(A picture when I get to my own computer.)
Translation = "Merritt"
"I eee is" = "There it is"
"Waht" = "Milk"
"Uhhdee" = "Mason" (We call him Buddy-Buddy at home.)
"Doo" = "Shoes"
"Uhhhhhhhhhhhh pee" = "Up" ( I know that uppie is pretty common, but Molly holds out the first syllable longer than most)
"No, N0, No, No" = "No thank you daddy."
"Mine" = "If you don't give that back to me right this minute I am going to scream at the top of my lungs until you give in."
(A picture when I get to my own computer.)
I just saw this truck on 12th avenue with the back window covered in stickers. This guy was obviously politically to the right. And it was just such a Hanford moment. Shocked right into my reality. Here's a couple of the lines that I remember.
Let's keep all three!"
"I love animals!
"Gun control means
use two hands."
Hanford, at its earthy best!
The opinions in the preceding post do not necessarily reflect those of this network. They are solely the expression of thier author...
I recently met with my friend Jonny Bartlett for coffee. (I love to have "meetings.") I knew going in that this time of hanging out over a brew (not a brewsky) would be less than happy for me. I had received an e-mail the day before from Jonny explaining that he and his wife Jessica would be looking for a new congregation to call home.
Now, I take all such situations personally and it is always very hard. This was hard because of the totality of the journey that we shared as epic together and because of the value I placed on our personal connection. Jonny and Jessica were one of the very first people to join the epic launch team beside the original 6. Rhonda, I, Jonny, Jessica, Merritt, and Mason sat in my dad's living room and dreamed of what worship at epic could be like. We drempt of a common commitment to serving those in need (particularly in recovery) in our community. We drempt of a place where friendships were the core of ministry instead of a happy by-product. It was a great night of connection that has remained strong in my heart ever since.
Jonny and Jessica have been instrumental in many things at epic. Here are just a few: sound technology, community service - the Kindness Faire, community service - KCAO, community service - Hannah's House, community service - Champions, and most obviously - the ministry of worship. With skill, dedication, and heart they have moved the ministry of worship forward... and epic forward is so many ways.
Jonny and Jessica, Thanks for you. You gave God your lives and us yourselves. We are grateful.
Jonny and I had a great "meeting" (haha). Our friendship seems strong as always. Our hopes are common hopes and we still share a lot of dreams. I am sure that there will be a lot of Kingdom business to share wherever Jonny, Jessica, and the handsome Nathan Bartlett land.
If you are part of epic and get the chance, tell Jonny and Jessica thanks!
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:19-21).
I came across this turn of phrase that will very likely (almost certainly) find its way into my sermons sometime in the future. I hope that it launches you on a spiritually reflective moment, as it did me.
1 birth, 2 deaths
2 births, 1 death
Check out what the Bible says about these ideas.
I recently was driving around town in here in Mayberry, when I came upon a church sign. I proceeded to voice activate my cell phone (because it is illegal in Mayberry to use your phone without that ear piece too). I called my friend Scott to tell him that he may need to speak on the following Sunday morning because I needed to be at another church's gathering.
I have always taken the "they will teach it in school" argument with a grain of salt (or less). This is pretty interesting though. Read this article.
I know many people have differing opinions about the role of Christianity in this issue and particularly how political we should become in regard to the issue.
Well, being at Starbucks as much as I am, we have had plenty of casual conversations and enjoyed each of them. But it has mostly remained a casual relationship with friendly and fun banter over the counter while he brews and mixes, and I salivate and pace.
"God has two dwellings: one is in Heaven, and the other in a meek and thankful heart." Isaak Walton (1593-1683)
Meek - humbly patient;
docile under provocation from others;
(obsolete usage) kind, gentle.
Thankful - Aware and appreciative of a benefit;
expressive of gratitude.
I pray this day finds your heart worthy of God's presence. I'm working on mine.
OK, so it's been months since I last posted on the blog. Sorry. And I usually avoid political positioning, since it is usually divisive instead of transformational. (I AM STILL AVOIDING POLITICAL POSITIONING.) So, I'm sorry to put myself back on the blog with politics, but I think you'll enjoy it.
