they are striving to continue doing "business as usual" (whatever that means). They are missing a great opportunity to make some changes that have long been needed. I have a friend who often says, "The best time to make changes is when change is happening." The loss of a pastor is change. Obviously things will be done differently because those who remain have different gift sets, strengths and weaknesses. The key to adapting to the current situation is that someone or some group must step up and take responsibility for leading. That doesn't mean there should be a power struggle. Unless someone steps forward, it is very eas…

Seizing the Moment

Since June of this year I have been involved in three funerals and will be doing another this coming week.  Thankfully, each of the deceased were strong Christians and had lived their faith in such a way that comforting the believing family and friends was easy.  At each funeral I do, I always present the gospel, believing that this is a vulnerable moment for any un-believers in the audience.  There are certain times when people are more open to the gospel than others, and I believe that we should discern those times and boldly seize the moment to present the good news.Just last week when I did this, two people, including a relative of the deceased, gave their lives to Christ.  We did not have an “altar call” as such, but after I had prayed a prayer of repentance and faith and invited any one to make that prayer their own, I asked that those who did pray that prayer please open their eyes and make eye contact with me.  This in no way took away from the service.  Having identified thos…

Becoming a Dangerous Church

Matthew 16:18 (HCSB) And I also say to you that you are Peter (petros, a rock), and on this rock (boulder; the statement “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”) I will build My church, and the forces of Hades will not overpower it.It is Jesus’ intention that the church overwhelms the gates of Satan’s domain.He wants us to be on the offensive for the Kingdom of God.We are never to be in retreat or in a circle the wagons mode.We are to be on the attack.We are to take captives away from Satan and lead them into the kingdom through faith in Jesus.We must learn what our rights are and how to use the weapons God has supplied.Our rightsMatthew 16:19 (HCSB) I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth is already bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is already loosed in heaven.” Matthew 18:19 (HCSB) Again, I assure you: If two of you on earth agree about any matter that you pray for, it will be done …

What in the World is a Church to Do?

In this day of cookie-cutter churches, it seems that when one church does something that results in numerical increase, many other churches line up behind and emulate them. The primary idea seems to be the old Tony Robbins mot "Find someone who is successful, do what they do, the way they do it, and you too will be successful." BTW that probably is not a completely accurate quote, but you get the gist. The problem with this approach when used by churches is that they copy the technique, the program, or the marketing approach while giving little thought to their scriptural assignment. That assignment is found in Matthew 28:18-20. Having discovered the assignment, the real question is how do we accomplish it? Jesus gave us help, both as individuals and as churches in Matthew 25:31-46, commonly called the parable of the sheep and the goats. The defining factors that determined who was welcomed into the kingdom and who was not were these;
Feed the hungryGive water to the t…

The Place of Fellowship in the Church

On Labor Day our church had a fish fry. More people attended than have attended church or Bible Study on any given Sunday in the past three months. This got me to thinking about the place that fellowship occupies in the life of the church. In Acts 2:46 we find the new church members meeting together daily in the temple and then "breaking bread" (having fellowship over food) from house to house. This reminded me of something I once heard; "it is hard to put on airs while eating". We are more apt to be ourselves over a meal or refreshments than in most other settings.
The only problem I see is that many churches have elevated fellowship to a position above worship, evangelism, discipleship and ministry. At one point the Sunday School was known as the "outreach arm" of the church. In the early 1970s, that changed to being the Bible Study FELLOWSHIP, or Small Group FELLOWSHIP. The drop in baptisms can be traced back to that change in philosophy.
I thin…

The Purpose of the Church

It seems to me from scripture that the primary purpose of the church is to represent Christ to the world.  The unfortunate reality is that many, if not most, church members think that the church exists to cater to them.  They expect the church to entertain, comfort, inspire and pamper them simply because they are "members".  If the opening statement of this blog is true, how does that play out in reality?  Here are some random thoughts.The church should serve as a "service station" to members equipping them for ministry to and in the world in which they live.The church should demonstrate to the world how to live in community with one another.The church should do for those outside the church what Christ did for the multitudes when He was here on earth.The church should provide nurture and care for new believers, helping them discover and develop their gifts that enable them to function as Christ's ambassadors to the world.The church should be a platform for corp…

