Friday, April 30, 2010

Crossing the Red Sea in Your Own Backyard

The Miracles of God – from the time of Moses through the Acts of the Apostles – I find them all fascinating.  Imagine being a Hebrew and seeing the Red Sea part! There Scripture says there was a wall of water on the left, and another on the right. Exodus 14:22 Maybe you saw the movie The 10 Commandments. I think it was a lot more amazing than that. Why? Because there were 5 million Hebrews and their livestock and belongings! This was no path through a tidal marsh. Based on the text, the Exodus appears to have taken 12 or more hours.

And for those that think that the tide went out, I just want to know how the entire Egyptian Army drowned in a few feet of water?

The account of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea is pretty exciting. But I am with Dave Tvedt, I like my modern conveniences: toilet paper, hot showers, my car, heat, A/C and of course my Gibson Les Paul and Marshall ½ stack.

As I think about miracles in the Bible, I want to concur with John. (1 John 1:1-4) I want to speak of what I have seen; what the Father has seen fit to let appear to me – that, I want to speak of.

In my Christian walk I have seen lots of healing and miracles. I have seen cars run without gas; and not a Prius either. There were furnaces running without oil and the tank drain plug was removed! I have seen skin cancer fall off, X-Rays show cancer one week, and follow-up X-rays showing it completely gone the next. I have seen alcoholics and drug addicts set free with a prayer, marriages healed, and words of knowledge that were so personal it was mind blowing. And of course the greatest miracle of them all, a life changed in the twinkling of an eye - passing from darkness to life.

I believe that the supernatural is a way of life. It seems random some times, but for those that press in, it is more regular than the average skeptic would believe.

My favorite miracle was when our now 6-year-old was born. My wife was in labor and we were listening to the 10 Shekel Much CD as I chatted with the doctor. I was holding my wife’s hand and everything about her birth seemed pretty normal. But then she caught her shoulder in the birth canal – a condition called dystocia.  The doctor went into emergency mode, and nurses came running from everywhere. It all turned out OK, but it was a little scary. The next day, our precious little one whose lungs had become filled with “stuff” spiked a temperature and had an infection. The pediatrician put her on antibiotics but her vitals were getting worse by the hour. Instead of taking home a healthy little girl, she was fighting to stay alive.

On the way down to the cafeteria that day, there was a couple that lost their child. It was painful to watch them holding each other and sobbing. I remember just asking God to give them peace. I can’t imagine the pain.

With wires and IVs everywhere we couldn’t pick up little Charlotte. It was awful to be so helpless just looking at her. She was three days old and my wife and I stood there by the plastic bassinet, looking, holding hands, and watching the important vital signs approaching deadly limits. It was then that I asked my wife to pray for her with me. We simply asked God to heal Charlotte. The power of God fell and Charlotte was out in the spirit. Her perpetual motion (to this day) stopped as God’s presence came to her room. We felt peace too.

Just a few hours later; less than 2, her vitals improved significantly, and within 4 hours they were normal. The nurses seemed surprised and the doctor did too. The hospital kept her one more night to make sure everything was OK and we took her home the next day.

How about you, is there a miracle that you were a witness to?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Enter The Mosh Pit

I dunno if I would wanna see any of the miracles of Jesus back in His day. One: because that would mean I was living back in His day and I wouldn't want to live back in His day. I like the internet, my celly, my car, lights and indoor plumbing. I like them A LOT!

Two: because if I saw one of His miracles would I still believe that He was the Son of God. You see, when He delivered me from booze and restored my mind from meth, I had my miracle that made me believe in Him.

Even if I could travel back in time, I wouldn't really wanna see the miracle or the work of Jesus, so much as, I would wanna see the person before and after the miracle. I would wanna see the lady before she touched the hem of Jesus and all the people in her life. I would want to see the same people's reactions after she told them of the Great Jesus. It would be cool to see Zacchaeus scrambling up a tree to see Jesus and what lead him to that point. It would also be interesting to see how Zacchaeus live his Faith after making the pledge to give half of his fortune.

I wonder how these people handled the ups and downs of life after Jesus intervened in their lives. I wonder how they received the news that Jesus was crucified and later resurrected. Do you read what I am getting at?

If I could go back to witness an event or moment in the bible I would want to check out what went down in 2 Samuel 6.1-23. Now, I can't say I wouldn't get overwhelmed with the smell of body odor or animals but if that didn't make me nauseas I am sure seeing the slaughter of the oxen and sheep would get to me for sure. But what I would want to see is David dancing.

Early in my Faith, I had prayed to God that I would 'dance like David'. I kinda prayed it because it seemed like a 'good charismatic prayer'. I also wanted to express myself freely in worship. Now in my past, I didn't really have trouble expressing myself through dancing, if I had good amount of beer or vodka in me. And depending upon how much booze, there was no limit to how freely I expressed myself. But having come into the Church and seeing other peeps dancing, singing and rejoicing uninhibited before God, I was awed and humbled. These people were so passionate about Jesus that they didn't care about anything but worshipping Him.

I wanted that. And God is faithful, I got it. One day, I could no longer contain myself and I had to cut loose. It felt like my calves were gonna explode. The Joy and Love in my heart was so overwhelming that my insecurities of what others would think became nothing. I broke outta the row of chairs and began dancing. Now, how I moved about definitely wasn’t like most of the others were moving about. I was mashing. I was nothing but a fury of stomping, shouting and flailing as I worshipped my God! It was awesome and maybe scary to some and possibly hazardous to all but it was awesome.

A few years later, I looked up the Hebrew definitions of dancing (karar- dance (i.e. whirl) and leaping (pazaz-also to spring-as if separating the limbs). Needless to say, God answered my prayer.