I recently came across this article written by a liberal in support of proposition 8. The reason I resonate with this journalist is because he and I have a shared value: children. Check it out! In a discussion that (among Christians) has become about the personal rights of consenting adults and a governments role in regulating morality, here is another take on the topic that forces Christians to consider the role of government not in light of those who are able to exercise their rights with confidence, but the government's role in protecting the welfare (the most significant right of all) of those who are not able to exercize their rights or their voice with confidence.
1. Prayer for the revelation of Jesus’ beauty and the Bride’s destiny unto transforming our heart. “… the Father of glory, may give to you the Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His Calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us” (Eph. 1:17-19)
2. Prayer for the release of supernatural strength in the heart unto experiencing God’s emotions. “… that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height – to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Eph. 3:16-19)
3. Prayer for God’s love to abound in our heart resulting in discernment and righteousness. “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Phil. 1:9-11)
4. Prayer to know God’s will, to be fruitful in ministry and strengthened by intimacy with God. “We…do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may have a walk worthy of the Lord fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.” (Col. 1:9-12)
5. Prayer for the unity within the church across a city. “Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus.” (Rom. 15:5-7)
6. Prayer to be filled with supernatural joy, peace and hope. “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may around in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Rom. 15:13)
7. Prayer for Israel to be saved through Jesus. “My heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.” (Rom. 10:1)
8. Prayer to be enriched with the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit leading unto righteousness. “I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 1:4-8)
9. Prayer for the release of apostolic ministry and to abound in love and holiness. “… we rejoice for your sake before our God, night and day praying exceedingly that we may see your face and perfect what is lacking in your faith? Now may our God and Father Himself and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way to you. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all…so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.” (1 Thes. 3:9-13)
10. Prayer to be equipped and prepared to receive the fullness of God’s destiny for the church. “Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power, that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Thes. 1:11-12)
11. Prayer for the Word to increase by the release of Holy Spirit power. “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you, and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one. And we have confidence in the Lord concerning you, both that you do and will do the things we command you. Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ.” (2 Thes. 3:1-5)
12. Prayer for impartation of Holy Spirit boldness through the release of signs and wonders. “… they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: ‘Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea…The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against His Christ. For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done. Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to your servants that with all boldness they may speak your word, by stretching out your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.’ And when they had prayed the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.” (Acts 4:24-31)
Wow! God had the message picked out in my notes even before we got to the gathering. It is so cool that all the notes included in this set of notes didn't get used, but God still had a central theme that He accomplished on Sunday morning. I was only paritally tuned into what God was doing before we all got together. Thank you all for being there and bringing the Holy Spirit with you. When we are together with the Holy Spirit working in us, God is more visilbe to us all.
Here's the wordle.
Wow, I have to say that I was really excited when I realized that God actively at work during my message. And I wish I would have tuned into it much earlier. I feel like I did a set-up for 2 points and God only had one to make. I feel like I left my friends all hangin without a point 2, even though I set them up for one. But, my reason for preaching is ALWAYS to facilitate our encounter with our living God. That is why I felt the freedom to stop when I did. God had met us and to go this other direction would have diminished his activity among us. It was time to stop. Clearly!
But here is what I wanted to say and how I wanted to conclude our series on Joseph. In addition to what God showed us about worship through change (Jacob's example), Joseph offers us an amazing picture of the messiah - Jesus.
Joseph is given more space in Genesis than any other person. More than Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob. Add to this scenario that Joseph was not Jacob's first-born. He was the first-born of the wife that Jacob first chose... But he had older brothers. Reuben would have been the her-apparent and Joseph's is the life that is recorded.
I love the point that Scott made during the week I was in Colorado, that Joseph is one of the only great heroes of the Bible of whom no transgression is recorded. Joseph is obviously a man set apart.
Joseph is a Jesus picture in a few ways.
He redeemed his own. Just like the savior of Jacob's family was a member of the family, the savior of the human family is a member of the family: the God-man, Jesus.
Joseph was rejected by his own. And then redeemed the very ones who rejected him. John one uses those words to describe Jesus.
Joseph made himself unmistakably known to the family he would redeem. I love thew way that the gospel writers describe with great detail the revelation that Jesus made to his community and the certainty he provided. John's 7 signs and 7 messages. Matthew's connection of Jesus to the messianic prophecies from the OT... and on and on.
