Aug 28, 2009

A Prayer to Ponder...

...from the devotional book "Jesus Calling" by Sarah Young. Hear the words of Jesus to you:

"Be willing to go out on a limb with Me. If that is where I am leading you, it is the safest place to be. Your desire to live a risk-free life is a form of unbelief. Your longing to live close to Me is at odds with your attempts to minimize risk. You are approaching a crossroads in your journey. In order to follow Me wholeheartedly, you must relinquish your tendency to play it safe.

Let Me lead you step by step through this day. If your primary focus is on Me, you can walk along perilous paths without being afraid. Eventually, you will learn to relax and enjoy the adventure of our journey together. As long as you stay close to Me, My sovereign Presence protects you wherever you go."

Sometimes we forget that the kind of life Jesus calls us to can often be anything but safe. It was risky for fisherman to drop their nets, along with everything they knew, to follow Jesus. It was a risk for many people to trust that Jesus could heal the sick and raise the dead. It was a risk for Peter to step out of the boat toward Jesus. It was risky for the disciples to take Jesus at his word after his death and resurrection and lead the beginning of the early church.

I have to wonder...What am I willing to risk?


Aug 27, 2009


Bottlenecks provide great opportunities for deer hunters because they offer changes in the terrain by funneling game into a smaller area where savvy hunters can set up an ambush. Deer are more comfortable in big woods and thickets because they feel hidden and secure. They can be a little edgy in bottlenecks because they have less deep cover. And a hunter smiles when sitting in a bottleneck watching the trophy buck pass through his (or her!) rifle sights.

But bottlenecks are not so good at church. And one common cause for church bottlenecks (or traffic jams) is the leadership structure. Say someone gets an idea about something she'd like to do for the Lord. Now what? Take it to a deacon? An elder? The preacher? Then what, one of these leaders take it to the infamous "next meeting" where it will be discussed, possibly tabled until the "next meeting?" Why, by the time the person gets a response she may have lost her passion for the project!

One of my preacher friends once said that no one needs man's permission to do something God has already given him permission (or command) to do. Great idea! So what is it you want to do for the Lord's honor? What is your idea? If you could do anything for God, knowing you couldn't fail, what would you do?

Let's let the deer hunters enjoy bottlenecks or we may find ourselves stuck in the neck of a bottle at church with great ideas and energy dying all around.


Aug 21, 2009

Don't Worry, Be Light!

In a little over an hour I'm headed up to the high school to help with a special event. The school is hosting a Fall Kick-off event for all students and their families involved in fall sports. They needed volunteers to come up for a few hours to cook and prepare food for the evening. I like to be able to jump at those opportunities. In fact, I love to be available, if at all possible, any chance I get to help out and be visible in our surrounding communities.

Tomorrow I will be up here at the building around noon to help with another activity. Some of our ladies had a wonderful idea to partner with the Greyhound Family Resource Center and host about 15 students here at the church. Some of us are going with these students to help them find new clothes and shoes for school. Others will be available when they return to feed them lunch and play some games with them. I'm already looking forward to the couple of hours I will spend with everyone.

I tell you about these two opportunities, not to try to make me look special or significant, because I'm not. I tell you about them because these are the types of things we all need to be involved in as much as possible. People all around us in our communities need to see people who live out the story of Jesus in their lives on a daily basis. It's easy to get caught up in our own things and our own life schedules, so because of that we must be intentional about finding ways to be involved in the lives of others. If we aren't intentional, life can so quickly become only about us. I know that's not what we want. Sure, there are a lot of things we do regularly that are important and good. But we must ask ourselves how much of our time and energy are we spending to bless the lives of people that are not named "me, myself, and I." I know sometimes it is not easy...not practical...not always logical...maybe not even realistic. But Jesus came to introduce the world to a new reality, to a new way of living in the world. It was one that often seemed like foolishness to so many others.

If we want to be a "church without walls," we have to first be a church who is all about loving and living for God and others...before and above self! It's radical, I know. But it can start small if we just open our eyes to opportunities like these. Because when we say yes, we have the chance to be present to people who may really need to see God living in us...who may really need to meet God's love afresh through us.

I might just be flipping burgers. I might just be taking my place in a serving line. I might just be playing games with kids. OR...I might just be taking advantage of a God-moment to be a little light in the dark places of someone's broken life. It can be simple. I just have to make myself available to be used by God whenever and however he can. And I believe He will! Do you?

So for a change, be challenged not to worry about your own life, and step out toward some opportunities to shine bright that others might see the LIGHT living in you, and in turn encounter our Father in heaven!

Don't Worry, Be Light!


