* All Bible passages are from the World English Bible, a copyright free translation
available on the world wide web.
This book was not my idea. It is the result of a lot of badgering and harassment
from a variety of people who say they love me..... or at least, they respect
my mind. That doesn’t say much about them, does it?
Actually, what you have in your hand is the best of a series of columns that
I have written over the past several years. After I had my mid-life crisis and
left my secure, good paying job to enter missionary school I started a family
newsletter to keep in touch with our friends.... both of them.
And to fill up all the empty space that our boring lives produced.... (you
can only talk about going to class and watching it snow so much....) I began
writing The View From Here...
Well, like I said, people kept telling me to write a book.... or to turn
my column into a devotional.... and so I have.... What started out as a
way for me to force myself to write regularly and express my deepest needs,
fears and frustrations is now a 40 day adventure in self-discovery.....
I hope everyone is happy!
But seriously, it is my prayer that as you walk with me through my own spiritual
journey you might discover a little more about Jesus, perhaps understand church
a bit better, maybe even recognize some areas in your life that need attention.
I hope so.... And I hope that as you read these scriptures and contemplate these
various thoughts that you will understand again just how precious our faith
The idea is simple. Read one View a day for the next forty days and ask the
Lord to lead you as you go.... And remember, the journey is the adventure....
don’t miss it by being impatient to “get there” .....
Day 1 - Serendipity and Sleeplessness
...and hope doesn't disappoint us, because God's love has been poured out into
our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were yet
weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die
for a righteous man. Yet perhaps for a righteous person someone would even dare
to die. But God commends his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners,
Christ died for us. Romans 5: 5 - 8
I went to France and discovered something about myself. I am a Post-Modern
This kind of revelation only occurs when one has too much time for introspection,
coupled with jetlag and sleep deprivation. At least, that is how it happened
I was walking around Paris, alone, waging an internal battle with my Epicurean
nature when it first began to dawn on me. You see, I began to realize how relativistic
my morals are. There are certain liberties that I disavow, not because they
are wrong, but because I am an American with a strong Bible-Belt background.
So while I could sit at a sidewalk café and enjoy an espresso, I couldn't
sit at the same table and enjoy a glass of wine.
Now certainly drunkenness is Biblically, and therefore morally, wrong. But
is it wrong to enjoy a glass of vin with a croissant and fromage at a café
in Paris? It's a Post-Modern question! For the Puritan and the Modernist alike,
there is no quandary. But for the Post-Modern, it is a classic example of situational
ethics, made doubly difficult by the fact that there was no one around to ever
know the answer!
Well, this serendipitous moment led to a long, serious contemplation about
the origins of my own worldview. What I began to see was that every experience
we have and every influence we endure adds to the lens through which we view
the world around us. The more layers we have, the more distorted our view becomes.
As I lay in bed, still not sleeping last night (I think... the nights have
gotten kind of blurry...) I began listing the major events that I remember from
my past. I will try to recreate that list, although I am still awake again...
and it is almost 6:00 AM. Jetlag stinks.
I remember: The Vietnam War. Hippies on 10th street in Atlanta. Woodstock (although
I didn't really get it at the time...) Elvis and Tom Jones. Apollo 11. Apollo
13. Apollo 15 (the one that nearly fell into the crater... remember?) Kent State.
Martin Luther King's funeral. The Beatles. Mary Tyler Moore, Bob Newhart and
Carol Burnette. Watergate. All the Presidents Men. Voyager's photos from Mars.
The Viking Lander on Mars. Star Trek, Star Wars and Close Encounters... all
the first time they were out. Gerald Ford's bad golf game. Saturday Night Live
with John Belushi and Gilda Radner. The Iranian Hostage Crisis. Billy Beer.
The fuel shortage. Pong. Atari. Reaganomics. The Cold War. Glasnost. The fall
of the Wall in Berlin.
DuranDuran. New Wave music and skinny ties. Member's Only jackets and parachute
pants. The Urban Cowboy look and electronic bulls. The first flight of the Enterprise.
The last flight of the Challenger. George Bush, Dan Quayle, Murphy Brown. Desert
Shield, Desert Storm, the Stealth Fighter. Ross Peroit. Clinton - Gore, out
in four! Make that eight. White Water, Rush Limbaugh and Monica Lewinsky. Tianiman
Square, Kosovo, Indonesia.
Add to that: My dad's multiple surgeries and extended recovery. My parent's
separation. My parent's reconciliation. My parent's divorce. My brother left
home. One crazy stepfather. Puberty. High school. I fell in love. She broke
my heart. Leaving home. Walt Hall days.
Jamie ( finally something good!) Fed Ex. Marriage. Cameron. Church. Chelsea.
Management. Corey. JESUS! Courier again. Christopher. Management again? Good-bye
FedEx, hello Bethany. Paris, alone, searching for answers.....(still awake....
Must be close to 7:00 by now...)
There is my lens... minus a few hundred (thousand?) layers. The point is this;
my outlook on life is tempered by these critical (and not so critical) events
and influences from my past. I can no more avoid this reality I live in than
you can avoid your own! Were it not for my encounter with Jesus Christ, I would
be just another aging Boomer living on the edge of despair. As it is, I have
finally been forced to admit that I am a Post-Modern Christian, complete with
baggage and a predisposition towards self-indulgence.
So what does it mean? I guess it means that my perspective is not as clear
as I first thought. But perhaps, as I struggle to understand myself, I will
understand better how to reach the multitudes of desperate Post-Moderns who
are clinging to some ethereal hope without the assurance that only comes from
faith in Christ.
Or perhaps, after I finally get some sleep, I will just delete this tirade
and start again. Of course, this experience has already added a new layer to
my lens. I am what I am. It's when I really understand that truth that I appreciate
the love of Christ and the grace of God all the more. He loves me, because of
who I am, not in spite of who I am. Ponder that for a while...
Father, thank You for loving me... not as I should be, not as I shall be, but
as I am. I am overwhelmed by Your love..... Amen
Day 2 - Post Modernism At A Glance
Therefore watch carefully how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise; redeeming
the time, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5: 15 - 16
Last night I read "Cat's Cradle" by Kurt Vonnegut again. Vonnegut
is without a doubt America's premier satirist, and I for one love him. His basic
premise in "Cat's Cradle" is that the sum of all religion is a lie
and science is deadly. Kurt Vonnegut is a Post Modern.
Recently I heard a sermon by a missionary from Mexico regarding our relationship
with God. In the sermon, he made the statement that while many theologians might
disagree with him on a certain (non-foundational) point, he chose to believe
it because it made him feel good. This missionary is a Post Modern.
I recently came out of the closet and revealed that I am a Post Modern. As
I have prayed about that realization over the past days I have been comforted
by the understanding that it is perfectly okay to be a Post Modern. In fact,
for most of us it is inevitable. We can no more avoid it than Jesus could avoid
being a first century Palestinian Jew. He was and we are, simple as that.
But what is a Post Modern? What does the term mean? What are the implications
of being a Post Modern Christian in a Post Christian culture?
You know, I'm not sure. But for the sake of those whose curiosity is out of
control, I will attempt a brief explanation.
To understand Post Modernity, we must look back at the 19th century Modernist
movement. This is the worldview that produced Freud, Marx and Darwin. It's distinguishing
presupposition was the absence of the supernatural and the nonexistence of God.
Modernism gave rise to secular humanism and socialism. To the Modern mind the
only things that were real were those things which could be measured and observed.
Naturalism was elevated to neo-religion and evolution was the new paradigm for
the existence of life including humanity. The concept of Divinity was considered
panacea and man was placed into the ranks of the animal kingdom.
The end results of Modernism were two devastating world wars, wide spread famine
and violence, genocide, infanticide, Nazism and the Soviet Gulags. By the midpoint
of the 20th century, Western culture was growing tired of dealing with the pain
and frustration. In the 1960's, the radical left was thrust forward by the Vietnam
War, growing civil unrest at home and the decline of the American Empire abroad.
With Watergate in the early 1970's, the anti-establishment movement went mainstream
and the ultimate demise of the American Dream was in view. From that point on,
Western culture would never be the same.
The birth of Post Modernism can really be traced back to the end of WW II. The
advent of the atomic bomb ushered in a new age of pessimism and distrust. By
the end of the 1970's, nearly every institution once held sacred by the American
public had fallen from grace.
Liberal theology had decimated the church, the government was not to be trusted
and an ever jaded public began realizing how deeply they had been manipulated
by the media during the Vietnam War years.
By the end of the 1980's, even the opposite sex could be deadly and the ravaging
AIDS virus seemed to loom like one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. The
collapse of the Soviet Union and the utilization of the first multinational
military force in the Gulf War signaled the end of the Modern age and ushered
in the Post Modern reality.
Today we explore cyberspace in the privacy of our own homes. Generation X has
left the university and entered the work force. Humanism and socialism have
been replaced by dualism and pluralism. Political correctness has replaced religion
and science as the governing force in morality. As a culture, we have seen the
results of faulty reasoning and have chosen to live with it rather than change
it. Along with Kurt Vonnegut, the general populace has concluded that religion
is a lie and science is deadly.
Our challenge as Post Modern Christians is to engage this culture with the
Gospel in such a way that it is received as Good News, not irrelevant news or
even bad news. We need grace and creativity, hope and compassion, fearlessness
and power to accomplish this task. Above all we need the guidance of the Holy
Spirit and the comfort of Christ's love to keep us going.
I am intrigued by this challenge and pray that God will show me the key to
unlocking the hearts of the average guy who is drowning in the ever thickening
morass of Post Modernity. One thing is for sure, conventional means will not
win my generation for Christ, nor will mass marketing techniques and sales strategies.
The A.G. (average guy) is too savvy to fall for that kind of manipulation. So
how do we do it?
Again, I'm not sure! But I am convinced that any answer that begins without
fervent prayer is certain to fail in the long run.... so I encourage you to
And remember, pray hard, your neighbors life may depend upon it.
Father, please open my eyes to see the world as You see it. Fill my heart with
Your compassion. Fill my mind with Your wisdom. Fill my eyes with Your tears.
Fill my spirit with Your desires. Assist me, my God, to share with my neighbor
Your love for the glory of Your kingdom. Amen
Day 3 - The Challenge and the Call
By this we know love, because he laid down his life for us. And we ought to
lay down our lives for the brothers. 1 John 3:16
I was out walking and praying the other night. And as I was praying, I asked
the Lord to reveal to me the key to this generation. I know the challenge which
is to communicate the Gospel in such a way that it is perceived as Good news
not bad news.
But how? That was my question...
Then the Lord began speaking to me about the message itself. What are we supposed
to be communicating anyway? Simply this; Christianity is not about religion,
it's about communion with God. The message of the cross is not that we are so
bad, so broken, that God had to go to extraordinary lengths to make a way for
us. Instead, it is that we are so beautiful and precious that He willingly sacrificed
everything just so we could dwell with Him forever. That's good news.
Compare this with the unspoken message proclaimed by the Western Capitalist
Evangelical Church Model: "Come join the club and your life will be better.
We have programs to meet your every need and exciting entertainment to fill
the voids in your free time. Come join us for "worship" where we will
manipulate your emotions and tell you what to think, and as long as you tow
the party line things will go well with you. Membership dues are only 10% of
your annual income and all of your spare time. So come on in, there is room
in the club for you..."
Lest I sound too cynical, stop and consider the realities of the situation.
Most churches in America today have adopted a capitalist success model. More
members, more programs, bigger facilities and larger budgets are the benchmarks
of success. We have turned the church into a corporation, complete with CEO's
and Human Resource Committees.
Consider as well our target audience. Not Christians living in the Christianeese
bubble, but the average guy living a life of quiet desperation, driven by his
dreams and passions. Not the frozen chosen but the nameless masses who pursue
life, liberty and happiness without hope, purpose or the promise of something
And yet, how much of our church service would sound like a foreign language
to the average lost Post Modern? How are we communicating the Good News to the
world at our doorstep? With mass mailings and events marketing? Friendship evangelism
within a group that has few if any non-Christian friends? Fund raisers such
as bar-b-ques, car washes and rummage sales? Do we really believe that we are
reaching this group that has seen 5,000 hours of commercial advertising by age
25? The fact is, they are laughing at us, and with good reason. Our hypocrisy
is evident to all, even though we refuse to acknowledge it.
I am convinced that we must lay aside our formulas and marketing strategies
and begin building relationships with the world. The generation that is coming
of age desperately wants something that is real. We have the way, the truth
and the life. We must learn to facilitate fellowship first between ourselves
and Christ and then among the believers, the seekers and the sought. This is
the challenge that lays before church today. This is my calling.
I have chosen to walk away from the club. Away from the realm of good ol' boy
politics and salvation by committee. For years I have been convinced that there
is a better way, and I am now going forth as a pilgrim in search of a church
that doesn't look like a church, of a fellowship that truly loves unconditionally,
of a body that understands communion.
We all stand and cry over the rejection of Christian values by our culture
today. We cannot change it by wringing our hands and building bigger walls around
our camps. We can only change it as we intentionally engage the pagan culture
next door and become the salt and light that Christ has called us to be.
Jesus was a friend of the sinner and a shepherd to the lost.
I want to be just like Him.
Father, I need courage. I need passion. And I need the love of Jesus and the
power of the Holy Spirit to be made real in me so that I might reach out and
make a difference in the lives of my friends, my neighbors, my co-workers, even
my family. Father, I need You. Amen.
Day 4 - Who is this God, anyway?
Without faith it is impossible to be well pleasing to him, for he who comes
to God must believe that he exists, and that he is a rewarder of those who seek
him. Hebrews 11:6
This past week, I have had two experiences which have left me a little uncertain
of the answer to this question. At a moment when my wife and I were becoming
frustrated and unsure of our calling, we received a tremendous gift from some
old friends that once again renewed our faith (although we still have a half-million
Then Sunday afternoon, we received word that the 19 year-old daughter of some
other old friends was killed in an auto accident.
And so I here I am, wondering who is this God, who blesses on one hand and
allows tragedy on the other? Is it possible to really know Him? Or are we really
just fooling ourselves when we think we do? And how do we answer when a victim
of "life" asks the same question?
