Friday, November 30, 2007

The Soft Spot

Nothing fixes a thing so intensely in the memory as the wish to forget it.
- Michel de Montaigne

Then Peter came to him [Jesus] and asked, 'Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?'

'No, not seven times,' Jesus replied, 'but seventy times seven.'

- Matthew 18:21-22

Montaigne reminds us of how hard it is to forget past offenses against us. Peter reminds us of something we certainly know -- we grow weary of forgiving those who repeatedly bruise and wound us.

On many an occasion I have heard the cliche, "I can forgive, but I can't forget." Maybe you have said that yourself. Often I will respond in kind with my own cliche, "I agree, you may never be able to forget, but you can choose not to remember." For me, even though past offenses fight for renewed attention, I find I can choose not to remember. People in my life who choose not to remember my past offenses certainly help me do the same. How about you?

On the other hand, like Peter, I wonder just how many times I have to forgive a repeat offender before I: 1) Lower the boom on them. 2) Forget the offense and then just write them off. 3) Keep careful count of that seventy times seven offense limit, and then inform them, 'I no longer have to forgive you. I am now completely free to despise you, and the very air you breathe.' You know what I mean. You would love to forgive and choose not to remember, but there is this nemesis who repeatedly shows up to plunge the blade straight into the same old wound with a twist of the wrist.

Allow me to remind you of something, and here it is. If you think you are simply the victim of a serial offender, think again. Like Peter, your frustrated response may be, Lord, how often should I forgive this person. As important as it is to be quick to forgive, it is also critical to be aware that the Evil one may have discovered your point of vulnerability -- your soft spot. If this is the case, to choose not to remember, or to chose to forgive, may be an incomplete response.

Try this. Lord, my weak spot is under attack. I ask that where I am weak -- your strength will be rush. For when [where] I am weak, I believe that then [there] I am made strong.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

What Do You Think?

A great deal more failure is the result of an excess of caution than of bold experimentation with new ideas. The frontiers of the kingdom of God were never advanced by men and women of caution
-J. Oswald Sanders

The kind of thinking that will solve the world's problems will be of a different order to the kind of thinking that created those problems in the first place.
-Albert Einstein

As a man thinks in his heart, so is he. Proverbs 23:7

So . . . What are your thoughts?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Busted

Whenever I dwell for any length of time on my own shortcomings, they gradually begin to seem mild, harmless, rather engaging little things, not at all like the staring defects in other people's characters.
- Margaret Halsey

Insightful!

I remember Vance Havner telling the story about the woman who went to see a counselor. She walked into the counselor's office wearing bacon strips for earrings, and a fried egg for a hat. She sat down and said, I need to talk to you about my husband. I think he is crazy!

Margaret Halsey and the woman in Havner's story can sometimes describe us. Jesus made a similar comparison when he said, Why do you worry about the splinter in someone else's eye when there is a plank in yours? My guess is you would agree. Yeah, I'm busted too!

So what do we do?

Just stop it!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Round Trip Tickets

[The following post is one my wife wrote. It's a worthy read]


It's been ten years since I packed my mother's suitcase, helped her dress, and guided her down the front sidewalk of her home and into the back seat of a friend's car. In my pocket were our tickets--round trip--from Dallas to Boston and back again.

None of us knew how weak my mom really was, or that just over a month later, in the quiet of my living room, with Christmas tree lights sparkling and the family gathered round, she would take a flight of a different kind.

Or that ten years would pass so quickly, and with each year, the pain of her loss would ease.

That is, until the marker of time--one year, two years, five years, ten--brings it back, fresh and raw. And I am once again walking down that concrete walk. Only this time, with every step, I know we won't be needing the return tickets after all.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Get Real!

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
- The Sermon on the Mount.

