Saturday, December 6, 2014

A Look Inside the Depressed Soul

I have written several times about struggling with depression, I don't want to rehash all of that.  I want to consider for a moment if we were to take out my soul and dissect it, what would be find inside.

My soul looks no different than any other.  It's a reflection of who I am as a person, fragile yet resilient, tender but sometimes rude.  It longs to give but it can also take, it loves but can be overcome with rage.  The depression has caused it to be a darker shade, you can see by looking on the outside it's over come by some shadows of despair.  What would you expect to find filling such a soul?  Bitter poison?  Garbage, dark and foul sludge?  Is it full of hate and disgust?  What will be filling a soul of depression when looking inside.

Opening up my soul, there is nothing.  It's empty, no garbage, no sludge just a hollow, cacophonous void.  There are small spots in the corner of the remaining joy and hope.  There is a small puddle of bitterness, some anger splattered, all the human emotions but just trace amounts.  For the majority, it's just empty.  The air is stale, there is no movement or breeze.  It's just an empty space.

The soul longs for something to fill the empty space.  There is a longing for love and joy and peace to fill the gaps.  There was a time when emotions flowed in the soul more freely, but they have all dried up.  Only residue of their existence remains.  The is no reason, no blockage or structural defect that has caused the emptiness.  It just is, it's a reality that I have not found the key to repairing.

As I close my soul up, I ask myself, what is the answer?  How do I fill my soul again?  There are so many opinions, voices on the outside shouting at me, telling me what to do.  Fix my circumstances, just get over it, deal with my issues and stop feeling sorry for myself.  I have tried to get over it, tried food and exercise and medication.  The empty spaces remain.  Occasionally an emotion will run for a little while, but then dries up again.

I will continue on, to persevere with an empty space inside my soul.  I will go forward, whether I feel like it or not and seek the answer.  Maybe one day I'll find it, maybe I won't.  For now my companion is a hollow space that I long to fill with goodness.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Time for my X-Mas Post

I write a blog about this every year, and since we have the tree up, it's time for me to write my yearly blog on the nature of Christians around Christmas time.  You see, something happens to Christians around this time of year that instead of being the hands and feet of Jesus, we become overly sensitive cry babies, getting mad if someone says the wrong blessing.  People in stores and banks and other places of business have the gall to say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas".

The other issue is the infamous X-Mas.  The problem with this is the X is the Greek letter for Christ.  X-mas was started by Christians because they understood that X=Christ.  Then we forgot that X=Christ and started blaming the filthy sinner of taking Christ out of Christmas.

So here is my rant.  We are suppose to represent Christ, and I'm sure He never threw a fit over something as trivial as how people greeted him.  Holiday is a variation of Holy Day, so it's still in a sense a Christian greeting.  Instead of being gracious, smiling and saying "Merry Christmas" back, we have thrown a fit about it publicly.  It has caused those who are far from God to move farther from God.  We have damaged our one job, our purpose for being on earth over a holiday greeting.

I saw a picture on Facebook that says "But the Christ back in Christmas?  How about putting the Christ back in Christian".  That does sum up a little about how we act during this time of year.  Let's be gracious, offering kindness and understanding.  Let's be the Christ at Christmas instead of worrying about how Wal-mart employees greet us.  Just a thought.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thoughts of Ferguson, How Do We Make Sense?

Unless you've been under a rock, you know the grand jury chose not to indite the officer responsible for the death of a young black man in a suburb of St. Louis.  The result of that decision has been a great deal of social unrest in Ferguson.  Looting an rioting and protest both peaceful and violent.  As Christians, as people of faith, what do we do in response to the heaping of tragedy on tragedy?  How can we make sense of what is happening?

Civil unrest due to ethnic or cultural differences has existed since the tower of Babel.  Man was split into different culture groups, which we have mistakenly called "race".  Let's be clear, humans are all one race, but we have different culture and ethic groups, sometimes based on a similar genetic trait such as the amount of melanin and skin pigment.  Cultures often considered themselves better than other cultures or people groups, sometimes leading to killing them, enslaving them, persecuting them or other harmful or shameful behaviors.  In this country, Africans were brought on ships in horrible conditions and made slaves.  Once slavery was abolished, the now American blacks had no rights, or very few.  This has been a long standing issue, and the economic disparity that exists has created a culture and ethic clash for many in the black community.  This is what exists in Ferguson, and it doesn't matter if the officer in question was justified or unjustified in the shooting.  It matters that the members of that community feel like they are marginalized and shunned.

As Christians, we must recognize that in our own communities, there are many who feel they are not cared for or cared about.  They may be black or Hispanic or white or a mixture of cultures.  They feel like no one cares, they feel like they have no opportunity and will never be able to get out of life they find themselves.  Many are angry or depressed or a combination.  People are hurting and when a tragedy occurs like happened in Ferguson, it causes even deeper feeling of alienation.  We must come along side these hurting people and love them, pray for them and help them to feel connected to a community of support and encouragement.  The church should be active and alive in these communities and bringing support.  For too long, the only supportive community has been that of the gang, the criminal groups or the drug culture.  They have used the opportunity of the hurt to enlist and grow their communities.  The church needs to make sure we are building communities there.

We need to help the kids.  The kids suffer more than anyone in these communities.  They are targets of gangs and drug dealers, trying to recruit them.  They are often alone as mom works to pay the bills.  Sometimes dad is around, sometimes dad isn't around.  The air of hopelessness is all around them, often the schools and programs in the area struggle more and have less to offer.  It's a situation that causes a perpetual cycle, many feel like there is no way out.  The church, Christians need to be present in the situation, giving and sharing and loving.  We need to give the kids something to hope for, and a reason to be happy.

Ferguson reminds us that there are hurts in this country that run deep.  People are hurt and angry and when things like this occur, it releases pain that has been pushed down for too long.  The violence isn't coming just from this even, but from years, decades of hurt and abandonment.  We can speak out against the violence, but more talking will never heal their hearts.  We need to be the hands, the feet of Jesus and do what we can to make things better for everyone, meet them where they are and love them where they live.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

How To Tell If You Are in A Cult

With the rise in popularity of the non-Denominational church, coupled with some pretty wild theology out there today, there are people who have found themselves in a cult instead of a Gospel focused church.  Don't let this happen to you, examine a few things in your church, it may not be a church at all.  You may find yourself in a cult, and if so, it's time to pack up and run.  Here are a few places to begin your examination if you are suspicious and think your local fellowship may be headed a cult like direction.

Quick definition, a cult is a group that claims to be Christian, has characteristics of a Christian church, has some doctrine in common but moves away from orthodoxy in a foundation or key aspect.

First, examine the pastor and leadership.  The first sign of cult turnings of an independent church will be with the leadership.  If the focus is all on the pastor, if he talks about himself as much or more than about Christ, look out.  A pastor who is self focused and self absorbed will begin to desire to be worshiped himself.  Preaching makes it difficult to stay humble, you command the attention of a room full of people for 30 minutes or more every week.  They often tell you what a great job you did, it's easy to let the pride begin to change you.  If your pastor is more interested in himself than Jesus, then maybe it's time to go.

If the definitions of Christian truths are changed, there may be a problem.  If they add something to salvation, big problem.  Remember, you are saved by grace through faith, there are no works involved.  If you are told you have to do something to get to heaven, there is a problem.  You are saved by what Christ already did, He will draw you and you respond and confess sin and turn from your sinful ways.  This happens as a response to grace, not as a work.  If you are told you have to do a work, perform an act, display a gift to be saved, then you shouldn't hang out much longer.  If the church adds to the requirement of salvation, it's time to go.

If the Word of God is compromised, time to go.  God gave us everything we need in the Scripture, it's complete.  If you are told there are more books that need to be read, more gospels or modern day revelations, you should be shopping for a new church.  If you are told there are things being said, written or published that are equal with or more important than Scripture, there's a problem.  The best way to lead people astray is to give them something they will believe that tells them what they want.  These false scriptures will lead you away from what the Scripture teaches and can enslave you to cult doctrine.  That being said, books in themselves are not bad, but they must match up to what Scripture teaches and never be elevated to be along side or above Scripture.

Another thing to watch out for is how they talk about Jesus.  Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith, He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  Jesus is Lord of lords, King of kings, the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last.  Jesus is part of the Godhead, He is fully divine, He is God.  He is one with the Father and is far above all creation.  Any church that lessons the position of Jesus as less than any of these things has a problem.  Jesus is not a created being, He is co-eternal with the Father (settled by the Council of Nicaea).  Watch and make sure that your church puts Jesus in His proper place of honor and gives Him glory and honor and praise and worship as God.  Anything less is cult like.  If Jesus is not who the Scripture says He is, then Salvation will be flawed as well.

