Today’s title comes from an episode of the TV show CSI. Gil Grissom and his team are investigating a murder. The victim was left suspended inside a local Catholic church. In the course of …
Month: February 2017
Everything you need to know in ten minutes
Here’s another “Wild” blog that inspires and challenges me. How would you, how DO YOU, share the story of Jesus with others? With legalism and its rules? If you have chosen the rules and rituals to tell the story of Jesus, haven’t you ever wondered why we in the good old U.S.A. are living in this Post-Christian Culture and why mainline, established tribes (i.e. denominations) are in decline? Come on folks, get your act together! Let’s change our core, our heart, from centuries of traditions back to what it should be: The Love Of God Perfectly Expressed In Jesus! And remember, love God with all your heart, love others the way HE loves you, and make sure all the glory goes to HIM!
What if you only had ten minutes to show a group of people on a remote island everything they needed to know in order to grow into a vibrant Christian community, and you could only give them four Bible verses (they have no Bibles)? What would you share with them? To keep it simple, we’ll assume these islanders have heard about Jesus and a few popular Bible stories.
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Could It Be The Greatest Tragedy?
17 As he went out into the street, a man came running up, greeted him with great reverence, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to get eternal life?” 18-19 Jesus said, “Why are you calling me good? No one is good, only God. You know the commandments: Don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t cheat, honor your father and mother.” 20 He said, “Teacher, I have—from my youth—kept them all!”
21 Jesus looked him hard in the eye—and loved him! He said, “There’s one thing left: Go sell whatever you own and give it to the poor. All your wealth will then be heavenly wealth. And come follow me.”
22 The man’s face clouded over. This was the last thing he expected to hear, and he walked off with a heavy heart. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and not about to let go.
Mark 10:17-22 (The Message)
I do not want this edition to become a battle arena of which experience of tragedy is the worst. All tragedies are painful and that pain is real and must never be minimized. We are not in a spitting contest folks. I am not even suggesting that your individual tragedies are unimportant, because they are. I have wrestled and struggled over this post more than any other. But could it be that the greatest tragedy is to love Jesus, but on our terms?
The focus of this blog, and the reason the Spirit prompted (more like pushed me kicking and screaming) is to take our focus off of what we think it means to be a real Christian by making the story of our life bigger than the story of our local churches by entering the narrative of the Story of The Kingdom of God. And today’s edition is about asking the question: Do we love Jesus, but on our terms? How you and I answer this question determines how big, or how small, the story of our life becomes. Does the narrative of our life tell a story as big as the Kingdom of God, or is our story as small as the small amount of real estate our life covers?
Look again at this passage we call “The Story of The Rich Young Ruler”. He is called rich, meaning he has experienced financial success in life. But his wealth is not mentioned until the end of this encounter with Jesus. Look at his initial encounter with Jesus. The Message says he shows “great reverence” and other translations says he “kneels” or “bows”. It is obvious, at least to me, this young man recognizes at the very least that Jesus is someone special because he senses that Jesus holds the answer to the deepest need of his heart: “How can I find unending life?”
I know the translations say eternal life but the Greek word used here is interesting. There are two particular Greek words translated as “life”, bios—which means physical life; we get our word “biology” from this word; and zoe—which means life that is full with purpose and meaning. What I am trying to say is that this man is not asking “How do I get into heaven?” He is asking Jesus, “How do I find life that has lasting purpose and meaning that begins right now? I don’t wait to wait until I get to heaven. I need it NOW!”
Others had been around Jesus but no one asked the question that He loves to hear: “How do I find unending life that has purpose and meaning starting right now?” And when this young man came to Jesus with that question pay close attention to how Jesus responds: “Jesus looked him hard in the eye—and loved him!” Can’t you see the great big smile on the face of Jesus? Finally, someone asks the question that is at the core of why Jesus became one of us. Jesus came as one of us so that any of us, all of us could experience zoe life to the max.
