Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Time for a New Year

It's New Years Eve or 2013.  In a few hours it will be 2014.  In the New Year there are some things I want to focus on and accomplish.  I know there are somethings I need to do in my life to improve my writing and my knowledge, so I am going to make it a goal to read 52 books this year, one a week.  I am also going to spend the next 12 months doing a deeper study of the New Testament.  I am going to attempt to continue to write, working on blogs for this site, for SBC Voices and continue to work on books and articles, and hopefully get some more things published.

I will continue in my current job, I plan on trying to start another Master's Degree if I can get some financial assistance.  I want to do some more work on my coaching and do some more coaching.  I hope to combine all these things to make 2014 a great year.

I try to make themes for every year.  I have had themes like "Not a Hill Worth Dying On".  Last year I had a theme about having stability, but then I got laid off in June, close to a year from when I got . . . left the church.  Two summers in a row of being suddenly unemployed has left me a little scarred.  I am going to think about the theme for 2014, so keep watching for when I announce and unpack it.  I am not sure what it will be yet, I am continuing to think about it.

Lastly, I would like to ask you to pray for me this year.  My desire is to be overwhelmingly filled, anointed and empowered by the Holy Spirit in a way that I never have been.  Please pray that the Holy Spirit would overtake me in a new way and I would be filled in a lasting and life changing way.  Thank you, I am blessed by all my readers, supporters and friends.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Learning Humility

I have spent the last 18 months learning lots of lessons in humility. Some have come from employment, or the ending there of. Part has come from asking for help in my in ability to do things on my own. Part has come from having to learn new things be a trainee and the new guy. Some have been from being around people who have gently humbled me.

Tonight I spent some time with a man who I am sure is brilliant and wise far beyond what I will be. He is righteous and holy, he is talented and most of all, he is humble. He let's me speak and tell stories, he encourages me and helps me.  He is patient and kind and generous and gentle in speech. He doesn't need to be heard or right or the center of the room.

Spending time with men like this convicts me to be more gentile, more quiet and calm and content. He is a great picture of humility for me and I pray that I will be more like him as I age. For me, he is the picture of Paul as he says "imitate me as I imitate Christ". He is a powerful and effective leader for me, and I pray you have people in your life who do the same for you.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

I love Christmas time.  I love spending time with family, relaxing and having time together.  It's fun and relaxing and I love it.  It's cold outside so it's a great reason to stay home and stay inside.  Christmas is a great time to enjoy all the things God has given, knowing the ultimate gift of His Son has been given to us.  Our salvation is the greatest, most precious gift ever given.  I hope and pray that you have unwrapped this precious gift and know the warmth and love of Christ.  This Christmas season, I hope the love of friends, family and most of all Christ will keep you warm.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Danger of Experiential Church

We live in a world today that is all about the experience. Our modern American cultures sells us the experience and we line up to buy the biggest and best. Even going to the store has become experiential, with sights and smells, music and pleasant decor and lights and colors.  We pay for the experience, bigger and louder and in 3D.  We market the experience, and we have become infatuated with wanting to experience more and the newest greatest things.  The experience has become expected in our culture.

The modern Church is a reflection of the culture of the people who make up the congregations.  The church has been effected by the larger societal outlook.  One of the major outlooks that have shaped the end of the 20th and dawn of the 21st century is the Postmodern view of experientialism as foundational in truth.  What we experience becomes reality.  Individuals no longer believe those things which have been foundational or even orthodoxy and have submitted their experiences and those things in which they can explain in their place.  The Sunday Morning Service has been one of the most impacted areas of this experiential view on what is true.  We see it effect the way we structure and organize the experience, opting for new d├ęcor, a more modern wardrobe of those on stage, lighting and sound control and effects, themes and motifs as well as the music selection.  Each of these things exists to create a mood, an environment, an atmosphere and an experience.  The goal is no longer transformation, but a movement to a directed feeling or experience.  This culminates in the alter call experience, which is the height of the emotional draw in the modern worship service.

In an effort to market salvation in this experiential mode, we have substituted Biblical ideas like being drawn, surrendering your life, confession and repentance for more relational terms.  We speak about a personal relationship, inviting Jesus into your heart, making Jesus your best friend.  The alter call has become a mixture of sudo-Biblical language combined with modern psychobabble and feel good experiences to create an emotional high.  It is not uncommon to see people crying and wailing for reasons that they cannot express.  Many will attribute this to a movement of the spirit, but this action is not seen anywhere in scripture.  Often these people experience little to no real life transformation at all, simply have an experience that plays on their emotional state.

The most fundamental problem with this method of operation is the effect on orthodox theology.  Scriptures become subject to experience and individual interpretation based on preferences and not exegesis.  Passages are no longer being exposited and understood, they are simply a tool to lead the preacher or teacher into the topical message.  This masquerades of exegetical preaching, but it is a farce of topical preaching usually on the agenda of the speaker.  The context of the verse is given little consideration, and there is no real study given to the actual meaning or the original usage.  Scriptures become a tool to communicate an idea instead of the divinely inspired instrument of teaching, training, reproof and correction in righteousness.  

We have taken the Biblical idea of Salvation and turned it into an experience to the point where the average church attendees cannot tell you if they are saved, how they become saved, or what Salvation really is.  They have an idea of saying they are sorry and saying a prayer.  Concepts like propitiation, substitutionary atonement and imputed righteousness have no meaning.  Many have never heard about the wrath of God that is upon sinners, and the concepts of election are not even discussed, even though they clearly exist in the scriptures. The average church goer feels they are saved by an experience, and we find newer and better ways to market salvation. Our pews are full of false converts, trusting in an emotional experience and not Christ.

In many ways, those churches which have taught the inerrancy of scripture have set up a system by which they cause the scriptures to contradict themselves.  They teach there is no election, no predestination and man has free will, and they use a series of verses to substantiate their claim.  The issue arises when there are verses that speak of election and predestination, there becomes a contradiction and class in the scripture.  This leads to two outcomes, the scriptures are no consistent or an interpretation is incorrect.  Since the verses that speak of election and predestination are much more clear than those which can be interpreted to represent free will, the second option is ignored.  This leaves a fractured Bible in which church members are free to pick and choose which parts they would like to support their theological, moral and ethical ideals.

The outcome has become churches, denominations and a country that is splintered, divided and broken over debates, arguments and beliefs that are not Biblical.  These are based on our experiences, what we want to experience and how we think we can cause others to experience.  We have used guilt, fear and coercion to try to manipulate the masses to the point the church itself is shrinking and drying up.  The church is unable to compete with the entertainment factor of the media industry.  The church has lost so much of the truth that they are no longer able to offer doctrine that is really life transformational.  The result is a revolving door that people come in for an emotional high and are gone when they hit a low.  When they find that their view of God and their experience in reality don’t match, they will walk away, only to return when it climbs back up again.  The solution is Biblical foundation based on orthodoxy in a body of Christians who are unwilling to compromise on the truth of the Word.  It will not be popular, it will be a slow and steady reform and it will be hard to build a megachurch or continue with church growth, but it is the only way to curb the slide towards heresy.

True community and a Biblical doctrine that holds the test of time will build the church that will survive the destruction that experientialism brings. In the end, the megachurch may be an thing of the past, but the community of committed believers will continue on.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Max's Life of Joseph

I have recently finished You'll Get Through This by Max Lucado, which is an examination of the life of Joseph and how God can use bad things for such a great purpose.  I think as humans, we look at small snippets of life and make judgement calls, when God is looking at our entire life and His entire eternal purpose.  Joseph's life was instrumental in what God was going with the nation of Israel and moving them into Canaan as an army able to take and occupy the land.

In doing so, Max unpacks how God moves and working in our lives and through the bad stuff.  We know that bad stuff happens, but in this book we are really challenged with the idea if we trust God to be working when we are in the pit, the dungeon, when we are wrongfully accused and how God works things for our good and His glory.  In the end, when God says all things work together for the good of those who love Him, do we really believe it?  Do we really trust God in the hard times in our lives?

This book wasn't unique, it wasn't a different view of the story of Joseph, but it is good and worth reading.  Max Lucado has a knack for talking to you like he is telling you what you need to hear.  His writing style and methodology makes this book worth the read, so I advise you to check it out.  Borrow it from someone, find it in your church library and give it a read.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Don't Be That Guy

You know that guy?  You know that guy!  That guy who does that thing.  Ok, let me be a little more specific.  There are certain types of people that just make most people a little edgy.  They make your hair stand up and you feel like you are walking on egg shells.  Let's talk about the different kinds of "guys" that you should never be.

