I am reacting very viscerally to the news today. I am angry /sad, feeling we are losing something dear. The idea of making sure everyone has adequate health care is wonderful. It sounds like a good idea. I have lived most of my adult life with no insurance, so I certainly understand the issue. That said, I have to ask, “At what price?” We seem to be deciding as a nation to value the illusion of security over the reality of liberty. Government is a necessary nuisance, to be kept on a short leash. It is composed of fallible human beings who will eventually abuse whatever power they have in order to enrich themselves. Every piece of life that we give to bureaucrats is a bite out of our individual liberty. In the face of lack in the wilderness, the children of Israel repeatedly questioned the wisdom of leaving their security in Egypt to face death in the wilderness. Egypt had garlic and leeks and plenty of jobs. We are essentially facing the same issues. Is our drive for security such that we submit ourselves to a federal system of health insurance that collects information, directs commerce, and determines appropriate care? I would rather die in the wilderness. unfortunately, I seem to be in the minority.
I thank God that Jesus is coming back and that in the interim my security is in His hands. The idea of human political liberty as we have marginally experienced it is on life support. Let’s get on with the important business of winning the world while we are still allowed to do so. It will soon be very expensive indeed.
Just a Thought
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Building People of Substance for Works of Power
Do something important today, Friend.
Sometimes I hear phrases from our popular culture so inane that I cringe. Often they pass away quickly, and I am able to go on with life without comment. Other times, I reach a place where my internal stupidity meter registers “TILT!” Over the last few years, we have become enamored of a form of contest in which unknown performers are encouraged to display their wares on the public stage. They then allow themselves to be voted on by a panel of B-list celebrities. Either before or after their performance, the aspirant is interviewed to give a personal flavor to the moment. One very common question is some variant of, “Tell us, Grasshopper, how much does it mean to you to be here on Amateurs on Parade.” In the vast majority of cases, the anxious contestant replies, “Everything! It means everything to me.” This is the point where I have to consciously maintain my serenity so as to avoid startling my wife. I want to reach through the screen, grab them by the lapels, and scream, “Wake up!”
Last night I watched as a lovely young lady sang a mediocre rendition of some love ballad. She was a college student whose mom had died when she was seven. She dedicated the performance to mom, who she felt strongly would be invisibly present at the festivities. As she sang, the camera flashed repeatedly to the tearful face of her widowed father waiting in the wings. They seemed to be very nice people. But when she said that this opportunity meant “everything” to her, I went tilt. No it doesn’t. Your dad means more. Your impact on the world using your education means more. The family you will probably raise means more. And all that is just natural stuff. There is an eternity which overshadows all these things in its importance. Your character, your calling, and your salvation all mean infinitely more. If, indeed, this moment of quasi-celebrity means everything to you, then you are a remarkably shallow person. I choose to believe, rather, this kid just reflects the water in the pool she is swimming in. Our dominant culture has become so obsessed with celebrity that we have forgotten what it is that gives meaning to life. We are able to sit quietly and listen to such nonsense without even flinching.
Scripture Reading: I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ
(Philippians 3:7-8 NLT)
Somebody Said: The greatest use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.
— William James
Forgive my rant. I understand the mindless blubbering of youth in an emotional moment. What’s amazing is a culture that considers such things important rather than simply amusing. Our values have simply evaporated. I want to live a life that matters, how about you?
Friday, May 29, 2012
Building People of Substance for Works of Power
First things first, Friend.
I had the privilege this week of being in Nezahalcoyotl, Mexico to officiate at a vow renewal for my good friends Roberto and Inez Milian. They celebrated 50 years of marriage. It was a great time. I noted that the city was papered with political ads. The elections are about a month away, and the campaign is on in earnest. I asked Don Roberto who he thought would win. There are three major parties vying for the presidency. He smiled and informed me he was praying for and supporting one particular party. Then He told me why. One party, he said are communists. A second is primarily old school Catholic. Both of these groups have a history in Mexico of being hostile to evangelicals. The third, the one he supports, are determined to foster freedom of speech and religion, and make it easier to preach the Gospel. He pointed to the tent we were meeting in and said, “They gave me the permit free.” In his mind it was no contest.