It has been years since I have broken out in dance like that during Sunday Service. At home, with the Mrs and the kids, I can get stomping. But I can’t get too loose or I may wind up accidently slapping someone or crushing the toddler or worse. But there are those times when I have the 'floor all to myself' that I have to dance for my King.

How about you?  Are you ready to celebrate a Holy God?  Are you willing to lay aside all of your insecurities or inhibitions to worship the Risen King?  Are you ready to enter the mosh pit?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I know David Johndrow...and sir, you are no David Johndrow!

The past 10 days have been...shall we say...unique for me. It's not unusual at all to be in an exchange via email or on Facebook at any given time with an atheist or agnostic about God. I've also had a number of face to face discussions too. Honestly, I quite enjoy the opportunity to witness for a Savior who has done so much in my life.

But for the past week and a half, I've been engaged with with two agnostics (one a friend through sports broadcasting), two atheist, a Muslim, two close friends who rest their hats on the predestination rack, four young people from church struggling with issues of faith and all the while teaching a Sunday School class on apologetics.

You know what they say about too much of a good thing...

I'm going to exclude my two Calvinist friends because our dialogue has been ongoing for awhile. I also consider both crucial pieces God has used in the puzzle of my life (you're just not corner ). I love my friends...we just happen to read differently.

2 Timothy 2:24-26 (New King James Version)
24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.

Paul gave some valuable counsel to Timothy. He would have paid a fortune in psychologist fees today for the stuff Paul laid on him. And we still continue to profit from those words...thank God!

Here's another verse I get beat up with often. Believe it or not, my ongoing correspondence with the Muslim has been very rewarding. We connected through a work associate in Turkey who knew my colors. It just so happens I've read and studied the Koran, and I think my working knowledge has been a definite benefit in explaining why we don't worship the same God.

The young people who are going through a bit of a challenge were hit with another blow as a young man from our church was killed in a tragic accident last week. He was 28, married with a one year old daughter. He comes from a family tremendously strong in their faith in God. Though his death was truly tragic...his lasting testimony will glorify God for many years to come and gave us great talking points to work through.

I too easily relate to the agnostic because of my own journey. Having a common point of reference and empathy for the ongoing search to fill the 'soul hole', my confidence is lifted in providing good discussions. I believe I'm most patient when discussing God with folks from this group.

Now here comes my struggle...the atheist. Wow is it hard to be gentle here Father. I've often remarked, rather offhandedly, that atheism is a mental illness, and maybe that's just not fair. It's definitely not Christ-like. I just get so frustrated trying to convince someone that belief in God takes no more faith than belief there is no supreme being at all. Actually, I'm convinced it takes far more faith to believe the latter...with the gravest of consequences.

I have to keep reminding myself God gave us the ability to choose to believe or not to believe, and I'm not going to change the decision not to believe in some. With apologies to my Calvinist friends of course...

Monday, April 26, 2010

Lord it's hard to be humble...when you made me such a great dancer.

I missed my Friday rotation due to the death of a close family friend to both Candice and I. Thanks David for letting me post on your day instead. I love you brother.

The below YouTube video has been used by a number of people to illustrate a plethora of different points. Not long ago, I did a little editing on the video for our church's Youth Pastor, so he could make a point with our teenagers. Good stuff.

Let me follow suit...

Last week, your Kingdom Bloggers were discussing being a part of the Body of Christ, using a spiritual gift while working with others who have different spiritual gifts. Immediately, this video came to mind.

I personally have absolutely no problem being that first guy up. Good, bad or even ugly...God made me fearless when it comes to being a trailblazer. New music, new ministries or even new theological ideas (gasp) are no obstacle for yours truly. The problem with that gift is the potential of God not being a part of the new movement, and the motivation for the movement is all self-driven. Ouch. Now we have a problem.

But what if the idea or movement is from God, yet so different in scope it may intimidate others. That's where the spiritual gift I'm not blessed with comes to play...and that's the second guy up who joins in and starts dancing. Without him, you have a single nut out there on an island of what has become humility. First dude absolutely needs second dude to get his movement started. I'm thankful to God for the brave souls who believe in a new idea enough to stand up in support...stepping out on faith most of the time because they don't fully realize the scope of the movement or plan.

Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves.
Philippians 2:3

God often breaks me with this verse. He blessed me with the gall to often be the first, but in that blessing comes a tightrope walk between confidence/arrogance and humility on my part. Praise often comes to the entrepreneur that succeeds in our society. Often that praise is followed by pride on the part of the succeeding. The very same thing happens in our churches. Those who stand up as a show of support and go storming into a new venture, knowing full well the credit for success will fall elsewhere, exercise a lesson in humility that is very much Christ-like.

Yes, Jesus was the first up in the greatest movement in all human history...but He did it with the humility of the second guy up.
Lord, help me be humble, please break me down, while giving me strength to be brave in Your name. May I never forget it's ALL about You. Amen.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Surprise Me!

Many years ago when I lived in Connecticut, a woman in the church I attended came to me and said I had a dream about you. I thought oh, really? I was all ears.

I don't remember exactly how the dream went but I do remember that it had to do with me having lots and lots of presents. She said that I had lots of presents and all of them were mine. They were beautifully wrapped gifts. She said "I think God is going to give you lots of gifts. They were there for the picking."

I thought WOW! That's cool! I said something spiritual like MORE LORD! We said that a lot in those days. I can remember some really neat times where declaring "more Lord" meant some amazing experiences in God.

I like gifts. I have some definite feelings about gifts. First, they should be from the heart. To me that means that the giver knows me well enough to know what I might like. They know my favorite color, favorite flower, favorite food, or something.

Cost doesn't matter. A gift of the right type of chocolate covered cherries - Cella with 100% liquid centers absolutely delights me. The ones with cream centers will not make me happy. An inexpensive box of the right kind, tells me you know me well enough to buy the right kind. It is the knowing me that is much more important than the gift itself.