Jesus spoke to them at once. 'Don't be afraid,' he said. 'Take courage! I am here!'
- Mark 6:50

After Jesus fed the 5 thousand, he insisted that his disciples get into a boat and make their way to Bethsaida -- He would catch up with them later. He lingered with the crowds, said good-byes and sent them home, then retreated to the hills. In darkness and solitude he communed with his Father, praying through the night into the early morning hours. He was fully aware of his trainees' predicament. They were straining every muscle as they struggled against the wind and waves, trying to get to the further shore.

Jesus let them struggle for hours, and then around 3 a.m. he descended the hilly terrain, and in the darkness made his way to the lake below. Stepping across the threshold that separated land from water, he began to walk the peaks and valleys of the tumultuous waves. The foaming cauldron did not swallow him, and he steadily shrank the distance between him and the bobbing, rolling boat. The disciples caught a glimpse of him, and an even a deeper fear than the raging storm gripped them -- they believed Jesus was a ghost!

In retelling the story, the gospel writer Mark gives us a P.S. that explains why fear filled their hearts(51-52). We are told that in a matter of a few short hours Christ's hand-picked leaders had forgotten the miracles of the loaves. Their faulty memory was the result of calloused hearts. They could not see Jesus. They could not redefine reality.

Jesus' response to their terror is quoted at the top of this post. If you think about it, he told those Building Blocks of his future church, Reality is not as you see it. Jesus told them that the circumstances he engineered were not for the purpose of spawning fear, but opportunities to display courage. Yet their false interpretation of the situation paralyzed their faith.

We are reminded that only a heart purified by faith can see the deeper reality of our ever-changing circumstances -- blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Reality cannot be seen until our hearts are cleansed through the words Jesus speaks to our circumstances every time, "Don't be afraid, instead take courage. I am here!"

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Here's Your Sign!

Set up road signs; put up guideposts. Take note of the highway, the road that you take. Jeremiah 31:21

You could probably tell anyone where every STOP sign is in your daily commute. It is the one sign that demands our attention. You miss that one and it could cost you a fine or even be fatal. But you also pass many signs, such as: MERGE, YIELD, ONE WAY, DO NOT ENTER, DIVIDED HIGHWAY, SOFT SHOULDER, NO SHOULDER, LANE ENDS, and numerous street signs. You are so familiar with them you barely give them notice. You just cruise along oblivious to the many other signs.

Then there are those temporary signs: DETOUR, CONSTRUCTION, BUMP, SINGLE LANE, DO NOT PASS, REDUCE SPEED, and others. Those signs are meant to grab your attention. They are alerting you to change your routine.

I believe Jeremiah is talking about the latter group of signs -- the temporary ones. Signs that God sets up along the highway of life. He is alerting us that our routine needs to be broken, and we need to make an adjustment. I must admit that at times I have blatantly ignored the alerts or innocently missed them because I was not paying attention. How about you -- missed any? Those signs are important. We need to learn to watch for God's cues, lest He have to do a Jeff Foxworthy (see comments) and say, Here's your sign!

God Will Make This Happen

Always be praying, Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22

There are some things that you cannot separate from, or abandon, if you are going to journey with the Spirit, the perpetual joy giver. There will never be an always if there is always a never. What do I mean? Paul says you cannot make joy the basis of prayer, instead, you must make prayer the basis of joy. He says that God is always, and in every circumstance, pulling us toward himself in prayer. Those who belong to Christ Jesus know that it is a battle to remain prayer that keeps us hopeful and joyful. That last statement seems contradictory. In essence, to maintain joy we must fight through uncomfortable circumstances.

To help us do that, Paul also profiles some of the partners we cannot welcome along on this road trip, and he is blunt. Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. In that statement we are promised that the Holy Spirit has a word for us in every circumstance -- a word of comfort or direction -- a word from God -- and we can stifle them. Those words may be prophetic. In that sense we are reminded that the turn around in our circumstances lies ahead -- the relief is not immediate. We can find joy in what is coming.

