Sunday, October 30, 2005

Stuck in a Moment

Have you ever faced this kind of moment – a moment filled with opportunity and yet you let it slip away? Have you ever known that you should have gone to the right but you went to the left? Has it ever been in your power to do good but you choose to do nothing? You didn’t choose to do evil, you just choose not to do nothing at all – not to get involved – you choose to be neutral, a non participant, to do nothing. As if you were stuck.

Have you ever stopped to reflect on how your life would be different if you choose to go to the right rather than the left? If you chose to get involved, to get your hands dirty, to risk failing in an attempt to do something meaningful?

Can you look back on your life and remember moments that would have changed your life forever had you made different choices? Some moments have a lifetime of momentum, others appear to be mundane but later prove to be monumental.

Every moment is priceless, unique, and unrepeatable. It’s kind of like taking a picture. You capture it and that’s it. You can never relive that moment. We have countless moments like that. And within the countless numbers that make up our lives, there are divine opportunities awaiting us.

There have been many defining moments in the life of human beings that changed their lives forever. These defining moments in time often set the course for the balance of their life.For Moses, it was the burning bush. For Peter, it was walking on water.For Shadrack, Mesach, & Abednego, it was walking through the burning furnace untouched. For Paul, it was being blinded as suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him and he was spoken to by Jesus on the Damascus Road. For Daniel, it was deliverance from the lion’s den. For Joshua, it was taking over from Moses and parting the Jordan River and crossing into the Promised Land.We could go on and on. Each of these people never had years of preparation leading up to their defining moment. Rather, these defining moments forced these servants to experience something beyond their human experience. It took them outside their own paradigm of life. God had to bring them outside their own box. And when He did, their lives were never the same.If you can capture one moment of your life, which one would be? What particular moment in the past? A moment of regret? How many of us haven’t spent many moments reflecting on moments lost, all the time unaware that Moments lost in regret are exactly that…Moments lost? If you could take a moment, seize it, and squeezed out of it all the life available within it, shouldn’t that moment be in the future rather than the past?

Moments are as numerous as stars. It the only moment that you must take responsibility for right now is the one in front of you. Today, as I reflect, my personal moment was stepping out and starting our faith community… and I can honestly say…it is really cool…

Monday, October 24, 2005

Who Has Your Back?

What was Paul of the New Testament like? What did he look like?

Below, Paul gives our imagination a working as he describes what he has been through and it may lead to what he may have looked like.

2 Corinthians 11:21
What anyone else dares to boast about—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast about. 22Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham's descendants? So am I. 23Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. 27I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

Erwin McManus when referring to this text asks the question “Tell me again that the safest place to be is at the center of GOD’s will!?”

The key verses are 24, 25, 26. Here we read that Paul received 39 lashes – FIVE TIMES! That has to be at least 195 scars on his BACK…what was he saying? Maybe in though 5 times he was brought to the brink of death!?

3 times he was beaten with rods by Romans…What was the crime? Paul was a Roman citizen. Was he beaten for insurrection or treason? Did he keep quiet and not let the authorities know that he was a Roman citizen? Or did he start riots? Did he consider himself a citizen of a higher kingdom? Those rods were not broom sticks they were probably baseball bat like. Imagine how Paul had to protect himself, wrapping his arms around his head, protecting the most sensitive parts of his body…so what was left exposed? His back.

How many bones of Paul’s body were broken after these beatings, not just once but many times? Especially his BACK!

He was even stoned once. This was the Jewish form of capital punishment… Was he really saying that he was killed? Because in Acts 14 they dragged Paul outside of the city and they thought he was dead. When people throw objects at you what do you do? You cover your head and go into a fetal position…what is exposed? Your BACK.

Now, try to think of Paul without thinking about his back and all the punishment that it took…

Jesus sent the Holy Spirit (the Paraclete) who is also our battle companion. And even when we have the presence of the Holy Spirit and good friends covering our back isn’t interesting that the whips, and the rods and the stones still get through, do they not? The rods, the whips and the stones…they still connect, they still scar.

As I read Acts 14 “They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. 20But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.” I wonder…did Paul die? Did the disciples pray over him and he was raised from the dead? HEY, where were the disciples when Paul was being stoned? I thought they would have his back!!! Why did they gather around Paul outside of the city? Why did they not cover his back?

But look at what Paul did…He got up and went back into the city.
WOW…imagine that…they thought you were dead and then you show up again!

If you consider yourself a leader…show me your back.
Is it a clean back? Or is it full of scars, bruises and broken bones?
Followers of Christ need people to “cover our back.” Nobody has made a difference for GOD without them having people “say we will cover your back.” I know this is true in my life and it has been conveyed to me over and over again by people who surround me. And that is a wonderful comfort. But even when our “backs are covered” the whips, rocks and rods still get through. So in spite of our pain and injury, can we still get up and walk right back into the face of the very thing that has caused our pain?


Sunday, October 16, 2005


I had a friend (I will call him Al), who does short term missions, visiting my house this week and we had a great time of just talking about the future of ministry, our culture and the need for a new set of paradigms for youth ministry...but that is a whole new post.

Al began to tell me a story where he was in a country where the church was fairly legalistic in its view of faith and religion. Without question the church leaders that were at his seminar desired to reach their communities for Christ but they were setting up barriers. Some of the leaders at the seminar asked him to describe what kind of barriers are they setting up.

So my quick thinking friend looked at one of his team members who was standing at the back of the room and told him to come to the front. The team member began to walk around all the people and Al stopped him in his tracks. The story is paraphrased like this…

Al “Stop where you are…don’t go around everybody. Come straight up the middle to the front."
Team Member “What want me to walk over these people, tables and chairs?”
Al “Yes, crawl over them all to get here.”