"The Offended Guy".  This is a label that is often put on left wing liberals, but "that guy" can be any political or religious group.  When you say something they disagree with, they become offended.  This guy is really in the news lately with the whole Duck Dynasty thing.  I'm not gonna blog on that.  Someone believes something that contradicts you, says you are wrong, you get offended.  In Christian circles, charismatics offend the non-charismatic, the liturgical offend the evangelicals, Catholics offend Protestants, Calvinist offend Traditionalists and bloggers offend everyone.  Someone is always crying about something someone else said.  Don't be that guy.  Toughen up and realize it's not all about you.  If someone says "I think Calvinism is evil and of the devil to destroy the church" and you are a Calvinist, suck it up.  That person is entitled to their opinion, right, wrong or really stupid.  If a traditionalist says that Calvinists are lame, or if I say I have strong doubts that most people who hold Traditional theology are even saved, it's an opinion.  It's a view, it's not worth getting all hurt and crying about.  Stop crying and complaining, stop whining on Facebook and blogs and Twitter.  Grow up, stop being hurt.  Don't be that guy.

"The Know Everything Guy"  You know, the guy who starts sentences with 'actually' just before he tells you why he's right and you are wrong.  The guy who has an opinion about everything, and he is always right and if you argue with him, he will drop some sudo-logic term.  I swear if I hear or read one more person call my statement a "straw man" when they have no idea what a logical fallacy even is, I'm gonna throw up.  It's a cop out for the know everything guy to keep him from being wrong.  If all else fails, he'll give you the "well it's open to interpretation".  It's usually not, but the know it all guy can't be wrong.  He is right all the time about everything, and you are wrong.  He is usually in charge of something that gives him all sorts of infinite knowledge.  Whatever, don't be that guy.

"The Back Stabbing Smiler".  You know,the guy who is all nice when he is face to face, but will slander you to everyone else.  When you disagree or have a falling out, he will say it's ok, he forgives and he wishes things were better.  When you leave, he's gonna tell everyone why you are a loser, you are to blame and you are generally a bad guy.  Don't be this guy, this guy is like a cancer that goes around eating joy.  Sucks the life out of you and will destroy relationships and community.  Don't talk bad about people you don't like.  It's bad enough you don't like them.  I know it's hard when someone offends you, but if you are gonna bash someone, do it too their face.  Don't be smiling and happy, while hiding a knife behind your back.  At least be open enough to say "I think you are a loser".  Don't become so good at being fake you forget who you are.  Don't be that guy.

"The  Band Wagoner".  Have you ever met someone who changes their opinion after every seminar, class, show or book?  Suddenly they are on to the next big thing.  The new celeb walks in with a new idea and suddenly they are the expert.  They learn something new and it's all you hear about for week, until something else new comes along.  Even worse is the guy who hangs out with this guy and follows everything, getting excited about every new fad.  Don't be that guy, and don't be his lackey.  Don't stand in life for 3 days for the new Iphone, it's crap just like the last iphone.  Ok, sorry, had to bash the iphone, but you get the point.  Don't just follow for the sake of following, that's not cool at all.  Don't change your opinion cause someone else changed his opinion, and fads are fads, quit chasing them.  Don't be that guy.

"Drama King"  You have seen drama queens. . . in middle school.  Ok, they are in high school, college and everywhere else.  Worse than a drama queen is the king.  The guy who always have a problem, an issue and something to complain about.  His job, his family, his pain and his terrible burdens.  He will dump his problems on total strangers, and demands attention and sympathy all the time.  Life is always such a struggle, and he always has it worse than you.  If your head hurts, his head, neck and shoulders hurt.  If you had a long days, his was longer.  If you are broke, he's in debt. . . to a loan shark no less.  Always something to whine about.  Don't be that guy.

I know in life there are times when we know the answers, we find a new idea that is really great, things are going bad and we have to warn someone about the guy you were just polite too.  Sometimes we get hurt and offended from time to time, we all have these moments.  That is ok, just have your moment and move on.  Don't stay there.  Don't build a house there.  The world is full of trials and hardships, the last thing we need is "that guy".  Don't be that guy!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Theological Lessons from Metallica

I have a confession first.  I like Metallica, I have for a long time.  I think they are excellent musicians and lyricists.  I am unsure of their belief or faith, but I have found some things in Metallica's music over the years that have great theological messages.  There is one that really struck me, and when I saw the video it hit me ever harder.

Until It Sleeps

This song is about sin, and it's pretty obvious it's about the darkness that lives inside the human heart and our desire to be free.  One of the things that I have seen is the church suffers from small syndrome.  We have small sin that needs small forgiveness.  We simply do some bad things sometimes, and we just need to say we are sorry.  This isn't the biblical picture of sin, Metallica gets it.  They are violent about getting free from sin.  Tear me open, pour me out.  Wash me till clean, tear me open, make you gone.  They understands the wretchedness and the evil that lives inside man.  Jesus knew it too, and He used violent language.  If you eye causes you to sin, tear it out and cast it from you.  Don't gently remove it, rip it out and throw it away from you.  Cut off your limbs if they cause you sin, cast them away.  The violent nature of is seen on the cross.  Jesus didn't simply die, he was beaten, scourged, battered, disfigured, nailed to a cross, tortured and finally stabbed.  Sin is violent, the price is violent and severe.

Paul understood the nature of sin and how evil it is.  The things I want I don't do and the evil things I don't want to do, I keep on doing. Wretched man that I am.  The Bible is full of the language about sin that it kills us, brings death and destruction and it taints our lives.  We don't seem to have that sort of reaction to sin, we simply tell people "if you choose Jesus, you will be fine".  How can we choose Jesus when we are so tainted we can't choose to follow God's law?  Our sin keeps us from making a choice to choose Jesus, we don't find Jesus, we don't even trust Jesus without the work He did for us.  It was raw and violent and bloody and we have turned it into an academic exercise.

My prayer is becoming more like Metallica's song.  I need God to tear me open and pour me out, the hate and the pain and the dirt ruin me.  I can't do anything good, I can't seek after God, I can't even take care of myself.  I don't want to be held in sin's grip, I want to be free.  I want God to be violent with me, to tear my heart out and clean it.  Anything less simply will not conquer the power of sin.

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Perfect Life, the Cloudy Lens of Social Media

I was talking with my wife this morning about life and marriage and friends and, well random things.  It came up about how life looks through social media.  It occurred to me (with her help and pointing it out) that social media can be the ultimate form of the church mask.  If you are unfamiliar with the church mask, let me explain.  You wake up grumpy, yell at the kids, fight with your spouse and sulk all the way to church.  When you get there, you are all smiles, everything is great, your family is perfect and nothing is wrong.  You smile and laugh all through church, get back in the car and fight all the way home about lunch plans.

Now most of us don't fight in public, we save that for home.  We don't air our dirty laundry for the world to see, but we are also afraid to act human.  We assume that everyone has a perfect life and we are the only ones with problems.  Where do we get this idea?  Use to be church, now it's Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest and other social pages.  We put our best foot forward and look like we are perfect, but inside our homes, we are falling apart.  You may be asking "what's wrong with that".  Well, several things.

First, no one really knows us.  No one can hold us accountable, no one sees where we struggle and we are left to struggle alone.  We carry our own burdens, but scripture teaches we are to carry one another's burdens.  We hide our burdens, no one can see them, no one can carry them.  We let our pride and ego stand in the way of transparency and community.  We have stopped being open and real with people, we would much rather maintain our image.

Second, it creates a false sense for others.  It's akin to magazine covers.  Unless you live under a rock, you know the woman who are on magazine covers don't really look like that.  They have been photo shopped and air brushed and retouched.  In the end, we try to live up to an unreal level of expectation, one that cannot be obtained outside of digital artistry.  Gravity happens to us all, but we strive for the unobtainable.  Social media does the same thing, and we often feel isolated with our problems.  The few who post about being depressed or hurt, often they are given more support by those outside the church.  Inside the church, we have the pre-typed answers about trusting Jesus, letting go and letting God.  These things, while they may be true, are not helpful. Notice none of them come from Jesus.  He said come to me, I'll give you rest and, oh by the way, carry one another's burdens.  He said love each other as I have loved you.  It's the idea of community, and we have traded it for the cheap social media imitation.

In the end, we become the most connected group of isolated people ever.  We have constant contact with people, we can chat, text, call, skype, facetime, snapchat, and IM each other all day long, but we end up alone and no one really knows us.  We need to use technology in appropriate ways, not to have superficial relationships, masked lives and broken, lonely hearts.  Let's connect in real and authentic ways and have real relationships.  Carry one another's burdens.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Charles Crim, Earth's loss and Heaven's gain

A great man of faith, a hero, mentor and friend passed away.  Charles Crim was my Director of Missions growing up, he was a gentle man with a huge heart.  When I was in junior college, he walked with me as we started a BSU on campus.  He was encouraging, supportive, he invested in me and helped me grow.  He was such a strong man of faith and left a strong legacy, he will be missed greatly.  I know I will see him again, and that day I'll rejoice.  Until then, I'll always remember what a great friend Charles was, and I am so much better for having him in my life.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Can't Just Be Content, What's My Deal?