Are we reading the Bible backwards to look at such similarities? Are we seeing just what we want to see? Certainly the the Jewish method of interpreting scripture would say NO. The book of Hebrews shows us this long-standing Jewish method as it describes Jesus as a "priest like Melchizidek," referring to a incident in the life of Joseph's great grandpa. Paul (a classically trained Rabbi) likens Jesus to Moses. The Bible itself teaches us to look for patterns of the messiah shown to us in the Bible's OT leaders. So it is absolutely CORRECT to look for such patterns. It is wholly Biblical.
Why did God do that... create pictures of Jesus in the life of faithful people long before Jesus would come to earth? I believe that God gave us these examples for several reasons. 1st, the group of people who originally received these stories were largely unable to read and needed to learn things they could memorize. Narratives are more memorable than lists, facts, rules and precepts. 2nd, examples are unarguable where as a philosophic approach is very arguable. 3rd, it brings a unity to the text of God's revelation (the Bible) that brings credence to His revelation there.
Anyhow, this is what I wanted to say on Sunday. Obviously, I felt like God was finished without this, but I still wanted to say it. So now you have it.
I thought I should get the final word on blessing from Jesus. Here it is. Pretty different than what we think of as blessing. You might want to read 2 posts down before you read this one for better context... or you might want to throw caution to the wind.
When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:
"You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
"You're blessed when you feel you've lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
"You're blessed when you're content with just who you are—no more, no less. That's the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can't be bought.
"You're blessed when you've worked up a good appetite for God. He's food and drink in the best meal you'll ever eat.
"You're blessed when you care. At the moment of being 'care-full,' you find yourselves cared for.
"You're blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
"You're blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That's when you discover who you really are, and your place in God's family.
"You're blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God's kingdom.
"Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don't like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble. (Matthew 5:1-12, the Message)
It's pretty interesting that Jesus said this about blessing right when he was getting popular. It's as if He was making it clear that just because he could heal and do miracles, he was not a preacher of prosperity. If we put that together with the rich young ruler.... well!
By the way, hi out there to Lyle and Marlene Bruce. They were my 6th grade Sunday school teachers for whom I first memorized these verses. I saw them on Saturday at Jordan and Sarah's awesome wedding. They are cool!
Here is this week's wordle.
I loved this message. It seemed to bring application to the inspiration that God gave during last Sunday's worship gathering. Last week I could see people being moved by the Holy Spirit as I spoke. And last week's message was really so simple (go figure!). And this week, I could tell that people were anxious for more from God... and that He was delivering more. He was delivering an intellectual handle on what He had done deep in our spirits the week previous.
This Sunday was fraught with spiritual attack. (Oh, I know some of you are uncomfortable with that term... however when it is obvious that circumstances both spiritual and physical are stacking up against something that God is doing in you or through you, you have to put 2 & 2 together and come up with the legitimate answer. Check it out. The weekend was overbooked. On Friday there were relationship issues rising in the congregation. There were difficult pastoral responsibilities needing immediate attention. Unexpected out-of-town guests (we were really escited to get to see them) called to say they would be coming through town on Sunday and wanted to visit. The shelves in the garage fell off the wall, loading the garage floor with our camping gear, gardening utensils, ice chests, and more. And we were very short-handed for set-up on Sunday morning.
So, I am sure that out there is someone to whom God was ministering powerfully during the gathering. I have heard reports from 2.
HERES THE WORDLE
Well there sure are a lot more words in that thing this week!
Well, one thing that I had in my notes and that time just did not allow for on Sunday was in relation to the idea of finances and blessing. The idea that finances can be a curse... I mentioned King David's affluence and the wives he had because of his attempts to gain affluence, AND the subsequent downfall of his own family as a result. The rest of the thought goes along these lines.
In America, money seems to be the key blessing by which all other blessings are measured. But in the New Testament GREED is called a form of idolatry. (It is hard to get any lower in your affronts to God than idolatry!) It seems to my mind pretty ridiculous for us to assume that God would use as a primary form of blessing - something that rewards that kind of despicable sin. Now, I do believe that in some cases, there are financial blessings!!! I also believe there are financial challenges (I was going to say 'curses' but I'm not sure what I think about that yet). I think financial blessings are more rare than financial challenges.