But we are also warned, Test every thing that is said. Why? There will also be things spoken (and you can be swayed to believe that they are a word from God) that would rob your joy. How do we test those words? Ask yourself, are they in agreement with God's word? Do they agree in your spirit with the promises of the Holy Spirit? Keep in mind that there are dark spirits trying to make God's word say what they want it to say. But the truth is, God's word still only says what it says. Misspoken advice can kill your spirit but never lift it. And, Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil. Let me paraphrase: Hold on to -- and keep holding on to good. Stay away from -- and continue to stay from the evil, evil whose intent is to dislodge you from your place of joy.

With those things in place Paul says, Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. God will make this happen, for he who calls you [to these disciplines] is faithful.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Illuminated Day

The city had no need of sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light . . . and the nations shall walk in its light . . . there shall be no night there.
- The Revelation of Jesus Christ

Temperatures this morning are just right to sit in the back yard before the full light of day. Squirrels have already punched the time clock and are scurrying around with their usual frenetic energy. Instead of their silly and playful routine of racing around their treetop highways, this day, all hustling is vertical and intentional. Shortened days and chilly mornings have kicked their instincts into overdrive, and they are wedging small branches into the crotch of the the big oak tree to construct a high rise penthouse, and lay in food stores to get them through the winter.

A new phase of a new day arrives. Like a glowing hot air balloon trying to break free of gravity, the sun is lifting above the horizon. Leaves of multi-colored trees light up like torches. Florescent flames of orange, yellow, red, and gold ignite everything, but consume nothing. The cheerful brightness of the morning sends last remaining night shadows to the other side of the world.

Yes. The blackness of the night will return. So will the Son.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Faith And Moral Goodness

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?
- James, New Testament Elder

Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much life. Aim above morality. Be not simply good; be good for something.
- Henry David Thoreau

I ran across Thoreau's quote yesterday and it immediately brought the words from the book of James to mind. The two quotes: One from an early New Testament Elder; And one from a philosopher/transcendentalist. James says that the Faith found in Christ is life giving. James asks, What good is a faith that does not work?

Thoreau talks about morality and says that people rob themselves by confusing morality with being good. He says that real morality is good for something.

When faith and morality exist only as concepts they neither give life or produce goodness. Is it any wonder that so many can see no purpose in becoming a Christ follower? When communities of faith become lifeless, and in essence, their moral goodness does nothing, they are adrift in dangerous waters with no power.

Friday, November 16, 2007

From The Pit-To The Prison. How Come?

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. - Joseph, son of Jacob

"Potiphar put Joseph in prison, but God was putting Joseph in position." I wrote those words in 2002. I had been doing a study on Joseph's life. According to Joseph, God was once again working both sides of the street in his life. Meaning that God was as involved with his being in the cistern in the desert as He was in Joseph's celebrity in Egypt.

The time line of Joseph's story reveals that prior to being sold into slavery he could not have had a whole lot of spiritual training to prepare him for the hardships he would face. Probably far less than is available to most of us in our day. Yet if you look at every situation in which Joseph found himself, he handled adversity like the maturest of saints. I have to be honest, I have asked the question, Why? Why is it that God never concluded, Joseph, you've got it. You passed the "Let's see if you will become bitter," and "Flee youthful lusts," tests." We are going to move you right on up to second in command in Egypt.

I am no Joseph. I have not handled every adversity like the maturest of saints, but there are very painful episodes in my life that are no fault of my own, that recur time and time again, and that I do handle with maturity. It seems like these events are much like going from a pit to a prison. I find myself asking God, Can't we move on from that one? I am certainly ready to. Haven't I responded to that one? The right way! Enough times?

The pain of the thorn in the flesh revisits me . . . again. And in the midst of it I can miss what Joseph really said to his ten brothers. I do no injustice to God's Word by paraphrasing the victorious declaration of the son of Jacob this way: You plotted to destroy me. Every act motivated by evil. But your actions were but God's sub-plots. Significantly disruptive epics in my life, but training ground to prepare me for the Grand Finale. Finally! I am ready to fulfill God's greatest purpose for my life!