I mean, we can all pull out the worn trite expressions. You know the ones,
"God is in control." "Jesus is still on the throne." "God
allows nothing to happen to us that we can't handle with His help." "God
is good, all the time." But really now, what does it mean?
Can it be that God is so completely beyond our abilities to conceive that it
is impossible to really know Him? Who is He?
I have learned not to ask why. God's answer to Job is good enough for me...
(where were you when I created the heavens and the earth?) My struggle is not
with God's motives or purposes. I simply want to know Him as He really is, not
as the Galactic Slot Machine or the doting Grandfather in the Sky. But the fact
is I don't really know Him at all (even when I think I do...)
I am reminded of the disciples on the boat when Jesus calmed the storm. They
asked themselves, "What manner of man is this?" As I stand poised
between the storms of life, I wonder what manner of God is this Whom I serve?
About now someone will say, "Just keep your eyes on Jesus." Good
advice, but which Jesus? The one who let His dear friend die to prove a point
or the one who chose to teach in parables so that no one really understood Him
most of the time? The truth is, Jesus Himself is an enigma. Jesus who heals
the man born blind and curses a fig tree..... if you say you really understand
Him, you are kidding yourself. You may accept Him as Lord and Savior. You may
gladly enter into His covenant. But understand Him? I think not. He did not
intend to be understood any more than the Father intends us to understand Him.
So, Who is this God, anyway?
Obviously we do not have the same perspective as God.
We are not God (no matter what Shirley McLain says...). But what do we really
know about Him?
God made us and everything else.
God loves us, and sent His Son to prove it.
God forgives us, even when we don't deserve it.
God has our best interest in mind all the time, no matter what.
God is love and mercy and grace.
God is strength and power and glory.
God is sovereign.
God exist outside of temporal reality.
God is Spirit.
In my heart I know that God desires to reveal more and more of Himself to me.
That is both comforting and scary. In the end, I wonder of it is a pointless
question. I guess the thing that frustrates me most is the fact that I'm not
sure I have the nerve to wrestle with it long enough to find out. Jacob's blessing
cost him a great deal of pain.
So tonight I am not content with traditions and television ads. I do not desire
easy answers or comforting quotes. I do not want to pick and choose Bible verses
in an attempt to appease my curiosity. I do not want to know all about God.
I want to know Who He really is.
And I refuse to be satisfied with generic clichés and Christianese balderdash.
Father, would you please reveal Yourself to me today? I want to know You better.
I long to walk more closely with You. Lord, would You step near and satisfy
my curiosity? Amen.
Day 5 - Reality and Expectation
As therefore you received Christ Jesus, the Lord, walk in him, rooted and built
up in him, and established in the faith, even as you were taught, abounding
in it in thanksgiving. Be careful that you don't let anyone rob you through
his philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the elements
of the world, and not after Christ. For in him all the fullness of the Godhead
dwells bodily, and in him you are made full, who is the head of all principality
and power; Colossians 2: 6 - 10
Recently I have been thinking a lot about expectations.
We all come to faith with certain preconceived ideas and presuppositions about
what is and what isn't normative, correct and proper.
For example, the charismatic believer will expect extended altar calls and
certain displays of "Holy Spirit" evidences. The Orthodox believer
will expect intense aestheticism and specific symbols and liturgies. The Roman
Catholic believer (gasp!) will expect familiar structure and form. The Protestant
will expect sermons built around specific doctrines and hymns written to support
specific theological positions. Southern Baptists, United Methodists, Episcopalians,
United Pentecostals, Independent Free Speech, African Methodist Episcopalians,
Congregationalists, Mennonites, Amish, Salvation Army, Uptight Free Will On
Fire Holy Ghost Unquenched Brotherhood of the One True Jesus, etc. all have
certain things that make them who they are, and we all fall victim to our own
cultural and familial heritage.
And in steps Jesus Himself, leaving in His wake the ruins of our presuppositions
and self-induced idealism. Jesus simply refuses to be formulated, formatted
or figured out. He remains an enigma, no matter how well we feel that we understand
Jesus made a habit out of ruining peoples preconceived notions about the nature
of the Messiah. He also wreaked havoc with the interpretation of the Law of
God and with the human concept of the Divine Nature. Every where He went, He
left a wake of controversy and scandal.
And He continues to do the same thing today.
I am convinced that it is a very dangerous thing to become comfortable with
who we believe Jesus to be. Certainly He is the Son of God. Yes, He is the Savior
of man and the Good Shepherd for the lost. But when we attempt put Jesus into
a box, He does something so unusual and unexpected that we have to scramble
to redefine Him.
One area where we are prone to fall is religion. Dogmatism can be a very dangerous
and damaging thing. More pain has been self inflicted by the Body of Christ
through a failure to extend grace to one another than in any other way.
Certainly we must denounce heresy at all cost. There are essential doctrines
that we must agree upon to remain Christian. The Apostle's Creed is the very
foundation upon which the Church Universal must stand or face assimilation and
even possible annihilation. On these basic principles we must stand and never
However, there is a lot of room for difference and uniqueness within the Body.
When one group dogmatically stands upon certain forms or theological principles
as the "only way", they miss a very important point. Jesus is the
Way, not theology.
Our salvation is predicated by our faith in Christ alone! If good theology
is essential to salvation, then a lot of our fathers in the faith are roasting
right now. (Go read Origen or Augustine if you don't believe me.)
The truth is, men wise and not so wise have been wrestling with this faith
for 2000 years now, and there are some things no one really understands yet.
In fact, I doubt I will ever grasp the reality of regeneration and the indwelling
of the Spirit until I see Jesus face to face. And yet, I know it is true, and
so I choose to believe.
As we continue this journey of discovery I encourage you to take a look at
your own preconceived ideas about faith, religion and Church and decide to extend
grace to those who worship differently, or who hold to different theological
positions, or who choose to wear funny looking hats, or whatever. No matter
what you believe about Jesus, He is much, much more than you think He is. And
thus the Church, His Body, is bound to be much more than our small minds can
Expect the unexpected with Christ, it is the only safe route I know.
Jesus, I love You. Help me to set aside my own ideas of who You are and how
You are supposed to be, and let me instead come to You on Your terms.... Change
me, Lord, so that I might really know You in Your glory, Your power and Your
Day 6 - A Stranger in a Home Town
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things have
passed away. Behold, all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17
I was back in my hometown for a day last week. As I drove around, I was struck
by the fact that although everything looks the same it also looks very different.
What was once Mr. Doughnuts is now a Subway. What used to be a Lum's is now
an adult book store. What was once a Shrimp Boat is now a car audio store. The
buildings retain their original form but they are not what they used to be.
Even the street names have changed. Cherokee St. is now Windy Hill Rd. as is
Jones Shaw Rd. I suppose Jones Shaw wasn't around to complain.
There are traffic lights where there used to be stop signs and subdivisions
where there used to be horse farms. Four lanes where there used to be two and
pavement where there used to be dirt. It all looked so familiar, and yet, it
was all so foreign.
As I was driving back down the interstate noticing all the changes along the
way I was struck by the realization that this is how we as Christians are supposed
to feel. Once we step out of the world and into the Kingdom we are supposed
to feel like pilgrims and sojourners, not local residents. What was once familiar
and comfortable should become almost unknowable to us.
This is a real test of our growth as disciples. When you think back to your
life of years past does it seem real to you? Or do you, like me, somehow see
that old man as an unforgettable stranger who shares memory space with your
Can you easily recall the emotions and desires that drove you? Or do you scratch
you head in wonder at the sinful life you chose to live? Could you go back,
or are you so firmly established on the narrow path that to turn aside is unthinkable?
Are you being honest with yourself?
The truth is, we should never feel at home here because when we become His
we move our citizenship. We should not be comfortable with the moral erosion
that goes on around us because we are called to a higher lifestyle. We must
never choose to compromise our faith because our faith is the only reality we
possess. Jesus is real life, everything else is just practice for heaven.
There are a lot of things I miss back home; Woolworth's, Dixon's Bakery, the
Big Apple grocery store, the Japanese garden at Cobb Center, etc. And it's true,
you can't go back home again. So I just look forward to getting home for good.
Father, help me keep my eyes on home. Amen.
Day 7 - Remember...
Now a vessel full of vinegar was set there; so they put a sponge full of the
vinegar on hyssop, and held it at his mouth. When Jesus therefore had received
the vinegar, he said, "It is finished." He bowed his head, and gave
up his spirit. John 19: 29 - 30
Lazarus was alive again.
The commotion in the temple had yet to die down and the dust had barely settled
in the streets of Jerusalem after Jesus had entered in riding a donkey's colt.
In fact, the trampled palm branches were still lying forgotten on the roadside.
The remnants of a Passover meal were still to be seen in a certain upper room,
where the disciples of Jesus had experienced humility, confusion and worry of
betrayal. The whispered, "Is it I?" still hung heavy in the air around
the table where He had been reclining.
Thirty pieces of silver lay in the floor of the High Priest's counsel room,
and Judas Iscariot was hanging in a tree by his own hand.
Peter was in hiding, desperately trying to come to terms with his own cowardice
and failure. Most of the others were there as well, sitting in the gloomy silence
brought about by the staggering events that had so unexpectedly unfolded.
Throughout the Palestinian countryside, the echoes of "Crucify Him, crucify
Him!" continued to roll, although in the gathering gloom many of those
who had been in the crowd were beginning to suspect that they had made a terrible
John and the women, including Mary, His mother, watched in horror as the Roman
soldiers callously drove the cruel spikes through His wrist and ankles and lifted
Him up on a wooden cross that was stained with the blood of it's countless victims.
In Hell, Satan and his minions danced with delight, howling with laughter as
the Pharisees mocked Him and the crowd taunted, "He saved others, let's
see Him save Himself."
In Heaven, the angels stood in silence, as they watched their Lord and Leader
suffer for the very ones who were mocking, taunting and hiding. In their eyes
there were flames and their hands were laid upon their swords awaiting the command
to descend and put a glorious end to the horrible spectacle. The command never
And in a second planned upon from the very beginning of creation itself, the
Father laid the debt of sin upon His Son, and for one incredible and heartbreaking
moment, He turned His back upon the One whom He loved most of all. How His Spirit
must have shuddered when He heard the Son cry out, "My God, my God, why
have You forsaken Me?"
Then, as all of Creation looked on, He cried out, "It is finished!"
and gave up His Spirit.
Three days later, His tomb was to be discovered empty, and after appearing
to His disciples, the word would be spread that He had conquered death itself
and risen again, just as He had predicted. Faith in His resurrection would be
the cornerstone of a new religion that would literally turn the world upside
No bunnies, no colored eggs, just a bloody cross and an empty tomb and a certainty
that when He cried, "It is finished!" it truly was.
Lord Jesus, what can I say to thank You for Your sacrifice? What can I give
to repay You for our redemption? What can I do to prove our love for You? What
do I have that You could desire except my heart, my soul and my life? Take them
all, they are Yours. Amen.
Day 8 - Perspective is Everything
But you, beloved, keep building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying
in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy
of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. Jude 1: 20 - 21
I'm too busy.
Every week it seems I have more things to do and less time in which to do them.
I want to spend more time in prayer and meditation, and instead I seem to spend
more time in activity and motion.
I wonder what would happen if God ever got too busy to deal with us?
I guess first we would notice that our prayers, however quick they might be,
would never get answered. Then we might realize that we just weren't too concerned
about our failures and shortcomings anymore. Before too long, we might even
fail to see the injustice and suffering all around us, and embrace slogans like
"Everyone has their own problems, don't bother me with yours."
Then we might see some bizarre natural phenomenon. Stars would no longer hold
their courses, the oceans would cease their ageless patterns and the winds would
no longer blow in familiar ways.
Plants and animals would no longer be in submission to man, and the earth itself
would begin to fall apart as gravity lost it's effectiveness.
Of course, if these things began to happen, we would immediately begin searching
for God, crying out for Him to rescue us. In fact, we often turn to Him when
everything is crashing down around us, don't we?
But what if, instead of hearing us and helping us, God said, "I'm sorry,
I have other things to do today. Do the best you can without Me and I'll get
to it when I can."?
How do you think God feels when we answer Him that way?
Naturally, we have plenty of good excuses and rationalizations for our busyness
and lack of commitment. But have we ever stopped to consider the fact that if
we fail to spend time with the Lord, then we cannot possibly be connected with
And if we fail to connect with Him, we cannot possibly hear His voice.
And if we don't hear His voice, we can't possibly know what He wants us to
And if we don't know what we are supposed to do, we can't possibly walk in the
good works which He has prepared for us.
And if we don't do those works, nobody will, because He is depending on us
to be His ambassadors to the lost world.
Doesn't that make prayer and meditation seem a bit more important? Are they
important enough to supersede some of our other activities?
Can we afford to be too busy?
Lord, I confess that I am too busy doing things that really don’t matter.
I have allowed “life” to control my actions rather than allowing
You to have control of my life. Help me to put away these foolish things that
keep me from being obedient to Your word. Amen.
Day 9 - I Love Church
For as the body is one, and has many members, and all the members of the body,
being many, are one body; so also is Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized
into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free; and were all given
to drink into one Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12: 12 - 13
I feel compelled to attempt to clarify my position concerning church. I realize
that my occasional ranting might lead one to think that I am anti-church. Let
me state emphatically that I am not. In fact, I love Church.
However, I do have a problem with the Christian Philanthropic Society, which
is what many local churches amount to in the long run.
Ask yourself this question, if you took away the buildings and the programs,
what would your church look like? How much of your identity as a church member
is wrapped up in the activities which occur within the walls of the church facility?
If stripped of "doing" church, how much "being" church would
remain? Can you see the predicament?
Because our culture is process driven and result oriented, we tend to measure
success in terms of production. Church therefore becomes successful only when
we collectively do enough good things. For example, growth in attendance and
giving equals a greater missions budget, which means that as a body we are increasing
our financial support of X number of missions programs, thereby helping to expand
the Kingdom of God. We feel good about our church because it is doing so much,
and it makes us proud to be a part of such an important player in the Kingdom.
