Tuesday, October 10, 2012
Building People of Substance for Works of Power
I wanna be qualified, Friend.
Many years ago I was approached by a lady in my church. She said the Lord had directed her to open a home for troubled young women and their babies. I told her I was happy for her. My next question, however, seemed to put her off: “Do you have any experience or education in dealing with addictions, or adolescents, or underage moms?” She said, “No. But God will teach me.” She never did anything. She was the first of a long line of folks, most of whom seemed to be fine people, who had a desire to serve God in a significant and specific way, but had no technical or practical skills. They all believed God would somehow supernaturally empower them to do what others must strive diligently to accomplish. There have been budding musicians who don’t think they must study music, missionaries who see no need for language skills, and of course the plethora of preachers who don’t need training of any kind. “I’ll just open my mouth and God will fill it!” Oh, please.
I was blessed this last week to hear Rev. Tony Cooke speak to ministers on the subject of being qualified for ministry. In that message he defined being qualified as having both the technical skill and the character qualities to fulfill the job to be done. In church world we often suffer from the lack of one or the other. We emphasize character, and that is good. Most failed ministries fail in the area of morals. Many of our endeavors are hindered, however, because we have workers of high character, but who see no need to hone their skills. It is, after all, just church. As a result, we often suffer from a deficit in competence. What we could do is limited by what we know how to do. It is time we stepped it up a bit. Certainly we need competence in the pulpit, but how about competence in the non-speakers and non-singers as well? If you have a desire to serve the Lord, spend some effort to learn what you need to know in order to do it at a high level. We live in an age where information and training can be had by a click of the mouse. Jesus did His job well. His Church would do well to do well as well.
Somebody Said: The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor. Vince Lombardi
Scripture Reading: But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out His special favor on me—and not without results. For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by His grace.
(1 Corinthians 15:10 NLT)
I’m a preacher so I study preaching. I lead worship so I study music. I am a leader so I study leadership. I work in Latin America, so I study Spanish. When I was a janitor, I studied floor wax. When I was a counselor I studied psychology. Take a look at what you are and where you are, then study and strive to be the best you can be. It will enrich you, and those of us impacted by you. You will be qualified.
Rules are necessary to set boundaries for the flesh and guidance for unrenewed minds. Rules do not change hearts. Without a change of heart, I cannot help anyone. Only God can change a heart, and He will only perform heart surgery with the consent of the patient.
Just a thought.
We had some great meetings with Rev Tony Cooke. He brought us a clear picture of the manlfold grace of God. I came away with several thoughts to chew on. The big one from the minister’s meeting on Saturday was that in order to be truly qualified for a particular job in the church I need both character and competence. Deficiencies in either will hinder our fruitfulness. I am striving to grow in character and competence so as ro fulfill my calling.
Just a thought.
I had an interesting visit recently with a lovely lady of about 70 years. She has been a Christian for 60 of those years, all spent in one Pentecostal denomination. She made and appointment to see me, and came to my office with a notebook and a pen. She opened the conversation with a question: “What is the difference between my church (she named her denomination) and your Word of Faith churches?” We proceeded to compare doctrines and found them quite similar. I told her that I could not speak for all “Word of Faith” churches, but only for ours. I asked her what prompted her to ask such a question. She responded by referencing her notebook. She said, “I try to visit other churches occasionally, and I have visited yours several times. I notice that there is more of a manifestation of spiritual gifts here, and also the way you pray is different. You pray the Word.” She continued talking, observing that people seemed to enter into worship more freely and that we had a great deal of emphasis on praying for people to be healed and to be filled with the Spirit. I was blessed!
In the course of our discussion, two areas seemed at the core of the matter:
Somebody Said: The earlier practice of the Church had been more or less to employ in worship under the presidency of the pastor or pastors, the gifts of the congregation.
…Meanwhile the Church more and more provided for the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, by practically chaining His influence to the hierarchy and the sacraments. Robert Rainy
Scripture Reading: But if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant. Therefore, brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak with tongues. Let all things be done decently and in order. (1 Corinthians 14:38-40 NKJV)
I have a simple rule for pastoring: I don’t want to pastor a church I wouldn’t go to. I wouldn’t go to a church that did not teach the Word in such a way as to encourage people to exercise their faith. I wouldn’t go to a church where the gifts of the Holy Spirit are not manifest. If I wanted to join a social club I would look elsewhere. If I want the power, person, and presence of God, I look to my church.