I also like to be surprised. My husband is not good at surprise or even picking gifts. One Christmas, I agreed to go shopping with him. I picked out my presents and he picked out his. We wrapped them and put them under the tree. I hated it. The gifts had no meaning. There was nothing special about them at all.

Maybe I'm just too hard to please. Nevertheless, I still like to be surprised with a gift from the heart. I want a gift that meets my criteria of a true gift.

It's the same way with God's gifts. I want all the gifts that the woman saw - I want to be showered with gifts from God. I want to open those beautifully packaged gifts and delight in each one. I know God knows my heart and I know His heart for me is what is best. I imagine any gift God gives me with be perfect.

That's why I can't chose today a gift to write about today. I can think of lots of areas that I'm deficient. I have lots of things that need fixing. I have lots of things I want to do better. There are lots of gifts I'd love to have to not just benefit myself but to give back to the body of Christ. I'd like to lay hands on every person with cancer and see them miraculously healed. I'd like to multiply fish and bread and feed thousands of hungry people. I have a holy greed, I want it all.

I'm not going to chose. I'm going to let God chose what gifts He has for me. I want Him to not only send it from His heart, but also to surprise me.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. Psalm 20:4

I work in a satellite warehouse and some days I make deliveries to the main facility. It is there where I see a Brutha in Christ and we try to get caught up on each others lives in a few quick moments depending upon how pressing the work is. We will dialogue about the kids, wives and Jesus. Steve and I used to get together and pray after work, so we will also take prayer requests from each other. Depending upon how urgent the prayer is, we may pray right there.

Mind you, Steve is a pretty laid back guy, very humble and a great worker. I tend to be a little bit more vocal and more willing to chat than he will be. I am the one who will start up the prayers and afterwards say goodbye with a "Love you, Bro!” and a slap on the shoulder.

Steve is also a great servant. I wanna gloss the Brutha as "Ox" because I have known very few others that are as great of example of a servant as Steve. But Steve just doesn't look like an "Ox" and I think it would embarrass him being called "Ox" knowing how I intended it. (For those that know the Steve I am talking about, can you tell I wanna get the nickname 'Ox' to stick, so help me out here and holler 'Ox' when you see Steve.)

When my family and I moved to CR, Steve loaned me his lawn mower because by the time we moved in (which Steve helped with) the grass was way too tall for me to cut down with my manual lawn mower. As I was nearing the end of the hay baling, the arm on his mower snapped near the deck. I told Steve about it when he came by to pick it up, because that is just the type of guy he is, I told him I could fix it and he refused saying he would take care of it.

The next summer my wife was having a yard sale and she made it very clear that the straggly weeds that withstood the onslaught of my furious manual lawn mowing needed to be cut down. So, of course I hit up the guy whose lawn mower I had previously borrowed and broken. I stopped by his house after work to pick up the mower, this time refusing his offer to bring it to me. Not only did he loan the mower to me, he filled it up with gas.

Steve is an awesome dude who is willing to help anyone. I could tell about the time his work day ended with a jerk coworker dumping on him and on his way home he helped out a stranded motorist on a cold, rainy day by running person to the other side of town, only to get to his driveway when his wife called his celly and asked him to run to the grocery store. And he did all of this without complaining. I could also tell about the time, he and his wife babysat my youngest son on a couple of hours notice so I could accept the dare from another Brutha to get a tattoo on my tongue. Or the times he...I guess I could continue to give examples of Steve's generosity and willingness.

I didn't write this to just hype up a great friend and a great man of Jesus, I wrote this because of what I realized about Steve today. For months now, when I have seen Steve while making a delivery, I have seen in my mind's eye Psalm 20:4 written across his chest. "May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed." I have told Steve this and encouraged him to pray even bigger. I have encouraged Steve pray for relationships restored, kids and grandkids serving the Kingdom and anything else he could think of every time I would see in the Spirit Psalm 20:4 stamped across his heart.

It was today that I understood why I kept seeing this. See, Steve is such a servant, so unselfish that he is a reflection of Jesus. And because Steve is like Jesus in his willingness to esteem others better than himself  that also he prays like Jesus. Steve prays for the things that are eternal, Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Gentleness, Faithfulness and Self Control. (Galatians 5:22-23) Because Steve gives up his time, convenience and comfort to help others, he mirrors what Jesus did by giving up the His place in heaven to become flesh and serve all of humanity by dying for our sins. And just like with Christ's service in which people take for granted what He did, I believe there are people who have taken for granted what Steve does. And similar to Jesus, Steve just keeps serving and loving people has Holy Spirit gives opportunity.

Please don't misunderstand me, Steve ain't Jesus! He can't pay the price for his own sins let alone anyone else’s. Steve is far from perfect and I have heard him tell me that many times. Not out of a false sense of humility or insecurity, but out of a desire to be better.

I believe it is because Steve truly has the heart of a servant that God will give him the desires of his heart and make Steve's plans succeed. Steve isn't praying from the mind but praying from his heart, a faithful heart that is submitted to serving Jesus by serving others. This is the reason God will answer Steve's prayers and it will be the reason "We will shout for joy when you are victorious and will lift up our banners in the name of our God." It is also the reason why I say to Steve, "May the LORD grant all your requests." Psalm 20:5

Monday, April 19, 2010

What I Want - Desire the Spiritual Gifts

10 years ago I was in Brazil for the first time. It was a three week, whirlwind tour of church after church. I was with a team of four; two Brazilians, myself and a friend who is a Korean. It was an amazing time, and God did amazing things. (HERE is the complete rundown.)

A prophetic minister once called me a reluctant leader.I am very content to take the back seat to anyone, especially if they aremore gifted than I am.I have done lots fo blogs about gifting HERE is on.

This week your Kingdom Bloggers are writing about what it means to be part of the Body of Christ - to be gifted in one area, and work with those gifted in another area.

