God Is Good -Even When It Feels Like He’s Indifferent

Malachi 3

10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse,
That there may be food in My house,
And try Me now in this,”
Says the LORD of hosts,

“ If I will not open for you the windows of heaven
And pour out for you such blessing
That there will not be room enough to receive it.
11 “ And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes,
So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground,
Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,”
Says the LORD of hosts;
12 And all nations will call you blessed,
For you will be a delightful land,”
Says the LORD of hosts.

 

Right now I’m battling some disappointments.  Financially, I’ve had some substantial outlays lately for repairs and replacements of things.  I’ve been involved in internet marketing but the results are slow to come in.  Christmas is around the corner.   I’ve given more into the Kingdom of God than ever before – a very substantial amount of my paycheck…

So right now I’m looking at my bank account.  I don’t have any debt, but I don’t have a large buffer either.   I had to think about God’s promise that if we don’t rob him of tithes and offerings he’ll rebuke the devourer for our sake.  I don’t really feel like that’s been so great.  Maybe he’s rebuked things I didn’t know about -so I should keep that in mind.

The truth of the matter, I feel like those that aren’t following Christ and use all their resources for themselves are the ones getting blessed.  They get the bonuses at work – even though my customers love me.  My internet business is not going the way I wanted at this stage of the game.  Heck I’m stuck on the late shift at work and I’ll bet several will get to leave early, but I won’t.

I’m trying to remain thankful – that I have a job.  That I have all of my needs taken care of.  So I know that God is good.  But I sure am not experiencing the windows of heaven being opened up and blessings being poured out that there isn’t room to contain.

OK enough of the pity party. Time to go to work.

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Skype – the Internet – The Church

A friend of mine, Willie Butler, was once part of a worship team called FACE DOWN.  Frankly up until a week ago, I didn’t know about this part of his past.

Well, the group had broken up several years ago as all of the team members went on to their various ministries that God had called them to.

The group decided to get together for a night of worship at the Church they had all attended as kids and young men, First Baptist Church in Flower Mound, Texas.  All but one were in the area and it seemed a good time to get together.

One member is now a church planting missionary in Poland.   He obviously couldn’t make it -0r did he.  They set up a camera in the sanctuary so he could see what was going on and they set up a skype connection.  It was so immediate.  He got to say hi to his mom and dad who were attending and they had the opportunity to tell him how proud they were of him.  He talked about what they were doing and their prayer requests.  He also took questions from people.

It was really awesome.  I’m wondering what this could mean for the future of the Church when you can use an internet technology like Skype.  Could it mean that technology like this could be used for pastor’s conferences in third world nations?  Would that be a good thing?  Or would it lead to even more relationship problems.

I was amazed at the technology.  What could it be used for?  What are the possibilities?  What are the risks?

In places that are remote and we want to build schools but maybe we don’t have teachers there, can we use technology like this to bring teachers into the classroom?  I don’t know.    But it’s worth thinking about and questioning.

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Salvation – As Easy as Saying A Prayer?

For any evangelical that has been involved in evangelism,  you may have been taught techniques or approaches like the Romans’ Road or Four Spiritual Laws.  I’ve seen lots of us ask people to “pray this prayer”  confess Jesus and believe – then you’ll be saved.  But I keep going back to some scriptures that seem to indicate differently.

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’  Matthew 7:21-23.

Jesus makes it clear 0 people who did might wonders in the name of Jesus will be cast out.   I don’t believe you enter into the Kingdom by works.  But if you truly know Christ and are known by him – You will do the will of his Father.

We hang up on the prayer.  Did Jesus ever tell anyone to make converts?  He said to “make disciples.”  Only real disciples will do the will of their Father.  Only real disciples will keep his commandments.  Only real disciples will love the one who hates him.

You want assurance of your salvation?  Are you a disciple?  Are you trying to follow Jesus?  I’m not talking about perfection.  I’m talking about striving to enter in the narrow way as Jesus says in Matthew 7:

13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because[a] narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Matthew 7:13-14.

 

 

 

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What is the Church?

I’ve been doing a lot more thinking about the church and what it is.  I’ve been a part of mega churches.  I’ve been part of house churches.  I’m just not interested in the model or form anymore.  Now my question is – are we making disciples?  Are people experiencing life together, helping one another,  and loving one another?  Do we get together and talk about the things the Lord is doing in our lives?  Do we share struggles and ask for help.  Do we really offer help?

I’ve been struck lately in John’s Gospel with the fact that Jesus goes on quite a bit about if you love me, keep my commandments… but the ONE commandment he mentions keeping is that “you love one another as I have loved you.”  He didn’t use it to talk about “the sin issues” we often get caught up in (Not saying those aren’t important by the way.) But he emphasized loving one another.

So now I’m on a journey to explore more of this.  I’m not interested in models.  I’m not interested in movements.

How do we love each other?   Correction: How do I love my brothers and sisters?  So God has me looking at ways and stepping out in ways to help my brothers and sisters.  For me,  a lot of time, it’s practical /financial.

I’m trying to help meet real needs and relieve some stress for brothers and sisters who’ve suffered loss in this recession.

I’m also working on other areas of my relationships.  I have a number of friends that I meet at various times but still on a regular basis.  There are no “leaders” but there is real ministry.  There is real transparency.   There is real relationship and love.  I think this is more the church than anything.

I hope that when I leave this Earth, Jesus will say well done.  So to answer the question,  I believe the Church is a group of believers connected to one another in love.  I don’t think it has to do with Pastors, or Elders.  Those are important, but the Church can exist if they’re not present.  But the Church does not exist without real love and real relationships.

