Thursday, December 18, 2008

He Came to Say, “I Love You.”

He Came to Say, "I Love You."

That's not the picture that everyone has of Jesus. UnChristian (David Kinnaman, Baker Books) reveals that people think the church is hypocritical, antihomosexual, too political, and judgmental, among other things. And many unbelievers develop their impression of Jesus from their impression of us. Many people who are not of us, don't believe that we like them, much less love them. Therefore, they don't understand that Jesus loves them. They think he came to condemn!

Maybe some of us are part of the body not because we believe that we are loved. Maybe we are in the body mostly because we are trying to escape condemnation. It's OK to want to escape condemnation, and Christ is certainly the way. It's not OK, though, to think that you need to be a Christian to escape condemnation because Jesus is so eager to judge and condemn.

If you've wondered about this, you are not alone. John recorded this significant truth, "God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him" (John 3:17). And the most famous verse in the Bible, just before this great truth, reveals God's motive for sending Jesus to save, "God so loved the world."

I've gotten to read a couple of things recently that teach this message of God's love. In Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller recalls the questions of his friend Penny about the love of Jesus. "Penny began to wonder if Christianity, were it a person, might in fact like her," he wrote. That was significant for Penny because she wasn't at all what she perceived the television preachers/political figures to be. She thought that Jesus was like them, so she thought Jesus probably wouldn't like her. Then, in The Shack, as William Young writes about the dream of his friend Mac, he recorded the words of Papa, "I'm especially fond of you." Do you believe that God is especially fond of you? Do you let the love of Christ shine in you so that others will know that Jesus does, in fact, like them?

Are you a follower because "Christ's love compels you" (2 Corinthians 5:14) or because you are trying to escape his condemnation. He came to say, "I love you." He didn't have to come to condemn. We were already there. He came because of his love to save us.

We can quit debating whether the unbeliever's perception of us is true. If we are the lover, it is our responsibility to show it. If they don't know it, we have to communicate differently. Some may never get it, but we have to keep trying! Jesus has never ever given up!

That's Life at Work!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Question about Christmas

A friend asked recently about churches of Christ celebrating Christmas. He noted that few celebrated and that some vehemently opposed it. He had mentioned the argument that celebrating Christians created "2 day Christians" but wondered still why it is so rejected by many of us. I've posted my response to him below. What do you think?

I find it difficult to defend the idea of "celebration" because "celebrate" means something different to different people.  Some believe that having a tree and giving gifts is celebration and it's wrong.  Others believe that having a nativity in the foyer and singing "Silent Night" and "Happy Birthday" to Jesus is wrong, but do have a tree and give gifts.  So what does celebrate mean to you?

The tendency that some have to become "2 day Christians" is probably secondary to the "speak where the Bible speaks" argument for most who think it is wrong to "celebrate" Christmas.  It is true that some make a holy day out of Christmas and believe that some sort of piety ought to exist on that day that doesn't have to exist on other days.  Same with Easter, as you mentioned. And Christians have no holy days that we are required to recognize (notwithstanding Sundays).  We don't have Sabbaths, Passover Days, feast days, etc.  Some feel strongly, then, that since Christ (through Paul) removed us from responsibility to Jewish holy days, and gave us no others to keep, then to create some is wrong.  "Be silent where the Bible is silent." So fundamentally, it is wrong to "add to the Bible."  The fact that some who do it develop into "2 day Christians" just piles on the problem. Those who don't celebrate understand "speak where the Bible speaks" to mean that if something isn't authorized, you can't do it."

On the other hand, some take "speak where the Bible speaks" to mean that if scripture doesn't forbid it, you can do it.  Therefore, if someone wants to declare December 25 as the adopted birthday of Jesus and celebrate it with Christmas songs, special services, nativity scenes, singing "Happy Birthday" to Jesus, decorating trees, and giving gifts they can.  They can't make it a requirement that everybody do it, but they can do it.

Though in Romans 14, Paul is addressing the Jewish holy days and Gentile involvement, I think his principle still applies.  If some have that as their tradition and want to continue it, don't judge them.  Jesus is their Lord and they do it unto the Lord.  They are not your servants, they are Christ's.  If some reject that tradition and don't want to do it, accept them.   Jesus is their Lord and they do it unto the Lord.  They are not your servants, they are Christ's. I believe those teachings can be applied to Christmas.

Principally, then, you will discover that some churches don't have nativity scenes and special service because, as you note, there are so who vehemently oppose it.  Those who would celebrate acquiesce for the conscious's of  those who can't.  Other times it's because those who can't have the decision making power.

At the May house, we "celebrate" by giving gifts, erecting trees and other decorations (we're green by the way), thanking God for the coming of Christ, and singing Christmas songs – spiritual and otherwise.  At South Yukon, we "celebrate" with Christmas parties, songs (even in the December assemblies), and sermons about the coming of Jesus.  Some churches and individuals, by the way, would be critical of my sermon choices for December.  As you note, this is a great time for reaching out.  "Help people catch the Spirit's fire while God is on their minds," I say.  I personally try to relate to the Christmas season without shoving the "celebration" in the face of those who reject it.

What do you think?  Is there a limit to appropriate "celebration" to you?

Would Jesus Like Me?

"Penny began to wonder if Christianity, were it a person, might in fact like her" (Donald Miller in Blue Like Jazz).

Those words from Miller, as I listened to them on audio CD driving in Yukon the other day, struck me. I'm the kind of person who likes to think that everybody likes me. It's not a "what's not to like" attitude. I know there is plenty about me to not like, I'm just optimistic that everybody is going to overlook my faults and like me anyway. That's what my heart tells me. My brain knows different.

But would Jesus like me if he were here? If we struck up a conversation in line at Starbucks, would he ask me to sit at his table because he wanted to know me better? He liked the woman in Simon's house that nobody else liked. He liked the woman at the well and there were apparently a number of former husbands who didn't like her. He liked Zacchaeus when nobody else did. The answer is "yes!" Jesus would like me, but it's because of who he is rather that what we have in common or how cool I am.

Penny was wondering, though, if Christianity were a person, would it like her. Though it may be difficult to understand, Christianity is a person today – or a group of people. The church is the Body of Christ, and we want to be as much like Jesus as we can possibly be; and that means that we will like you. If we knew where you lived, we would come to your house; but it's more likely that you know where we live. Come for a visit. Maybe we'll go to Starbucks later. That's Life at Work.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Life of Gratitude

If your life was on video and the video was the after-turkey entertainment on Thanksgiving, would the viewers be encouraged because they saw a real life of gratitude in you? Would viewers know that you are thankful since the Lord has become your salvation (Psalm 118:14)?

We give up some things up to give thanks. We give up sexual immorality, impurity, greed, and talk that bump out words of praise. We also change our direction for the future. We respond to the mercy that we have received by living a new kind of life – a life abstains from evil desires and that will influence others to glorify God (1 Peter 2:11-12). Peter addresses a number of positive changes in the life of one who formerly had not received mercy, but now has. Gratitude for being saved from the consequences of past sins is seen in the determination to fight the evil desires that "war against the soul." A thankful person submits to others so that their needs are met. We can do that since our greatest need has been fulfilled. The life of gratitude also makes every effort to live in harmony with the rest of the church family. Jealousy, selfish ambition, and malice aren't the fruit of our lives because we have all received the mercy of God.

What else shouts out the message of gratitude in your life? Do your words of confidence regarding your relationship with God speak of thanksgiving? Does the praise offered in the assembly flow from your heart and roll off of your tongue? Do you offer thanksgiving in your prayers in gratitude for what you've already received as you make your requests known to God? Do you crave to give the message about what you have received to others, believing that you've never received anything better?

Make your life a video of gratitude to God! Let everyone who sees you know that you're not going to die! God has become your salvation! Let your thanksgiving direct others to the source of your salvation! That's Life at Work!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Giving Thanks by Giving Up

The source of our thanksgiving is our salvation! David's words flow from our hearts, "I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation" (Psalm 118:21). We aren't going to die because of our sins! God has rescued us in Christ!