President Obama quipped in a speech in Iowa that the Republican convention espoused ideas “better suited for the last century. “You might as well have watched it on a black and white TV.” the crowd laughed and cheered. That set me to thinking: the last half of the last century was my half-century. Looking around today, I can think of several things that were pretty good about that century. Some historians have called it “The American century.” I wonder what they will call this one? I remember when we thought divorce was wrong and that kids needed two parents, preferably one from each gender. I think that was a good idea. I remember when we thought it was wrong to kill children in the womb. I think that was a pretty good idea. In retrospect, I think the whole “sexual revolution” was pretty much a disaster. I remember starting every school day with a corporate appeal to the God of the Bible, followed by a heartfelt rendition of the Pledge of Allegiance. I like it! We thought communism was evil and shouldn’t be countenanced in the halls of our government. Indeed, despite his character problems and methodological malfunctions, Joe McCarthy was right. We knew Israel was favored by God ad we wanted to be in on the blessing. Good stuff!
We certainly did some things wrong in the 20th century. It took us the first 65 years to realize that racial apartheid was wrong, but we did. We got bogged down in a couple of undeclared wars that we didn’t have the will to win. That doesn’t seem to have changed. We toyed with the notion of a welfare state funded by confiscatory taxation, but Mr. Reagan got us straightened out for a while. Though we managed to push back the external threat of National Socialism from Germany and International Socialism from the Soviet Union, we allowed their intellectual and spiritual spawn to infect our educational institutions, and we are now being threatened from within. Somehow we allowed our kids to be taught that competition was bad, that drugs were good, and that integrity was old-fashioned. With all that in mind, I would like to suggest a few ideas from the last century that we ought to resurrect:
Somebody Said: “A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.”
Bored with listening to politicians bloviate, I moved to an entertainment channel where I found a commercial for a burger chain. The mascot for said chain is a humanoid with a round clown head designed to look like a jack-in-the-box. This character and his seemingly human wife are engaged in a game of Scrabble. They quibble about his play, then she delivers the punch line by playing a very vulgar euphemism for sexual intercourse, with the prefix “no” attached to the beginning of the word. I couldn’t believe it. This is a main stream company with a frontman who is clearly designed to appeal to kids. I’m thinking creepy, sexual references ought to be off-limits. If I am a parent, I know I am going to have to have the “what does that mean, Daddy,” conversation with my kids. For the umpteenth time in the last few years I had the sinking sense that I am watching the end of the world. I have heard no outrage, not even one comment from anyone regarding this well-produced primetime trash. Where am I? I have to trust that Jesus is coming soon. At the very least, I will be sure to refrain from buying greasy burgers from perverse clowns with Pinocchio noses. Come to think of it, I didn’t do that anyway.
I came out of my office the other night about a half hour before service. In addition to the usual flutter of early birds preparing for ministry, there was a new covey gathered in the back of the sanctuary. About 20 folks were lined up in front of a table full of plastic bags, energy bars, and assorted toilet items. There were senior citizens, teenagers, and pretty much everything in between. They were all there to stuff bags to be carried to the homeless. The program is called Jesus’ Jewels. The idea is to prepare “bags of hope” filled with material that would be useful to a person who is living on the street: toiletries, first aid items, water bottles, non-perishable snacks, and a clean pair of socks. All this, along with a salvation tract and a community resources directory, are enclosed in a one gallon freezer bag suitable for protecting valued items while living outdoors. On Saturday, outreach teams will take to the parks handing out bags and offering prayer for whatever needs they find. It is quite an effective ministry. As a pastor, I was overcome with gratitude for so many folks from all walks of life who would show up an hour early to church for the chance to be a blessing to someone else.