For us as Christians in a land where we have a vote, there is one overriding issue in any election: who is most likely to make it easier for us to preach the Gospel. It is easy to get sidetracked by other issues. Morals are important. Theology is important. Economics are important. Our calling, however, is first and foremost to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ in the highways and the byways of our land. Which candidate seems most likely to protect our ability to communicate our faith freely in the public square? Who is less likely to restrict or forbid the practice of our faith in our personal lives? Who is less likely to see the state as pre-eminent over the conscience of the individual? In the upcoming elections in our country, these are huge issues. Please inform yourself and vote according to your faith, not your pocketbook or party. .
Scripture Reading: Then they brought the apostles before the high council, where the high priest confronted them. "Didn’t we tell you never again to teach in this man’s name?" he demanded. "Instead, you have filled all Jerusalem with your teaching about Him, and you want to make us responsible for His death!" But Peter and the apostles replied, "We must obey God rather than any human authority. The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead after you killed Him by hanging Him on a cross. Then God put Him in the place of honor at his right hand as Prince and Savior. He did this so the people of Israel would repent of their sins and be forgiven. We are witnesses of these things and so is the Holy Spirit, who is given by God to those who obey Him." (Acts 5:27-32 NLT)
Somebody Said: "For every action there is an equal and opposite government program." — Bob Wells
We have primary purpose. We are blessed to live in a land based on principle, not ethnicity or geography. Let’s vote our principles so we may keep our freedom to do so.
Friday, May 11, 2012
Building People of Substance for Works of Power
How hard can this be, Friend?
A few weeks ago one of our church members asked to say a few words. He and his family were moving to another city and he wanted to speak to his church family. He shared several things, (including a good tithing message!) but the one that really hit me was a story he told of his first visit to our fellowship. He and his family had just pulled into a parking place. They had two small children and another on the way. As he and his wife struggled to grab diaper bags and bibles and kids, one of our ushers, Henry, came across the parking lot and introduced himself. He offered to help with the load, and walked and talked them right into the sanctuary. Five years later, this incident was still real in this family’s mind. I can’t say for sure that this caused them to stick in our church, but it surely didn’t hurt, and it left an imprint on their lives. They served the Lord here and were a blessing to the Body of Christ, at least in part because of one man’s simple act of kindness.
Several things really touched me in this story. First, Henry was not just putting in his time to fulfill his job description as an usher. He was being a Christian trying to be a blessing to someone else. Second, the little kindnesses we do for others are often much larger in their eyes than they seem to us at the moment. Never despise the power of acts of compassion. Third, we puzzle over the secrets of church growth and how to get people to stick. I’m thinking maybe it is much simpler than we make it. How about we just look around for ways to be thoughtful toward folks we don’t know? It might be hard to keep people away from a place where everyone is intentionally considerate. Maybe the real diagnostic here is the fact that I had never heard this story before. I talk to Henry a lot, and he never once told me what a great humanitarian he was for carrying the diaper bags. The thing that made this powerful is that it was real; the guy really did it just because it was the right thing to do.
Scripture Reading: And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ. (7) Your love has given me much joy and comfort, my brother, for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people. Philemon 1:6-7 NLT
Somebody Said: Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see. Mark Twain
Just for this weekend, how about we each actively look for some way to be helpful to someone we don’t know. If that works out for us, we can recruit another volunteer to join us in the project next week. I’m thinking the movement will grow.
I was having a conversation yesterday with some of our ministry team. Our topic turned to the move of the Spirit and the way we allow Him to order our services. It reminded me of when we opened our doors in February of 2004. I was casting about for a slogan to put in a newspaper ad. We had a mandate from God, “Open a fountain of my healing power in this place.” We had a paradigm for ministry ‘Repairing broken people, preparing willing people, celebrating the goodness of our God.” What I needed was a slogan that expressed who we are and what one might expect in our services. I hesitate to blame God for all my bright ideas, but I think this was what He gave me: The Word and the Spirit, Keepin’ it Real… Over the years, we have seen bizarre excess in the name of being “spiritual,” and we have also been in services that were dead as doornails under the banner of order and “sound doctrine.” Our church is from the Word of faith crowd: we are Holy Spirit people, and we want to avoid pretence and religious sham. We want the Word and the Spirit. It is who we are. So what does “Keepin’ it Real” mean for us as a church? We strive to maintain:
1. A Post-reformation knowledge of specific revelation in Scripture. We value and teach the Word of God for principle, practice, and pattern. 2 Timothy 3:15 NLT You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus.