Meanwhile,  remember one of Jesus’ last commands to his disciples.  “Love One Another.”

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What The Church Is Not

I’ve been exploring the idea of church lately.  What is it?  What is it not?  There are some things that I am sure the church is not.  I am tired of seeing the purposes of God being hindered because the church is being used by men to be what God never intended it to  be.

  • The Church is not a building so quit putting most of your resources in it.
  • The Church is not a corporation and the Pastor is not the CEO.
  • The Church is not an institution.  Church traditions don’t mean anything unless they are solidly founded in the scriptures.
  • The Church is not the Pastor’s vehicle to get people involved in “his vision.”  You mega church pastors who think this,  repent.  You house church pastors who think this and want to use the people in your church to become a bigger church…repent.
  • The Church is not an arm of the State and should not be engaged in promoting  nationalistic agendas
  • The Church is not an arm of any political party and should not be endorsing,  openly or under the table any political candidate.
  • The Church isn’t the property of the leadership.  Leadership does not own God’s people.
  • The Church is not a shopping mall for Spiritual services. 

I know some who read this will think I’m being hard on Pastors and leadership.  It’s true, I am.  I don’t think they necessarily started thinking about the church they lead in these ways, but it appears in the Western Church that’s where they end up.

They will stand before God and answer for good or ill about how they shepherd the people that God has brought into the congregation.

What do you think?

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The Refuge – a Church doing Cool Stuff

Saturday night I visited the Refuge, a simple church that my friend Bill Benninghoff is part of.  The group started off with a meal, went to announcements then did something that really surprised me.  Instead of worship and teaching, they had a member share his story, his giftings, and his struggles.  Then the whole group ministered to him.  There were words of knowledge, some prophetic words.  There was a prophetic song, and scriptures shared and the Brother was encouraged and built up.

Kevin, one of the leaders explained that they believed they should really get to know one another.  So for the moment, each week one or two people are sharing their lives with the group.  I think this is an extraordinary idea.    Kevin explained that they are still struggling to navigate away from traditional ways of doing church into a more organic or simple model.

What I really appreciate is taht this group is really trying to get to know one another and love one another.  I am convinced that this can only result in a stronger community of faith.

The Refuge is also being very missional.  One lady, Anita, has been ministering to a family in the apartment complex, with others coming along side to help.   Two other gentlement are ministering to the homeless.  Some are ministering at a local nursing home and others are helping people by cutting lawns.  They are serving people in ways that will allow them to connect with the people they are serving.  Hopefully, it will open up the opportunity for people to share the gospel.

I was really encouraged to see this group of Christ followers dedicated to following Jesus and reaching out to people.

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Come as a Child

Boy and Dad

Boy and Dad

I’ve been in a funk recently.  I am going between bouts of frustration and mild depression where all I want to do is crawl into bed and go to sleep.  Nothing in my life seems to be working or going my way right now.

(Image:KellyB/creative commons/attributions)

In my work life,  there has been a number of changes, none of which including my new shift makes me happy at all.

In ministry, I don’t seem to fit anywhere and am not bearing any fruit. 

I was supposed to teach at out Lake Como simple church yesterday- No one showed up.  I felt it was a waste of prep time and effort, not to mention a thirty mile one way drive for nothng.

I drove to  Lancaster for an outreach this weekend, but got delayed and lost and more delay.  I arrived an hour late unfortunately and everyone had already headed out to their posts.  I didn’t know where to do, so I headed back home.  That was another bunch of time about three hours and gas wasted.

I’ve been working on some projects which I hope will lead to some business opportunities.  Nothing I am doing there is working either. 

I’m in one of those places in my life that I just don’t like very much right now.  But the thing that really has me bothered is I don’t seem to know what I was created to do.  Everyone else seems to have and be secure in their “callings. and their purposes.   When I’ve taken it to the Lord (Read that as Complained to the Lord- whined to the Lord-etc), the only response I would get back was a simple affirmation,  “I love you, son.”

I had dinner with friends of mine last night and we had some good discussions.  Larry laughed at my predicament which wasn’t all that re-assuring.  After dinner on my drive home,  I felt like the Lord was speaking to me (no not an audible voice, but yet audible to my mind.) 

He said, “Son, you have one purpose and one purpose only.  You are my son and I am your Father.  Your purpose is that you are my son.”  I of course objected.  “Well, I know that.  But I’m talking about wha I’m supposed to do.” 

I felt like the Lord said that our purpose is in our being not in our doing.  Our purpose is to be “in Christ.”  Our purpose is to be children of the Most High to be in a relationship with him.  That is our highest purposes.  We will “do” things but it is always out of our relationship with him not out of our desire to be doing something.   I am not a teacher.  I am a child of God who God may ask to teach.  I am not an entrepenuer.  I am a child of God that God may ask to start a business.  My identity and purpose however is wrapped up in my identity in and relationship with God not in what I do.

I remembered the scripture saying :

15 Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called them to Him and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. 17 Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”  Luke 18:15-17

The Lord reminded me that children are not wrapped up in their purposes or their plans.  They are children.  They enjoy the “now.”  They are far more interested in being with the ones they love than about what they will be doing or what their career (or calling), or purpose is.  They just enjoy being and enjoy the moment.  Little boys would much rather spend time with dad, than going out to do something to feel “productive” or “useful.”

I believe that this is a place the Lord is calling me to spend time re-discovering.  I’ve somehow lost my first love and now is the time to re-kindle it.  My prayer is “Capture my heart, Lord.  Capture my heart.” 

So, I am laying the stuff I am doing at the alter and asking the Lord what he wants me to continue doing and what he wants me to lay down.  I believe I am entering a time of just being Father’s little boy again.

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