Peter tells us that each one of us has received a gift (1 Peter 4:10). The Greek word for “gift” is charisma. It derives directly from the word charis, meaning “grace.” Every believer has received a droplet of grace that is particularly his own. In church we often preach about how each one has some gift or another. Indeed, when the church is gathered together it is like a big pond, filled with myriad droplets. We know each drop has significance, but when they are all pooled up, it is hard to see the drop, much less its special purpose. If you put the same water in a channel, it will begin to flow and exert force. It can be used to generate power or irrigate crops: Same water, different vessel. When someone utilizes their gift of leadership and administration to provide a channel for the gathered droplets, there is an immediate shifting of the water, an outflow though the channel provided by vision and organization. That is a prime function of leadership: to provide direction and boundaries to allow droplets to flow, moving from the pond to the fields in need of water.
Somebody Said: “It is the responsibility of leadership to provide opportunity, and the responsibility of individuals to contribute.” William Pollard
Scripture Reading: In His grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. Romans 12:6-8 NLT
Both the pool and the channel are necessary. We cannot shortchange the importance of either. The pool without the channel becomes stagnant, fetid. The channel without the pool quickly runs dry. There is purpose in our corporate gatherings. We are preparing a big bunch of droplets for the moment when the channel is opened. There is purpose in our programs. We are providing channels for the release of the pooled power of the grace of God.
Thursday, August 2, 2012
Building People of Substance for Works of Power
The revival is on, Friend!
I really had hoped that I could wait out the great chicken sandwich kerfuffle and opine on something else, but I just can’t seem to get it off my heart. There are several things that make me want to scream. First of all, the statement quoted by the press as “anti-gay” and assaulted by activists as “hate speech,” was actually pretty tame. Here is the actual quote from the Baptist Press:
"We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that. We operate as a family business … our restaurants are typically led by families; some are single. We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families. We are very much committed to that. We intend to stay the course. We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles." Dan Cathy, COO of Chik-fil-A
That statement, along with a history of supporting such hateful groups as Focus on the Family, caused a firestorm of protest, including politicians threatening to withhold business permits. It is neither hateful nor anti-anyone to state what the Scripture says. It would be hateful to sit and say nothing as an entire group of people skips blissfully toward the abyss without trying to at least warn them. There is a God. He doesn’t approve of sexual sin. There is an eternity. Don’t go there without Jesus. If that offends you, I am sorry. It is surely less offensive than allowing you to go to hell unimpeded.
The more concerning issue is that elected officials could weigh in on this debate by threatening economic sanctions for all who hold the biblical position. That is tyranny. It speaks to me of the condition of our nation. The fact that politicians said it means they think it will play well to the majority of their voters. They are thermometers, not thermostats. The viciousness and the boldness of the attacks on Mr. Cathy tell me that our country has entered a new phase in its spiritual decline. We have ceded the educational system to the ungodly. We have de-fanged our preachers in the name of sensitivity. We have acceded to the filth in our airwaves by continuing to support it. We have voted our pocketbook instead of our Holy Book. Now we are faced with a society where it is considered aberrant to believe the Scripture and to order our lives accordingly. Darkness thinks it has us on our heels. Truth is, it is just further proof that the final revival is on. Comfort is being displaced by holy passion. Complacency is giving way to urgency. For those who will embrace the moment and not shrink back, we are about to have some fun!
Somebody Said: “Truth stands, even if there be no public support. It is self-sustained.” Mahatma Ghandi
Scripture Reading: Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous. (20) God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. (21) So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 5:19-21 NLT
It really is not time to despair, but to be aware. Be aware that the world around us needs Jesus. The fact they are screaming means they are hearing us. Don’t be distracted by the racket of protest, there is also a swell of agreement. Our message should produce either hatred or repentance. A tepid response usually comes from a wimpy message. Be clear. Be accurate. Be kind. His grace is becoming more abundant.
I just got back from Mexico City where we saw the fruit of many years of bible training and mentoring of ministers. One of our grads/coworkers prepared a video showing our Spanish speaking program. I thought you might enjoy it. Please feel free to share with friends.
Acabo de volver a Tucson de Mexico DF. Vimos a mucha gente que crecen en su ministerio, el fruto del nuestro instituto biblico. Este video muestra como funciona este programa. Lo hizo uno de nustros graduados que ahora trabaja con nosotros. Por favor, comparta esta informacion con sus amigos
Instituto de Entrenamiento Ministerial de Fe: http://youtu.be/qnWZP4bKX0s
Friday, July 20, 2012
Building People of Substance for Works of Power
Revival time, Friend. It’s on!