Our little team was diverse in gifting. Lessak was a seminary trained preacher - and a fiery one at that. Carlos, also a seminary trained minister; very pastoral, and had the gift of evangelism like I have never seen it. He would preach on a street corner, and 50 people would come to the Lord. He had success on cruise ships, tour buses and one-on-one. From the pulpit he get more hands per service that anyone I have ever seen in even the most evangelical of churches.My background is much more about prophetic ministry than anything else, although I have been to cemetery. Hyangnan, she had some seminar training, but her gift was healing.

On November 19, 1999 we were at a meeting at Igreja Evangelica Luz do Mundo in Londrina, BZ.It was strange, but the pastor left the meeting early; another commitment I guess. We just started to pray for people and Nan laid hands on a woman who had a severe car accident nearly a year before and was in wheelchair. She got up and started to walk around that sanctuary - healed! Another woman who was about 60 with leg braces on, received prayer. She took them off and was running about the sanctuary, shouting "Gloria Deus!" For she had been crippled since birth!

What I love about the body of Christ, is that I just have t do my part - to be the gifting or talent that I am . I don't have to bring thousands to Christ like Billy Graham, or preach a sermon like Charles Stanley. What I have to do is see what the Father is doing and do it.

1 Corinthians 14 1 Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. 2 For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit 3 But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.

How about you, do you desire the spiritual gifts?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Thousand Years

Bethany Lighari is joining us today as a guest blogger. Her gift is poetry. She will be joining us on Saturdays from time to time. 

Living in Tennessee she is a follower of Jesus Christ, a mother, a student,  and Joyce's daughter. She is a new blogger. Visit her blog at Lessons, Trials and Miracles

Is God's kingdom a beautiful forever?
Only to be seen when soul and body sever
When souls leave earth to become anew
And slip to heavens gates and ushered through
There singing God's praise for a thousand years
A radiating perfect God wipes all of our tears

Is God's kingdom seen in His smallest creation?
A tiny beating heart in mothers womb, her hearts elation?
God knitting in mothers womb, His promise of life
All the days ordained, yet even moments of strife
A new life God loves yet a mother would scorn
As He protects and nurtures a blessing is born

God's kingdom demonstrated with a life of servitude and praise 
When man lives to love Him all of his meager days
As God's creation tells of His amazing love
God inscribes names in the Book of Life above
Miracles occur and account of His glory
God's wonder shown in each life's story

God's kingdom was indeed not of this earth
And not on the cross with His last breath
King of the Jews inscribed as He waited to die
While few loyal below did lament and cry
His kingdom touches all above and below
It touches the sun rising and setting on the horizon
Even as night's death gives way to sun rising
A broken curse of death and sin
God's kingdom is also found there within

God's kingdom hopes not a soul should perish
Each one loved, each heart He does cherish
What is that one thing? That one lost sheep
That He holds close to His heart He does keep
Indeed God's kingdom touches all
Yet God desires not one should fall
It touches hearts and brings the lost home
Each one lost sheep nevermore should roam
Safe in God's arms at home with a King
A thousand more years His praises to sing

Friday, April 16, 2010

I wonder if Celine Deon, Luther Vandross or Huey Lewis really have a clue...

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. - 1 John 4:16

Last week, I was discussing my faith with a friend who happens to be agnostic. The conversation was very 'matter of fact', and I wasn't in a mode of conversion...just two guys talking about bigger things in life than ourselves.

At a point, faith came into play. He expressed how the faith element of Christianity was the most difficult one for him to swallow. Normally, I have a standard answer about how it takes no more faith to believe in God than it does to believe in Einstein or Newton. The Theory of Relativity is just that...a theory...and is impossible to prove on a cosmic scale. But I digress.

But before I could even shift into my feelings on faith, I chuckled and responded, 'Wait until you get to the part on love...' Naturally, that peeked his interest, and he began to probe to see my feelings on the subject matter.

Let me stop and remind readers about a favorite saying from my now deceased grandfather- When you're hip deep in snapping turtles, it's too late to think about draining the pond.

I took a deep breath, fully realizing the can I had opened and moved forward with John 3:16 emphasizing the word 'so' from the verse. Then I moved on to other familiar passages, including the one above, before coming to the very passage I would hear my pastor speak on less than a week later at this past Wednesday night's service. He actually started with John 15:1 and worked through verse 8, stopped for discussion, then moved to the passage I used talking to my friend...John 15:12.

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

For me, coming to grips with the reality that I must rely on faith to fill voids left by unanswerable questions was a lengthy struggle. There are a number of questions I will never know the answer to on this side of Heaven, and I'll only know them then if He chooses to reveal the answers to me. I have, however, overcome that struggle to live by faith. Following the command of my Savior to love my neighbor as I love myself...that's a completely different struggle...and a difficult one each and every day.

The word love (or variations of the word) is mentioned 442 times in the KJV Bible and 697 times in the NIV Bible. Most references are found in the New Testament. But beyond the numbers, Christ spoke and commanded us to love on numerous occasions. It doesn't take a Rhodes Scholar to figure out how important the verb love is to Christians. So why do most of us struggle so much with love?

Although the question may be rhetorical, the struggle is almost universal. I can only speak from my perspective, which has seen me make a concentrated effort to follow the two greatest commandments according to Jesus...Matthew 22:35-40.

It is a daily effort to live first and foremost by this very principle, I must admit a greater level of joy has been a result of that effort. It's easy to love my fellow Kingdom Bloggers, but not so easy to love the child molester while condemning his actions... I don't really have a chose in the matter though if I'm to be Christ-like and live in God. That's the true power of love.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Two Verses

There is a lot I don't understand about God and His creation. In fact, it was this conclusion that lead me to determine that He is the one true God. By acknowledging that I was a man of limitations, selfishness, exaggerated self importance and immorality, I knew that any god that I could understand, could not be a god that I could serve. The God that was worthy of my efforts (yeah, I actually thought this way-a great example of my exaggerated self importance) had to be a Holy God.
Having been in the Faith for about 13+ years now (struggling at times, strongly committed other times and having quit a couple of times as well) I have come back to this initial conclusion many times.