What have you given up in order to give thanks? Thanksgiving replaces sin in the life of the saved! Paul wrote, "But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person-such a man is an idolater-has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God" (Eph 5:3-6).

The Christian with gratitude in his heart and praise on his lips isn't going to be fornicating as if sex is the goal of life, or impure as if simply following God isn't good enough, or greedy as if what he has received from God isn't enough to satisfy. The thankful child of God is too busy praising to have the time or the tongue energy to be obscene, or talking without a spiritual filter, or trying to be funny by being dirty.

We've got much better things to do with our eternal life than living in the kind of way that killed us spiritually in the first place. We've got too much reason to thank God than to even divide the words between blessing and cursing. James wrote about the hypocrisy of being double-tongued like that: "With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water" (James 3:9-12).

Give it up to give thanks! You've come far beyond shame and death! You've come to righteousness and holiness. You've come from deserving death to being given the gift of life! Live like you're glad about that! Talk like your thankful! Give thanks by giving up sin! That's Life at Work!

Life of Gratitude: The Source of Our Thanksgiving

He knew he deserved to be punished more; that was not in question. But the ongoing consequence of his sin was too great of a burden to bear. After all, millions have cried through the centuries, "For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?" (Revelation 6:17) I don't know what the Psalmist did this time, but he knew; and he knew that he deserved whatever God dealt out.

God didn't continue the discipline, though. He loved David too much to let him continue in pain – even pain that he deserved. He rescued the sinner. He forgave him. He removed the burden. So, David wrote, "I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the LORD has done. The LORD has chastened me severely, but he has not given me over to death. Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter and give thanks to the LORD. This is the gate of the LORD through which the righteous may enter. I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation. (Psalm 118:17-21)

We all deserve to be punished more. I wonder sometimes if the low level of our gratitude reflects a lack of appreciation for what we actually deserve to receive because of our sins. Do we really get that "the wages of sin is death"? (Romans 6:23) If God were to send us all to hell, he would be justified; but he would not be satisfied because he doesn't want any of us to perish (2 Peter 3:9).

So he saved us! The plan was enormous: It took thousands of years to complete. The cost was high: The precious blood of his son. He loved us, he loved you, so much that he could bear to see us go on and go out in our sin. No cost was too high.

If you are Christ's, you are not going to die because of your sin! He has disciplined you, no doubt. Every loving father disciplines his children. God has opened for you the gates of righteousness. He has become your salvation instead of your condemnation! And what is our response?

Thank you, God! Thank you, God! Thank you, God! Thank you, God! Thank you, God! Thank you, God! Thank you, God!

What does your heart express in response to your salvation? Do your words to God say "Thank you"? Do your words about God to others express gratitude? How can you live today that says, "You have become my salvation; and I will thank you"? That's Life at Work!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Giving Thanks by Giving Up

The source of our thanksgiving is our salvation! David's words flow from our hearts, "I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation" (Psalm 118:21). We aren't going to die because of our sins! God has rescued us in Christ!

What have you given up in order to give thanks? Thanksgiving replaces sin in the life of the saved! Paul wrote, "But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person-such a man is an idolater-has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God" (Eph 5:3-6).

The Christian with gratitude in his heart and praise on his lips isn't going to be fornicating as if sex is the goal of life, or impure as if simply following God isn't good enough, or greedy as if what he has received from God isn't enough to satisfy. The thankful child of God is too busy praising to have the time or the tongue energy to be obscene, or talking without a spiritual filter, or trying to be funny by being dirty.

We've got much better things to do with our eternal life than living in the kind of way that killed us spiritually in the first place. We've got too much reason to thank God than to even divide the words between blessing and cursing. James wrote about the hypocrisy of being double-tongued like that: "With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water" (James 3:9-12).

Give it up to give thanks! You've come far beyond shame and death! You've come to righteousness and holiness. You've come from deserving death to being given the gift of life! Live like you're glad about that! Talk like your thankful! Give thanks by giving up sin! That's Life at Work!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Same Life Over and Over Again?

In the $64 Tomato, William Alexander wrote asked this incredibly important question and offers this enormously significant challenge:

"If you were doomed to live the same life over and over again for eternity, would you choose the life that you are living right now? The question is interesting enough, but I've always thought that the point of asking it is really the unspoken, potentially devastating follow-up question. That is, if the answer is no, then why are you living the life you are living now? Stop making excuses and do something about it."

Paul wrote, "I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead" (Phil 3:8-11).

Eternity and purpose, the themes of these challenges, find their complete meaning in Christ Jesus. Do you want out of the rut? Your future begins with a deeper relationship with God through Christ! That's Life at Work!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Christ’s Body World’s – Facing Challenges Like a Body

"The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body-whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free-and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body."

We have all been plunged into the body. There are no fringe members of the body Christ! It makes no sense for you to tell me that I'm not a part of the body because I'm not you. I shouldn't say that I'm not a part of the body because I'm not someone else. God, through the Spirit, has made me who I am, he has arranged us together, and he wants us to respond as the body of Christ! Each one of us has a role, and that role is important to the body as a whole.

Typically, when we approach 1 Corinthians 12, we think about parts of the body who function as prayer leaders, Bible Class teachers, card writers, food preparers, yard mowers, ministry leaders, elders, deacons, preachers, encouragers, writers, singers, administrators, etc. Paul even includes a list, but his list consists of miraculous spiritual gifts. But there are other functions, perhaps more personality driven or abstract that ought to be considered, too.

For instance, God, through the Spirit, has arranged this local body with parts that react to problems or challenges differently. Some charge forward when a challenge arises. Like Peter when the soldiers approached Jesus, they attack the problem with little if any contemplation, and attempt to fix the quandary quickly. Others slowly approach a problem. Like Moses at the burning bush, they are going to cover all the details before they make a move. They are much more contemplative, wanting to consider the options, weigh the benefits of each, and cautiously move toward a solution. These two incredibly different, yet mightily important, functions of parts of the body must be combined for the common good! How can they?

The parts each must fill their own role with the good of the body in mind. They must appreciate the other parts of the body and their functions enough to encourage them to fill their own roles. And they must continuously act in love toward everyone understanding that if a challenge is met quickly or thought out thoroughly , the body has nothing without love.

If we are the body, seeking and saving is our agenda! (Luke 19:10) We've got work to do! If we are the body, nothing should stop us from reaching more, enduring more, serving more, and saving more! That's Life at Work!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Holding on to Confidence

Are there then two standards of service, one high and Christ-like for them (martyrs), and one much lower, made to meet the case of little, lean, and cowardly souls? (William Booth)

Booth's question was rhetorical, yet he didn't hesitate to answer it himself. Of course there aren't two standards of service. We are all called to serve, and we all may encounter difficulty in our ministry to Christ. Furthermore, when the difficulty arrives we are all called to refuse to give up.

One of the keys to perseverance is confidence. To keep moving forward in the face of difficulty, one must have confidence in the value of the choice. I know I'm doing the right thing. I'm confident that the reward in the end will be greater than the difficulty of the journey. Perhaps one of the reasons so many give up their faith when difficulty comes is that their confidence is not firm.

Consider the events in your own life. When have you changed directions on something because you weren't convinced that you were on the right track? When have you stuck with something despite frustration because you knew you were right?

Paul reminded us that we are in a battle, not against flesh and blood, but against evil, spiritual forces (Ephesians 6:10). Struggles, by definition, are difficult. If it's not hard, it's not a struggle! And though it is a battle in with spiritual beings in spiritual realms, there is still emotional, mental, and physical cost. Be confident of this: There is a fight going on here, and there will be times that you feel like the forces against you are too strong. Be confident in the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand, stand firm, and be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.

