Fri, Aug 31st - 9:39AM
These are dark days.
From the beginning there has been persecution. But now we see strong Christians discouraged by the battle...with other Christians. If the church can't even show grace to each other, how can we show any to the world?
1 Peter 4:17For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?
Thu, Aug 30th - 1:00AM
Ok, here is another scene. Timothy's name is now Sean.
The church was sweltering. In the back of the sanctuary the deacons had set up two large fans in the front doorway. The fans, of course, were pulling the super hot air into the church. One of them, Jeff Simpson, stood behind the fans with a hose, spraying water on the sidewalk, trying to cool the air. Sean didn’t think it was helping. The air felt heavy and thick. It felt hot as it entered his nose and seemed even hotter when he panted it out of his mouth. A steady stream of sweat ran down his back. His clothes were as wet as if they had just come out of the washer.
He walked to center stage after the first worship song. He had been concerned about interrupting Mike, the worship leader, but he saw a look of relief on Mike’s face. He was suffering in the heat too. And from trying to inspire these overheated people to worship.
"Wow, it gets hot here," Sean said. There was a brief scattering of laughter. The church was half full. A very good crowd for these conditions. Of course they didn’t know until they got here that someone had smashed the air conditioner with a hammer. Every person there was fanning themselves, mostly with today’s bulletins. Except for the ones that had something larger in their Bibles. One of the teens in the front actually had one of those personal mini-fans that run on batteries.
"Mike and Geri worked hard on worship this week, as usual. I’m sorry to cut them short but I think we better do an abbreviated service today before someone passes out with heat prostration. Namely me. I’m not from around here, you know." Again a brief chuckle. "As I’m sure you know by now, our air conditioner has quit. If you promise to think worshipful thoughts we’ll cut the rest of the singing. I think I can get us out by 11:30."
"Have you ever had a chance to tell someone some really good news? I remember when I got to tell my Mom that Cindy was pregnant. It was news she had been waiting to hear for three years. I made it last as long as I could. I told her about the doctor’s office. About the wait for the results. About how Cindy was feeling. Anything I could think of to make it last. We both enjoyed it tremendously." Sean was smiling, remembering the conversation.
"Telling good news is great! We love to do it. Who wouldn’t want to be the doctor telling loved ones that the patient will be fine? Or telling someone that they won a million dollars? " Sean looked over the congregation. Many of them were smiling at the thought. Whether it was telling someone they were a millionaire, or becoming one themselves, he wasn’t sure.
"In his last instructions to his followers, Jesus said ‘Go and make disciples of all nations’. He wasn’t sentencing them to hard labor. He was giving them permission. Our job is to go and tell good news." Sean turned to start an imaginary conversation. "But sir, you can have hope. You can have peace with God. You can go to Heaven!"
A teen slipped through the side door and dropped into the last row. It was Josh back from the mission Sean had given him. Josh was tall and very thin. His hair was bleached blond on top and dark brown underneath. He was wearing a dark tee shirt and very baggy shorts. His father was somewhere in Washington and his mother partied most nights. Still, he was at the church early this morning, asking if there was anything he could do to help. He gave Sean the OK sign with his fingers.
"Man, it’s hot up here," Sean said, wiping his brow. His hand came away wet. "Josh, bring me one of those, please"
Josh jumped up and hurried around the pew and out the side door. He was back again in an instant and running down the aisle. He handed Sean a bottle and started back to his pew. When he turned he seemed to notice the assembled people and walked more respectfully back.
The bottle was a clear plastic one full of cold water. It was wet from being in ice. Water dripped off of it whenever it was tipped. The heavy humid air made the bottle seem impossibly crystal clear. Sean twisted the white cap and drank deeply. The water made a little spot of coolness as it went down his throat. He felt like his mouth could function again. "Man that’s good," he said after he drained the last drop of water. "It would be cruel of me to let you sit there and watch me enjoy that water. Especially if I had more to share." Sean raised his eyes to the back row. "Josh, do we have more?"
Josh jumped up again. He was a little more restrained this time but he wore a huge smile as he walked to the side door. He came back a moment later carrying a large Styrofoam ice chest. Small ice cubes fell from it as he carried it down the aisle. Sean met him at the front of the church. " Who wants some?"
Most of the people were confused and didn’t respond, but Sean gave them water anyway. He passed out bottles as quickly as he could, dripping water on several people as he went. He paused before Carol Simmons with a huge smile and said, "This is fun. Do you want to help?" He knew Carol and he knew she would join in.
"Sure," she said and grabbed water bottles with both hands.
