Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Opening the Soul

Are you a fixer? When someone comes to you with a problem, do you fix it? Just tell them what to do, how to live, what expectations God has? I've been a fixer, and I know a lot of fixers. At this point in my life, I don't talk to those people anymore. Here is what I have found.

1. Most issues (probably all) are beyond your fixing. If the person can be fixed by you just telling them something surface, they wouldn't need your help. Think about it, if you can just say "well love God", what would they need you for? Would they really be struggling deep down with an issue you can solve with a few verses?

2. You have baggage, and often we speak from our own baggage. Without talking to the person, investing in the person and working to get into the issues, you have no idea what the real issue is. You hear a few buzz words, and then relate them to your own experiences. Your experience and the person's experiences are not the same. Don't make the assumption that what fixed you will fix them.

3. What are you trying to do. Are you trying to fix the person? There is a messiah available, and you are not Him. You can't fix a person, people need a divine healer.

So why do people come to us with issues? What do they want? Do they want fixed? No. They want someone to come along side of them. I think most people know the answers already and just need someone to talk to, to help them work through it. They want to answer questions, they want to evaluate, to look at and to examine their own soul. I think this is part of the reason we don't commune with our soul. Every time we begin to reach down in our own soul, someone gives us a surface fix. The person never reaches down into the soul, we never reach down into our soul. The soul remains unopened and the garbage never comes out.

Check out and watch Dr. Larry Crabb on Soul Care, he talks about this in great, great detail.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A bird in the hand and a burning bush.

So I had lunch at Carlos O'Kelly. I had the corned beef chimi and potato burrito. Just kidding. It did give me some smokin heartburn. At lunch I heard one of the other pastors at the other end of the table talking about how young people in the church don't want pad answers anymore. That is exactly how I have been feeling lately. I don't want to hear the cliches we use in the American church anymore. No one really knows what half of them mean. "Give it to God". I've never met anyone who can actually do that. What does that really mean? You can pray and ask God to help, you can try to relax and meditate on the fact that God can, has and will take care of you. How do you take a situation and give it away? It's a cliche. It's not helpful.

Have you ever heard this one "just climb up in God's lap"? What does that even mean? Does God have a lap? If so, where is it? How do we live that out? I think we tell people these things cause it's safe and easy and we don't really have to invest. Well I'm not gonna say em anymore. It's no wonder that the number one complaint of people outside the church is that the church is irrelevant to their lives. That is horrible, instead of teaching the foundational truths from the word of God, we've given our cliches and made it seem irrelevant. That's worse than Irish/Mexican salsa. Peppers, onion and cabbage?

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Below is the sermon I am going to preach in about 2 hours. This is more written out that most of my messages, I originally preached it in a seminary class, and felt led to revisit it. It is laid out like it is for Seminary, but edited for Heartland. If you were at Heartland on Jan 25th, you hear it, or at least close to it. I never stay exactly with my notes.


I want to begin this morning with one of my hero’s of the faith. Martin Luther entered a monastery as a young man, fulfilling a promise. During a storm one night, a lighting bolt knocked Martin Luther from his horse. Terrified he cried out to St Ann, the patron saint of mining, which was his father’s profession. He cried “help me St Ann, and I will become a monk”. True to his word, Martin Luther entered the monastery. During him time there, he became crippled by a fear of God. In his attempts to atone for his own sin, he spent hours upon hours in confession, he worked day and night in attempts to make himself right before God. Finally, he was given the duty of teaching over the book of Romans, and found the truth of God’s word that we are justified by our faith. It was then that Martin Luther put his faith in God for salvation, and started the journey that led to the reformation.

This morning I want to look at another example of this realization of sin. Like Martin Luther, this passage shows us an example of a man confronted with his own sin. It’s a passage you are all familiar with, many of you can quote it too me, let me read it too you.