People who die for their Lord are not responding to a different standard of service. They are just more confident that we are. They know that what they are doing is right and they are convinced that the glory to follow is greater than any difficulty here! We must grow in our confidence! That's Life at Work!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Conferences and Vacations

We flew in from Phoenix at midnight last night. One bag decided to run away to San Jose, so by the time we got home, unpacked, and in bed it was 4 a.m. When I lived with Paul and Philip Guant in my Vicksburg, MS days, if I got in after midnight, Paul would comment that I got home early. So, despite the early arrival, I feel good this morning we had a great trip.

We spent all last week at the AMFM Conference in Phoenix. AMFM is an association of people involved in marriage and family ministry. At the conference each year, couples and individuals present workshops that introduce their programs/ideas and demonstrate how they would work in a church. People like us who are building comprehensive marriage ministries in a church get to see how these ministries would fit in our church. This year, Jeremy and Kristi Finefrock from South Yukon, went with us. Another benefit of the conference is getting hear and meet some folks involved in marriage ministry who are incredibly inspiring. John Trent is a regular there. Gary Rosberg from Americas Family Coaches is incredibly uplifting. Norm Wright, marriage ministry and grief care guru, is always there.

We stayed after the conference for a few days. Brad and Brittney travelled with us. We hit the water park at the Arizona Grand Resort where we were staying. Visited with the Mesa Church of Christ on Sunday. On Tuesday we went to the Grand Canyon. Unbelievable! Wednesday, we goofed around, and then caught our 8 p.m. flight home.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Get the True Picture

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

They answered him, "We are Abraham's descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?"

Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know you are Abraham's descendants. Yet you are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word. I am telling you what I have seen in the Father's presence, and you do what you have heard from your father" (John 8:31-38).

By the time Jesus said, "The truth will set you free," he had turned water to wine, healed the boy in Capernaum, healed the thirty-eight-year invalid, multiplied a small amount to feed thousands, and walked on water. The claims he made regarding his identity were believable to many. They were convinced that he was telling the truth.

He told them that if they would live what they believed - hold to his teaching - then they would know the truth and the truth would set them free.

Do you notice the important connection between knowing the truth and living in the truth? The Jews needed an accurate understanding in order to make the righteous decision regarding Jesus' call to freedom. If they believed Satan, the Father of Lies, then what they did would be wrong; because their actions would have been based on falsehoods.

We withhold the truth. We hide information. We use terminological inexactitudes to keep the truth from being known. We lie because we are habitual liars, or because we are protector liars, avoid-trouble liars, or get-ahead liars. And because we don't allow the truth to be known, truth can't be lived; and bondage remains.

Winston Churchill said, "The great thing is to get the true picture, whatever it is." Knowing the true picture is the great thing because then you can do some great thing about it! That's Life at Work!

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Bucket List of Jesus – Confidently Trust God

In a recent Wednesday night class, we wrote down some words that came to mind when we thought about dying. I wrote, "Relief, release, and freedom. I'm not afraid of dying; though I do fear the process."

I do believe that death means something better for me than what I have here. I'm not rushing the inevitable, but I have an expectation of great reward. I confidently say with the apostle, "I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day" (2 Tim 1:12). I have given up any desire to control my spiritual destiny. I have fully entrusted that to God. What else could I do, after all?

Learning to trust God for what comes after your last breath is a lesson you learn from hearing the words of Jesus on the cross. "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit," Jesus declared just before he "breathed his last" (Luke 23:46). He didn't say that simply for himself. He said it so that the generations of faithful for the remaining centuries could know that they can have that same confidence! That's Life at Work!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Bucket List of Jesus: Close to God

"My God, My God! Why have you forsaken me?"

Those are the words of David, according to tradition. They are the beginning of a cry for help (Psalm 22:1). They are also the words of Jesus according to Matthew and Mark (Matt. 27:46; Mk. 15:34).

David begged for God to come close. "Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help," he cried (Ps 22:11). Though others were gambling for his clothes before he was even dead, David pleaded, "But you, O LORD, be not far off; O my Strength, come quickly to help me" (Ps 22:19).

There was a crowd at the cross. There were Roman soldiers, Jewish leaders, criminals, male and female friends, and a sorrowful mother there. Yet with all the onlookers, Jesus felt alone. He felt forsaken by God, and he longed to be close to God again.

"Be close to God." One more item on the Bucket List of Jesus.

Wednesday night, Rusty Tugman from the Alameda Church of Christ in Norman will help us understand this Bucket List item. I hope you'll be there! That's Life at Work!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Did George Live Near Me?

Comedian George Carlin passed away. I remember a number of years back hearing for the first time Carlin talked about his unbelief. He said, "But I want you to know something, this is sincere, I want you to know, when it comes to believing in God, I really tried. I really, really tried. I tried to believe that there is a God, who created each of us in His own image and likeness, loves us very much, and keeps a close eye on things. really tried to believe that…"

Later in the same routine, he told Bible readers about other literary works they should consider reading. He recommended Humpty Dumpty. He said, "And finally, I've always drawn a great deal of moral comfort from Humpty Dumpty. The part I like the best? 'All the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put Humpty Dumpty back together again.' That's because there is no Humpty Dumpty, and there is no God. None. Not one. No God. Never was."

I don't know who influenced Carlin in regard to his understanding of Jesus, the Father who sent Jesus to save, and the church. Carlin, like many others, had a picture of God that is far from the real God. I'm sorry for that.

Carlin commented, "Religion has actually convinced people that there's an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever 'til the end of time! But He loves you. He loves you, and He needs money! He always needs money! He's all-powerful, all-perfect, all-knowing, and all-wise, somehow just can't handle money! Religion takes in billions of dollars, they pay no taxes, and they always need a little more."

Carlin was vocal about his ideas of Jesus. He was not a quiet disbeliever. He spoke about his unbelief and his gift for comedy gave him a large audience. There are many more like him, however, who do not speak about their unbelief to audiences of thousands. Some of them live in the Bible belt. Their homes are between the homes of people who do believe, at least in word. These unbelievers are watching what the believers do, and they are developing their concept of what God is about from what they see and hear in the believers. That's important for us to know. That's Life at Work!

What can you do to enlighten your neighbors about the true nature of God?

Friday, June 13, 2008


Fathers filled with grace produce children filled with love. That's why Paul told the fathers in Colossae and Ephesus not to embitter or provoke their children. The consequences are too much and the result is a child moving away from God instead of toward him. Children have quite enough influences to take them from God; they sure don't need their father s to inadvertently show them door.

The sense of "do not embitter" and "do not exasperate" (Col. 3:21; Eph. 6:4) is that, especially by demanding more than children deliver and being harsh when they don't measure up, we can discourage them. We can take the spirit out them; and lifeless children don't love. They won't love their own fathers. And it's likely that they won't love God.

When you bring a child up in the training and instruction of the Lord, you equip him and empower him to be like Jesus. A child brought up in the training and instruction of the Lord knows the difference between right and wrong. He knows there are consequences for choosing wrong. She knows there is love and forgiveness that matches the wrong choice. And our children know that just like dad, God loves me and forgives me through the sin and its consequences.

Grace doesn't make sinning OK. Grace doesn't remove all of the consequences of sin. Grace does keep us in relationship, though. Grace enables us to live confidently in the covenant promises. Grace provides warmth when the coldness of disappointment tries to move in. Grace provides joy when the thief called guilt attempts to break in. Grace prompts love in those who have received it. Love for fathers, love for other strugglers, and love for God.

That's Life at Work!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Hope for the Hopeless

What a colossal mistake! "The robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him" (Matthew 27:44). A man who was crucified had difficult time breathing. The core of a person is stretched to the limit on a cross. Yet, these two criminals were using their dying breaths to taunt. Mocking while they are dying; that is so sad!

But taunting while dying is not the biggest mistake! The biggest mistake is that they were wrong about Jesus. They didn't really think he could rescue himself and them, but he could have! Finally, one of them changed his mind. I don't know what caused it, but one of them realized he had been mocking the Messiah!