How To "Seek First the Kingdom of God" as a Church

Anything that can or should be done individually can be done corporately. The key is getting everyone "on board". For the individual to "seek first the kingdom of God" one must establish kingdom pursuit as the priority ("a" priority becomes one of many, or no priority at all) For the church to do it, the pastoral leadership must consider seeking the kingdom as their reason for being.
Perhaps delving into what it means to "seek first the kingdom of God" will help with focus.
The realization that God's Word is to be obeyed and lived, not just learned.The recongnition that God's kingdom is under His rule, and not open to a democratic process.Realizing that the Holy Spirit can and will bring consensus to a church body as they seek the kingdom.Understanding that delayed obedience is disobedience.Grasping the importance of "nevertheless, Your will be done".Kingdom growth does not come via the latest church growth secret. It comes…

The U.N.I.S.O.N. Approach to Church Health

Over the past 15-20 years the emphasis in the "church world" has been on church growth.  There have been numerous strategies and plans espoused as being the foolproof route to a growing church.  The reality is, if a church is not healthy, any growth that stems from any strategy will be short-lived and ultimately will do more harm than good.  From years of observation, prayer and trial and error, I would suggest the following.Uncover:  This is sort of like going to a clinic for a complete physical.  There are issues in most churches that are covered by layers of programs, traditions and the like.  These issues must be uncovered so that a plan can be devised to deal with them.Needs: The first item which must be exposed is NEED.  What are the needs of the people?  What are the needs of the community around the church?  What are the needs of the church?  The process of uncovering these needs involves question/answer; surveys; observation, and of course, prayer.Interests:  The ne…

The Benefits of Being an Opportunist

Sometimes the term "opportunist" gets bad press.  There are those who think that opportunists are taking advantage of people and/or situations for personal gain.  However, on the flip side seizing an opportunity is what has won wars, launched companies, saved lives and propagated the Gospel of Christ.  In Malcolm Gladwell's book The Outliers he shows graphically how seizing opportunities has given us Apple Computers, Microsoft, Starbucks, etc.  Erwin McManus in Chasing Daylight (originally Seizing Your Divine Moment) and Mark Batterson in In a Pit With A Lion on a Snowy Day show us from scripture and personal experience how the believer is benefitted by being an opportunist.I have noticed that seizing opportunity leads to more opportunity.  Perhaps that is the reason we have some of our mega-churches today.  In grabbing hold of an opportunity, they showed themselves faithful and God sent more opportunity.  It is sort of like the parable of the 3 servants (often called th…

Cut To The Chase

I love that phrase! It causes me to bring everything down to the simplest common denominator. I've just finished outlining a sermon from Matthew 5:31-48. This passage deals with some of the more difficult teachings of Jesus. He was answering His critics who were accusing Him of changing or dismissing the laws of Moses. Here He deals with divorce, using oaths, retaliation, and treatment of enemies. The last line of the passage is the "cut to the chase" statement. "Be perfect therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect." Wow!!! Two by four to the face! When you stop to think about it, how could a perfect God set any standard for His followers that is less than perfect? The moment He does so, He becomes less than perfect. The beauty of this command is that Jesus has met the standard on our behalf. Just as He paid the sin-debt owed by all mankind, He has met the impossible standard of Godly perfection and applied it to our account.
Can I be perfect? …

Golf; A Metaphor for Life

I've heard it many times before. "Golf is a metaphor for life". After this year's British Open, I believe it. For 71 improbable holes, Tom Watson looked to be the victor; a 59 year old putting all the 20, 30 & 40 somethings in their place. He rose to every challenge. He sank impossible 60 foot putts that he called "no brainers". Time and again he split the fairways with magnificent drives that matched his younger opponents not only for accuracy, but for length. Then, on the 72nd hole, with victory in his grasp, something unexpected happened. After a bold putt from the fringe zipped by the cup and settled some 8 feet away, Tom Watson putted, not to win, but to keep from losing. At that moment, the British Open was over. Oh I know that he and Stewart Cink played a four hole playoff, but the tournament ended when Tom switched from offense to defense on that next to last putt. At that point, the 72 hole finish line was moved to the 76th hole, and…