I have been . . . out of vocational ministry for about a year in a half.  I was told that I am no good at ministry, I'm not cut out for it and I should find a new job.  After getting fir. . . .resigning from my position, I've tried a few things.  Right now I'm in production, running machinery and I really enjoy my job.  I make pretty good money and things are starting to get stable around my house.  So here I am, taking my day off and sitting down to write.  I write blogs, books, articles and reviews.  I am still working on RI, which is now For Real Life Ministries, looking at another Master's Degree and finding ministries that I would like to start or partner with.  What is wrong with me?  Why am I so drawn to write and speak and preach and teach.  Why can't I just be an operator at my job, attend and serve in my local church context and be happy.  My dad was an operator, he served at church and was content.  He never wrote, he didn't desire to start new ministries or a church.  He didn't set out to try to write theological works and he was happy and content.  Why can't I be?  Is it a calling, or do I just have a need to be more than I am?  I guess time will tell if I am called or just needy.  Pray for me that I have discernment and figure out what I should be doing.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Would You Follow?

Imagine you are walking down the street, any ol street and you are approached by a man.  As he gets closer, you know in your heart and in your soul that this man is the one you have been waiting for.  This is the Christ, this is Jesus, and he says "come follow me".  It's time to make a choice, do you go?

To follow, you walk away from everything.  He isn't staying at your house, so it's time to leave your home and all your stuff.  You will probably be looked down on by your neighbors, since you won't be there to mow your grass.  Would you still go?  You will have to leave your family, your job, your hobbies, walk away from your responsibilities and your obligations.  Bills won't get paid, things won't get done, you may be called a slacker and a coward for running away from your life. Will you go?  Jesus said you can't go back, you can't look back, let them take care of it, you just follow.  Will you follow?

On the road, you won't be able to provide for yourself, you will be dependent on others, will you follow?  You won't be able to pay for your food, for your bed, for your necessities and you will be dependent on others to take care of you, to support you.  You will depend on Jesus for your daily care.  Will you go?  You will be a nobody, just one of the crowd who follows, just a face.  No one wants to hear you speak, they are only interested in what Jesus has to say, will you still go?

You are no longer in charge, you are not the leader.  Jesus will decide where you go, where you stay, how long and why, will you follow?  Jesus is calling the shots, making the rules, He is Lord, Master, Boss, the head guy.  Will you follow?  Your experiences, your resume, your training, your education, they no longer matter, the previous years of your life thrown away.  Will you go?  You will be disrespected, mock, abused, maybe arrested or even killed.  Will you go?  Those in charge won't understand, even the religious will mock you, call you crazy, say you are wrong, demand for you to fall into line.  You will be pressured from everyone on the outside to quit, to turn back and to stop this insanity.  Will you still follow?

The rules will all change.  You now sleep without a house, you no longer go to your office or warehouse, store or factory.  You just follow.  Can you live without the materials, can you worship without a church, praise without a band, learn without a classroom?  Can you change your whole life for this man who tells you to follow?

Have you changed your life to follow Him now?  He still bids you to come and follow, but maybe you have just added Jesus to your life without changing much.  Are you the same person as before, just with a few more rules?  Have you decided to follow Jesus your own way, with your own power and your own rules?  Do you walk in your way, with your strength and your abilities, depending more on your experiences and your talents?  Are you trying to be Jesus yourself, or are you following?  Maybe it's time to follow, walk away from your life and walk behind Jesus.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

No Fertilizer, a review of Organic God

I have read some books with "Organic" in the title, lots of reviews and some guides.  Most of them on churches, church planting, Small Groups, Sunday School, some on relationships and marriage, a few on gardens (very few).  I have a pretty good idea what most people mean when they say organic, so I figured I would check out this one, expecting it to have some feel good fertilizer. . . you all do know what organic fertilizer is, right?  I was really surprised.

In this book, Margaret Feinberg is real, raw and open.  She talks about her experience with church, with love, with career, but mostly a real and honest relationship with God.  I find that so many just go through the religious motions, we know what to say and do, how to act and the right words to pray.  We don't have a real relationship with God, we simply do what we have been told, modeled and what we assumed was right.  This books tackles that issue.

Ok, i'm gonna be straight, I'm not emotional, and sometimes Margaret has a tendency to be a little more emotionally driven than I relate too.  With that being said, I was surprised and encouraged by this book.  I was hit between the eyes with a few things, Margaret talking about the American church having her dress dirty and ripped, make up smeared and hair a mess, but still the Bride of Christ and we should treat her as such.  Sorta smacked me a little.  It was a good read, a good book and a good perspective, I would recommend it.  Four out of five stars.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Lead Follower

I read a piece from Jeff Deyo on worship, about now focus on being a worship leader, but a lead worshiper.  That you shouldn't focus on making the people worship, or causing them to worship, but on worshiping yourself in a way that people can follow your lead and can worship. (

I think this applied to more than just worship, but I have become convinced beyond measure that this is exactly what Christian leadership should look like.  There are so many things out there about Christian leadership, being a leader and all the things a leader must do.  Some of them good, some bad, some are downright sinful.  It's time for Christian leaders to break from the mold and do it how Jesus said to be leaders.  Remember, Jesus said:

And Jesus called them to him and said to them, "You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Mark 10:42-45

That fits exactly the secular model, and the church has begun to buy into the CEO, President, General model of leadership.  We lead with great authority, from out front in a clear and demanding way.  We lead with power, we gain prestige and we use our influence.  We have become the Gentile leaders we were commanded not to act like, we have become the Religious Leaders who's leaven we were told to flee.  We have become the Pharisees who use our authority to become the bully, the master, the boss.  We have focused on becoming the first, acting like the first and being in charge.

I have heard many conflicts during my time in ministry about authority and not to challenge authority.  How many Pastor's refer to themselves as The Lord's Anointed (which is what Messiah or Christ means in English, it's a little scary).  There have been lectures about how the younger men must learn to respect and show honor and authority to the men in charge.  While I agree, the younger should respect the older, it should not be demanded by those in charge.  It should be taught with grace and humility.  There is little to no gentleness, which is a fruit of the Spirit.  How we have lost our way.  So many leaders are taking the leadership skills of the business class, the corporate world, the military and the government, using them in the church.  Jesus said "not so with you", but we have turned a def ear.

Where are the leadership washing feet of their followers.  Sure, there are leaders who will go out and serve the poor and wash their feet, often in a display, but what about the pastor washing the feet of his deacons.  What about the leader serving his critic, those who won't fall in line, are we the servant to those?  Do we love those we disagree with, or do we crack the whip and demand they fall into line?  In someone hurts the pride of a leader, makes them look bad or foolish, does the leader act like a servant, or like a leader?  How is it with us?  How should it be?  Jesus said in Matthew 23:11 that the greatest must be the servant.  What does a servant look like?  Is that what today's Christian leader look like?

I hear a lot about having integrity, but do many have integrity?  Our secular leaders don't, we know from many times a microphone has accidentally been left on.  We hear their true thoughts then, what they really think.  What is our pastors, leaders and elders accidentally left a mike on after church?  How would they talk about the people?  How would they talk about other churches, pastors or leaders?  What would we hear, would it sound like servants talking, or Gentile Rulers?  Integrity is something staying the same, regardless of the stress, heat or pressure applied too it.  A good bolt keeps it's integrity, it doesn't stretch, warp or give under pressure or torque.  Do our leaders change depending on the audience, the location?  Do they speak blessings to the face but curses behind the back?  Do they honor an individual to their face, but slander them to others?  This is not integrity, this is getting ahead, it' politics and it should not be so.

We need to take a lesson from Jeff Deyo, and from Paul.  Our leadership should come from the midst, not the front.  We should walk with the people of God, walking with passion toward Christ.  The Apostle Paul loved Jesus and he loved the people of God.  He taught them how to behave, he modeled how to behave and he said "imitate me as I imitate Christ" in 1 Corinthians 11:1.  He commands Timothy to be an example in speech and conduct in 1 Timothy 4:12, leading by example.  Leading others to do what Christ commands.  Since the commandment Christ left is to love, the first and greatest example must be that of love.  We must have leaders who love the opposition, who loves those in the church that they conflict with.  It's not enough to love the poor, to love the sinner, to love the atheist.  We must love the deacon that argues, the elder who is cruel, those who are hurtful in the church, those who would crucify you, after all, isn't that what Jesus modeled?