I am not there, but I am taking another step in that direction.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Some Randomness

In order to finish his career in the Bronx Alex Rodriguez gave the Yankees a hometown discount and signed a ten year deal for a measly 275 million. Originally he was looking for 350 million. I have been awash in tears as I have mused over A-Rod's loyalty and generosity. No doubt some of you are thinking: How will he will feed his family?

Barry Bonds has just been indicted on 4 counts of perjury and 1 count of obstruction of justice. This summer Bonds broke Hank Aaron's long standing home run record, and is now the king of Clout. Barry's record and career have been under a thunder cloud of suspicion for some time due to accusations for using performance enhancing drugs -- steroids in particular.

There is a connection between Bonds and Rodriguez. Barry has the home run record, and Alex wants it. Arguably the greatest ball player of all time has his sights on setting yet another home run record by surpassing Bonds.

News of a lesser note: The last two times I hunted I was covered up in deer. One afternoon I had 13 feeding in front of me. Last Friday morning I shot a 9 point buck around 7:30. Before I lined him up in my scope, a 6 pointer and an 8 pointer passed within 15 yards of my stand.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Humbled Heart Or Hightower

LORD, my heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lofty. Neither do I concern myself with great matters. Nor with things too profound for me.
King David (Psalm 131:1)

Saying what we think gives us a wider conversational range than saying what we know.
Cullen Hightower

I am seeking to be more like David and less like Cullen Hightower. I do not want to be guilty of putting words in David's mouth, but I believe he finally found his spiritual equilibrium. The wise king implies that his heart needed, and underwent, a painful overhaul. Once driven by pride his heart is now guided by humility. Something in life humbled him -- the haughtiness is gone. His pride-less heart greatly affected the level of his gaze and his ego. David's last phrase seems to convey that he has come to a place where he made peace with God that unexplainable things can be left unexplained.

Hightower said, Saying what we think gives us a wider conversational range than saying what we know. I have been guilty of that. But not today. To carry a conversation today about things I absolutely know would leave me speechless. I am speechless. Life has delivered a skull ringing blow. My heart is humbled. My gaze and ego lowered because God has put me in a place where I must make peace with unexplainable things He has chosen to leave unexplained.

I am depending on God's grace, goodness, mercy, and loving kindness. God is fearfully mysterious.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Breaking Or Beginning A Legacy

For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who keep My commandments. Exodus 20:5-6

I brought the message for both services this morning at Golden Acres Baptist Church. Both services were full. I focused on the above Scripture.

This Scripture in Exodus describes two legacies that are ours to leave when we leave this world. First, God tells us that there are those who hate Him. I know -- those are strong words. Yet, if you read the verses in context, God says that people set up idols in there lives -- things that take His rightful place. In effect God becomes Persona non Grata. Often we attribute this severe warning about idol worship to heathens in the remote places of world. However, to do so is to make a grave mistake. God drills deeper and tells us that our decision to replace Him with a lesser god can be passed on to generation after generation. Our legacy of disregard will effect our children, and our children's children.

Then there is a second legacy -- the legacy left by those who love God and seek to live in the orbit of His commands. God speaks some of His most encouraging words in the entire body of Scripture as He describes His love and delight in extending mercy. Exponential blessings are ready to be lavished upon those who believe that He is truly the One to be reckoned with. God promises that a flood of His mercy will touch the lives of thousands because of our loving obedience to our God who brought us out of bondage.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Fess Up

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. James 5:16

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You too? I thought I was the only one. C. S. Lewis

Do you see a correlation between the quotation from James, and the quotation from C.S. Lewis? I do. Both men are saying that good things come to people who are honest with each other. Both tell us there is something really healthy about getting failures out in the open rather than hiding them. James says that healing comes when you confess your fault. Lewis say that friendship is birthed and grows as we identify with each others struggles.

Turn their quotes around and what do we learn?