The Inigma of LIfe

Life can often seem complicated. The Apostle Paul mentioned his struggle in Romans 7 where he repeatedly said, "For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing." That appears to be a universal struggle among Christians. Time and again we find ourselves wandering from our chosen path of following Christ to following our own base desires. Sometimes it is a chosen action on our part, but more often it is a reaction to some stimulus; either what someone says to/about us or does to us or to someone we care about. In my experience I've found that the best course of action when I'm tempted to do this is to RESPOND rather than REACT. What's the difference?
When I react to something or someone, I am not in control. It is like when the Dr. hits your knee with that little hammer. You don't think about it, your body just reacts. By allowing my "knee-jerk" reaction free reign, I'm constantly giving the person or occ…

The Miracle @ Cana; Fresh Insight

In continuing writing my devotional book on the sayings of Jesus, today I re-read the passage where Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana. This is commonly considered to be Jesus' first recorded miracle. As I read it this time, I saw something I hadn't noticed before. I believe there are some lessons here regarding prayer.
Prayer is not limited to just presenting a laundry list of requests to God. Sometimes it is discussing situations with Him with the expectation that He will do what is best in the situation. That seems to be the case in this story. Mary, His mother, simply apprises Him of the situation; the wine had run out. Jesus' response would seem to have ended the discussion, however Mary assumed that He would do something, and alerted the servants to follow His direction. The directions that Jesus gave defied logic, and yet, when the servants obediently did as He bade them, the result was miraculous.
So it is with our prayers. Perhaps we n…

Public Praying

Often prayers that are uttered in public seem to be done on auto-pilot. There are certain words or phrases that are repeated seemingly without thought as to whether they fit the context of the prayer. It seems that when we open our mouths to pray, part of our brain shuts down.
When our girls were young, we determined that we were not going to teach them the rote meal blessings (God is great, God is good...etc) We thought we'd teach them to think about what they wanted to say rather than just recite a memorized prayer. Interestingly, they invented their own rote meal prayers, memorized them and repeated them over and over.
I had a student in my youth group who used the word "Lord" as a punctuation mark or instead of saying "er" or "uh". He was totally unaware until I pointed out to him that in a brief (two minute) prayer he'd said the word "Lord" twenty eight times. The next time he prayed publicly he was almost tongue-tied.
Here is ho…

Multi-Tasking Prayer; Y or N?

This morning as I enjoyed brunch at Denny's, I found myself praying for my grandkids. All the while I was eating, eavesdropping on a conversation nearby, noticing the people walking about in the restaurant, etc. The thought popped into my head, "I wonder how effective this prayer is when I'm mixing it in with everything else going on around me?" Thinking back, I recall praying while driving, watching TV, and (blush) while in the bath room. I'll share my conclusions with you, but I'd really like to hear from you on this matter.
My bottom line on this is that so long as multi-tasking prayer isn't all the praying that you do, it is OK. As a matter of fact, it is probably a great add-on to your prayer life. However, there must be prayer time which is totally focused on the Lord and the prayer needs at hand without a bunch of other "stuff" competing for your attention. I think that is what Jesus meant by "go into your closet" when te…

Longing for the Jesus-life

This past week in my daily Bible reading I came across John 14:12 where Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in Me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father." Every time I read that, I ache for it to be true in my life. The word, "believe" is the same here as in John 3:16. Therefore, if I "believe" enough to be granted eternal life, I should also be doing the works of Jesus. I'm really tired of living beneath the privilege of a child of God and spiritual younger brother of Jesus. According to Romans 8:29, God intends to conform me to the image of Jesus. I know that the speed with which this happens depends on my obedience. God doesn't just arbitrarily mature some folks faster than others.I take far too many "Jonah side-trips" instead of obeying immediately.
I long to be in a church that believes and acts upon the Word of God. I know that it is G…

