Thursday, December 13, 2007

Sitting in Long Beach

Today I'm in my home town, Long Beach, Ca. It is a beautiful day, sunny, warm and pleasant. I'm sitting in a circle with world class leaders regarding making strong disciples so the church will in turn be strong. The world needs to be change by Jesus that will happen through people coming to Him and those folks becoming strong disciples who in turn develop strong disciples (2 Tim. 2:2). These next two days will be very powerful and I'll fill you in on all I can. Pray for us to have wisdom, unity and power for Jesus' fame.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Sitting in Munich

Well, I'm on my way home. I'm sitting at a airport restaurant in Munich, Germany. It is a very large and sterile airport but smartly decorated. It is not very busy. It is 1:31 am in Phoenix and 9:31am in Munich. My next flight is to Dulles, Washington Airport. That flight will be about 9.5 hours and then a 'short' 5.5 hour flight to Phoenix. I cannot wait to be home. After teaching on the second day, we have a very holy time with about 40 of the conference folks interested in organic church. The discussion was lively, holy and the whole group was in a learning posture. I was simply exhausted but was excited at what God was doing. I believe there will be a large church planting movement here in Ukraine in the future. The leaders here are ripe for something more meaningful than what they have been experiencing. They also want to see multiplication so their country will come to Jesus. That night, I could not sleep. I went to bed about 10:30pm and I don't think I got to sleep until 2:00am. I was up at 6:30pm and prepared for another long day of teaching, talking, learning and mentoring. After we were finished, we traveled back to Kiev to stay at Timmy and Kenyon Powers' home. I have not seen anything in Ukraine except the road from the airport to the conference center and back to Kiev - all at night! So that evening, we took the metro into the center of town and what an experience that was. First off, it was COLD, about -3 c. We got on the metro it quickly filled up. We were like Sardines in the car. The public display of affection was....obscene at times. Once we got of the metro, we had a long walk underground. Lined along the tunnel of many many people walking somewhere, were small vendors. Everything from fish to light bulbs to clothes to CD's to produce was available. Amazing! We were going to eat at a local restaurant, but it was closed and we settled for TGIF's. I was disappointed. As we were going back to the Power's home, I was handed a ticket asking me to get a bride and take her back to America. Ah, I declined (Debbie I love only you!). That night, again, I could not sleep but for about 3 hours. Maybe I'll catch some sleep on the plane, maybe not...I'll be sleeping most of the weekend. I'll write more upon my return and sleep at home!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Well we are back in Kiev. The last three days have been full of teaching, talking, eating, talking, teaching, learning and making lots and lots of new and fantastic friends. We had about 125 people at the conference to learn about Organic Church Planting Principles. These people are amazing. They love Jesus, they have endured much persecution and they want to win their country to Jesus. There are so many stories that it is hard to decide which ones to include. Let's start with the food... Ok, many of you may know that I have lost about 20 pounds the past few months by being on a low carb, high protein diet. You can through it out the window in the Ukraine! Lots and lots and loads of carbs is what you get to enjoy. Potato's in everything, noodles galore and bread, bread, bread everywhere. You'll notice I didn't mention much about meat, but we did have some sausage, fish and chicken. I didn't see one cow or beef while I was here! This morning I had a weird type of porridge. It was warm sweet milk and spaghetti noodles. It was not to bad, but it was weird. This evening, I had my first serving of borscht (sp). What better place to enjoy it than where is has its roots. It was very good. Deb, get a recipe! My translator for the week was a man named Maxim. Maxim is 29 years old and looks a lot like Tim Sprankle. He is a tremendous man who loves Jesus with all his heart. He took of the whole week to drive us around and translate for the conference. Our hearts became bonded together as worked together. His heart is pure and passion is on fire for Christ's Kingdom. Please pray for Maxim and his wife, Lana to continue to be used by the Lord here in Kiev. In part of my teaching, I use Rachel as an example of how anyone can pray for their neighborhood to come to Jesus. I share about her handicap and how we take walks and she prays for our neighbors. I then had two men come up to me and share that they had handicapped children and they felt a bond with me. It really moved me. We prayed and encouraged each other. We had folks at the conference from Russia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and of course, Ukraine. So the influence of ValleyLife Church and CMA continues to grow and go through out the world. It was the best Greenhouse Conference that I have ever taught. Sleep and Stamina...I'm exhausted. It is 10:22pm and I have to get up at 4:00am to get to the airport. I will write more about our trip this evening into town, it was fun.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Continuing to the Ukraine

I only have a few minutes before leaving for the conference center where I will teaching Organic Church Planting Principles. I left off last time in the Frankfurt airport. As we were being shuttled to the loading area to board the plane, I noticed that as we passed by the wing of the aircraft that there was jet fuel pouring out of the wing - not a good sign. After sitting in the bus with 50 people about 100 feet away from a very flammable situation - the fire department came and began to clean up. We were taken back to the terminal and about an hour later, we were allowed to board the plant once again. They assured us all was well, but you know that unfounded fears find their way into our minds. Anyway, I landed safely in Kiev, Ukraine. Passport control had long lines and about 45 minutes later, I was standing at the window where this young man asked me a series of questions and allowed me to pass. I found my very large suitcase full of warm clothes and headed out to a sea of people with placards everywhere. My name was not where to be found, but my host had met me last January and has a photographic mind. We took off for our place to stay. It took abotu 1.5 hours to travel about 15 miles or so. The traffic was worse that Los Angeles on a bad day. Amazing. Kiev has grown from 1 million people to 5 million people in the past 10 years. They are building 20 story condo's everywhere. The older condo units built under communism are so bleak, standard and blah and run down. I did not see much of the city, it gets dark about 4:30pm and sun up was at 6am. We ate some good food, good conversation and then off to bed. I actually got about 8-9 hours sleep and off I go. I will not be able to write until maybe Thursday night or not until I return. Thanks for praying for me.

Flying to the Ukraine

Sunday, Monday – November 25-26 The sun is rising! It is 7:45am here in Germany and I just ate a Hamburger Royal (that’s German for a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder – no cheese but lots of mayo). I also ordered a diet Coke (Coke light in Germany) and received a regular Coke, oh well. It is about 37 degrees outside and the wind is blowing pretty well. So far my travel has been excellent. I upgraded my seats from Phoenix to Chicago and from Chicago to Frankfurt to get aisle seats and more legroom. It was a good choice for $125.00. I was not sure I would make my flight to Frankfurt because I only had 35 minutes between flights and Chicago’s O’Hare airport is very busy. Thankfully, the flight was delayed about 90 minutes so I made it on the plane just fine – I hope my luggage did too ☺ I spent the flight from Phoenix to Chicago doing some last minute prepping for the week of teaching. The flight from Chicago to Frankfurt was about 7:45 minutes long so after settling into my seat and reading 1 Timothy 1-4, dinner was served. After eating some sort of beef and a salad, I took out my contacts and put on my glasses. I tried watching the movie, Transformers, but I lost interest and decided to put in some earplugs and eyeshades and dozed off and on for about 4 ½ hours. Amazing what 2 benadryl tablets will do to you. After deplaning in Frankfurt, I found my way to the Lufthansa ticket/transfer area to get my boarding pass to Kiev. As I walked through the airport in Frankfurt, I noticed that people seemed to be very subdued. Maybe it was the early hour of the day or was it the culture? I will not be here long enough to find out. It was very different than airport life in the USA. I’m very thankful that much of the world speaks English. I wish I spoke more languages than one and a paltry amount of Spanish. I did use my weak Spanish however. In Chicago, a Spanish speaking man needed to find gate 69a and I was able to help him – amazing how little Spanish I know but yet able to help someone. I’m grateful for that man’s graciousness as I hacked up his language. I’m going to go find my gate here in Frankfurt and get ready to meet the Ukraine. I’m excited, numb and missing home already. I hate traveling alone, but Jesus is with me. Here is a section from 1 Timothy 4 that spoke to my heart this morning, may God use it to speak to yours… “Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.” 1 Timothy 4:15-16