Obviously this successful young man loved Jesus because he brought the question of his heart to Him. But when Jesus gave him the answer, it wasn’t the answer he wanted to hear. In that instant this young man realized by while he loved Jesus, it was on his terms. And when Jesus upped the ante and raised the bar, this young man knew he was unwilling to let go of his bios life in order to take hold of the zoe life. Look at how he leaves the presence of Jesus, the presence that once offered him hope: “This was the last thing he expected to hear, and he walked off with a heavy heart. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and not about to let go.”
This is the epitome of the greatest tragedy. This passage from Mark’s Gospel has led me to believe and become convinced that the greatest tragedy in life is to love God but on our terms. And here is why:
1. He turned away from the only Hope!
Everything points to his quest. He knew the life he was pursuing would not get him to where he needed to be. There is only one hope to find this life. He choose to walk away from that Hope for life that could be rich with purpose and meaning.
2. He rejected the only Cure!
The Message puts this man’s spiritual condition with very clear words: “He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and not about to let go.” He could not “fix” what was wrong with his heart, but Jesus could. Yet he chose to reject the cure for his pain and emptiness.
3. He walked away from the only Life!
He accepted a life that he wasn’t was designed for, a life that did not meet his created purpose. His created purpose, and our created purpose, is to join in with all that our Heavenly Father is doing.
Any experience that meets the definition of “tragedy” is awful and painful. But I see that the greatest tragedy for any human heart is to love Jesus but on our terms. Why do I call it the greatest tragedy? Because Jesus will not accept us on our terms and this means only one thing. We do what this rich young man did: we walk away from Jesus. To walk away from Jesus is to walk away from the only One who loves us enough to die for us. And that, my friends, is the greatest tragedy—to be so close to the zoe life, one word from zoe life but walk away from it. Jesus will never accept love on our terms. He is too good, too holy, too majestic for such a love. Such a love, a love on our terms, is unworthy of The Eternal One!
We cannot experience the life for which we are created by loving Jesus on our own terms. Those who know me know that I love to ask questions, even to the point of being annoying. But I must ask you, the reader, as I often ask myself: Do you love Jesus, but on your own terms?
Love God with all your heart; love others the way Jesus loves you; and make sure all the glory goes to Him!
Finding our life in prayer
I’m reblogging this just in case some of you are not following Mel. He is a “Wild” man for Jesus! The book he refers to gets us back to our core and foundation. His insights into the book are worth pondering over again and again! Thanks Mel, for sharing!
I’ve been reading some books by Sadhu Sundar Singh, an Indian Christian missionary. If you haven’t heard of him before, Singh was born into a Sikh family in the village of Rampur Kataania, Ludhiana (Punjab state) in northern India. According to stories about his conversion to Christianity, Sundar resolved to kill himself by throwing himself on a railroad tracks unless whosoever is the ‘True God’ would appear before him. That very night he had a vision of Jesus who opened Sundar’s soul to the truth. You can read more about him here. He lived a pretty remarkable life for Christ.
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Wrong Cause, Wrong Battle, Wrong War!
From my weekly devotion blog…
What It Looks Like When God’s Kingdom Comes On Earth As It Is In Heaven!
Churches often incorporate what should have been called “The Disciples Prayer” (because Jesus gives it to all His disciples), but is known as “The Lord’s Prayer” into their worship practices. But what I am about to share is when it becomes more than memorized words and a ritual, and it is put into the real world practice. The two you see in this video are part of the body of Christ I serve as pastor, Blaine Cantrell and his daughter Kathleen. The Children’s Director he refers to is Margie Keeling, a great leader for both our kids and their parents. Here is the link:
When The Kingdom Comes On Earth!
A heart check…
Here is one of the blogs I read and this one is definitely worth passing along. No one wants to think, and certainly would never admit, that they have idols. And a careful examination of the heart by the Chief Spiritual Cardiologist, the Holy Spirit, will reveal if this is true or not true. We all need periodic exams by this Cardiologist. The Holy Spirit will always reveal and tell us the truth.
