Friday, May 25, 2007

The Holy Roller Coaster Ride

Today they are up. Tomorrow they might be down. Christians are often poor followers of the way of Jesus. We are irradically emotionally driven and we don't do well at pursuing in times of trouble. Mostly this is because of the kind of faith we practice. We long for experiences. At first, those spiritual ones are amazing- the exhileration of salvation, the intimacy of prayer, the power of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. But eventually, the new found exhileration wears off. Many believers bounce back to the world to satisfy their "experience jones". They fall away from the Lord and pursue other expereinces. It is unbalanced, irrational, and unhealthy.

"Spiritual breathing, like physical breathing," said Dr. Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, "is a process of exhaling the impure and inhaling the pure, an exercise in faith that enables you to experience God's love and forgiveness and walk in the Spirit as a way of life."

"But the average Christian does not understand this concept of spiritual breathing as an exercise of faith and, as a result, lives on a spiritual roller coaster. He/she goes from one emotional experience to another living most of his life as a worldly Christian, controlling his/her own life--frustrated and fruitless."

Perhaps that is why so many chase after the latest guru. Looking for an experience that doesn't require much diligence. here is the bad news. The longer you walk with the Lord, the novelty of the spiritual experiences wears off. Not that I don't, after almost 3 decades, enjoy the times of intimacy , refreshing, spiritual infilling that I receive... but the trouble spots in my life (and many others!) are involved with areas of of active obedience. When I live for Christ- I put away my hunger for "highs" and "mountain top experiences" and concentrate on obedience and pleasing God. The funny thing is that when we please God and when we are obedient is when we have the best experiences with God!

So if your on a holy Roller Coaster Ride- get off. Live for Christ in the daily decisions of what you will think on, managing your life's mission of bearing testimony to Jesus, and loving others noticably. As you step out in those areas you will be surprised at the exciting presence of God you will feel in your every prayerful step.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Facing forward

I am looking forward. No longer facing back
I am looking for the future, never straddling the crack
I embrace my destiny, given by my King
I bow before his will for me, and yeild in everything

The past is long behind me, and the future is my brace
He watches over his word to perform it- I seek his holy face
I see the blind spots healing, clarity secures, a brighter future than I had imagined
steady and secure

And when I have my moments, laced with doubt and fear
I ignore the cries of the judgers, the pessimists and snears
I lift my ear to the savior who speaks my future bright
And pray that God will give me strength to walk by his bright light.

Losing out with God

No one should ever think that we are any of us more than one or two stupid decisions away from total spiritual destruction. I have watched people come to Christ and give their lives to service of others and loving both God and men. They have found meaning and purpose in Christ, wholeness for themselves, their marriages and their families, and a destiny that is causes favor from both men and God. And then there are those that lose out with God.

Scripture says that there are a lot of reasons for this losing out. Primarily pride and selfishness are to blame. The losers (as I shall affectionately call them) seek to please themselves (their god is their stomach! Phil 3.19), they take pride in their debase living (their glory is their shame!), and their end is destruction. It is not always easy to watch someone make destruction of a life once blessed by God, by it is always a learning process. I learn every time I see a loser commit spiritual suicide. Failure to humble themselves, failure to admit thier own failures, failure to submit to the authorities in their life, failure to forgive, failure to be obedient to what God says in his Word, etc. Brick by brick they build their bungalow of isolation. Sometimes thinking they are smarter than everyone, or more slick, or getting over.

I knew a man who walked with God once, but he gave it up to chase a fantasy. It melted in his hand as he grasped it. It was such and illusion and left him dis heartened and disappointed so that he dispared of life itself. Once he thought he was the king of the world, he lived in moral purity and knew the feeling of the smile of God on his life. Today he can no longer say that. He has lost out with God.

The Psalmist had a name for these people in Psalm 14.1 (The fool has said in his heart their is no God). Fools. The fool is the person who fails to submit to the morality of God in his life. It is not that the fool doesn't believe in God, rather that he shall live as though there is none, as if he woudl not be held accountable. This includes, sadly enough, many who are in the church but are practical athiests. Living like they are exempted from the moral law of God. God calls them fools.

Losers and fools. We learn from their mistakes. No one should ever gloat over the loser or fool. But we can stand back, horror stricken, and watch God visit the destruction on the fruitless works of disobedience. As it happens, we learn from their mistakes. Stay humble, be gracious, live free from impure thoughts, develop a prayer life, and look to the Lord for help every day and night. If we do it right, others can learn from our words as well as our lifestyle. If not others can learn by the pathetic object lesson of our foolish, loser life.