Imagine his predicament. He's dying and he is has just been mocking the one whom he has now concluded is the king who is about to come into his kingdom! (Luke 23:42) Is this a hopeless situation? Not when Jesus is the King. When Jesus is the king there is hope for the hopeless! "Today you will be with me in paradise," Jesus said.

If there is hope for that thief, then there is hope for us. That's Life at Work!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Stories, Pictures and Videos of the Past Two Weeks

On May 22, Brad and I headed east for South Fulton, TN. My nephew C4 married Casey on Saturday. It was a great occasion. We celebrated with them and their families at a rehersal dinner on Friday night and then on the Saturday that they exchanged their vows.

During our travels and with our family in we were in constant prayer for our friends John and Margaret Dobbs. On the Friday of C4 and Casey's rehersal, John and Margaret buried their son John Robert. It was the day that John Robert was supposed to graduate from Pascagoula High School.

On Satuday after the wedding, Brad and I headed south towards I-40 to make the trip back home. As we approached West Memphis on I-55 we got a call from JeannaLynn. Pauline Hardwick, the mother of our great friend Martha Skelton had passed away in Cleveland, TN. We lived in Cleveland before our move to Yukon. Martha and her husband Dean were our best friends there. Martha's mom was close to our hearts, too. Martha wanted us to come to Cleveland for her funeral.

Brad and I drove back to South Fulton, spent Saturday night and went to the morning assembly at my brother's church. Afterwards, we headed north and east on the Purchase Parkway, drove south on I-24 through God's beautiful Land Between the Lakes, picked up JeannaLynn at the Nashville airport, and then finished out the drive to Cleveland. We comforted and got comfort from our friends at Pauline's funeral on Tuesday, May 27 and then made the trip home, arriving mid-day Wednesday.

On Saturday, JeannaLynn and I drove west out of Yukon to the Berlin Cemetary just west of Sayre, OK. On May 4, 2008 Tim Hartman was flying with a good friend and three other passengers out of Wiley Post airport in Oklahoma City. The small jet flew into some birds over a lake near the runway causing the plane's engines to fail. Tim, our friend and missions deacon, died in the crash of that jet along with the co-pilot, Rick, and the three passengers they were transporting.

Tim's remains were released nearly three months after the crash. We were driving to Berlin Cememtary to bury his remains. Nearly 1000 people came to Tim's memorial service in May. This gathering was a small one - mostly family, and a couple of friends including us.

We talked about how the resurrection of Jesus proves that we don't have to keep looking down once dust has returned to dust. Instead, we look out and we look up. We released some silvery-white balloons. Three of them symbolizing for us the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and one with Tim's name written on it. Audra, Tim's wife released that balloon. We all watched as they ascended into the heavens - together. Matt and Mark, Tim and Audra's sons, are great young men.

Audra received an answer to prayer that Saturday. Along with Tim's remains, there was a box of Tim's belongings. This box contained the items found at the crash site that could be identified as Tim's. Audra had been praying that Tim's wedding ring had been found - and it had! She clutched it tight and we all rejoiced with her.

I'm including here a picture of C4 and Casey experiencing a real Cayman Islands sunset, a picture of Pauline, another of Tim, and a picture that Tim's son Mark made in memory of his dad. I'm also including a couple of videos. One that I got from John Dobb's Blog, "Hope Remains" in which Mercy Me is sing "Homesick." The second video is from a song played at Tim's funeral: "Better Hands Now."

One of the things I love best about life is getting heart to heart with family. One of the things I like most about ministry is getting heart to heart with people like Pauline, Dean and Martha (and their sons and families), Tim and Audra and their family, and John and Margaret and their family; even though that closeness leads us often to common places of pain. One of these days, it will all be about celebrating and those of us who have hurt together will laugh together forever "and we will dwell in the house of the Lord...forever".

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

John Robert Dobbs

John and Margaret Dobbs have been long-time friends due to a Magnolia Bible College connection. Many of you know of them because John is a blog king among those of us in Churches of Christ. Additionally, John has played a central role in relief efforts in and around Pascagoula since Katrina came ashore.

Their 18 year old son, John Robert Dobbs, was killed Tuesday night/Wednesday morning on Interstate 10. You can read what John wrote and find links to news reports at his blog. John Robert was scheduled to graduate from Pascagoula High School on Friday night.

I get so angry! And grief-filled. It was just three years ago that other good friends of ours lost a 19 year old son in a car accident. It's just not right.

John and Maggie, we love you. Holy kisses from the Oklahoma Mays are for you! When we all get to heaven, what a day....

JR Leading Worship

Glory Days and Fantastic Futures

He had the speedball that no one could hit. She was the prettiest girl that no one would with whom no one would break up. Those were the high school days. Bruce Springsteen calls them "Glory Days" in the song with that title.

Toward the end of the song he sings about the glory days topic:

And I hope when I get old I don't sit around thinking about it;
But I probably will.
Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture
A little of the glory of, well time slips away,
And leaves you with nothing, mister, but
Boring stories of glory days.

Glory days. Well, they'll pass you by;
Glory days. In the wink of a young girl's eye
Glory days, glory days.

Glory days can become the only days on which we can affectionately reflect if we quit moving into our dreams.

When Jericho fell, the Israelites should have been so pumped up with faith that they moved through the rest of Canaan, claiming the Promised Land that God told them he would deliver into their hands. They eventually got to a point, however, where they were in no hurry whatsoever. There were issues about dividing the land, and still issues about getting the former inhabitants out, but when Joshua approaches them with the problem he simply asks, "How long are you going to slack off?"

It's as though they were making a cross-country trek on route 66, pulled over to roadside park to rest, and stayed there for a couple of years! You can't look back at the progress you've already made and decide that now is the time for you to rest on your laurels for a while. Somehow, when people quit moving they eventually become very satisfied with the rest stop.

If you are graduating from high school this week, you may feel somewhat amazed at how quickly your school years have gone by. If you are like me, you especially feel like your senior year zoomed past – "in the wink of a young girl's eye." All of us hope that your high school experience was fantastic. We hope you will look back on them with thoughts of "glory days."

But none of us, your family in Christ, want you to look toward your future with any thought less than "glory days!" We want you to graduate from high school with your tires rolling, your faith strong, your hope secure, your eyes open, your heart pure, and your dreams big – and getting bigger because you are moving toward them! That's Life at Work!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Married to the Preacher's Wife

This morning I am speaking at the OC preacher's luncheon about being married to the preacher's wife. I'm referencing this incredible video. If you haven't seen this video, watch it a dozen or so times, to let the rich meaning sink into your heart. And then, husbands, espcially preachers, watch it again remembering that the love Jesus has for his recreation, the church, is what you are to have for your wife. The protection Jesus offers in this skit is the protection that we must offer for our wives to rescue them from the unmerciful attack of Satan.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Right Thing at the Right Time

"It's a great moment when someone has the character to do the right thing at the right time" (Pam Knox, Western Oregon Softball Coach in interview with ESPN).

Coach Knox was commenting on the actions of Mallory Holtman and Liz Wallace. They play for Washington State and were in a playoff game against Knox's Western Oregon team. Western Oregon's SarahTucholsky, a senior, hit her first homerun as a college player against Washington State. As it turned out, it would be her last at a bat as a player. In her excitement about the homerun, Sarah failed to touch first base. As she turned to go back, her knee didn't pivot, and she tore her ACL so badly that she could only crawl to first. For her run to count, though, as rules were understood by the umpires on the field, she had to touch each base and none of her teammates or coaches could touch her.

Mallory Holtman and Liz Wallace from the opposing team asked the umpires if they could carry Sarah around the bases. As there are no rules against that, Mallory and Liz carefully scooped Sara from the ground at first based and carried her all the way home, setting her left foot on each based as they passed. Sarah got her home run.

