Thursday, May 27, 2010

Life's A Picnic

I know family and friends have been losing sleep wondering how our new porch is doing. Well, be at peace. You can see the few things we've done to make it a great place to sit and enjoy our quiet "outback" and get ready for all our family to visit this week. What you can't see, at least well, is the nice sealant that I put over all of it this past Monday. It turned the wood a little darker, but it looks nice. It's especially nice to see water beaded up on it this morning after last nights shower.
Just a little closer look at my latest project. We bought the picnic table at Lowes and I put it together Tuesday afternoon. Of course, it wasn't as easy as I thought it would be, but it still wasn't too difficult. I had to re-drill some holes that were "pre-drilled" but didn't line up. It's a really solid table that I know everyone will enjoy using - especially all the grand kids. Notice the cute indoor/outdoor rug we got to put under it. Gives it a little more color and matches the flowers. I expect to have my own show in HGTV soon. "If you build it they will come" - grand kids that is. Isn't that in scripture somewhere? I guess, in principle, it's part of the Noah story.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What's In A Name...

I'm not sure what to call'em anymore. I used to refer to them as worship wars, but the assembly is not any more worship than any other act of obedience that glorifies God. It's hard to find an alliterative word to go with assembly - at least ones that won't offend somebody. Since time together was intended to be used for giving and encouraging one another, I could call it Giving Grumbles, but that's just too ironic, not to mention it's a spiritual oxymoron. The reason folks fuss and fume about the assembly isn't because they have a passion for giving, it's because of a tradition of receiving. Threaten that expectation and you're in for the fight of your life. So how about calling them RECEIVING RIFTS? Okay, it doesn't really sing as an alliterative title, but unfortunately it is an accurate description.
We are blessed to be part of a church family that has very few Receiving Rifts. Oh, we have the occasional wish for certain types of songs and there was that couple that got upset because we used a video clip that had instrumental music in it. I tried to get the word out that the "opening prayer" that day was really the "closing prayer" so any use of instrumental music was technically "scriptural," but I forgot to say that upfront. We don't have much fussing here, and for that I am soooo grateful. Even more, I love the spirit of giving that just about everyone seems to bring to the assembly. Maybe my weekly mantra, "If what you're doing this morning isn't giving, then what you're doing isn't worship" has really caught on.
Anyway, what started me on this blog was my reminiscing about the most memorable Receiving Rifts I've experienced over the years. Here are a few:
* NO - we can't replace our pews with stackable chairs. "Pews are more comfortable."
* "If we cancel our evening worship to watch the Redskins play in the Super Bowl, we will be selling out to the world."
* "Telling us to stand and greet the people around us is unscriptural."
* "If you take the Lord's Table out, I'm out of here."
* "You can serve communion from the back if you leave one set of the trays up front for people who need that to focus on."
* "Why did you remove the pulpit?" (Esp. huge in TX and TN)
* "Can a bell choir be used during a wedding?"
* "You can't sing songs during the communion because that is superimposing one act of worship on another, and that's unscriptural."
* "Singing during the Lord's Supper keeps me from thinking about Jesus." (Old Rugged Cross will do that!)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

In Or Out? Too Much Or Too Little?

All the church growth experts say the same thing, and I hear it echoed by dedicated and passionate brethren across the country. In fact, they've all been saying it for more years than I can remember. It usually goes something like this: "What's wrong with the church is that we are too inwardly focused. We need to be more outwardly focused." If you're not up on church jargon, no, they are not talking about belly-buttons, though they like to jokingly add that we suffer from too much "navel watching" (a symptom of being inwardly focused). I understand the concern. We'll never be guilty of too much evangelism or too much caring for the hungry and homeless. Yes, we have ministries for everything and still seem to be doing less and less missions and benevolence. Of course, when would we be doing enough or even too much?

I don't know what everyone is thinking when they see the church being "too inwardly focused" but isn't it a fact that church folks have been gradually whittling away at time dedicated to being together? Do we really have too much fellowship, too much encouragement, and too much equipping going on? Just exactly when did we reach the goal of loving one another so deeply, so sacrificially, and so obviously that the world would know that we belong to Jesus? If the purpose of church, of spiritual leaders, of teaching and admonishing one another is, as Paul said in Ephesians 4:11-16, to build "unity in the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ" - when did we do that? Did I miss something here?