I am inviting you to join me.  I am inviting you to take a commitment to be a New Testament type leader.  Maybe you are already doing these things, maybe you need to repent and become a new leader.  I am inviting you to become a Lead Follower, to trust Jesus and follow Him first and foremost.  Your job is not to take care of the church, His job is to take care of the church.  It's His bride, He redeemed her, He saved her, He is coming back for her.  You are not the Great Shepherd, you are simply a hired hand, an under-shepherd, you just need to feed the sheep.  They belong to Jesus.  Follow the Shepherd with all your might, and those sheep that are His will hear His voice and the will walk with you.

Martin Luther began the Protestant Reformation because he recognized an issue with leadership.  Here we are approximately 500 years later, and it's clear that leadership corruption continues to pollute the church.  I say no more, if we are going to claim to be followers of Jesus, it's time to do what He says.  Can we say we love Him and not follow His commandments?  Be servants, be like children, love without condition, throw the roll of Commander and Chief out the window and be who God called you to be, a Lead Follower.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

So Far Behind. . . .but still in the race.

So I haven't blogged in a while.  I have to make up for lost time, so I'm gonna write a big overview.  Started a new job, 12 hour shifts, crazy schedule of days off and work and stuff.  It should give me more time to write, but lately I have been sleeping and editing.  Had some great editing projects, read an awesome book a friend wrote.  Reviewing another 2 books, then 2 more books written by friends, so reading a bunch and

writing reviews and doing edits.  I love it, but I wish I had more time.  Have decided to expand RI Ministries into Real Life Ministries to include my coaching, church consulting, writing, speaking and whatever else.  I am going to write a poem, yes I know.  I am the guy who says poetry is for people who can't make prose sound good, but I have a motive.  I'll tell you later.  It's a good idea, at least I think so.

My immediate project is to start the Lead Followers Network.  I'm going to write on that in just a second, so I won't be redundant, you can just read that post.  I have about a zillion other projects I need to do, books on:
Bible Literacy
Freedom from Bondage
Eternity (what the Bible says, not some experience or dream)
I also have a couple fiction books in mind, the second in the Green Lake Chronicles and my triology.

To go with those projects, I want to write some stuff on Following, and I need to share my vision for coaching and consulting.  It's busy, but it's fun.  Oh, I am also working on starting an electronics repair business, and a Linux business. Those will just be side projects because I enjoy it.

Thanks for sticking with me y'all, you I know I love you all who take time to read my blog.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Tipping Cows, writing reviews. Redneck good times.

Being in Ministry for over a decade, much of what is written by Jared Moore in his book "10 Sacred Cows in Christianity That Need to Be Tipped" resonates with me.  I have actually used the phrase "sacred cows" on occasions when talking about changes that need to be make in the ministry in which I was serving.  They are often very large, very heavy and very hard to tip.  This book is a quick read and very practical for pastors, leaders, deacons and elders and those who want more out of church than an hour long ritual.  Jared cuts through much of the clutter and gets right to the point.  This book could have easily been hundreds of pages, but Jared focuses on the main issues and presents the issue clearly, leaving the application to the reader.

There is much more that could have been said, and many more cows that could have been listed, every church or group will have their individual struggles, this is a good over view and 30,000 foot view of the issues that face many churches.  Too long we have had the worship wars, battled over being fed and pressured Pastors to be better, churches to get bigger and things to be more professional and not focused on God and giving Him the praise.  Jared puts the focus where the focus belongs.

This book won't solve all your church's issue, but this is a great spot to begin.  I would recommend getting this book for your entire leadership team and going over each chapter together and fleshing it out for your individual context.  It will be a blessing to open up and making sure you keep the focus where it belongs.  I do wish Jared would have unpacked some of the issues a little more, there could have been so much more written.  I understand why he left it the way that he did and didn't get too deep into it.  The issue is that things need to change, and it wasn't Jared's focus on what exactly that change needs to look like.  Maybe he will write that in another book.

In any way, check it out.  You can head over to Jared's blog and get all the info.  It's pretty short, it's good stuff and I think you'll agree with it.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What's your Worth?

If you had to give yourself a price, to value yourself what would you say?  I know that as I wake up and look at myself in the mirror, I would value myself as an item at the dollar store.  I am pretty average, I've experienced a lot of rejection, I have been blessed with some great things, so I'm not all bad, but I'm nothing special either.  Just a guy in a sea of people.  The last year or so I've been through some things that make me feel like I'm not really that important, and I can just be tossed aside.

Our world values certain things.  You need to accomplish and produce, you need to look a certain way and act a certain way and dress a certain way.  I have actually had people critique me on the way I look and the way I dress, because the world is focused on the things on the outside.   To put it another way, the world is self-seeking.  People want to know what you can do for them, if you can make them happy.  If you are nice to look at or get the things done that they want accomplished, then you have worth.

So what is the basis of worth?  What gives a person value?  Is it social or economic contribution?  Is it performance and production?  Maybe it's beauty or talent or skill.  The reality is that none of these things are yours without them being endowed upon you by God.  God made you, gave you the looks, brains, talents and abilities you possess.  God created you for the works that He prepared before hand.  Now the world will put a value on the works or the tasks, but God thinks they are important.  He created you for those things He's called you to do.

Today, I am not going to focus on what the world thinks I'm worth.  I am not going to worry about the rejection, the hurt and the criticism of the world because I have a job to do.  I don't have extra time and energy trying to please the people who can never be pleased.  I can't spend my time trying to give to those who will never get enough.  I have work to do, I have a job that has been given to me by God.  It may not have a cool title, I may not have a nice office or wear a suit and make a big salary, but those are worldly things.  Those don't last and really carry no reward.  Live your calling, stop worrying about your worth.  It's God's job to give you value, and He has valued you beyond all creation.  Let's just live.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

My Conviction on Leadership and challenge

I have been learning about leadership for the last 10 years in the church culture.  I have taken classes, watched podcasts, heard lectures and speeches, read books and heard it talked about ad nauseum by individuals who believe leadership is next to Godliness.  I have come to the conclusion that leadership is a great thing that often becomes an idol.  Here is what led to that opinion.

Biblical leadership is not glamours.  It's hanging out with people while speaking truth, but not really being anyone important.  It's helping and serving and washing nasty feet.  It is without title or position or recognition.  It's simply doing the will of the Father in front of others.  It's following in the first position, following God and having others follow you as you follow God.  You don't get to make the rules, pick the direction, make the vision or the purpose.  You simply follow the Father.  Sometimes you have no place to lay your head.  Sometimes you are without honor among your home town.  Sometimes the followers abandon you and those in charge throw you to the dogs.

Biblical leadership is not always by the book.  Sometimes you are a king or a fisherman or a religious leader, a traitor or a kid or a carpenter from a hick town.  Sometimes you are a respectable person in a place that is disrespectful, sometimes you are a disrespectful person suddenly respected.  You are seldom if ever up for the challenge, you don't have a resume and you are seldom prepared lest you take the glory for yourself.  You may be rejected, dejected, even ejected.  Man rejects you but the Spirit empowers you.  You are definitely not on the cover of Time or Forbes and not on the top 100 of anything.  Those are the people God uses.

Today in the church, however, I see something different.  It's a model that didn't come from the Bible, it came from the cooperate, secular world, the government and from the private sector.  It's the idea of being in the top chair and commanding the troops beneath you.  It's being out in front leading the pack.  It's casting vision, sharing purpose, writing strategic plans and doing what you think is best.  It takes charisma, personality, charm and guts.  You have to be smart and tough and sometimes mean when needed.  It helps to look good, have nice clothes and smell good, have a good smile and a good looking spouse.  You are measured on your success and how big your office is, your library, your vocabulary, your education and your congregation are.  You have more Bs than anyone else (bucks, Baptisms and bodies in the pew) and you are on the radio, television, news stands and best seller lists.  You can sell a ketchup Popsicle to a woman in white gloves and Eskimos are lined up to buy ice cubes.

So, here is my challenge, my call, my conviction and my invitation.  Lets be Biblical Leaders.  Toss out the purpose and vision and mission statements you painfully crafted, because Jesus already gave them.  Give up the lead seat and give it to Jesus.  Don't just say you follow the Bible but then make decisions based on your judgement or your experience or your great ideas.  The Bible tells us how to do church, so why do we constantly reinvent and reevaluate.  We strive for and fight for and work for leadership, let God choose His leaders.  We become leaders and we stop following, we stop learning, we stop being accountable.

Will you be happy if God takes away your title, your position, your income and your congregation and you are in a tent somewhere sharing with tribal people?  Will you be content if your ministry becomes to those who have nothing and no one and no way to thank you?  Will you be ok if you are not admired, respected or even listened too?  Are we willing to be Biblical leaders even if it means being led into captivity, tending sheep for 40 years or being beaten and pelted with rocks?