From James we discover that people who never own up to their failures never come to health. You have probably seen this truth play out in real life. Have you ever seen a person or even an entire organization go to ridiculous extremes to cover a failure rather than confess it? If only they would confess: They would be released from the failure and their conscience would be unburdened. But instead they try every kind of remedy except the only one that will bring relief and healing -- confession.

From Lewis we discover that many people will never experience a true friendship. Why? Because to fess up to a short coming is out of the question. Like me, you, too realize that there are people that you have spent many, many hours with, yet you have never heard them say, "What! You too? I thought I was the only one." And because of that their friendships never move beyond a business relationship, or shallow conversation.

So James says that we need confession to stay healthy, and Lewis says that friendships are born when we identify with another's failure. The question we ask our self is, "Am I healthy, and am I healthy to be around?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Unexpected

Last night I arrived at Robert and Sarah's home to meet with my students from that large Asian country. When I pulled into the drive Robert was just finishing a call on his cell phone. "We have a special guest tonight." He said to me, and then we walked to the door and into the house.

Robert introduced me to his guest. "Bill, this is _______ ________. He oversees 6,500 underground churches that minister to 1.5 million believers."

I stuck my hand out and grasped the dark skinned hand that reached for mine. The man before me was Indian -- not Asian. In seconds I felt like I was in the presence of someone I had know for a long time. We clicked instantly, and I restrained from pelting him with the endless questions that raced through my mind. It was the first time I had met someone, who in my understanding, hearkens back to a New Testament Apostle.

As we waited for the other students to arrive we began to chat. I felt comfortable enough to take off the bridle and start asking questions. The last of the students walked in, and it was time for me to begin teaching. I tried to defer to our guest, but he really wanted to listen to me teach the students. I distinctly remember praying, "God I need you to keep reminding me that I am here to teach these students. I am here by Your appointment. I don't need to worry about trying to impress Your servant to my right." God graciously helped me to stay on point, and the study went great. My charges from the big country asked some incredible questions, and the atmosphere was bathed in Christ's Spirit.

Finishing with the students, I asked our guest to speak about anything God had put on his heart. All of us were captured by the exhortation and testimonies he shared. Let me pass on some of his story . . .

His mother died when he was four years old. He and his three brothers, the youngest being 4 months old, were placed in an orphanage in India. Our friend became father and caregiver to his brothers and also a very wealthy businessman by the time he was 17. He said that he had everything and nothing. His soul felt empty, and he began to turn toward God. He searched -- until God found him, and ended up attending a Baptist church where he got saved and radically mentored. He devoured God's Word.

He had no idea why, but God began to put The Big Country on his -- and his brother's heart. He got out of his business and followed the impressions God gave him. When he set foot on the ground of his strange new mission field his first contact was with a much older and godly woman. She took him under her wing and introduced him to leaders in the underground church (this was over 25 years ago). God's anointing was all over him, and he began to provide epic leadership. The house networks grew exponentially.

In the meantime, his godly mentor was arrested for the second time. Sentenced to 25 years in a Siberian labor camp, she and her four year old son nearly starved to death. Now, at the young age of 86, she recently moved to a remote and arid part of her massive country. In the first month there -- she led 100 people to Christ. In the second month there -- she led 200 to Christ. Recently they had their first baptism. Over 200 people, many who walked over 25 kilometers carrying the water, dug a hole in the sand, and poured in the precious water. Enough of the water, it covered their ankles, collected in the bottom. Boldly, they identified with Jesus, as each one of them were buried in the likeness of Christs' death, and raised in the likeness of Christs' resurrection -- in 8 inches of murky water.

Her little boy is now a grown man and an influential spiritual leader in the underground church.

I didn't sleep much last night. I tossed and turned thinking about how much I want to witness and be a part of the great outpouring of God's Spirit. It is happening in many, many places, but is almost unheard of here in the United States.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Passionate For Change

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. Matthew 5:6

We might paraphrase Jesus' words this way, The greatest desire of my heart is to be in a right relationship with God and to be made like Him in character.