Mallory and Liz got the attention of ESPN and a nation full of people who love sports – and long to see character. "Let your light shine," Jesus said, "so the world may see!" That's Life at Work!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

A Mom’s a Mom

You might have brought your baby home from the hospital having delivered her yourself. She has your eyes, your husband's hair (or lack thereof), your sister's dimples, and your dad's feet. One thing is for sure - she has all your love, and you have all of hers. Because a mom's a mom.

You might have watched from behind a window when he was carried by a nurse from the birthing room to the nursery. You might have known that the baby that just went by would be at your home before long. You've been good to the birth mom who just couldn't take care of the child in her womb. You'll always know what she looked like because you'll see her in the baby you've adopted as your own. His features don't look like anybody in your family, but one thing is for sure, he has all your love. You have all of his, too. Because a mom's a mom.

Maybe the kids you care so much about came to your home knowing who their birth mom was and knowing they couldn't live with her anymore. You adopted them after personalities developed, after they had to consider whether they were loved, and after they could be held and rocked comfortably. You've struggle, you've taught, you've hugged, and you've spent yourself on them. One thing is for sure, they have all your love. And you have all of theirs, because a mom's a mom.

You were going to be their grandparent, but your role has changed. There's a huge age difference, and you find it hard to keep up most days. You've stepped up to the challenge, though. You take him to school and pick him up. You go to his soccer games and sit with the soccer moms smiling as he falls all over the field. You weren't planning on this. There were days when you thought you couldn't do it, and wished you didn't have to. But now, one thing is for sure. He has all your love, and you have his. Because a mom's a mom.

She's lived in your house for six months. You have no clue how long she is going to stay. DHS could come tomorrow to take her from you. You've held her as she cried. You've comforted her when she's been scared. You've done all you can to heal her heart. You've modeled a good home. You've hugged her and kissed her. You've told her things she should have been told all her life, but that she's never heard before. You don't know if the phone call will signal the end of your time with her, but one thing is for sure. She's got all your love, and you've got hers. Because a mom's a mom.

God bless you Moms. All of you.

Monday, May 05, 2008

This Is Huge – Fatigue and Hurts

As I asked in my informal survey for information about the huge struggles that we have in our various life settings, women told me about hurts and fatigue; and how they create a suction on their energy – including their spiritual energy. Furthermore, though they seek for it, there seems to be no end, no relief, and no rest.

As I looked for more information I came across some writing of Denise George, author of What Women Wish their Pastors Knew. In her own survey, she discovered that women wish that they could receive more help from the church, including the pulpit, in regard to these huge concerns:

1. Women are tired.

2. Women are hurting.

3. Women want to grow spiritually

4. Women want to raise godly children.

5. Women often feel like "second-class citizens" in church.

Being tired and hurt play a critical role in the other three concerns that George lists in this Christianity Today article. Fatigue and pain impact humans in many negative ways.

How can women who feel wiped out emotionally and spiritually reclaim the fire? I'm not talking about doing more! I'm talking about being spiritually revived! We know Jesus is the source. He said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matt 11:28-30). Peter affirmed the help of God when he wrote, "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7).

What does coming to Jesus look like? How do I cast my anxiety on him? This is Huge!

Do you agree with George? What would you add to the list?

Friday, May 02, 2008

This Is Huge - Teens Drive to Connect

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to fit in. We can put a negative slant on the idea of fitting, but ultimately, fitting in is synonymous with having friends. A teenager has to ask herself some serious questions if she is remaking herself in unChrist-like fashion in order to fit in. But a teen also has to ask himself some serious questions if he doesn’t have any friends. Look in the lists of virtues in scripture. Loneliness is not in any of them. When a young person wants to fit in, he is sensing something from deep inside his DNA. He is sensing that he was created for relationships. She knows that much of who she is involves interaction with other people.

In teenagers, the drive to connect with others is especially strong. Even young people who are shy, still have a powerful force inside them to make friends – and it’s incredible how shy people find each other. The drive is so strong, young people do boneheaded things, things out of character for them, in order to make the connection.

It’s important for us, teens and not-so-teen people, to understand this drive and the impact it has on choices. Many of the poor decisions that young people make are not thoughtless. They are not “unencumbered by the though process.” The consideration of right or wrong and the reflection on potential consequence may have been short; but it was usually there. Teens don’t mess things up because they are idiots; they aren’t. Their drive to connect is just often stronger than their sensibilities.

For guys, Chris Cagle’s song “Chicks Dig It” has a lot of meaning:

Just throw caution to the wind my friend
And then sit back and watch your life begin, cause;
Scars heal... glory fades;
And all we’re left with are the memories made.
Pain hurts, but only for a minute.
Yeah, life is short so go on and live it
Cause the chicks dig it.

Connection is Huge for teenagers! Christian teens have to remember the command from Paul to refuse to conform to the world, experiencing instead a transformation to being like Christ through a renewing of the mind (Romans 12:1-2). Christian teens have to know about the real Jesus so that friendship and connection with him is priority #1! Christian teens also need to make strong connections with other teens of faith, for their own benefit and for the benefit of the other teens.

This is huge for teens, so it is huge for all of us! That’s Life at Work!

This Is Huge - Pornography

This is huge! Pornography is destroying men (mostly), their marriages, and their families. According to the website Oklahoma City ranks 10th, 3rd, and 7th in the nation regarding the number of internet searches for “porn,” “xxx,” and “sex” respectively.

According to their numbers, which match other numbers I’ve seen, 90% of kids eight to sixteen years old have been exposed to pornography on the internet. The average age for seeing the first pornographic image is eleven.

But this isn’t an adolescent problem or teenage phase. The largest consumer group of pornography is men between 35 and 49 years old. It’s not just a problem for unbelievers, either. According to Proven Men (, 60% of Christian men have sought out some form of pornography. Ninety percent of men raised in Christian homes were introduced to some form of pornography before adulthood. Do you keep your home computer screen where it can always be seen from a hallway or another room? Seventy percent internet porn is viewed during business hours.

The attraction to pornography does not stay small, if it can even begin that way. What a man views today that excites him, will not have the same effect after consistent exposure. The need for more; and the need for more explicit, more hardcore images, grows. Men will waste hours, hours that should have been spent working or with wives or their children, to see naked pixels.
Men will sale their souls to see videos of ungodly people dishonoring the sexual union that God designed to be honored, not exploited. Some prison ministries report that 100% of sex offenders frequently viewed pornography. I’ll guarantee you that nearly every man convicted of molestation said at one time at the report of some other sex offender, “I’ll never do that.” I’ll guarantee you, further, that nearly 100% of those who end up as sex offenders were led to the point where they would do that by pornography.

Stop it! Now! Pornography will kill your soul and the innocent victims along the way will be your spouse and your children. What do we need to know and what can we do about pornography, its grip on our culture, its destructive force, and methods to defeat its influence on your life and family?We must! That’s Life at Work!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Humility Leads to Greatness

The five year Bible School plan called for a quarter-long study on the book of Numbers. Even the staff complained: "Numbers? It's thirty-six chapters of self-centered people who whined every time they didn't get their way! I'll hate that! Give us something relevant!" (see Discipleship Journal, Spring 2008, p. 78)

"Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice" (Prov 13:10).

Pride, the root of selfishness, is the breath behind quarrelsome words. The Israelites did whine about everything, it seems; and so do we. If we don't get what we think we deserve fast enough, we complain. If we experience some discomfort when someone else could have prevented it, we moan. When we are convinced that something should go one way, and someone else thinks it should go another, we quarrel. When our weaknesses are exposed, we argue out of defensiveness.

Self-centeredness (pride) precedes destruction because quarrelling wrecks relationships (Proverbs 16:18). Humility leads to greatness – for yourself and your relationships! That's Life at Work!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

This Is Huge (Bigger)

This is huge! What is it? It is the sin that gives us the most trouble. It is the temptation with which we constantly struggle. It is the most frequent failure, lost battle, step into the shadows, and missing of the mark. I don't know that the Hebrew writer was thinking specifically or generically, but it is the "sin that easily entangles" (Hebrews 12:1).