10For cross over to the coasts of Cyprus [to the west] and see, send also to Kedar [to the east] and carefully consider; and see whether there has been such a thing as this:
11Has a nation [ever] changed its gods, even though they are not gods? But My people have changed their Glory [God] for that which does not profit.
12Be astonished and appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked and shrivel up with horror, says the Lord [at the behavior of the people].
13For My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the Fountain of living waters, and they have hewn for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns which cannot hold water.
Jeremiah 2:10-13 AMPC
It’s heart month and many of us take this as anopportunity to test our physical hearts for any sign of disease or danger. This is wise for a good…
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The Vicious Truth About Worrying
This is from my weekly devotional blog and the title of the book I’m working on…
February 10th, 2017: If that’s what Christianity looks like, I want nothing to do with it.
The gap between words and actions, as well as attitudes, is where I need to focus and where any serious disciple should focus. A well written blog.
Jessica Campbell ~ Surrender To Grace
Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.
Paul is preaching the gospel to a new area, after being rioted out of the precious town by Jews who didn’t want to hear what he (and his group of disciples) had to say. The next town they go to, in Berea, they see contrast.
These Jewish people are open to hearing. But they’re also examining the scriptures. They are examining the scriptures every day. They are examining the scriptures to see if what Paul is saying is true. Likely, they are also examining Paul and his disciples.
Things brings up two points.
1) How are we digesting all of the information that is presented to us? If it is news, are we…
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Should The Church Be Neat?
(Again, remember that my perspective is from observing the western church at large, listening to other pastors, and from reading about other’s experiences and life lessons. These musings are not about any single congregation. Any resemblance to an actual church, currently in existence or now dead, is strictly a coincidence arranged by the Holy Spirit.) Well, I must give credit where credit is due. Today’s Kingdom Musings were inspired by a fellow blogger Brandon Andress and his musings Benefit Of A Doubt. So, if you do not like my musings or are offended by them, just blame Brandon.
Most folks like things to be neat…well except hoarders. So let me try this again. Most folks like, want and insist that things be neat in the church on many levels. Those who like, want and insist on neat in church do so because they genuinely and sincerely believe that it is absolutely necessary that we be neat in order to honor God. They also believe, and again sincerely so, that neat is what we must have in order to keep God and the things of God sacred. As a side note, right now I am wondering, “What does this say about sincerity? Does being sincere mean that we are right? And does it give us a free pass if we are wrong?” “Well God, I sincerely believed I was right, regardless of what You said.” Oh well, I digress to what might become another blog.
What we were talking about? Oh yeah, people sincerely wanting “neat” in church. Well, I must ask, “Exactly what does ‘neat’ look like for most church folks?” One thing is that we must all believe the same things about the Bible, the world view, and God. Established congregations typically see the Sunday School hour as the time to achieve such a sincere goal. Each adult Sunday School Class is using the same curriculum for the most part. This curriculum is selected because it comes closest to their beliefs, thus ‘neat’. I have heard of congregations that felt their leadership needed to dress down a renegade teacher and class that was not using their approved curriculum. One time I attended a revival service in one of my community’s church, in an ecumenical spirit. I noticed a large sign board up front that listed 20 something things that everyone must believe in order to be a member of that congregation. Neat!
Another thing about neat is that programs must be neat. Translated, they must be tame. We cannot have or do anything that does not clearly resemble what was done in 1950, 1960 and early 1970. After early 1970, that was when things started falling apart. Each room has a certain function and one can never use it for something else. Space was assigned eons ago and though there is another class that is growing and run out of space, they cannot have the largest “Young Adults” classroom (which by the way the youngest is 76 years old) which, by means of attrition, now consists of less than a dozen members. Their motto and mantra is “That’s the way we’ve always done it.” And if you cannot embrace this view, well, simply be quiet or go somewhere else, which is usually what they do. Sadly, they leave not for another church, but give up and walk away from God’s plans.