He is God and I am not!

I am not shy about sharing my beliefs and I am not afraid to answer skepticism with "I don't know the answer to that." When it comes to 'defending', 'justifying' or simply 'reassuring' my Faith, I stand upon two passages:

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
Hebrews 11:6

The Bible is the Word of God, it is by Faith that I seek Him and He rewards me accordingly.
Over time, as I have grown in knowledge of the Word, my beliefs have been modified. My opinions about the Church, social issues and the world have been altered as I have grown more in my knowledge of Him and His Word.

Through the years of using His Word as my reference point of my Faith, I have grown more confidant in what I believe. What wasn't of God in my life, the Word revealed, sometimes to the very beginning of my Faith. In the past, I had to let Holy Spirit tear up the foundation I had laid and start over. I had to lay aside my perceived knowledge and my pride and start over at the Chief Cornerstone. He has revealed more of Himself and His Truth as I have searched for His answers and not the convenient answers that religion and the world would offer. It is interesting (and it can be frustrating) to me how God will 'answer' my specific questions and reveal deeper Truths to me when I walk in Faith and search His Word.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Taste and See!

Gee – thanks David! You don’t make it easy for the rest of us to come behind you. Nonetheless, I’ll give it my best shot.

David mentioned a controversy about the Holy Spirit in his blog yesterday. Today, with much fear and trepidation, I want to comment on the perhaps one of the most controversial areas in all of Christendom, Eucharist, Holy Communion, The Lord’s Supper or whatever other term you use for it.

I’ve mentioned many times before, or if you read my blog Sounds of Hope, you’ve heard me talk about the church I grew up in, Salem Gospel Tabernacle.  To say that I love and highly esteem my childhood spiritual experience is an understatement. Equally understated is to say I was blessed.

Nevertheless, I used to envy my Catholic friends who got that white dress and looked like brides when they made their first Holy Communion. When I was a very small child, I never saw communion in our church. It was reserved for the monthly Tuesday night business meeting. Weekly the saints would gather for prayer on Tuesday and then once a month, they would have communion together during their prayer/business meetings. 

They strictly adhered to “closed communion.” If you weren’t a member, you couldn’t partake of the Lord’s Supper. Baptism by immersion was required for membership. Once baptized, you were a member of the church. The two went hand in hand. The elders and pastor would meet to discuss whether you were old enough to thoroughly understand and were in a position to become a voting member of the church. They were strict to say the least.

Somewhere in my early childhood, they decided to do communion on Sunday morning. I think it was because too many people were unable to come on Tuesday evening.  At the conclusion of the service, at the last hymn, Pastor would announce anyone who was not a member was free to leave the service. There was one woman who was so faithful to the church but could not become a member of the church I think because she was divorced. I always thought that was sad because this same woman moved in the spiritual gifts in the service. Even as a child I wondered how she could be excluded from membership but yet God seemed to approve of her.  When the announcement was made, I would see her scurry for the back door.

My mother always brought cookies to keep me quiet in church. It was a very necessary bribery. I saved two of my cookies on the Sunday there was Communion. When Pastor would say “Let us all eat together” I would put the first cookie in my mouth and chew. Then when he would say “Let us all drink together” I would put the second cookie in my mouth and try not to chew too noticeably.  I noticed a heaviness settle over the group as they started communion. One of the elders would start a spontaneous hymn. Then the feeling in the sanctuary would change drastically as Communion was over. I always felt like we were aware of our need for the Savior as we started Communion and were relieved of our guilt by the end.

I’ve been learning a lot about Eucharist. I have been learning the terms transubstantiation and consubstantiation.  I’ve been learning that Eucharist is much more than a memorial or symbolic. I am still unsure of exactly what it is but I know it is important to understand and participate in the Lord’s Table. I know Christ is present when we do in some mysterious way that is bigger than what I can understand.

One of my classmates in theology has put it very well:

What matters is that in communion we both give and receive from God, we both speak and are spoken to by God, we both taste and see God as well as God sees us and in a figurative way taste us, i.e He gets a sense of what we are like as we approach and partake of the table. "Taste the Lord and see that He is good" we are told.

For me communion entails far more than I could say here. For communion is where we meet God, were we receive His grace.  If the church [Kingdom] is not communion, than what is the church, other than a meeting place, not unlike the Eagles? But the church is the body of Christ in which the world is given the opportunity to take part. Taste and see that the Lord is good!

Another mentioned that Wesley saw Eucharist as a converting sacrament.

Kingdom dwellers need to partake of the table of the Lord, the thanksgiving feast and share it with the world for which Christ died. Communion is a big deal in the Kingdom. What does it mean to you?

Monday, April 12, 2010

If I Could Share Just One Thing, One Thing I Know About the Kingdom

And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Acts 2:42

This week your Kingdom Bloggers are going to share an essential truth - one foundational to their walk.

Living for Jesus is not easy, it’s essential. We must do everything possible to make sure that we are focused on Him, the work He is doing in us, and the work that he has for us to do. People often ask me about the testimonies that I give, and how to connect with God like that. On more then one occasion, folks have said to me, "If I could hear God like you do, it would be easier to walk in faith." Or  "You have a of of faith, I wish I had faith like that."

First, let me say that I am not special. I am simply an individual; a resident of the Kingdom of God, with a few spiritual gifts, some experience, and not much fear of "winging it." I honestly had not really looked back to see how I got where I was, and I definitely had not thought about where I was going. One day, however; I was reading one of my favorite chapters in the Bible: Acts chapter 2.