The huge temptation is different for me in regard to the different roles I play. As a man, I struggle with keeping my eyes off of the impure images everywhere around me and keeping my mind out of the gutter. As a husband I realize I'll fight with my wife much more quickly that I would anyone else. As a dad, sometimes I veg out having given my energy to everybody else.

So what it is for you? What is it for you in your various roles? Certainly, Christians are forgiven because there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). We live in a relationship with God in which our sins are not counted against us. Our sins are forgiven. Our transgressions are covered (Romans 4:6-8).

But it is God's forgiveness, his Amazing Grace that compels us to put these sins to death. Since we died to sin, we must keep killing it whenever it resurrects. We have risen to walk a new life. We offer ourselves as living sacrifices because of God's mercy. We don't want to return to sin like a dog returns to his vomit! No way! We want to reduce this huge sin to nothing!

So let's expose it! Let's get it out on the table! Let's examine its power in our lives. Let's admit its presence. Let's agree with God that it is wrong and destructive. Let's agree with each other that we hate it. Let's make ourselves accountable to each other. Let's throw it off like an old coat so that we can run with perseverance the race marked out for us! That's Life at Work!

Help me out! Send an email listing what is huge in your life or what you recognize in huge in the lives of the people you know. I promise, I'll take it as an observation, not a confession. Email what's huge to When we know the enemy, and identify his schemes, we can resist him so that he runs away!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

This Is Huge

I'm beginning a series of sermons called "This Is Huge." What are the most significant temptations and struggles for various age groups and life settings. Let me know!


According to Consumer Reports, last year over $900 million on gift cards went unused. It's terribly sad when something of great value goes is unused. You might even say it's looney! Whether it is funds that could be used for God's glory, an ability or talent, a week, an opportunity to forgive, an hour to spend with a child, a word of admiration for a husband, an act of loving service for a wife, or a vote for something good and righteous – use what ought to be used to the glory of God.

"So the temple was once again used for worshipping the Lord" (2 Chronicles 29:35). That was such a wonderful time for the people of God. The doors of the temple had been closed for a while because of the wicked kings of Judah who followed the unbelieving nations into trusting images made of stone and wood instead of the living God! In his first month, though, Hezekiah opened the doors of the temple and ordered that it be cleaned up and purified. He acted quickly and so did the Lord. God helped them get the temple ready in record time; and they used it for its intended purpose!

Be Hezekiah in your own life. Recognize the tragedy of a wasted temple, or whatever is unused in your life, and get busy cleaning it up for good use. God will see what you are doing and he'll speed up the process because he loves to see people using what they have in meaningful ways! That's Life at Work!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Comprehensive Marriage Ministry

In the last two weeks, we've heard the heartrending news of three marriages in families involved in full-time ministry that have ended in divorce. God's heart must be broken! It grieves him to see us go through such pain. The likelihood is that recently you have mourned over wrecked marriages; perhaps the mourning has been for your own marriage. Tragically, often help is sought too late; but the answer to the high divorce rate is not simply better or more timely crisis management. The answer is much more complicated, yet when the solution is in place the impact is incredible and hope abounds!

Churches must develop comprehensive marriage ministries. What does that mean? Churches need to address the significant themes of marriage with adolescents (beginning in Jr. High if not before) and pre-engaged and engaged couples in addition to couples already married. Churches that offer a number of marriage enrichment opportunities including classes, seminars, special studies, retreats, mentoring and coaching, along with easy access to crisis intervention are going to experience greater success in serving families in the church and the community. Comprehensive marriage ministry is critical for growing married Christians to spiritual maturity and reaching out to communities world-over.

JeannaLynn and I are committed to helping our church develop such a program. Because of our own personal struggles, we have a common passion for helping churches help couples; and helping couples move from wherever they are now to a greater marriage. For us, that's Life at Work!

Go On Getting Older

Konrad Adenauer was a German statesman and from 1949-1963 was first chancellor of the Federal Republic. He, as I understand, did much to advance the international prestige of West Germany and presided over its postwar recovery. When Adenauer, lovingly nicknamed, "the old man" was approaching ninety, he caught a bad cold. His physician, unable to be very much help, had to put up with Adenauer's impatience. "I'm not a magician," protested the harassed doctor. "I can't make you young again."

"I haven't asked you to," retorted Konrad. "All I want is to go on getting older."

I suppose it's true that most of us want to "go on getting older." Bless your hearts; there are some of you who are desirous of the end of life right now. Don't take your own life. Talk with someone about your feelings. Let them know how you are feeling. Things can be better, and with some help they will be. Some among us, because the poor shape of their health, are longing for death to come as relief. Paul described himself as one caught in the middle. He knew that to depart to be with Christ would be a wonderful step for him. On the other hand, he knew the importance continuing to preach the gospel and encourage the saints. Most of us though, want to continue to live and enjoy life.

The problem is that we just don't know if that is going to happen. We can do some things to make sure that we stay healthy, and we should. We go to the doctor when we are sick so that he can do some things to make us well, and we should. It is true, however, that heart attacks, strokes, cancers, car wrecks, murders, and accidents can and do happen. James wrote, "What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes." (NIV) Not only that, but Jesus has promised to return and the time of his coming is growing closer every day. Even if we don't die, then, our time on earth could still be over today.

What should I do then? What kind of direction does God give me since my time here is limited and some day I will cease "going on getting old." Peter wrote "So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation." In a similar context, Jesus directed that a blameless life would be characterized by feeding the hungry, visiting the sick and imprisoned, caring for stranger, and giving drink to the thirsty.

Maybe some day I'll be nearly ninety and telling a doctor that I want to go on getting older. I hope that my health will be such that going on is a blessing rather than a pain. What will still need to be true at that time is that I am ready to be with the Lord. Surely the day of death will be closer than it is right now. I'll have to be ready.

Right now I'm forty-two. I hope that I will live longer. I love my wife and my kids and enjoy the life that we are spending together. I delight in working with the South Yukon Church. The truth be told, being prepared for death when I'm ninety is no more important than being prepared for death right now. We have always got to be ready. That's Life at Work!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

When It’s On the Line

"When everything else is on the line, you better be there, too." (Deacon Jones)

There are times when you have to be there! Imagine Joshua stepping back instead of sounding the "as for me and my house" charge (Joshua 24:15). Imagine Esther deciding that going before the king was just too risky (Esther 4:6-17). What if David had stayed in back with his brothers (1 Samuel 17)? What if Moses ignored God's report of the cries because his previous attempt to rescue had failed miserably?

Your marriage is at a crucial point, your kids are facing serious difficulties, or the time has arrived to announce the final decision and you know that though it is right, it is not popular. You've been convicted of your sin, and you have the opportunity to make it right with God and the people you love. Those around you are walking in sin and straight for disaster; no one else is going to step up to stop them! These are some of those times when you have to there!

Get on the line! Today is the day of your salvation! Say like Nehemiah, "Should a man (or woman) like me run away? Or should one like me go into the temple to save his life? I will not go!" (Nehemiah 6:11-12). He was right to stay out of hiding!

"Be strong and courageous," were the words for Joshua. Don't ignore the tough times as if nothing is really happening as long as you don't look. Your presence is needed today! That's Life at Work!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Deep Love of Jesus

Two guys were walking through the woods and came across this big deep, hole. "Wow...that looks deep."

"Sure does... toss a few pebbles in there and see how deep it is."

They picked up a few pebbles and threw them in ... no noise.

"Man! That is REALLY deep... here.. throw one of these great big rocks down there. Those should make a noise."

They picked up a couple football-sized rocks and tossed them into the hole and waited... and waited. Nothing.

