Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Check Lists or Opportunities?

One of my favorite Rootisms is "Everyone believes it's more blessed to give than it is to receive until they walk into the assembly." What a sad indictment of Satan's power it is that we define ourselves by our style of worship rather than our love for one another! Our unity isn't based on relationships but on agreed preferences! So many congregations are full of miserable people who grudgingly stay together, but feel cheated because they're not getting the "Old Time Religion" they prefer or the new "happy - clappy rhythm driven praise songs" everyone else gets to have. Talk about missing REAL NEW TESTAMENT CHRISTIANITY! The assembly is no longer an opportunity to give encouragement, to edify others, and to help equip others, but a passive spectator sport that pushes the "feel good buttons" and allows us to get our "Do Church" item checked off the list. Do I sound negative? No doubt, but it's really more about being sad and disappointed. I really hate for Satan to continue winning and for Jesus to continue being ignored as the reason for the meeting. Congregations will continue to fight the worship wars as long as they continue to "Do Church" rather than elevate Jesus, and He is elevated through love and giving. Like I tell my folks regularly, if what you're doing this morning isn't giving, then what you're doing isn't worship. Let me add to that for any leaders who may read this: If what you're doing isn't helping people develop a deeper relationship with Jesus then you're playing church and not using it for the tool God intended it to be used for.

Why this blog? In our staff meeting yesterday we read 1 Corinthians 10 and I was touched (again) by what Paul said about our freedom in Christ. "Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible, but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others." (vs.23-24) Wow - talk about a perfect purpose statement for the assembly... Yes, this is talking about restricting what we do for the sake of brethren who don't understand their freedom, but even more important, it's about staying focused on being like Jesus. That's why he warned about mixing Christ and paganism. Keep your focus! Keep consistent! Fall in love with Jesus and "be Him" to others who are trying to do the same or maybe don't even know Him yet. Paul wrapped it all up with the call to glorify God in everything and follow his example as he followed the example of Christ. Ouch? Did you realize that Christians get together to help each other seek Jesus - and see Jesus?

Monday, April 28, 2008

This is a picture someone sent to me a while back that was titles "McDonald's Hits Africa". For some reason, after my visit to my doctor last Thursday, this picture spoke to me. Maybe it was the extra five pounds I've gained or the doubling of my PB medicine, but needless to say, we start on Phase One of The South Beach Diet again today. In truth, I sort of feel like that giraffe looks.
I tried to do a blog on Friday, before I left to go to Dallas to be with the leader of the Saturn Road church and speak for their retreat. I couldn't get the blog to post a picture, so I had to postpone it until today. I had a wonderful time visiting with the elders and staff of this wonderful church family. I was so impressed with their passion to grow, learn, and just do whatever God wants them to do. I dumped a lot of my Be Real material on them, with an emphasis on being real about being Jesus to those we are shepherding, and I think they truly enjoyed and appreciated the challenges I shared. Good men. I was blessed with be with these godly men again - for the third time - and I thanked them again for loving Pat and Deborah so much while they were working with them back a few years ago. The ones who were there with Pat and Deborah, clear still love and miss them very much. So what can I say, they must be really wise leaders!
One last random thought, I've determined that too many people live in fear. I have been shocked for some time now over the number of emails, forwards, comments, and media reports that everyone seems to thrive on having something to fear. I don't even want to give an example because someone will "fear" that I don't appreciate "a danger" or a "potential doom" or such. Read Matthew 6 again. Jesus didn't call us to paranoia but to peace. Peace that our Father is in charge and He STILL is the ONLY ONE we need to fear. Fear robs us of peace, fills us with negativity, and feeds our selfishness. Love God, love today, and live for now. I am committed to being thankful for the only day I still have a choice and can truly make a difference in - today. There's too much to do in glorifying God today to allow an ounce of fear about tomorrow creep in today.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Church Thoughts