Friday, May 18, 2007

According to your Faith

Remember the parable of the talents (Matthew 25.14-30)? One of the most bothersome passages of scripture is verse 24. The man who received the smallest amount of money was afraid to invest it. Actually, the accusation by the master is that he is "wicked and lazy" Hmmm. But the one talent man says that "I knew you were a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed..." In the judgment that follows we see the Master react in a way that confirms his fears! God brings judgment on the one who received but didn't invest, didn't risk, based upon his faith (or lack of faith).

He judges harshly as the ".. hard man" that he was believed to be. I am wondering if this doesn't apply to those of us who demand holiness and near perfection in following the Lord. If we preach a stricter vision of God, do we condemn ourselves? Isn't it interesting the the Pharisees never lived up to the spirit of the law that they were so inclined to preach! They found ways to violate the law without breaking the letter of the law. This attempt at self justification and the condemnation of others is self defeating since we can't live up to the perfection we demand of others.

While God demands obedience from his kids, his demand is both within our power and a response of love to him and his ways. E.M.Bounds writes "Far be it from our heavenly Father, to demand impossibilities of his children. It is possible to please him in all things, for he is not hard to please. He is neither a hard master, nor an austere lord,... Thank God it is possible for every child of God to please his heavenly Father! It is really much easier to please him than men." Wow! God is easier to please than men?!

So why do we heap upon others the judgment of a 'hard master'. Don't we really set ourselves up to reaping the judgment of God in the long run? And why not live to please him- and let the rest sort it out on their own?

Monday, May 14, 2007

Hurt by Johnny Cash

I hurt myself today,
to see if i still feel,
I focus on the pain,
the only thing thats real,

The needle tears a hole,
the old familiar sting,
try to kill it all away,
but I remember everything,

what have I become,
my sweetest friend,
everyone i know,
goes away in the end,

and you could have it all,
my empire of dirt,
I will let you down,
I will make you hurt,

I wear this crown of thorns,
upon my liars chair,
full of broken thoughts,
I cannot repair,

beneath the stains of time,
the feelings disappear,
you are someone else,
I am still right here,

What have I become,
my sweetest friend,
everyone I know,
goes away in the end,

and you could have it all,
my empire of dirt,
I will let you down,
I will make you hurt,

if I could start again,
a million miles away,
I will keep myself,
I would find a way.

I am thankful for the fresh start we have in Christ.To see the video go to

Friday, May 04, 2007

Importance of Impartation

2 Tim 1:6-7 into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

This verse clearly implies that there is an impartation that takes place when the laying on of hands occurs in Biblical fashion. I know all the reasons why we in charismatic and pentecostal circles are reluctant to admit this. We fear that we will create some form of personality cult or that there is the danger of men and women thinking that we are the dispensers of power rather than vessels the Lord choses to work through. But clearly there is more at stake here than a simple ordination service. There is the expectation that Timothy was different after Paul laid his hands upon him and dispensed the gift of God...

If there was no such thing as impartation it would sure take the heat off of would demand less of us because we wouldn't need to be as "holy" for God to work through us. But the reality is there is no evidence that God moves through purposefully impure vessels. I can't even find an OT sacrifice to cover willful sins! When we sin willfully we are completely without resource and recourse except to throw ourselves on the mercy of God. Certainly, I recognize that my heart is a dark and scary place. I see the hidden sins lurking in the recesses of my mind. I witness the abandonment with which I occassionally chase after sin. Only to be disappointed and shamed and to return to God with a new lesson in humility. But God choses to work through some people. I am not speaking of oratorical skills or administrative gifts... I am speaking of purity of heart.

I tire of the excuses for our impurity, for our lack of the miraculous, for the lukewarm spirit. The Lord is looking for persons who have the full package. Knowledge, zeal, humility, and purity of spirit. As our hearts become more fully engaged in the things of this Kingdom, we will see greater and greater moves of God.

Ps 19:12-14
Forgive my hidden faults.
13 Keep your servant also from willful sins;
may they not rule over me.
Then will I be blameless,
innocent of great transgression.

14 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Lazy Servants? or Worker bees

1 Thess 1:2-3
2 We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. 3 We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

People need to work. It fulfills them. Even before the fall Adam had to work in the garden. Work is a good thing. I know that might be a tough sell to some who are hoping the government will pick up the tab for all their bills but it is true.