I hope and pray that you attend and are part of a Biblically solid and faithful Christian church.  If you are not, let me urge you to find one.  I know that leaving a church is incredibly difficult, especially if you have friends and family there.  It's worth it, and Jesus said that sometimes there would be divisions like this.  Jesus said that His coming would set family members against one another.  Sometimes this happens because someone is part of a cult and another member of the family wants out.  Jesus is worth it, and you eternal soul is worth it.  Find a solid, Bible teaching, faith holding, Jesus praising church to call your church home.  It's worth it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Who's Really the Problem

If you read any Christian blogs, including mine, you have probably heard about all the problems in the American church.  There is no end to the list of issues, yet I have discovered something interesting.  First it seems that it's every other church that is the problem.  It's every other Christian who has the issue, and it's always a problem someplace else.  I have served in a number of churches who claim to be different that all the other churches.  Most of the time, they weren't.  It always seems like the problem is out there, somewhere else.

For the life of me, I can't put my finger on the group or church that has the problem.  If you tell a church they are part of the problem, most of the time they can tell you why they aren't.  What I have learned is that we don't know we are part of the problem, that makes us part of the problem.  I know that I am in need of supernatural help to deal with my part of the problem.

I know that I am flawed, that I don't share my faith enough, I am not compassionate enough, I don't do all the things I know I should for the kingdom.  I think I know more than I probably do, I can be arrogant and prideful.  I have problems and issues, and I know I am a product of the American Church.  I have a hard time looking outside of the established paradigm and focusing on the purity of the Gospel.  I know that I am part of the problem and not enough of the solution.

How about you?  Are you more problem or more solution?  How many people are you actively sharing faith with, serving in Christ like ministry.  If you know the numbers off the top of your head, you are in bigger trouble than I am.  Let's begin to find our frailties and give them to the Father, begin to find our blind spots and work on them.  Maybe then, we can change this whole thing for the better.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Finding Help to Find Help, a review of Dr. Stanely's book The Spirit-Filled Life

I am joyful to be able to write a review of this book, because it came at just the right time for me.  As a Baptist, I probably don't give the kind of attention to the person and work of the Holy Spirit like I should.  I have struggled lately with how He is working in my life, how I can experience His power and follow where He leads me.  It was as these struggles were weighing me down, the opportunity arose to review this book.  I don't think it was just a coincidence either.

Dr Stanley unpacks the very questions I asked, and shares his personal journey when he was led and when we was led and didn't follow.  He gives helpful illustrations and examples and lays out a helpful plan to help walk in the Spirit.  I found it a great help, and began to put many of these things into practice in my own life.

This is a good book, a good and clean read, so give it a shot.  I would recommend it.

Read the Book

I had a surreal moment the other morning that I want to share with you.  I have been recovering from surgery and on short term leave from work.  I was all alone in the house the other morning and decided to spend some extra time praying.  About the time I bowed my head to begin to pray, something reverberated in my head.  Now, I am not one for saying that God spoke to me.  I do believe that God can and does lead us, influence and inspire us and gives us guidance, but most of His speaking is done in His word.  He wrote it down so He doesn't have to keep telling us over and over, since we (His people) are known for not listening.  This particular morning I didn't hear an audible voice, no bushes burst into flames, no pillar of cloud or dove descending.  I got the message, however, loud and clear.  READ THE BOOK.  I had no doubt that the book was The Book, the Bible.

I am pretty good about doing my Bible reading, but post-surgery, I had been slacking a little.  With medications and getting anesthesia out of my system, my reading took a back seat.  It's been enough time that now I am without excuse.  I did as I was told and I opened my Bible on my Kindle and began to read.  I have began reading more and more regularly since I was reminded of it's importance.  God inspired men to write the timeless wisdom we would need, and we need to remain in the Word, reading and studying and memorizing.  Life gets busy and times get hard, all the more reason to be in the Word.  I hope you will take time today too and be in the word.  Remember to Read the Book!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Ripples and Waves

I am not sure if we will ever know the full extent of how our actions, behaviors, choices and decisions will effect others. Little things we do or say that we sometimes don't even remember. In Chaos Theory, this is called the Butterfly Effect. A butterfly beats it's wings and it adds a minute amount of air movement, but over time and distance, that minute air moment adds to other movements to create a massive storm.  Small actions that are unseen and unaccounted for often make huge impacts farther down in the system.

Our lives are sort of like that. Decisions we make, things we say and do, they add just a little wind that can become a giant storm. On the other hand, just a small movement of air in the other direction can take enough momentum to stop a storm from developing.  A word spoke in anger can turn a small problem into a hurricane.  A gesture made from a peace seeking heart can stop a raging storm from starting.

We are told that we are given two choices, speak blessings and life or cursing and death.  Two choices, life and death and we are encouraged to choose life (Deut 30:19).  What will our temperament be?  The actions we take today could have long, far reaching ramifications.  Will you choose blessing?  Will you choose life?  In a world that is filled with cursing and death and despair, I hope that we as Christ followers can be a blessing to this world.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Does God Really Love Me?

Sometimes I wonder if God notices all the stupid, sinful stuff I do.  I know He does, so my second thought is, how can He still love me when I screw up so much.  I think these things because I'm stuck in a performance trap.  If I do good, then I will be loved and rewarded.  If I am a good worker, I'll do fine, if not then bad things happen and I'm looking for a new job.  If I'm a good friend, then I have friends, if not then I'm alone.  If I'm a good husband, a good father then my family will be happy and well.  If I mess up, then things will be destroyed.  If I'm a good Christians, God will love me. . . . .

In life, we are judged by our performance.  I use to get a review that rated me by the way I looked among other things.  We get it in our heads that God must use the same standards and if I mess up, He won't love me.  After all, He did punish the Israelites, right?

In the movie Evan Almighty the character of God, played by Morgan Freeman says "Everything I do, I do because I love you".  We sometimes miss that what God did for the nation of Israel was to save them from themselves and put them in a place to be able to bring Christ to save them.  In the same way, even the bad things in our lives come from God's love in order to do mighty things in our lives.  May be hard to see, but bad things have good purpose.

So, here I am, still stuck in the performance trap.  I look at the realities of my life, my sin and my struggles and think "does God really love me"?  The answer is "of course He does", so then the question becomes for me, how do I allow myself to experience that love and grace?

First, I let myself experience the peace and rest that comes from nature.  There is healing and great rest that comes from God's creation, and He did it that way on purpose.  I read the Bible and I let the words of scripture remind me of His truth.  I worship and draw close to God, knowing that He loves me infinitely more than I love Him, and knowing how much I love Him brings peace and reassurance.  I still struggle with the performance trap, and I still struggle with how God can love me when I screw up so often.  I strive to find His peace and rest.  I try to sin less but know I will never be loved more.  His love for me is complete.  He loves you too, completely even as you struggle in your walk and life.  To answer the question, yes, He really loves you.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Why I Became "God Boy"

I had a life transforming experience during the summer between my 7th and 8th grade years, and as a result I became a sold out believer in Jesus Christ.  I was already a believer at the time, but my life began to reflect it in many ways.  I hung Christian posters (little ones) in my locker, wore Christian tshirts and listened to Christian music.  As a result, I was teased and mocked for my faith, I was called God Boy and Church Boy.  No one ever called me Jesus Freak, it would have been much cooler, but I was teased anyway.  In my years of Middle School and High School, I had friends who were believers, some who weren't believers, but no one asked me why.  No one asked me why I chose to take the mocking and teasing and continue to wear my Christian shirts and listen to my Christian music.  So, I want to take a minute to answer the question that no one really wanted to ask.

It all begins with that life changing even I spoke about.  It was a week at a Christian camp called Centrifuge where all the things I believed seemed to be confirmed.  I'm not gonna lie, I went to have a good time, but I experienced something so much more.  All my doubts and reservations were thrown away as I spent time with other believers and studied the Bible, prayed and worshiped.  I realize this is easy to achieve in a group context, get a group excited about something and you can make them believe stuff, sell them Amway, get them to shave their body hair and speak only in pig Latin.  This was more than that for me, the excitement didn't wear off as I left the group, most cult groups end up staying together for a long period to make the feelings stay.  I only got one out of 52 weeks in a year, but I was different.  Experiencing God in that week changed me on the inside.

I graduated from High School about 20 years ago, but I can tell you fire that was lit inside me is still there.  I am still sold out in my faith to God and totally captivated by Jesus.  I still listen to my Christian Music, still wear my Christian Tshirts, but more than that, I am even more convinced of my need, epic need, for Jesus in my life.  This is more than just a guy getting excited about a faith experience.  This is a man who is completely helpless to do anything good on his own and is doomed by my own sin.

The one thing that makes Christianity (Biblical version) different than every other world religion or cult is our inability to do anything on our own.  Most religions have laws and rules and rituals and rights that make man right before a god.  In Biblical Christianity, there are laws and rules and you have broken them and on your own, you are doomed.  No one can keep the laws, no one is a good person, everyone is a sinner.  You and I and everyone else on the planet has and does rebel against a Holy God.  We have broken His laws over and over and we deserve to be separated from God.  As much good as we try to do, we are evil, we are selfish and wicked.

Jesus wasn't.  He lived a perfect, sinless life and then gave up His life and died in our place.  God became a man and then became the sacrifice to pay for our sin.  I'm not sold out to just a nebulous concept of a deity, I have a relationship with a God who loves me so much He fixed my sin problem so I can have a relationship with Him.  Jesus saved me from myself, and He is alive in Heaven today to make intercession for me.