I have, in fact, discovered in my life that many times my blessings and my curses have the very same name....
Another part of my thoughts on 'blessing' goes back to what is taught to us over and over again in the Psalms. Namely that our blessings are our children. We have recently discussed this in our Life Group as we have been studying one small section of the Psalms called the Psalms of Accent. When they are babies we think of them as blessings, and then we seem to get caught up in the job of "training them up in the way they should go" and the idea of blessing becomes more and more removed from our relationship with our children. Ohhhh, we will always say that they are blessings... for sure. And I think that we genuinely believe they are blessings. BUT, we focus on them more as work and our financial focus remains more squarely in the realm of blessing.
And what about poor people. OR, what about lower middle class people who don't choose to better their socio-economic station. Are they not blessed? Are they not blessed because they have learned like Paul to be "content in whatever his circumstance"? OR, can we affirm what Bruce Wilkinson taught me in his big little book, THE PRAYER OF JABEZ; that blessing is simply the state of being right where God wants you to be, right when He wants you there?
It is so convenient to look for a blessing to be something tangible, something we can see, name, touch, own, control. But it is much more Biblical to take an eternal and less tangible view of such things.
Well, I have a couple of other thoughts brewing... I hope to have time tomorrow to share them. I'll get the wordle up quickly tonight. But right now I have a meeting.
Thanks for reading my friends. I miss some of you. I love all of you. (I miss those who are far. That wasn't a slam on some people who I'm glad to be away from...)
Here is this week's wordle. I love this thing.
I was pretty excited to see how this week's message would turn out since the notes were filled with summaries from so many different stories from the Bible. God is the biggest word of all.
This guy flew across an entire state in a lawn chair attached to a bunch of balloons. I can't begin to tell you the number days I drempt of doing this as a kid. I have to say, I'm a bit jealous of him.
"My wife works at the City Market," Hetz said. "She called and said, 'The balloon guy in the lawn chair just flew by the market.'
"We go outside to look, and lo and behold, there he is. He's flying by probably 100 to 200 feet off the ground.
"He takes his BB gun and shoots some balloons to lower himself to the ground. When he hit the ground he released all the little tiny balloons. People were racing down the road with cameras. They were all talking and laughing."
Couch covered about 235 miles in about nine hours after lifting off at dawn from his gas station riding in a green lawn chair rigged with an array of more than 150 giant party balloons.
Couch, clutching a big mug of coffee, kissed his wife and kids goodbye, then patted their shivering Chihuahua, Isabella, on the head.
After spilling off some cherry-flavored Kool-Aid that served as ballast, Couch got a push from the ground crew so he could clear light poles and soared over a coffee cart and across U.S. Highway 20 into a bright blue sky.
"If I had the time and money and people, I'd do this every weekend," Couch said before getting into the chair. "Things just look different from up there. You've moving so slowly. The best thing is the peace, the serenity.
"Originally, I wanted to do it because of boyhood dreams. I don't know about girls, but I think most guys look up in the sky and wish they could ride on a cloud."
Couch's wife, Susan, called him crazy: "It's never been a dull moment since I married him."
In 2006, Couch had to parachute out after popping too many balloons. And last year he flew 193 miles to the sagebrush of northeastern Oregon, short of his goal.
"I'm not stopping till I get out of state," he said.
To that end, he ordered more balloons. Dozens of volunteers wearing fluorescent green T-shirts that said "Dream Big" filled latex balloons 5 feet in diameter, attached them to strings and tied clusters of six balloons each to a tiny carabiner clip.
Each balloon gives four pounds of lift. The chair was about 400 pounds and Couch and his parachute 200 pounds more.
"I'd go to 30,000 feet if I didn't shoot a balloon down periodically," Couch said.
For that job, he carried a Red Ryder BB gun and a blow gun equipped with steel darts. He also had a pole with a hook for pulling in balloons, a parachute in case anything went wrong, a handheld Global Positioning System device with altimeter, a satellite phone, and two GPS tracking devices. One was one for him, the other for the chair, which got away in the wind as he landed last year.