This week I am in Nezahualcoyotl, a suburb of Mexico City, teaching and preaching in a Congreso with Pastor Roberto Milian and his associated churches. I watched this morning (Thursday) as the workmen put up a tent in the street outside Don Roberto’s modest home. This will effectively block this small residential street for three days. During this time, there will be from 50 to 150 people coming and going twice a day. Morning and evening a rather loud worship service will take place, followed by amplified preaching. Then meals will be served to the whole crowd. In order to do this for the second time in two months, Don Roberto had to get the permission of the city, and of his neighbors. I wonder how many cities and neighborhoods in the United States would be open to such a thing. In our increasingly Christ-averse nation we have effectively allowed the Gospel to be relegated to a corner of the collective consciousness. Where we once had churches as the center of every neighborhood, we now have to fight to get permits to hold a Bible study in our homes. We have the right to curse in public but not preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Our cities are covered with violent and profane “art,” but we are protected from exposure to crosses and nativities.
I guess the bottom line is simple: it is high time for a revival in the United States of America. Like Samson in the temple of Dagon, the Church will shake off the shackles of political correctness and dependence on political solutions, and be the Body of Jesus Christ one more time. Our perverse politics and politicians are not the problem, they are the symptom of the problem. We need fewer lawyers and more Christians: Christians in the schools, Christians on the job, Christians in the street, and Christians at McDonalds. Christians who are ready to quit debating the ridiculous (abortion and homosexual marriage and the theology of islam and ad nauseum, things that are too obvious to merit serious discussion) and begin proclaiming the miraculous. On moral issues we could use some plain speech. On social problems, the love of God might be appropriate. On issues theological, nothing matters but that Jesus is Lord! With all due respect to government officials, I will not shut up because it might offend an unbeliever. It offends my God if I allow the unsaved to hit Hell without having heard the truth. Oh God, revive our pitiful nation and let the feelings of the Philistines be irrelevant! (I would say “be damned,” but someone would surely be offended)
Somebody Said: “If there is one thing upon this earth that mankind love and admire better than another, it is a brave man, – it is the man who dares to look the devil in the face and tell him he is a devil." James A. Garfield
Scripture Reading: Ezekiel 3:8-11 NKJV Behold, I have made your face strong against their faces, and your forehead strong against their foreheads. (9) Like adamant stone, harder than flint, I have made your forehead; do not be afraid of them, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they are a rebellious house." (10) Moreover He said to me: "Son of man, receive into your heart all My words that I speak to you, and hear with your ears. (11) And go, get to the captives, to the children of your people, and speak to them and tell them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD,’ whether they hear, or whether they refuse."
Please forgive my Jeremiad, but the stench of decay in our nation just overwhelms me sometimes. Maybe I am just getting old and cranky, or maybe I am tilting at windmills, but I just have to say something lest I burst. Revival or bust!
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these sre Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
As history zooms by us every day, it is good to pause a minute to reflect on why this nation is such a big deal: We are loyal to an idea, not to geography or genealogy. We have no kings but God. From Him proceed our rughts, and we are all equal before Him. Our founding documents promise us that we maintain these rights even when the majority is against them. That is what our constitutuonal republic is all about. Today I pray that God renew this one, or swiiftly bring to an end the agonies of its demise. Thank God for the idea and the grace to preserve it.
Friday, June 29, 2012
Building People of Substance for Works of Power
A little family business, Friend.
We have just concluded three great days at Faith Christian Fellowship Family Church Conference. This meeting is an annual highlight for us, as we get to see folks we love from around the world, get refreshed, and hear what God is saying to the FCF family. I am sitting in the Tulsa airport reviewing my notes and letting God remind me of what I received. There were many great messages, but I heard 4 grand themes that spoke to me.
Somebody Said: “I love the Holy Ghost. He’s everything to me that Jesus said He would be. If He is not those things to you, it’s because you are not allowing Him to be.” Pat Harrison
Scripture Reading: Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:1-8a NKJV)
This is just grazing the surface, but you get the idea. All the services will be available for download free of charge at www.fcf.org . They will be edited and up by July 15. Check them out and see what God says to you. Put Family Church Conference, June 24-27 on your calendar for next year. Check out fcf.org for details. It’s a family thing.