I would tell anyone and everyone this truth, and I hope you will take time to consider what I have said.  I would challenge and invite you to simply pray and ask God to show you that He is real.  Pray that is God is real He will show you and make Himself known to you.  God is real, He is available and through Jesus we can have a relationship with God.  It can change your life as it changed mine.  Ask God to show you the truth, reach out to God and ask for His power in your life.  It can change you.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Fall From Grace, is that Possible?

Ever heard of someone falling from grace?  It's normally used when a pastor has a moral failure, does something that causes him to disqualify himself for ministry in the eyes of the church.  I have heard of men having this type of issue, I am not sure I know any who have had this problem.  As I think about men who make a mistake and fail, I question how we talk about it.  We call it a fall from Grace, but is that even possible?

Grace is when a fallen, sinful person is granted unmerited favor with God, and God no longer counts their sins against them, they have been covered by the blood of Christ.  How exactly does one fall from being a forgiven sinner?  If you are a forgiven sinner, you are forgiven and the blood of Christ covers all your sins, so when you sin you covered in grace.  Paul tells us when sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.  This doesn't mean we should continue to sin, it has ramifications and consequences, but grace covers us.  We can't fall from grace, we fall into grace.

I think we should be careful about the way we talk, it shines a light on our hearts.  We say someone has fallen from grace because we feel they no longer deserve the favor we have been shown.  We miss the point that we don't deserve that favor either.  If a man fails and sins, he is guilty of breaking the entire law, so we should be slow to condemn those sins we are massive in our own minds, and be grace filled and grace giving.  Remember that we all need to fall into grace.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Should We Die with Dignity?

There is much talk in this modern age of medicine about what to do with terminally ill patients.  If you know you are going to die and it's not going to be a pleasant death, is it ok to take your own life so you can "die with dignity"?  I wanted to talk about this concept of having dignity, is it something we should even strive for?  What is the deal with dignity?

When you and I came into the world, we did so without a shred of dignity.  If you have ever been part or even an observer to the birthing process, you know there are lots of things, but dignity isn't among them.  There is a great deal of nakedness, noise, mess and sometimes some confusion depending on how quickly things go.  My kids were are c-section, so it was as dignified as it gets, but all of my kids came into the world the same way.  Messy, naked and crying.  There is no dignity to the way we enter this world.  We have to be cleaned up, clothed and cared for, and the beauty is that as an infant, we don't care.

Most of us for a majority of our lives strive to have some dignity in our lives.  We strive to stay relatively clean and free from naked chaos.  When it comes to our time to die, we want to keep that same dignity, but more than anything we want some control and some say in our final fate.  No one is excited about the idea of a terminal disease that will end our lives when and how it chooses.  Enter this idea of having the ability to end our own life.  I understand the attractiveness of this idea, I watched cancer completely destroy and then take the life of both my parents.  They both had extreme pain and suffering and had many moments that would have been less than dignified.  I can understand that idea of wanting to end life when it's going to end soon anyway and there is little between here and there but discomfort and pain.  While I understand it, I don't think it's the right thing to do. I don't think it's the best solution or that is honors God.  Let me explain.

The Bible tells us that God has numbered and ordained our days, from birth to death.  He has a plan and a reason for the days on this earth.  Even when we don't understand and haven't planned them, God is still in control.  Part of what God plans includes suffering, as much as we don't like it.  We learn and grow and gain wisdom in suffering.  We become more like Christ in suffering.  Our suffering can cause the world to become a better place, and God can and does use pain to heal and help others.  We gain and pass on things that have immeasurable value through pain and suffering.  God can teach us something that we can teach others in our suffering.

We need to remember that our idea of dignity isn't the issue.  We don't need dignity, we were born without it.  We need wisdom and holiness from God, and even in our suffering we can still rejoice.  In our suffering we have value.  At the end of our lives, our lives have purpose and meaning.  We shouldn't cut that short because it might be messy and ugly.  There can be beauty and truth in the mess.  God's purpose is more beautiful than we know, so let's see it through to the end.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Learning from Suffering; Why We Suffer

If the news tells us anything, it's that we live in a world of suffering.  There is ebola, cancer, wars, shootings, riots and suicide.  Every day we see and hear about people suffering.  In many cases, we don't need to look beyond our own lives to see sickness or pain or suffering.  A friend and good man is having surgery as I write for an abscess in his lung.  He has been suffering for a while as they try to figure out what is going on.  His wife and family are suffering as they wait to see how things go.  Friends have cancer, other friends have trouble with kids, finances and jobs.  I am stuck at home while recovering from surgery, and I had some suffering I had to go through in my ordeal.

We suffer in a lot of ways, and as long as we live in this earth, we will have to deal with suffering of various types.  Sometimes physical, mental, spiritual or emotional, usually a combination of these.  Suffering comes along with our ability to make choices and choose our behavior.  God allows us the freedom to act how we choose too, thus creating the reality of suffering.  If I choose to drink so much that I get very drunk, then drive and get in a wreck, I live with the consequences.  I and others can be made to suffer because of a choice I made.  It's part of our freedom in this sinful world, that God doesn't stop us from making decisions, even the ones that grieve His heart.

The other reality is that we need suffering.  We need to experience trials and hard times in order to be mature, to gain wisdom and learn patience and goodness.  Think about it, a young adult who has been given everything, never had a hard time and never suffered, how do they behave?  People who never struggle or suffer are usually selfish and impatient and rude and often hateful.  Suffering and pain in a great equalizer, it puts everyone on level ground.  Sickness, hurt and heartache or pain shows no partiality for ethnicity, income, social status.  Everyone suffers and everyone can relate to suffering.

The reality is that bad things don't happen to good people.  People aren't good, and things that are not pleasant don't exist as good or bad, they are just realities of this life.  Things happen to make people good people.  We learn faith and hope and perverseness through adversity.  We learn to be more like Christ because of the struggles and trials.  This is why Paul tells us to rejoice as we face trials.  The trials are going to cause us to be more like Christ.  In the end, that is all that really matters.  In eternity, it won't matter how well we did, or how much hurt we had to endure, but our relationship with Christ will.  Rejoice when you suffer, for God is giving you opportunity to invest in eternity.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Why Charismaticism is Easy

First, let me say I'm not a cessationist.  I believe that the 1st century church and the church today have the same access to the game God through the same Holy Spirit with the same power.  That being said, it's not the 1st century, there are no more Apostles.  To be an Apostle, you had to see Jesus in the body resurrected.  That isn't happening today, there is no one holding the office of Apostle.  Even so, there are churches everywhere that grow out of the excitement of the charismatic movement, let's talk about why for a minute, and go back in time a ways.

When Jesus was on the earth, He did miracles.  He healed people, fed a bunch of people with just a little bit, walked on water, raised the dead.  People flocked too Him and began asking to see more miracles.  They wanted a sign to see if He really was the messiah.  They said "do that one again".  They wanted to feel validated, they wanted proof.  Proof is easier than faith.  They wanted a sign,  and eventually Jesus got aggregated.  In Luke 11:29, Jesus says the generation is evil, for it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given except the sign of Jonah (Jesus rising from the dead).

Are we an evil generation?  We sure do love signs and miracles and wonders.  If you tell people you are going to teach them truth, they may show up.  If you say you are going to heal the sick, raise the dead, speak in tongues and do wonders, they show up in droves.  Why is it so easy to focus on the miraculous?  Why do we push so hard for the signs and wonders of the spirit to show up?  We have begun practices not seen in the New Testament, like being slain in the spirit, falling down and twitching and vibrating.  Why?

If you are a charismatic and you practice these things, my goal is not to insult you, but to encourage you to question what is really happening.  For the 12 men closest to Jesus, we don't see any of these things, expect when they speak in tongues, which is intelligible languages at Pentecost.  We have some notes from Paul, but no explicate instructions except for tongues, to limit it and it's the least of the gifts.  Why focus so much on something that is discussed so little?  Maybe we are an evil generation that seeks a sign.  Maybe, just maybe it's easier to have proof than faith, but remember.  Without faith, it's impossible to please God.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Woven means Biblical First and Forever

I have seen some news recently that leaves me heartbroken.  Groups are on the fence about Biblical truth due to secular and worldly pressure.  As Christians, we are constantly being told by the world we need to compromise, to just give in.  There are groups and organization, churches and leaders who are abandoning the clear word of scripture in favor of social and political correct behavior.

It's not going to get easier.  Currently the City of Houston is putting pressure on pastors in regards to they way they speak about homosexuality.  This won't get better, it will come to the point that calling come sins what they are, sin, will become a hate crime.  Pastors will lose their pulpit, churches will loose buildings and jail time may end up being served.  It seems to be coming faster than we would like.