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Leading and Following: The Art of Humility

I have been fly fishing for about 20 years now. I love the smell of the outdoors, the sound of a river carving its way through the wilderness. I love the challenge of finding fish who are interested in feasting and the work that is required to get up early, drive a good distance, put on the flyfishing uniform and then hike until your thighs ache. It is so worth it...especially when the fish bite and pole bends and the fight begins. Last week I went fishing with a newer friend who just happens to have been a fly fishing guide. In my 20 years of fly-fishing, I have only hired a guide one time - and then my friend actually hired him (thanks nameless friend). Having a guide is outstanding. It actually brings the river and experience to an even brighter level. I mean the guide knows the waters of that stream or river. They have logged hundreds if not thousands of hours on that river. They know the season, where the fish are, what the fish are looking to eat at that time of the year, month and even hour. They know the best techniques to be used on the river. Guides are overflowing with advice to help you improve your cast, to help you learn what you are looking for and to be an encourager when you do things well. Having a guide makes fly-fishing fantastic. Last week, my new friend the fly-fishing guide, reminded me of the qualities of a good leader. I mean this guy was confident about fly-fishing. He knew what he was doing and like I said, he really was free to give out the advice needed to help me improve. His confidence began to rub off on me and I started believing that I could actually do what he was instructing me to do. It made the experience very enjoyable. But this guy was not only confident, he was humble and gentle. We went fishing, not so he could guide me, we went as friends. But even though he was not 'on the clock', he took his time with me and even put off his fishing to help me, coach me and encourage me. This friend has a rare blend of confidence and humility. I told my friend that he had that rare blend. I also told him that I would like to have that blend and to imitate his leadership. That encouraged him. I also told him this leadership qualities really matched those that Jesus exuded in many ways. But all of that reminds me of one verse that I read this morning from the book of Phillipians, chapter 3 and verse 17. It is a really simple verse actually. Here is what it says; "Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us." Philippians 3:17 Here are two principles that just leap off the page at me regarding our being Christ followers: 1. As believers, we should be inviting others to follow our example of how we follow Jesus. Certainly that implies that we are actually making an effort to follow Jesus with passion, truth and perseverance. 2. We should not only invite others to follow us (mentor them), but we should also find those who will mentor us. Paul says in this verse to 'observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us." Do you have folks around you who you watch (observe) how they live out their faith? I have several mentors in my life who live near me, in other states and other countries. I have mentors whom I've never meant (authors) and those whom I see weekly. We all need mentors in our lives and we all need to be mentoring others. Both should be done intentionally, purposefully and regularly. We should follow the pattern of Paul but also the pattern of my fly-fishing friend. We should be confident in Christ and what He has taught us as His followers (whether we have been a Christ follower for a few days or many years) and we should be humble in how we help people. We should do so with consistency, patience, love, spreading hope and encouragement to those who are following after Jesus. In short, we should all be making disciples of Jesus Christ. You know, it happens by just living life together - or just be walking a stream and talking about our common passions. The moral of this article may just be to walk with a few others in life and show each other how to struggle and be strong in following Jesus. Discipling people can be that easy. What do you think?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Intent on One Purpose

I love the book of Philippians. In the second chapter of Paul's letter to these Jesus Communities in the city of Philippi, Paul instructs the saints to be intent on one purpose. It is not an easy purpose, but it is vital for health and fruitfulness. Would you like to be fruitful (blessing people, casting lots of seeds, obeying Jesus, seeing God do eternal stuff through you) and healthful? Then here is something you should be intent on.
Putting others first is a noble idea but rarely is it an easy idea. It is a simple concept that makes sense in the scope of loving people, but it is not usually the normal way of living for us earthlings. Paul tells us to not do one thing from selfishness or from empty conceit. Not ONE things. Try living that way for one hour (make sure you are in a group context when you try living it out :-). What would your life, your family, your church, our world look like if we lived this way? How would folks be blessed, encouraged, happy, joyful and I think fulfilled. How about declare a day of selflessness and then evaluate how blessed you are in loving others and treating them as more important than yourself. If you try it, let me/us know what happens.

Words People Wish Jesus Never Said

"If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must DENY HIMSELF..." Luke 9:23 "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must...TAKE UP HIS CROSS and follow Me." Luke 9:23 "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever LOSES HIS LIFE for My sake, he is the one who will save it." Luke 9:24 "I tell you, no, but UNLESS YOU REPENT, you will all likewise perish." (Luke 13:3 "If anyone comes to Me, and DOES NOT HATE HIS OWN father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, HE CANNOT BE MY DISCIPLE." (Luke 14:26) "So then, none of you can be My disciple who DOES NOT GIVE UP ALL HIS OWN POSSESSIONS." Luke 14:33 Thoughts?

Friday, October 26, 2007

An Easy Yoke and Light Burden

Have you ever felt like following Jesus was like navigating a path that is slippery, filled with deep pot holes and often blocked by fallen trees? You are not alone. Following Jesus is a long journey and it is hard. Jesus said if we are weary and heavy laden to come to Him and He will give us rest. As I thought about Jesus giving me rest, my mind finished that set of verses which says, "for my yoke is easy and my burden light." I often focus on three words in this passage, REST, EASY, LIGHT. I forget about two of the other words that are at least equally as important. Those words are YOKE and BURDEN. The yoke may be easy and Jesus does carry the vast majority of the weight, but it is still a yoke. A yoke indicates a harness to guide you in the direction of the one controlling the work. In other words, when you 'hook up' with Jesus under His yoke, you lose your life and give Him control. This is a good thing and He does take on the majority of the work (we need to cooperate) but it still a yoke that in some ways restricts us (we should be slaves to righteousness). The other word is burden. His burden is indeed light, but a burden none the less. In part, this burden is to take the good news to the poor souls who are not yet following Jesus Christ. I need to be more burdened. I'm very blessed to be able to struggle on this journey of life filled with potholes, branches and mud under the yoke of Jesus, carrying His light burden to the world and to do it with a whole bunch of GREAT people. The Jesus community that I'm a part of are very persevering, loving and Jesus focused. These people help me to stay on the Journey - thanks Jesus for your genius called Church.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Art of Listening