If we are "too inwardly focused" its the wrong kind of inward focus. The inward focus that has failed to build members who "grow up into him who is the Head" is not the kind the family of God was called to have. When inward focus comes from institutional, traditional, and worldly history -it's "too much" before it even starts. When the inward focus is about building spiritual relationships, growing in love, and helping one another develop a deeper relationship with Jesus - there is no such thing as "too much". In fact, the biggest problem facing the future of the family of God is people who are so "outwardly focused" they don't want or need a church family. Go figure.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Ten Things I REALLY Love About Sunday
1. Being used by God
2. People taking notes, nodding their heads and saying "AMEN!"
3. Giving hugs, compliments, and smiles
4. Songs that speak to the heart
5. George praying for me every Sunday morning
6. Seeing Shepherds praying with people
7. The joyful noise of loving one another
8. Remembering a real body hung on that cross, and real blood was shed
9. Members and guests who say, "You made me think."
10. Knowing my loved ones, far away, are giving to others and growing in Christ

Monday, May 17, 2010

Some Favorite People

I took this picture on Mother's Day, last Sunday, with Donna's cell phone camera. Wow! What a looker! Did you notice the nice flowers? Someone must really love her a great deal! She's always been one of the greatest moms in the world, and now she's the world's greatest Nana too.
Yesterday, as we've done every year for five years, we sang a couple of our songs from this years musical for our church family, which this year is Fearless: The Story of Esther. I like to do this to get everyone in the family excited about what we've been working on for nearly three months now, and also to help motive everyone to hand out our promotional door hangers. Word of mouth, tickets, and door hangers, are how we promote the play, and it's worked pretty well so far.

I am really proud of how well the cast and crew are doing. We sang two of the praise songs from the play. This one is our closing song, which as you can see, requires some coordinated clapping. You'd be surprise how hard it can be too get fifty plus people to clap together - at the right time. They're great! It has been a wonderful year and I'm excited about seeing it all come together as we come down to the last two weeks. Wow! Last two weeks? OKAY - it's officially panic time!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Mommy, Look What I Brought You!

Parenting is for people mature enough to see tomorrow. That was a sub-point I made in Sunday's lesson. Since the context was about recognizing the long-term consequences of what we do, I kept it focused on the future. If I were to adjust it so it could be a stand-alone proverb - or as some say a Rootism, I would add something to make it more timelessly applicable. Parenting is for people who can treasure today, but are mature enough to see tomorrow.
Herodias, Herod's grudge-holding wife, used her daughter to get her revenge on John, but she also robbed her daughter of, what could have been, half of Herod's Kingdom! Unfortunately, many parents use their children for their own selfish purposes, and many rob their children of the nurturing they need to grow up into the giving, self-controlled, and thoughtful people who truly enjoy life and bless others.
I've said it many times, but since I used it again last Sunday, I want to mention it again. Who knows how long it will be before I get the chance again?
There are three things every child needs:
1. Unquestionable love (We love you no matter what!)
2. Clear directions (These are our values as a family - who we are!)
3. Consistent discipline (Clear boundaries, clear expectations, and no exceptions) - remember, parental discipline (teaching/guiding) leads to and is replaced by self-discipline. If the first doesn't happen, the second won't either. And tomorrow - the child/adult will suffer.
May your children bring you more than a trophy of bitterness on a platter.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Why of Why!

The bigger the tragedy in life, the more we ask the question "Why?". We want things to make sense, to be deserved, justified, and explainable, but most of the time there is no clear answer to that three letter question. I would guess that it's the most asked question God hears from mankind. Even people who haven't talked to him, thanked him for anything, or even remotely recognized his presence, throw the question at God as more of an accusation than something they expect to have answered.
This past Sunday I addressed the horrible execution of John the Baptist and tried to answer the question "Why did it happen?" The easy part of the answer is found in the biblical record. John was killed because of 1) A weak, guilt-ridden King; 2) A self-centered mother; and 3) A misguided child. (Not the happiest of Mother's Day lessons to preach.) But then I concluded with the toughest part of the "Why?" by asking "Why didn't God intervene?" That's really the question isn't it? I mean, when a loved one dies from cancer, heart attack, or some terrible accident - we know the what, how, and why. What we really challenge God with is why he didn't step in, make an exception for us, and stop it!
I didn't offer an answer, but gave six questions to ask ourselves when we struggle to understand why God didn't intervene to save his servant John.
1. Why should he? (Who do we think we are to make such demands on God?)
2. How do you know he hadn't intervened many times already?
3. What was God thinking? (If you know - you're wrong!)
4. Why don't we understand that we must all die? (Like John, Jesus, Peter, etc. etc.)
5. Why blame God for man's evil treatment of man? (People have been doing that from the Crusades to the Holocaust.)
6. Do you think that John feels cheated? (I doubt he missed his meal of locust & honey,)
The real question "WHY" is why do we ignore God's love? And, why do we ignore eternity? If we didn't, we wouldn't be asking him "WHY".

Saturday, May 08, 2010

I'm A Swinging Kinda Guy!