Pulling the Trigger

You've probably seen this scenario replayed a thousand times on TV and in the movies. The goodguy/badguy (you choose) has his target in the sights of his high powered sniper's rifle. He has a clear shot. His finger begins to tighten on the trigger...and then...for some unknown reason, he lowers the gun and the moment passes.
I find myself in somewhat the same situation. I'm writing a devotional book. I had set a deadline for publishing (which has passed) contacted several self-publishing companies, talked with numerous representatives and visited myriad websites. However, along the way I got diverted from my target and have never finished the book. I'm down to the last 14 weeks which will complete the year long devotional book. Somehow I know that when I finish the writing, I'll have to pull the trigger on selecting a publishing package and invest some money in my project. As I take aim, a thousand thoughts buzz through my brain. What If I publish it and n…

When Will It Ever End?

About the time I think that the "worship wars" are over, I hear of another flare up. I know that God must be very tired of this. The silly thing about it is that those who are wrangling over what style of music to use in worship services aren't at all shy about taking potshots at those with other opinions. Their mantra seems to be "any opinion is good so long as it is mine."
I got to thinking today on my walk about the words, "contempory" and "traditional". If you break these words down, neither make sense in the way people are bandying them around regarding church music.
Example; Con (with) temporary (that which is passing away); so, what is contemporary today is not tomorrow...because it was only temporary to start with. Also, contemporary music depends on the part of the country or world being referred to. What is contemporary in So. America is not in No. America, etc.
Then there is "traditional". Once again it depends on w…

Life After Work

One of the things that I'm discovering during "retirement" is that I don't do well without deadlines and job descriptions. Complain as I may (and as I have) about these, it seems that I've become somewhat dependent on them. Now that I'm in charge of what I do and when I do it, I'm likely to fritter away huge blocks of time that I can't really account for. I'm feeling the need to set a daily schedule that includes my workout, writing, the "honey-do's" around the house, and all those things I used to say that I would do "when I had time". Perhaps I've not yet purged myself of 50+ years of employer expectations. I'm hoping that one day soon I'll wake up and find that I really have developed a personal schedule that is flexible and yet productive.
Now that I've accepted an interim pastorate, I'm once again under deadlines to produce two sermons and one Bible Study per week as well as do some ministry tas…

That Lovin' Feeling

A couple of entries back I talked about love for one another being a badge of discipleship. That idea acutally springs from the words of Jesus in John 13:34-35. One problem that many of today's Christ-followers have with this is that their definition of love is too shallow. Anyone raised in the modern west has been programmed to believe that love is primarily a feeling that comes upon you and there is little or nothing that you can do about it. We're stuck in the phileo (brotherly love) or eros (physical or fleshly love)definitions of love, and have very little understanding of agapaeo. Agape love is what I call "love on purpose". The act(s) of love precede, and eventually produce, feelings. The old DC Talk song, "Love is Something You Do" pretty much nailed it.
Bottom line; I can choose to love people that I really don't even like. I can choose to do loving things for them because that is what Jesus did for me. I can choose to love that other C…

What's Going On?

Did you ever get to the point in your life where you just couldn't figure out what was happening to you? You thought you were doing everything right, but the results you were getting was far from what you expected. Have you ever cried out to God asking, "What's going on?" or something to that effect? Here is a possible answer to to that question. Romans 8:29. Most believers have memorized Romans 8:28, and use it often to cast our circumstances in a better light. The usual take on this verse is that, no matter how bad things are right now, God will turn it around for our good. However, there is a BIG condition attached..."for those who are called according to His purpose."What follows in verse 29 is often overlooked. "For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers."The mental image that I get when I read that takes me back to when I used to…