Most of us have probably sought to fill a void in our lives by pursuing the following question -- you fill in the blank. If I could just have _____________ I would be happy. And most of us have met at least some of those goals only to find out that the shelf life of the satisfaction they provided was extremely short.

Jesus gives us the desire that needs to fill in that blank. He tells us that those who are passionate for change -- change His righteousness brings -- will be satisfied. Why is it that we can so clearly understand Jesus' words but live with such a gap between what we know and what we experience? A simple (yet not simplistic) reason is this: We don't like going hungry or thirsty, so we satisfy those desires as soon as possible. I could give you a list of things that I am always tempted to default to whenever the hunger for a deepening relationship with God begins to manifest itself. There is always a quick fix, some junk food for my soul, that I can consume to dull the pain of spiritual hunger and thirst.

Like me, you probably learned long ago that there is a world of difference between being a Christian and being conformed to Christ's image. There are literally millions who claim the first, but so few who reflect the latter. Why is that? Speaking to the latter, I believe it is because it is such a painful process. The hunger and thirst that Jesus describes goes much deeper than depriving yourself of an afternoon snack. Truth is, Jesus is talking about staying in the hunger and pushing through, rather than quickly satiating it with easily accessible relief that is fleshly not spiritual.

Is Jesus, or is he not, describing a desire to be in right relationship with God that is akin to the pain of starvation or dehydration? I am going to end this post a little differently. I am going to leave you with some of the Scriptures Keith gave us on Sunday. Read each one and trace the cross references.

Remember -- righteousness is a journey -- not a destination. Enjoy the adventure!

I Corinthians 5:17; Proverbs 17:24; Philippians 4:8; 1 Corinthians 15:33; Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Alien Encounter

For the LORD your God is God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great God, might and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes He . . . loves the alien giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt. Deuteronomy 10:17-19

Therefore, remember that formerly you were once Gentiles in the flesh . . . that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you . . . have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2:11-13

Sandy and I had a few minutes to talk and pray together this morning. Our conversation revolved around aliens (Sandy was born in Roswell, New Mexico. Honest!). We were not talking about that kind of alien -- the kind that are said to drop in on planet earth from a galaxy far away. No, we were talking about how intertwined our lives continue to be with people from other countries who are here in Columbus, GA.

Sandy is an ESOL teacher for four of the area schools: Shaw H.S., Blackmon Middle School, Blanchard Elementary, and Waddell. She is helping Arab, Indian, Israeli, Spanish, and other alien children learn to speak and write English. I am in my second year of discipling students from a large Asian country, and last week I led Luis to Christ. He is from Central America. Luis has been visiting Christ Community Church and heard the announcement that we were having a baptism on Sunday. He turned in a communication card indicating he wanted to know more about water baptism. I called him and we got together. I will not give you all the details now, but as he told me about his spiritual journey it was fascinating how clearly God was drawing Luis to Himself. When Luis finished I asked him if he understood what Jesus was all about. It was obvious to me that he needed someone to show him the way to God (I told him the story of the gospel). Luis was certain that he needed Christ to save him. In faith he called on Jesus to save him, and committed to following Him. Luis asked to be baptized on Sunday! I gladly accommodated him, and had the privilege of baptizing my new son in the Faith! The early morning conversation my bride and I shared showed us how God, with no planning on Bill and Sandy's part, intensionally intersects our lives with aliens. My bride described how she is falling in love with her students and the great compassion she feels for them. The students range from Kindergarten through High School, and there is no curriculum. Her mission is an incredible challenge.

