I would like to say a word about Christian leadership, if I may.
Christian leadership is an honor, a yoke, and a crown. I have not always performed this privilege perfectly. I have made more than my share of mistakes. But I have learned that some things, which are better left unsaid, are often only spoken to get attention. Some Christian leaders must view themselves as the church equivalent of a rude comedian, choosing to say only those things which get them the most attention and create the most debate(buzz). When are the masses going to wise up and quit giving undue attention to the loudest and most vulgar in the church? It is time for Christian maturity to prevail and Biblical truth to be applauded.
I have recently seen quality, hard working, humble, Christian leaders torn apart and run off because they are not "edgy" enough. I
have recently seen "edgy", non-substantive, self-promoting, Christian leaders exalted to positions of high respect. It is more than a little bewildering to me.
It is my prayer that my God, who shut the mouths of lions and opened the mouths of donkeys; who opened the mouths of stutterers and shut the mouths of false prophets...would do this good work again so that the world can regain a confidence in men and women who are called to represent God in the world.
Godly leadership is needed today. Not the "edgy", self-serving, egotistical, "show". The devil has enough showmen. God doesn't
need any. Slick, luke-warm, used-car salesmen in church leadership make me throw up. In fact, the Bible says that they make God puke, also.
I am discovering the truth that the early church fathers believed and taught... that consecration to God = self-donation. Rather than simply donating from their aquired possessions, these men and women of faith and vision instead donated of themselves. This type of donation requires greater sacrifice and a promises a greater return. Jesus promised as much to His followers when he said, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." "Deny" is a hard word to grasp in that it does not define the gift, but instead defines the void created by the giving. To "deny" myself is sometimes thought of as something I do without for a time. But "deny" is also a synonym for "surrender" which is more than just giving up of things. It means giving up my agendas, my paradigms, my need to be right... giving up me... all in amsolute surrender to God. This type of surrender is at the root of all Biblical teaching on stewardship. Giving God's tithe back to Him is little when compared to the concept of self-donation.
But self-donation is a much wider concept than our thoughts about tithing, in that my SELF is a much wider subject than just my money. All of me is understood when I talk about self-donation. How can I become challenged to consider self-donation?
1. What parts of myself have I become accustomed to donating to God? Are their other parts of me that God may require?
2. What are the sacrifices associated with the parts of myself which I have donated to God? What potential sacrifice may be required if I donated additional areas of myself to God?
3. Is additional self-donation something that brings me closer to God? or God closer to me? How?
4. Is there anyone in scripture that models this idea of self-donation? How about someone alive today that models this well? What can I learn from them?
"Men... we are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God" Acts 14:15a, NIV
It is not politically correct to refer to someone else's religion as "worthless", is it? In today's American culture that kind of language is a major communication error. As I see it, the whole point of individual spirituality or organized religion is to move God and man closer to each other. Some greater connection with a higher power or some lesser connection with ourselves seems to be a common thread in most religions.
Most world religions often make people better citizens, more peaceful individuals, and create positive influence in their communities. Perhaps all world religions have some positive aspects and goals. I am asking, though, whether or not any religion or religious practice moves me into closer communion with God. Ultimately, I want to know whether I will forever be with God in Heaven.
Paul's opinion is certain that we must rely upon the grace of God in Christ Jesus to take us home to Heaven. Jesus's death on the cross made it possible for me to approach God with confidence. I can "know" God by coming near to worship Jesus Christ. Paul didn't like being called Hermes, the Greek mythological messenger God with winged sandals. And Barnabas didn't like being called Zeus, king of the Greek gods with lightning bolt in hand. But it wasn't the names of these Greek gods that caused them to tear their clothes, but when these people began to worship them that Paul and Barnabas could not stand it any longer. No man, no matter how good, deserves our worship and praise. It is upon such good men that many world religions are based. paul knew the difference! Only the One true God deserves our worship. He alone is worth our praise. All others are worth ...less.
I am blessed to have many friends, some old, and some new. My old friends continue to provide aq connection for me to different places and times of my past. My childhood friends connect me to the memories and feelings of my youth, and friends from each congregation we have served continue to reaquaint me with the people and ministries in each place. My college friends sometimes remind me of wayward moments and rash decisions. I enjoy friendships even with my family members. Though I communicate with some friends more regularly than others, I value every friendship I have.
But these days I am making many new friends. New friendships are like the taste of some food you have never before tasted, or the smell of some new aroma. New friend dn't bring back old memories or previous connections. Instead, they are the formation of new connections and new memories that will one day be themselves charished. A new friends is a whole new experience just waiting to happen. The newness of these relationships allows us to show our new friends who we really are, while at the same time giving us an opportunity to demonstrate that we have learned from the miistakes of previous relationships, sort of like a fresh art of a new beginning.