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”
4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

8 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”

Isaiah 6:1-8 (ESV)


Point 1

I. The Problem in today’s churches in our view of God.

We love these verses, don’t we? We enjoy thinking about the magnificence of the God we serve. His flowing robe, His glory, the smoke and the shaking door posts. The God we serve is bigger than any other God, and it gives us hope and peace to think about how big and mighty our God is. We contrast it to when Elijah called fire down from Heaven to burn up the offering, and alter and all the water. It’s a powerful image. It’s an experience with God that is real and tangible. To see God, to be in His presence, to see the Seraphim and to feel the whole place shake. We long to have that kind of experience with God. I have heard people talk about feeling like they were in the throne room, dancing before the Lord.

I am hesitant to attempt to paint a picture of what Isaiah experienced outside of what the scripture says. I don’t think we can verbally express what he experienced. There are some things that we can’t describe. For example, I can say that “I love my wife”, but that does not come close to doing justice to the way I feel. I don’t have the words to explain how I feel. I think this is true for the depictions we get of the Glory of God. The descriptions seem vague and confusing because we lack the words to really describe the glory of God.

The Seraphim for example, we don’t have a clear picture. The word means flaming beings, but there are multiple interpretations about what that looks like, so I will just let you imagine. We know that the Seraphim were calling to one another. I am sure just the sight of flaming beings calling back and forth to one another “Holy Holy Holy” is an awe inspiring image. These flaming beings flying near the throne call Holy, Holy, Holy back and forth to one another would be enough to drop the jaw of any man. What I am sure of is that this would have better than any Hollywood special effect.

Seeing God in all His glory seated on His throne. We often wish we could be part of this picture. We have tried to recreate it as much as we can here on earth, we have written at least one song that I know of that uses these verses. We want to hang out in the throne room of God and watch the flaming ones cry holy. We have a desire to be part of it.

Unfortunately, I think we have become to comfortable with this event, that we desire to celebrate, to dance in the presence of God. Isaiah didn’t seem to be dancing, however. Isaiah was surrounded by Heavenly beings that were praising God. Isaiah didn’t join in the crying of Holy, but he did begin to cry.

In the presence of Almighty God, standing before His Throne, I can’t find anywhere in scripture where people are dancing, or raising hands. The Seraphim cover themselves with their wings in a sign of reverence and submission. We are not told Isaiah’s posture, but his reaction is clear, he exclaimed “woe is me”. Isaiah was a priest, and he knew what God had told Moses, that no one can look on the face of God and live. From that passage we can assume that Isaiah is shielded from seeing God’s face, but the presence of His Glory was more than overwhelming.

Isaiah had unclean lips. His worship was tainted by his sin, and he knew it. As he stood in the throne room, looking at the Lord, he first thought was “I’m dead meat”. Every sin he had committed I am sure came rushing into his mind. He understood that there was sin in his life, and it has polluted his worship. I am not sure if he was prostrate, but I assume he was. In Revelations 4, we find the 24 Elders falling down before the throne in worship. These elders are in Heaven, they not only are cleansed of sin by salvation, but they are in heaven, they have been separated from their sinful flesh, yet they still fall down.

Where Isaiah was in the temple, he had a clear view into the Holy of Holies. I am not sure if the veil was pulled back, or if for the sake of the vision, the veil was opened, but God would be seated above the Ark of the Covenant, this is where God told the nation of Israel He would be. Isaiah knew that is where God would be, but he never expected to see God in His Glory as he did his priestly duties in the temple.


Does this happen to us? We know where God is, He lives in the heart of the Believer, He inhabits our prayers, He is omnipresent, He is with us all the time. Just like Isaiah, we sometimes get comfortable with God being with us. We know where God is, and we can talk about Him and praise Him easily. Do we expect Him to enter our lives in a real and tangible way?

What would change if we could? If one day during our worship service, God appeared and we could see His glory? Would we continue to sing praises, or would our response be the same as Isaiah’s? Would we celebrate or lament? How do you handle the reality of God’s glory? How would we respond to how we have used the gifts he has given us? How would we respond with the responsibility he’s given us?

Martin Luther struggled with God’s holiness and His power. He struggled with his sin until it was almost debilitating. It was more than he could handle. The Apostle Paul struggled with his sin when he said:

For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate. Romans 7:15 (HCSB)

We often learn to tolerate our sin. It does not cause us distress, we do not lay on the floor of a small room as Martin Luther did. Do we gloss over our sin, even as we assemble together to worship, assuming it brings us into the very throne room of God?