The Badges of Discipleship

In the church today one is often called a disciple if they have completed certain courses, or serve in certain ministries. However, Jesus had a different way of identifying those who were His disciples. In John 13:34-35 He said, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another."
The love Jesus referred to is AGAPE love. Josh McDowell calls this "love anyhow". That means it is not dependent on a person's status, their, possessions, their popularity, or their actions toward you. It is love anyhow. This love is demonstrated by the "sheep" in Matt. 25 who ministered to "the least of these".
The second badge of identification for the disciple is found in John 15:8. "By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be My disciples." The "fruit that rem…

Three Key Relationships of a Disciple

Every person who aspires to be a disciple of Jesus Christ would benefit from three key relationships in addition to their relationship with Jesus. We each need a "Paul" in our life. A "Paul" is one who has at least a little more life experience with the Lord, and who is willing to pass that along to us. Then we need a "Barnabus". A "Barnabus" is one who is on the discipleship journey with us and serves as an encourager. And finally, we each need a "Timothy"; one with whom we are sharing the things we have learned in our walk with the Lord.

In my personal experience, most of my "Pauls" have come via books, tapes, and conferences. On many occaisions the person(s) did not even know they were my Paul. My encouragers (or Barnabuses) have been both family members and friends who have prayed for me, listened to me and given me counsel that helped me on the journey. My Timothys have been those into whose lives I have poured th…

As You Go...Make Disciples

The Great Commission mandates disciple-making "as you are going" (the literal meaning of "Go!"). Early Rabbis were followed day in and day out by their disciples. One description of a disciple is "one covered with the dust of their rabbi". The learning took place, not in a class room, but in life. The disciple learned as they watched the rabbi in their daily transactions with God and with people. Today we've pretty much institutionalized the process of making disciples. We've made it about taking certain courses and filling in the blanks with the correct answers. In doing so we've lost the impact of allowing people to learn from our lives.
Over the past 50+ years in ministry, I've noticed at least two powerful disciple-making tools that are often overlooked.
Your home: When people are allowed into your home and see how you interact with your family around the dinner table, watching TV, playing games, and doing chores, they learn how …

The Eyes Have It

I just had my pre-cataract-surgery exam today. I think they dialated my eyes twice. I had left my sun glasses in the car, so when I came out into the bright S. Florida sun, I almost went blind. I finally understood what the blind man in scripture meant when he said, "I see men as trees walking." The scarey thing about this is...I had to drive home on US 27. Not a fun thing to do.
Once I felt my way home, I couldn't read, watch TV or anything much for at least another couple of hours. And all of this BEFORE the surgery. They also told me that my glasses prescription could not be changed until a couple of weeks after the second surgery. I'm wondering if I need to get a white cane with a red tip, or borrow a seeing eye dog for a few weeks. At the very least, we're about to become that couple that you see with Mama driving and Papa in the passenger seat, at least for a couple of weeks.
This is the second sign of Old Age that I've had to deal with. The fir…

Subjective Worship

I was reminded again during two worship services yesterday just how subjective our worship is. Regardless of how much we claim otherwise, it IS about us and not so much about HIM. What we deem as REAL worship is usually that which elicits a certain emotional response from us, with little or no thought given to the supposed object of our worship. It seems that we can even abide horrendous theology if the music to which it is set gives us goose bumps or brings tears to our eyes.
Paul addressed this issue in 1 Corinthians 14 when he said, "What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding." There should be thought given to our worship, whether in prayer, quiet meditation or music. Worship is not about calling forth some visceral response from deep in our gut. It is about acknowledging the ONE to whom we pray, and of whom we sing. Worship must be…

Remembering Mom

With Mother's Day approaching, I'm taking a few moments to reminise about my Mom, Ila Grace Cole (though few people knew her first name). She epitomized her name, "Grace". She was such a kind, loving person; the sort who attracted those who needed a listening ear or a kind word. She was definitely the center of warmth in our household.
My fondest memory of Mom is the night she knelt with me by my bed and led me in a prayer of repentance and faith as I received Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior. Whatever success I've achieved over 50 years of ministry, I owe to the prayers of my Mom. She's been with Jesus for over 22 years now, yet I can still hear her voice in my head. I only wish she could have been here to rejoice with us when Pops finally accepted Christ at age 87. Pops went to be with the Lord last month, so I know they have rejoiced together over that just recently.
I only hope that I can leave a legacy with my kids and grandkids like the one Mom…