For food he carried some boiled eggs, jerky and chocolate.
Couch flew hang gliders and skydived before taking up lawn-chair flights. He estimated the rig cost about $6,000, mostly for helium. Costs were defrayed by corporate sponsors.
Here's Sunday's message wordle.
Click on the image to see it closer up and to check out how wordle works.
I loved our worship gathering this week. Everyone giving input and everyone contributing to the message that God had. I have already heard that things that were said by others had impact on people who were there to listen. Thanks to all who took part in the discussion.
When I was a kid, we would do this kind of monthly (or so) Sunday evening worship service in which people could just stand up and give a testimony. It was kind of cool and a great way to worship. I think those went out of style in modern churches because the testimonies were always so random in subject and seemed like an interference instead of part of the plan...
So, I mentioned that I hadn't previously been involved in US activities directly related to the homeless and underprivileged.
This is Kirk. He loved the roof. For more reasons than I should mention. But Kirk organized this trip and his excitement for serving carried the rest of us along in many ways. Kirk Rocks!!!
Here I am on the roof. I have no desire to avoid roofs. I do have the desire to avoid manual labor in 115 degree heat. Even so, the day's work went quickly. It was fun and rewarding. Take note of my shoe...
In 115 degrees, balck tar paper retains all that heat and may conduct even more. My shoe was a victim of the tar paper as the sole of my shoe slowly melted off... Little by little, less and less of the sole hung on. By the end of the day, it was more work to keep the sole on my shoe than it was to nail the paper to the roof. I should have climbed down and duct taped the sole back on, but I was afraid that the cool temperature of the ground would have kept me from climbing back up.
Daddy got a new pair of shoes!!!
Here are some pics of the fun we had after a full day's work. We only had late night for fun, since we worked days at H4H and evening in one of the shelters.
This is Debra on Fremont street. On the strip or here in Old Vegas, Debra kept mentioning how much she had missed on her previous trips to Vegas (before becoming a devoted follower of Christ) because she had imbibed a bit too much alcohol, or because she never left the gaming tables except to go upstairs to sleep. It was fun to see her nearly child-like exuberance.
This is a shot I took on Fremont Street. I just like it!
I found this internet tool called 'wordle' (look it up, it's kind of fun!). It takes a text of your choosing and organizes the words into a 'word cloud' that emphasizes the most used words in the text by their size in the 'cloud.' I thought it would be kind of fun to see what I talk about in this visual format so I plugged in the notes from last Sunday's message. Of course, I stray from my notes so consistently that I'm not sure how realistic this representation is.
I can't figure out how to get the image bigger. If you click on the image, you will redirected to the site that created the image and can see it close up. You can also explore the site. Here a link to a guy who has wordled all the books of the New Testament. LINK
On the missions trip. Packing up to leave. Just a quick thought for you before I start for home. I'll give you more details later.
What a great trip. My first experiences with a homeless missions trip and a US missions trip. got to work for Habitat for Humanity and have always wanted to (well relatively always... I was born before Habitat for Humanity... In fact I remember the Carter presidency with some vivid recollection.... hmmmm!) Also served in a rescue mission and in a homeless feeding ministry.
When Kirk Warmerdam dreamed up the trip it was a trip to serve. Just get involved with what God is already doing and serve those who are in need and those who are already committed to what God is doing. Vegas became the destination. And Kirk did an amazing job of finding places to serve. I joined the trip half way through.
How do like that hair net look?
This was my first time working in a feeding ministry. It was great. It was more than great.
I can't say that I had a Heaven opening up moment, or that I recognized Jesus peering back at me through the eyes of someone I served. I just recognized that I was where I should be. I was in God's will. I was in the place of a Christ-FOLLOWER.
Anyhow, it's time for me to run to the airport. I'll give you more later.
I found this post on a blog I occasionally visit. It is the musing of a Christian guy who has been wondering if he should or if he wants to leave his church for a house church. He took the time to list his reasons for going to the house church and I have quoted them below.
5. My pastor hasn’t had a relationship with a non-believer in over 10
4. The leaders of my church are workaholics and I find it hard to believe they have a healthy relationship with the Lord when they don’t have the time for their family.