Hearing and discerning the voice of God can be an artistic, mystical experience. If you have ever said something like, “I do not know how to hear the voice of God”, you are not alone…but you do not have to be stuck in that mode. All followers of Christ can hear the voice of God. There are some lessons that can be learned. I learned some this morning in my reading of 1 Samuel 2 & 3. To get the full force of the lessons from 1 Samuel 2 & 3, let me give you a brief overview. Eli was the current priest and prophet for Israel. He had 2 sons who were serving Israel as priests, but they had turned their back on God and were doing only what they wanted to do. They were sinning in all sorts of heinous ways. They were not following God’s standards for the sacrifices, they would steal meat for the worshippers and they were fornicating with women who were serving in the place of worship. It was really bad. In the midst of this bad situation, God had brought a young boy named Samuel to be raised by Eli in the tabernacle and would eventually take over Eli’s position. Samuel came to live there when he was between 3-5 years old. Eli was getting old, but it appears that he was not and had never really disciplined or confronted his sons in a real way about all of the sin that they were committing as representatives of God to the people. It was a really bad situation. A man of God was sent to Eli to confront him about his squandering of his position with all of the sin that his sons were committing. God’s heart was on fire against all that was happening. God even said to Eli that he was, “…honor(ing) your sons above Me.” Then the man, sent from God, told Eli about God’s judgment upon his family. His sons would both die on the same day. That sounds awful to me. God was not in the mood to be speaking much to his people at this time, probably due to the gross amount of sin (Eli’s sons) and the winking at sin (Eli). God was also boycotting the dreams of folks (1 Samuel 3:1). At the same time, God was pleased with Samuel (1 Samuel 3:19), the little boy who was growing in the ways of God and becoming a strong man of God – even in the midst of much sin. At least we know that our environment is not an excuse for being strong in God (that is another strong lesson that I should write on). So, what about listening to and for the voice of the Lord in our lives. 1 Samuel 3 tells the story of God calling Samuel’s name on four occasions, but Samuel thinks it is Eli calling him. The first three times, Samuel goes to Eli and says, you called me, and here I am. Each time, Eli says I did not call you go back to bed. On the third time, Eli gets realizes that it is God who is calling Samuel and instructs (mentors) Samuel that the next time he hears his name called to say, “Here I am Lord, speak.” You should read the account in 1 Samuel 3 for yourself. So here are some things that I learn from this passage regarding the art of listening to and for the voice of God: Sin Sin seems to impede the voice of God in our lives. Because of the gross and intentional sin that was being tolerated by Eli, his sons and the people (they didn’t rise up against them), God was in a silent mood for a period of time. Psalm 66:18 says, “If I regard sin in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” This is a statement about intimacy with God. So, when there is known, unrepentant sin in our lives, we may have trouble hearing from God or He may be choosing to draw us to repentance before He begins to speak to us as a way of relationship. Inexperience Samuel was certainly inexperienced in hearing the voice of God. The Word teaches us that “Samuel did not yet know the Lord, nor had the word of the Lord yet been revealed to him.” (1 Samuel 3:7). Samuel needed a mentor in the voice of God. Much like trying to tune your ear to a different dialect or language, we need to tune our ears to the voice of God. It takes practice and it is always helpful to have a mentor. Don’t be discouraged by being inexperienced in hearing God’s voice, keep practicing. You may make mistakes and act upon something you think is the voice of God when it is not, but that is why we have mentors! Even the Experienced Find Listening a Little Mysterious As you read the account of God speaking to Samuel, you’ll find that it took Eli, a seasoned veteran in serving God, three times to discern that Samuel wasn’t hearing voices, but was hearing God’s voice. Maybe Eli’s being hard of hearing was due to his sin (I’m sure that is part of it), but also, hearing God’s voice is always an art, it is always a mystical experience. It seems right that we stay holy in our relationships to the Lord so that our ears are more tuned into the voice of God. Why would I want to have my hearing of God’s voice dulled by sin? It really makes no sense. So, even though hearing God’s voice can be mysterious, it is always better (and clearer) to be holy in our lives and stay repentant of sin so that the wax of sin can be cleaned out of our spiritual ears. Lord, I pray for myself and all who are reading this, to have their ears clean, and tuned into the voice of God. Lord, speak to us clearly through your Word, your people in our hearts so that we can follow you with gusto for our whole lives!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Good-Byes Are Different Part 2

It was hot outside, about 106 degrees. It is often very hot in Phoenix in the summertime. We were packing up the belongings of Bud, Diana and their family. Shipping them off to Pennsylvania where they hope to begin some new organic churches. Bud and Diana moved here about 10 years ago from the place they were returning. Bud and Diana have meant so much to the organic church we are all a part, ValleyLife Church. Bud is an elder here and has been for almost all of his 10 years with us. Diana had been my office assistant and a major energy in helping to organize our children's time when we met corporately. In the process of packing them up, Diana had some coaching type questions for me so we stepped out of the boxes, cleaning and crying that was taking place inside to the hot openness of the backyard. We found a corner of shade and talked. After Diana had asked her questions and our conversation was waning, I looked her in the eyes to tell her how much I appreciated her, loved her and would miss her. My eyes were swelling with liquid and my heart was breaking. Diana returned some comments that will always mean so much to me. She shared some thoughts that I might have guessed were in her soul, but once they were spoken - when they left her mind, flowed over her vocal chords and hit my ears - I was blessed and curious at the same time. I'm guessing Diana might have felt the same encouragement and curiosity when she heard me tell her my appreciation of her. The curiosity is the same as with my saying good-bye to Jerry a few weeks ago when he passed away. Why do we often wait to share our deepest hearts with those we love and appreciate until good-byes? It is still baffling me. I've even thought about it over the past 2 weeks when I've been in conversations with those I love and appreciate - and I still don't let down the walls of vulnerability with how I feel as I did with Jerry and Diana, Bud, Jeff and Becky- another beloved couple who moved to Georgia. I really don't have the answers to my questions yet - maybe I never will. It did (does) feel wonderful to know how much Diana, Bud, Jeff and Becky have loved and appreciated me. It feels great to hear how their lives are forever different because of our relationship. I know my life is better because of being loved by them and being able to love them. I've cried with these folks, sought God's will with them, had deep discussions and have even been wounded together by the choices and words of people we loved. Maybe you can't always (maybe even often) tell those close to you how deeply you feel for them. Maybe the good-bye moments are designed for truer and deeper feelings to come forward. Maybe I don't want to express my deep love for people too often for fear that they will not receive it, or continue to return it, or be scarred away and I'll be left hurting. Maybe, probably, I should love deeply and recklessly, letting others know how I feel and experience the roller coaster of loving others well, leaning on the ever loving arms of Jesus. I don't want to say good-bye to good friends anytime soon, but I do want to tell them how much I love them.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Good-Bye's are Different