Show and Tell Witness

This morning I read a blog by Patricia Hickman, an author, explaining how to effectively communicate your faith in fiction writing. One phrase struck me as key; show and tell witness. I think one of the hurdles that many believers find difficult to leap over is knowing that their lives don't mesh with their spoken story. In my personal experience, the most gratifying witnessing experiences have come from someone acknowledging that they see something different and attractive in my life. This provides a perfect opening for sharing my faith story and, more times than not, result in the person taking the step of faith to trust Jesus.
In looking at the ministry of Jesus, many of his encounters which led to sharing the Good News sprang from people recognizing a difference in Him that drew them to seek to know why. The woman at the well, the rich young ruler and Nicodemus are all examples of how His life prompted questions about what others could do to experience such a life.
A daily …

Not Everyone is Welcome

Yesterday I preached from Matthew 7:21-23. That is a passage that always grabs my attention when I read it. The bottom line of the passage is that Jesus says that not everyone is welcome in His kingdom of heaven. Many church-goers will find themselves excluded. Why? Primarily because they skipped first base in their pursuit of a home in heaven. Rather than starting with a relationship with God through Jesus, they went straight to church membership and "good works" which they decided on themselves.
The scriptures are very clear that the starting point (first base) is recognizing that one is separated from God because of sin; confessing and repenting of that sin (turning from self & sin to the Savior) and receiving Jesus as Lord of their life. I told a group of leaders just yesterday that I found it maddening that it was harder to join the Kiwanis Club than most Baptist Churches. When I preached in Russia several years ago, those who responded to the altar call were…

The Pursuit of "Fun"

I've just returned from four days of visiting four Disney parks in Orlando, FL. Most of our days, with four of our grand children, our daughter and husband, ran about 10-12 hours in the park. In addition to walking many miles, I had some "down" time to engage in my favorite sport, people watching. What I saw amazed me. The majority of the people I encountered were in a hurry as they almost jogged from one venue to the next. Intricate planning was involved with many of them. I overheard detailed discussions of what, when and where as groups or families were moving around the park. Often I saw little kids, way past their point of enjoyment, being dragged by parents who were hurrying them to the next event or ride. As the day progressed and the temperatures rose, so did the decibels of the voices. By mid to late afternoon, more and more young ones were asleep either in their rented strollers or in a parent's arms.
One almost got the feeling watching this frenzy …

Being Intentional as a Church

Over the Easter weekend and in the week following I have observed an interesting phenomenon among churches. Many of the newer church plants (w/in last 10 years) were extremely intentional about getting un-churched people into their Easter services while the older, more established churches seemed to rely on a "they know where we are" approach. The end result was that most of the "intentional" churches recorded large numbers of guests and, more importantly, recorded many professions of faith.
I love my church. I love the pastor, the staff and the people. However, on Easter we only had a slight attendance "bump" and no decisions for Christ. We really didn't plan for any increase in attendance, we did very little in the way of promotion, there was little different about the service except for a couple of extra musical numbers. The pastor preached a solid evangelistic message to a group of people who largely thought of themselves as already being bel…

The Day After Easter

On that first post-Easter, the disciples' heads were spinning. They were trying to wrap their minds around what they had seen, heard and experienced over the past 36 hours. They had perceived that the vision they had embraced for the future was dead, but no...He was alive!!! Now what? The message from their risen Lord was, "Wait".
Today we no longer have to wait. We have the benefit of their experiences. The Holy Spirit has already come, and is alive in every believer, and available to empower us as we seek to fulfill the Great Commission. I was thrilled this weekend as I read "tweets" from pastors around our nation of hundreds of people making professions of faith in Christ. But now, the real work begins. Our mandate is to "make disciples, teaching them to observe (obey) all that I (Jesus) have commanded you." To quote an old southern preacher,Vance Havner, "Salvation is the end, but it is the FRONT end." Each of those new believe…