It doesn't matter.  Wovenism says that Bible is truth that is Woven into our daily lives.  Homosexual behavior is a sin.  Extra and premarital sexual activity is a sin.  It's not ok, but it is forgivable, just like hate and lying and stealing and gossip and every other sin that we often fall into.  It's sin and it breaks God's laws.  God's design is for completion of man and woman together to create the foundation of a family which serves as the building blocks of community which builds society.  As we have begun to view marriage and family as something that exists to make us happy instead of building society, we blew it.  Divorce rates went up, marriage is defined and redefined.  It's not about making a man or woman happy, it's about building a society that is focused on God and bringing Him glory.

As a Wovenist, I'll always stand for this.  I'll always stand on scripture and it's truth, and I will never have to stop and debate if I am going to trust in the Word.  It's a finished debate, Bible wins.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Still Live Post Surgery

Some of my readers may know, I just had an operation (oct 1st) and it's been a wild ride.  It was planned to be a laproscopic procedure, I have already had it done once.  The first time I was done in a couple of hours and home the same night.  Well, this time was a bit different.  Due to scar tissue and other difficulties, they opened me up, the surgery took 7 hours and there was a hole in my lung that caused it to collapse and I was in ICU for almost 3 days.  I was on oxygen for almost a week, I was out of the hospital a week from the surgery instead of the next day.

I have been home recovering, can't eat any solid foods and I'm exhausted most of the time.  Things have been harder and slower this surgery than last time, so there hasn't been much for blogging.  I have had lots of thoughts to share while I have been mostly incapacitated.  I hope to be able to share them with you in the days and weeks ahead.  Thanks for sticking with me as I had my insides rearranged.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Whose Advice Are you Taking?

I listen and I take note to many of the voices speaking in society.  Some of them are good, some of them are not.  Ok, most of them are not.  We listen to those who can speak the most elegantly, but often lack conviction in their lives or ministries.  I have heard pastors get excited from the pulpit and say they would do things they never did.  We listen to advice from friends who can't make their life work, and ignore those with wisdom and incite.  We listen to the young and popular, and it's a bad idea.  Look at Rehoboam.  He didn't listen to his dad's advisers, he listened to his buddies and he split the kingdom.  Ahab listened to his life (never trust a woman named Jezebel).  Job's wife and friends gave bad advice too.  Moses was smart, he listened to his father in law.

Who are you listening too?  Gossip columnist and movie stars, musicians, politicians?  Maybe it's a young, hip pastor or leader or CEO.  Lots of advice books and columns and radio shows.  I put my trust in the Word of God, lots of dead men (Edwards, Owens, Spuergeon, etc).  I'm not telling you who is listen too, you don't even have to listen to me.  Just be wise with who you seek for counsel and who you are listing too.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Sometimes You Need Some Space

I think that sometimes the best thing you can do in relation to other people is sometimes limit contact.  In this modern world of ours, we have this fake interaction we call Social Media.  Some of it is good, some of it is bad but much of it is too much.  We share what we eat for breakfast, where we are with who doing what and when.  We assume the world wants to know what time I brush my teeth and where I got my coffee from this morning.  Most of it is pretty harmless, and even fun or funny.  Sometimes, it's not as harmless and we need to be proactive.

We all have things that get on our nerves, and sometimes that thing is posted all over social media.  Mine is when people isogete (take the Bible out of context to make a point) or make theological statements that are in contradiction to the Bible, just because they don't really like what the Bible says is true.  Drives me up the wall.  My other issue is Pharisee-ism, people who want to condemn everyone, but care about no one.  We can call it judging and condemning from afar.  We are to hold each other accountable WHILE carrying one another's burdens.  We were never meant to stand with arms folded and critique.  When people do that, it makes me want to fold my arms and critique.  Yes, it's hypocrisy, and I'm aware of the issue.  It's because of I have this issue that I recommend some space.  Sometimes the best thing you can do when someone drives you nuts, pushes your buttons and makes you crazy is take them off social media, avoid prolonged contact and learn to love them from arm's length.  Don't judge them, don't critique them, help and pray for them but don't follow them on Social Media.

We are commanded to love one another, and sometimes the best way to do that is with some distance.  Give them (and yourself) some breathing room.  If you have a pet peeve and I bug you, you have my permission to love me from afar.  I may be the best thing for both of us.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Surviving the Blah Days

Ever had a blah day?  A day when you didn't feel like getting out of bed, let alone do anything productive?  Maybe you're tired or the weather is bad or you just don't feel like being a contributor to the world at large.  You feel emotionally void, physically drained and spiritually dry.  Know what I'm talking about, or is it just me?  The blah days, when you want to eat too much, sleep too much and do nothing worthwhile.  I have those days, and let me tell you, those days are hard.

It's in the blah days that temptations seem the most available.  On blah days, it's easy to sit around on social media, look at things and say things.  Some things you shouldn't look at, some things you shouldn't say or post or tweet.  It's a temptation to be rude on blah days, because you feel blah.  It's easier not to care about someone's feelings.  It's easy to say or do things you'll regret.  What do we do with blah days?  Where is God when things are blah?

Blah days happen, and we have to live through them.  A few things you can do during those blah days.  Find a project offline, like a scrapbook, model, paint or draw or write or sew or something.  Find something to work on, something to focus your energy on.  Listen to a sermon or Christian music while you do something.  Fill your mind with positive things that will keep your mind from drifting to negative things.  Play with your dog or your cat, I'm sure they would appreciate it.  Do for a drive or a walk or a swim and take time to breathe.  Most of all, keep the lines of communication open to the Father.  Maybe God is taking a day to slow you down to tell you something important.

Blah days come, but they also go.  Hang in there during those days of blah-ness.  I hope you find a blessing on the other side.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Bear Fruit, Don't Work Fruit

So one of the things that I have realized is I can't produce fruit.  I can't work the fruit of the spirit, but I can do the works of the flesh.  The fruit of the spirit comes through me, not from me.  The Holy Spirit produces the fruit, it's the Spirit's work.  He makes the fruit, we are just there to bear the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.

So, here is the implication.  We need to change the way we teach and preach.  We give lists of dos and don'ts, we make rules and laws and tell people how to modify their behavior.  We tell them to be loving and forgiving and gentle and humble.  Guess what, they can't.  Only the Spirit can produce love and peace and gentleness and self control.  All we can do, all we should do is abide in the Spirit.  We do this by thinking about those things which are good and noble and right and pure.  We transform by the renewing of our mind, thinking about Christ and His mission, His message, His goodness.  We focus on God, we think about God, we pray and think about scripture.  We put our mind where it needs to be and as a result, the Holy Spirit puts our lives where it needs to be.

We have focused so much on changing our behavior, on following the rules that we have missed the basic fundamental responsibility.  To fix our eyes upon Jesus, to focus on God and let Him do the work in us.  He will make the fruit, we just bear the fruit.

Monday, September 1, 2014

A Spirit Filled Life, Am I Living It?

I am reading a book about having a Spirit Filled Life, I'll post a review when I'm finished.  It's made me stop and wonder if I am living a Spirit filled life.  Baptists don't talk a lot about a Spirit Filled Life, and I'm not theologically in line with the Charismatic view of a Spirit Filled life.  To have a life filled with the Holy Spirit, I have to completely surrender myself to His will and His control.  Have I done that?  Do I even know how to do that?  I am finding that the idea of faith the size of a mustard seed is rare.  Most of us have faith the size of a neutron, maybe an atom.  A few have faith the size of a single cell, maybe a cluster of a few cells, but Mustard seed, that's hard for most of us.  Complete abandonment of even one aspect of our lives is so hard.  We always want to have at least part of the control, part of the say.  It's our lives, and we want to control to some aspect.

I am finding just how hard total and complete surrender is.  I have dreams and visions and ideas that I want, and it's hard to surrender those things to God.  It's hard to trust God because often His plan is not our plan, and we assume our plan is better.  It's not, but we assume it is.  We fight and we struggle to regain control, just to fight and struggle to give up control and be filled with the Spirit.

I'm admitting that I am struggling to give up control.  I am tired and worn and I want to give away all my life and all that I am.  I just don't really know how.  I guess these are the time that we fall in prayer, and we cry out for the Lord to take our lives.  I don't know how to give it, so I just ask that He takes it.  It's time like this that make me believe that free will in nonsense.  If I had free will, I could just give myself to God, but I don't have the ability.  I can't just make a choice and everything is great and easy and simple.  Tell a man filled with rage to just choose to be at peace.  Tell a woman consumed by hurt to just stop hurting.  Tell a person to just give their entire life and being to God and be Spirit filled.  It takes some surrender, but the ability to just do it?  If you think it's that easy, you are living in fantasy land.  It takes someone stronger than me to do it.  It takes God, so I pray He takes all of me.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Building True Community

So I want to climb on my soap box for a minute.  Our culture is full of imaginary community.  There are people who come together for something like a school function, neighborhood meeting, church gathering, social organization and have fake community and then leave and never connect again.  We have all these groups together, and people are the loneliest now that they have ever been.  People are lonely, pastors are lonely, my wife and I are lonely.  We go to a big church, are involved in our jobs, our kid's school and in different activities.  We are busy and we are lonely.  We go to church, we go to work, we go all these places, but to really connect with people is hard.  The reason is, we have fake community.