My point is not that we shouldn’t worship, or that somehow being mortified or paralyzed by our sin will make us holy. The danger we have found ourselves is not the sin that is atoned for in Christ, but the casual attitude that can overcome the church. We have limited worship to singing, we often limit our singing to a type of music. We have defined our “worship time” and have dictated to God how we worship. We come to church with our own agenda, making our opinions known about the programs we use, the way we sing, the messages we preach. Often times, we are agenda driven and not spirit driven. The image of God we are giving to the masses is not an exalted God seated on His throne. What is the view of God that we live out?

As Isaiah sees God in His glory, he is aware of the uncleanness of his lips and the lips of the people he dwells with. He is a member of his society, not a democratic nation that some people are atheist, some are agnostic, some Mormon, some Catholic, some Baptist and some Satanic. The people he dwells with are Jews, worshipers of the God is Israel. It is unfortunate if we read this a condemnation of society outside the church. Isaiah is speaking of believers.


Do we have unclean lips? Have we praised God with our mouth and used the same mouth to curse man who is made in God’s likeness? Do we have divisions and factions? Jesus tells us that out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks? What is coming from our heart? Does it make our lips unclean?

The danger comes when we are unrepentant and we expect God to honor our worship. We continue to have the agenda drive church, and pretend like there is holy and acceptable worship being offered. If God is not in your business meeting, He is not in your worship service.

Point II

Explanation: There is a solution to the problem of not being able to worship because of our sin and uncleanness.

What is to be done? What lessons can we learn from this example? Lets look at the example Isaiah gives us.

1. First, Isaiah acknowledges his shortcoming. He has seen true worship, and he comes short and he acknowledges that he is incapable. He knows that his worship is tainted by his sin. He understands who he is and who God is, and where he, as a man, stand before God, and it is not a comfortable place for him to be. Praise be to God that we have the atonement power of Christ Jesus to offer us freedom.

2. Second, we understand where people are, where our church is. We don’t attend a perfect church. The people we are sitting next too aren’t perfect, and we need to have understanding and love for one another. We need to pray for one another. We need to keep one another accountable. We must acknowledge that we are all a people of unclean lips and we need to be cleansed.

The buzzword we use that I am going to use is Revival.

As Christians, we need revival. You don’t need me to tell you that. Most of you know how revival comes. A few begin to take their sin seriously and turn and pray and seek God’s face. Being involved in church doesn’t bring revival or make us holy. Knowing history or theology, does not make us holy. Knowledge is good, but apart from holiness, it is worthless. No amount of knowledge can substitute for personal holiness. Personal holiness comes for us, just like it did for Isaiah. First, the angel took a coal from the altar where atonement has been made. The coal covered his sin, the blood of Jesus covers our sins. We are atoned for through no work of our own, just as God took the initiative with Isaiah, Christ took the initiative with us. I think we can all agree that apart from this atonement, we cannot please God, follow God or honor God.

Once we understand who we are, not worthy, just redeemed. We should respond to the invitation. When the false idea of worship left Isaiah in the full view of who God is, His majesty and His glory, he was ready to be changed. Once changed, he was ready to respond. It was not until Isaiah recognized his sin and it was taken and atoned for that Isaiah could hear the voice of God and he was ready to respond.

In our lives, once Christ has atoned for our sin, we must be ready to respond. Where is God leading you? What are you doing with the gifts He has given you? If God were to show up in His glory, how would you feel about what you have been doing? If this morning, if this place was suddenly filled with the glory and majesty of God, what would change in our service?


We will find revival when we seek God with our whole hearts.

When will this happen? What will it take? It takes me and it take you. It takes us looking for God, not through the lenses of contemporary Christian culture, but clearly in His work and by prayer. Understanding there is nothing of value that we ourselves can offer, but God has made a way. God made a way for Isaiah to come into a deeper and more meaningful relationship. There is a way for us to move beyond American Christian culture. I am challenged by these verses. I don’t have all the answers, but this passage challenges me to question my motives and my preconceived notions. I have to ask myself, do I care about God more than my own happiness or desires? I am constantly asking myself, am I working for the Lord, or just in proximity too Him?