Now most of us, being good Christians, would never use such blatant language
to describe this reality. Never the less, the reality is there, and as the Body
of Christ we need to be willing to admit it.
Please don't misunderstand me. There is nothing wrong with increased attendance
or missions giving. These are natural and important parts of God's plan for
His Church. The problem I see is that we miss the blessing of being the Body
because we are so caught up in "doing stuff for God". And the minute
we feel that we have achieved greatness in the Kingdom because of what we do,
or what we give, or what we sacrifice, or what we know, learn or teach, is when
we fall into the sin of arrogance and pride
Yes, I used the "S" word. That is what it is.
We need to understand that God does not need us to do anything for Him. God
invites us to join Him and receive the blessings of obedience, but we are not
indispensable to God.
There is an old English word for the church, Kirk. It literally means the Body.
I love the Kirk. The Kirk is people not buildings or programs.
It is said that more can be accomplished for the Kingdom with a big church than
with a small church. I disagree. I believe more can be accomplished for the
Kingdom by one member of the Kirk on his knees than by all of the mega-churches
in North America combined. God is not impressed by our collective buying power.
He wants our hearts.
I personally dislike big churches. Regardless of how friendly and "on fire"
they are, I tend to feel lost in big crowds, and I believe more can be done
to reach the lost around us with a decentralized horizontal church growth model
than with the large centralized vertical growth model. That is my opinion for
what it is worth.
I know many of you are part of big churches and you love them. I am glad. However,
let me issue a word of caution; don't go to church because it meets your needs.
Church is not about us, it is about God. We have allowed too much of our Western
Consumerism to encroach upon what belongs to Jesus Christ.
Bible clubs, day care centers and Christian schools are good things. Music
programs, covered dish suppers and Bible studies are good things. Small groups,
special speakers and multiple worship services are good things. But they have
one thing in common, they are all "things". Consider your church without
all of the "things" and how healthy is the Kirk?
It's something to think about.
Father, help me to see beyond the walls, the programs and the worship services,
and see instead Your living Body. Lord, if there are “things” that
I have loved more than You help me to see them and repent. Jesus, cleanse Your
bride beginning with me. Amen.
Day 10 - Lessons from the Animal Kingdom
Jesus said to them, "Have you understood all these things?"
They answered him, "Yes, Lord."
He said to them, "Therefore, every scribe who has been made a disciple
in the Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who is a householder, who brings out
of his treasure new and old things." Matthew 13: 51 - 52
He was the blue gill bream that my younger boys and I caught at the pond down
the street and brought home several months ago....
He was quite a fish, too..... Once he adjusted to living in the aquarium, he
seemed to be perfectly content... In fact, I think he liked to watch people...
When ever you walked into the disaster area known as "the boys room"
he would swim up and stare at you through the murky waters of his home... and
follow you as you walked around....
He survived several changes of water.... he survived the cat, Tiny, who last
Spring ate the tadpoles we were trying to raise.... (she loved to watch Bonehead
as much as he liked to watch people...)
But alas, this morning I waded into the cluttered mess and saw him, poor Bonehead,
lying on the bottom of the tank... dead as a doornail....
To begin with, we thought we had starved him to death... (because Daisy, one
of our four mutt dogs had eaten his entire package of Tetramin fish food a few
days ago..... and we had been feeding him white bread....) but when I went out
and cleaned his tank, I discovered several days worth of uneaten food mixed
in with the gravel.... and then I knew what had happened...
You see, when we first caught Bonehead, we had a jar of Betamin fish food left
over from the unfortunate experience of the Siamese Fighting Fish who lived
for two days.... (but that's another story...) And so, that was what he had
been eating. Well, after Tiny knocked that bottle of food off the shelf, and
Daisy ate it... we went out and I bought a DIFFERENT KIND of food!!!!
And Bonehead apparently wouldn't eat it..... and subsequently starved himself
I guess "Bonehead" was an appropriate name, after all.....
But as I was cleaning up the aquarium, it occurred to me that many Christians
are a lot like Bonehead.... We get so used to church being a certain way, that
if we were faced with change or die, we would probably die....
I'm not sure why we worship our order of worship, or why we believe our traditions
are inspired by the Holy Spirit, but we do.....
And this is as much a problem for "contemporary churches" as it is
for "traditional churches" and even "liturgical churches".....
we all love the way we do church..... (as I told my son, who is growing a bit
tired of hymns.... every church has 20 songs that they love to sing..... and
they really aren't interested in expanding their selection...) even the "Pentecostal
churches" know how to speak in tongues at the appointed time......
And we are all familiar with the last words of the church, "It's never
been done that way before"....
But think about it.... what if we had to eat grits at every meal every day......
would we be happy? Even chocolate cake would get old after a while.... So why
are we happy with the same thing done the same way week after week after week
after week...... Why not collect the offering first thing.... or have greeting
time after the third song instead of the first song..... why not move outside
on a beautiful Spring day... just for the fun of it.... what's wrong with variety?
I mean, if you've read your Bibles lately, you may have noticed that God rarely
does the same thing the twice..... and He never does anything in the exact same
So why should we?
I guess my big question is, "Why is predictable better than interesting?"
Well, I have had enough! This Sunday I'm going to spice it up! I'm going to
sit in the big chair on the left instead of the big chair on the right.... and
I may even pray before I read the announcements!!!!
And how about you? Would you rather be like Jesus or like Bonehead?
Lord, I readily admit that change makes me nervous. But I also know that while
You are unchanging You are never static. Help me to face the inevitable changes
of life with grace. And give me a heart that desires the new as well as the
Day 11 - Sleeping In With God
Not for these only do I pray, but for those also who believe in me through
their word, that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I
in you, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that you
sent me. The glory which you have given me, I have given to them; that they
may be one, even as we are one; I in them, and you in me, that they may be perfected
into one; that the world may know that you sent me, and loved them, even as
you loved me. John 17: 20 - 23
I woke up the other morning being cuddled by a four year old and licked by
a puppy at the same time. I, of course, looked like I always do at that time
of day, and my breath smelled like it always does at that time of day. I realized
it took an awful lot of love to want to be too close to me before I had showered
and brushed my teeth.
In fact, if there is an easy definition of unconditional love, it has to be
the love received from four year olds and puppies.
Somehow, as we "mature" we lose that ability to love without reserve.
Heck, my morning breath even offends me sometimes, and I can't even love myself
until I get to my toothbrush!
But shouldn't we love God the way my son and my puppy love me? Shouldn't we
want to get close to Him, even when He seems a bit overwhelming, or perhaps
untouchable? What stops us?
Could it be that we are afraid of Him? Or are we so jaded by our cynical points
of view that we assume He can't really want us to get so close? And how does
one snuggle with God, anyway?
Well, I think it has to begin with our desires. My son just loves to get into
my bed and be close to me. I'm warm and getting softer by the month, and he
feels secure when he is with me. And my puppy thinks I am, well, a god or something.
(Do puppies really think?)
The point is they expect my reaction towards their affections to be receiving
and reciprocal. And we should expect the same thing from our Heavenly Father.
So go ahead, get close to God. Love Him without reserve and without regard to
your own preconceptions. I suspect He would rather lie in bed with you curled
up in His arms every morning than to listen to your long list of complaints,
illnesses and wants every night.
And I suspect we would get more out of our relationship with Him if we just
spent time being with Him and loving Him unconditionally. What do you think?
Father, I crave intimacy with You, but sometimes You frighten me. Other times
I feel so insecure that I doubt Your love. Teach me how to sit quietly in Your
arms and soak in Your affection. Amen.
Day 12 - Following the Hard Way
"Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you
hungry, and feed you; or thirsty, and give you a drink? When did we see you
as a stranger, and take you in; or naked, and clothe you? When did we see you
sick, or in prison, and come to you?' "The King will answer them, 'Most
assuredly I tell you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my
brothers, you did it to me.' Matthew 25: 37 - 40
We Christians use some very pretty words in our worship services and our sermons.
Words like grace, mercy, forgiveness, redemption, reconciliation, restoration,
love..... But how often do we actually display those words with our lives and
not just our lips?
We say that we want to be like Jesus, but do we really? After all, Jesus came
to serve the sinful. He chose to disregard His reputation and to clothe Himself
in humanity. He had a habit of speaking the truth even when it wasn't popular.
He never backed away from the diseased, the demonic and the despised. He loved
unconditionally even when He was misunderstood. He chose death over compromise,
humility over power, compassion over condemnation....
And He had genuine affection for the prostitutes, the publicans, the adulteresses,
the tax collectors, the lepers, the poor, the dispossessed, even the common
In fact, in the Gospels the only people Jesus seemed to lack patience with were
the self-righteous religious men who sought to preserve their reputations and
traditions at the expense of the lost and the less fortunate.... And I wonder,
in spite of all our pretty words who do we resemble more?
You know Jesus taught some very hard things, but none more difficult than what
He teaches in the 25th chapter of Matthew.....
For it is there that He tells us that He is the homeless beggar who comes to
our door naked, hungry and outcast.... He is the convict who sits alone in prison
without friends and without hope..... He is the woman who lies in a hospital
bed dying of AIDS with no one around to bring comfort or encouragement.... He
is the orphan, the widow and a multitude of the nameless victims of life that
pass beneath our feet every day as we rush to beat the clock and store up our
earthly treasures for all to see....
And Jesus said that if we fail to feed the beggar.... if we fail to bring hope
to the convict.... if we fail to offer comfort to the diseased... if we turn
our backs on the multitude of people who wander through this life lost and desperate.....
then we also fall short of His kingdom... Because in order to love Jesus we
have to love them, too.... (And real love is demonstrated, not confessed....)
So I challenge you.... The next time you are forced to choose between reputation
or righteousness..... be like Jesus.... The next time you must choose between
rejection or redemption.... be like Jesus... The next time you must decide between
condemnation or mercy.... be like Jesus....
Because if you can't see Jesus in the unlovable... you may never see Him at
Lord Jesus, I have fallen short of Your demands. I have refused to be compassionate.
I have turned my back on the needy. I have thought more of myself than I have
of others. I have judged harshly and have failed to love. Forgive me of these
sins, and restore me, oh Lord. Because I know that in my failure I have injured
You. I am sorry. Amen.
Day 13 - God or gods....
We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil
one. We know that the Son of God has come, and has given us an understanding,
that we know him who is true, and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus
Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves
from idols. 1 John 5: 19 - 21
For the past few days, I have been reading the Old Testament book of 2 Chronicles.
It is a fascinating study in failure. Many of the kings of Judah began their
reign walking with God, only to end up falling away after He had blessed them.
Others turned away from Him completely and were total apostates, suffering violent
and painful consequences as a result.
I am amazed at how quickly an entire generation of Israelites would turn away
from the Lord and follow the pagan practices that surrounded them. Regardless
of how He displayed His might or how richly He blessed them, they seemed ever
ready to embrace the idolatry of their neighbors.
It would appear that it is easier to follow local customs than it is to follow
God. Maybe that explains why the Church seems to have lost its effectiveness.
There are too many idols in the house of God.
Protestants have always been quick to point a finger at the statuary of the
Roman Catholics and call them idols. The Western church even fought a brutal
war against the Eastern church over the use of icons, calling them idols. Yet
I have observed that even within the hallowed halls of Modern Evangelicalism
there are (gasp!) idols to be found.
An idol is any thing that takes attention away from Jesus. For many congregations,
music has become an idol. Worship forms, communion traditions, pew cushions....
All of these things have become idols, because they become more important to
us than honoring and following Christ in simple obedience.
Outside of the church, our Christian lives are filled with the idols of our
age. How many hours do we spend in front of the "one eyed god" known
as television? How many idols are parked in our driveways? How many idols are
in our various retirement accounts?
Based upon the focus of our leisure time, who gets the majority of our worship,
God or some god?
I am afraid that we have become so good at rationalizing our abhorrent behavior
that we don't even recognize the idols we so willingly worship. The god of Technology,
the god of Comfort, the god of Security, the god of Success, the god of Self-Worth,
the god of Pleasure, all of these and more seduce us away from the One True
God and we don't even know it.
The seduction of the false gods is so subtle that I fear it has become a cancer
that will only be removed by radical measures. And radical measures are painful.
So I am challenged to examine my heart and to repent of my spiritual adultery.
If we are serious about walking in intimacy with Christ, it is the necessary
Are you with me?
Father, reveal the idols in my life and give me the power to destroy them.
Renew my passion for purity and forgive me for loving the world more than I
have loved You. Amen.
Day 14 - Image Matters..
He entered again into the synagogue, and there was a man there who had his
hand withered. They watched him, whether he would heal him on the Sabbath day,
that they might accuse him. He said to the man who had his hand withered, "Stand
up." He said to them, "Is it lawful on the Sabbath day to do good,
or to do harm? To save a life, or to kill?" But they were silent. When
he had looked around at them with anger, being grieved at the hardening of their
hearts, he said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." He stretched
it out, and his hand was restored as healthy as the other. Mark 3: 1 - 5
My son went to his first formal dance the other night. As his mother and I
stood admiring him in his dress shoes, black slacks, white shirt, tie and navy
jacket we couldn’t help but admit that he is growing up... fast...
And he has become a really good looking young man.... especially in those clothes....
Of course, he hated those clothes... The shoes hurt his feet, the tie choked
him, the navy blazer fit like a straight jacket..... just getting dressed in
them was an ordeal of the soul for him. And as we ooohed and ahhhed at his appearance
he just shook his head in disgust.....
You see, while we though he looked great.... he felt like an idiot. And to
make matters worse, as I was driving him to the dance listening to him complain
about the shoes and the chafing collar I told him, “Welcome to conformity....”
(he made some kind of rude comment that a father will tolerate from his oldest
son when no one else is around..... I just laughed at his predicament)
Of course he had a great time at the dance..... and of course, as soon as we
pulled out of the parking lot for home he began stripping off those clothes
swearing that he would never wear them again.... but he will.... conformity
will demand it...
You know, I wonder how many people stay away from our churches because they
can’t stand to wear the clothes? I wonder how many people are just like
my son.... and they try the clothes on but never feel comfortable enough in
them to keep them on.... And are we guilty of expecting people to conform to
our image of what a Christian is supposed to look like before we allow them
to be a part of our family?