I experienced my first earthquake last week. How cool is that? As long as no one was hurt, I'm glad I can claim it as another life experience that, up until then, I had missed. I've been in everything from tornadoes to typhoons, but never an earthquake. It was a weird feeling to be fully asleep in bed and wake up to the bed shaking for several seconds. At 4:30 in the morning, I knew it wasn't just a nervous leg twitching. When it ended, there were several loud pops from all over the house that sounded like some huge hail had suddenly hit. Neat, but I don't think I'd like to be around a bigger one.
Speaking of earth-shaking, here are some random thoughts about the purpose of the church. I've been jotting down some thoughts in my journal for quite a while and finally decided I had enough to call it a TOP TEN. How would you finish the statement "The church is..."? Here are some of mine.
* Church is a support system, not a system to support.
* Church doesn't define our faith as much as it defines our family.
* Church is not the object of our devotion, but points us to the object of our devotion.
* Church is meeting God through godly people, learning to love Him by loving others, and becoming aware of His presence rather than going to a special location to worship Him.
* Church supports living sacrifies to God, it doesn't define "giving".
* Church is a witness protection program that doesn't hide the witness.
* Since the proof of discipleship is loving one another, the church exists to make that happen.
* Church doesn't exist for outreach, but to build a passion for Jesus in the family members who then can't stop talking about Him.
* As the Body of Christ, the church's only ministry is to imitate the life of Christ.
* A church family should be known by what it does out on the playing field not in its Pep Rally.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

A New Fear?

I've been receiving a lot of emails, mostly forwarded articles, about Oprah's "New Religion" or her "New Cult". All I can think of is that it's terribly hard to throw off the old mantel of paranoia that so many of us lived in with our legalistic, exclusive, and smug church thinking for so many years. The article from Fox News sounded amazingly like something from the old Contending For the Faith - which was always more about being contentious about faith than seeking it - then an objective look at a philosophical writers ideas. Remember when the mere suggestion that we could do something different in our assemblies got us labelled "New Change Agents"? Remember when even hinting that we might consider interpreting the New Testament from Jesus' perspective rather than a jigsaw puzzle perspective suddenly became "A New Hermeneutic"? Now a little paper back book that is challenging people to honestly look into their hearts and see the real person they need to be is "New Age," Scientology, and a "New Religion" headed by Oprah. It all sounds a little bit like jealousy, bitterness, and revenge towards a powerful celebrity who happens to support a democrat. I am not a democrat, but then, I'm not sure right now if I'm a republican either. It also disturbs me that people can be so hateful and mean about a writer who is different and was not a celebrity until Oprah read his book. What I really am is a seeker of anything that will help me draw closer to God. From what I've read in Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth, I've seen only things that will help and inspire anyone who is seeking God.
I'm not finished with the book, but I've read enough to encourage you to read it for yourself. Don't let the fear mongers do your thinking for you. If I were to sum up his book, which is a little different and not always easy to follow, I think two things jump to the surface. One, he helps the reader live in the now. Jesus said, "Don't be anxious about tomorrow" and Tolle echoes His teaching by simply pointing out that we lose too much because we live in the past or anticipate the future. His words are a little different, but the point is so true. Learn to appreciate - be thankful for today - this moment, and don't waste it.
The second thing I've been impressed with is his guiding the reader into seeing how we are controlled by the roles, the influences, the pressures, or the perceptions of what we think others, or our circumstances, require us to be. We are out of touch with the real, authentic person in our hearts. I would call it selfishness and he helps us see where it comes from, but he calls it ego. Six to one.... I would say that it's a call to Be Real or honest with ourselves. He calls it "awareness". ...half dozen the other.
It's silly paranoia to call it a "New Religion" or "Oprah's Cult". I like the open discussion of "What Jesus was really saying" and I like the challenge to discover what life is really all about. Like Oprah said, it will make you a better follower of Jesus and it should make every minute you spend in worship more meaningful. The only thing new about that is maybe a new honesty about what we are doing.
So before you panic and start fearing the "Church of Oprah", read it for yourself. And, as when you read your Bible, read it with the eyes of Jesus. What can it teach you about developing a deeper relationship with Him. Now there's a new idea. And sure, there are a few things that you will have to ignore or reject, but because you're a seeker not a robot you don't have to eat everything on the plate.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Quick Trip Report