Dear Jesus

I just wanted to write and say "thank You". I often thank You for stuff You've done for me, for answers to prayer, etc. but I don't remember lately thanking You for what You endured on my behalf during that first passion week.
Thank You for the intense prayer session You had in the garden.
Thank You for putting up with a sham trial that You and everyone else knew was rigged from the start.
Thank You for enduring the ridicule, slapping, punching, pulling out of Your beard, and spit in the face from the soldiers.
Thank You for maintaining your dignity and refusing to react to the questions and accusations of those who were "trying" You.
Thank You for enduring the scourging that would have killed lesser men.
Thank You for dying a heinous death on the cross, not for anything You had done, but for my sins.
Thank You for experiencing the desolation when Your Father turned His back on You, so that He would never turn His back on me.
Thank You most of all that You triumph…

Segmenting

I'm somewhat of a multi-tasker.  I often have several balls in the air.  I'm learning that I can better handle multiple tasks if I do them in segments.  Let me explain.  Rather than jumping willy-nilly from one task to the next, try focusing on one task for 10-20 minutes, then relaxing for 5 minutes, and then return to the task if it isn't finished yet.  Or, after relaxing for 5 minutes, switch to another task for 10-20 minutes.  For example, today I spent @ 20 minutes reading and answering e-mails; then did the USA Today crossword, then uploaded a video to FaceBook & Twitter, and then started on this blog entry.  I'm about to take a snack break, and then do some writing on my book for @ 20 minutes of so.  By incorporating these "spurts" of productivity, I can remain fresh.  I find that if I go much longer than 20 minutes at the time, my creativity begins to wane.  By segmenting I reach the end of the day having completed many if not most of my tasks whil…

Thinking of Easter

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Our society has so commercialized our "holy days" that, even in the church, we have lost the true meaning of them.  Most of our kids learn about the Easter Bunny before they learn about the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.  Is it any wonder that fewer and fewer young people are coming to Christ?  Isn't it time that we as evangelicals emphasize that which sets us apart from "religions"?  Paul said, "For I determinied not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified." (1 Corinthians 2:2).  So often the "sermons" that are preached in many churches would better be classified as "inspirational talks".  As a former Youth Pastor, I remember clearly when the emphasis of the Youth Pastor moved from preaching, to "giving talks".  In our mad dash to connect with society, we have sometimes elevated method above message.  The medium is NOT the message.  The message of Christ,…

Funerals

As a minister I've had opportunity to be see and experience many funerals. Sometimes the things that we do at funerals makes me wonder if we have really progressed very much as a civilization. For that reason, my siblings and I planned for our father's funeral to be a simple celebration of his life. We didn't have the impromptu parade of friends and family struggling to speak through tears. Nor did we feature a concert of hymns and songs. We asked our father's pastor to be sure and include the story of our father coming to faith in Christ as an 87 year old, and to explain how anyone could have a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. In all, I think the service lasted less than 40 minutes. I can't tell you how many people mentioned how uplifting the service was for them. That was our goal. I'm sure that Pops would have approved.

Social Networking at Work

This past week my 96 year old father passed away. Sitting by his bedside only moments after his passing, I entered my "status" on FaceBook and Twitter. Within minutes I was receiving condolences from family and friends all across the country, and responses are still coming in two days later.
Then, I faced the problem of getting my wife to an airport some 75 miles from our home. She had not travelled with me from Florida to Alabama to be at my dad's bedside, but would now need to come for the funeral. I posted on FaceBook and Twitter the need that we had, and before the day was over we had found someone going from Sebring, our home, to Orlando airport. To make it even better, it was someone we knew.
I come away from these recent experiences with the realization that Social Networking is a tool that can be utilized in many very practical ways. In addition to renewing old acquaintences, keeping up with friends and family, there is the potential for disseminating importa…