2. A New Testament confidence in salvation through Christ alone, because I know the Spirit lives in me. Salvation is doctrinally based, but has an experiential element: a know-so salvation. 2 Corinthians 1:22 BBE And it is he who has put his stamp on us, even the Spirit, as the sign in our hearts of the coming glory.
3. A New Testament experience of the supernatural where the Holy Spirit is recognized, welcomed, and manifested. He said to desire spiritual gifts, and we do. We are not ashamed of the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 14:25 NKJV And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you.
4. A New Testament sense of community, of common faith, common challenges, and common purpose. The church is a family and we are all in it together. Acts 4:32 NLT All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had.
Scripture Reading: He has enabled us to be ministers of His new covenant. This is a covenant not of written laws, but of the Spirit. The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:6 NLT)
Somebody Said: Our principles are the springs of our actions. Our actions, the springs of our happiness or misery. Too much care, therefore, cannot be taken in forming our principles. Red Skelton
The principles that guide us matter. I Love the Word of God. I love the Holy Spirit. We must have both in order to have a Bible kind of church: Not just Bible doctrine, but Bible experience.
I am having a gratitude attack this morning. The symptoms are a swollen heart and tears of joy when I think of how God has blessed me. In particular, I am grateful that He plopped me into this wonderful family of faith. I came to the Lord by myself reading a Billy Graham book in my own bedroom. By the grace of God, He put people in my path who had a grip on the reality of the Word and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. I love the rest of the family of God – He is diverse. But I am really at home with the “faith” folk who buttress my life. I thank God that someone told me and showed me that the Word of God is true. If it says I am righteous, then I am. If it says I am healed, then I am. If it says the Holy Spirit is in me, then He is. In fact, I can expect Him to guide my steps and give me wisdom when I need it. God talks to me!
A few weeks ago I was preaching in another country using an interpreter. He is a great guy who loves the Lord and serves Him with his whole heart, but he hadn’t been around our crowd too much. On several occasions he stopped me as I was preaching to ask me to repeat what I said. At first I thought he didn’t understand my English (I sometimes inadvertently lapse into Okie dialect, which is difficult for other cultures to decipher) Then I realized he was taking notes! He heard what I was saying, and it was revolutionary to him, so much so that he wanted to be sure to remember it for future study. I guess the bottom line is this: Don’t take our Message for granted the world is still waiting for a simple, accurate, and real presentation of the word of faith which we preach.
Scripture Reading: In fact, it says, “The message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart.” And that message is the very message about faith that we preach: If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in Him will never be disgraced.” Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on Him. For “Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.” But how can they call on Him to save them unless they believe in Him? And how can they believe in Him if they have never heard about Him? And how can they hear about Him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!” (Romans 10:8-15 NLT)
Somebody Said: The Gospel, to me, is simply irresistible. Blaise Pascal
Whatever else life finds for me to do, today I will focus on spreading the wonderful and simple Word of Faith. On the front wall of our church is a slogan, “The Word and the Spirit… keepn’ it real.” Anything more is probably extraneous, anything less is certainly inadequate.
While preparing to leave Panama this week, a couple of things struck me while negotiating the airport. As usual, after clearing security I headed for the men’s room. This is a recently remodeled facility. Millions of dollars were spent to provide a beautiful building with modern appurtenances. As I joined the march of men pulling roller bags and carrying briefcases, I noted that the urinals were in a corridor-like area. The space between the walls was about 4 feet. This means that when a man assumes the position before the ceramic shrine, there is barely a foot between him and the wall behind. Since the urinals are close together, the only place to leave a bag is on the floor directly to the rear, thus completely blocking the passage. Pressing departures, bulging bladders, and a Babel-like combination of languages made for an entertaining slapstick adventure – a group of men trying not to touch each other as they hop and push their way into position. The result was hilarious. Outside in the waiting area, I noticed that the sparkling new airport is already looking dingy. The upholstery in the lounges is torn and stained, and the carpets are filthy. Doors are not plumb, pictures are askew, and walls have holes where displays have been removed. In fact, millions of dollars later, the airport looks almost as junky as it did before the rebuild.