Why is it that good-bye's are different? I'm pretty sad these days because I've had to say good-bye to a friend and two families (they are my friends too :-). I'm not afraid of sadness or the pain of relationships but the good-byes seems to draw out things that I wish would have been said and experienced much earlier on in the relationship(s). I met Jerry about 11 years ago. We were drinking coffee together and pontificating the issues of life. We were both hanging around a group of 20 somethings (I was in just 40 and Jerry was approaching 60) learning from each other and enjoying the relationships. Jerry and I would end up spending the next 11 years doing coffee, lunches and dinners - often with our wives with us. Our conversations roamed from the writing of novels (which Jerry completed,)to Theology to psychology to good food and other oddities. I thought I would have to say good-bye to Jerry about 3 years ago when he had a massive heart attack, but that only made him more stubborn! Alas, a few months ago Jerry found out he had cancer in his lung and bones. The cancer took his life in early August. I was at his bedside hours before he died. His beautiful wife, Bette and her sister Clo were there as I spent some time with Jerry. He was mostly cognoscente and together we sang some old songs about Jesus, heaven and the cross of Christ. In the past, Jerry and I would talk about faith and hope. Jerry was a self-proclaimed 'convenient Christian'. I asked him what that meant and he said that he called on God when he needed to. After we sang some songs together at Jerry's deathbed, I read some Bible verses. Many of them were requested by Bette. I choose a few to read myself. They mostly had to do with death, victory and how we can know without doubt that we will be with Jesus. I ended by sharing with Jerry 1 John 5:11-13. I then got close to Jerry's face and I asked, "Jerry, do you know for sure that you will be with Jesus. Does Jesus live in your heart Jerry?" He shook his head in the affirmative and I rest in that. Is it foolish to rest in that shake of the head...I rest in that. I then, tearfully said good-bye to Jerry. I shared my love for him, my admiration of him and my hope for him. I shared some of the things that he taught me and how his life had influenced me in wonderful ways over the past decade. With tears streaming down my face, I held my frail, pain filled friend and prayed with him. Then I left. At 2:00am the next morning, I received a call from Bette telling me that Jerry had just died. I pulled on some pants, dabbed some gel in my hair and went to be with Bette and hold her. My question with saying good-bye to Jerry is, why didn't I say the true things about Jerry to him while he was healthy? Why did not I choose to encourage his spirit when we could still gaze into each other's eyes with mutual admiration? Why at good-byes does a seemingly deeper connection take place? I'll share about the other two families I had to say good-bye too in a few days.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Who Do You Invest Time With?

In my LTG, we are reading Luke 14:25-35. At the end of Chapter 14, Jesus has really difficult things to say about people who want to be His follower. I would really encourage you to read Luke 14:25-35 and just sit and think if you are following Jesus the way He prescribes. You may be startled! After saying these difficult truths in Luke 14, chapter 15 begins with these words; "Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him." Luke 15:1 This is impressive to me because of what Jesus has just been saying to the crowds. Whether these tax collectors and sinners actually heard Jesus' words from chapter 14, I don't know. I would assume that what He said was at least reported to them and certainly some (maybe all) actually there when while He was teaching. With their knowledge that Jesus has some really difficult things to say and that following Him will cost them much, they were coming near Him to listen to Him. Notice that Luke 15:1 doesn't say they came to Him to healed or loved or to see Him do great things. They came near Him to listen to Him. They wanted to hear His heart, His words of truth for mankind. They came near to Him knowing that some of what He said would be hard for them to live out. Obviously, living for Jesus was more appealing and true than living for themselves or for what other religious leaders taught. What Jesus said rang of authenticity, not manipulation. His truth gave life and hope, not empty promise or dream like ideas not based in reality. There was another group who probably heard Jesus' teachings in Luke 14:25-35. These were the Pharisees and the scribes - the Jewish leaders and important men of the day. Here is what Luke 15:2 has to report about their response to Jesus; "Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, 'This man receives sinners and eats with them.'" Luke 15:2 Apparently the scribes and Pharisees were too good to have friends with problems or character issues. What I learn from this is that the message Jesus, even though it is tough, is LIFE to the soul of people who want truth. Jesus' message was truth and when shared, you'll know who are being attracted to the light (Jesus) and who are running from the light. Spend (invest) time with those who after you tell the truth, run to the Light of the World.

Friday, July 27, 2007

How Much Have You Been Forgiven?

"For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little." Luke 7:47 Luke 747 (7:47) is a Jumbo Jet Verse. This prostitute knew she had done a whole lot against God's way of living. She knew she could never stand before God because of how she sold herself to men. She also probably felt horrible that she thought so little of herself and that men treated her so poorly. Read Luke 7:36-39 to get a small feel of how the religious leaders felt/thought about her. This woman needed Jesus' forgiveness and HIs gentle and kind touch on her heart. She certainly had sinned much. On the other hand, the Pharisee who invited Jesus to a meal at his home thought that his life was pretty much together. I assume he knew that from time to time he made some mistakes but, he made his sin offerings to the Lord so he and God were pretty close. He was the example setter for the Jewish community, his act has better have been together. This scenario is what brought Jesus to as Simon the Pharisee a question. Jesus said, "A moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So, which of them will love him more?" Simon thought it over and confidently stated, "I suppose the one hwom he forgave more." Jesus told him that he was correct. Jesus turned to the woman who has spilling her tears and expensive perfume on his feet and drying his feet with her hair and told Simon that this woman realizes how badly she has sinned and therefore she is repentant. She has sinned much and knows she has been forgiven much and therefore, loves much - just look at how she is loving me. You Simon, you think you have sinned little and have dealt with it. Therefore you think that you don't have too much to be forgiven for and therefore, you love little - you would rather challenge me than worship me. So, how much have you been forgive? Maybe a better question is how much do you realize you have been forgiven? The answer lies in how you live your life. Do you live with gratefulness and by loving others well? Or do you live by thinking you just might know better than some and try to disengage for those a little more ugly than you'd like to hang out with? Let me suggest that you spend some time today at the feet of Jesus in silence and ponder just how much He has forgiven you. If you need some help, read Isaiah 6 and Romans 3 but end with Romans 5:8 and 8:1. Blessings on your journey, Ed

Thursday, July 26, 2007

A Dangerous Adventure

For the past few weeks, I've been thinking about what a life looks like that has Jesus as our One or primary focus. What does it look like to love Jesus the way He tells us He wants to be loved - with ALL our hearts, soul, mind and strength? As I've thought more and read more, I've come to understand that maybe there is a reason why I (you?) don't love God so fully, so wholly many times. Listen to what Kary Oberbrunner says in his book, The Journey Towards Relevance. "Why do the vast majority of people, inside and outside the Church, hide pockets of their hearts from God? Why do you and I fail to love God fully? Why do we prefer a dutiful religion that intellectually assents to a belief in God? Why are so few of us in a dangerous, adventurous, and passionate relationship with God? Why do guilt and fear characterize our faith when God longs for us to love Him with a fully engaged and reckless heart? I believe there is one main reason for our half-hearted attempts. Loving God without our whole self is safer? If we're honest, we'd admit we're deathly afraid of what it would mean to love Him with our whole hearts. He's a dangerous lover. He certainly cannot be controlled. So, we settle for a God who can safely love with our heads. We might throw a few dollars His direction. We might even attend a few religious services. Some of us may be extremely engaged in spiritual activities. But deep inside, we're deathly afraid. We appease Him with our works. We honor Him with our lips. But when it really comes down to it, who really wants to open his or her heart to a God who chose to let His own Son die? I mean right there, with that action, God clearly communicated that no one is immune to His crushing Hand, not even His own Son." Next time, I'll make a couple of comments about this thought and how it relates to something I taught on at our Gathering a few weeks ago from Luke 7:36-50. Read that passage and talk to God about your heart. I know that I'm talking to God about my heart and my love for Him. I really want to love Him with ALL my heart, soul, mind and strength - even though God is not safe...I know He loves me and will do what is best for me.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