If we look closely at chapter 2 as a model for entering into the process of sanctification, we find seven foundational steps for living the spirit-filled life. If we reject anyone of these, we will not be able to live in power and purity, nor sense the assurance of salvation, and perform whatever ministry He has called us to. I try very hard to keep things simple, and you probably should too.

-1 Salvation through faith in Jesus – Acts 2:41(a) “Then those who gladly received his word.”

Getting to this step can be quite a long process, but Romans 10:9-10 is the bar that we must meet.

-2 Water Baptism - Acts 2:41(b) “were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.”

Although I do not believe that water baptism is a requirement for salvation, I believe that it is an important step for living the life of a Christian. In it, we identify with the death and resurrection of Christ, and we are obedient to one of His commands.

-3 Baptism of the Holy Spirit – Acts 2:33 (b) “Received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit.

Step three is important to understanding the fullness of the godhead in us. The Holy Spirit is our comforter and our teacher; convicting us of sin and empowering us to do what the Father is doing. The Holy Spirit is a witness to the resurrection of Jesus. I suppose there is some controversy to this step. Some folks say it happens at the memoent of salvation, I don't believe that. HERE is why. The church, historically, has laid hands on the faithful for the baptism to take place for 2000.Some call it confirmation.If one "receives the Holy Spirit, their faith is "confirmed." Read Acts 10 for a full biblical description of the experience. Without the Holy Spirit, our Christian walk is mostly a lot of lip service to our beliefs.

-4 Study - Acts 2:42 (a) And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine

Without putting on the mind of Christ, and having a sword that separates the soul from the spirit, we are bound to make mistakes and fall into sin. We’ll have little wisdom in times of trouble, and we may even lead others astray.

-5 Fellowship - Acts 2:42 (b) and fellowship,

We can’t be apart from the body of Christ endlessly. Even Paul while in prison “kept the faith.” Sure there are some that are isolated, but the norm is to be part of a body and bear one another’s burdens, and to show kindness and love to the brethren.

-6 Communion - Acts 2:42 (c) in the breaking of bread,

Remembering Jesus is the bases of communion. Breaking bread can take many different forms, but it is the heartfelt remembrance of the work done on the cross that is central to this sacrament.

-7 Prayer - Acts 2:42 (d) and in prayers.

Prayer comes in many different forms. There is praise, intercession, supplication, soaking, seeking, harp and bowl, directive and prophetic prayer. It is more than talking to God; it is deep calling deep; a place to hear His voice for your life, for others and the church. The “gimme” prayers are for babies. Jesus needs to be in communication with us in such a way, that we are asking for the things that He has planned for us. We can’t waste time asking for things that we don’t need, are not good for us, and do not increase His purpose in our lives and ministry.

I know it seems sort of basic, but if we are missing any one of these steps, we are bound to run a muck somewhere. This is the foundation of the Christian life and if we are honest with ourselves, especially if we do not feel connected to God, then we may, in fact, just be religious. If we have done all of the above in a natural, and non-intellectual way, then all that is left is is to earnestly desire the gifts of God (1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, Ephesians 4, and get out there and live it.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Our text for this morning is Romans 14:17

I have a professor this semester who is Russian, from Russia. He has a strong accent. He even shares the first name Vladimir with Mr. Putin, the Prime Minister of Russia. I wonder if Vladimir was the number one baby name for boys born in Russian about 35-40 years ago. Vladimir teaches my Christian Heritage class. We have been studying the reformation and all the mess in Europe during that period.

I like people with accents. I am actually drawn to them because I grew up hearing more people with an accent than without. It is a wonder I have learned to speak English without one. I was listening to Vladimir one day and he was talking about the mieeDdle ages. I wish you could hear him say Middle Ages.
As the lecture goes on something like this:

If you vere to get in a time machine and ask someone if they lived in the MieeDle Ages, they vould say ya, sure, I know this.
Den you vould say, how you know you live in Mieedle Ages? They vould say because I live in the time beeetwen the birth of Christ and his coming again. Ya sure ve all live in MieeDle Ages.

Now my point is certainly not to make fun of the accent. I have already said I love accents. I think they add richness to the ear like a symphony. They dance over the hairs in your ears vibrating a new arrangement of sound, understandable but yet different than the mundane sound of the same words.

The point is that we live in the Middle Ages still. We live in the period between the First and Second Advent. We live in the time where the Kingdom has come and is not yet fully come. We live in a great paradox.  

My fellow writers have been quite good this week. They have shared personal stories and analogies about the Kingdom. Now here I am with theological talk. I guess that’s what happens when you are in school all the time. I wish I had something more entertaining to say.

Nonetheless, I think we have lost a sense of the Kingdom as the eternal reign of Christ on earth as something that is here and now.  I might step on some toes. My words may not delightfully dance over the hairs in your ears.

If the Kingdom is here and has already begun, if we live in the Middle Ages of eternal time, then our focus, our loyalties, our devotion, our everything are wrapped up in our citizenship in THIS Kingdom. The first Christians, before Christianity became the official religion of Rome and was favored, saw themselves as no longer part of this world, this system. They saw themselves as citizens of the Kingdom of God. They grasped what Ancient Israel had not, that there is only one King. That King is the Lord God Almighty.

For them time was suspended. They already lived in eternal time. They saw that they represent the Kingdom of God on earth. As the hands, feet and even mouthpiece of the resurrected Jesus they were known for hospitality to strangers in their midst. They were known to show Christ’s love even at risk of death.

When I was a kid, an expression was used sometime about people. They would say the person was so heavenly minded they were no earthly good. I didn’t like that even as a kid. I didn’t understand how you could be so much a part of the Kingdom of God and a representative of the Heavenly Kingdom where God’s reign is eternal and not be good on earth.

The Kingdom of God is righteousness – a right relationship with God and others, ALL others. Remember that song:

red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world.