It's time to lead out of our lack and lead as we follow.  I am willing to be the last and the least because Jesus tells me that is what is required.  I am willing to be a nobody like a small child that no one pays attention too, speaks too or reads his blog.  I am willing to become less and let Christ become more.  It won't be easy, it contradicts everything my prideful human flesh tells me to do.  It has been something I have given lip service to in the past and said "ya, I'm humble and willing to be nobody" but I am not sure my life can give testimony to that.  It's time to be authentic and walk the talk instead of just talking a good show and acting like a company man.  I want to be a new man instead.  Care to join me?

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Big choices

So I am facing decisions about important things like my job.  I have found myself totally outside my area, my calling or career or whatever.  I'm a minister, a pastor, a missionary by calling, my training and in my experience.  I can't get away from the fact I need to be in ministry.  I have thought that I would get a job and work bi-vocationally.  I feel called to start the house church network and do so without taking a salary from the house church.  I want to have a network with a plurality of elders, and we can't do that and all get paid, it defeats much of the purpose of organic, low overhead, high ministry and mission church.  I feel called to do the RI ministry, but there is so much work and so little time and I can't even put together the $300 for the non-profit status.  I would need to do fund raising and I am not sure I am there.  There is also the Youth for Christ idea, but that is self supported, causing me to need to raise support and I have to have income in the meantime.  The economy is bad, and outside of the church world, I have little in the way of marketable skills.  It's a struggle to find a job that pays enough to provide for the family, even working two jobs I come up short.  Elaine and I were both working two jobs, but the one with the most income is the one that laid me off.

This is the time that I trust God, so I am walking without seeing.  I am praying for wisdom and guidance because I have no idea what to do.  I came to Sioux City for one reason and that was taken away and I am not sure what to do next.  I don't really want to leave, I feel like this is the perfect opportunity for the house church network.  I just need the resources to do it, and I am not sure how to provide those and still have the availability and opportunity to do the other things I feel called to do.  I wonder if Paul felt like this when he was making tents.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The American Church, a baby book

I picked up this book with high hopes as a house church planter in progress.  While I don't disagree with many of the points, there is no carrying of the burden of proof. The book says "this is wrong" and then drops a few Bible verses without any real exegetical work.  Much of the material is based on the author's experience and opinion.  While I agree with a lot of what he said, in many ways this book seemed to be a personal opinion which is then assumed to be Biblical truth.  There is much that needs developed and a few points that just seemed to be arrogant.  To write a book and then expect churches and pastors to read it and say "oh, we should change" after hundreds of years of working in this way is extreme.

A better approach would be to call out the issues and give practical tips to how to begin to make the change.  Calling for every church to change it's name, throw out all denominational ism, fire the pastor (after he finds a job) and appoint elders and revamp everything on Sunday is a bit extreme and pretty unhelpful in the ongoing dialogue as a whole.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Pleasantly Surprised, a review of Fully Alive by Ken Davis

I enjoy the humor and comedy of Ken Davis, so when I picked up Fully Alive, I expected it to be a lot of humor with some nice lessons and a feel good message.  I figured I would read it through and pass it on to someone who needed a good feel good book.  It is a feel good book, but had much more depth than I expected.  I was very surprised with the serious tone and demeanor for much of the book, and the practical way Ken dealt with a heavy topic.  We all experience down times, struggles and heartache and Ken tackles these head on.  I connected with Ken as he talked about his debilitating struggle with depression and the inability to do much or do much about it.  I felt a kinship with him, as an individual involved in Ministry, I use humor often and yet I have found myself both drowning in severe and debilitating depression and debilitated by the fear of returning to the depression.  I have felt and experienced much of what Ken talked about in my struggles in ministry.  I have struggled with much of what I have learned others go through.  I am at a place in my life right now that I know I am not spiritually as healthy a I should be.  I am suffering from spiritual and mental exhaustion and frustration and I will use many of Ken's suggestions.  I enjoyed reading it and walking away with some great principles.  There is a great deal of real world advice and suggestions that I enjoyed reading it. I would recommend this book as an easy but practical read.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

We cannot Choose God

In the debate between Calvinism and Traditionalism, the argument must be man's ability to reject salvation. When God calls, can we walk away. The idea of us choosing God should not even be an issue, because we cannot choose God.

John 15:16 says He choose us.  John 6:44 says no one comes to the Son unless the Father draws Him. John 1:13 says we are born again from the will of God. Romans 3:11 and 12 says no one seeks God, all have turned away. I Corinthians 1:18 says the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.

In the light of these verses that state we cannot choose God, we have to conclude that God chooses and calls us. The reason for the calling can be debated, our response to the calling can be debated, but the call is clearly seen in scripture. We respond to the call with trust, faith, belief, but we do not seek God. No one seeks God, that is clear.

Will we as believers accept the scripture, or will we reject what the word teaches because we don't like the way we feel about it? Maybe it's time to move away from feelings and move toward a simple faith that trusts in the sufficiency of the Word.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Maybe we need less Finney and less Billy.

My goal today is to propose and idea, not attack or hurt anyone. I may say some things about men you respect, beliefs that you hold and methods you employ. It's not personal, it's a discussion, so remember I love you, your church, the SBC and most of all, Jesus. Let's reason together.

If you are familiar with Finney and his theology, you know that much of our modern Evangelicalism is influenced by his focus on decision. Much of what we do today during an alter call is from the theology of Charles Finney.  Having people come forward, making a decision for Christ, many of these activities have ties to Finney.

Finney opened the door to men like Billy Sunday and Billy Graham.  Graham has used the alter call method, calling thousands upon thousands to come down to the stage and give their lives to Jesus. They are called to make a decision to ask Jesus in their heart.  This strategy has been incorporated into the local church, people come forward and make a decision to trust Christ and recite the sinner's prayer.

My question, is this how we are commanded, instructed and modeled to do what we are commanded to do? Is this our New Testament mandate, to call people to make decisions?  Are we commanded to have people recite the sinner's prayers and raise their hands? Is this effective, are the people really and truly becoming disciples? I can't answer this in your specific context, but I know what I have seen.

I have met a lot of people who have prayed the prayer, raised their hands, walked the isle and have no interest in following Jesus. They don't want to change, follow, or obey the teachings of Jesus. They think they will go to Heaven because they are good people. Many live in sin, and ignorant about anything of faith, but think they are ok because they recited a prayer at church years ago. Are these people disciples? Are we making disciples with this method?

Now I'm not saying that people don't get saved this way. I walked the isle when I was young, I prayed the prayer, I did all of those things, yet that isn't what made the difference in my life. My parents, my pastor, my Sunday School teacher taught me the Bible, prayed with me, discipled me. I was born again before I walked the isle, I have no doubt because the Lord opened my eyes to my sin, and my heart cried out for forgiveness. I walked the isle because I thought I was suppose too, not in order to be saved.

Have we created a works mentality inadvertantly, where people earn salvation by walking the isle, saying a form prayer, raising their hands and saying "amen".  When we go on mission trips and lead people to a prayer, do we have lasting results? Are we making disciples? Sometimes I fear that our mode and model is creating people who will say "Lord, Lord" and will hear "depart from me, I never knew you". Not just church members, I fear there are teachers, leaders, even Pastors who have a false idea of what Salvation is. They feel that they have done bad things and just say they are sorry and they go to Heaven. They are not convicted, they don't see themselves as sinners in need of a Savior. Too often we talk about the sin, without confronting that we are God's enemy without Christ.

We have come to a place where the Pope claims Universal atonement for all if you are a good person. I fear we are not to far from this, to be a good person, just walk an isle and raise your hand. This doesn't match what Jesus said, this is not following, discipleship or taking up our cross. Is this all we think salvation is? A prayer, a hand raise and nothing more?

The solution in my opinion is that we must preach the reality of being a sinner. Unless people are broken and convicted, they cannot be saved. Without the Spirit, there is no Salvation. When people are broken, they will cry out, and when they cry out, we walk with them. We have expectations for them to grow, learn and serve. When we don't, we need to again tell them about sin and the reality of their nature and God's wrath. If they are not following, they are not disciples. We are not called to make converts, but disciples.

Billy Graham had great success in his crusades, but the model is not what the local church needs in my opinion. What we need is a culture that sets the expectation of people to become disciples, to take up their cross and to hate everything in comparison to Christ. Are we willing to do

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Sinful Christian

The question was posed to me, can a born again Christian have a perpetual sin in their life?  The command in scripture is to basically quit sinning. None of us will be completely free of sin until we reach Heaven, but we continue to become more like Christ. This is called Sanctification.  There are times and events where a believer has a sin that they don't let go of for whatever reason. Most of the time it's an emotional attachment to an activity, person, thing or an addiction. Does this sin cause us to lose our salvation? No, of course not, nothing can separate, us from the Father when we are His, not even our actions. There is a price however.