Sean now stopped passing out bottles and started inviting other to join instead. The rest of the water was quickly served by several helping hands.
"Go ahead," he said, noticing that most people were simply holding their water bottles. "Drink up."
He started talking as he made his way back to the stage. "There is a point to all this. Actually two. The first is to show how it feels to spread goodness. The gospel is sweet. It is refreshing. It is cold water for people who are thirsty. And we get to give it away"
"Did anyone get angry at me for offering them cold water? Did anyone say ‘No thanks’? Remember how good it felt to receive? Let’s go out and tell people this good news," Sean said.
The second point is this. I asked Josh to buy us several cases of water this morning and put them on ice. Thank you, Josh." Josh grinned from the back row and waved. "There are people all over this town who are thirsty today. People at the park. People shopping. There is a softball tournament at King Field. How would it be if we stopped this assembly early and went around distributing cold water to thirsty people? Isn’t that just what Jesus told us to do? His last word wasn’t "Assemble". It was "Go".
Tue, Aug 28th - 7:33PM
Thanks for your comments on the scene below. I could still use more. Remember, I'm just trying this idea out. It takes time away from my family and any (other?) ministry I could get into so I need to be sure it is for real. Oh and be reassured, I'm not overconcerned about actually selling anything, the writing just needs to have a purpose.
I am working on another random scene now, its a writing exercise. In the meantime here's something I read. The link is at the bottom. I do find myself agreeing with a lot of the things on this list. But I'm not sure I'm missional, or what it really means. And I'm not sure the missional people do either. If it means pretty frustrated with how things are done at my church, count me in.
1. You talk more about the Kingdom of God than you do your local church.
2. You are more in awe of the radical Jesus than you are the charisma of your pastor/preacher.
3. You feel a greater sense of community in the parking lot than in the pews.
4. You've oftened muttered leaving a 'church service', "there's got to be more to it than this".
5. You've often wondered why the church couldn't meet in the park or Starbucks once in a while.
6. You've cringed at the coldness and indifference of church people when someone shows up at our 'church service' that looks and smells different.
7. You've wondered why Christians only hang-out with Christians when Jesus seemingly never missed an opportunity to party with the riff-raff.
8. You've wondered what God does the other six days of the week.
9. You've had the urge to spill your guts to the next artificial inquiry, "I'm fine, how are you?".
10. You've had the compelling urge to join the preacher at the podium to present an alternative perspective.
11. You've wanted to fall to your knees while everyone stood for another happy-clappy song.
12. You've wanted to close a 'service' by shouting from your pew, "NOW WHAT?"
13. You sometimes find more spiritual depth and authenticity in the lives of those who do not go to church.
Mon, Aug 27th - 11:28PM
Ok, here's some writing practice. A scene that could someday be in a novel. Its not the first chapterreally, just in there. I may have overdone what the pain feels like. I had to guess.
Timothy ran his fingers across his forehead. They came away wet. He still wasn’t used to all these sets of eyes focused on him. Despite preaching in shirtsleeves, he still felt occasional drops of sweat run down the length of his back. He knew that his hair must be beginning to look a little stringy around his collar. And he hadn’t even gotten to the part he was nervous about yet. In the small choir room on the side of the stage Ashlee Burroughs was pacing in her white lab coat, ready to come on.
"Since we love God for all of these reasons," he continued, relieved to be making his conclusion, "Then we want what He wants. The Lord’s Prayer tells us to start with ‘Thy kingdom come, they will be done’. We should want to help Him achieve what He wants in this world. Doing whatever we can to bring about God’s kingdom. That is what I mean by service. And this service needs to be not to people, not to the church, but to God.
"If you get into service to please people you will be disappointed. If you do it for your church you’ll be disappointed. Oh, we’ll appreciate you," Timothy said with a smile, "But you will end up disappointed. But if your reason for serving is because you love God, you will be blessed." Timothy looked to his left. His last sentence was Ashlee’s cue to come onstage next to him but she wasn’t moving. Instead she was standing perfectly still, staring at him. Timothy made eye contact with her and nodded. Ashlee hesitated, then started forward. She kept her head down as she walked, staring at the thin brown carpet. Her long brown hair fell alongside her head serving as blinders so she couldn’t see the people.
"In Israel, you could choose to stay a servant. If your term was up and you were about to be freed, you could choose to stay. If you loved your master, you could say, "No, I want to stay. I want to be his slave.’" Timothy said. Ashlee was standing at his side, looking at his feet. The congregation was watching her intently. Timothy nodded again to get her moving. "OK, Ash," he whispered.