The Kingdom of God is peace. Not a superficial peace or even a political peace but a peace that is a deep settled-ness, that “peace that passes understanding.” It is being an agent of peace everywhere you go.

The Kingdom of God is joy. Joy doesn’t come because of circumstances. It comes because you know where you citizenship is, you know you are citizen of heaven, you are part of Christ’s body.

The Kingdom of God comes most near when you give a cup of water in His name, you clothe the naked, you visit the prisoners, and you show God’s peace. The Kingdom of God is living with Christ as your King and your allegiance to Him and His Kingdom. The Kingdom of God is most near when you reach out to those in need as Jesus did. 

Who can you find to bless, help, restore, bring deliverance and healing to this weekend?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Play Ball

I read one time that 'An analogy of God is like viewing the Grand Canyon through an empty toilet paper roll in the rain', or something along those lines.  I gotta agree, because if a person keeps breaking down an analogy of The Infinite, Holy God, eventually it will fall apart. So please keep that in mind as you read this entry.

Monday, was opening day in baseball.  I have followed the sport distantly since the strike in '94.  There have been historical moments that drew back in, as well as the Twins and Cardinals doing well.  But my enthusiasm for baseball is nothing compared to my passion for football and MMA.

Anyways, think of the Kingdom of God as the World Series. Only two teams get to play in the series. Two teams that have met the qualifications that is required. Each team had to win its league and prior to that each team had to earn a spot in the playoffs. All 30 teams start the season with the goal of winning the World Series. All believers in Christ want to inherit the Kingdom of God.

Imagine the opening day of baseball as Salvation. On opening day, every team begins with a fresh start. Some have more going for them than others because of a higher payroll or better players, but all begin the exact same, 0-0. Just like the believer that has confessed Jesus as Lord, (Romans 10.9-10) every person starts with a clean record.

As the season progresses, some teams excel and others fail. This is sorta like people’s faith. Some grow stronger, get better in their Faith and others, and just fall behind. Does Major League Baseball eliminate teams from baseball because of horrible play or bad management? Nope! And Salvation is similar, once a person has it, God ain’t taking it away. (2 Corinthians 1.22)

Just like with the Kingdom in which not everyone gets in, every team that in MLB will not get to the playoffs. The teams that do get to play for the league pennant have met the qualifications. They have persisted when others have quit, they have overcome adversity from outside and from within and they have earned their spot in the playoffs.

So, after being Justified by Faith (Ephesians 2.8-9) in Christ, what initially qualifies a believer for the Kingdom? Baptisms! Water and Spirit. (John 3.5) If you have one without the other, it’s like tying for the division lead, but losing a tie breaker. Or its like getting swept in the divisional round of the playoffs. You aint qualified for the Kingdom without the Baptisms.

Are those the only requirements? Nope, just like getting in the playoffs doesn’t mean that team will be playing in the World Series. Those that will inherit the Kingdom, have played by the rules (Mark 12.30-31) and have been victorious when it mattered most. The teams that do the best in the League Championship Series, no matter how convincingly or pathetically they did it, they are the ones playing in the World Series.

Think about this, before you dismiss this analogy because it seems too simple. If a person plays by the rules (Micah 6.8) wouldn’t they do the things (Romans 12.2, Colossians 3.1-10, James 1.27, 1 Timothy 6.11-12) to qualify and NOT do the things that would disqualify (1 Corinthians 6.9-10, Galatians 5.19-21, Ephesians 5.5) them from the Kingdom? Choosing to play by Holy Spirit's rules and not our own is what Paul referenced as being Sanctified (1 Corinthians 1.30) or living with Self Control (Acts 24.25).

And ultimately, Faith is not about rules, it is about love.  A love for God and for others that compels us to sacrifice wants and needs for the blessing of others. (Romans 12.9-13) Unlike, the World Series, no one knows for sure who will inherit the Kingdom and who won't. Yes, we know that the Minnesota Vikings (football), Detroit Red Wings (hockey), Ben Henderson (mixed martial arts) and the Iowa Hawkeyes (college athletics) will  never play in the World Series because they don't play Major League baseball.  Just the same with those that choose not play God's game of Eternity. It is obvious that some will never Inherit the Kingdom because of the evidence of their lifestyles. 

But too many times, believers get caught up in what everyone else is doing and they ignore what Holy Spirit is leading them to do. Too many times, people get caught off base, or they never take the bat off their shoulder or they get injured and choose to quit.  Some people get so caught up in the rules (written and unwritten), the 'integrity of the game', or the drama outside of the game that they don't play up to their potential.  Some people don't even hear the umpire yell, "Play ball!"

What about you? Are you ready to play ball?
Or are you stuck holding a wet, empty toilet paper roll?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Sometimes we're just too stupid to be embarrassed...

I'm very fortunate to have a mom that brought me up going to church. Sunday morning attendance of Sunday School and 'Preaching' , as it was called, was not optional in our home for either me or my sister. Dad was on his own program.

Despite a steady stream of Bible stories, sermons and church activities, I was well into my teen years before accepting the Kingdom through the free pardon of sin known as grace. Despite having a wealth of positive influences around me most all the time, there was conflict there also. I believed what I had been told about the path to Heaven for the most part, but I needed to still know more before taking that most important step.

During my 8th grade year, I decided to go out for basketball that winter. I had played football and baseball since I was five years old, but organized basketball had never been a standout sport for me. Despite the fact, I made the team and found a niche as a scrappy utility player. My playing philosophy was the rules provided for 5 fouls each game...why not make sure I used them all. Besides, that's why there were 7 other guys on the bench.

Prior to a rivalry game on our home court, the team was lined up in the hall waiting to file out for pre-game warm ups. There was a longer than usual wait because the opposing coach wanted us to come out first, and our coach was calling his bluff. I was always one of the first out, so I posted up at the door and was peeking out through a small crack. Directly in my line of sight was the opposing teams cheerleaders. Third from the right in their line up was the absolute hottest 13 year old I had ever seen.