And when it comes to people, oh yes, they must be neat. By neat I do not mean just in how they dress…though for many in church this is very important. I am talking about giving the appearance of having it all together for the most part. We cannot have people who appear to have real problems. It used to be that the divorced and alcoholics were the taboos that we never addressed in church other than to condemn. Now it’s things like drug addictions, domestic violence, sex and sexual orientation. We cannot allow someone obviously dressed like a hooker sit in here, even though she is struggling and tired of her profession. We cannot have someone who looks and smells like they have been drinking all night inside the sacred sanctuary, even though he realizes that his life is meaningless and he is looking for a new purpose. And we certainly cannot have anyone who is from the LBGT community in here, even when they are wondering if God could actually love them they way they are now, or even if they just come to see how the congregation would react to them, even hoping they react against them so they can show just how hypocritical the church is. When people come into the sanctuary they should appear to have it all together because it is not neat when people come to the sacred building bringing in all their brokenness. Nope, just can’t have it. It must be neat and tidy.
But then, there’s this guy by the name of Jesus. You know, the one they want to honor by keeping everything neat. The church is called to be the Body of Christ, meaning, to be the presence of Jesus in our time, just as He was the Presence of God when He walked this earth in our human form. This was what church looked like when Jesus was here as a human being. Think about those who came to Jesus back then. Allow me to give you a few images straight from the Bible:
23-25 From there he went all over Galilee. He used synagogues for meeting places and taught people the truth of God. God’s kingdom was his theme—that beginning right now they were under God’s government, a good government! He also healed people of their diseases and of the bad effects of their bad lives. Word got around the entire Roman province of Syria. People brought anybody with an ailment, whether mental, emotional, or physical. Jesus healed them, one and all. More and more people came, the momentum gathering. Besides those from Galilee, crowds came from the “Ten Towns” across the lake, others up from Jerusalem and Judea, still others from across the Jordan. (Matthew 4:23-25 The Message)
29-31 He touched their eyes and said, “Become what you believe.” It happened. They saw. Then Jesus became very stern. “Don’t let a soul know how this happened.” But they were hardly out the door before they started blabbing it to everyone they met. 32-33 Right after that, as the blind men were leaving, a man who had been struck speechless by an evil spirit was brought to Jesus. As soon as Jesus threw the evil tormenting spirit out, the man talked away just as if he’d been talking all his life. The people were up on their feet applauding: “There’s never been anything like this in Israel!” (Matthew 9:29-33 The Message)
After a few days, Jesus returned to Capernaum, and word got around that he was back home. A crowd gathered, jamming the entrance so no one could get in or out. He was teaching the Word. They brought a paraplegic to him, carried by four men. When they weren’t able to get in because of the crowd, they removed part of the roof (Wow! Can you imagine the mess on the floor from the roof debris?) and lowered the paraplegic on his stretcher. Impressed by their bold belief, Jesus said to the paraplegic, “Son, I forgive your sins.” (Mark 2:1-5 The Message)
53-56 They beached the boat at Gennesaret and tied up at the landing. As soon as they got out of the boat, word got around fast. People ran this way and that, bringing their sick on stretchers to where they heard he was. Wherever he went, village or town or country crossroads, they brought their sick to the marketplace and begged him to let them touch the edge of his coat—that’s all. And whoever touched him became well. (Mark 6:53-56 The Message)
16-17 That evening a lot of demon-afflicted people were brought to him. He relieved the inwardly tormented. He cured the bodily ill. He fulfilled Isaiah’s well-known sermon: He took our illnesses, He carried our diseases. (Mark 8:16-17 The Message; by the way, this was on the heels of Jesus healing a leper who came up to Him, healing the servant of an officer in the Roman Army who said he wasn’t good enough for Jesus to come into his home but had enough faith that Jesus could heal his servant with just a word right then and there, and healing Peter’s mother-in-law.)
Look carefully at these passages and get that mental image of what these scenes looked like. Close your eyes and get this image and do not open them until this scene is etched into your mind. OK, now that your eyes are open, think about your church on Sunday morning. Close your eyes again and get this mental picture clear and focused. Now that your eyes are open (and the Holy Spirit certainly hopes they are now open), does the Sunday morning reality of your sanctuary look anything like the sanctuary of Jesus when He was walking our earth in our human form?