My wife and I have decided we want to make a concerted effort to have people over and too connect.  It's hard, and my schedule is horrible.  We attend small group and try to connect with folks there.  We have friends, some even good friends, but without "schedules activities" I am not sure how well those friendships hold up.  We have been at churches with good friends and when we went separate ways, the friendships failed.  Miss those scheduled meetings, and the community falls apart.

What happened to effort being put into community?  What happened to making room in your life for other people?  I stink at it, but I'm trying.  Are you trying to make room in your life for real community?  Are you planning to connect with others, to call or text or visit people for real community?  Are you reaching out for a purpose?  I need to do better, because I'm lonely.  Are you?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Review of NIV Streams in the Desert Devotional Bible.

I recently looked at the NIV Streams in the Desert Devotional Bible. I will be honest, I wish I had this years ago. Streams in the Desert is a popular devotion that have been used by many people. I love when you combined devotional material in scripture and encourage people to look at both. I find it’s a great help, and encourages me to dig deeper after reading the devotion. The NIV is not my favorite translation, but it’s a popular and readable version.

All things considered I would recommend this bible to people, especially those going through dark or hard times. This material is encouraging and helpful to those who are struggling and hurting. It is a great selection of devotions mixed with some poetry to encourage and help those who are asking “why”. It pairs scripture and words of wisdom together to help answer the hard questions of trials and struggles.

The Bible has some cool features, it looks good and it has a subject index which is helpful. It’s easy to read, the devotions are easy to find and are dated by year. I would recommend this Bible for people who are in a dark time, or to have as a resource. Give it a look, see if it’s for you.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Bus Stop Ministry by guest blogger Noah Hill

My name is Noah Hill.  I am in the process of launching a ministry called Bus Stop Blessings, and I have a challenge for you all today.  But before I reveal this challenge, I want to tell you a story:

He is a short man, stocky of build, with grizzled hair and a beard that hasn't seen a razor in months.  His face and arms are darkened with dirt, his clothing ragged. He walks slowly, eyes down, an empty foam cup gripped in one grubby hand.
Then he looks up, and his face breaks into a wide grin.

I don't know this man's name, but I have spoken with him many times.  He insists on being called Hobo, claiming that there's nobody around to remember his old name, his old life before his homelessness. 

Hobo tells me about his day.  He slept in a nearby alley the night before, despite the rare thunderstorm that had swept across the usually arid city.  He woke up early as always, and scavenged for something to eat.  He was lucky that morning; a patron at the burger joint across the street had thrown away half a bag of food that wasn't to their liking, and it was one of the best meals he'd had in days.  I ask him if he has any prospects for the day.  He tells me that the little general store across the street is having a sale, and if he holds an advertising sign outside for them they'll give him a few dollars at the end of the day.  He's hoping they'll give him enough to buy something to eat and a bottle of whisky.

We talk about my week.  I tell him about my doctor appointments, and about how my wife is working overtime.  I tell him about the new church I'm attending, and the wonderful ways that God is working in my life.  I share some scripture with him that I've been reading.  I ask him if he'd like to come to church on Sunday.
This makes him a little uncomfortable.  He insists that people don't really want someone like him in their church.  He tells me about being run off from a church he tried to go to a couple years ago.  I commiserate with him, and let him know that if he decides to come he will definitely be welcome.

We pray together.  We pray for our health, for his safety, that he can find places to get out of the hot sun, and that God will provide for his needs.  We pray that God will release him from his addiction, and that he will come to know Christ and be overwhelmed with blessings in his life.
As my bus pulls up to the curb, he turns and trots back across the street.  His head is held a little higher, his step seems to have a little more energy.  As I climb onto the bus, he turns and gives me a final wave before entering the store.

Hobo is one of many people that I've had the blessing to come to know while taking the buses here in Phoenix.  God has routinely placed Hobo, and others like him, in my path and given me opportunity to directly share the gospel and provide for their needs.
I feel a personal bond with the homeless.  I have been homeless myself.  I spent several months living in the Gospel mission at one point shortly after leaving high school, several years before I knew Christ.  After I was saved, I spent a period homeless again, living in the Mission, and then in the back of my truck.  The difference was like night and day.

As a non-Christian, every day was a struggle.  I had little support from my family.  I spent my days trying to find a way to eat, sometimes begging all day, sometimes doing odd jobs for a couple dollars.  I was looked down upon, cursed at, chased off.  I was humiliated, told daily that I was homeless because I was worthless.  I was told that I just needed to "get off my butt and find a job," by people who have no concept of how hard job hunting is when you have no phone, no address, and spend 8 hours a day trying to come up with a single meal.  I was told that I was homeless because I was a sinner.  People would angrily tell me that if I just accepted God that my life would magically transform, then they left without telling me what that meant, leaving me resentful and more determined to avoid God at all costs.

As a Christian, when I was homeless, I had the support of my church family.  People cared for my needs.  Someone brought me a camp stove, a mattress for my truck bed.  Someone brought me extra blankets and pillows.  People put gas in my truck, knowing that my part time job didn't provide much income.  When I found a friend with a spare room, the church deacons met and decided they would pay rent to my friend for several months to ensure that I would have a roof over my head.  People came around me, surrounded me with love, prayed for me daily.  I was blessed beyond belief. 

So the purpose of Bus Stop Blessings is twofold:  to meet the needs of those living in despondency, and to change the way that we as Christians approach those same.  I want to bring that same compassion to those who are non-believers that I felt as a homeless Christian, to build relationships with them, to be able to directly share the gospel and to also be a living example of a new creation, to be a light to the world that leaves people yearning for Christ.

My challenge for you today is this:  When you see someone in need, someone living in the streets, someone without a relationship with Christ, I want you to stop what you are doing and pray, not for them first, but for yourself.  Pray that you would be able to look at them with the same compassion that Christ showed for those in need, for the sick, the poor, the homeless.  Pray that you can let go of any judgments you may have.  Pray that you can look at them and see the face of a brother or sister, that you would react the same to their need as you would if you found out someone from your congregation were in their position.

When we can reach the point where we are able to feel that unreserved compassion, we can approach our homeless ministry in a new way, with a new love, a new purpose, and an entirely intentional process.  I hope that you would like to be a part of the way Christ is using me in this ministry, and that you would prayerfully seek His will and respond to that as you are called.  Thank you for taking the time to learn more about this ministry, and God Bless.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Danger of McScripture. Guest Blogger Bod Pederson

The Danger of McScripture

My wife and I recently watched a movie entitled “Supersize Me”, in which the subject of the film used himself as a guinea pig in an experiment to uncover the effects of McDonald’s food on the human body. His approach was to eat nothing but McDonald's food, three meals per day, every day for one month. The result was not only unhealthy and debilitating, but potentially fatal because it actually damaged his internal organs. Sound extreme? Well, what if we are doing the same to the body of Christ with a fast food diet of what I have come to call McScripture?

Good Old Fashioned Home Cooking
There was once a time when meals involved a great deal of work and preparation. Food was often grown or raised at home, and made from scratch with whole ingredients rich in nutrients, and tailored for our health by God Himself. Conditions such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and obesity we nearly nonexistent. An added benefit of dinner time was the richness of relationships enjoyed around the dinner table. In the same fashion, the food once dished out to the flock was (and still is in some churches) painstakingly prepared by stewards of the Word to grow the body of Christ by feeding it nutrient rich food. These men would labor long hours over the text, working through faithful exegesis from the original languages, and then searching the scriptures for connections into the bigger picture that God has revealed about Himself. They would cook up side dishes from the historical and cultural contexts, and for desert they would show us how Christ is displayed in every part of the scriptures. They would then, agendas laid aside, don the server's apron and serve God's children a meal made with love, having let the the Word and Spirit of God speak first into their hearts, and through their gifts and labors to their hearers.

Feeding the Flock Fast Food
Modern life (or should I say post-modern life) has pretty much spelled the end of family meals as many of us remember them. Driven by a relentless race for success and fulfillment, and coupled with an abundance of cheap, calorie rich and nutrient poor, fast and convenient food supply, we have become a society of mostly weak, sickly, overweight, and unhealthy consumers searching for the next quick fix to satisfy our ever increasing cravings. The result has been a barrage of artificial medical fixes to combat the flood of disease brought about by our poor diet. It has created a drain on our economy due to medical expenses and lost productivity. But it might serve as a reflection of American evangelicalism, and of the American church in the last two centuries. What I mean is this: at some point there was a fundamental shift from a spiritual diet that was home cooked to a fast food spiritual diet. Now we spend much of our time and energy trying to deal with the disease and chronic conditions that it has introduced into the Body.