Do we expect people to “look right” before we love them?
Jesus never did that..... As you study the Gospels one of the things you discover
is that Jesus was never a slave to convention. He simply didn’t care how
it was “supposed to be done”.... instead He always did things His
way..... a controversial form of behavior that eventually caused Him a bit of
trouble..... namely a cross in a garbage dump....
And when you look at His example it almost seems that Jesus went out of His
way to offend the religious order of His day.... He picked grain on the Sabbath....
He healed people on the Sabbath.... He didn’t wash His hands the right
way before eating.... He dined with unclean sinners.... He touched lepers and
allowed the touch of prostitutes.... He even created a ruckus in the temple...
And I bet He never wore the “right” clothes to church, either....
So here is the challenge....
Instead of desiring others to conform to our image of what is respectable,
or reverent, or “right”.... we need to strive to be conformed to
the image of Christ Who chose to disregard the expected and the acceptable in
order to demonstrate the love of God which transcends such worldly things as
popular fashion and human tradition.....
And the next time your tie is chafing your neck or your control-top pantyhose
have you in a bind... remember.... Jesus never wore such things.... and He never
said that we had to wear them... and if you choose to suffer for the sake of
conformity it’s your own fault..
I wonder if I could get away with preaching in blue jeans this Sunday......
Lord, open my eyes to my own foolishness. Where I have been as a Pharisee let
me become instead like You. Teach me how to love unconditionally and to accept
others where they are, knowing that only Your Holy Spirit can make real and
lasting changes in people. And Lord, change me if I need it. Amen.
Day 15 - Walking in the Big Nothing
He said to all, "If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever desires to save his life will
lose it, but whoever will lose his life for my sake, the same will save it.
Luke 9: 23 - 24
How many times have you been swept away by the relentless surge of life?
How often have you felt as if your tenuous grip on your daily situation was
slowly but surely slipping?
When was the last time your self confidence was shattered by the sudden realization
that you really had no idea what was happening in your life, much less why?
Have you ever chosen to live in the midst of uncertainty rather than in pursuit
The truth is, the Christian walk is filled with the unknown. It is a continual
step into the Great Nothing of tomorrow. Jesus assured us that our life in Him
would be filled with strife, persecution, self denial and hardship. He demands
that we willingly sacrifice comfort and achievement to His greater agenda, which
is to glorify God through our lives.
We all find it difficult to live with the tension of not knowing. We all have
difficulty walking behind Jesus, having no clear view of the road ahead. And
yet, it is only when we surrender our lives to Him that we begin experiencing
the blessings of obedience.
So why do we balk at the chance to obey?
Could it be that we are so concerned with maintaining the illusion of self
control that we are willing to sacrifice not only the blessings of obedience,
but suffer the consequences of disobedience rather than relinquish our hold
I have been learning (sometimes not so quickly...) how to trust the Lord and
obey Him, even when His orders make absolutely no sense. This is the essence
If Jesus is indeed Lord of your life, how is His Lordship being expressed in
your daily walk? What tangible evidence of obedience can be seen in your day
to day decisions?
How do you know you are walking with Him?
I want to encourage you to take some time and reflect on your walk with Christ
and determine in your heart again to follow Him, even when the road ahead seems
You may be challenged but you will never be sorry.
Father, teach me how to trust You so that I might be an obedient servant today
and always. Amen.
Day 16 - What Child is This?
The Word became flesh, and lived among us. We saw his glory, such glory as
of the one and only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14
I love Christmas. I love the music, the lights, the meals, the traditions,
the gifts, the excitement of the children.... I love everything about it. Of
course, we all realize that Christmas is about Baby Jesus lying in the manger....
visited by shepherds and wise men... announced by angels and the prophets of
old. But how many of us have ever taken the time to really consider Who Jesus
was and is today?
Please allow me the opportunity to enlighten or remind you of a few important
Jesus is the Word of God. He is the pre-existent, coequal and eternal Godhead
from Whom all of creation emits.
Jesus is the Light of the World, Who came, not to bring judgment, but grace
and truth to mankind.
Jesus is the Son of Man. The literal manifestation of God made flesh. He is
the Man-God as well as the God-Man. Jesus lived, and in fact, He lives today...
in the flesh!
Jesus is the King of the Jews. He is the Messiah of Israel, heir to the throne
of David and ultimate ruler of Zion.
Jesus is the Christ, the Anointed Servant Who came to suffer in great humility,
die in agony and rise in victory so that we could be reconciled with God.
Jesus is the Good Shepherd, Who came to seek and save those who were lost,
leaving behind the many to pursue the few, and willingly laying down His life
for the lives of those who would believe and follow.
Jesus is the Savior of all, who paid the price so that all of mankind....white,
black, yellow, red, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Humanist, Pagan, etc. etc. could
have peace with God. The salvation of Jesus is universal and knows no barriers
of ethnicity, economics or geography.
Jesus is Lord of Lords and King of Kings. He is Lord of the believer and the
unbeliever, of Kings and shepherds, wise men and fools.
And the faith that gave birth to the Holiday demands more than a superficial
agreement with a system of beliefs, but indeed requires all that we are each
and every day of the year.
Father, thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus, to save us. What would we do
with Him? Amen.
Day 17 - Defining Success.... Again..
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love
the other; or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You can't
serve both God and Mammon.” Matthew 6:24
What is success?
Lately I find myself wrestling with this question, because it really drives
everything we do...
If success is financial prosperity we need to be creating ways to make more
money and buy more things. If success is notoriety and fame we need to be searching
for ways to promote ourselves. If success is influence we need to be marketing
our ideas and inventing clever new ways of infiltrating the public psyche. If
success is power we need to apply our efforts and resources to gain entrance
into the world of politics.
And if true success is a combination of these things then we really have our
work cut out for us.....
Now obviously what I have described is the world's definition of success....
these are the things that every Senator, rock star and business mogul seeks
after and fights to attain...
And then there is Jesus....
You know, by every earthly standard Jesus of Nazareth was a complete failure....
He came out of no where to inspire a great popular movement of the people but
He couldn't maintain it for very long.... The people loved Him one day and hated
Him the next.... He challenged the political and religious system of His day
and lost... and in the end the unholy alliance of Rome and the Temple had Him
executed as a common criminal....
He was betrayed by one of His closest followers, and even His most intimate
friends deserted Him in His final hours... He died penniless and unnoticed (except
by a small group of women....) Now that's what I call success....
If the story had ended there we would have never heard the name Jesus.....
but it didn't.... because this very same Jesus who suffered and died on a cross
on Friday walked out of the grave alive again on Sunday and the world has never
been the same.....
And so we must listen to this Jesus... this counter-revolutionist.... and allow
Him to define success for us..
When we do we discover a totally different standard..... we enter into a world
where to be great means you must become least.... to win you must be willing
to lose... you do not conquer your enemy, you love him... you do not fight against
your foe, you allow his abuse and pray for his soul....
It's a world where the Master of all is the Servant of all.... where death
becomes life.. where slaves have power.... where defeat becomes victory...
It's a brand new reality where success is measured by what you give away not
by what you have....
So, what is success? Well, it really all depends on which world you choose
to live in, doesn't it? And this is the great challenge for the church today.....
to which standard are we being conformed? Which world do we really look like?
It's something to think about....
Lord, I would rather be a slave in heaven than a king on earth. Help me to
keep in mind the swiftness of these days and the emptiness of this world. And
give me the strength to stand up and be like Jesus, even if I look foolish to
those who know me. Amen.
Day 18 - A Few Suggestions for Change
For when by reason of the time you ought to be teachers, you again need to
have someone teach you the rudiments of the first principles of the oracles
of God. You have come to need milk, and not solid food. For everyone who lives
on milk is not experienced in the word of righteousness, for he is a baby. But
solid food is for those who are full grown, who by reason of use have their
senses exercised to discern good and evil. Hebrews 5: 12 - 14
Recently, I was accused of pointing out all of the problems without ever giving
any of the answers. Of course, the accusation was accurate. I avoid giving advice
because it can so often be destructive. However, I feel compelled to at least
offer a few strategies for changing the Post-Modern Pop Christian phenomenon
which pervades Christendom today.
Before I begin, let me warn you that the following suggestions may appear to
be elementary. In fact, they are. The sad truth is, most of the people sitting
in churches today are in need of basic remedial training before they can go
on to deeper things of the Spirit.
Thus, I must begin at the beginning.
In order to make the corrective changes that will have a long term effect on
our church culture, we must devote ourselves first and foremost to prayer. If
we spent half the time in prayer that we spend making long range plans and developing
church marketing strategies, we would see a lot more people brought into the
Kingdom. Prayer is the basic essential ingredient in my "success formula".
Second, we must commit ourselves to the Prime Directive (a.k.a the Great Commission).
When we lose sight of our real goal, we lose sight of the proper methods. Our
job is not to build churches or to save souls. Our job is to proclaim the Gospel
and make disciples. Our goal is not to provide a culturally relevant worship
experience for the masses. Our goal is to proclaim Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.
If we fail to preach this powerful truth, we fail to preach, period.
Third, we must truly love one another. Not put up with one another. Not be
nice to one another. Not care about one another. But love one another the way
Jesus loves us; sacrificially and completely. How many church splits would have
been prevented by a healthy does of real love? How many angry words would have
never been voiced had there been true love between the brethren?
Fourth, we absolutely must adopt Jesus' technique for winning souls.
Deliberately went to the lost people and hung out with them.
Chose to love them before challenging them.
Always spoke the truth, even when it meant losing the catch.
Never flinched or backed away from people who were filled with sin, sickness
Willingly gave His life for them (us!).
If we will embrace these four simple activities, our weak, apostate church
will once again blossom into the radiant Bride of Christ. If we fail to take
these challenges seriously, we will continue to slide into conformity with the
world and will ultimately turn into just another social institution like the
Elks, Moose and Kiwanas.
I for one don't care for funny looking hats.
Father, help me become a true disciple of Jesus Christ. Teach me to pray fervently.
Make me a bold witness for the Gospel. Enable me to truly love others as You
would have me love. And give me the heart and mind of Christ that I may be effective
in the kingdom. Above all, help me avoid the pitfall of compromise. Amen.
Day 19 - Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up.....
"I am the Alpha and the Omega, " says the Lord God, "who is
and who was and who is to come, the Almighty." Revelation 1:8
More and more I am convinced that the reason the church is so ineffective is
because the average Christian really doesn't know Jesus. Rather than recognizing
Him as a living, vital, active God complete with Personality and Agenda, we
tend to reduce Him to a cardboard figure from a Sunday School activity box.
Because we are more comfortable with a belief system than we are with a relationship,
we make the error of creating Jesus in the image of our own preconceptions.
The truth is, a really Human/God Jesus scares us to death because He demands
more than our Sunday rituals and lip service.
So, we have rejected faith in order to embrace belief in the Jesus of our choice.
For many people, Jesus has been cast as The Heavenly Vendor. We pray - He pays.
All we have to do is ask for it and He is obligated to supply it for us. It
even says so in the Gospels. The problem with Jesus as a vendor is that we have
effectively created a system of reward based on religious services rendered.
There is an entire pseudo-theology built on the erroneous premise that our words
carry some kind of supernatural power, and that as we speak, God is manipulated
into granting our desires.
What nonsense! Our prayers are answered according to the will of God, period.
Jesus is not obligated in any way to give us material wealth, health or supernatural
spiritual gifts. And our vain babblings will not move His hand one inch.
And think about it, are not our prayers for blessing motivated by greed and
selfish ambition? The true blessing comes when we fall in love with Jesus and
begin enjoying His company! As long as we come to Him with hands out and mouths
open, I am afraid we have missed the point entirely.
Then there are those who see Jesus as the Heavenly Straw Boss. We work - He
pays. For these folks, the way to right standing with God is through good works.
If we do the works, He is obligated to reward us. But again, we create a system
of reward for religious services rendered. The fact is, this is the camp most
Christians sit in. We have created a belief system that gives us a long, comfortable
list of "Do's" and "Don'ts" and as long as we keep our "spiritual
check list" in order, we must be okay with God.
More nonsense! Jesus is not obligated to reward our good behavior. In fact,
we can begin worshipping the good works instead of the Lord. When we give ourselves
to works, we very quickly fall into the trap of self righteousness. "See
how good I am? See what I have done? God really approves of me, I've done so
much for Him!" Instead of a mature, intimate relationship with Christ,
we end up with a shallow, conceited religion where we become the focal point
rather than the One who gives us life.
It is not until we realize that Jesus is more than an impersonal figure from
history, but is instead a dynamic, real Person that we can truly enter into
worship. We must come to the Living Lord and be changed rather than trying to
reinterpret Him in order to make Him more acceptable to us. When we begin to
see Him as the incredible God that He is, then we can begin to truly fall in
love with Him.
Jesus is alive! Jesus is sovereign over All Things seen and unseen! Jesus is
passionately in love with all of humanity, including you and the sinner next
door! Jesus is human and Jesus is God. And the very spiritual essence that brought
Jesus out of the grave resides in those who embrace Him and surrender themselves
So please don't reduce Him to a cartoon character or a plastic action figure.
He is so much more than that!
Lord Jesus, would You open my eyes to see You in Your glory? Would You reveal
Yourself to me in all of Your majesty? Would You increase my faith by giving
me a glimpse of Who You really are? I can’t wait to see You face to face!
Day 20 - Fundamental is Not a Bad Word
For, "All flesh is like grass, And all of man's glory like the flower
in the grass.
The grass withers, and its flower falls; But the Lord's word endures forever."
This is the word of good news which was preached to you. 1 Peter 1: 24 - 25
I went to one of those mega-bookstores today. You know the ones, where you
can get anything from cappuccino and a magazine to the latest in fiction and
I especially enjoy perusing the "religion" section, where you find
Max Lucado's work nestled in between a book on Taoism and Zen Buddhism. I went
today to browse through the latest "new truths and heresies" section,
also known as "enlightened Christianity".