I wasn't going to do another blog this week, but I had a thought last evening that I didn't want to forget to share. I'd just finished mowing the lawn and I sat on our back porch swing to cool of and enjoy a cold bottle of water. It was overcast and windy, but for some reason the scene before me struck me as spectacular. Our pond was sparkling with shimmering ripples as the wind swept across it's surface. The water was a deep deep green and the grass all around the pond was like a field of emeralds. A half dozen ducks paddled around out in the middle of the pond looking like a bunch of children enjoying what the wind was doing to the water. Higher up from the pond, the huge pine tree limbs were waving their tribute to God's daily work of art - a tapestry I felt sure He put together just for me.
It wasn't the first time that this thought crossed my mind, but I couldn't help but be amazed, not only at God's artistry, but that he placed in our minds the ability to see and appreciate the beauty of this world He created and gave to us. Even in David's Psalm 8 praise of God's creation he didn't mention the blessing of some how knowing what you're looking at is beautiful. What does that tell us about our God that He put something like that in our DNA? Doesn't it peak your interest in Him as you realize it's part of being made in His image? While our "cousin" primates may have ninety-eight percent of our DNA, but I've never heard of one being amazed by the spectacular creation that surrounds them.
How wonderful is the ability to appreciate? How amazing is it to be able to stop, smell the roses, but then be in awe of their brilliant color, shape, and structure? How incredible is it that just sitting and looking can make us happy? The best part is knowing our Father made us that way.
While it opens up a whole huge range of things to think and speculate about, at the very least it has to make us realize that heaven was made by the same God. With apologies to my high school English teacher, Miss Smith, who is already there, WE AIN'T SEEN NOTHIN' YET!

Thursday, May 06, 2010

My God And I

One of the most profound spiritual discoveries of my spiritual journey has been the realization that God is relational. Just pull out your concordance or click into and do a search of "God is ____" and see what pops up. Then study every description on the list about God and ask yourself, "What do they all have in common?" Every description about God involves some element of his loving nature that deals with his desire to be in relationship with man. Everything that God does is driven by that purpose. He created us to have relationships, like the Father, Son, and Spirit have, and through our physical relationships learn and see the need for a spiritual relationship with him. Like I've said many times lately, God is the most purpose driven being in existence. We can't possibly understand him and his plan if we don't understand that our Holy and loving Father wants us and wants us to want him!
Among the many things that this has seriously impacted in my life is how I interpret the Bible. From Genesis to Revelation, every word of every sentence must be interpreted through the eyes of a loving Father who doesn't do or say anything that isn't driven by his purpose. Whatever you read in scripture can only make sense when you see how it contributes to God's plan and purpose. Everything God did, from Adam and Eve, to Moses and the Law, and the sending of Jesus to earth, is all about what he has done to make a relationship with man possible.
This week in our staff meeting we read Hebrews 10 in our devotional time. I thought I really knew Hebrews 10 - after all, it's where my study of worship and the assembly began thirty-something years ago. But when we read, "Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way..." - I was overwhelmed - again - by how much God has done so that we could have a close relationship with him. How long did it take and how much did it cost for us to be able to be in the presence of God like only the high priest could do once a year? Wow! Am I reading a new book or what?

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

The Purpose Quiz

As part of the introduction to my lesson last Sunday, I was trying to make the point that we all REALLY DO have a purpose in life, one we are already committed to! The problem is that a deeper relationship with God just may not be part of it, or at least, at the top of the list. How do we know what our purpose is - or what we've MADE our purpose? I came up with five short questions that I called The Purpose Quiz. For this to work or be effective, the answers MUST be quick gut responses, totally honest, and not "church answers." (While at church, we have programed ourselves to always respond in the expected spiritual manner. Hmmm!)
Here is what I used Sunday. Remember - quick, honest, and non-churchy! Give your top/first three answers for each before you move to the next one!

1. I worry most about... (top three?)

2. If I could afford it, I would... (top three?)

3. I wish I had more time to... (top three?)

4. In the next six months, I hope to... (top three?)

5. When I die, I want my family and friends to know that I am the proudest or most thankful about... (top three?)

How we answer these five questions will tell us what we have made our purpose in life. What we've done and what we plan to do is our purpose - what drives us - what's most important to us. Our answers tell us what we think about, spend our money on, spend our time doing, what our plans our, and what we think our legacy will be. See any themes? What kind of things tend to rise to the top of each list?
There is a good chance that most of what we care about is important to God too. The real question is - where does our relationship with God fit in to all this? Jesus put it into perspective for us when He said, "What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?" (Matthew 16:26) Maybe another way to put it could be, "What good is a purpose in life that doesn't help you live with God for eternity?"

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Rehearsals and Nesting

While we began rehearsals for this year's musical Fearless: The Story of Esther the first week of March, we were all on stage for the first time this past Thursday. This year's musical has 24 songs being sung by the chorus, the nobles, the maids, and some individuals, and this week we put them all together for the first time. It went really well, but it's still frightening to think that we have to pull it ALL together in just over four weeks. Esther was a lot more complicated to turn into a musical than you'd think. Still, I'm very proud of how well everyone is doing and how incredible all the music is coming along. These are some of my favorite praise songs that we've ever used. Hope you get to see it.
Both of these pics are of the closing two songs. You can't tell it now, especially with so many scripts in hand & on the floor, but the right half of the group are the Hebrew people and the left are the court of Xerxes. Costumes will help - I hope.

While I won the bird battle on the back porch, this dove won with a nest on the edge of our brick wall just to the left of our garage door. Even with us going in and out on foot and in cars, or when I mow the lawn, she doesn't budge. She must be sitting on eggs. Notice the little bit of decoration she has added to the color of our bricks.