Two important ideas stick out. Success and excellence are closely tied to planning and maintenance. This is true I nevery area of life. Our lives as Christians require daily maintenance. I was saved in November of 1979. That is a wonderful thing. That ancient moment was real, but it will not give me victory in the affairs of life today. In fact, life tends to wear away at our spiritual condition. If we don’t repair and renew on a regular basis, we begin to get a little stained and ragged ourselves. I desperately need time alone with God and time in the Word to keep me fresh and growing. The sad truth is, however, that many of us just don’t seem to have time to take time. Like it or not, if you don’t plan for maintenance time with the Lord, you probably won’t get it. For me it means getting up early to pray and read. When I don’t, it shows. I like to tell myself, “Oh, I’ll pray on the way to the office and listen to Brother Hopealot on the radio.” But, even if I actually do it, it’s just not the same. I need my infusion from Heaven. It requires planning and execution to get it. I have to do maintenance on purpose.
Scripture Reading: The soul of a lazy man desires, and has nothing; But the soul of the diligent shall be made rich. (Proverbs 13:4 NKJV)
Somebody Said By my definition, prayer is consciously hanging out with God. Being with God in a deliberate way. Malcolm Boyd
In the Panama airport men’s room, each urinal has a round hole in the tile right next to it. It appears to be the result of failing to get the right height the first time and having to lower every unit about 4 inches. Each hole is filled with wadded up newspaper and masking tape. I suppose you could call that maintenance, but it just looks sloppy, and I shudder think what else is finding its way into those holes. Our spiritual life deserves better than a wad of paper and some tape. If the God of all the universe wants to meet with me every day. I should make an appointment.
The other day as I was thinking on the death of liberty and the demise of western cviization ( for I do believe that is what we are watching), I prayed what has become a common prayer of late: “Lord, what are we going to do?” Much to my surprise, in my heart I heard Him answer my mostly rhetorical query. “You are asking the wrong questtion. The question is, what am I going to do.” That encouraged me. God is about to do something significant, and we get to be in on it. I am not moved by the cataclysm. I am hopeful because God has somehing up His sleeve.
I have been trying to maintain some sense of objectivity in the political arena, confining myself to informing my church folks how to approach their own decisions from a Christian perspective. Without telling anyone how they should vote, let me give a heads up to my Republican friends: the electability of Mitt Romney is a myth. 2 big reasons:
Do what you will; just bear in mind that a Romney nomination means the Republican Party can count on a big chunk of its base to be no-shows on election day.
Just a thought.
Every now and then I read or hear something so far outside my way of thinking it hardly seems real. Often I take another step or two before it hits me and my mouth drops. A few days ago a friend wrote me about a church where he was told they didn’t like to study the Bible before they preached because it hindered the flow of the Spirit. I had to re-read it two or three times before I was sure I got it. I am a great proponent of allowing, encouraging, and expecting the manifestation of the Spirit in our services. The Word without the Spirit brings death. But I am also a stickler for the Word of God. Without the Word, the flow of the Spirit cannot be accurately judged, nor can the hearers ever grow up in the things of God. The concept of standing to minister without study is just bizarre to me. The primary reason I go to any service is to receive the Word of God. It dawned on me that these folks have a completely different model in their minds for what it means to have church.
Why do we go to church? What is the purpose in our gatherings? It pays to ask these kinds of questions. If we don’t, we fall into going through the mindless motions of tradition. I don’t believe that a person has to go to church in order to be a Christian. That comes by faith in Christ, and can be received at home or on the bus, or wherever. We can all read our Bibles on our own (that is different from the book of Acts – they didn’t have Bibles). Some groups believe that the minister imparts grace through the sacraments, so you go to church to get a bite of Jesus, but I don’t believe that. Why then do we trudge to church on Sunday and what should we be doing when we get there? I think the Bible gives us some good answers to this question, and the very first one is that we need the Word of God. Peter told us to desire it (1Peter 2:2). Jesus said we can’t live without it (Matthew 4:4). Paul told Timothy to preach it whether they liked it or not. (1 Tim 4:1-4). Whatever else we do, for Heaven’s sake, let’s be sure we give them the Word – not ours, His.
Scripture Reading: So then, my child, be strong in the grace which is in Christ Jesus. And the things which I have said to you before a number of witnesses, give to those of the faith, so that they may be teachers of others. (2 Timothy 2:1-2 BBE)
Somebody Said Hold fast to the Bible. To the influence of this Book we are indebted for all the progress made in true civilization and to this we must look as our guide in the future.