In just fifteen minutes I discovered a fundamental flaw in the Post-Modern attack
on Fundamental Christianity.
In one book, I discovered that Jesus was actually an Essene Master. This was
of course the author's conclusion after carefully studying the Dead Sea Scrolls
and the Nag Hammadi Gnostic writings. In fact, he has reconstructed the "lost
years" of Jesus in which the Lord supposedly traveled to India and Alexandria
in search of esoteric knowledge. Of course, in order to reach these conclusions,
he has determined that the Canon of Scripture is both incomplete and corrupted.
I also learned that Jesus' main teaching was "forgiveness, both of others
and self." In fact, the author stated that Jesus would have never told
the Paralytic that He had forgiven his sins, but would have taught him how to
forgive himself. This also proves again that the Bible is wrong.
Another book told how Jesus was actually a humanist whose divinity had been
placed upon Him by His misguided disciples after His death in the form of a
resurrection myth. Here again, the Bible must be wrong.
Yet another author claims that in the early years of the Christian movement,
James was the leader of the Church, which at that time was nothing more than
a Jewish sect. However, in a first century shift of power, Paul took over the
movement, and going well beyond Jesus' teachings "created modern Christianity
in the form of pagan religions, complete with virgin birth and resurrection
mystiques, changing the Son of Man into the Son of God in order to perpetuate
a new religious idea." The Bible, once again, is false.
My favorite tidbit was a book by a Messianic Jewish Mystic who claims to have
uncovered evidence in the Scriptures to prove that Satan is a woman. (I guess
that proves once and for all that Hillary is the Antichrist, not Bill.) Here
again, the Scriptures are found to be veiled, false and incomprehensible to
the average man.
Now, as I see it, all of these people have a common problem in their attack
on fundamental Christianity. Simply put, their god is too small.
If there is a God in Heaven who created you, me and everything else, then certainly
He is powerful enough to preserve the one body of literature that has been known
for nearly 20 centuries as the "Word of God".
This is the cornerstone of Fundamentalist faith. If the Bible is not the infallible,
inspired and immutable Word of God, then it is nothing more than an eclectic
collection of ancient literature. I'm afraid this is what the Bible has been
reduced to by those "enlightened few" who find so many reasons to
dispute the plain teaching of the "textus receptus".
When I became a Believer I did not remove my brain nor did I disconnect my
mental facilities from my faith. I came to Christ because I could not find an
intellectual reason to reject Him. I believe the Scripture is reliable because
I believe that God Almighty is both Sovereign and All-powerful.
If He isn't, we're all in trouble!!
Lord God, Your Word endures forever. Help me to approach Your Word with the
right mind and a pure heart. Grant my desire that I may be transformed by Your
Word rather than attempting to change Your Word with my human “interpretations”.
Help me avoid the folly of doubting You. Amen.
Day 21 - And Now, A Word From Our Sponsor
The apostles gathered themselves together to Jesus, and they told him all things,
whatever they had done, and whatever they had taught. He said to them, "You
come apart into a deserted place, and rest awhile." For there were many
coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat. Mark 6: 30 - 31
I went for a long walk and poured out my heart to the Lord today.
I told Him all about my frustrations, temptations and aggravations. He listened.
He didn't even interrupt me as I went on and on and on about the same old things.
He is very patient. I'm glad.
I was walking in the woods near my in-law's home on a public trail that runs
through a national park. Lots of people use this trail, even on dreary overcast
days like today.
I grew tired of walking and ranting, so I sat down on a rock beside a quiet
stream. As I sat there, I heard a herd of runners coming through the forest.
They suddenly appeared, flying down the path on the other side of the stream,
and then they disappeared from view again into the forest. They never even knew
I was there.
Then the Lord spoke to me. He said, "So many times I have sat and watched
you run by, caught up in your worries and anxieties. I was waiting for you in
a quiet place, and you never even noticed Me sitting there. I had good counsel
for you, encouragement and a soft shoulder, but you missed me, because just
like those runners you were consumed with the path in front of you. I'm here
for you now, and I will always be here for you. So relax and rest in My love."
I realize this is neither controversial or confrontational. In fact, it may
not mean a thing to anyone but me. Never the less, I offer it to you as a word
of encouragement today. Don't get so caught up in the stress of life that you
miss the chance to sit with the Shepherd.
By the way, if I figure out how to perfectly apply this advice, I will let
Father, thank You for opening my eyes. Now Lord help me to live as You would
have me live. Totally dependent on Your love and trusting fully in Your provision.
And please remind me again when I take my eyes off of You and get caught up
in life. Amen.
Day 22 - Big Mama
There is one body, and one Spirit, even as you also were called in one hope
of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all,
who is over all, and through all, and in us all. Ephesians 4: 4 - 6
I just went to visit Big Mama. She is the great grand mother of a friend of
mine. She is 94 years old. She is dying....
As I stood looking at her frail form lying on a bed I was touched in my spirit
by her incredible faith. I shared a few verses from John 14 with her and prayed
with her.... and all the while she just said, "Thank You, Jesus..."
Big Mama is ready to go home....
But now, as I sit and reflect on the events of this morning, I am struck by
an intriguing observation.... You see, I really have nothing in common with
She is a woman.... I am not... She is of African descent.... I am of Celtic
descent.... She grew up in the black poverty of the rural south..... I grew
up in the white middle class of the big city suburbs... She was 55 years old
when I was born. Her world and my world are as different as different can be....
Big Mama and I are one.
Because for all of our differences, we have a shared experience.... we have
both been recreated in the image of Christ... we have both been crucified with
Him.... we have both been resurrected with Him... and we have both been born
again by the indwelling of His Spirit...
And so, while we may not look the same.... and certainly our independent journeys
of life have been radically different.... we are living the same life, because
it is the same Spirit Who lives in both of us.... Paul calls this the fellowship
of the mystery.... I call it amazing....
It is also a great challenge for us... because we who are one must learn to
overcome our differences and tear down the walls of separation that divide us......
and I'm not just talking about the color line, although it is a major problem
for the North American church
The fact is, there is no difference between Charismatic and Conservative....
we are one.... there is no difference between a born again Catholic, Lutheran,
Pentecostal, Southern Baptist or Non-Denominational Independent Conservative
Southern Christian..... we are all one... There is no black church and white
church, high church and low church, big church and small church, living church
and dead church..... we are all one body.... and the only thing that separates
us are the sins of prejudice and pride.... because we are one in the Spirit...
one faith, one baptism, one Savior.... one God, one Body...
This morning I had the rare privilege of reaching across the chasm of difference
and allowing the Spirit in me to minister to the Spirit in another.... and the
only thing that made this possible was the connection that the Spirit provides...
it's a lesson I pray I never forget....
Thank you, Big Mama..... I'll see you later....
Father, thank You for showing me what unity looks like. And thank You for calling
all of Your servants into one Body. Now help us tear down the many walls we
have built so that we might truly be one in Your Spirit. Glorify Yourself in
us, oh Lord. Amen.
Day 23 - Message: System Error...
Beloved, while I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation,
I was constrained to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the
faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For there are certain
men who crept in secretly, even those who were long ago written about for this
condemnation: ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness,
and denying our only Master, God, and Lord, Jesus Christ. Jude 1: 3 - 4
My hard drive is almost full. So in a futile attempt to create more drive space,
I have been deleting files.
Somehow, I have managed to delete the wrong file. Oh my...
Because of my careless blunder, I have wreaked havoc with my anti-virus program,
and now my computer feels compelled to tell me, over and over, that I am unprotected
from the hideous evil of computer viruses. Uh oh......
I find an interesting parallel between my system and the current trends in
religion. It seems that Christianity is feeling the weight of traditionalism
and status quo maintenance. We've become like a sleeping giant tied down with
spider webs. As we come awake from our slumber, we immediately begin shaking
loose from the futile bindings.
The only problem is, in the process of shaking off the bonds of tradition,
we have managed to throw away some of our essential beliefs. The inerrancy of
the Scriptures, the necessity of blood atonement, even the death and resurrection
of Christ have been rejected and replaced by a kinder, gentler faith that sees
only the good in man and the nicety of God.
And as a result, I am afraid the church is no longer protected from the hideous
evil of error, false doctrine and apostasy.
The solution for my computer problem is as simple as re-installing the missing
The solution for the church is as simple as returning to the "faith which
was once for all delivered to the saints."
In His grace, God created us, blessed us, sustains us, redeems us and restores
All of salvation is according to the grace of God. Our faith is a gift of His
grace. Our ability to receive the Gospel is according to His grace. All is grace
and without grace we are nothing. Jesus came to reveal grace to us, and through
Him God extends grace to us.
In and of ourselves we have nothing but sin and error, and so our "feel
good" religion is shown to be nothing.
Until we restore God to His proper place in the church and in our lives we
will continue to run the risk of infection from the world.
Your system may have a problem. Please check to see if any critical files are
missing, and re-install them according to God's Word.
Strike any key to continue.
Father, am I guilty of loving the world instead of the Son? Have I wandered
astray from the true Gospel? Have I been infected by the false beliefs of the
false prophets Jesus warned us about? Would You show me any errors I have held
on to and correct them with the washing of Your Spirit by the Word? Thank You,
Day 24 - Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign
The Pharisees and Sadducees came, and testing him, asked him to show them a
sign from heaven. But he answered them, "When it is evening, you say, 'It
will be fair weather, for the sky is red.' In the morning, 'It will be foul
weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.' Hypocrites! You know how
to discern the appearance of the sky, but you can't discern the signs of the
times! An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and there will
be no sign given to it, except the sign of the prophet Jonah." Matthew
16: 1 - 4
Lately I've been thinking about some interesting signs I have seen and the
significance they have to our world.
At a grocery store just up the road from me there is a sign on the exit door
reminding me as I leave the store that shirt and shoes are required. Now unless
there is a new ordinance in Lake Park I'm pretty certain it is okay to go barefooted
there. (The shirt thing I will readily agree with.... People should keep their
shirts on..... really.....)
Now the thing about this sign is that it is telling me something I no longer
need to know, and something I knew already. In short, it is a waste of time.
Our culture is overrun with time wasters these days. From television to the
internet we spend an incredible amount of time doing practically nothing in
the name of entertainment. Even our church services are often a reflection of
our cultural love affair with the familiar and the comfortable.
We do the same things over and over and over and over and we never seem to
tire of them as long as we "get something out of it" which is of course
what we put into it, which is often absolutely nothing. And if all we are getting
out of our church experience is a sense of fulfillment based upon the exercise
of our preconceived religious necessities, then it is in fact a tremendous waste
of time (not to mention effort and resources).
Another sign I love used to be at the top of the exit ramp at Windy Hill Rd.
and I-75 just north of Atlanta. As you pulled up to the stop light at the top
of the ramp there was a sign with three arrows. One pointing left, one pointing
right, and another pointing straight ahead. And at the bottom of the sign in
large print was the word, "ONLY".
I suppose this was helpful information for all of the people who felt compelled
to place their cars in reverse and back down the exit ramp.
Now the thing about this sign is that it told you to go in only one direction
but gave no indication of which direction was the correct one to travel in.
Any choice was okay as long as you stuck with it all the way.
And isn't that the message that we receive every day from the culture around
us. Make a choice, any choice, but don't change your mind, because your choice
is just as good as any other choice.
Even the church has bought into this idea of the worship of diversity and multiculturalism.
We are so afraid of being offensive that we fail to be honest. And I suppose
the real truth is, we are so unsure of our own truth that we are afraid to risk
ruining someone else's truth by imposing our truth on them. The fact that the
world is going to Hell without Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior seems to be either
forgotten or simply passé in the pursuit of a conflict free existence.
But I guess my favorite sign of all time use to be up in North Carolina on
the road going up to Bryson City. It was a small, two lane road which came around
a mountain. As you began descending into the valley there was a hairpin curve
with a drop of at least 5,000 feet if not more. And right in that curve there
was a utility pole with a sign on it which read, "Where will you spend
eternity... heaven or hell?"
I have always thought that the fastest way to find the answer to that question
was to spend too much time reading that sign.
But it was a great sign because it actually conveyed important information.
No useless waste of time. No ambiguous indication of non-direction. Just a simple,
straight forward confrontation of fact. Because the truth of eternity cannot
be ignored, and we as Christians need to confront our own ideas about what is
and isn't critical to our mission on earth, and rearrange our priorities accordingly.
Jesus never wasted any time or any words. Jesus always knew exactly where He
was going and why. And Jesus always pointed us away from the temporal and material,
and focused our sight on the only worthy goal; eternal life.
So take a look at the signs in your own life...
Where are they pointing?
Father, I need You to show me where I fall short of true obedience. I need
You to tell me when I am wasting time and effort. I need You to keep me on the
narrow way and away from the paths of destruction. If I am in guilty of ignoring
Your warning signs, forgive me and tell me again. Amen.
Day 25 - He Is Risen Indeed!
But now Christ has been raised from the dead. He became the first fruits of
those who are asleep. For since death came by man, the resurrection of the dead
also came by man. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made
alive. 1 Corinthians 15: 20 - 22
Buddha is dead.
Confucius is dead.
Krishna is dead.
Mohammed is dead.
Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud and Charles Darwin are all dead.
Washington, Franklin, Jefferson; dead.
Indeed, Abraham, Moses, David and Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Daniel have
all passed away.
Peter, Paul, James and John all are dead and buried.
But Jesus of Nazareth, the carpenter from Galilee, the anointed Christ, the
King of the Jews and the Savior of the Gentiles, the Lamb of God and Lord of
all is alive and well today!
This same Jesus who was born in obscurity, who performed incredible miracles;
healing the diseased, restoring the lame and broken, delivering the demonized
and even calling the dead back to life is Himself alive. Jesus, who challenged
the foundation of the religious establishment, was betrayed and deserted by
His own followers, falsely accused, unjustly tried and executed in the name
of political expediency has overcome the grip of death, and having risen again
on the third day continues to live!
For He did not return to life simply to succumb again to the power of death,
but has in truth triumphed over the grave. He now sits at the right hand of
God as our Advocate, continually making intercession on our behalf and cleansing
us with His glorious blood shed once for all on a cruel Roman cross.