I quickly motioned for a couple of the guys to move up and take a look. After everyone had taken a gander and weighed in with their assessments, I pushed everyone aside and repositioned for another look. What came out of my young mouth next would probably make a sailor a matter of fact...I'm blushing now just recalling the incident. But a crude comment wasn't enough. Oh no. I went into a tirade of obscenity-filled filth that I barely understand the meaning of today, much less as a hormone-overloaded teenager who was yet to experience sex for the first time. Apparently, I was taking the pornography my cousin and I had hidden in our grandfather's barn and little to literally.

As I plastered to the door crack going through my best Redd Foxx stand-up bit (which were quite filthy I've heard), I felt a hand on my shoulder. I shrugged it off and defended my spot with my best boxing out position. The hand came back to my shoulder, and as I whirled around to confront the idiot that was interrupting my peepshow, I was looking eye-to-eye with my basketball coach. The look on his face at that moment will never leave my mind's eye. With just a gruffed 'get back in line right now,' I knew my life as I had known it was over. Our coach was the son of a Baptist pastor, and unlike me, he had paid close attention during his younger days in church.

After the game (which I never step foot on the floor during), he told me to meet him in the hallway outside our locker room. He never raised his voice or even showed anger. What he projected very clearly was...disappointment. He lectured me for the better part of half an hour and how I thought my mom and dad would feel if they knew what I had said. He told me he wasn't going to say anything to them...but God would still know, and I would have to deal with Him. Of course, I would also be running a little extra after our next practice...which he lied about...I ran a lot extra.

At the time, I was most relieved by my coach's decision not to tell my parents of my actions. The God comment really didn't set home with me until a few years later after I was saved. A few years back, I was recalling the incident with him during a visit. We both laughed at the story and shared a few more from my mischievous younger days. I told him I'd never forget the look of disappointment on his face that day...but that today I'm even more aware of how disappointed my Father had been.

The small smile on his face acknowledged that the lesson he intended that day had actually been learned.

Monday, April 5, 2010

A Flicker of Light - Thoughts of an Unsaved Man

At home, playing hooky from school on Tuesday morning in 1973, I heard the milkman pull up in front of our house. A bit bored, I decided to meet him at the door. “Good morning,” he said, as he carried his metal rack of milk and orange juice down the driveway, “my name is Dave.”

This week your Kingdom Bloggers are writing about a time when the Kingdom of God was near, but we weren't ready to receive it.

“That’s my name too.” I told Dave.

“Can I bring your order in for you?” he asked.

“Sure.” I said opening the storm door to the garage stairs.

“What are you doing home today?” Dave asked.

“I got up and wasn’t feeling all that well.” I replied.

“Yeah, I have had those days for sure.” He said with a smile. “Now I get up every day and give my life over to God. It doesn’t matter what I do, it could be a good one or a bad one, but He is watching over me.”

“You’re kidding, God? I said, sort of closing one eye and scrunching my nose in disbelief. “I am not too sure I believe in any of that.” Then I tried to impress him with my knowledge of the Red Sea, explaining to him how the tide went out; letting Moses and five million Israelites escape the Egyptians army. (I never actually thought that if that was the case, the Egyptians drowned in a quarter inch of water.)

He chuckled and said, “Yeah, I didn’t believe that for along time either. But a day came when I crashed my truck, and I called on His name, as I lay on the side of the road bleeding and waiting for an ambulance - I got saved. I started going to church. Then I started reading the Bible and I was just amazed at how much God loved me.”

“I used to go to church, but it was boring—really boring. I have a red Bible I said. It has the date my cat died in 1967 written in it”

“Well just talking to you about Jesus is as good as church.” Dave said. “You don’t have to be in church for God to talk to you.”

I wasn’t really paying attention; I did like the idea of church in my kitchen though. It was pretty cool, I thought. I felt the need to tell him about the drugs I was taking and how my dad was an alcoholic.

“God will forgive you if you have faith, and He can take care of your dad too. He loves you both very much” He said.

We must have talked for a little while longer. It ended with him saying that he would get me some reading material that would explain everything. I remember calling a friend to tell her that I had just been to church. “What?” she said, “you are high!”

“No, this guy came to my door and talked to me about Jesus,” I explained. “He said that it was a good as going to church.”

She didn’t sound convinced. “Was he some sort of priest?” she asked.

“No! He was the freaking milkman, I just told you!” I said.

“OK! Geez!” Came a sarcastic voice from the other end of the line.

I thought about my conversation with Dave, and how it would be cool if God was real, if He would talk to me, and how good I felt to just have someone that seemed interested in my life.

The next week, there in the milk-box, was a white envelope that read. “Dave (smiley face) Jesus loves you.” Excited to hear about a loving God, I tore it open to find a bunch of tracts. How disappointed I was with cartoons of people burning in Hell. As I read them, I felt unloved, unwanted, and I got angry. Here is this nice milkman, I thought, but what kind of loving God is this, and tossed them in the trash.

How about you, did you encounter God or the message of salvation before you were saved?

Friday, April 2, 2010

On this Good Friday...

Today, there is nothing I could write that comes remotely close to one of the most significant passages in the history of mankind...

Luke 23:32-46 (New King James Version)

32 There were also two others, criminals, led with Him to be put to death. 33 And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. 34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” And they divided His garments and cast lots. 35 And the people stood looking on. But even the rulers with them sneered, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the chosen of God.” 36 The soldiers also mocked Him, coming and offering Him sour wine, 37 and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself.” 38 And an inscription also was written over Him in letters of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. 39 Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” 40 But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” 43 And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
44Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. 45 Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two. 46 And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit." Having said this, He breathed His last.