Ulysses S. Grant
At our church we still encourage people to carry a Bible and follow along during the sermon. We have the capacity to project the Scripture on the overhead screen with attractive backgrounds, but we don’t. It is important that people know their own Bible. In their darkest moments when the banshees of doubt are wailing in their minds, they won’t have me or a projectionist, only a Bible and the Holy Spirit within. We come to church in the bright and shiny day in order that we might be victorious in the dark and dismal night. Give them the Word! Give them a chance to win.
Well, it’s political season again. The candidates are kissing babies and calling each other names. Meanwhile, the world and the nation seem to be spinning out of control. As Christian folks we have an obligation to be good citizens and inform ourselves on the issues. We are also obligated to pray for God’s hand to guide our nation. With these things in mind, and at the risk of offending some, I want to give a little reminder about some important things to watch for in our candidates.
1. Support of Israel is non-negotiable. Israel is not always right, but they are always Israel. They face existential threats from every direction. If we want our country to be blessed, we must have leaders that bless Israel. Gen 12:3 / Ex 23:22 / Dt 30:7 / etc.
2. Life is sacred. We are obligated to allow God to decide when a person should die. This cannot be left to government. Either at the beginning of life, or at the end. Zech 12:1
3. We are here for only one purpose: to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We must oppose any governmental authority that attempts to squelch our free speech and exercise of religion.
4. Our rights come from God not government, and are enumerated in our founding documents. Any politician who threatens the rights contained in those documents should be removed immediately.
5. For other issues, whether they be moral, economic, or cultural, we must ask one great question: “Who decides?” On the great issues of life, who makes the choice? A constitutional republic with protected rights to protect the minority prevents the tyranny of the majority. Direct democracy is as tyrannical as any other form of government. Separation of powers and state sovereignty were meant to keep decisions as close to the people as possible. Whether its taxes, health care, education, or your diet, who do you want making decisions on these issues in your life? Vote for those who protect your autonomy as a free moral agent.
Scripture Reading: When the godly are in authority, the people rejoice. But when the wicked are in power, they groan. (Proverbs 29:2 NLT)
Somebody Said A wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities.
Concentrated power has always been the enemy of liberty. Ronald Reagan
The purpose of government is to establish general order, punish evil-doers, protect the rights of the weak and defenseless, and provide for the national defense. Be careful about everything else. Do your homework, pray, and let’s believe God for godly people in authority.
Friday, February 10, 2012
Building People of Substance for Works of Power
The world is insane, Friend.
I have been amused by the uproar in the media for the last couple of weeks. First there was the charity that decided to quit supporting Planned Parenthood. The screams could be heard far and wide: “How could they do such a thing. This will kill thousands of women who will now have no access to health care!” Then came the announcement of a new regulation requiring religious organizations to pay for birth control, sterilization, and abortifacients for all their employees. When the Catholic Church bucked, the apologists began their chorus of, “It’s a war on women. They have a right to preventive care.”
It just seems important to point out a couple of things. First of all, you can diagnose the nature of a person by the things that really cause him to get overwrought – it tells you what is important to him. In this case, we can see that the so-called “women’s movement” is very concerned with money and fornication. The uproar begins when you try to divert finances, or threaten the ability to have sex with anyone, anytime, without consequences. There is no real threat here to women’s health, only to Planned Parenthood’s bank account. The secondary effect of that might be to limit the availability of abortions on demand to the 80% of their clientele who are unmarried and pregnant. I would suggest that chastity until marriage would solve the problem, but them are fightin’ words, pardner. Then there is the remarkable suggestion that birth control is preventive medicine and that women have a right to have this prevention provided at my expense, even though I have no intention of impregnating them myself. (Those that do the deed ought to pay the freight.) Just to be accurate, I looked it up: “Preventive medicine or preventive care refers to measures taken to prevent diseases, (or injuries) rather than curing them or treating their symptoms.” So, if birth control and abortion are preventive medicine, does that mean that pregnancy is a disease?
Scripture Reading: What sorrow for those who say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter. What sorrow for those who are wise in their own eyes and think themselves so clever. (Isaiah 5:20-21 NLT)
Somebody Said The mastery of nature is vainly believed to be an adequate substitute for self mastery. Reinhold Niebuhr
The TV commentators assure us that all women are on the side of abortion on demand, government provision of contraception for all, and protection of the right to fornicate without conscience. I suspect that is an inaccurate characterization. I am convinced of better things in the women I know. But then they are mostly members of the mothers movement and the ladies movement, feminine rather than simply female. Thank God.