They looked at each other in amazement. One got a determined look on his face and said, “Hey, over here in the weeds, there's a railroad tie. Help me carry it over there. When we toss THAT sucker in, it's GOTTA make some noise." The two dragged the heavy tie over to the hole and heaved it in. Not a sound came from the hole.

Suddenly, out of the nearby woods, a goat appeared, running like the wind. It rushed toward the two men, then right past them, running as fast as it's legs would carry it. Suddenly it jumped in the air and into the hole. The two men were astonished with what they had just seen.
Then, out of the woods came a farmer who spotted the men and ambled over. "Hey, have you two guys seen my goat out here?"

"You bet we did! Craziest thing I’ve ever seen. It came running like crazy and just jumped into this hole!"

"Nah", says the farmer, "That couldn't have been MY goat. My goat was chained to a railroad tie."

As deep as that hole was, there is something deeper. That something is the love of Christ for us. Paul wrote in Ephesians 3 these words about his prayer for them, “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge -- that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

Could we really have any doubt that Jesus loves us? Doesn’t his death on the cross for us shout “I love you!” louder than any shout you’ve ever heard? His tremendous love motivates us, or it should motivate us, to obey him from the heart! His tremendous love reassures us, or should reassure us, that he’ll do anything for us that will bring salvation to our souls. Love him back and obey him. Trust him in his love to work the circumstances in your life out for your eternal good. That's Life at Work!

Mountain of Reverence

You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded: "If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned." The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, "I am trembling with fear." But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly… (Hebrews 12:18-22).

Mountains play important roles in our background as people of God. One of those mountains the one described in Exodus 19:10-20. It is the mountains specifically written about in the Hebrews 12 passage. It is Mount Sinai. I don’t know if you’ve ever read that passage, but it is truly majestic. There are strict instructions given to the Israelites about contact with the mountain. You touch it, you die, basically. Then, just as Moses had said, on the third day after the instructions were given, thunder, lightening, and thick clouds came on the mountain and a loud trumpet sound came from it. Everyone was trembling at the sight.
While the mountain at which we assemble is spiritual. The scene of this mountain teaches us an important lesson. We assemble at the Mountain of Reverence. We must always be conscious of the majesty of God. David wrote in, “Exalt the LORD our God and worship at his holy mountain, for the LORD our God is holy” (Psalm 99:9).
In Touch and Live, George Vandeman wrote: "A young stranger to the Alps was making his first climb, accompanied by two stalwart guides. It was a steep, hazardous ascent. But he felt secure with one guide ahead and one following. For hours they climbed. And now, breathless, they reached for those rocks protruding through the snow above them - the summit. The guide ahead wished to let the stranger have the first glorious view of heaven and earth, and moved aside to let him go first. Forgetting the gales that would blow across those summit rocks, the young man leaped to his feet. But the chief guide dragged him down. 'On your knees, sir!' he shouted. 'You are never safe here except on your knees.'”
Come to the living God. Come to the joyful assembly. Come to the spiritual mountain. That’s Life at Work!

Friday, February 29, 2008

More Transforming Worship

You are the strength that keeps me walking.
You are the hope that keeps me trusting.
You are the light to my soul.
You are my're everything.

How can I stand here with you and not be moved by you?
Would you tell me how could it be any better than this?
“Everything” sung by LifeHouse

The assembly of Christians is critical for our exposure to the strength of the God, the truth regarding our hope in God, the light of God, and our purpose in God. When our songs, our Supper, our attention to the Word, our prayers, and our sacrificial offering are designed to direct our hearts, minds, and bodies to God Almighty, how could we not be moved by him?

“Viewing assembly as a means of grace means that God is at work through this event to transform us into his image. Encountering God transforms us. His holy presence sanctifies, encourages, and empowers us” (Hicks, Melton and Valentine in A Gathered People).

The words we say and hear, the memories and visions of the future, the bread and drink that demonstrate our fellowship, the participation in worship and encouragement are not merely sections of a one hour exercise that we leave behind like we are walking away from a gym. Our participation in the assembly of the saints is supposed to transform us. It will only transform us, however, if we participate with the goal of transformation in mind. We are not led into worship, we enter into worship. Our assembly is not a gathering in which we are passive observers who might be dragged into participation if the show is particularly good. From the first reading to the last prayer we engage because we know that our engagement will change our lives and we can then change our world. That’s Life at Work!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Recent Post on Another Site about Current Events

I make the case for a cappella music in the assembly like Everett Ferguson makes it. He examines the NT passages, considers the life of the early church, and considers any theological significance to the practice.

The New Testament delivers and reflects apostolic teaching, and playing is not mentioned. For 600 years instruments were not used. Jesus alwasy led us to the heart of the matter and perhaps the theological significance of apostolic teaching reflected in the epistles is the heart involvement in singing.

I make this case. And I believe it. I believe and teach that instrumental music in the worship assembly is outside of God's will.

For many people, the case for a cappella music is strong and convincing. I am among them. Many of these people I have found have a heart for God, a great desire to please him, and their lives reflect their commitment to godliness.

For many people, the case for a cappella music is weak and unconvincing. Many of these people I have found have a heart for God, a great desire to please him, and their lives reflect their commitment to godliness.

Those who contend so vigorously against the case for a cappella music would do well to admit that those of us who believe it are not stupid, we are not all legalists, and we don't come to our conclusions without evidence.

Those who contend so vigorously for the case of a cappella music would do well to admit that simply on the basis of godly people who don't believe the argument, the case is not as cut and dried for some as it is for others. It is not like the works of the flesh that are obvious. Instrumentalists are not stupid, self-centered, nor
do they draw their conclusions without evidence.

At the end of the day, many of us are going to believe just as we believed at the beginning. Some of us are going to have been convinced to change our minds in both directions. And we are going to have to deal with the bigger question of what do we do with each other; and the answer is going to refelct what Jesus is going to do with both of us.

Father, please deal mericfully with me. I want to do right, but I'm sure I've got some stuff wrong. Father, please help me deal mercifully with other children of yours who disagree with me.

In Jesus Name,

He is Perfect!

Perfect! He is perfect!

Some girls have said those words having gone out with the young man they have become convinced is THE MAN for them. I remember saying those words as I looked at the face of my newborn son. The words were slightly changed for obvious reasons as I gazed at my daughter. She’s perfect!

In a much grander way, Jesus is perfect. He is perfect! That’s important to say because not everyone believes it. According to some surveys by George Barna who does a lot of religious surveys, “Most people have traditional views about Jesus Christ: His historicity, virgin birth, humanity and deity, resurrection from the dead, etc. Many adults, however, remain uncertain about the perfect (i.e., sinless) nature of Christ, and have little knowledge regarding the prophecies preceding his life and death” (George Barna in The Index of Leading Spiritual Indicators).

Isaiah told his listeners years before Jesus that when the savior came he would take up our infirmities, carry our sorrows, be pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities (Isaiah 53:4). Jesus did all that; and he could because he had no transgressions nor iniquities of his own. He was innocent – totally, completely guiltless – and he died for all of us who are totally, completely guilty. Perfect! He is perfect! That’s Life at Work!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Back to the Heart of Worship: Transforming Worship

Spiritual transformation is the change in a person from the old way of living in sin to the new person living in the ways of the Spirit. Paul wrote about the Christian metamorphosis resulting from the renewed mind, the mind dedication to offering living sacrifice (Romans 12:1). As we are transformed, we no longer conform to the ways of the world.

Can this transformation be measured? In other words, is there a way that I can examine myself so that I can be sure that the transformation that Christ wants for my life is being accomplished? Yes, there is. One way is by considering carefully if these seven elements are present and growing in my walk in the Spirit: (1) Am I worshipping God intimately and passionately? (2) Am I engaging in spiritual friendships with other believers? (3) Am I pursuing faith in the context of family? (4) Am I embracing intentional forms of spiritual growth? (5) Am I serving others? (6) Am I investing time and resources in spiritual pursuits? (7) Am I having faith-based conversations with outsiders?