We are commanded in scripture to lay aside everything that hinders us. Hebrews 12 says we should run unhindered towards the prize. The hindrance on the believer is sin dragging them downward. Picture a runner with a prison ball chained to their leg. The runner runs while dragging this steel ball, slowing them down, causing their run to be disjointed, one leg free and the other hindered. This is the effect of sin on the believer, a life out of balance, slow and frustrating, full of soreness, pain, anxiety and suffering.

The solution of course is to cut the chain, but often that is easier said then done. Often the ball is not steel, it's gold, silver, diamond or pearl. We love the ball, we chained it there because we don't want to lose it. It can come with us across the finish line, but we can't bear to let it go. We cherish it, love it, even feel as if we need it and must have it. It's not easy to toss aside, we struggle to let it go. Only when we decide the prize and racing for the prize has more value than our hindering treasure chained to our leg can we be free.  Winning comes from losing, freedom is in slavery, finding life is losing life. It's hard, it's painful, and most of us either have, are, or will experience it. The Christian caught by sin, let's all pray for freedom.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Hematoma Saga Continues

If you have been on my facebook page at all, you know I am entering the third week of a hematoma, a pocket or clot of blood under the skin. At first it was a painful knot. Then the bruising started and the swelling and it currently looks like my foot, ankle and leg has been beaten repeatedly.  It drives me crazy because of the length of time. I can handle pain and swelling if it goes away. This won't, and there is a specific reason it bothers me.

Being Mother's day, this story has some extra meaning for me today. It was Dec of 1996 when my mom slipped and thought she pulled her hamstring. It became swollen and sore and she stayed off it. The swelling, bruising and pain wouldn't go away and after 3 months, they began some more thorough investigation. It was April of 1997 when my mom was diagnosed with cancer. Seven months later, my dad was diagnosed with cancer and three years later the died.

Now I am not saying my hematoma is really a cancerous spot. It's true that I have had 6 family members fight cancer.  The fact that my friend and family doctor Thor Swanson is having chemo isn't real comforting either (especially since they removed part of his leg). I don't think I have cancer, I think I have a nasty hematoma, but it does get you thinking. Your life may be shorter than you anticipated. You may think you get 80 years and wind up with half that. My mother was 47. I am 11 years from being the same age she was when she died. Time is gonna go by fast, it always does. Do what you gotta do, cause it may be gone tomorrow.

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Ultimate Revelation of God about Himself

Do you know the Hebrew name of God? It's Yahweh. This is basically the "to be" verb in Hebrew twice. I am, I am. Exodus 3:14, God gives us the greatest self-revelation there is, I Am who I Am.  He says I Am. Do you get it, let this truth wash over you, God just is. None of us can say that. There was a time when I was not, and I had a beginning. There was a time I was a child, there was a time I was a teen, there was a time I was. . .  There will be a time when I'm retired (I hope) there will be a time that I'm a grandfather, there will be a time I'm dead and gone. I have was, is and will be. I'm subject and at the mercy of time, I change.

God IS. He just completely and absolutely is, without changing, without beginning, without end. God doesn't know or see or understand anything more or less today than He did one million years ago. God is never surprised, never shocked. God never looks forward at backwards because He IS. He is in this moment, and in the moment past and the moment to come and for God, there is no break. I can only be now, then is over and I haven't arrived as soon yet. When I do, now will be then and I can't go back. I am subject to time, it has authority. God is not, time has no authority over Him, He can be then and now and soon all at once. He is in this moment and the moment He revealed Himself to Moses and every other moment because He is infinite, He is eternal, He is absolute, He IS.

Does the reality of our God make your brain hurt? We are trapped inside time and we can't even fathom what it's like outside of time. It blows our mind to even try to fathom this reality. It's amazing to know we are protected and watched over by a God who is timeless, all powerful, a God who just IS.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

My desire for you. Yes you!

If you are reading this, I have a single, focused desire for your life. I have an agenda with everyone, that you have a love and passion for God in your life that is second to nothing. That you love God more than you love anyone or anything. Jesus said:

"If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple." Luke 14:26

That verse is hard, but the reality is we must be willing to give up anyone or anything for Christ, even our lives. This doesn't happen by being religious, by being legalistic, by going to church or by having the will power. This happens by the Holy Spirit fanning a flame in your heart until it engulfs your entire being. You will be willing to toss aside everything for Christ. Even those you love the most will pale in comparison to Christ.

The result will be you love deeper, live better, laugh more and experience joy richer. Real life come from Christ, real joy comes from Christ. If you look for joy or completion or happiness in a person other than Christ, you will suffer. If your love for Christ is not far greater than your love for anyone or anything else, you will be incomplete.

Like I said, you can't work for or earn this, but you can ask for it. Pray for a love of Christ than engulfs your life. I pray for it in your life. I pray that you are so consumed that you burn and ignite those around you. I pray you have love, life, joy and peace. I pray for you because I love you and want you to feel real love.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Dire Threat to Marriage

There is lots of talk today about the state of marriage and the fear it's being eroded and destroyed.  The fight between advocates of same gender marriage and those who support traditional marriage are at war. Under all of these headlines, there is a threat to marriage that is invading, has come in under the radar, and we don't discuss it.

When I was in my 20s, all my friends were getting married. Now, in my 30s, my friends are splitting up, getting divorced, starting new families. It's like someone yelled "switch" and we all run for new partners. I don't want to make light how incredibly painful this is on people, children, families and homes, because people are hurting. Marriages are coming unravelled all around, the devil is winning in the quest to destroy marriage.

I don't want to turn this into a discussion about the current marriage fight in this country, because the reality is marriage and the home has been attacked for decades by the enemy of the family. The family is weak, the church, government, country are all weak. We need to reclaim the home, the family, but not through politics, laws and amendments.

First, we need community. A couple needs people they can talk too. People mess up, affairs happen, abuse happens, financial crisis happens, disease and death, all these things tear people apart. They need a support group they can lean on and turn too. They need help and support from their friends, older and wiser people, and the church. They need prayer and encouragement.

We need to be taught ho to forgive. In too many situations, I'm sorry doesn't mean a lot. You must forgive your spouse when they fail, when they mess up. Couples can recover from betrayal and hurt if they are willing to work through the process of forgiveness.  We have to teach our kids to forgive, how to love without condition and make family work.

Finally, love each and treat each other like they deserve love. Treat each other with respect, with tenderness, treat them like they are your spouse. Give honor and support to one another. Care for each other and love them like you love yourself.

If we will put work and effort into our marriage, then we can begin to turn the tide of marriage's destruction. We can begin to shore up the foundation of our country, churches and community. We need to care for one another, support one another and pray for one another. We need to cry out to God and admit, we are in trouble.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

What Am I Learning?

We have been in a place for around 9 months where you are making less than we need to really get things done.  We have done everything we can, Elaine and I both work 2 jobs, but there just isn't a big opportunity for someone with my skill set and educational experience.  I have tried for some chaplain jobs, but I am trained and educated for educational ministry.  The Non-profit has sorta hit a standstill, between the lack of jobs and the funds required to get all the stuff filed.  We look at a pile of bills, knowing there is no way to pay them all, try to get some sleep and get up to and go to work somewhere.  I don't believe for one second that my current situation is an accident. God is refining us, moving us in a specific direction.  My heart burns to plant a house church someday.  I am longing to launch this non-profit and help people live out their ministry desires, help students start Christian Clubs on campus, help people have Bible Studies where they live and work.  My heart burns to serve God in those areas, but God has me working outside those areas.  I love my jobs, but there is always more month than money.

I don't think God is incapable of meeting my financial needs.  I think God is letting us struggle for a purpose, for a reason and to be more conformed into the image of Christ.  For the three years of His ministry, Christ was homeless, telling His followers that foxes have holes and the birds have nets, but He had no place to lay down and take a nap (Matt 8:20 and Luke 9:58).  Jesus had need, and we don't know if and when He went without, but I know He took a couple of fish and some bread and made it go a long way.  I could do without bread and fish, but if he could multiply my tank of gas, that would make me very happy.  Like the widow who's oil never ran out, I could use a gas tank that never runs dray.