Since we were with family in Nashville from Sunday evening until early Wednesday morning, I obviously didn't have time to blog much. We had a wonderful, if short, visit with the Bills & Miloms and got to hold those sweet grand kids a little bit. We haven't seen Chad, Elizabeth, and there three since Christmas and at that time, little Curtis was only a month old. Wow - they change a lot in three and a half months. Pat, Deborah, and their two were here last month for a short visit, but that's still not enough for grandparents who miss their kids and grand kids a lot.
All five grand kids have grown so much. This was Tuesday night after a wild game of "Go Fish" with Nana.

This is the youngest one - little Curtis, and it's so neat to see him become so expressive and responsive. Isn't it amazing what you will do to just make a baby smile? That's when you start realizing that the best things in life come from friends, family, and loving relationships. We can't wait to have everyone here for the play in early June.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Deeper Roots

Okay, there are clearly more important things going on in our life than the construction of our basement. Still, as I put our next vacation on a credit card and then looked at what the basement has done to our Lowe's card, which is paid off each month, I found myself thinking, "Maybe this basement thing could wait a while longer." Na! It kills me to have a partially finished basement and I'm so thankful for the help I've been getting from Ken Teson, Bill Lee, Ron Ebker, Paul Parrett, and Cary Paul that I don't dare slack off now. Besides, as you can see in these pics, we will be painting the walls next week. The two iron pillars will be boxed, dry walled, and mudded today, then we'll paint, and somewhere along the way we'll put doors in and bring the stairs up to code. Speaking of "code" - it was so nice to have the inspector come in on Monday and simply look around and say, "You're good to go. Call me when you're finished for the final inspection." Now it's all up to us. The goal is having it totally finished (with the exception of maybe carpet $$$$$) before the week of the musical, June 5-8. So if you want to come to the play and stay with us you can. The bedrooms are spoken for, but there will be plenty of space in the NEW BASEMENT!

The only visible window in the new basement. Unfortunately the other four are in the storeroom part behind the left wall. Hey, what's wrong with a well lit storeroom?
Can you believe that we are using Liquid Nails to attach these boards to the steel beams? Amazing stuff.

Picture the stairs with railing and slats or spindles of some kind. It will be safe - as long as you don't try to come down head first.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

What in the world are You doing?

I've stopped trying to figure God out. I give up! Actually, I gave up - a long time ago. My job is not to "figure him out" but to know Him, seek Him, and love Him. To figure Him out, I would have to be God myself. I can't know how He works or why He does what He does. Besides that, I don't need to know. What I need to know is that He loves me! What I need to know is that I can trust Him! What I need to know is that He will take care of me no matter what this temporary life throws at me, and He will see me through every hard time and use it to help me draw even closer to Him.
I know what His ultimate plan is and that means I don't have to know how He will carry out His plan. I see the here and now. I want peace and happiness here and now. I want it fixed if it needs fixing, you guessed it - here and now. Our Father sees yesterday, today, and tomorrow on the same spiritual screen. He's in all three. He started things moving decades ago to answer a prayer I offer today so this His plan will be carried out tomorrow. How incredible is that?
So why does sad and terrible things happen to godly people? If you're a parent, you know that sometimes all you can say to your child is "because." Sometimes things happen just because we are living in a world with natural laws that include everyone of us. We're just visitors and we have no promise or guarantee of how many days we will have. We don't deserve any. Every single day is a blessing. Sometimes God intervenes to carry out His will, sometimes it's His will that His natural laws dictate what happens. Why? When? We'll never know in this life. But every day is a blessing from Him and that's always true whether it's decades of life or days in a womb.
"Oh the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen"
Lord, help my unbelief so I will continue to stop trying to figure You out.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Wildlife In The Burbs