Aug 13, 2009

Institutional VS. Relational Motivation

Some of you may need to sit down before you read any further because I seriously doubt you'll believe your eyes . . . Ready? I never really liked school! I was so glad to finish high school. Really didn't plan to attend college. Didn't really know what I would do for a living. Being a preacher, however, was always the most prominent possibility. Problem--I didn't like school.

After graduating from high school (1974 for those who just have to know!) I visited Freed-Hardeman College (now Univeristy). After make last-minute application I was accepted. Then I got sick. The thought of having to go to school more was overwhelming. I dropped more paperwork in the mail and then decided I would not go. Ever tried to retrieve something from the Post Office once you dropped it in the box? Trust me, it is no longer your property and you can't just get it back.

When I registered for classes at FHC I remember my advisor saying, "Well that's a good schedule; it ought to keep you busy." Yuck! I didn't want to be busy in a classroom. And I didn't stay too busy; I've got the GPA to prove it. I graduated, then entered a 90-hour Master of Theology (the most demanding Master's Degree offered in any field) program at Harding Graduate School in 1978. Then I entered the Doctor of Ministry program at Harding in 1991. A lot of academic discipline for a guy who never liked school!

If you've not sat down yet, you really need to gets more shocking. Why all that education? Why do so much of something that I never really relished? First, please accept that I'm not sharing this autiobiographical insight to brag about any accomplishments; I just don't know how to make my point any better than through sharing this information. I have focused much of my life on academics because I want to understand God and Scripture as well as possible. Good enough, but not really. You see, I always felt that my salvation was conditioned upon obtaining the right information and then practicing it to the letter. Therefore, if salvation is mine it will be because I believe and practice everything correctly.

Imagine my surprise to learn that salvation is far more relational (that is, God loves me and I love him and my neighbors), than institutional (that is, get all the right information and practice it legalistically). Institutional religion cannot save; relational trust in the adequacy of God's love saves me.

Guess what? Learning more about relational faith has become a passion! Go figure.

Aug 7, 2009

The Ministry of...

Reconciliation. But what does that mean for me?

From 2 Corinthians 5:14-21...
For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
God is in the business of redemption. Each and every day he longs to restore all he has created back to whole relationship with him. On one hand we are invited to share in writing redemptive stories for our lives and the lives of others around us. On the other hand, we are not simply invited...we are EXPECTED to. For us as God's people to take on the heart and character of God, we must be a people who are excited about living redemptively. I know it can be hard. We live in a world that doesn't often cast a second glance toward the idea of redemption. But this should not be our BURDEN, instead it should be our BLESSING. I should care deeply about restoring people to relationship with God. I should care deeply about making sure relationships in and around my life are reconciled. It is God's gift to me each and every day that I might have the opportunity to call people out of the old and toward new life! If I want to chase after the heart of God, I have to remember that redemption is the rhythm to which God's heart beats!

My words, my actions, my presence, my prayers...all have the power to speak new life into the "dry bones" of people's lives. I can't be content to remain on the sidelines. I can't be satisfied to sit back in the audience and watch the story unfold. I've got to be a player. I've got to be an active participant in the story. There is a world out there ready to taste redemption in a way they may have never seen. God is always waiting for me (and you) to join him. I can't just watch...I have to write. God's love compels me!


Aug 5, 2009

A Great Cloud of Witnesses

Hebrews 12:1 is sometimes understood to mean that those who have already died are in the celestial world looking down upon earth, paying close attention to the way those still alive are living their lives. While such an interpretation is nothing akin to heresy, there is another way one might interpret the text.

After sharing a lengthy list of departed saints in chapter 11 who lived "by faith," the author then writes: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." It seems more likely to me that those still alive who have not yet completed the race are looking to those who have completed the race successfully in order to find inspiration and hope so they will endure. Therefore, those alive look to those dead and find encouragement to "run with perseverance" in order to finish the race.

Would you like to spend eternity with someone who died as a faithful believer? If so, the call for us is to look to those departed saints and consider how they lived. And ultimately, we "fix our eyes on Jesus...who that you will not grow weary and lose heart" (Heb. 12:2-3).

Think about it. Grandparents and parents, children and grandchildren, aunts and uncles, husbands and wives, friends and neighbors have run the course of faith and endured. Consequently, they are in the celestial realms as those who successfully and faithfully overcame Satan through victory that comes through Jesus. As we remember their lives we also remember how much we admire them, how much we'd like to be with them again. And we find reason to push forward.

Who has departed physical life that meant a lot to you? Who endured faithfully that you'd like to be with again? Why are these people important to you? Share a story with us of someone you love and admire who has finished the race and now you look to them for inspiration.