What is Spiritual Fast Food?
Spiritual fast food (McScripture) is quite simply the quick and easy handling of biblical texts. Quick and easy to prepare (not to mention cheap), convenient to consume and digest, empty calories that satisfy immediate hunger, but severely lacking the nutrients that satisfy a body's need to be truly fed. Biblical lessons are all too often mass produced for mass consumption in mass media. Instead of being the product of hard study and honest exegesis to bring forth the inherent truth of the text, truth now comes ready to go and prepackaged in traditional understanding. I was shocked the first time that I heard texts , like Matthew 18, that are taken for granted by many, properly unpacked to reveal the actual meaning, instead of the meaning they had come to have. Instead of slow cooking the whole text in the context of the original language, the passage and the book, the Eastern understanding of a first century Greek or Jewish reader, and the whole of God's revelation of Himself, we toss it into the microwave and enter 3:16 so that we only have to punch in one number. We deep fry it in the natural understanding of a 21st Century, western, English speaking mind so that it comes out golden brown and delicious.

A Fast Food Culture
All of us have grabbed a bite to eat on the go. After all we have so much to do, so much to get. McScripture provides a twofold benefit to both the producer and the consumer. It saves both time and resources. For the man in the pulpit or the Christian writer it means no more laboring to become proficient in Greek and Hebrew; just point your cursor with the mouse and out pops the definition of the original word! No need to worry about things like meanings brought forth through parsing, morphology and grammar, its McScripture! No more are truths and ideas vetted by a thorough searching of Holy Writ, just find a few single verses that seem to mean what you want to say, then write your book and get invited to speak at conferences! No more tediously supporting your views with the greater truths of the Bible, because you would lose people and go over their heads anyway, right? It also meets the needs of the modern Christian consumer quite nicely as well. Need to get home for the football game? Just pull up to the window and say “I'll have a God's All About Me Value Meal”. You know, the one with the ten minute gospel sammich and the greasy grace on the side and a nice decision to wash it all down with. It even has a relationship with Jesus toy surprise inside! Quick, easy, and cheap. Then run off to live your life because after all, God just wants to stay out of the way of our hapiness, doesnt He?

A Fast Demise
I have to apologize for my sarcastic tone; I only adopt it to make a point about a serious condition. As a member of the SBC, I follow the news of its decline with increasing frustration and sadness as the leaders ask one another what to do while cramming cheeseburgers and fries in our mouths. They tell us that their methods just need some tweaking as they baptize unregenerate people, and then begin movements to disciple them. I admit that I am not characterizing a complicated situation completely accurately or fairly. I do not claim to have all the answers. I only seek to maybe offer al little insight into one facet of the picture. We desperately need to rely again on the Word of God. We need to let it speak to us again instead of using it to make our points for us. We need gifted men to devote their lives, minds, and resources to rightly bringing forth the riches of its truth instead of building huge churches and striving for celebrity. We need the Spirit of God to teach us again instead of popular Christian Gurus with the latest Church Growth Methods. We need to turn aside from corporate business models and psychological fixes thinly disguised as discipleship. We need to rediscover who Christ is, instead of who we have reinvented Him as. We need to recover the glorious Gospel of the Scripture which glorifies God and lays bare the depraved hearts of men. We need to stop loving our own wills, and worship Him as He is revealed to our hearts and minds by the Bible. For us to regain our health and vigor as a church, simply adding a few healthy elements to our fast food diet is not enough. We need a total, radical change of our eating and cooking habits to bring a radical change of our body. Maybe it's time for another Reformation. Maybe we should just return to the old one. Bon Apetite brothers and sisters!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Celebrate Recovery Bible, Should We Use It?

So I checked out the Celebrate Recovery Bible.  I have seen the Recovery Bible which focuses on the 12 steps.  This one is thanks to our friends at Saddleback, articles and devotions by John Baker and a foreword by Pastor Rick.  I assumed this was a 12 step program, but I was surprised to see that Celebrate Recovery is in fact eight principles instead of 12 steps.  They are based on the beatitudes, and while similar to 12 step, they are slightly different.

I'm not going to rehash everything in the principles, but instead ask the question, is this helpful?  Is this an improvement over 12 steps?  I would say no, it's not better but it appears to be on par.  I like this program and it covers the most important aspects that is covered by 12 step, you need God (He is the higher power, I don't care what AA calls it).

If you have read anything from Saddleback, you know that Pastor Rick and friends love acrostics and there are plenty in here.  If they help you remember things, this is the plan for you.  If you are or have been in the Military, you'll love it, cause no one loves acrostics more than the US Armed Forces. . . except maybe Saddleback.

This Bible is from our friends at Zondervan, so of course it's NIV.  NIV is not my favorite but many like it.  There have been some negative reviews of the new NIV, but I don't want to rehash those.  Be aware it's NIV, but that doesn't change the resources in it, which are still good.  In the end, pairing recovery with the Word of God is powerful and important.  I would use this resource to work with someone in recovery.  Whether you like 12 step or something different, this program gives the same flavor in fewer courses.  Give it a look and you may find something helpful.  I would recommend it.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Reality of Suicide

The top news that everyone is talking about right now is the death of Robin Williams.  Williams suffered with depression and in the end took his own life.  There are multiple opinions on suicide, but as someone who struggles with depression, I want to share mine with you today.  Those of us who suffer from depression, suicide is a thought and temptation that seems to come at random, during hopeless times.  There is a feeling that there is nothing that can be done to escape the torment of depression except to die.  It's part of the sickness, it's part of the reality of depression.  There seems to come a desire to end the despair of life, and for Williams, that desire was so strong he took his own life.

I am fortunate, my depression has been managed that I haven't hit that point.  Depression causes isolation and isolation makes suicide all the more obtainable.  I have never been truly isolated, so my depression has never taken me to that point.  I will admit I have thought about it, and times I have prayed that God would take me home.  Committing suicide has never been a real option for me, but for many who struggle with depression, it's a reality.  Those will depression will tend to drift towards isolation, if you want to save them, save them from isolation.  Companionship could be the thing that saves their life.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

What Does A Miracle Look Like?

To start let me say I'm not a cessationist. I believe in miracles and God doing amazing things. I have been praying lately that God would show me a miracle. I want to see God do something supernatural firsthand.  I have been praying to see fire from heaven, bushes burning, sick healed and dead raised. I have been looking for the big miracles, but I have had to stop my thinking about miracles as my short list.

I have been thinking about the miracles God is already doing in my life. First, I consider who I am in Christ as opposed to who I would be if I was apart from Christ.  The change in who I am, my personality and character traits in a miracle. I would not be kind,  hopeful, loving or patient without God. I would be bitter,  jaded and angry.

I saw a rainbow as I drove to work today, and considered the work of God's hands.  The fact that light can be refracted and break into colors of the rainbow through moisture can be explained by science, but it's only how. It doesn't even begin to touch why, that God put it there for us.  Can I call that a miracle? Is all I see in creation the miracle I seek? I have to say yes.

I still want to see an amazing supernatural work of God. I am still praying for a mighty work. I ask God to physically heal, to show His wonders and display His power. If He does, I will praise Him. If He doesn't, I will still praise Him for all He does for me. I will give Him glory for creator and sustainer.  There are so many blessings in my life, my amazing wife and awesome kids.  The times God had provided and sustained us. I could never deserve the blessings I have, and I know that is a miracle.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Are You Redeeming the Time?

Ever felt like you were on the shelf?  Like you have gifts and talents and skills and you were not in a position to use them?  I have been in that position for a couple of years, so the question that keeps turning over and over is, how do I redeem the time?  Paul tells us to make the best use of the time in Ephesians 5:16, so how do we make the best use of our time when we are on the shelf?

1.  Learn.  You should always be a student of God and His Word.  Read His Word, read good books, read commentary and do devotions and attend Bible Study.  Prepare yourself for whatever may come in the future by learning all the things God will teach you.  Be a student.

2.  Pray.  When you are on the shelf, you should have some extra time.  Use that extra time to bulk up the prayer life.  Spend time praying and listening.  Develop a good habit of prayer during your time of exile or prison or being set aside.

3.  Give.  This doesn't always mean money, give time or talents or resources.  Spend time giving back.  Support something or someone, a missionary or a mission agency.  Take what you have and invest it in the kingdom.

4.  Invest in somebody.  As you are learning and growing, pass on what you have learned to someone.  Have some friends that you can share what God is teaching you.  Try writing a blog, it works for me.  Invest what you have in someone who needs it.

Before long, you will find yourself back where God is using you.  God has a purpose for your time in exile, and when you look back you will see His hand at work. Keep your head up and be ready for the blessings that He will send your way.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

You and The Other

In history,  people have often defined themselves by who they are not.   They have created a group that they reject and persecute.   The Jews were kicked out of England and killed by Hitler,  the blacks were slaves and then treated as lower class citizens.   Native Americans have been marginalized and the list goes on.   Humans finding groups to segregate,  separate,  and hate.   Much of this is a process of self-definition, we are not who we hate.

The Church as a whole has been pretty bad about this.   Protestants and Catholics have done things just to spite the other side.   Protestants have made doctrines to make it clear they are not Catholic.   The charismatic movement and the subsequent traditional movement created a wide gap between Pentecostal and Baptists.   We have striped hard to define ourselves,  but often we have demonized others in the process.