An Atmosphere of Release

Creating an atmosphere of vision, empowerment, release and freedom sounds fun to me. It also sounds out-of-control ☺. In my experience, many Christ followers seem uninterested or possibly afraid of embracing this atmosphere of vision and freedom in ministry. It feels like many want to simply be given instructions to be followed – as long it takes little time. Maybe a common vision for people to be released, freed and empowered within is an answer for people to embrace this atmosphere of vision and freedom. I want to release and free people to reach-out in their own way(s) so that more and more people are connected to and worshipping Jesus Christ with their lives. This seems to be the best way for a movement of disciples to be reproducing without limit. People, becoming more like Christ (disciples), and reaching-out to touch others with His truth, grace and freedom is what is needed. • Cast the Vision of reaching out in natural ways. • Teach the truth of freedom in the Kingdom of God. • Present opportunities to dream and carry out the vision. The success of these ideas seems to hinge on God breaking through and influencing common people with a heart to reach out creatively for His glory. So, Father, I think I’m doing these things – providing vision and freedom. If I’m not, please teach me! Father, I ask you to influence the people I serve to be communal (have a common vision) in their organic churches and in our corporate sense. Please give them the heart to connect to a few not-yet-Christ-followers with the purpose of introducing them to Jesus. Amen

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Friday, June 29, 2007

You Are Powerful

If you are a Christ follower, you are powerful! When I talk to people who are Christ followers, they often feel insecure in their faith, untrained and not capable of really doing too much more than setting up chairs, directing traffic or maybe teach Sunday School if there is pre-planned material for them to read from. NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH! If most Christ followers do think similarly to the folks that I talk to, it will lead to an anemic faith that is always dependent upon someone more trained or skilled than they are (ie pastor, teacher or elder). Although we do need pastor's, teachers and elders etc, we do not need to lean on them in order to have a strong faith. They are helpful but the strength of our faith does not depend upon them. In fact, it should be their job to introduce us how to actively live out our faith in powerful ways that keeps us from being dependent upon them! Allow me to simply remind us of a few verses that speak to this issue. 2 Peter 1:3 3 By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. You already have everything you need to live a godly, spirit filled life. You need nothing else according to his verse! Eph. 2:10 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. You ARE God's masterpiece. You were created to do great things for God's kingdom and He planned those a long time ago. We simply need to walk out what in faith in the way that God leads us. Philippians 2:13 13 For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Philippians 4:13 13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Nuff said there... 2 Cor. 3:6 6He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant... You are already competent from the moment you became a Christ follower. So, the bottom line is that God has already given us everything we need to live lives that are full of effectiveness because Jesus resides in us. He has already planned some awesome things for EVERY Christ follower to live out - not just the pastor's, teachers, elders, deacons or you fill in the blank. He wants YOU to do amazing things with eternal results for His kingdom. Now just imagine if every believer walked out that truth. Imagine!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Following Jesus' Way of Living

*Some of the following thoughts are born out of reading Alan Hirsch's book "The Forgotten Ways" In AD 100 there were between 25k & 100k believers In AD 310 there were between 15 million & 20 million believers How does that kind of growth happen in 200 years? When you add the following elements to that growth, you really begin to scratch your head: • It was illegal in most places to be a Christ follower. • No buildings or common meeting places existed. • No Scriptures (small portions at best). • No professional leadership. • No ’hot’ services to attract folks. • It was hard to join the church – you had to prove yourself. What is different between the believers before AD 310 and believers today? We have the same God. We have the same Holy Spirit. We have more knowledge, resources and tools. We live longer. We are more mobile. One might think we should be at least as potent in our cultures. We have lost something. For the next few weeks, I think we are going to be discussing two important concepts that need to be rediscovered in the church today; Mission and Discipleship. I think we may have lost the original intent of these concepts in the church. Mission: the idea of personal responsibility to take Jesus to everyone we know as a way of life. Discipleship: following Jesus and becoming increasingly like Him. We cannot become missional nor disciples based on a consumeristic approach to church – we cannot consume our way into mission or discipleship. We have tried for the past 40 years of the church and the church is still declining in the west It is true that some churches are growing – but most are growing from ‘switchers’. Those who have bought into the consumeristic concept of church jump from one church to another based upon what feels best or good for them. This makes perfect sense because it is what the church has promoted for the past 4 decades. Hopefully together we’ll discover mission and discipleship in fresh(er) ways. Contributing problems There are a few contributing problems that have caused us to lose a truer sense of mission and discipleship and they need to be acknowledged (not knocked) so we can be informed move beyond them. Church = Church has become to mean meetings like this one. In our culture and experience, church is a set location that we go to in order to hear talks (like this one) and to experience God. It is a place many Christians go to ‘get fed’. This understanding of church has caused us to be consumers where at best 80% of the people are in the audience and 20% actually ‘minister’ or put on the service. It might actually be more like 95/5% ratio. Our Mission has Followed Church = Church is confined to a set location or event and our concept of mission (evangelism) has also been confined to a location or event. At best mission is for a select few ‘super saints’ who go to foreign lands to share Jesus. Professional Clergy = The common belief is that the clergy have the answers, they know what to do, they have a closer relationship with God than the common folks, they are the leaders and in authority. Most things need to be ran by them because we need to do things orderly and in a biblical manner. This has lead to weak anemic people who don’t know the Bible or what to do if the leader is gone. Intimacy with Jesus = Intimacy with Jesus has become diluted to tasks that need to be done like Bible reading, prayer and attending meetings. These are not bad nor wrong concepts, in fact, they should be continued. However, doing them void of intimate engagement with Jesus will never produce a close bond. We would do well to teach people how to be intimate with Jesus while surfing the web, mowing the yard, shopping for new shoes or playing a video game for the first time. The Answer We must follow Jesus’ example of living life for God. We must dare to be dangerous in our following Him. We must be willing to be holy rebels if we are going to change church. Allow me to give you some initial thoughts on Mission from Luke 4-5. (Are there any questions before we dive in here?) Jesus was on Mission from the Outset. Luke 3:21-22 Note that Jesus was pleasing to God – He always did the will of His Father. Luke 4:1 Jesus was led by the Spirit of God – even into uncomfortable and hard places (a 40 day fast followed by a great testing by the Devil himself). Luke 4:18-19 This is Jesus’ job description if you will. This job description is wet with mission. Here we find at least 5 assignments or principles that Jesus is to live out. All of them are outward focused: • Preach the Gospel to the poor. • Proclaim release to the captives. • Recovery of sight to the blind. • Set free those who are oppressed. • Proclaim the favorable year of the Lord. Jesus certainly began by being outward focused and on mission. There is no hint of consumerism in his job description. Notice verse 22, the people were blessing Jesus. When he read these words (above) from Isaiah and said that He came to do those things, the people who heard it thought it was for them and they were blessing Him. More on this in a minute… Luke 4:25-26 Here we see that God has always been on mission to those much different than His chosen people. Jesus is addressing the same crowd of Jews in a synagogue and reminds them that God is on mission (just like Him) to those who are different or outcasts. Elijah and Zarephath. Elijah was a Jew and Zarephath was a Gentile. There should not have any dealings with one another according to Jewish law. God, however, sends one of the greatest prophets Israel had to a poor Gentile women and food was provided for her until the famine was over. Luke 4:27-28 teaches us again that God has always been on mission. Here we learn about Elisha (Elijah’s protégé) and how with all of the leprosy in Israel, God brought the enemy, a Gentile, to him to be healed of leprosy. Through the reading of Isaiah about the Messiah being on mission and through Jesus relaying these two stories of how God has always been on mission and moved towards those different and further away from God, Jesus was teaching the world that He was on mission and so should those following Him. When the people heard these things, verse 28 tells us that the same people who were blessing Him a few minutes earlier (v. 22) were now filled with raged when they heard these things. They were taking Jesus out to a cliff and were going to through Him off to His death, but He slipped away. The Jews liked Jesus when they thought that He was going to come and teach, heal set free and proclaim the Lord’s favor on them. However, when it was clear that He was for all people and that it wasn’t all about them, they were filled with rage. Luke 4:42-44 Jesus left Nazareth and was off to Capernaum. He cast out a demon (v. 33-35) and healed many in that city (v. 38ff). The people were again clamoring for Him to stay and not leave. Just like the folks at Nazareth, they wanted Jesus all to themselves as well. Verse 42 tells us that when the day came for Jesus to leave, the crowds followed him and tried to keep Him from going away from them. Jesus tells them His mission. “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose.” Luke 4:43 “Just as the Father as sent me, so send I you.” Just like Jesus, we are on mission for our whole lives. Luke 5:1-11 This passage teaches us about how Jesus’ first disciples were called to follow Him. Jesus uses this opportunity to begin with the end in mind as He calls His first disciples to follow Him. He begins by breaking or challenging their paradigm about what they knew most about, fishing. After He taught the crowds, He instructed Simon Peter to shove off into the lake and fish. Simon had fished all his life and he knew that this was not the time to go fishing. He also knew that the fishing was lousy. They has spent all night fishing and had caught nothing! They had just finished the laborious job of washing their nets and now, a non-fisherman wanted them to do something unconventional. It would cause them to have to haul their nets back to shore to washed yet again. Something deep in Simon stirred and He did as Jesus instructed and there, they caught a large amount of fish. Jesus often does things that are not the normal way of doing things. We must be careful to listen to His Word and His voice in our lives. As soon as they arrived back on shore, Jesus invites them to follow Him. He tells them that they will in deed continue fishing, but no longer for fish, but for men. Jesus begins by telling His first disciples that following Him has mission at the center of the task! Mission is at the center of being a Christ follower. They left everything and followed Him. Luke 5:11 Questions, Comments, Concerns or other Discussion on this topic?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A Simple Evaluation Tool for Your Church