God is interested in our friendships. Our many relationships need to bring honor and glory to His name. Old friendships sometimes become strained and weakened by lack of forgiveness and bitterness grows. But when we forgive each other we model God's grace toward us and mimic his restorative power. God is interested in our newfriendships, too. He desires that we would invest in the friendships we have with others, ad then leverage that friendship so that our new friends can become aquainted with and truly come to know Christ. The scripture tell us that we have a friends that sticks closer than a brother. I believe that Jesus is such a friend.
As I write this blog Timmy is outside playing with some neighborhood children that he met only two weeks ago, and Tammy is on "A Grand Adventure" (shopping) with one of her new neighborhood lady friends. Last night I spend nearly an hour talking with a friend I've known less than 1 month. Is God honored in my new friendships? Is His name mentioned in praise, or at all? Do my new friends know that i have a friend called Jesus?
I guess I would consider Jesus one of my "Old" friends. I hope to build connections between Jesus and my new friends so that Jesus can become their "new" friend, too.
We went to lunch today at a Mexican restaurant after church. This is a picture of me enduring the humiliation of wearing this silly hat, having the Mexican waiters sing "Happy Birthday" to me in Spanish, after getting a dessert shoved in my face. Timmy set the whole thing up without me knowing it. He laughed so hard and pointed at me in fun. It was a fun lunch.
"Thanks, Tim. Yours is comin'."
Psalm 24:5 "They will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God their Savior."
Blessings (good gifts) I have received:
I have forgivenes from my many sins, renewed trust from my Savior, His face turned toward me, and His smile to inspire me, lifting from my sorrow, and a lowering from my prideful positon, hope when I'm afraid, joy when I'm down, a song in the morning, and a prayer at night, pardon for sin, and a peace that endureth, awareness of my failings, and redemption from my sins, healing for my body, rebuke for my attitude, and a calling from my wanderings. I have received blessings from the Lord.
Jesus is to me the bearer of Good News, the bringer of delight, and the solver of life's problems. He is the strength for my day, my hope for tomrrow, my elder brother, and my beautiful Savior. He always has been my Beloved and the Lover of my soul. He is the One who gives life, breath, and guidance. He always will be the One who loves me unconditionally. Jesus Is to me the perfect example of the unmerited favor of God. I have received blessings from the Lord.
I need God in my life. I need His unconditional love. I need His unwavering compassion, and I need His eternal call. I need His righeous judgements mixed with His unmerited favor. I need His exalted presence condescending to me, I need His eternal existence to be available to mortal me, and I need His ultimate perfection to be beautifully linked to messed up me. I am in need of blessings from the Lord.
I have received so much. I have been so blessed. I am so unworthy, but He is still here. He is still mine. He is always good. Praise Jesus that God raised Him from the dead, and it gives me hope that in all the dark places of our lives where we often dwell, in the times of great dispair, God is still good to me. He is all of these things to me even when I am weary, even when I am tired, even when I am down, even when I am exhausted, even when I don't know, even when I can't see, even when I'm not right, especially when I am of little faith...GOD IS GOOD! He died for me. He preached for me. He loved for me. He lived for me. He did not fail, or faulter. HE IS GOOD!
The first half of the verse is about blessings... but the scond half is about vindication.
"God, I know of your blessings. I can state these many blessings which are but the begginging of a long list. But I dare not pray so specifically for vindication from You, or to be vindicated by You. I know You are my Defender. I thank You for Your defense. If in Your divine will it is given, I receive it with thanks and worship. But you have not treated me as my sins deserve, so I pray that others will not be treated as their sins deserve. Let me simply be content to celebrate Your goodness until I see You more clearly. Amen."
I believe the church is in a state of flux regarding the long-heralded truth known as The Inerrancy of Scripture. There are several well-known Christian teachers who are teaching doctrines that are contrary to Scripture, and they often explain their teaching by advocating an understanding of scripture as full of errors. "The Bible must be wrong", for example, because it doesn't make sense with my conclusions, or "The Bible is out of date", for example, because a modern issue is beyond it's teaching. Still, many Bible teachers, including me, still hold to the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy and hold that any modern issues must still be understood in the context of full scriptureal authority.