We had to reluctantly end our conversation and go our separate ways. Before we separated I prayed a blessing on Sandy, thanked God for her beautiful heart, and asked our Father to bless her as she sought to be salt and light and a resource for those children who were alien to us, but not to Him. I also thanked God for the multi-colored, multi lingual, totally out of the box church where God so graciously allows me to be a voice for Him. I never want to forget the rock from which I was hewn, or the pit from which I was digged! Loving aliens is not so hard when we remember that all of us were at one time alienated from God.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Enjoy The Moments

I met Bob and Mac yesterday around 5 in the afternoon. It would be my first trip up a tree stand this hunting season. A breeze ebbed and flowed and rustled the leaves. It was music to my ears. My vantage point sat among an oak bottom, and this year there is an abundance of acorns. Yesterday was the last day before the clocks got turned back. That meant I would have enough light to hunt until shortly after 7.

As usual the wind died down to an occasional breath just before the sun hid behind the horizon. Finally I could hear the birds scratching for a few more seeds and bugs before they roosted for the night. Every few minutes an acorn would trickle down through the colorful canopy and plunk to the ground. Slowly I turned my head enough to scan the zone I was sitting over. Being in the woods always brings a sense of peace and serenity.

Thirty minutes before the light would dim for the day I saw a doe coming toward me along the edge of the field to my right. I gave her a good look through my scope but decided she would get to see another sunrise. As is always the case, it's never really about tagging a deer, I simply love the solitude. The doe faded out of sight and returned to give me one last look then before dark.

At 7:15 I popped out the clip, emptied the chamber, and quietly made my way out of the tree stand. Once my feet were on the ground I stood statue still for a minute or two. I knew that the deer often come in from behind me and I didn't want to give my position away even though I was through for the night. After a couple of minutes I made my way down the dim road and slowly entered the power line. Once again, God provided a little serendipity. The power line makes a slow incline back in the direction of my truck. There on the rim, where the sky meets the ground, was a doe back lighted by the still orange sky. I just stood there smiling -- taking in the moment.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Alive

The sanctuary at To God Be The Glory Church, in Maturin is an impressive worship space as far as size goes -- it comfortably seats 500. But other than its size, it is quite spartan -- basically a concrete block building designed for multiple purposes (as I believe all church buildings should be). They have a school that shares the space.

Saturday night the youth got together for a special service. The couple who will plant the church in Caracas lead the youth ministry. At least 100 young people were in attendance, and the service lasted over 2 hours. At the beginning of the service I sat at the front of the crowd, then moved to the back, so that I could observe the audience. Venezuelans do not hold back when they worship! Whether it be through music or God's Word, they are fully engaged in mind, body, and spirit. Their music is filled with life and physical expression. The arts play prominently in their adoration of God. Drama teams did sketches, there was choreographed dance, and several bands played different genres of music. All those moving parts led up to the message. The preaching by the young church planter was not a masterpiece of oratory, but it was obviously anointed -- at the invitation, a couple dozen people came forward to receive Christ!

Also . . .

Over the last 7 years I have been more involved in foreign missions than at any time in my life. Before that, my primary mission field had been wherever I lived. And that mostly consisted of trying to minister to complacent church attendees. But God began taking me outside of convention when I worked with Henry Blackaby Ministries. There I began ministering to people in different parts of our country who were searching for God for a specific spiritual need. My understanding of the Faith began to change in dramatic fashion. I discovered that God only responds to the spiritually humble, thirsty, and hungry. Then, in 2005 I led a team on an extreme mission to a "large Asian country." When I returned home, I felt disconnected from the institutional church. The disconnect was so obvious I began to ask, "Why?"

It became clear that there was nothing in me that wanted to respond to a church culture that says, "I am the customer. Satisfy me!" Also, God showed me that there are people all over the world desperately seeking a word from someone who knows Him. A conviction began to develop that said, If any believer had even one flickering flame that burned for an encounter with God -- a spark that had not been doused by a consumerist mindset and an inordinate desire for comfort -- they could actually see God work! And, There is a need for an uprising and revolution. Christ's church has been hijacked. It is in the hands of the business-oriented and out of the hands of the kingdom-oriented.

I believe we are on the verge of seeing many new churches -- filled with people longing to experience God -- that will sprout from the ashes of the finally and mercifully dead institutional churches.