So, I am learning humility, dependence and strengthening my faith in this whole experience.  I don't know what I am learning, I don't have a great summary statement about what God is doing. I have worked to turn over anger and bitterness for where I am, tried to learn humility as best I can as kids 20 years younger than I am tell me what to do and my new title is "kid".  I have learned that I have no ability to fix or take care of anything on my own.  I can work had, work long, get degrees and experience and apply and be a self starter and a go getting, but my effort will never be enough.  Let me phrase that the different.  I am incapable of making life work on my own.  The idea of the self made man is a myth, and in one sense the President it right, you didn't build that.  God built it and entrusted you with the stills to manage.  If He saw it fit, it would all be done in a moment, just ask Job.  God is the master building, He owns it all and you are the steward of it.  Be thankful for what you have, and learn what He is teaching you when you are without.  That is what I am trying to do.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Humility and learning it's lessons

Jesus gave a list of blessings in the Beattitudes, and I think lately I am filling a few.  A lot has happened over the last 8 months.  I had worked towards a goal of serving in a church, filling the role of Pastor of Education.  I had that role in a couple churches, and I felt like I was where I was suppose to be.  It was hard, I struggled in some areas, I had strengths and weaknesses and I was keenly aware of my weaknesses.  I went to school, I learned, I went to conferences, I had mentors and coaches, I real magazines, books and blogs.  I tried to learn from the best, but it wasn't enough.  One day it ended like a gun shot.  It was just over, no fanfare, no memorial, not even a goodbye, it was just over.

I did what any man would do in that situation, I found another job.  I am actually working two right now, times are hard.  I enjoy my jobs, they are not my calling or my passion, but I enjoy what I do, but it's a struggle.  I work outside my field, I am trained to be a pastor, an educator and I am, to put it bluntly, a nobody.  I am the bottom of the totem pole, I am the "kid".  I went from Pastor to kid in the blink of an eye. I don't mind being bossed around, told what to do, but in the part time evening job, I am being told what to do by 20 year olds.  I struggle sometimes because I have pride, I have a BA, and MA and more leadership training that this kid has high school credits, yet here I am.  Humbled.

I wonder if Paul felt this way.  Training to be a leader, a Pharisee with the best training.  He becomes a believer and a missionary.  He goes to Athens and preaches, they laugh at him and he leaves and goes to Corinth and makes tents.  I am sure he enjoyed the work, but he was doing miracles, preaching about Christ, starting churches, and now he is making tents.  He tells the Corinthians about a thorn in his flesh, possibly his blindness or the fact he was stuck making tents.  Whatever it was, it kept him humble.  I don't have a thorn so much, but I have been made humble.  I am a nobody with a blog who gets to write.  Sure, I have good friends, an amazing wife and awesome children.  My life is great, but I never thought I would be where I have found myself.  I will try to keep my chin up, knowing this is working for my good to make me more like Christ.  I am striving to do ministry where I am, investing in the people around me.  Tonight, I was able to share some things that I learned with a young man who is feeling the calling on his life.  God has blessed me where I am and I am thankful, but sometimes I miss what I had.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

In Ministry

As I am getting older,  there are some things in modern American Churchianity that I am rejecting. Today's item to toss out is the idea of being in or not being in or involved in Ministry. I am not rejected the idea of people being in ministry, I am tossing the idea out of a Christian being a Christian and not doing ministry.

First off, let's talk about ministry. This doesn't mean you have a title, position or a job description at your church. Ministry means there is something in your life that you invested in for the spiritual and eternal benefit or someone else. Everything from preaching and teaching to giving someone a cup of cold water in the name of Christ. Helping people, serving people, sharing with people are all areas of Ministry.

First thing we need to toss out is the idea that someone can be a Christian and be a complete consumer. If you don't invest yourself in anyone, ever, something in wrong. There may be a season you are a bit below the radar, but you are still praying and encouraging others, right? If you are doing nothing for anyone else, better search your heart. Something is very broken?

Second, less toss out the idea that you have to serve in your church for it to be valid. The best place to do ministry is probably in your local church, and they need you, but ministry will often be outside. Hopefully your church recognises the needs to train, equip and release people for ministry. Often your ministry will be at your work, home, school or other places you spend time. These are the places Jesus calls you to be. 

The key thing is to find your ministry focus, your calling. Maybe it's your family, raising kids or taking care of aging parents. Maybe it's to coworkers, neighbors or friends. You may be called to help with kids, teach in Sunday School or serve as a deacon. Plant your life in that ministry, let God tend your vine and produce a harvest. If you are not serving, not producing a harvest, maybe you need to make sure you are connected to the vine.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

What Separates the Elect from the Unelect?

One of the foundational keys to Woven Theology is the concept of timelessness of God.  God is not in, bound or subject to time.  Most of the issues that concern predestination come from putting God inside of time, having Him make a decision about a human being before the human exists.  In this, God is perfectly just in His election, but this leaves me with a huge question.  What is the extent of foreknowledge, but more importantly, what separates the Elect from the Unelect?

If God looks at an individual, and they become the elect because of a work or an action, they are not elect, but they have in fact earned God’s merit and salvation, and that is works theology.  Right away we have to throw out the concept of earned salvation because it’s defiantly contrary to Bible teaching.  Let’s define a work, anything that a human being can do and take credit for that merits or achieves salvation.  If we do anything that gives us Salvation that doesn’t come from God, we can take credit, we can boast and therefore, we merit our salvation.  We have compromised too much on this point, and that is rejected outright.

So, what is left to examine?  I think foundational we need to pose a question about how God views us.  Since God is not trapped in, subject too or limited by time, it stands to reason that from God’s eternal vantage point, He sees us complete.  Everything we have said, done, and thought, combined with our attitude and outlook, added with who we are, where we come from, our family, how and where we are raised, who invested in us and prayed for us and who shared the gospel with us. All of these things fit together to form us, from what we normally eat for breakfast to where we went to college, who we married and what size shoe we where.  God sees the complete picture and in seeing that complete picture He is completely justified in who He elects.  This is not based on what we’ve done, but who we are.  This will also include how others pray for us, share with us, invite us to church.  We don’t earn salvation, but we are commanded to pray for the salvation of others.  That means our prayers make a difference as God calls and elects.  We are told the belief of a parent matters, the belief of a spouse matters, the prayers of family members matter.  All of these things come together to make up who we are.  We don’t earn Salvation by being in church, but perhaps we are in church because we are called, and perhaps we are called because we have a heart that is open to being in church. 
Now what we have done, but who we are.

Those who are unelect, they have a closed and hard heart, are surrounded by pagans, no one is praying for them, no believers are sharing with them, when God sees them as a completed individual, they are immersed in sin, selfishness and destruction.  As Christians in time, this means that there is time for us, because their life isn’t over.  Someone who appears to be far from God from our perspective may have something that God knows about that will happen.  They will later receive prayer, teaching and they are ultimately the elect.

I bring this up because often people argue with election, saying “then there is no point in sharing the gospel with people” but since we are commanded to do so, the election of an individual may be dependant (at least from our perspective in time) on if we share the gospel and pray for them.  The reality is that election is completely and totally up to God, yet it is the responsibility of the individual to have a soft heart, an open ear and be in a place for God to speak.  It’s also dependant upon us as Christians to share, pray and witness, knowing that is can change them as a person.

I realize how abstract this concept is because it has so many moving parts.  Us as beings in time, working in time and through time and trying to think about God being outside of time working on something that cannot be earned, yet we are responsible for our reaction, our actions and our duty.  This is why it’s Woven Theology, God is weaving a tapestry of Salvation that is based on nothing but His sovereign will but includes the actions and reaction of every person involved.  The relationship between man and God is grown and matured by us being involved in God’s plan, not because He needs us but because He designed it.

Let’s look at the Apostle Paul.  When he was Saul, his heart was heart, he persecuted and he was an enemy of Christ.  When God looked at Saul, he say him as a completed person, someone who experienced grace and was open, someone who was prayed for and covered in the prayers of many.  God saw a man that others invested in and he in turn invested in others.  God was pleased and glorified to elect Saul to become Paul and share his faith with the world.  In the same way, God looked at a man like Judas.  I don’t know all of the story and history of Judas, but he was greedy and callous.  He stole from the money of the group, he betrayed Jesus for money and his heart was cold.  Jesus said it was better if he was never born, and in the end he couldn’t live with himself and committed suicide instead of seeking forgiveness.  The man Judas was, his heart condition caused him to be in a position that God’s wrath remained on him, even while he walked with Jesus.

As I continue to think through this, please share your thoughts and help me flesh this idea out more.  I will pray and continue to search the scripture and ask you to please do the same as you join me in this exercise of faith.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Ring of Gold

I rarely take off my wedding ring, I live, sleep, work and shower in my ring. I can't really get it off anymore, I can't get it over the joints in my finger. At work one night, however, I had my hands in a sink of cold water. I was drying my hands and noticed it was a little lose. I slid it off and look at it. That moment standing in the back of a Pizza joint at my part time job, looking at this little piece of jewelry that I wear all the time and my head flooded with memories. I thought about the last 12 years and all that Elaine and I have through.

Being married to my wife is incredible and such a giant blessing I can't even find words to express it.  I love her more today and I did yesterday, but less than I will tomorrow. The blessing that God gave me in my wife is more than I could have imagined I would receive.