Simple invitation. Cry out for revival. Look to the God of Heaven for who He really is. He is the one who is so Holy and Powerful that we have nothing of value to offer Him. To find personal holiness, He requires our obedience. Be spirit led, and not agenda led. Then, we can begin to see revival take place in our lives, our homes, our churches and our communities. Let’s pray.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

More thoughts on Soul Love

So occassionally my blog gets a little random, I think I posted that I was thinking about soul love some time ago. I have read scripture and talked to some people about it and prayed, and this is my current conclussion. I think in the 1st century they understood it. I think prior to the first century they understood it. I think there was a disconnect at some point.

If you read Plato, if you read Dante, if you read many of the 13th century writings, if you read Augustine, you get a sense that these writers understood what it means to love with all your soul. Somewhere between the 16th and 18th century, we became "enlightened". During the enlightenment, spirituality was marginalized and intellectuality became king. This shift in western thought permiated the church. This western modality of intellectualism of course moved to America. The university became standard, education became king. We ceised to speak to one anther spiritually, and communicated intellectually.

In the late part of the 18th Century, we had the Romantic movement, which stemmed from the artists and poets of the time. They rebelled against the intellectualism of the enlightenment and turned to passions and felt emotions. The Romantics championed Surrealism and focused on experience.

The Englightenment, according to Nitche, killed God. Nitche gets sort of a bad rap for this, his implications is that people no longer turn to God, but instead to their own intellect. Medicine, psychiarty, technology all began to emerge, along with scientific theories like evolution. These all moved mankind away from a depenance or often a belief in God. The Romantics then taught us to do what feels good. The combination brought self fulfillement apart from boundries and restrain. We see where that has led us.

In the modern Church, we have tried to redeem intellectualism, we call it Apologetics. We have moved to redeem emotionalism, we call it lots of names. We are learning to love with all our minds and all our hearts.

Soul-love has seemed to drop away. It's like a dead language that no one speaks anymore. What does it mean to love with your soul? How do you do it? I know emotions, and I know thought, but I don't have that sort of soul language. I have felt my soul stirred and quickened, but it always seems to be an invounletary. I am commanded to love God with my soul, which is a voluntary action.

Now I have heard all the modern American ideals of soul love. Most of them are forms of intellectual based emotion. I really don't think that combinding heart and mind = soul. I'll continue to look and pray and seek, and I hope you do the same. Don't settle for some second rate definition that requires heart and mind. If God gives us three parts in which to love Him, they must be distint, right?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

I struggle

Yes, I struggle. I struggle with control issues. I struggle with motivation sometimes. I struggle with frustration. I struggle with the idea that I'm not good enough, I'm not productive enough. Every day on my drive home, I think about the things I accomplished that day, and if my list is too short, I struggle with being upset with myself. If I don't get things done, if I haven't done what I know I should. I have been upset with myself for a week or two because I can't sleep at night and have a hard time getting up in the morning to get things done and help my wife. I'm stuck in a self-imposed performance trap.

I have tried so hard to be the perfect husband, the perfect father, the perfect associate pastor, the perfect friend, and for some reason I can't seem to stop mentally torturing myself when I fail to hit the mark. So I am admitting it cause admitting it is half the battle, and so you can pray for me. I guess there are worse struggles, I'm not a sociopath or anything. Well, not yet. You can pray that I can learn how to relax a little.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

holistic community

So I have been thinking a lot about the organic, holistic community of faith. Do we really experience a holistic community of faith in the modern American church? I have, at some point and on some levels. There have been times that I haven't experienced it. I have gathered with other believers on a regular basis to talk about faith and pray for one another.

Can this type of holistic and organic group happen in our churches? Can we have authentic relationships in our churches? I believe we can. My struggle these days is, can this type of authentic relationship, this holistic expression of faith happen outside of the "local church"?