Do you lead an organic/house/simple church? Here is a basic way of evaluating her health. A healthy organic church will have...

Divine Truth permeate the church on a regular basis. The Word of God will be discussed, read, taught, studied and meditated on. These do not need to happen each week, but one or more should be normally/regularly engaged. There should also be an engagement with the Living Word of Jesus who resides in all believers. This can happen through prophetic words (1 Cor. 14:1-3), words of encouragement and the practice of spiritual gifts. A healthy organic church will be actively involved in

Nurturing Relationships. It is good when phone calls, e-mails, texts or getting together with others happens naturally. There are many ‘one another’ in the Bible and practicing them must happen outside of formal meetings if a church is to be considered healthy. A healthy organic church will be strong in

Apostolic Mission. There should be times of prayers for our lost friends, relatives and neighbors. We would want to hear fresh stories of how God is using us to speak truth into people’s lives that we are engaging. We should be encouraging one another to be bold in our witness for our King.

 Take a look at your church and see if these three elements are in healthy balance and practiced regularly. If they are, stay the course. If not, then simply pray about how to address the weakness, speak to another organic church shepherd or one of our elders and communicate to your church your observations. This will all cause for a healthy organic church.

 Always remember that we can never lead anyone else to a place where we have not been. We cannot teach people faithfulness if we are sporatic in our commitments. We cannot help folks become others focused if we think about what we want to do before considering what is best for others. We will not develop strong disciples (and therefore strong churches) if we are not daily touching the heart of God in meaningful ways like interacting with the Word, prayer and listening to His heart. This is simply following the example of Jesus as He walked on the earth.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

One Focus

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket 4"Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! 5"You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6"These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. 7"You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. 8"You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. 9"You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 Distractions. Life is full of them. Competition is fierce for your energy, dollars, time and learning. Commercials are screaming or alluring your thoughts and heart to want whatever it is that they need you to buy or believe. Without a compass, without a focus, we can easily end up drifting through life, moving at the will of the swells and currents around us instead of setting a course that brings glory to our God. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 is not one voice in the midst of the world asking you for your focus. This section of Scripture is giving us the one focus necessary for true fulfillment, happiness and purpose. There is only one God in all of creation and our allegiance is to be His alone. I’m sure that one reason that the Bible states that there is but One God is that there actually are other entities vying for our attention – powerful things that promise fulfillment, even only if it is temporary. Because there are things to distract us from having a primary focus on the One who created us, we should be reminding ourselves, our families and our friends that God is One and He is to be our One focus. Verse 5 teaches me that God wants everything about me to be focused on Him, my love, my being my mind and even my energy. To respond to the God who gave me life in a lesser fashion is diminishing His influence in my life. Verse 6 tells me that this is actually a command. God is commanding my all be focused on Him first and above everything else in life. God desires that my love for Him stems from my heart, not just because I’m suppose to love Him. Verse 7 teaches me about the importance of living out God being One and the center of my life, my one focus. We are to teach or discuss this single principle of God’s supremacy at every opportunity that we have with our children. We should recognize God in our drive to the supermarket, as we put a loaf of bread in the basket, when we stop and fill up the car with fuel or when we put on our gloves to pull weeds in the yard. We should teach our family to be thankful when our pay checks are cashed or our car breaks down. Verses 8-9 teach me that I’m very forgetful of God’s graciousness to me. I’m so forgetful that I should put reminders on my hands, my forehead and on my front door along with on my refrigerator. I need not so subtle reminders of God’s goodness and supremacy in my life. He is God and there is no other. What does a One Focused life look like? I would like to encourage you to think through that for yourself and your family. What changes in you when you filter all of life’s decisions and distractions through Jesus?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Be Available