Ashlee was a little overdressed for this congregation. She usually was. Over her purple dress she wore a white lab coat, the one she wore at the jewelry store where she worked. She hesitated again, then reached into her pocket. Timothy continued, "You could choose to be a slave. To serve the master that you loved." He was repeating the point, trying to find where he left off. That was all right since the congregation was distracted too. "If you chose to do that, they would take you to the front door and put your ear against the doorpost." He gestured with his hand near his ear to indicate the post.
Ashlee picked a cotton ball out of the plastic bag in her hand. Her pale blue eyes were huge. With a shaking hand she dabbed at his left ear lobe. It felt instantly cold. The smell of alcohol rushed to him. It cleared his sinuses. Ashlee put the plastic bag back in her pocket and pulled out a large tool. She held it to his head like a gun and adjusted it around his ear.
"Then they would take an awl and punch a hole in your ear." He paused but didn’t look at Ashlee. His heart was beating pretty fast. Ashlee pulled the handle and pierced his ear. "OW," he yelped. It hurt. Almost instantly he developed a band of pain around his head, probably more from his nerves over this moment than from his ear. Although he couldn’t see it, a small silver post filled the hole in his ear. A single drop of blood collected at the base of the lobe. His eyes began to water enough that he couldn’t read his notes. He abandoned the script and spoke from his heart.
Finally he was speaking without worrying about how he would be received. "Our Saviour was pierced too. Spikes through his hands and feet. Thorns through his brow. And finally, a spear in his side. And he did it for us. A pierced ear is a small thing in return. And so is doing some service." The tears were still flowing and they weren’t from the throbbing pain in his ear. "My Master is worth it."
Thu, Aug 23rd - 7:11PM
Wed, Aug 22nd - 10:48PM
I didn't mean to be dramatically absent.
As mentioned to the right, I started this blog because I taught often enough to give me things to share. I am no longer teaching anywhere for the rest of this year so I no longer work out lessons on my blog. Also, its been kinda busy. We moved Billy and Jonie on Saturday out of their rental so they would be ready to move to Orange Ca, in a couple weeks. We spent the next day exhausted. I just spent a few hours with someone making a career decision. So, we're still involved, just not formally.
We are starting the phase of church life where we are no longer involved in anything. My daughter C'Anne has taught, with a very little help from me, a college Sunday school on theology. That class ended last week. Billy and Jonie are leading worship one last time this Sunday. On Labor day we are taking C'Anne down to college, and maybe Jonie down too. So we "lose" all our kids but Joel in one weekend. That will be tough. Joel is starting school here and a new job so the computer will be more available to me now.
Things in church aren't any better, but not worse. We will probably skip a little more often in the next few months and might even try anyother church or two. The main thing is I want to leave TORWARD another church not just AWAY from our old one. Although I keep writing about it, I really am not thinking so much about leaving (or not leaving). I believe God will make it clear when its time. For one thing, I don't know of another church that is very tempting. This is a fairly small community and selection is limited.
I am thinking about trying to write. I used to write short stories years ago with a tiny amount of success. I have been away from the computer looking into the wriring business. It doesn't look very promising. They publish less books every year and the market is pretty closed. I would have major difficulty selling devotions or commentary since I have no degree and am not a pastor. It would be hard to get anyone's atttention. I am thinking about a novel and am reading a lot of what fiction is out there to see what it is like. I am almost ready to try some of the fiction out on you guys.
The lead character would be an unorthodox pastor and I'm almost ready to write some scenes of him trying some of his unique lessons. There needs to be a real plot, with his teaching just being background, but its where I want to start.
I'm just fine guys. Thanks for thinking of me. I'm praying for you too.
Oh yeah. Here is half of a song by Kendall Payne. The rest is girl stuff about being a big girl and liking a dress so its not really me, but this part is a lot where I'm at.
Scratch - Kendall Payne
I used to think I was special
And only I have proved me wrong
I thought I could change the world with a song
But I have ended up in India
With no map to guide me home
The strangest place I think I've ever been
And all this time I thought that we were friends
But my stubborn will is learning to bend
I'd like to know if you'd be open to starting over from scratch
I'd like to know if you'd be open to giving me a second chance
Fri, Aug 17th - 9:58AM
I really wasn't (conciously) posting about leaving my church (again) in the last post. I had a point that I was preparing for a lesson (since cancelled) on 3 John. The idea is that each church is meant to be a station in the battle with Satan and that each one should be more interested in bringing in God's Kingdom then in its own comforts. I wasn't thinking of my church as one Satan scoffed at. Its not that bad. Its more a personal question of if I have purpose there.