And just as surely as He has risen, so shall this same Jesus return to Earth
at the appointed moment, calling forth from the grave all of those who rest
in Him along with those who yet live in Him. At that moment, we shall all be
glorified according to the grace and power of God and we shall join Him in the
clouds of Heaven and there reside for all eternity.
This is our great hope. And more than hope, it is our confidence that our faith
rest not in the teachings of dead men or in the empty traditions of religion.
We rest instead on the marvelous sign of the empty tomb of Jesus Christ and
the infallible proofs of His bodily resurrection; an event as certain as the
military campaigns of Alexander the Great, the assassination of Julius Caesar
and the desolation of Jerusalem during the reign of Vespasian.
For the resurrection of Jesus Christ is not a fable. Nor is it a mere fireside
story. It is not simply a concoction proceeding from the vain imaginations of
No, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a historical fact, proven over and
over again by skeptic and believer alike to the satisfaction of any honest student
And so we celebrate this wondrous event that not only changed the world but
which indeed changed the very fabric of creation. Jesus Christ, by His death,
has reconciled us to God. And with His resurrection He has sealed His victory
over Satan, death and the tomb and has established for all who come to Him in
faith a new life.
Because He lives, our sins are forgiven.
Because He lives we no longer walk according to the flesh but instead walk
in the power of His Holy Spirit.
Because He lives we have this certain faith; that where He is so shall we be
Jesus Christ is risen. He is risen indeed!
Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through Jesus Christ, our Lord and
Savior, our Master and Friend, our High Priest and Servant King. To Him be the
glory forever and ever.
Jesus You are my God. You are my Lord. You are my Master. You are my Savior.
You are My redeemer. You are my everything and I adore You. I love You, Lord.
Day 26 - What A Pain....
Rejoice in the Lord always! Again I will say, Rejoice! Let your gentleness
be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. In nothing be anxious, but in everything,
by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to
God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your
hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus. Phillipians 4: 4 - 7
I'm in pain.
Funny how as you approach 40 things quick acting the way they used to act.
Yesterday as I was washing my hair in the shower my back went out. One minute
I am minding my own business, happily scrubbing and then, WHAM!, a knife pierces
me between the shoulders and I find myself completely preoccupied with pain.
Thankfully there are chiropractors and insurance, and today I am feeling a
bit better. Still, my experience has caused me to think about the realities
I wonder how God feels when we sin? Does He feel the same kind of sickening,
stabbing pain that I felt yesterday, or just the dull aching pain I have right
I wonder how Jesus feels when He sees us running into the promise of consequences
instead of grace. How does His frustration with our humanness reveal itself?
Or does He even get frustrated?
I wonder how He felt when He was crucified. Did He really feel everything we
would feel? Or was He somehow able to overcome the pain?
Why did God create us with the capacity to feel pain, anyway?
Well, for people who have leprosy, it is the inability to feel pain that causes
the worst problems, because the slightest cut can become gangrenous and eventually
For the paraplegic, it is the sensation of pain that brings the joy and hope
And the fact that we have all felt pain helps us understand the sinfulness of
inflicting pain on others.
Also, we have a promise of a pain-free eternity which helps us cope with the
pain of daily life in a fallen world. And so we see that pain is a blessing
from God. A fact that helps us understand Paul's commandment to "Rejoice
in the Lord always."
Even when your back hurts.
Father, help me to develop an attitude of joy, even when I am faced with difficulty
and pain. Teach me to rejoice in every circumstance. Amen.
Day 27 - Religion To Go?
Peter began to tell him, "Behold, we have left all, and have followed
Jesus said, "Most assuredly I tell you, there is no one who has left house,
or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or land,
for my sake, and for the Gospel's sake, but he will receive one hundred times
more now in this time, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and land,
with persecutions; and in the age to come eternal life. Mark 10: 28 - 30
What do a car dealership, an insurance agency, a church and Hooters restaurant
have in common?
They all have a billboard on Interstate 20 in Atlanta.
Now, I am not saying there is anything wrong with billboards or advertising.
But I do wonder what message the Average Guy riding along in his pick-up truck
I also wonder about the thought process that leads to the financial decision
made to advertise a church on the side of the interstate highway. Somehow, I
don't seem to get it... but then I can be a cynic at times.
Anyway, the more I pray about the condition of the American Church, the more
I feel burdened by the misguided direction in which it seems to be headed. The
more I meditate upon the spiritual condition of the average church attendee
the more I am bothered by a sense that we exist within a well hidden apostasy
which permeates to the very core of our Christianized subculture. When I read
the Gospels, I feel better acquainted with the Pharisees than with the Disciples.
Again, the point I am trying to make is that we in the Body need to be honest
with ourselves. We need to be willing to examine our motives and dissect our
methodologies. We need to willingly scrutinize our agendas and determine if
we are doing Christian things, or are we following Christ. There is a huge difference.
I am encouraged! I believe there are many Christians who are just as tired
of playing Church as I am and are ready to re-embrace the pure Gospel that promises
hardship, suffering, loss and pain. It also promises peace and joy, blessing
and love beyond description. All in the here and now, and all for the price
of everything we are and a drop of Jesus' blood.
I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back......
Father, help me be a follower. If I am trying to manipulate You show me and
stop me. If I have learned to trust more in my talents and abilities than in
Your Spirit.... open my eyes. Amen.
Day 28 - What Kind of King?
As he was now getting near, at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole
multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice
for all the mighty works which they had seen, saying, "Blessed is the King
who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest!"
Some of the Pharisees from the multitude said to him, "Teacher, rebuke
your disciples!" He answered them, "I tell you that if these were
silent, the stones would cry out." Luke 19: 37 - 40
Recently I have been I have been considering the question, "What kind
of King is Jesus?"
Obviously He wasn't the King that the Jews were expecting.... He didn't come
to conquer and liberate Jerusalem from Roman occupation... He didn't come to
reform a corrupt political and religious system.... He didn't come to assume
power over the people of Palestine....
So what kind of King was He?
The answer I believe can be found in the events of the Triumphant Entry into
First we see that Jesus is the King who knows....
He knew that He needed a colt and He knew where one was.... because He sent
His disciples to get it...
Isn't it a comfort to rest in the hands of a King who knows us? A Lord who
knows what it means to be joyful, satisfied, happy, hurt, angry, hungry, sad,
unsettled, poor, despised, rejected, even put to death.....
Doesn't it make it easier to serve Him when we realize that He knows our condition,
He knows our struggles and He knows the future? I think it does.....
We also see that He is the King who depends upon His people.....
What did the disciples say when questioned about taking the colt? “The
Lord has need of it...”
Now this may come as a surprise to some, but the Lord is depending on us to
give what He needs... for some it could be time, for others money, for some
talents, or prayers, or comfort, or knowledge..... you see, for His kingdom
to grow the King needs the faithfulness of His people.... and He is depending
on you to fulfill your duties and obligations which begin with "Love one
another" And end with, "Follow Me."
He is also the King who comes in humility...
Imagine the Lord of Lords riding into His city on the back of a donkey's colt......
that is the kind of King we serve.... one who did not come to be served but
to serve... one who did not come to demand His rights, but who chose instead
to suffer and die so that we might live... The King came as a slave to God...
and He demands the same humility from all of those who would worship and serve
Him..... including you and me...
He is also revealed as the King who represents God.....
The people shouted... "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!"
And this is something we need to be ever mindful of..... Jesus was more than
just another good man... He was more than a prophet...He was more than a King
in the line of David.... He was the image of the Almighty... the Son of God
who came to establish His throne in the hearts of men... and when we gaze upon
Jesus we are gazing at God....
Finally, we see that Jesus is the King of Confidence....
On that glorious day not everyone was cheering.... the Pharisees were offended
by the praise of the people that Jesus willingly received.... and they told
Him to make them stop.... But Jesus replied, "If these should keep silent
the stones would immediately cry out!" Jesus was not afraid of what was
ahead.... He knew where He had come from and He knew where He was going....
He accepted the worship of the people because it belonged to Him... and He understood
that if the people refused to worship Him that nature itself would fill the
Because Jesus was and is the King of Glory!
I encourage you to ponder these things.... because they are important TRUTHS
that need to be remembered.... and as you worship and follow the King... remember,
He is coming again!
Jesus, I long to worship You with all of my heart, soul, mind and body. Take
my life and use it to build Your kingdom. Glorify Yourself with my willing sacrifice,
my Redeemer, my Master, my Lord, my King. Amen.
Day 29 - Not Ashamed?
For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God for
salvation for everyone who believes; for the Jew first, and also for the Greek.
For in it is revealed God's righteousness from faith to faith. As it is written,
"But the righteous shall live by faith." Romans 1: 16 - 17
I was recently talking with a minister friend who made the observation that
our churches are filled with people who love Jesus, know all about Jesus and
are trusting in Jesus for their eternal salvation, but still remain unwilling
or unmotivated to follow Jesus.
Personally, I have come to the conclusion that there is a tremendous power
in this faith we so often take for granted. It's like a bird sitting on a power
line. For the bird, it is a convenient place to perch, but he has no idea that
between his feet runs an incredible force that cannot be seen except in the
outworking of it's power.
As we look around at the rapid disintegration of Western culture, we must be
mindful that the power for transformation and preservation lies not in our mass
marketing plans or human idealism, but is contained only in the Gospel of Christ.
And this power can be unleashed only by people who are willing to forsake all
in the passionate pursuit of Kingdom of God.
I was looking for books on Christian stewardship last week, and in four large
bookstores I found one.... only one..... on the subject of kingdom living and
the responsibilities of the believer.
Now I found hundreds of books on personal finance, building your personal prayer
life, finding peace and happiness in Jesus and other equally egocentric pursuits.
But it seems that the concepts of sacrifice, self denial and service to God
have no ready market in the consumer driven church of today. And here lies the
root of our vain struggle to effectively preserve and change the world around
How can we be a beacon of change when we look no different from the pagan culture
In the first century, it was not the eloquent delivery of the Apostles or the
purchasing power of the church that turned the world upside down.
It was not the entertainment factor or the promise of personal health, wealth
and happiness that grew the church at a phenomenal rate.
It was nothing more than the incredible and unlikely power of the Gospel, delivered
by fallible humans and empowered by the unseen essence of God that literally
changed the world forever.
And when we once again embrace the simple truth of the Gospel and commit ourselves
once again to the simple commission of Christ, then we will see the outworking
of the power of God to salvation in our midst.
Unless of course, you're ashamed of it........
Lord Jesus, am I ashamed? Have I placed more faith in techniques and programs
than I have in the power of the Gospel? Am I guilty of trying to please myself
instead of pleasing You? If it’s true... I am so sorry. Please forgive
me and renew my faith in You and You alone. Amen.
Day 30 - My Chair Is Killing Me...
I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge
the living and the dead at his appearing and his Kingdom: preach the word; be
urgent in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with all patience
and teaching. For the time will come when they will not listen to the sound
doctrine, but, having itching ears, will heap up for themselves teachers after
their own lusts; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside
to fables. 2 Timothy 4: 1 - 4
The chair I am sitting in to write this is terribly uncomfortable. In fact,
if I sit here too long, my backside will go to sleep and my feet will begin
to tingle. Doesn't that sound like fun?
And so you may ask why do I choose to sit in this chair when I am working at
My answer, "Because this is the chair that is at my desk."
Now this may sound silly to you, but in fact, it is a perfectly reasonable
explanation for why I inflict a certain measure of self-torture on myself every
time I write. The truth is, this is a beautiful antique chair that has been
in my family for many years. And it really looks nice sitting here at my desk.
Now the reason I mention this is because my chair is a lot like post modern
Christianity. It is functional, it looks nice on the outside and it is comfortably
familiar. And yet, there is something inherently painful about it. There is
a sense of wrongness within it that is overshadowed by our own complacency.
(About now, I am feeling the beginning of a tingle in my left leg.... Oh boy!)
In the church today we adhere to certain doctrines that may or may not be orthodox
(prosperity for believers, a pre-tribulation rapture, salvation by committee,
etc.) And yet, we find it easier to simply nod and accept these things than
to seriously consider why we believe them. In the name of unity we overlook
critical differences and choose to build up the common ground, often compromising
where we should be standing firm.
We find it easier to sit in an uncomfortable chair than to change our habits
Now I am not attacking any particular beliefs. What I am saying is that we
need to take an objective look at all the pet doctrines of the Post Modern Pop
Christian Culture and decide if:
* They agree with Scripture
* They make sense in light of orthodox doctrine
* They can be applied to the universal church or are they Western aberrations
The bottom line is, are we placing our faith in Christ or are we trusting in
our self created belief systems? Are we sitting in a really nice, deadly church,
or are we willing to swap it for a simple yet powerfully living church?
If we don't change soon, I'm afraid Western Evangelicalism will be as dead
as my rear end is right now..... it's something to think about...
Father, I’m not sure why I desire comfort over truth, but I do. Help me
to love the Truth as much as I love myself, and give me the courage to question
those things I have always taken for granted, knowing that if they are true
my questions will only strengthen my faith. Amen.
Day 31 - GOD LIGHTENS UP
By: Joe "Givmo" Dollars
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes
to the Father, except through me. John 14:6
In an unprecedented move of Holy Niceness, God announced recently that He is
relaxing His standards for entrance into the kingdom. "Heaven was just
feeling a bit empty." He was quoted as saying, "And so "The Big
Three" decided to throw the gates open wide and invite everybody to the
This news was first revealed to his most excellent high holiness, the right
reverend Rex "Deep Pockets" Turnip on his recent spiritual journey
to the New Jerusalem. "It was the most amazing thing," Rev. Turnip
says, "People milling around everywhere, eyes wide as saucers, big smiles
on their faces. It was just the most beautiful sight I've witnessed in all of
my visits to heaven so far."
Latrina Groove, a really nice politician from Detroit was quoted as saying,
"You know, I never even believed this place existed, and now I'm here!"