I was sitting around a backyard last night with some friends. Some friends were new and some were long timers. Evenings in Phoenix during the summer are most often very hot. If there is a breeze, it is so thermally induced that it is not very comfortable. Last night was very different. The weather had cooled down nicely and the breeze was refreshing, a wonderful break from the desert’s heat. My friends and I enjoyed a great dinner together. Conversations were engaged around various tables. Some children were running around the grass while others were playing with their superhero characters on the rocks. The food, the breeze the friends were all very refreshing. As I listened in to some of the conversations around the tables I heard discussions about family members, family history, business woes and current heart issues. Prayers were offered, laughter rang out and giggles filled the air. It was really a refreshing evening. I almost missed this wonderful evening. My wife and daughter had just returned from Los Angeles. We had driven all day and we were tired. We arrived home about 4:00pm and church began at 6:30pm. When I walked in the door, there was a whole stack of mail that needed to be gone through. Our white tile floors had a whole lot of dirt marks on them; the pool was dirty from the windstorm that obviously had occurred in the past few days and the e-mail…it is always beckoning for more attention. The thought crossed Debs and my mind that maybe we don’t need to go tonight. We had just returned home and we were tired and certainly folks would understand. But we went to be with our friends, to bless them and to be blessed by them. We wanted to encourage and be encouraged – and we certainly were. After we ate together, we pulled up chairs in a circle and two guys got their guitars out and we began singing and praying. We were encouraged to think about the concept of being available to be used by God as we sang and prayed. Soon after the singing and praying, we were asked to share a story about how we have been available to be used by God or how others were available to be used by God in our lives. One person shared how they were dealing with some challenging things in their life and one person in the circle happened to be taking a walk at the same time they were. Words were exchanged and prayers were offered and encouragement was received. Another shared how that while they were traveling they saw a single gal waving down folks for help and stopped to lend a hand. The lady was out of gas, no money, not gas can and not ID. So off to the store to get a gas can and filled it with gas to help out the poor soul in need. Another shared how they were hanging out with a friend who was in rehab to get over a drug addiction and they ended up sharing about Jesus with them. These stories were great sermons in and of themselves. They were teaching the rest of us about the value of being available. After the stories, a few additional thoughts were shared from God’s Word. Isaiah 6:8 God was looking for someone to send on His behalf to the world. Isaiah thought about it and raised his hand and said, “Here I am God, why not send me?” God did. Isaiah was available to God to be used. Isaiah was not forced but drawn to serve His King. Luke 5 There are a couple of stories here where Jesus invites a fisherman and an IRS dude to follow Him. Both of them left everything to follow Jesus. They choose to be available to be used by Jesus for His purposes. Jesus invites us all to follow Him but we have to choose to raise our hands like Isaiah and say I’ll go with you God. How can I be available? 2 Corinthians 8:1-4 Here we find some folks who are having a really bad time in life. They are oppressed and really poor. These folks hear about another church far away in Jerusalem who need some assistance and they choose to pool their resources and send it to their brothers in the faith. The Scriptures here tell us they gave generously, beyond their means. Then Paul, the writer of the letter, says that he was startled because they not only committed themselves to God but to Paul as well to do the will of God. These hurting folks choose to not focus on their own pain, but to look beyond themselves and reach out to make themselves available to serve God. We ended the evening by sharing the bread and cup and remembering what Jesus had done for us and that He is coming back for us. We also committed ourselves to being available to God to be used for His glory. It was a wonderful evening in a back yard in Phoenix with a cool breeze and the breathe of God upon us all.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Back At It

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Well, the picture above is from Shipwreck Beach on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. We had a great vacation! We arrived home at about 2:30am on Friday morning (May 4). I had to be on a plane at 10:00am that day to fly to Seattle to teach a Greenhouse Conference. It was a fantastic weekend where many new and old organic church planters were encouraged, trained and empowered to go out and make disciples. I flew home on Sunday night and all day Monday I was home to do the typical house stuff of mail and bills after being gone for 2 weeks (yuk). On Tuesday, I was off to L.A. for a day of meetings with our family of churches. When I got home last night, I was spent. Today begins getting back to a more normal schedule and I'm looking forward all that lies ahead. Last night I made some calls in the airport while I was waiting for my flight in L.A. I talked with one lady who is not yet a believer and has just started connecting with some of our folks. As I talked with my friend, she said that some things had popped up in her life that had derailed her from moving towards being saved. She wanted to get back on that road. Now that sounds exciting to me. This wonderful women is a doorway to a whole new oikos (household) of folks who need Jesus. My encouragement to all is to never give up. It is easy to have a vision of seeing a disciples being made and a movement exploding. It is quite a different thing to stay focused and to know that God is ALWAYS in control - even when things are going poorly and warfare is all around you. God is ALWAYS in control...why can't I remember that ALWAYS?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Thoughts from Paradise on Earth

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Debbie and I on Kauai :-) It seems as though your mind clears up on vacation - or maybe it becomes more cloudy. Either way, I do have some 'thoughts out there by Ed'. Ready? Following Jesus is hard - being on vacation is easy. Saying you love Jesus is easy - actually doing what He says to do is hard. Saying the words, 'dying to self' is easy - actually dying to self is quite hard. These are not original thoughts, but they seem true(er) to me today than a decade ago. A decade ago (I was just turning 40), I knew how to do ministry. I knew what steps to take and what order to put them in for people to grow and plant house churches quickly. A decade ago, I knew that if I worked hard, did the right things and cast a lot of seed, that I would plant churches and be able to watch them grow, thirve, reproduce and see movements explode. A decade later (I'll turn 50 this month), and during my vacation, I have come to realize that I do know a lot of stuff. I do things in the discipleship and church planting world pretty well. Yet, the work is still hard, long (more often than not, too long), exhausting, time consuming and full of failures. People listen and turn away 80% of the time. I can pour my heart and blood into a person only to learn they have alzhiemer when my name is mentioned. Everywhere I go to teach, talk, coach, counsel or learn I find mostly the same experience in peoples lives. Men and women who are more godly than I and more educated than I and work harder than I do find the same tough road of ministry. It seems to me that in this day and age in the USA, God is choosing the road to be more dusty than golden. Ministry is just a lot of hard work - BUT, I am encouraged! Maybe because I'm still on vacation, but I am encouraged none the less. If Jesus has determined that in my life and ministry (maybe all around the country), things are to be difficult then so be it. I must face it - what else will I do. I long for movements to be blossoming. I long for men and women to hear the name of Jesus and immediately choose to throw all else away to follow Him. After all, that is basically what happened to me! I would love to see people sacrificing things in their lives for living out the Kingdom of God. There are many who do this. There are also many who do not. But I will not give up. I will not be defeated. I will not be discouraged. I will grow, thrive, pray, pour my life out and love knowing that God is in control, even when I do things well and there are no results. He is in control when I do things poorly and things explode. God is God and that is that. I'm glad to be on vacation, and I look forward to being back in Phoenix, getting dirty and tired for the King and His kingdom!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Praying Like Jesus

Jesus is omniscient. That means that Jesus is all knowing – He knows everything there is to know about everything. That is pretty amazing. While He lived on earth, He chose to limit Himself in how His all knowingness was handled (see Philippians 2:3-8). We learn from the Gospel’s that Jesus willingly submitted Himself to the Father and only did what the Father instructed Him to say and do (John 5:30). I was reading portions of the passion week of Jesus (the week leading up to his death and resurrection). When I came upon the passage below, I was not surprised that Jesus knew what would be happening. “Go into the city, and a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him; and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher says “Where is My guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?”’ and he himself will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; prepare for us there.” The disciples went out and came to the city, and found it just as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover.” Mark 14:13-15 However, Jesus, in His humanity, has chosen to limit Himself and to be submitted to the Father’s will as John 5:30 teaches us. So a few verses later in Mark 14:36, Jesus prays, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You: remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.” Jesus was asking the Father to stop Him from having to go to the cross and be crucified, but after ultimately prayed that the Father would have His way – Jesus submitted His desire to the Father’s will. This verse is very encouraging to me. I pray like this many times every week. I know that God the Father can do anything – all things are possible with Him. Therefore I bring people, situations and attitudes to the Father and ask Him to intervene and answer my requests. But then I stop and ponder the truth that I really do not know much, certainly not everything like God does, so I end my prayers often with the same words Jesus used, “yet not what I will, but what You will.” I have in the past felt guilty at times praying like this. It seems that somewhere I learned the idea that praying this way is faithless and not powerful. I will no longer feel bad about praying in this manner. I will follow Jesus’ lead. When I feel lead by Jesus to pray more aggressively (and I have at times) I will obey. I hope this might help some who feel like they pray with less faith than others. May I suggest you simply follow the example of Jesus in Mark 14.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Sick and Well People