3. I’m sick of it being about one man. Be that the pastor, or the musician or whatever, I want to see them raising up other people and sending them out, content to have many small churches instead of one mega church.
2. There are 1,000 people who attend my church. I know 50 and only care about 20 of them. I attend a small group to go deeper with those I care about, but I have no reason to remember the name of the guy whose hand I shake between worship and the sermon.
1. There is no place to really do ministry, the leaders will not let go of control. I want to pray for people, bless people, watch out for people, be there for people. I want to be invited to do what the Lord has called me to do.
I think these thoughts reveal a lot, and give us all a good reason to evaluate what we do as Christians and how we reflect God as his church. A thought I have had recently is in regard to God calling the church his bride. That is we Christians COLLECTIVELY, not the institution, are the object of God's desire and love. I think of how human men select brides and one of the things we do subconsciously is to choose someone who makes us look good. In other words, we look for someone so beautiful, talented, witty, smart, charismatic, charming, etc. that merely by the fact that we are associated with that person we assume people will think we are somehow special enough to win that person's affections.
I want to make God look good.
What do you think about any of this?
I found this T-shirt that says "I make good babies" several months ago. It was more expensive than I wanted to pay at the time, but I just couldn't forget about it. I think it really says what I am most proud of (my children - the product of a genetic pool for which I own absolutely no personal responsibility) and I wanted it. So I went back to get it and had to find the right size at an out-of-town location.
Well, I kept the shirt in my closet for a couple of months waiting for Father's day to debut the iconic statement on my chest. And on Father's Day it got just the response I knew it would. It is such a shockingly brash way of bragging on my children. No one can read the shirt without a smile if not an out loud roaring laugh.
The best response of all came from my 7 year old Merritt.
On Sunday morning upon arriving at Pioneer Middle School to set up for our worship gathering, Merritt noticed my shirt. he laughed out loud and then read the shirt aloud. I looked at him and said, "so, what do you think?" He looked at me a bit puzzled, so I asked him who my babies are. He responded correctly, "Me, Mason, and Molly." And so I asked with bravado in my voice, "So, do I make good babies?" Merritt paused for a few moments with an accusing look on his face and said, "Dad, babies come from moms."
That pretty much ended that conversation. We laughed together and got on with our Sunday morning routine.
I have attended several conferences in my time as a minister. And thereby had many opportunities to hear some amazing Christian leaders share their insight as well as their personal stories.
At least 6 times I have heard (or I might have read it in a book or two) stories from these leaders describing encounters they have had on airplanes, in which they shared the gospel with someone sitting next to them. Well, time and time again, I have left those conferences determined to be bold and witness on my plane ride home. And time and time again, I am either sitting next to another minister leaving the same conference (and feeling the same disappointment that I am feeling - having no opportunity to be used as a witness) or sitting next to someone with such an unsettling personality that the desire for any kind of conversation is quickly extinguished.
Well recently I have travelled quite a bit by train. This past week, on a train trip, with no preconceived notion of Christian witnessing brownie points and no ideas of keeping up with the accomplished leaders I have come to respect, God put a witnessing opportunity right next to me. And it was OUTSTANDING.
I was disembarking from the Amtrak bus in Bakersfield, awaiting my train connection. I selected a bench on which to wait for train boarding that had only one other occupant. I sat near him, making a conciliatory nod and grunted a "hi." He was tattooed on most of what could be seen with some tattoos that I know are jailhouse tattoos. He was smoking and asked if I minded his smoke. I said no and minded my own business. After a few minutes I thought it was appropriate to ask about his trip and make some small talk. After a few cryptic answers to my overt niceties, he divulged that he had been in jail and was headed to a halfway house. It was then time to board the train and after introductions, I thought our conversation was over. I felt content, having been kind and maybe even encouraging to someone.