But the post, and friends comments did bring out point in one of Mel's mysteries. He commented about Paul receiving advice both to go and to stay from Christians. How could the Holy Spirit inspire both?
I know ML is lead by the Spirit when she advices leaving. I think it is important to me to know that it would be appropriate for me to go. To look for somewhere else to fellowship. That is good advice. But it is also true from Mel and Teri that I should stay and try to improve some of the areas that need help. It would be really hard for me to do that out of duty or guilt, so ML's freedom to go is equally important. Contrary advice, both really helpful.
And finally, as Teri said, I do feel like I'll know when I need to know. Which is why I didn't post about the decision (again). It came out by accident.
Thu, Aug 16th - 7:15PM
The purpose of life here on Earth is to bring people to God. The purpose of the church, the body of believers, is to bring people to God through our unity with each other. This is leading me to the conclusion, possibly out of bitterness, that if a church is unable to show any unity, it should fold up. If it is countering other churches, who are giving glory to God with their supernatural ability to love each other, then it should split up and all the people start over in churches where they are more able to become a family.
God has created this universe to show people His glory. To draw them to Him. Where they will be eternally happy. He has created a unit that is supposed to help Him accomplish this purpose; It is the church. He has called each body together and given each of them a gift to be used within each church. These churches serve as His tools to accomplish His purpose.
Then, is a church primarily an offensive weapon or a defensive weapon in this battle? Is it primarily meant to be a place where Christians can come to feel safe, like a fort? A place where people are taught how to be happy, how to grow, to heal their wounds? Or is it an offensive weapon that send out people equipped for battle? (Pardon the militaristic wording; these people go out as servants, armed with love and unity, but it is a battle.) Should a church’s main purpose be to send out "soldiers" to reach people in love?
Imagine a demon on your church rooftop. He is sitting there on a Sunday during the service. When the doors open at the end of the service, does he tremble? Is he afraid of the inspired group of Christians coming into the neighborhood on fire and armed with knowledge of God’s Word. Or does he chuckle ate the small cliques of people exiting complaining bout the music or how long the sermon went?
And if he is chuckling, what are you supposed to do about it? Are you supposed to leave, or try to improve your church from within?
Fri, Aug 10th - 11:00PM
In 1845 an expedition of the British navy set our to find a passage to the Pacific Ocean by sailing between Canada and the North Polar cap. The two ships were defeated by scurvy, lead poisoning, and an especially cold summer that never melted off the winter snow. Ultimately their ships were stranded on a frozen island and were crushed by the advancing ice.
The surviving sailors set out on foot through the snow. Amazingly they loaded one of the ship's smaller boats with supplies and dragged it behind them as they trudged through the snow. Loaded into this boat was included such items as silk handkerchiefs perfumed soap, books, button polishers, tea and chocolate. It is a powerful image to imagine; freezing, sick, hungry men towing a boat through the snowdrifts, laden with victorian luxury items. None of the men survived. In fact, it has taken over one hundred years to even put together a theory of how they died.
I have much the same image of us sometimes, dragging along the things of this world through life. We drag our desire for material things around with us, even though the demand for luxury takes time and energy that could be used in so many better ways. We work overtime to have that better car. We pass on a more satisfying job so we can buy the larger house. We spend less times with our family so we can earn that promotion.
But we also drag a boatload of spiritual baggage through the snow. We remember past offences. We carry anger and hate. We even hold guilt for things that have long been forgiven. Moving through this life is not easy already. The snow gets deep with today's challenges. We should lighten our loads of unnecessary emotions and desires and concentrate on God's love and how to experience and show it.
Hebrews 12:1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Wed, Aug 8th - 6:05PM
AFTER MY ALL
Sarah took off again
Second time this week
She calls with "Help me man"
And I'm runnin' to her
And after she comes down
Somewhere around 3am
You'd find me on my kness
Looking for some strength again
After my all has been run through
I'll give what's left of me to You
Knowing in time I'll be renewed
And walking again
John's room is 314
Means dad's in ICU
He'll be there three more days
So I'll be there too
And after he is gone
Gun shot to solve it all
I see my efforts fail
And I hit the wall again
After my all has been run through
I'll give what's left of me to You
Knowing in time I'll be renewed
And walking again
Teach me to know that I need You
Simply because, Lord I need You
Not cause I'm tired of what I do
So before my all has been run through
I'll give the whole of me to You
Wait for Your will in all I do
And walk in Your strength
Tue, Aug 7th - 9:31AM
Those of you who have been stopping by here for a while might know about Billy, my unofficially adopted daughter’s husband. He’s much more than that. In fact, he is pretty much my unofficially adopted son, except that he has perfectly functional parents already. We were trying to get him hired here as a youth leader.