If it does, then I want to say this: “Hallelujah! Praise God! I thank God for you every day!” And if it doesn’t, I have nothing to say but I do have a question and I hope this question haunts you in a good kind of way (meaning you will not rest until you find the answer and change the current reality): “Why doesn’t it look like that?”
Remember, Love God with all your heart, Love others the way HE loves you, and make sure ALL the Glory goes to HIM!
Are You A But? Don’t Be A But!
Most of the time, well, practically all the time, the title of this blog is spelled with an extra “t”–“Don’t be a butt!” What we usually mean by this statement (putting it nicely) is “Don’t be so critical!” “Don’t be so ignorant!” “Don’t be so mean!” “Don’t be so judgmental!” “Don’t be so stinky!” Well, that’s not the word I’m using, but the meanings could be applied to my thoughts today. So be forewarned, I could become offensive. And if this post doesn’t offend you, keep reading future posts because I will get around to you in due time.
No, I am thinking about a certain passage that has this left-handed right-side-brain pastor with some more musings about The Kingdom of God. The passage is Luke 9:57-62 and it sounds like this from The Message:
57 On the road someone asked if he could go along. “I’ll go with you, wherever,” he said.
58 Jesus was curt: “Are you ready to rough it? We’re not staying in the best inns, you know.” Jesus said to another, “Follow me.”
59 He said, “Certainly, but first excuse me for a couple of days, please. I have to make arrangements for my father’s funeral.”
60 Jesus refused. “First things first. Your business is life, not death. And life is urgent: Announce God’s kingdom!”
61 Then another said, “I’m ready to follow you, Master, but first excuse me while I get things straightened out at home.”
62 Jesus said, “No procrastination. No backward looks. You can’t put God’s kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day.”
Most of the time we “backwards collar types” (that means preachers for the uninformed) use this passage to talk to those who are “lost” and need to make a decision for Jesus right now. And the Grace Pharisees like to use it in the same way. What? Grace Pharisees? Isn’t that an oxymoron? Sounds like it, but there is a new Pharisee in town, actually in the church, who feel it is their duty to determine who is worthy of Grace. Ain’t that a hoot! Worthy of Grace! They must have fallen out of the stupid tree and hit every branch on the way down. Oops, I may have just offended someone. Oh well, if the shoe fits…
Today, I want to apply this passage to the Churchians and the Tenured Pew Sitters. Only someone who has their head buried in sand cannot see that the Western Church is in serious trouble, which is what inspired me to even start this blog. In all fairness to the Churchians and the Tenured Pew Sitters, I do believe that they want to see this downward spiral (because it has become more than a trend) stop and reversed to significant growth. They sincerely want to see the sanctuary full every Sunday. They want to see every classroom in use and full of Sunday School students of all ages. They want to see more programs and more than enough volunteers to handle a myriad of ministries. They want to see people outside their church oohing and aahing over all that’s happening at their facilities; so much so that they will just rush in to join and be a part of it. BUT…
- But don’t change anything as it is now
- But make it like it was in 1960
- But don’t make me give up what I like
- But don’t ask me to get out of my comfort zone
- But don’t expect me to do it
- But don’t fill this place up with all “those” people
- But don’t expect me to fast and pray
- But make it easy
- But don’t make me give up my sin because it’s not all that bad
- But give us a pastor and staff who can be successful doing it our way
- But, but, but, but….(can you think of other “buts”? Add them to the comments below)
Some may think I’ve gone on out a limb, a very thin and fragile limb, this time. BUT there are those comments by Jesus: “First things first. Your business is life, not death. And life is urgent: Announce God’s kingdom!” And “No procrastination. No backward looks. You can’t put God’s kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day.” Did you find it? God’s Kingdom! You cannot add a “but” to God’s Kingdom. Either He rules completely over your life, your activities and your congregation or He doesn’t rule. In which case, it is no longer God’s Kingdom in your congregation, but YOUR social club.