According to Rev. Turnip, the whole change was made possible by simply redefining
sin in more Politically Correct terms. Rather than meaning rebellion against
God, sin now means whatever we decide isn't nice today. Of course, this could
be bad news for those who refuse to recycle or vote Democrat.... but as "Deep
Pockets" reveals, "God is in such a good mood right now, He might
even let a few hard-core environmental exploitationists in.... who knows?"
Even Saint Peter is getting into the spirit of things, sporting a rainbow patch
on his white robe and heading up the "Development Committee" that
is currently working on plans to expand the Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, New Age,
Wiccan, Neo-Pagan, Animist, Spiritist and Atheist sections of Heaven. Turnip
quotes him as saying, "There are just so many nice people in the world,
we really aren't sure where we will squeeze them all in, but we will make do!"
Of course, there is a downside to all of this. Because space has become such
an issue, many proposed "heavenly mansions" will be reduced to "holy
condos" but that's a small price to pay for the assurance that all you
need is love, goodness and a positive attitude to gain eternal life.
"Bloody crosses, death and resurrection, all that stuff is part of the
past." Rex Turnip says. "The New Gospel is built on tolerance, forgiveness
and being nice to one another. Even Hitler would be allowed in if he would promise
to be nice."
Not everyone is happy about the changes however. It seems that members of the
"Martyrs for Jesus" club are crying foul. "It cost us a lot more
than a handshake and a smile to get here," quipped one disgruntled Martyr,
"and it seems to us that this new relaxed standard is bound to cause trouble
somewhere along the line."
According to Rev. Turnip there are no current plans for additional compensation
for those who came into Heaven under the old system of repentance, faith, submission
and obedience, but, "if things get out of hand among the older citizens
there may be remedial training in grace and forgiveness offered to help them
adjust. It always takes a little time for folks to accept major policy changes,
but after all, God has eternity to work this out."
Jesus was unavailable for comment.
Lord, help me to never be fooled by the many false prophets who abound in our
age. Let me be always grounded in Your Word and rooted in Your truth. Establish
my feet upon the paths of righteousness and be my Light in the darkness. Amen.
Day 32 - Until I Get There...
If then you were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above,
where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things
that are above, not on the things that are on the earth. For you died, and your
life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, our life, is revealed, then
you will also be revealed with him in glory. Colossians 3: 1 - 4
I am not satisfied with where I am spiritually.
I have discovered that, no matter how much I grow in faith, there is always
more to be obtained. My faith is not nearly as strong as I want it to become.
I have found that no matter how fervently I pray, there are levels of prayer
that I have yet to reach. My prayer life is not as passionate as I want it to
I have learned that no matter how deeply I study Gods Word, my knowledge is
elementary. My daily encounter with the Word of God is not as deep as I want
it to become.
I have been recently shown that regardless of how closely I walk with the Holy
Spirit, there is always more of me that needs to die so that more of Him can
live in me. I am far from content with my walk with the Holy Spirit.
It is my deepest desire to become so utterly selfless that He has absolute
control of my life.
I have a long way to go.
Lately, I have been waking up with a Rush song on my mind. (For the uneducated,
Rush is a rock group that was very popular, oh, 15 to 20 years ago.... Ouch!)
And I have been wondering why I should rise with a secular rock song playing
in my head instead of a spiritual song or hymn in its place. The flesh is a
funny thing, and it is so very hard to subdue.
My passionate prayer is that my will should become conformed to His will, totally.
Yet I find that the inner "I" is so very strong.
As a minister, I find there is a tendency to second guess every decision and
to struggle with every choice; from the sermon topic to the expenditure of time.
And then, I suddenly stop and wonder why I am struggling so hard to find myself,
when in reality I should be losing myself in Him. The will is a slippery thing,
and it is difficult to hold.
I have a deep inner longing to lose myself in the ecstasy of prayer and worship,
diving so deeply into the Spirit that I never resurface, and yet there is a
fear that to do so will cause consequences that I am not prepared to face.
It's easy to preach about the necessity of continual and fervent prayer. It
is another thing to place "duty" and "responsibility" on
hold in order to truly pray fervently and continually. It's a dilemma that only
the Lord can rectify. Thankfully, He desires for me the very same things. And
I can rest in this; He will finish what He has started in me.
And so, I say again; I am not satisfied with my spiritual life.
And I hope I never am this side of Heaven.
Father, You know my discontent. Lord, You understand my longing. Please allow
Your Spirit to minister to my desire that I might be satisfied in You..... nothing
more... nothing less. Amen.
Day 33 - Priorities First
My little children, let's not love in word only, neither with the tongue only,
but in deed and truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and persuade
our hearts before him, because if our heart condemns us, God is greater than
our heart, and knows all things. 1 John 3: 18 - 20
Have you ever noticed that the more you have to do, the less you seem to accomplish?
Right now, I have an evening sermon to prepare.... a sermon I was about to
start on when my phone rang yesterday, and I wound up sitting and talking with
friends instead. And this morning one of my members was having surgery, so I
spent several hours in Gainesville at the hospital.......
(You know, this sermon is not going to write itself.....)
But before you get me wrong and think I am whining and complaining... let me
assure you that I am not. I have plenty of time between now and Sunday night
to get ready...... right?
And what is really important, anyway?
In the quest for intimacy, isn't time together an essential factor? Shouldn't
we as the family of God enjoy being with one another? If we are going to truly
bear one anothers burdens, doesn't that require knowing one anothers needs,
frustration, anxieties, etc.?
Of course, I really do need to write this sermon..... it is, after all, the
most important thing I do each week.... Because it is by the foolishness of
preaching that the Holy Spirit brings conviction on the hearts of men......
And you could, of course, make the argument that I am wasting time writing
this instead of the sermon..... (but nobody's asking you...)
Actually, I haven't spent much time praying today, or meditating on the Scriptures....
maybe what I really need to do is have some quiet time...... perhaps enjoy a
cup of tea and a few chapters of one of the seven books I have going at the
moment..... (then again, what if someone drops by and sees me doing nothing....
what would the neighbors think? Especially if my evening sermon is a real stinker.....)
No, I think I had better concentrate on Ephesians for a while and get ready
for Sunday night..... at least until my kids get home.... I did promise to throw
the football with Corey this afternoon, and since Jamie and I have plans for
dinner, I will have to do it early...... because if my own children don't get
my attention, why should anyone else? What is really important?
(It looks like I may be working on Saturday.... again.... but that's okay......)
You know, the truth is we can't do everything all the time. And my point today
is that, while there are so many things I would like to see change in the American
church, nothing is going to change overnight. And while I would love nothing
more than to be "on schedule" at the end of every week.... that isn't
going to always happen, either.....
The same is true for you, so deal with it.....
Because, while we are all praying for an immediate dose of patience, God is
doing what He wants to do the way He wants to do it....... and if we think we
can rush Him, we are in real trouble.....
And God is more interested in people than He is in events. He values individuals
over things. And He puts family at the top of the list every time..... (after
all, are we not His children?)
So is this unwritten sermon important? You bet it is.... but I preached a louder
sermon sitting in the hospital waiting room this morning.....
Is quiet time important? Absolutely...... but I really believe that when I
spend time with my wife and children, I am spending time with my Father as well.....
and isn't that what prayer is supposed to be about?
Maybe what we need is a new way of thinking about priorities....
I need to write a sermon..... I wonder if Corey is home yet......
Father, help me to know what is and what isn’t important. And then help
me make the adjustments I need to make in my life to do what’s right.
Day 34 - Warning: This Column May Save Your Life.....
Love is patient and is kind; love doesn't envy. Love doesn't brag, is not proud,
doesn't behave itself inappropriately, doesn't seek its own way, is not provoked,
takes no account of evil; doesn't rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with
the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures
all things. Love never fails..... 1 Corinthians 13: 4 - 8
Lately I have begun to recognize a long unnoticed ailment within the Western
Church. I am speaking, of course, of NCS (Nice Christian Syndrome).
Unconfirmed statistics indicate that as many as 9 out of 10 American Church
members suffer from NCS. It appears that the Post Modern Church is facing a
problem of pandemic proportion!
Symptoms of NCS are: being nice on the outside while harboring resentment on
the inside, smiling while in emotional distress so that others won't be uncomfortable,
laughing along with the joke made at ones expense and suffering the wounds in
Long term results of prolonged NCS are a lack of emotional commitment, superficial
fellowship and stunted spiritual growth in the affected church member. Undiagnosed
and untreated NCS can even lead to eternal death due to a wrong understanding
of the Gospel.
NCS is a serious problem.
The only known cure for NCS is a renewed intimacy with Jesus Christ and a commitment
to honesty and love within the local Body. We are commanded to love one another,
not be nice to one another.
Love is strong enough to take issue with sin without being judgmental. Love
is able to mourn without falling into despair. Love is able to tell the truth
without running roughshod over someone's feelings.
Abounding love knows the truth and chooses to love anyway.
It is critical that we in the Body prayerfully determine whether or not we
are suffering from NCS, and then take drastic measures to eradicate it from
our fellowship, beginning with ourselves!
NCS is a deadly disease which strikes at many different levels and threatens
to destroy the vitality of the Church today. It is a problem that must be dealt
with, because left unchecked, the Church may eventually become nothing but a
ward for nice people who hold a common belief system and put up with one another
for fear of controversy and unpleasantness.
Let us pray that God will begin to reveal to us the malignant roots of Nice
Christian Syndrome so that we may begin to truly love one another the way Christ
has commanded. And please begin today, because tomorrow may be too late!
Father, I confess that I do not love well. In fact, I’m not really sure
how to love as You have commanded. Please forgive me for my hard heart, and
help me to truly love You and Your Body. Amen.
Day 35 - Choose Life
Afterward he was revealed to the eleven themselves as they sat at the table,
and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they didn't
believe those who had seen him after he had risen. He said to them, "Go
into all the world, and preach the Gospel to the whole creation. Mark 16: 14
Just for the record, I thought I would share my burdens and concerns for humanity
I feel that to say abortion is a great evil and a blot on our land would be
redundant. The fact that a financial machine could successfully propagate the
nonsensical notion that murder is okay as long as it is legal is sickening.
The fact that God's greatest miracle could be renamed non-viable fetal tissue
and purposefully destroyed is not only shameful, but will be a source of great
woe to this nation and to the church.
To say that euthanasia is a great evil and a dire threat to our land is also
redundant. The fact that, as a culture, we have chosen to warehouse the elderly
and forge ahead with life is a disgrace. And when people begin whispering that
some poor, sick, tired gray-haired person would be better off dead, then we
have stepped into the legacy of Hitler not Jefferson and Washington. The truth
is, we have come to the point where old age is a curse, not a blessing, and
unless we cut short the pursuit of legalized "mercy killing" we stand
to face an even greater judgment.
But greater than the burden for the unborn and the elderly is my great concern
for the lost of the world. There are 6 billion people walking this planet today.
Of that number, at least 5 billion are faced with a Godless eternity.
5 billion people will die and go to hell if the church doesn't get the message
of hope in Christ to them. We must face this reality and choose to become the
ambassadors of the Gospel that Jesus called us to become.
The Western Church must shake off its cocoon of "Christian-ease"
and enter the battle for the lost. Jesus wept over the multitudes because they
were like sheep, wandering aimlessly around, harassed and confused with no shepherd.
We sit and worry about our retirement accounts and our tax liabilities.
If we truly believe that all humanity is precious in the eyes of God, and if
we truly understand that the vast majority of humanity is faced with eternal
judgment in the flames of hell, and if we are convinced that Jesus is the only
hope they have for eternity, then we must be motivated to do more than attend
entertaining church services and watch Christian broadcasting at home.
We must be willing to do more than write a check and offer an occasional prayer
for our missionaries.
We must, absolutely must, obey the Lord and be witnesses, in Jerusalem (where
we are), in Judea and Samaria (where we are comfortable and where we are not)
and to the ends of the earth (into the great unknown).
The Great Commission is not a pledge drive or a fellowship event. It is a lifestyle
that EVERY Christian man, woman and child must accept as personal and binding.
For if we fail to BE the disciples we are COMMANDED to be, how can we expect
to be receive the blessings of the Father?
You tell me.....
Father, burden my heart with Your burden for the lost of this world. Motivate
me to get out of my chair and go share the good news with someone today. Tell
me what to say... Show me where to go.... Help me make a difference.... Amen
Day 36 - That's Entertainment
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you fall into various temptations, knowing
that the testing of your faith produces endurance. Let endurance have its perfect
work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of
you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without
reproach; and it will be given to him. James 1: 2 - 5
For months I have been pondering the role that entertainment plays in "contemporary"
worship styles. As a worship leader, I always tried to select music that would
appeal to a broad range of people, and I always tried to present that music
in a way that was comfortable without being stale. However, as the old saw goes,
you can't please all of the people all of the time, and I found myself being
constantly distracted by the members of the congregation who never seemed to
"connect" with the "worship" segment of the morning service.
Then it happened.
I was attending a church service recently, and during the "praise and
worship" segment, right in the middle of a "worship" song, the
"worship team" inserted a guitar solo. Now don't get me wrong. It
sounded great, (the lead guitarist happens to be a good friend of mine....)
and it wasn't distracting from the "worship mood" of the congregation.
Still, it got me thinking.. (which can be a pretty scary thing...).
So, I find myself engaged in an inner debate about the merits of entertainment
in the modern church. We will now join the fray as the duel sides of my ego,
Professor Cynical and Rev. Feel Good present their closing arguments and take
questions from the gallery.... Right this way please.... Watch your step....
Rev. F.G.: "... and so, I say simply and straightforwardly that the question
itself, "Should the church entertain its members?" is jaded and should
be, no, must be removed from the floor. Of course we should provide an environment
that fosters a mood of entertainment, (discreetly, of course) while at the same
time presenting the Gospel in a relevant and modern way. Remember, when D.L
Moody and Spurgeon were in their prime, oratory was considered a respected form
of entertainment. They were simply engaging their culture with the communication
forms which were popular at the time, and were quite successful in their ministries.
Thus, when the modern church presents the Gospel with video, drama and technodazzle,
it is merely emulating the church of the past. Should the church be about entertainment?