In all the stuff that has happened in the last few years, our not being able to hire him has been the most discouraging. Since our failure he has been looking for another job in youth ministry or college age. Today Jonie came in to tell me that he has been offered a job in Orange Ca. It is a college/worship leader job, which sounds perfect for him. It’s near LA so Jonie can try singing. It is also close enough that my daughter can probably attend his college group. And its close enough that we can still keep in touch.
The lesson, if you are not as tired of them as I am, is that things work out. All through the hard discouraging times it felt like God was just not paying attention. Now, the moment we heard about this job and how perfect it fits, we said "Oh, of course."
Please praise God with us for his faithfulness and pray that this job closes, if it is His will.
Sun, Aug 5th - 7:21PM
God instituted two sacraments for His church. One is baptism.
What does baptism symbolize?
It means rebirth, washing of sins, our old selves being buried. But more than that it means being introduced into a new way of life.
How would witnesses of a baptism respond?
If they were believers, and were also baptized they should welcome the new member and incorporate him into a new life in Christ. Just watching and being pleased isn’t enough. They should actively try to help the new brother in this new way.
Baptism is introduced in the New Testament with John the Baptist
Mark 1:4And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 6John wore clothing made of camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7And this was his message: "After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."
John’s baptism was about repentance. Those he baptized were saying that they would try to be different. To sin less. John says this is good, but being baptized with the Holy Spirit would be better. That baptism would mean that you would be changed from the inside, with God’s help.
Galatians 3:27-28 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus
1 Cor 12: 12 The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. 13For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
Eph 4: 3Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
John 17: 21that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
These verses are examples of the idea. The members of a church may have nothing in common. They could include Jews and the people they normally called dogs, gentiles. They could include slave and people who owned slaves. One thing would bind them together, baptism And that unity is a message to the world of God’s love.
Matt 28: 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
This is why, in the Great Commission, Jesus says to get them saved, and baptized. The baptism would unite them, and the unity would draw the world to that message.
Another sacrament, communion, works the same way. Baptism brings a believer into the family. Communion maintains that family bond. This group of believers is brought together through baptism. Human nature being what it is, they begin to drift apart. Then there is communion to bring them back together. Through Jesus death they now have the only things that they have in common. They now have salvation, the Holy Spirit, eternity and purpose in common.
1 Cor 11: 23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." 25In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." 26For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
27Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. 29For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. 31But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. 32When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.
33So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for each other.
This communion was never meant to be a tiny piece of dry cracker and a few drops of juice. Paul calls it a meal. We all use meals together to build bonds. Each time they get annoyed with each other because of hair length, they share the meal of communion to remind them of what they have in common. Each time there was a difference about music styles, they would share a meal. Each time a rumor started they ate together.
1 Cor 10: 16 Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? 17Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.
The point of baptism and communion is unity. They are each about something different, namely rebirth and Jesus death, but the goal of each is unity. Because unity is the point of the church. That unity is supposed to so impressive that unbelievers who see it will be drawn to it.
Thu, Aug 2nd - 8:28PM
Just a couple of observations about my recent "revelations".
I continue to come across things that remind me to take things as they come and not worry too much about where they are headed. One of my biggest concerns in the past was that I would not get any teaching opportunities once I was out of leadership/college/youth. The new schedule came out for the next four months and I was only sheduled once. This feels particularly small because I was used to teaching two or three times a week six months ago.
I started to stress a little about the lack of opportunities and what it means but I caught myself, seeing that it was practically the definition of worrying about where I was headed. I had one more lesson to teach and decided to work on that. Just focus on the present. Within the day I had three more lessons scheduled in the next two weeks and was feeling pushed to have enough time for them.
I still think that there will come some long spells between teaching, but I think I will be more able to accept them as they come.
The other item was being reminded that God still loved me. That I didn't need to feel bad about how I had served Him in the last few years. In fact, He said He was proud of Me! (No ego here really, I am sure He is proud of you too!)
This revelation has really helped my attitude. Like Lee has said, the bad feelings didn't just stay away forever. I still get angry sometimes about the politics of my church but not so often and not so deeply. I use God's acceptance as a tool to pull myself out of the bad moods.
On the whole, I'm really interested to see where we're headed next.
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