"It is not the well who need a physician, but the sick." These are words from the mouth of Jesus. It really doesn't make sense for a Doctor to invite healthy people to come and see him. Now of course we send our babies for 'wellness' check ups and many of us go the Doctor for an annual or bi-annual exams, but Doctors would go out of business if they only took well patients. It doesn't make sense for a Doctor to witness a person falling to the ground and grabbing her chest and just walk on by without giving fact, it goes against the very Hippocratic oath that the Doctor swore to. It also doesn't make sense for Christians to run away from ugly, sick, sinning, wicked people. It just doesn't make sense to me. For decades, the church has attempted to run from the sinful parts of our cities, to 'refer out' the harder counseling cases and to send money to the rescue missions for the poor and homeless instead of actually going their themselves and serving and offering care. What does make sense is that when we engage the sick, weak, worrisome, tattered, broken folks that live near us, that it will get hard. It seems true that some will refuse 'treatment' or that others will not 'respond' well to the therapies (read Jesus) offered. Many who engage the sick will offer sound advice and counsel only to have their hands bitten or their faces spit upon. But we must engage the spiritually sick folks of this world. Sometimes, it takes longer to gain access into a relationship with sick people, but we must keep trying. Helping sick people hurts. Just look at Jesus and how He loved His disciples so much for three and a half years, only to have them abandon Him once He was arrested - and He was innocent! Just look at Paul where at the end of his life, he states, "all have deserted me" (2 Tim. 4). Yeah, helping the sick is a hard, painful and way too often it is a slow work as well. But it is a worthy work. It is the work Jesus has called you to if you are one of his disciples. Where would Jesus be ministering today in your town if He were walking there? I think He might go to the people who have bombed out looks in their faces, who are desperate for something more than they have found in this life, for the sick, weak and broken people...who are usually lonely. My neighbor, Lee, has brain cancer. He is not going to live much longer without a Divine intervention (please pray for his healing). I went to see Lee yesterday. It had been about three weeks since I last saw him. He only lives 2 doors away. I have all the excuses as to why I haven't been over to see him - they are all excuses for the sin of not caring or at least of being scared. It is hard to love sick people. I had to confess to Lee that I had not been over to see him, in part, because I had thought in my head that he had taken a turn for the worse and I didn't want to see him suffering or unable to walk or talk to be drooling. I confessed my selfish sin to him and asked for His forgiveness - which he granted. I shared the truth about life, death and eternal life with him. He was grateful and offered me a glass of wine. I told him that if he would like me to, that I would come over tomorrow for another glass of wine and chat. I also asked if we could share communion together. He is looking forward to it. May the Lord infuse Lee's life continued grace, peace, healing and spiritual vitality. "It is not the well who need a physician, but the sick."

Monday, March 19, 2007

I Can Learn A Lot From Codi

My wife woke me up at 3:50am. My alarm didn't go off and I needed to take some friends to the airport for an early morning flight. "Early" may be relative to some, but 4:00AM is always too early for me. So, I threw on some clothes, popped an allergy med, blew my nose and took off to pick up my friends. As I pulled into their drive way, the clock in my car read 4:04am - four minutes late. The garage door was open, the lights were on and Lisa's two boys waiting to get on the road. Funny how a 16 & 12 year old can be so energetic at 4:04am when vacation is happening :-) After we loaded up the luggage, we pulled away from their home and headed to the airport. There were scattered conversations that took about 20 seconds each as we drove through the dark. Not too much to talk about that early in the morning. Arie's iPod was blaring and Codi was a bundle of joy as he often is. As we sped down the freeway, Lisa told me that Codi wanted to feed the homeless in downtown Phoenix. Codi talked about it some and said he wanted to see that happen. My heart was filled with joy to hear a 12 year old speak such truth. I was reminded of Ezekiel 16:49
"Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless east, but she did not help the poor and needy."
My life is a lot like this verse - and easy life and not too concerned about the poor and needy. Codi was used by the Lord to ponder that action needs to happen towards the poor and needy. Codi and his family get back in town next Sunday and I plann on talking to Codi to see if he'll help in organizing a time to serve the poor...maybe he can go the rescue mission with me and my friend Neil. As we pulled up to the airport, Codi was telling me about his latest ping pong experience at school. He said that he had volunteered to be a mentor for the handicapped students in his school and that he had enjoyed inviting some of the handicapped students to play ping pong with him. I can learn a lot from Codi!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Consumerism is Ancient

I've been doing some thinking about consumerism and Jesus' words of "Follow Me" - they don't seem to be compatible. The number one American leisure activity in 2006 was shopping. This boosts the concept of consumerism. When I mention consumerism, I'm not condemning consuming. We were created to consume. We were commanded to subdue the earth. Jesus enjoyed good food and wine while He was here on earth. Consuming is not the problem. The problem comes when we live to consume! Consumerism is the promotion of the consumer's interests. Just think about that for a minute as it relates to the church today. Many churches find out what their consumer's want and then give it to them. As I looked at my churches web page ValleyLife Church, I realized that we had bought into consumerism as well. We state that we are an authentic community of people where you can feel safe. This might sound good, but it is trying to attract people who desire this type of product...or maybe it is simply stating who we are, but it does sound very consumerish. If we are going to "promote the consumer's interests", shouldn't we identify whom the consumers are? Well, I think the consumers are the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Whenever the church gathers together, whether it is in a building with a steeple or a building with a chimney, we are gathering together to primarily to worship Jesus and then to build up the body of Christ by using the gifts that Jesus has distributed to us. Sometimes I'm bored and sometimes I'm excited but I know that Jesus is always there in the middle of our getting together. I want Him to be pleased with my presence - even when I'm bored. So I was reading in Ezekiel 11:12 these words this morning "Thus, you will know that I am the Lord; for you have not walked in My statutes nor have you executed My ordinances, but have acted according to the ordinances of the nations around you." It seems the Jerusalem had fallen into the ways of the nations around them instead of following the ways of the living God. The first sentence in this verse indicates that God wants His people to know that He is the Lord, not what the world thinks or the people around them think or act. Many thousands of years ago, people were falling into this trap of taking in what the world has to offer so that they will feel better about themselves, be better accepted or climb the ladder of life. All of this at the expense of following the ordinances or ways of the Lord God. To many people today choose a church based upon what they want and like instead upon seeking where God would have them to be. Too many people today treat their faith as something to be consumed instead of something to be lived out not matter the circumstances they face. Too many of us in churches are quick to provide whatever is desired so that they keep coming back. Instead, we should tell them to obey the words of Jesus and "Follow Me". Check back here in a few days to find out some of what Jesus said is required of those who follow Him and become His disciples. It looks a lot different than the way I see my life being lived out.