Friday, February 15, 2013

When is it time to stay?

I wrote a blog about when it's time to leave a church, but I want to follow it up when it's time to stay. Too many jump ship for reasons that are not solid reasons for leaving. I want to open up why many leave and when you should stay.

1. When you have conflict. Guess what, you will always have conflict. It happens. If someone hurts you, you work it out. You deal with it. If you run away from every conflict, you eventually will run out of churches to be at.

2. If you don't like the music, too bad. It's not for your enjoyment, it's to worship God. You are praising Him, not attending a concert. If you can't worship, there is a spiritual issue. Fix the spiritual issue.

3. If you are not "being fed" then maybe it's time to grow up some and grab a spoon. The preaching will encourage you, exalt God, admonish you, convict you, but you gotta feed yourself with Bible Reading and prayer.

4. The ministries don't "meet your needs". Ministries in churches begin when someone feels or sees a need and begins to meet that need. If you have a need and there isn't anything meeting that need, then get to work. Don't wait for someone to fix it.

Many times our preferences and comfort level cause us to be church consumers. You will never grow if you are a consumer, you must be a participant.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Motivation, what's yours?

Are you motivated? That is probably not the right question, because we are all motivated, the question is, what are you motivated to do, and what is the source of your motivation? Success, fame, money, love, publicity, ego or something else completely?

I strive to be motivated by love, for God and for others. I admit often times my motivation gets off track. I love God and I see the way God is slandered. I love God and I see the way He is misrepresented by many churches and pastors. I read blogs, see tweets and catch some Christian TV and it often grieves me. There are times I hear things that I don't think are true, and I am motivated by thinking I'm right.

In all these things, I try to be motivated by love. It's not easy sometimes, the flesh wants to act like the flesh, and it's weak. I am making progress I think, seems to be a 2 step forward 1 step back. Satan will always through stumbling blocks in the way. It helps to know that when I do stumble, there are those who will help me, because they are motivated by love.

Monday, February 11, 2013

When is it time to go?

In my tenure I have been in a lot of different churches. New and old, big and small and everywhere in between. Members of some, staff at some, consultant at a few and student at others. In attending a church, sometimes the question comes up of "is it time to leave"? This is never, ever easy. Friends, family, ministries and connections all tie us to our church, and staying in a single church is often healthy. There are times, however, that it's time to make an exit. Let me outline when I think it's time to leave.

1. When you are invited or asked to leave. This happens to staff, pastors, elders, and sometimes church members. Hopefully you will be given a reason and it's something to examine and take to heart. Don't draw out conflict by staying, be polite and say goodbye. It will take some grieving time, it will hurt, but it is the most honoring to God.

2. When you can't support the Pastor. I'm not talking about when you don't like his tie or think he is too short. When you can't agree with him on fundamental doctrine. When you feel like his vision is not biblical. When he is abusive, hateful, angry or manipulative. If you have ever thought "this guy should be fired" then you should probably move on. It's God's church, if He wants the pastor out, He'll move him. If it's the Pastor's church and not God's, then run for it.  There are times that Pastors and leaders are not saved. Jesus said that there will be some who prophecy (preach) and cast out demons (minister) in the name of Jesus who He doesn't know.  If you can't tell the difference between your pastor and a business man, if his leadership is from the world and not scripture, if there is little to nothing powered by the spirit, hit the road.

3. Church doctrine is wrong, unbiblical or heretical. Let's face it, every Evangelical Church in the US claims to be Biblically rooted. Unfortunately, sometimes that means the church's "interpretation" of Biblical Doctrine. I have heard Pastors say "scholars can't agree, so we don't know". A group of scholars sat on the Jesus Seminar and said all the miricles in the NT are myth. I don't have to agree with every scholar, and if a church dismisses Biblical truth, it's time to head out.

4. It damages your family. Guys, if your wife and or kids would rather eat glass than attend church. I'm not talking the occasional unhappy kid. If your wife feels like an outsider, if your kids are teased, if the church is distracting them from Christ and they are not connected as to a family or a body, get them out. Get your family connected to a Body, don't just drag them to a church. If being there is killing your marriage and your kids hate you, head down the road.

Now of course there are times to go plant churches, moving, support, and other small items that may cause you to change churches. By and large, these are my standard reasons for getting out of dodge.  If you do have to leave your church, do so with prayer and gentleness.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

2013 Theme

Well, it's almost the end of January, and I think I have settled on a theme for 2013.  My theme for this year is "Don't lose sleep over it".  I am going to live in a way to not violate my conscience and do things I stress over or feel guilty about.  2012 was a hard year, and I don't want to rehash it lest I get myself in trouble for saying things I'm not allowed to say.  Much of what happened in 2012 left sleepless nights and stress and struggles and hurts.  I am not going to repeat that in 2013, I am going to stop playing games and just live life the way I know is right.

So here is my visual picture.  I am going to get a nice creeper, the rolling things mechanics lay on to roll under cars.  I am going to strap it too my back.  It will do two things, first no one will be able to stab me in the back, cause I have the creeper protecting me.  Then, if someone throws me under the bus, I can just hang on and roll with it.  Ya feel me?  Just roll with it.

Thanks for everyone who has read my blog and prayed for me.  I have made my share of mistakes and I did some things wrong in the last few years.  I take full responsibility for my actions, but I am done being the fall guy for the failure of others.  I am just gonna roll with it.  Anyone wanna roll with me?

Monday, January 7, 2013

House Church thoughts

As I talked with a good friend of mine today, we talked about experiences of true fellowship. Sharing the joy of our salvation in a group and praising God. I think a church should be a place to share with others, and I am not sure we have created that in the existing, traditional, institutional church. We have squelched too much interaction and scripted too much.

In the early church, they were sharing, bringing scripture, testimony, songs and prayers. They gave of themselves, and their giving all went to the relief of the saints. They never did rolls, they didn't pass a plate, there was no greeting time or alter call. It was so much more natural. They didn't need instructions. Do we have that today?

In the early church, there were no Children's programs, no youth groups, no couples classes, just the church. They were all together, they all learned and grew. There wasn't this idea of a simple class or a complex or advanced class. They were together.

Does not having this sort of structure help us today? Are we spiritually in a better place than the early church? Why do places that have the simple, house church idea thrive, while we have all this freedom and are dying? Maybe we have missed something.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Forgiveness- an open letter,

There is an old song by Don Henley, he said "I've been trying to get down to the heart of the matter, and my will gets weak and my thoughts seem to scatter but I think it's about forgiveness."  I can tell you it's all about forgiveness.  I want to write a letter that is going to apply to multiple areas in my life.  I am thinking generally, with some specifics.  Read this as the cry of my heart and not as a letter "TOO" someone, because it might just be to you. . . but probably lot.  Some of those who inspired this letter are now gone, which causes heartache.  It's time I write this for everyone to read, because part of it may be for you.

To You:

I have wronged you in some ways.  We don't agree and we don't see eye to eye.  We are as different is the day is long and that's ok.  In some ways it was a good thing, but in many ways it was a bad thing.  I  am sorry for the ways I was wrong, for the things I have done wrong and the ways I hurt you.  I am far from perfect and in many way, I am weak.  I have found solace in knowing that Christ's strength is perfected in my weakness, He has so many opportunities to be strong in my life.  I am easily overwhelmed, I don't take criticism well, I am often in over my head, but I didn't ask for help, I didn't communicate well, and I made a lot of mistakes When things ended, I tried so hard to do everything right, but things came out so wrong.  I am not going to say anymore how, because I have been told over and over how wrong I have been in sharing my hurts, so I won't.  I will just say it didn't go how I thought it would go.

In the same way, I have to forgive. This is transparency, I feel like I need to admit my faults so I can be prayed for.  A wise man told me that once, and the scripture is clear on that.  I have been bombarded with scripture, some that has healed me, and sometime we try to weaponise scripture, but I've seen so much damage and abuse done to scripture that it hurts me.  The amount of isogesis that happens when people conflict with scripture as a weapon is staggering.  I think you did a lot wrong.  I think you continue to do many things very wrong, but it's not my job to fix them.  It's not my place to point them out anymore, you have people to do that for you.  I have seen things you did that hurt others, I have seen you do damage to scripture, do damage in teaching and I don't agree with some of your theological teaching.  I think you are wrong, and I am concerned about it.

I want you to know I forgive you.  I hope you forgive me too.  I have tried really hard to always be honest, feel like I was then flooded in half truths, untruths and political maneuvering.  It's ok because I'm moving on.  I'm healing, I'm better, it's taken years and decades, and also months and weeks and days and hours..  I love you and I hope and pray that everything goes great in the future.  In may ways I miss you, but in many ways I know the less we are in contact, the better.