When seated on the train I could see where Roy was seated ahead of me. And I had an overwhelming sense of need to continue our conversation. I sat praying and waiting for the train to move and arguing within myself about how this guy was going to think I was awfully strange to approach him again. Then when our tickets had been collected I went up to Roy and invited him to join me for a bite to eat in the cafe car. He quickly accepted my invitation and we had a deeply spiritual conversation in which I got to tell him about God's love and plan. I told him about Jesus on the cross and the guarantee of NEW life in Christ. Roy revealed the story of his birth mother's abandonment, his adoptive mother's death and his life in the California Youth Authority and subsequent life in and out of jail.
It was awesome. As we approached my stop, Roy reached across the table, grabbed my hand and said, "pray for me before you go." I did. I gave him some of my contact information and was sorry to leave him.
How strangely wonderful that what was once an obligation, or a spiritual trophy to me had instantly transformed into a privilege ordained by God alone. I'm still brewing on the impact of it all.
Finally, I have a story of a travelling evangelism encounter. And finally, I understand it for what it is: God's divine appointment between a believer and someone on the way to belief.
Well, Sunday was very exciting to me. It was one of those Sunday mornings when God's activity in our midst was obvious to me.
I have learned that God is always active and never fails to work among His people when we gather together to honor Him. So many times I have left a worship gathering down on myself or frustrated with the particular short-comings that came together on that particular Sunday; only to hear from someone (or multiple someones) that God ministered to them in specific and powerful ways during that worship gathering.
Anyhow, back to this past Sunday. Well, it was a Sunday I was excited about because it is one of my favorite topics in the Christian world: connecting with God and being transformed by the supernatural encounter with His Spirit. But it was also a Sunday when 3 crucial members of our Sunday morning team were going to be gone. They are the guys who handle the bulk of the technology. It was also one of those Sundays when some of the preparation of items for the gathering wasn't ready for completion until late on Saturday (and since I AM NOT a night person) or early Sunday morning.I really didn't recognize how this strain was building up in me until Sunday morning as I was preparing to leave. I was just feeling a struggle and very anxious... very.
Well, I should have realized that this was a spiritual struggle more than a physical one. Indeed, when I arrived, the set up of the worship space went very smoothly and we were ready in near record time. My anxiety began to lift. As I sat in the back of the worship space, reflecting on my notes one last time and praying there, I began to feel very in tune with God's Spirit and ready to begin.
The crowd was on board from the beginning of the opening video. It was one of those gatherings where I could feel their hearts following my words. It was a gathering in which I was aware that as my public prayers were being released to Heaven, they were joined by the personal prayers of those with me, instead of simply agreed to. As the season of musical worship began, our congregation was together in spirit instead of just together in the gym.
We had several guests at our worship gathering as well. After the gathering they were greeted, had prolonged conversations before leaving, and even went to lunch with some epic regulars. It was Christian community at its very best!!!
These are the Sundays my dreams are made of.
What's so exiting! I believe that epic grows and as more people are launched into their roles of ministry we will see this be the norm instead of a random confluence of factors. I'm excited because we had a win. We had several. We got Christian community right. We got worship right. And if we worked on our spiritual self this week, we got growth right too. THAT'S EXCITING!
OK, so we have tried unsuccessfully twice over the past 2 weeks to live for 5 straight days without spending any money on anything but gas. It seems like it shouldn't be that hard. I mean, buy the groceries in advance and go for it.
Ohhh, the reason we are doing this is to experiment with habits that build deeper spirituality for Christ-followers. We have practiced prayer in a couple of ways, fasting, solitude and silence, scripture, and simplicity. We have not had time for many others in our efforts, but this is a great start.
Well, back to simplicity. We were challenged (by me - the teacher of the class) to eliminate all of the little money spending luxuries we encounter on a daily basis, to clear out more room for God in our days. Well, last week I tried to start out and after 2 days failed because of our preparation for Molly's birthday party and a graduation celebration for our good friend Darin Parson. (Congratulations to Darin on acheiving your Masters in educational administration... I'm not sure what the technical name of the degree is. Sorry if I botched it up somehow.) So, after the party, I thought I would start up again on Monday, soon realizing that in our focus on Molly's party, we were not ready for Rhonda's mom's birthday on tuesday. My brother-in-law and sister-in-law cmae to town for the celebration, so there was not only gift and card buying, but restaurant dining as well.
So, it's Friday of the second week since the assignment and I have completed 3 days which will be interupted this evening by another graduation party being held at a restaurant. So, 3 days it will be.