For generations, and without substantive resistance, the protestant church has taught that the Bible is the final authority for us. For certain, there are areas of secular life about which the Bible is specifically silent. In each of these instances the values and principles taught in scripture can be applied to discover not what God did say about these specific things, but what God would say about them, given what we know of God from the Scripture. And thus, my generation and our denomination has had very little substantive conflict over whether God's Word is the final authority for our lives. But today there is reason for confusion. Various Bible translations and paraphrases of the Scripture are full of contradictions. Instead of making a thoughtful, discerning decision about which translation to read many people pick which one is easiest, most convenient, or which ever one is suggested to them. Many years ago, while working at a Christian book store in Olathe, Kansas, I was given the task of being in charge of a large section of the store reserved for the display and sales of Bibles, Bible software, commentaries and reference materials, Bible study guides, etc. One of my specific tasks was to create a catagorized binder which would give guidance to customers in selecting an apporpriate Bible or Commentary for them based upon what specific theology they adhered to, and which church they attended. All of the material was Christian material, but the lines of demarkation were well drawn. It was interesting work for me, then a masters student at Nazarene Theological Seminary, and also very eye-opening regarding the differences between our Christian churches. Yes, there is much confusion out there.
But the differences between denominations are minor compared to the lines being drawn today. Many Christian leaders are casually lending support and lip-service to some well-known Christian teachers who have crossed some pretty formative lines in our theological understanding. Instead of simply seeing lines of theological differentiation between denominations, we are now seeing in our churches, our schools, and in our publishing companies, a re-emergence of leaders who clearly teach doctrine that is outside of orthodoxy. The foundation of our Christian understanding of the truth is crumbling. It is disturbing. Among well-known and widely heard ministers there are those who teach such wrong doctrine as 1) Jesus may not have been born of a virgin, 2) Heaven and Hell may not be real places, 3) Creation may have been a Biblical myth, 4) Satan may not be a reality, 5) the Bible may not be the final authority on matters of faith, etc. I have been shocked, then disturbed, then bewildered, and now am incensed by what I have heard and continue to hear. The problem isn't that we are dumb, or even uninformed. The problem is that we listen blindly to the wrong teachings. The church needs to be repopulated by a generation of Christian leaders who rebuild our foundation of Christian thought finally on the authoritative Word of God.
Let's look back at one Christian leader who got it right. John Wesley sought out truth from several different sources, but strained all aquired truth through the authority of the Scripture. His pathway to truth is now called the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. Information about the Wesleyan Quadrilateral is widely available on the internet and the following information is from Wikipedia.
The term itself was coined by 20th century American Methodist Albert C. Outler in his introduction to the 1964 collection John Wesley (ISBN 0-19-502810-4). Upon examination of Wesley's work, Outler theorized that Wesley used four different sources in coming to theological conclusions. The four sources are:
Wesley taught that the world in which we live was a gift from God, but that man has spread the lies of the devil so widely that believers must adequately protect themselves in order to preserve holines of heart and life. Wesley, himself, who came to be known as the father of Methodism, established many very methodical practices to keep himself from impurity, from sin, from temptation, and from wrong doctrine. In his quest to keep himself and his doctrine well founded upon Scripture Wesley determined that any thought (reason) must be accountable to the Scripture, and personal experience must be accountable to Scripture, and any tradition of man, including what has been taught ot us by any human source must be accountable to the Scripture. John Wesley was not so blind as to not see the mistakes that men make in translation. Instead he was so convinced in the doctine of Biblical Authority that he founded his faith upon the belief that God would forever protect the inerrancy of His Word. I believe that John Wesley would not have formed methodism at all if he had not believed in the inerancy of Scripture.
- Scripture – the Holy Bible (Old and New Testaments)
- Tradition – the two millennia history of the Christian Church
- Reason – rational thinking and sensible interpretation
- Experience – a Christian's personal and communal journey in Christ. (www.wikipedia.com)
In our day, many denominations are straying from this teaching. The United Methodist Church, the standard bearer of the Wesleyan movement, is now forming doctrine based upon reason rather than Scripture. The scripture is clear, for example, that homosexuality is a sin, but the UMC is now ordaining openly gay ministers. Why? Because they reason that the Scripture must be wrong when homosexuality is forbidden there. Do you see how reason has become the final authority instead of Scripture? The Catholic church, who never stated aggrement with Wesley, has always believed that Church tradition is of higher authority than scripture. This was the defining reason for the reformation; that men are saved by grace alone, but the Catholics church believes that that grace must come from the church. And in recent years there have been a multitude of leaders teaching that something experienced in the throws of spiritual extacy is to be more formative to the individual even than the words of Scripture. Friends, these teachings are wrong. These avenues for pursuing the truth are good, but must always be understood through the Word of God. We have a great deceiver (Satan) among us who wishes us to have only a form of Godliness. This mere form of Godliness is attracive, and gathers large crowds, but it has no power. It is deceit.