Donna was able to get a picture of this duck sitting on her nest of eggs right under our large picture window overhang on the back of our house. I suspected that she was sitting a nest of eggs when I watched her disappear under the window early in the morning a couple days in a row. When I tried to sneak around the side of the house and zoom in with my camera to get a picture, she flew out before I could. She didn't fly when Donna took her picture, so maybe she knew who the hunter in the family is. I thought she'd have a hard time keeping her eggs safe, with all the neighborhood cats I've seen prowling around, and with all the night-time wild critters that roam the night. Sure enough...
...these are her eggs, opened and eaten. Actually, whatever it was, my guess is a raccoon, came one night and got about four of them and she was back sitting on the remaining two eggs that day. Then the next night the eggs thief returned and got the remaining two eggs. Such is life. I wonder how many of all the eggs that are laid by wild ducks actually hatch? No one knows but God. Like I said, such is life - because this morning, Donna and I laughed to watch the drake chasing the nest-free hen all around the pond. That's wildlife! There's no grieving, remorse, or bad memories - just survival. That's they way God made them and when they, yes even ducks, function the way God made them to function, He is glorified by His creation. As I've said many times, how ironic is it that mankind, the only part of creation that is made in the image of God, is the only part that can choose to not glorify Him. Things are going to happen to all of us simply because we are part of nature, but we have the opportunity to live eternally if we will seek the One who made us.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Heart Songs

Between the usual "church work," the play, and the basement, there hasn't been any extra time to think about a blog, but I do want to just mention a couple of thoughts that have been running through my mind after having a disappointing discussion about fellowship with our Christian church brethren. And let ME be clear about my feelings. They are brothers and sisters - period - end of story! What part of "one Lord, one faith, one baptism" do we have an issue about? And I'm sorry if some still think using instrumental music is a salvation issue. That's a terrible misunderstanding of scripture and a terrible understanding of grace.
That is a bigger discussion than I want to get into here and now, but I will say this. Since I've been getting my voice treatments now - I've had four - which involves botox injections into my vocal chords which causes me to be able to only whisper for about two weeks and not be able to sing for about five to six weeks - I have a new perspective on singing and making melody in my heart to the Lord. I have always loved singing with my church family. It has been the single biggest tool that I've used to get truly "pumped up" before I share my message every Sunday morning. Now, it has to happen more in my heart than on my lips. Now, I have to "be admonished" by others more than I can be a giver and speak to others through songs. I say all that to simply make this point: I am more convinced than ever that God meant for singing to be a matter of the heart, and ALL ELSE IS INCIDENTAL! It's a tool given by God to help edify one another and to make the tool a ritual filled with legal specifications is simply missing the point.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Down In The Pits!

This is a picture of our basement that I posted almost a year ago after I did the biggest part of the framing. Well, I hit a "rough spot" after that as I tried to figure out how to do all the electrical work without paying big bucks and still obeying the county code. Short story: I couldn't figure out a way so I ended up paying an electrician to come do all the basic electrical. After some "missing things" the inspector pointed out were fixed or built, I finally got the "thumbs up" to move to the next stage. Last week I did all the insulation and yesterday, with some great friends showing up to help, we began doing the dry wall work. Finally it's starting to look like a room in a house and not a basement cave.
You never realize how many pipes, vents, wires, etc. you have in basement until you start having to box them in so you can dry wall around and over them. Oh the little pieces and the little cuts! It's so nice to have helpers who know how to do it.

For some reason we have white foot prints throughout our house. Not really, but the dust from cutting the dry wall is everywhere.

That little room on the left will be our new pantry - when it's finished and when we figure out a place to put all my hunting stuff that now fills the room. See the stack of dry wall on the floor? I hoping I figured it out exactly so we don't have to make any more trips up and down the stairs with more sheets. Paul Parrett and I carried fifty sheets down yesterday as Ken Teson, Ron Ebker, and Cary Paul used the rented dry wall lift to raise sheets up to the celling. It sure was nice to have so many helpers. In fact, this was going to be a blog about why it's so hard for some of us to ask for help - especially when we are willing to give it. These guys asked me if they could help and I now I don't know how I could have done it with out them. I smell a future blog!