Here is what happened during my 3 days. I exercized each day. I had quiet time with God each day. I had productive work, time with the kids, and home cooked food. Sounds like a good life.
Since simplicity helps us keep our priorities in tact, our relationship with God grows because He is our priority. The problem is that the complications in life are in and of themselves good things. Sometimes godly things. And our meaningful relationships with others bring complexity into our lives as well.
What does simplicity mean in our culture of multi-tasking, multi-media, multi-vitimins, multi-multi...?
It means keeping the main thing, the main thing... and letting other things go unattended if necessary. It means not letting the complexities of other people's lives complicate ours. It means giving the gift of friendship instead of useless trinkets. It means letting parties be gatherings instead of productions (Dang!!! I like the production parties A LOT.)
In my head, I'm justifying my penchant for big parties! I'll let you know how I do with that!
While at the little league playoffs, I met a family that had attended epic for a while. I met half of Hanford there in fact. But to my point... In a brief catching up conversation in which the family shared with me their journey to another worshipping community and their efforts to make connections there, they shared that they are in the midst of the adoption process, through a California state adoption. We talked a bit about the details of that, and I shared that Rhonda and I hoped to adopt in the future because we feel like we have plenty of love to share and see it as a ministry opportunity since Jesus made care for orphans a primary responsiblity in the Christian community. (As a side note... the future is quite a ways off... Our child raising plate is quite full at the moment with our three very young children.)
In that conversation the father in the family I was visiting with shared that he would really like to help other families get through the adoption process with more ease than he and his wife experienced in their attempts to adopt. I'm sure he saw my jaw drop and then I shared with him that one of our visions for epic as a serving ministry was to collect funds and help people through the process of adoption because it is a Christian necessity to care for orphans. And that Christians have the best kind of love to share with needy kids.
There was an instant God moment taking place. We both knew that this was the fulfillment of a vision God had given and a purpose God was developing in us. I love it when these things come together. In fact these moments have become my favorite moments in ministry. They are what keep me going.
I find these moments so powerful that I have been very resistant to over-planning the steps of epic's development just so God can provide these moments. Moments when His visions meet up with his servants and they powerfully come to life in our church. This is so much better than guilt-motivated recruiting. When someone connects with their purpose through their spiritual gifts and their God-given guidance, it's ministry that lasts and succeeds. Middle School Ministry at epic is an example of this, Debra's notorious ministry to the underprivileged, our High School Intern, Growth Classes, and so much more are example of this at work for us. I just love it.
If you are part of epic and have a ministry that you can see God developing... tell someone. We want to make it happen. If you are a Christ-follwer in any worshipping community and have this development happening... tell someone. I experience Gos so much more when I am active in ministry than I do anywhere else. You will too!
Have you ever wondered why you keep looking for new things to bring fulfillment... why what brought you staisfaction just a couple of months earlier just became boring and uninteresting?
I have noticed that this situation displays itself in hundreds of differnt ways in my life and in the lives of those who I counsel in my ministry. In fact it seems to be one of the core issues of life: that true fulfillment seems illusive or fleeting.
I recently read from John Piper in my preparation for this week's message this description of our problem. Mr. Piper states that there are 3 core problems witho our attempts to find true satisfaction. 1) The things we use for satisfaction lack the power to provide the satisfaction we seek since they are created things. 2) We lack the power to enjoy the things that God created to the full extent of the value they do posess. 3) We search for satisfaction in temporary things and so they provide temporary satisfaction.
I found this analysis very helpful to me. This Sunday we are studying our likeness to God and the participation in His glorious nature that He intends for us. And part of the picture of sharing in His glorious nature is our abolition of lesser things in our lives. How often I forfeit the true fulfillment of sharing in His glory for things that are incapable of providing fulfillment and that I am incapable of fully appreciating.
OK, Here is my new, new blog.
I think this will be the best incarnation of my blog so far. Finally you comments will be easily allowed and I will enjoy the more dynamic format. I may even blog more often than before.
Thanks for checking in. I will hopefully have something to say in the next couple of days. As for now... Its Sunday afternoon and I've said about all I can say for one day.