For so long we have been indoctrinated with the idea of the local church being key. We all need to be involved in a constituted church, led by a pastor, meeting in a centralized location. The American church is built upon the foundation of the building, the pastor and the worship service. I like it that way, I work in a local church. I am an Associate Pastor, my career, lifestyle and calling are related to the local church. To say that the local church may not exist anymore causes me to have a harsh reaction. I have a strong desire to believe that the way we do church is correct, but where does it come from?

Much of what we do is Landmarkism. It's a belief that the church, particularly the Baptist church has always existed from the time of John the Baptist. One of the teachings is that the church only exists in it's visible, local expression or congregation. Is that true? We may say no, but we often live yes. Can a home church or a network of home churches be viable? Can a church meet in a coffee shop during regular hours, or in a resturant? Do we superimpose when and where a church must meet in order for it to be a church?

Now don't hear what I'm not saying. Sitting in front of the TV on Sunday morning and hearing a sermon is not church. Church is an authentic community, a hoslistic group that takes care of every need, touches every part of our lives and connects us in a deep and penetrating way. The issue is less about if a church meeting in a coffee shop is a church. The issue has seem to become, is a group of people meeting in a building on Sunday morning, is that really a church?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Thanks Rick

Well today Rick Warren gave the prayer before our new President was sworn into office. Rick gave us a new mantra in the church. Be purpose drive. We have purpose driven churches and lives and connections and youth. We are driven by a purpose, so I am thinking a little.

What is the purpose of this blog. Part of it is to write. I enjoy the process of writing, but I need to improve, so I write some stuff down. A blog made pretty good sense. I have taken this blog in a thousand directions, I have been theological, I have been historical, I have complained and ranted, I have asked questions. Has it benefited me any? Has it benefited you as the reader any? Now if it sounds like this is a nail in the coffin sort of blog, don't be alarmed, I'm not deleting my blog.

I have found myself becoming lazy with my blog. I don't put time or thought into it. I think what I enjoyed initially about the blog is it challenged me to think. I read some blogs today, I caught up on SBC Impact, I've read some other blogs I have feeds for. I have realized I haven't thought very critically in a while. I have become mentally lazy.

My goal is to think more critically and write more thoughtfully. I have goals and dreams for writings and projects, but I am mentally turning into the Pilllsberry Doughboy. I'll work on it.

Monday, January 12, 2009

What is Soul Love

So there is something I have been thinking about, Love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind. Heart and mind I can get a handle on, but what does it mean to love God with your soul? I am not sure we understand how to feel with our soul, how to love with our soul, have to speak to or from or with. This has been a journey in learning and reading, and I'll continue with the journey, I'll keep posted on what I find and where God leads me.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Trials and Blessings part 3

Well we are home again. It was a long trip, but a good one. We are so blessed by the people that God has brought into our lives. When our transmission quit, we had some good friends drive all the way from Cheyenne to pick us up in North Platte Nebraska. Then they let us use their van, it was a huge blessing. When we got to Arizona, our friends there gave us a car. Not an old clunker, but a 2006 Malibu, a very nice car. Then I got a call from the shop that had the van. It seems there was a bolt that was missing, which put pressure on the front axles. The movement caused the seals to leak, which caused the initial issue. Then the thing came loose, causing the next issue. Then the axle bent and jammed up, causing it to stop cold. Transmission was fine, needed a new axle, the whole thing was going to be about $280. I wasn't happy about spending $280, but I was a whole lot happier than if it would have been $2,500. We called our friends who gave us the car and told them the deal, and they told us to keep the car and sell the van. So we drove back to Cheyenne, dropped off the borrowed van, drove to North Platte, picked up our van and drove home.

It has been a crazy trip, but I feel so blessed. God has always taken care of us, looked out for us and done more than we deserve. We came home to a warm house, thanks to some friends who turned the heat up for us. We did have a broken pipe, but thanks to another friend from church, it was capped and we had water the same day. Praise be to God for His care and provision in our lives, and thank you to everyone who prayed for us and who helped us along the way. We are so blessed to know so many wonderful people.