Those seven biblical points of self-examination are the seven elements on which the Barna Group focuses as they examine the passions that their research indicates that people moving from the old person to the new person in Christ possess (UnChristian by David Kinnaman). I’m going to be asking myself those questions? Will you do that, too? That’s Life at Work!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

We're a Bit Busy

My heart aches this week as I watch brothers in my own family fight with each other. The worship war spilled out into the street for everyone to see. An issue that few understand was taken to the world. The world watches and they report. What they say is not, “Those people sure know their Bibles.” They sure don’t say, “They must be followers of Jesus. Just look at their love for each other.” What they say is that the Church of Christ is fighting. Not fighting poverty. Not fighting addiction. Not fighting abuse. Not fighting biblical illiteracy. Not fighting Satan. The Church of Christ is fighting itself.

That’s a lose-lose-lose deal. Both sides in the fight lose. And the world that we are trying to influence for good and for God; the world that is supposed to see the light of Christ in us loses, too. The lost see in us the same kind of fight that they see in their homes, their hangouts, their alleys, their workplaces, their parks and their playgrounds. They have fights all around them all the time. Why come to Christ to find another?

Other churches don’t always do what we believe they ought to do in the way we believe they ought to do it. Still other churches who don’t like what other churches have done don’t always respond in the way that we believe they ought to respond. While all that has happened around us is very disheartening and tragic, this is a trustworthy saying: On our watch right here and now, there are orphans and widows who need care, families who need uniting, poor who need fed and warmed, addicts who need a hand, abused children who need protection, and unbelievers who need faith and hope. And we must serve them.

In our own local church family there are probably six hundred different reactions to the polarization occurring in the body of Christ in the metro – one for every person who assembles in our church home. I hope you’ll say with me that we are heartbroken over the fight, but God has a big job for us to do giving care, direction, food and warmth, a helping hand, protection, and hope to our communities – and we’re a bit busy. Definitely too busy to fight with our brothers. That’s Life at Work!

Trustworthy Things to be Stressed

As Paul closed out his letter to Titus, he seemed so concerned that the relationship that Christians had with other Christians and with the general population be healthy. The relationships would be healthy if Christians were subject to authorities, eager to do good, kind with their words, peaceable, considerate, and humble. He said that when we live that way we are accomplishing what is excellent and profitable for everyone. That means it’s good for you and good for me. That’s good!

The motivation Christians have for treating everybody, including unbelievers in a good way, is that we used to be unbelievers. Saved people ought to do what is good for unsaved people because we used to be lost. But God saved us. Even then, that wasn’t because we did something great. He didn’t save us because of who we are. God saved us because of who his is. He is kind, loving, and merciful.

Since we have experienced the baptism of rebirth and since the Holy Spirit has been poured out on us for the sake of our renewal, justification, and sonship; let’s do all we can to open the doors for the same blessings to come to others.

Paul said this is trustworthy information, and he calls Christians to stress it among ourselves so that all of us can do those things that are excellent and profitable for everyone. That's Life at Work!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Everybody Ought to Read

What Virgil Fry wrote about grieving.

I still have both of my parents. I've never had to bury one of my children. My wife of 21 years is still right beside me.

I had two childhood friends to die. I grieved when my grandparents passed away. I've presided at the funerals of a lot of my friends and sat quietly in many more memorial services while others led me in grief. I cried uncontrollably when my best friend's wife was killed within the first year of their marriage. My best friends from an earlier hometown called us to come to them when their son, our son's best friend in that town, was killed in a car wreck. I've grieved a lot. You probably have, too.

Unless my loved ones grieve over my passing first, I've still a lot of grieving to do. Thanks, Virgil, for your transparency. Thank you for your ministry. Thank you, God, for the impact that Virgil and Caryl have had on us. Amen.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Jonathan Edwards

When God created Adam and Eve, he created them with bodies to move, minds to think, and hearts to feel. Your body, intellect, and emotion make up who you are as a person, and God wants all of you involved in life with him.

Having confirmed that the Colossians were risen with Christ Paul told them, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:1-2). This focus of emotion and their intellect on heavenly things would have an impact on the actions of the body. Specifically, sexual immorality, slander, and lying would be put to death.

A little later in that passage, Paul instructed the Colossians that their singing involving the body, should teach and admonish engaging the mind; all the while, expressing gratitude in the heart (Colossians 3:15-16). Paul told the Corinthians who seemed quite happy to engage the spirit as they spoke in languages that no one present understood, that they would do better for themselves and others if they would pray and sing (bodily functions) with both mind and spirit – intellect and emotion (1 Corinthians 14:13-17).

John Ortberg and Pam Howell wrote about Scarecrow Worship (worship without a brain) and Tin Man Worship (worship without a heart) in the article "Can You Engage Both Heart and Mind?" [Leadership (4-1-99)].

If we lean, as a group, toward one of these kinds of worship, it is toward the Tin Man Worship. We do lean. And, it’s important to note that we don’t lean toward a worship disengaged from emotion because we can demonstrate from scripture that it is supposed to be that way. We lean that way because of our church history. Those through whom we trace our spiritual background did what we do; but not all the way back to the first century. God has called us to engage the heart.

Jonathan Edwards wrote in his Religious Affections, “That religion which God requires, and will accept, does not consist in weak, dull, and lifeless wouldlings raising us but a little above a state of indifference.” Wouldlings is a word coined by Edwards to refer to weak drives to do those things which a Christian has said he “would” do. Weak inclinations are to be replaced with a fervent spirit. So he continued, “God, in his Word, greatly insists upon it that we be in good earnest, fervent in spirit, and our hearts vigorously engaged in religion: ‘Be fervent in spirit, serving the Lord’ (Romans 12:11).”

It’s time for us to create a better balance of worship. We have excelled in worship with mind and body. Let’s now excel in worship with mind, body, and spirit. That’s all of who you are! That’s Life at Work!

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Heart of Worship

Sunday morning I'm starting the series "Back to the Heart of Worship." I wrote this article for our bulletin as prep for that series and Sunday's sermon.

I'm coming back to the heart of worship,

And it's all about you;

It's all about you, Jesus.

I'm sorry, Lord for the thing I've made it.

It's all about you;

It's all about your, Jesus

(Michael W. Smith- "Heart of Worship")

    It's easy to see the loss of proper focus in the Israelites as they made idols for themselves at the foot of Sinai. The idol was their focus. It's easy to see the loss of focus in the people of Judah as they quit just long enough to offer their sacrifices at the temple. The temple was their focus.

    It's pretty easy to see the misplaced focus of the Corinthians, too. Some of them gathered early, without the rest, to eat the Lord's Supper. They ate to their fill, they drank to excess, and they despised the poor. Their focus was on their little group.

     Others focused on themselves. Worship was a talent show. It was a contest for bragging rights. It was a time for self-promotion, putting down the others, interruption when necessary, and disruption for the sake of being noticed. Their common Lord was insignificant. Greatest gifts – now that's a topic of interest.

    Graven images would be quickly noticed and punted around here.

    But for the rest of the misplaced focuses aforementioned, there is call for caution for us. There are a few of us who will steal, murder, commit adultery – or commit our "lesser" sins – throughout the week believing that our time in the building appeases our righteous God. That's not a perfect parallel to Judah's total miss of the heart worship, but it's close enough.

    I don't hear anybody among us arguing that their talent for singing is more important than another person's talent for publicly praying; but that doesn't mean that there are none of us who focus on ourselves or on our own little group of friends rather than focusing on the Spirit, the Lord, and God (1 Cor. 12:4-6). Those who give more can think less of those who give less; and vice versa. Those who have been around forever can believe that they are more important because of their tenure. Those with more public roles can believe that their work is more significant.

    Let's get back to the heart of worship. God wants his will for worship to become our will for worship. That's Life at Work!