Certainly not! Should church be entertaining? If it isn't, the only people who
will remain in church are the ones who go out of a sense of obligation... and
I daresay they would find sawdust and stale water entertaining in a strange
and unwholesome way. "
(thunderous applause and catcalls proceed from the gallery as Rev. Feel Good
steps down from the podium. Professor Cynical rises and walks slowly across
the platform, shaking his head slightly and nonchalantly fixing his tie. He
stands up to the podium and clears his throat as the room falls silent...)
Prof. C.: "Should the church entertain its members?" This is, of
course, the question at hand, and the fact that we have broached the subject
says a tremendous amount about the depths to which we in Western society have
fallen. What we have is a generation that has entirely missed the point of church.
We should worship God with all of our minds, souls and strength. Instead, we
attend a worship service which last maybe ninety minutes, and is so programmed
that one could set his watch by the events on the stage. We are extolled by
Scripture to enter His gates with thanksgiving in our hearts. Instead, we enter
the doors with lunch on our minds. We say things such as, "That was great
worship today", and, "I really enjoyed the service.", then we
complain because we had to stand up so long, or because we just don't understand
this "modern" music. Why not get really modern and present the message
in 30-second sound bites complete with jingles and scantily dressed super models?
("Foul!" says the moderator. Prof. C. rolls his eyes).
The point being, when we choose to reduce the gathering together of the saints
for communion and worship to a thinly veiled commercial for "Get the Gospel
and Get A Life" we miss the very essence of church, which is to corporately
adore our Lord and Savior and give to Him the worship He deserves. Worship devoid
of pretense and prescription, but whole hearted and vital. When church becomes
a vehicle for entertainment, its emphasis is obviously on the wrong people.
It is focused on us and not on the Three In One as it must be to truly be worship
at all. Thank you.
(as Prof. C. steps down, someone clears his throat as a few really nice people
applaud tentatively. After an awkward silence, the moderator steps up and opens
the floor for questions.)
Q: "Professor, is it your opinion then, sir, that people should not enjoy
their Sunday morning worship experience?"
Prof. C: "Of course not, don't be asinine. We should walk away from the
Sunday meeting refreshed and revitalized. But not because we had some heavy
"spiritual" experience, or because we "worshipped" well.
Our refreshing should come from the presence of the Holy Spirit, not from the
professional performance of the band or the polished delivery of the preacher.
Q: "Reverend, have we gone too far in our desire to have a good worship
Rev. F.G.: "I must agree with my esteemed opponent that there are those
who have taken worship to a vulgar extreme. Yet, we cannot underplay the role
that subjectivity plays in the spiritual development of the individual. If certain
songs invoke a deeper sense of Gods presence for the worshipper, we should sing
them. If people are distracted by the disjointed delivery of the novice speaker,
we should make sure that a poised preacher delivers the Gospel message. We cannot
afford to take the cultural realities in which we live for granted. There are
forces at work in our congregations that were not there two decades ago, much
less a century ago. We have to be cognizant of these facts if we are going to
reach our culture with the Good News of Jesus Christ."
.... Well, as you can see the issue is far from resolved in my mind. What do
you think? Should the church entertain its members? Stay tuned, the debate rages
Heavenly Father, help me to know what is really important. And help me to never
become so caught up in the “doing” that I miss “being”
with You and in You. Amen.
Day 37 - Visions in the Night
He set another parable before them, saying, "The Kingdom of Heaven is
like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field; which
indeed is smaller than all seeds. But when it is grown, it is greater than the
herbs, and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in its
branches." He spoke another parable to them. "The Kingdom of Heaven
is like yeast, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, until
it was all leavened." Matthew 13: 31 - 33
As I was lying in bed the other night I had one of those "Ah ha!"
You know the ones... those times when suddenly everything clicks into focus
and you see things you have been overlooking all along.... Some call in serendipity,
others epiphany...... I just call it fortunate.
I was in that almost asleep stage visualizing a conversation with someone who
had walked away from organized religion and the program driven church when it
happened..... suddenly I knew how to say what I have been feeling for years.....
(and I even remembered it the next morning......!)
See, I have been dissatisfied with the "Drive-Thru" church that Americans
have made so popular.... "I'll take two instant blessings and a cup of
sanctification to go, please...." I just can't stand it....
And I'm not much for the "All You Can Eat Buffet" church that seems
to be everywhere these days..... "A little activity for the kids... small
groups and prayer fellowship for Mom..... P.K. for Dad... music for everyone...
your choice of worship styles; contemporary, traditional or progressive.....
pre-recorded sermon tapes available.... manifestations of the Spirit on Thursday
nights...." Call me cynical, but it seems too polished to be the "real
Of course, I'm not big in the "Do Not Disturb" church, either.....
(no explanation needed.... I hope!)
These are the churches that people are leaving in droves.... These are the
churches that have been tested and found irrelevant..... These are the churches
that have made promises they can't keep and claims they can't support..... these
are the churches that have left a legacy of disillusioned, skeptical post-Christians
in their wake.... and I have finally recognized the root of the problem....
You see, for years we have been working with the wrong understanding of what
the church is supposed to be about..... we have bought into the vision of the
militant church.... the triumphant church.... the victorious church...... the
forceful church..... and that has been a huge mistake!
As the church we are not an invasion force...... we aren't called to attack
and destroy.... we aren't called to occupy and control..... we aren't supposed
to be the church offensive but the church subversive!
When Jesus ascended into heaven, He looked at a group of about 120 people and
said, "I want you to go change the world....." He didn't say "conquer..."
And so, we are not supposed to beat people over the head with our Bibles....
we are not supposed to analyze, criticize, rationalize and proselytize.....
We aren't supposed to go and "take this city for Jesus!"
Instead, we are supposed to quietly but intentionally love those around us
into the Kingdom of God.... we should be like yeast... not like hammers...
And if we embrace this purpose for the church, then the way we "do church"
will be transformed..... because we will find that intimacy is more important
than variety, and success is measured in terms of quality not quantity....
Friends, going to church should not be like going to Wal-Mart where you get
lost in a crowd and hope to walk out with what you came to get..... in fact,
we shouldn't be "going to church" in the first place.... we are the
church.... and we're supposed to look like Jesus.... not P.T. Barnum or Napoleon.
Heavenly Father, I want to make a difference. I want my life to have meaning
and purpose. And above all, I want to have an influence on the people around
me for the kingdom. Help me escape from all the preconceived ideas that have
held me back thus far. And focus my eyes again on the only thing that matters....
the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Day 38 - How's Your Love Life?
Don't love the world, neither the things that are in the world. If anyone loves
the world, the Father's love isn't in him. For all that is in the world, the
lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, isn't the Father's,
but is the world's. 1 John 2: 16 - 17
Lately I've been thinking a lot about sin.
Not that I have been contemplating sinning, but I have been pondering the nature
of sin and the reality if sin in our lives and the life of the church.
You see, I continue to become more and more concerned for the church because
the church continues to look more and more like the world. And the Apostle John
wrote that "if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in
Now we all feel a bit uncomfortable with dogmatism today. In our postmodern,
multicultural, politically correct world of diversity and acceptance there is
very little room for the black and white of Scripture. And as the church has
embraced the world we have chosen to see shades of grey where once the lines
of demarcation were clearly evident. We have chosen to avoid the yes and no,
right or wrong attitude of the Apostles and have opted for the more comfortable
maybe - sometimes attitude of the pagan world.
The only problem is, this casual attitude towards the Scripture can lead only
to error, and error to sin.
(That's right, the "S" word....)
While I am convinced that good Christian people still abhor sin as a concept,
I am not sure we really despise sin as a practiced reality. I believe we have
become much too comfortable with the world and the things of the world. And
this comfort has lead to contentment, and contentment to a callous attitude
towards sin and those people who are lost in it!
If we really believed that the lost person next door was doomed to an eternity
in Hell (...gasp! The 'H' word!) would that not change the way we view evangelism?
Would anyone drive past a neighbor's burning house and casually assume that
the fire department was on its way?
And yet, I find that Christendom appears to be more concerned with integrating
the latest technologies and fad techniques into its "worship services"
than it is with raising, equipping and sending workers into the harvest fields.
We would rather bring the world into our churches than send our churches out
into the world, and that troubles me.
The bottom line is, sin is sin. There is no grey area in the arena of a man's
heart; either we love and serve the Lord, or we love the world and serve ourselves.
Jesus said that it is impossible to serve God and the world and that we are
either slaves to sin or slaves to righteousness.
John says that if we love the world and all it has to offer, then we really
don't love God regardless of what we say on Sunday morning.
So, how is your love life today?
Lord, what do I love? I say that I love You, but do I really? Or am I just
saying it because I know it’s the right thing to confess? Am I as much
a Christian on Friday night as I am on Sunday morning? Oh God, if there is sin
in my heart would You reveal it for me? I want to be righteous and pure. Only
You can make me that way. Help me, Jesus.... Amen
Day 39 - I Have Decided to Follow Jesus
He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who
loves son or daughter more than me isn't worthy of me. He who doesn't take his
cross and follow after me, isn't worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose
it; and he who loses his life for my sake will find it. Matthew 10: 37 - 39
I am reading Jim Bakker's autobiography, "I was wrong". I have been
fascinated by the fact that he has gone from being one of the premier prosperity
teachers to being an advocate for intimacy with Christ. I also find it interesting
that he sees a direct link between the prosperity doctrine and the fall of PTL.
In fact, he feels that God had him placed in prison so that his relationship
with the Lord could grow deeper and closer, something that he admits was impossible
while he was empire building.
Bakker even goes so far as to say that in preaching a doctrine of material
gain he was guilty of manipulating the Scriptures to meet his preconceived ideas,
and in doing so, he was preaching a false Gospel. In his own words he says,
"I was wrong."
And so, along with Jim Bakker, we are faced with a decision. Will we move towards
a comfortable coexistence with our religious beliefs, or will we move towards
an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ? Our decision is a litmus test of
the depth of our walk with God.
The truth is, most Western Christians are terribly egocentric. Consider this;
if you were to remove the words "I", "my", "me",
"we" and "us" from your vocabulary, how would it effect
your prayer life? If you remove yourself from the equation, how much would be
left to pray about? I wasn't too happy with my answer for that question either.
You see, from a very early age we are convinced that we are the center of the
universe, and in a metaphysical way, we are. Certainly I am more intimately
familiar with myself than with any other person in existence. And yet we are
called by Christ to die to our selves so that He can live more fully within
us. That "take up your cross" business is a big deal to Jesus. He
expects us to obey Him, even when we don't want to. Even when we aren't sure
what it really means.
I have reached a point in my walk with Christ where I desire closeness with
Him above anything else. I am tired of a shallow, superficial relationship.
I wouldn't be happy with my wife, my children or my friends if they treated
me the way I tend to treat Jesus; calling on Him in times of need and heaping
expectations on Him in the name of Biblical promises. It just isn't right.
Last night I revisited Calvary and saw again my Savior suffering on my behalf.
I realized how much I have taken for granted and how comfortable I have grown
in walking near Him without actually being close to Him. I gazed into His eyes
and saw again His love and compassion for me, and I felt so small and unworthy.
And as I walked away from that place of renewal, I determined in my heart to
put aside my agendas and expectations and to simply walk hand in hand with the
One who gave His all for my sake.
Really, it's the least any of us can do.
Lord, once again I am here to renew my commitment to follow You where ever
You decide to lead me. Once again I am convicted of my failures and reminded
of my desperate need of Your love, grace and mercy. Thank You for Your patience
and Your abiding presence. Amen.
Day 40 - The New View.....
All who believed were together, and had all things in common. They sold their
possessions and goods, and distributed them to all, according as anyone had
need. Day by day, continuing steadfastly with one accord in the temple, and
breaking bread at home, they took their food with gladness and singleness of
heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. The Lord added to
the assembly day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2: 44 - 47
I'm convinced there has to be more than this.....
There has to be more to church than a weekly gathering of interested parties
going through the all too familiar motions of yet another "service".
There must be another level of intimacy among the members of Christ's body.
But how? Where?
Each week I sit back and watch it happen. People drive into the parking lot
with a car load of troubles. Their marriages are in trouble. They are having
problems with their children. Things at work aren't going well. They have financial
problems, and health problems, and emotional problems. Some of them don't even
believe in Jesus any more, but they are afraid to admit it.
But as soon as they stop the car they put on their game face. You know the
one; big smile, warm voice, easy laughter, quick hug, superficial topic of the
week, and into the same seat they sit in every week to study the bulletin they
know by heart and can't remember. I can almost see the relief in their eyes
when they get seated because everyone knows it's taboo to talk too much in church.
It makes my heart hurt.
And there I sit in the big chair up front. I'm supposed to have all the answers,
or at least know the right thing to say to make it all better for a while. And
so, like a reluctant conductor I play the game one more time. Announcements,
prayer, songs, sermon, benediction, hand shake, see you next week, call me if
you need me.....
You know, as I sit there each Sunday morning, I find that I am tempted to stand
up and cry out, "The emperor is naked!" But I'm afraid no one would
understand, because I have the feeling they are all terrified by the thought
that it might be true.
What if "church" really has become nothing more than a shameful facade
that hides our unbelief and our lack of faith? What happens if we strip away
all the vanity and repetition only to discover that there is nothing left?
What do you do if you find that tradition and habit have become the life support
system that give an appearance of life to a corpse? Do we dare pull the plug
and go home?
I'm convinced there must be something more.... there has to be more.....
And I long to find it... although I’m not really sure where to begin.
But the more I pray the more I feel it. The more I study the more I see it.
The more I meditate upon it the closer I am to it....
Where broken people are allowed to hurt.
Where sinners are allowed to confess without the stigma of shame and ridicule.
Where lost souls find meaning and purpose.
Where the love of Jesus and the bond of the Spirit are experienced not talked
This is what I want more than anything else. And I believe with all of my heart
it is what our Lord wants for us as well.....
So I refuse to give up until I find it......
Lord, lead me. I want to experience the real thing. I am so tired of playing
church; of doing and saying and thinking the right things.... I want to be loved
because I am Yours not because I am acceptable to the group. And I want to love
others the same way. Help me discover the Body of Christ as only You can create
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Pastor Mark Owens