At this point the team member began to crawl over desk, chairs, little ladies, old men, pastors and leaders to get to the front. When the team member finally got to the front, Al said “Christians and churches make it that difficult for people to come to Christ. We make them climb fences, jump hurdles, clean up their act…when in reality…all we need to do is turn around and meet them where they are at.”

WOW…we (the church) does build barriers, don’t we?
What have been the barriers that you have built to keep people away? Do people HAVE to come to church first? Do people have to take a shower first? Do people have to take off their hat and wear a white shirt and a tie FIRST? Do people have to appreciate the organ music or song selection FIRST? Do people just have to clean up their act before we will “introduce them” to Jesus…or the church? What do we make people jump over?
OR have people looked at all the obstacles that we have placed in front of them and have they chosen that the church has made this spiritual journey impossible?


Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Thankful for what?

Sorry that I haven’t posted…but I needed to give some undivided time to the most important people in my life…my wife and kids. So I ponder about this holiday season…thanksgiving…

Scottish minister Alexander Whyte was known for his uplifting prayers in the pulpit. He always found something to be thankful for. One Sundaymorning, the weather was stormy and dark. And one of the deacons said, "The preacher won’t be able to thank God for anything on a day like this. It’s absolutely horrible outside!"But much to his surprise, Rev. Whyte began the service by praying, "We thank thee, O God, that it is not always like this." Rev. Whyte understood that we should thank God no matter what! Because the same God who rules the universe when times are good is the same God who rules the universe when times are not so good. And God always has reasons and motives and purposes for why he does what he does.Having said that, when I hear Paul say, "Give thanks in all circumstances,"there’s a part of me that wants to say, "Paul, wake up and smell the coffee!What do YOU have to be thankful for? You’re in danger every single day ofyour life. You’ve spent years and years in prison because of your faith. Youthrew away a thriving career as a Pharisee. And look what you have to showfor it! Nothing!"And yet, it’s right there in the scriptures: "be joyful always, praycontinually, give thanks in all circumstances." For me I need to remember a few things.

I need to remember that God is at work in our lives even when times are bad. In 1 Thessalonians 1:6 Paul says to them, "in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit." In other words, as harsh as your life has become, God is still at work in your community!

Romans 8:28 says that "in ALL things God works for the good of those wholove him." God uses even our most dismal circumstances to bring glory tohimself, and accomplish his purposes on the earth. So we should thank Godeven for the hard times in life?It was Jim Bakker, of 80’s religious scandal fame who said, "it was the best thing that ever happened to me because it gave me critical distance from my crazy life. I was able to look at things. And see how wrong I was. And get back to walking with God."Michael J Fox, who has Parkinson’s Disease said "if you made a deal withGod that he would take away my Parkinson’s disease and cancel out the lastten years of my life, I would tell you to take a hike. My life is so goodnow. I’m helping a lot of people cope with the stigma of this disease. Andit makes me appreciate life as a precious gift."Does GOD use our hardships so that we can relate to others? Do we really need to thank God for those rough times?

2 Corinthians 1:4 says that God comforts us in all our troubles so that wecan comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. So thank God for our troubles! Honestly, our problems will not last forever.

Thank God for what you still have. I just got this email the other day. And it goes like this: "If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than the six million who will not survive the week.If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness ofimprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation, you areahead of 500 million people in the world.If you can attend a church service without fear of persecution, arrest,torture or death, you are more blessed than 3 billion people in the world.If you have food in the fridge, clothes on your back, a roof over your head,and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of the world.If you have money in the bank, money in your wallet, and spare change in adish someplace, you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy."That’s something to think about during Thanksgiving. We might be sad or have some serious issues in our lives, but we should never forget how much GOD has blessed us, either…and that things could always be worse.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Monday Morning Musing

I have struggled as to what to write this week. I am tired…it has been an emotionally charged week and I almost didn’t post, but I knew that I had to. I wanted to post about the future of denominational lead educational institutions, but that will be later. How about the consumer church mindset? No, that will just get me angry right now and I will piss off others when I use the term “dead weight.” Maybe, the communion experience we had this last Sunday? Nope, too personal. What about this whole “emergent church” bandwagon discussion? It was Rob Bell who said that "If you use the word postmodern… you aren’t." enough said on that topic.
Today is a time reflecting…I have read a number of blogs and have followed a number of threads in various email-groups and what I find is a huge “anti-church’ sentiment which I totally understand BUT…there is also this deep pessimism amongst church leaders in their current situation. So I want to ask a few questions…

What Do I Believe About the Church?
1. Do I really believe that people need the Church as a corporate body that gathers throughout the week? What is the purpose of the church? If the church is not something worthwhile that God pours his blessing into, and works through, then why even be a part of it?

2. Do I and others just play Church?
Personally, the answer to that question is that I do not have time to play church…life is just too short. But why do people and some leaders play church? Why do people play mind games (spiritual mind games), why go through the motions and see little to no change in personal lifestyle and attitude? Why not just walk away and play another game?

3. Do I really believe that God is working and that I am a part of it?In the “christian culture” it appears that many self professed believers are aloof, non committal, angry, hurt, filled with gossip, back biting, and are just plain ignorant of the needs of a world other than one’s own. (Do I sound a Tad Judgmental or and I just stating the obvious?)

So what do I believe about the church……simply put…GOD IS working and in some strange twisted way, I find myself a part of it…and in the words of Saint Garth and Saint Wayne… “we’re not worthy.”