All of these three thanksgivings of Paul for the Thessalonican church were for their works. This great proponent of faith recognizes that faith, hope and love all demonstrate themselves in this world by work. From the sounds of it, it was hard work. It required endurance that prompted others to awe. This is what the church needs these days. Laborers that labor. Where are the men and women who are willing to do the work?

Connecting with people is difficult and exhausting. But caring is what we are called to do. When will we get beyond the sense of self aggrandizement or granting immunity to our fleshly laziness and strap on the work of Christ. If we will partner in this great work we will find his reward the most fulfilling thing we have ever experienced. As I continue in the ministry I grow more and more weary of the things that we do to busy ourselves. Instead I look for interaction with individuals that are missing out on connections with my savior. This is our work. Let us labor together.

John 4:34-38
34 "My food," said Jesus, "is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Do you not say, 'Four months more and then the harvest'? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37 Thus the saying 'One sows and another reaps' is true. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor."

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Staff Changes, Rumors, and cleaning house

Okay,I've heard the rumors and speculation about the recent turnovers on our staff. I can say that, although they are creative-, they are not true! It is difficult to be a parishioner- a committed member of a church- and trust that the Pastor and Elders are making intelligent, godly, spiritually informed decisions.But these decisions are generally made behind closed doors. So maybe these decisions should be made out in the public?

Before I reveal the dirty details, Let's look at the reasons why church staffing issues are handled the way they are. Unlike your job, the minister's life is a very public one. The mere fact of that publicity is a great hardship on the healthiest of families. Moreover, the minister has to do more than his job. He is invited into our fellowship and family based upon his commitment to faithful service to God's people (the church) and moral integrity in leadership. Jesus warned us in John 10 against using hirelings for shepherds. There simply is more to ministry than "doing the job". When you are doing YOUR job you are rewarded. In ministry doing the job is not even the base level of commitment. It falls short of the ideal. Spiritual impact demands a quality of live that is deep. The depth of your personal spiritual commitment and experience is the limitation on spiritual leadership.

When there is an issue of integrity, or a shift in vision, a marital problem, or a moral failure, or even a disconnect with people it must be addressed. Even ministers are human and may resist correction or go into a moral tailspin. I have always done everything I could to redeem a situation. Going public with details is not usually the best option to insure repentance nor to guard the feelings and reputations of the innocent. While I am sure you would like to read the juicy details of every disciplinary measure or staff decision, would you want everyone in the church to know what your specific issues are? And would you expect that clamor for details for you specific issues to benefit your family? Your friends? Your marriage? It is safe to say that you probably wouldn't want your dirt shown in public.

Recent staff changes have involved personal decisions on the part of staff members who chose to resign. While I would not ever knowingly deceive the congregation, it has become apparent to me because of recent revelations that statements made by those individuals from the pulpit were not entirely accurate. I apologize for any misleading information that was delivered - but in an effort to save face and/or, cover sin or other failure those individuals gave partial truths. In my estimation that is the same as a deception.

So where do we go from this point? First, there needs to be prayer for the process of searching for men and women of God who will fill those positions. I am thrilled with the addition of Pastor Mike Pawletki to our staff to cover one of those positions. Please pray for him as he steps in to lift the load of the Sr. Pastor. Stephanie Bade will be a great interim children's pastor for us this summer. Please pray for her as well as she attempts to give oversight to this area of church ministry. Also pray for the faithful workers in the children's ministry. Second, recognize that our theme this year is "Following Faithful". I will endeavor to insure that every member of the staff of this church is a) a faithful follower of Christ and b) worthy of being an example worthy of following. I pledge myself to you as the body of Christ to live my life in such a way so as not to embarrass myself, my wife and family, or my LORD and his church. Finally, trust the spiritual leadership of this church. These are men and women who are people of integrity. While none of us is perfect, you would be proud of their faithfulness to scripture and God- even in difficult times. If you cannot trust the leadership of this church then you will have to find a church whose leadership you can trust. I think that my track record of ministry will reveal a record of faithfulness to God and his church.

My hope is that as we move forward from this we will learn the lesson that none of us is immune from sinful pride and error. God is a god of forgiveness but that does not excuse leadership that is without integrity. If we insist upon it in all of our hearts we can be sure that we get it from our leaders. We must not dumb down the calling of pastoral ministry... rather, we must raise the standard for both ourselves and our leaders. If we do that-the church will experience a glorious future visitation of his Holy Spirit. And revival will come- at last.