Do not be a BUT! Jesus is right! (Isn’t He always?) Our business is life and it is urgent! So seize the day! Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure that all the glory goes to Him!
I hope Wally Fry does not mind me borrowing one of his titles, but it fits. I heard the phrase today “We have to get the church from the steeple and into the streets.” The subsequent conversations around it led to this conclusion:
You Are A 5-Star Prospect!
Today is Groundhog Day. But yesterday was an even more important day. Why? Today is Groundhog Day. But yesterday was an even more important day. Why? Today is Groundhog Day. But yesterday was an even more important day. Why? OK, enough reference to Bill Murray and the movie Groundhog Day. But that movie does have something to say to this left-handed, right-brained Kingdom pastor.
Yesterday was a most important day for us in the South. If you are scratching your head wondering what was so important about yesterday, I would suggest you move out of the South and go back to where you came from. Just kidding! It was National Signing Day! For those of you reading this but are unfamiliar with this significant day I will explain it. It is the day when 17 and 18-year-old boys who have been offered the opportunity to go to college for free, cleverly disguised as a Football Scholarship, can publicly announce where they will attend college–to play football of course.
These young athletes have been carefully analyzed by so-called experts and assigned a rating called “stars”. They range from being 1 star players to 5 star players. The goal of every football coach is to get as many 5 star prospects as possible. The belief is that the more 5-Stars that you have, the more likely you are to have a successful football program. Now what does all this have to do with the Kingdom Life? Glad you asked.
Sometimes we, the Church, get caught up in evaluating (that’s a nice way of saying “judging”) people in how much someone has to contribute to success in life. All of these high school players are evaluated based on past performances with the assumption that these past performances will be expressed in the future, which is at a different level. And what I have observed is that some 5-Star athletes turn into 0-Star athletes because their past performances were not enough at the next level.
Case in point from the Bible–Samuel’s trip to look for a replacement king. Samuel is at home of one Jesse because God told Samuel that’s where the replacement king would be found. Consciously or unconsciously, Samuel brought with him a 1-5 Star rating system based on external appearances, similar to the “experts” judging of athletes past performances. Samuel picked a 5-Star at first, but God corrected him. And for Churchians and Tenured Pew Sitters who engage in the same process, I love to quote this passage:
Here’s the Kingdom Truth for anyone today who has ever been rated (that is “judged”) by a set of external criteria: Talent can only get you so far in life–and it is not enough to get you to where you need to be. This is for those “5-Stars” who think they have it all and are great for the company, family and even the Church. Some of those 5-Star football athletes fail not for lack of talent, but for lack of heart, resolve and determination. They never reach their full potential.
And if you are one of those who have been rated a “1-Star or less” there is a Kingdom Truth for you. You are not bound to your past IF you are willing to give your heart to Jesus. Yes, God sees your stained and painful past. He saw it all as His Son was nailed to that cruel Cross. And that was more than enough to cover over, pay the price and wipe away the debt for anyone, everyone, and even you. We call it Grace.
And now back to my opening reference to the movie Groundhog Day. In that movie Murray keeps looping back to the morning of February 2 until he realizes that there is more to life than what he had been doing. He can only move forward to February 3 if he decides to make a difference in the lives of others. And though the movie never says directly that it is about living life for The Kingdom of God, to me at least, the reference is clear.
Groundhog Day, both the date and the movie by this name, remind us that our future cannot be determined by mindless events, or human predictions. There is another future out there for us–a future that is hopeful and truly makes a difference in the lives of other people. And we can become a part of this when we shed the “Stars”, or lack of “Stars” put on us by others, and realize that when God looks at our heart, the very heart that bears HIS Image, and knows what we can become when we give Him control of our whole life.
His presence, through the Holy Spirit, makes all the difference in our future. Oh, you may not make the headlines at ESPN, but you will make the headlines in the hearts and minds of others who finally see Jesus through you. God has something special for you. Do not think to highly of yourself, or too low. He knows you are a 5-Star even when the world has written you off.