Every Christian has the responsibility to know the Scripture so that we may test and approve the truth.
Why do you believe that God is Awesome?
Awesome,according to Merriam-Webster is synonymous with: "amazing
, and wondrous
". While this is certainly a very comprehensive list, it falls a bit short because it doesn't say why God is awesome, or what about God is actually aweseome. To some, God is awesome because He answered their prayer. For others God is awesome because He gave them life. Perhaps God is awesome because of His love, His compassion, or His holiness. The list is certainly endless.
Rich Mullins, a Christian musician popular in my formative years, grew up Quaker and his parents taught him the some excellent values which express why God is truly awesome. I once had opportunity to see Rich in concert. During a concert He shared why he felt God is awesome and had written a song about his feelings simply titled, Awesome God. Before he sang the song, Rich said these words, "
said whatever you do to the least of these my brothers you’ve done it to me. And this is what I’ve come to think. That if I want to identify fully with Jesus Christ, who I claim to be my Savior and Lord, the best way that I can do that is to identify with the poor.
This I know will go against the teachings of all the popular evangelical
preachers. But they’re just wrong. They’re not bad, they’re just wrong. Christianity is not about building an absolutely secure little niche in the world where you can live with your perfect little wife and your perfect little children in a beautiful little house where you have no gays or minority groups anywhere near you. Christianity is about learning to love like Jesus loved and Jesus loved the poor and Jesus loved the broken
....(concert recording cuts off at this moment, losing any further context for this particular quote) (Wikipedia)
After sharing that God was awesome because of His compassion on the poor, the broken, and those cast aside in our society, Rich Mullins then sang this song.
When He rolls up His sleeves
He ain't just puttin' on the ritz
(our God is an awesome God)
There is thunder in His footsteps
And lightning in His fist
(our God is an awesome God)
Well, the Lord wasn't joking
When He kicked 'em out of Eden
It wasn't for no reason that He shed his blood
His return is very close and so you better be believing
that our God is an awesome God
Our God(our God) is an awesome God
He reigns(He reigns) from heaven above
With wisdom(with wisdom) pow'r and love
our God is an awesome God
And when the sky was starless in the void of the night
(our God is an awesome God)
He spoke into the darkness and created the light
(our God is an awesome God)
Judgment and wrath he poured out on Sodom
Mercy and grace He gave us at the cross
I hope that we have not too quickly forgotten that
our God is an awesome God
Our God is an awesome God
Our God is an awesome God
(Our God is an awesome God)
(Our God is an awesome God)
I'm never able to sing this song without considering that the songwriter thought God is awesome because of How He treated the poor.
"Daddy, can I be your princess"?
"Did God write this?"
"My big brother is a great super hero."
"Daddy. You're my favorite Daddy."
"I'm gonna be a "trincess" this year. Not today. Just tomorrow."
"I want some mashed tatatoes, gween beans, and some kao-whats."
"Mommy?.. Let's talk about Jesus."
"I want just ONE.. (wait for it...) more. Please, and, thank you."
"One day I'm gonna be a mommy like Mommy. And I'm gonna have babies. And I will love them."
"You're my best 'triend'."
"I don't kiss seals, Daddy. Just people." (At the zoo)
"I feel joy in my tummy... when I see those puppies"
"You're a good Daddy." (While patting my arm)
"Daddy, I want to hold your ears." (When she wants to hug my neck she grabs my ears and pulls me in close.)
"Daddy. Sometimes I'm good and sometimes I'm bad. that's just the way it is." Age 2
"Wouldn't it be cool if everything in the world cost a penny."
"Mom, you''re the greatest cook in the world!"
"Dad! You nave GOT to come see this!' (He says this ALL the time!)
"Dad. I've been worried about something. I really thought I'd be famous by now. I thought I'd at least have my own reality TV show by now."
"Papaw..?... Tell me a story..?"
"Mom, if all the babies that you have ever carried weren't in Heaven but had lived... this van would be FULL of kids! And I'd be the big brother to all of them!"
"It's pretty sad when a boy can't even watch TV these days, with all of these GIRL commercials on!"
When confronted for disobeying a standing house rule,"Well, I thought about it and then just thought, 'Ah, I'll just make a decision", so I did it.
"My Papaw thinks I'm cool."
"Let's have a Man-to-Man talk, Dad."
"My hand is almost as big as your, isn't it Dad?"
"My stomach hurts, Dad. Would you pray for me?"