The Upside of Economic Depression

I've been thinking about this as I notice what is going on around the nation during what many are calling a bona fide economic depression. Is there an upside? I think so. Let me mention a few.
less travel, ergo, less pollution.less money to spend on toys & electronics, therefore kids have to learn to entertain themselves and grow their imaginations.less money for movies and nights out, so families learn to enjoy one another at home.fewer jobs, so people have to create jobs by becoming more ingenious.less money for eating out, so people learn how to cook at home.These are just a few. I'm sure you will think of others. This is the classic, "If life gives you lemons, make lemonade" scenario. You can choose to be a victim or to be victorius; to complain or to create; to wallow in self-pity or to work toward becoming a winner.
One caveat. In order for us to benefit from the economic depression, it must last long enough to wean us from our "stuff". I be…

The Adventure Starts Here

Here I am; 70 years old and a free agent. That means that I no longer have a "paying job" where I have to show up in an office at a particular time. It is strange to say the least. After 50 years of church staff experience, I've been adapting to a new life style over the past six months. I'm embarking on the adventure of a lifetime. I'm right up there with Abraham, Moses, and Caleb, some of my biblical heroes. These guys got their greatest assignments at what we consider an old age. All of them came through with flying colors, although it was not easy.
I'm starting a writing career. My first book is a devotional guide based on the sayings of Jesus. It is not intended to be an in-depth, theological treatise, but rather a tool that will help a believer at any stage of life become better acquainted with the teachings of Jesus, and discover, in a practical way, how they relate to life. I don't have a publisher. Most likely this will wind up being se…

Do We Ever Grow Up?

I live in a 55+ community. Lately I've observed that, emotionally, many adults stopped maturing in Jr. High. I was in the fitness center of our complex the other day. A guy and his wife were working out together. He was the loud sort. You couldn't help but hear him all over the room. He proclaimed for the benefit of everyone how much weight he was lifting, how many sets & reps he was doing, and how it all was in spite of all the drinks he had consumed the night before. (he even named each one) Another man entered the room and was immediately challenged by the LM (loud mouth) to add weight to the max on the chest press machine.
Several times on the golf course I've noticed "mature" adult men trying to out-cuss each other. It sounds just like middle school kids who are trying to impress their peers with their "tough" vocabulary. They seem to think that dropping "f" bombs somehow makes them appear masculine. The sad thing is, I'v…

Doing Matt. 6:33 As A Church

This morning while reading Amos 9, I began to think that perhaps the main problem with the church (universal & local) is that we/they are seeking "all these things" instead of seeking first the kingdom of God. As I follow lots of pastors & staff folks on Twitter, it appears that the pursuit is always the "things" and seldom the Kingdom of God. Maybe I don't know what seeking the Kingdom of God really is, but I think it would involve tailoring everything we do with pleasing God as the sole outcome. Instead we spend untold man hours and dollars pursuing the latest "in" thing with our peers or our heroes.
Seldom do I encounter a church or pastor & staff who set aside regular, daily/weekly time to seek God & His kingdom. Most always I find staff meetings, dream sessions, conferences, books, etc. that aim toward "how do we attract people to our church? How do we become better leaders? or What is the next 40 day emphasis?" I&…

Impression= Action or Depression

I have a friend who once gave me this formula. Impression without expression leads to depression. He didn't actually give that formula just to me, he gave it in context of a personal story he told about his trying to circumvent an impression from God. What reminded me of that formula was preparation for teaching the first chapter of the book of Nehemiah.
First, Nehemiah became aware of a problem with his people in Jerusalem. His awareness came in response to a question posed to his brother who had just arrived from Jerusalem. Quite often we ask people how things are with them, their family or friends. Just as often, we immediately forget their response, or file it away in our "information" file. Nehemiah didn't file it away. He immediately began to act on the information he had received. His actions included;
Prayer and fasting (indicating the intensity of his concern)Formulating a plan of actionGoing through the proper steps to launch his plan.He had no exper…