The worst offense is how we have demonized those outside the church.   We have judged them on a standard that we cannot even meet.   We have not given them grace and we have not considered the fact the Holy Spirit isn't at work in their lives.   Non-Christians don't act like Christians,  because they are not Christians.   They are lost and they need help and they need Jesus.   We can't give them hope and condemnation at the same time.   Yes,  they need to know they are guilty of sin and stand before a just and holy God who judges sin.   They don't need you to make a list and tell them exactly why you are better,  which in the end is basically what is happening.   Let's stop defining ourselves by other people, and begin to define ourselves by who we are in Christ.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Deal With The Atheist In Your Life

Atheists, those who don't believe in God and often think you are crazy because you do.  They are growing in number and even getting organized these days, thanks to guys like Dawkins.  They look up too Hawkings and read parts of Neitche and often feel intellectually superior to the red neck, back woods Bible thumpin Christian.  They claim there is no proof of God, then dismiss every evidence that exists and say there is no evidence.  Much of their argument is circular and based on belittlement and simply mocking what Christians hold most dear.  Ah the Atheist, how do we deal with these individuals in our lives?

First, you have to love them.  Love them in spite of their venomous hatred, because love covers a multitude of sin.  Love them without condition, without excuse and without limit.  Something happened in the life of the Atheist to cause them to become an Atheist.  Sometimes they deny it, sometimes they claim it's simply intellectualism, but the fact remains that no one is born an Atheist.  People are born essentially deists, believing in the supernatural.  Something comes along to cause them to lack belief (if they do actually lack belief).

Two, realize they have doubts.  They won't admit they have doubts, but they wouldn't fight so hard if they didn't have a doubt someplace deep inside.  Inside of everyone exists a shadow of doubt in what they believe, the Atheist is no different.  There is a struggle deep inside that maybe there is a God.  The fact they have put themselves at odds with God causes them great distress, so they fight hard to eradicate every mention of Him.  Their goal is to eradicate belief, hoping this will cause their doubt to go away.  They won't admit this, not while they are still Atheists.

Lastly, share your faith, share your testimony and share why you love God.  You can't change them, but they can't change you either.  God can change them, God can change you.  Tell them how God has changed you, tell them you have evidence and it's in your life.  Do this with love and respect, after all they are still in the image of God.  Pray for them, love them and share what Christ has done for you.  That is the best way to deal with your Atheist.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Why I Like Dave Miller

Do you know The David Miller of Sioux City?  He has made history in his lime green suit, was 2nd vice pres and leads the way on SBC Voices.  More than that, he is a pastor, father, husband and a pretty good guy.  Now this blog isn't just to suck up to Dave Miller, but I want to use Dave Miller as an example of what is good in the Southern Baptist Convention.  You see, I've been a life long Southern Baptist, and I have been able to do some amazing things.  I've been a Semester Missionary, a Mission Serve Corps Missionary, taught at National Collegiate Week twice, and served in several churches.  I have had opportunity as a young man in the SBC.  Now, as I'm slightly older I have the opportunity to write for SBC Voices, which has been a huge blessing and honor.

Now Dave and I don't always see eye to eye, and I don't agree with him on everything.  I highly respect him, he is a great pastor and a good friend.  He serves God with his whole heart and will admit to the places he's made mistakes.  He is a solid SBC Pastor, and I think there are many out there like Dave, who serve God and love God and work hard.  Thanks Dave for all you do, and for the support you give me.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Stop asking What, Just Consider Why

I have grown up mostly in the 80s and 90s, and during those time periods, there has been a shift in the way examination and beliefs have processed. In the baby boomer generation, the question was “what should we do”? In my generation, Gen X and Gen Y, the question is not so much of how, but why? Why do we do things, what is the purpose and what is the point? Are we doing something that is worth while, is this worth our time and effort? This is a departure from the philosophy of our baby boomer parents, who told us what to do, but the question of why was usually answered with “because I said so”. This wasn’t enough for us then, and it’s certainly not enough for us today. In the realm of theology and the exploration of God’s word, the question is not so much of “what” but of “why”? God is moving, calling us to follow and there are things we should do and should not do, but why?
There are many things about God’s rules and laws that we take for granted, like the Ten Commandments or the Beatitudes that tell us how we should behave. These are clear commandments, and like the Great Commission, we need to follow them, but have we ever stopped to ask why? Have we stopped to ask why God gives us things to do and things not to do? I believe that God encourages us and pushes us to ask the question why. The reason I believe is simple, God calls us to obedience to have a deeper, more intimate and fulfilling relationship with Him. This is the purpose of the commandments, for the Great Commission, for the wisdom of Paul and Peter, James and John, the writings of the Old and New Testament all exist for this one principle, that we can know and love God more and have a deeper relationship with Him.
The purpose of any theological system should not be to understand what God does, but who God is and why God is doing what He is doing. We should not approach God as a distant school master, who exists to keep us in line. Instead, we should approach God as loving father, who desires a deeper relationship with us. His desire is that we would live a fulfilling life, filled with love and joy and peace. We can find these things in our Heavenly Father, regardless of the turmoil of life, the difficult situations and the trials and temptations. The why to our what is this, that we would find all that we need in our Father.
This should change the way we approach God, the Bible and the rules and commands He gave us. They are not rules to keep us from life, but guidelines to make sure we have a full and substantial life. These truths that God gives us will free us from the bonds of sin, from the chains of error and the shackles that so often come with all disobedience. God will set us free if we will be open to be set free. God will give us life if we are just willing to live it. God wants to have a deeper relationship with us, and He longs to reveal more and more of His nature and character. In this, or any theological exercise, our goal should be to know God, love Him more and share what we have found with others. My prayer in this is that we will discover the depths of truth in His love and the freedom of His grace, as well as His commands.
Much of the on going debate in Theological systems comes from the question of “what is the process, what should we do”? We have been so focused on trying to understand the process that we have almost neglected the purpose of the very thing we are seeking to study and understand, that is the work of Christ in the power of His salvation to bring people to reconciliation with God.
What we have done is looked at two paths that both lead to the same place, to the power of God in salvation. One road is that of human choice, seeking God and crying out to Him. The other road is that of God extending grace to sinners and calling those He has chosen and predestined. Both paths go the same direction and both lead to the same destination. From an eternal view, the paths are one in the same. From a Theological view, the paths are different, but the destination is the same.
The purpose of the journey, however, is what I want to focus on and to look at the journey, we have to overlap the paths. Which ever path you choose to walk down, the purpose God has is this: for you to grow in relationship to the Father, to fall in love with Christ, to be filled with the Spirit and build a strong and healthy community with other believers. The works, prepared for us, have this as a result. We are involved with God to do each of these things.
We know God is at work in our world, that He never sleeps and He is always vigilant. We also know that God is working in His people and through His people. God left His people, the church, on earth to do the works prepared for them. In working with God, we see the power of God and we learn and grow to understand His character. As we reach out to the lost, to the dying world we are able to radiate the love of God. By being these conduits and vessels of God, we learn more and more about the nature of the Father. The more we know God, the more we will grow in love of God. Our relationship will continue to deepen and grow. He invites us to join Him where He is working, we learned this from Henry Blackaby and his Experiencing God material. God wants us to join Him so we can grow into relationship with Him, and it makes sense. I have learned a great deal about the people I work with by working with them. I can see their strengths and weaknesses, their ups and downs. Working side by side with someone reveals a great deal about their character. God wants us to know His character, so He works with us, in us and through us.
God works with us and tells us to work with each other. The church should be a mobilized work force, doing God’s work. When we join God at work together, we build a strong community, and that community in turn creates a healthy place for people to connect. New believers join and begin to work with us, learning about us, learning about God. Every educator knows that experience is the best teacher, that everyone learns best by doing, and hands on is the best classroom. You want people to be discipled, work with them.
Many of our theological questions are answered through working with God. Do you want to know how Salvation works, how it happens? Stop arguing over the theological systems and remember your salvation experience. Share with others and see how they experience God. What happens? How is God at work, and how are the people responding, acting and behaving? What does a genuine salvation experience look like when all the pieces are in place? What does it look like when a spirit filled believer shares Christ with the fertile soil and produces a harvest? That is what theology needs to be, field research. We can argue back and forth about how God does things in the classrooms and board rooms, but in the mission field, God will simply show us. The word comes alive, we hide it in our hearts and then we open up our hearts.
Stop asking the simple questions, stop looking for the simple “what do we do” and start asking “why does this matter” because when we look at how it matters, it changes everything. When we look at how the Theology of Salvation works in the lives of your neighbor, your friend, your coworker, it matters. When it becomes more than just a sighed confession or document or creed and becomes a way of life. That is what Wovenism is about, how do I, a simple man become a conduit of the Immortal, All Powerful, All Knowing God of the Universe who holds all of creation in His hand? I say yes to the invitation, I step out and faith and I do the work that was prepared for me from a time before time and I go. I ask myself “why does it matter” and I look the person in the eyes and I say, “you, you are why it matters”.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Breakfast time Curse

Know what makes me nuts?  Well, there are a couple of things, but this one is maddening.  Cereal dust.  You know, you go to pour some cereal into a bowl and you get a pile of sawdust that was at one time your cereal?  I know it's an inevitability, the life of cereal is packing, sealing, packing, shipping, unpacking, stocking, buying, bagging, unbagging, opening and pouring.  Cereal dust is bound to happen, but someone must have a solution.  Can't we start a fund for someone to find the solution to the cause of Cereal dust?  It's a plague on humanity.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Problem of Being Overly Busy

Are you busy?  Probably, it seems we are all busy.  There is a huge problem that comes from us being busy all the time.  You see, we are told in scripture about a whole lot of "one anothers".  We are to support, care for, love, help and carry burdens for one another.  We are too be there and support one another and be knit together into the body of Christ.  Are we doing the things we should do as His body?

We see in Acts that all the believers were together daily.  They worshiped together every day, they prayed together, ate together and supported one another.  They devoted time and energy to one another.  The problem that comes with being so busy is that it takes the time away from being together with one another.  Most of the things that keep us busy are devoted mostly to ourselves.  We are busy with our jobs, hobbies, duties and obligations, projects, family, so on and so on.  We are so focused on ourselves and doing what is good for us that we have become too busy to maintain and build relationships.

Sometimes church keeps us so busy that we forget to be the church.  We spend so much time doing, setting up chairs, making coffee, writing or editing or making copies and preparing that we forget to do what we are suppose to be doing.  We spend so much time on the other pursuits that we forget that we are called to be with one another.  We are so busy with the tasks that we forget to love and care for one another.  We are ok bring 8 of 10 people along because we've forgotten it's all about the people.

Are you too busy?  Could be it's a sin in your life and you need to find a way to not be so busy.  Find a way to connect and grow with others into the body of Christ.  Stop doing church and be the church, and take an example from Acts, be together.  Be united and be less busy.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Open Letter for All Christians

Dear Fellow Christians,
     We have it wrong, we have put the emphasis on the wrong place for far too long.  I am talking about the focus on changing the country through legislation.  We have tried to make laws against immorality and sin.  We have tried to change people, tried to make them obey the things we have held sacred and dear.  The reality is, we can't.  We can't legislate people into right behavior, and we can't make laws to get people to heaven.  We have focused on the law and on legal routes.
    Let's change, let's try to change society and the world by telling people about Jesus.  The early church changed the Roman empire by being salt and light, not senators or Caeser.  They changed it at the grass roots level.  They changed the world because they loved the world, because God loves the world.  Let's share Christ, it changes people.
In Love,

Monday, July 21, 2014

Are Tattoo sinful?

Let's hit a hot button issue today, are tattoos sinful?  This should be easy, after all the Bible says not to get a tattoo, right?  Cut and dry?  This passage is found in Leviticus chapter 19 verse 28, right among a whole bunch of laws.  To be blunt, to use this verse against tattoos is the worst case of picking and choosing what to obey in the history of picking and choosing.  This passage condemns blended fabric (no 50/50 cotton blends), eating fruit before it's been 5 years, cutting your hair and your beard.  We don't follow any of those, but attempt to enforce the tattoo, why?  I'll tell you why, we think tattoos are bad and evil and we need justification.  After all, bikers and sailors get tattoos, and they are mean and dirty and curse a lot.

The fact is, Leviticus chapter 19 is written to tell the Hebrews how to be different from the Gentiles.  All the things the Lord says NOT to do are things the worshipers of Baals and Ashura DID do as part of worship.  The verse says do not cut or tattoo yourself.  Remember when Elijah was on Mt Caramel with the prophets of Baal, and to attempt to get Baal to act, the prophets began to cut themselves?  Ya, the scars that remained would be the tattoo (they didn't have a tattoo gun).  They would rub ash or other dark colors into the cuts to make them colored (sort of) and that was their tattoo.  It was done for religious reasons, and was forbidden for ancient Hebrews.  Christians today are not ancient Hebrews and we need to understand the Bible in context.

What about your body being a temple, does that mean to take care of your body?  Most of the places that is mentioned is talking about sexual relations.  Your body holds the Holy Spirit, and when you have sex, two become one.  Do not join your temple with a pagan temple (in the case of pagan prostitutes as in 1 Corinthians 6).  It also talks about division in the church, since we are the temple if we destroy the church and separate, we dishonor God's temple and will be destroyed, the sin of Ananias and Saphira.

So, are tattoos a sin?  Yes and no.  For someone who has no moral objection, a clear conscience and feels it's ok, they are free in Christ to get a tattoo.  For someone who feels it's wrong, it's sin for them.  The Bible does not tell Christians not to get a tattoo, but it does tell us to listen to our conscience and not to offend others with our freedoms in Christ.  We are free in Christ to get a tattoo, but not free in Christ to offend another brother.  Keep them modest, keep them free of profanity, vulgarity and immorality (no naked people).  Keep them somewhere they don't offend people and don't condemn a person who feels a tattoo is a sin for them, because if it's a sin for them, they need to abstain.  For the rest of us, make sure you find a good artist!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Original (and Origin) Flaming Faggot

Maybe you have heard the term "faggot" or "flaming faggot" used in a derogatory way in referring to homosexual men.  Have you ever wondered where the word came from, or why it's used?  It's interesting enough that it shares a history with Christians, since Christians and homosexuals are at such odds, maybe it's worthwhile to discovered a shared past, or a shared enemy.  In this case, that enemy is fire.  You see, a faggot is not a gay man, a faggot is a bundle of sticks.  These were used to light fires, specifically when you burn someone alive at the stake.

In the early days of Christianity, professing Christians were burned alive at the stake.  They would be tied to a large poll coming from the ground, surrounded with wood, specifically faggots and they would be set to flaming to kill the Christian in a gruesome manor.  Many Christian men and women died in this way.  This tradition was stopped when Christianity became accepted and eventually the religion of the empire, but this does not end the time of the flaming faggot.  It shows up again in our shared past.

During the dark ages, the Roman Church began to condemn people as heretics for certain activities.  Some of these included sharing and reading the Bible without permission from the Bishop, or for worship outside of the church.  The most famous of these was the Spanish Inquisition, when thousands of faithful men and women were killed.  Many of them were burned alive at the stake for heresy.  We also see some tried as witches or devil worshipers and condemned to death.  Among those where any who were involved in homosexual activities, they would be burned alive, victims of the flaming faggot.

Even in this country, during the early days of America, men and women (mainly women) were burned alive at the stake, thought to be witches.  Those engaging in homosexuality were also thought to be involved in the occult or witch craft and were burned alive.  Death by burning has occurred all through our history, Christianity has been plagued by the smell of human flesh burning since the beginning.

Today, there are plenty of burnings happening, but they are not those of the flaming faggot type.  No one is being burned alive, but the rage and the anger continues to burn.  Protests, sit ins and demonstrations on both sides as issues rage and boil.  We have not loved one another for being two groups who claim to be about love.  Neither side shows much love to the other.

I hope that we can put the flaming faggots aside and act out the one thing we are both speaking and teaching, love.  Do homosexuals and Evangelical Christians have a lot of differences?  Yes, they do.  I myself do not believe that a homosexual lifestyle is pleasing to God, but I can love.  I can love the man who drinks, the man who curses, the man who has sexual relationships with multiple women or who loves another man.  I don't condemn any of them, but I love and pray for everyone, because everyone needs grace.  Let's put down the torches and let's put away using derogatory terms on each other and live out that one teaching we both shout so loudly.  Love.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Reader's Request: Who Are You?

What is your Primary identity?  Who are you?  Well, I'm a dad, I'm a husband, I'm an operator at a food ingredient manufacturing plant, I'm a friend and a brother, I'm still a son even with my parents gone to Heaven.  I'm a lot of things, but what is my primary identity?

There are two kinds of people in the world, that's it.  Just two and the identity is most obvious at the day of the Great White Throne.  There are sheep and goats.  That's it, you are either on the right or the left.  The sheep, the believers, the followers of Jesus Christ are on the right, the goats, the lost, the unbelievers are on the left. You are either a Christian or a Pagan.  That's all.

So you say "that's great, that is who I am then, but who am I now?"  If you are a Christian, than any day, on your best day or your worst day you are Christ in __________(insert your name).  John Lynch delivers a great message you should watch here called Truefaced.  John says that you are wrapped in a robe of righteousness always because you are in Christ.

We like to define ourselves by what we do, what our job title is or what we have accomplished.  We put letters after our name, before our name, MD, PhD, Dr. Rev, the list goes on and on.  Who are you really?  I would submit to you that who you really are is the part of you that you are going to be for eternity.  That means you are either a sheep, a follower, an adopted Child of God, a Christian or you are not.  Where you spend eternity matters infinitely more than what you do for a living, what degrees you have, and what titles you carry.  The short time you spend in this life will have no consequence after one million years into eternity, and you will just be getting started.

We don't often fathom eternity, but being an eternal being, having infinite time ahead of us, that is where it matters who you are.  Are you one of His, or are you at odds with God and spending eternity separated from Him?  I recommend watching the video I posted earlier, and see how you can continue to grow into who you already as a Christ follower.