Sky Links, 8-31

Photo: Spacebridge by longobord CC 2.0
When the Lord changed Zion’s circumstances for the better, it was like we had been dreaming. 
-Psalm 126:1


God is a Dreamer

We tend to think linearly, logically; like a + b = c.  Our imaginations push the boundaries of our logical thinking, and dreaming expands our imaginations.  God's dreams for us are beyond our thinking and even imagining.  A part of ministry, whether discipling, teaching, or preaching; is to encourage or fund God's dream in people that is beyond what we can see, hear, smell, and taste today.  We only have a hint of it in our imaginations, and can clearly see it in dreams.  The minister's job, and everyone in Christ is a minister, is to encourage each one into their destiny or dream in God.

One of the primary roles of the preacher/teacher prophet/poet in exilic times is to fund imagination, where we have so compromised our imaginations with the vision of Empire. God’s people need to relearn God’s dreams.. dreams of peace and justice.. and we need to learn to dream together, dreaming about places we can go together that we cannot reach alone. We need to dream about God’s future, not the eternal now of satiation offered by the Empire. -Len Hjalmarson, funding imagination

What every minister, whether they are a preacher, teacher, missionary, or servant evangelist; has in hand or in mind and heart, is the Bible, which is God's book of dreams.  Ministry is the art of linking God's dreams for people to their lives, inviting, permissioning, and midwifing the new-birthing.

Dreams of God for you are far greater than the ones you have for yourself, and you are the one that needs to change.It’s time for every one of us in this room to be restored to dreaming. Because it’s a part of God’s nature. It’s a part of God’s abundance, and part of
your inheritance. You cannot get it unless you imagine it, unless you dream it. The Bible is a book about dreams. God encourages us to dream. He makes us dreamers. He speaks to us in dreams and visions. Why? Because its a language beyond logic. God is not reasonable. He is not rational. He is not logical. Read the Bible. Most of the things He did in the Bible are beyond logic and reason. In fact the only time He reasons is when you sin. The rest of time He says ‘don’t lean on your own understanding - trust in the Lord with all your heart. Don’t lean on your own understanding me. Trust me.’ He is a dreamer. He is a visionary. The only way you can live successfully in God is to dream and have a vision for your own life that you follow. Something beyond logic, something beyond reason, a move of God beyond dreaming.  -Graham Cooke, (11-08, notes)


The Future of America, The Church, and World Evangelism

Peter Wagner wrote an article called, The America of Tomorrow: How Shall We Pray? He addresses the issues of the future of America, the future of the church, prayer movements, and China's rise.  It is a very good article from an 82 year old who has been studying the church world-wide and been involved in some of the biggest prayer movements.

We are in the place we are in America, after more prayer than ever before.  America has changed and the world is changing.  God has much change in store for the church in America, that has already begun.


Many Are Called But Few Are Chosen

Have you ever wondered about this saying of Jesus?  Judas was called by Jesus, but failed.  God calls people all the time, who turn him down.  Katherine Kuhlman said that she believed God had called several people to the ministry that she had, who turned him down, before God called her to it.

Mario Liu wrote about about this issue of "many are called", with the perspective that God calls many and gets one who truly becomes what they were called to: Many are called few are chosen, and Black Caviar.  God still loves those who don't follow through, by the way.

Kris Valloton - Five things about the devil:

1- he knows the Bible better than you do and he will use the bible against. It's called a religious spirit.

2- he loves attention, therefore the greatest weapon we have against him is called "ignore."

3-He never says, " I am the devil, I am about to deceive you." He's insane but he is not stupid.

4-he has no new ideas, his whole arsenal is rooted in getting you to be afraid. When you fear him, you believe him, and you give him authority in your life that God didn't give him.

5-contray to popular opinion, he can confirm his false words through other people. So if you get a bad word (thought, dream, vision, etc), he can confirm it through giving other believers the same bad word about you. So if the word has anything to do with; KILL, STEAL, OR DESTROY...you know the origin ....even if there is 10 confirmations. Rebuke it and go on.

Grumbling

Let’s not grumble, like some of them did, and were killed by the destroyer.
-1 Corithians 10:10

Anne Frank said, "I think a lot, but I don't say much".  Are you able to control your tongue, or do you grumble?  Jeff, the Scripture Zealot, on the sin of murmuring

Have You Died Lately?

Jesus said to everyone, all who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow me.

But if we died with Christ, we have faith that we will also live with him.  We know that Christ has been raised from the dead and he will never die again. Death no longer has power over him.  He died to sin once and for all with his death, but he lives for God with his life.  In the same way, you also should consider yourselves dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus.


I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. And the life that I now live in my body, I live by faith, indeed, by the faithfulness of God’s Son, who loved me and gave himself for me.

-Luke 9:23, Romans 6:8-1, Galatians 2:20

I began hearing a tune with a lone trumpet, in my heart, over and over; especially as I prayed.  I got the impression that this tune was the music of death, farewell, and sunset.  "Who died?", I asked.

I thought about the call to die to self.  I thought about taking up our crosses.  I thought about how Jesus says that if we want to be his disciple, we must take up our own crosses.  I personally do want to be Jesus disciple, so the cross-walk is not an option.

How do we die to self?  How are we crucified with Christ?  Jesus was crucified once for all the sins of the world: past, present, and future.  All my sins were dealt with or paid for that day.  But today, I still need to take up my cross, the instrument of my death, daily.  But, what does that mean?

At the cross, our sin is expunged: past, present, and future sin.  We get to go to the other side of the cross and have Jesus' resurrection life live through us.  The cross means death, but God brings resurrection life into our lives that have been through the cross.

Salvation or sanctification is a process.  You are getting saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaved.  That is why Jesus calls each one to take up their cross, daily.  That is why, in many of the letters in the New Testament, to the churches, we read about Christians sinning.

So, the normal Christian life, which is joyous and fulfilling, is also filled with funerals.  Our own selfishness and sin has to be put to death, let go of, crucified, and buried.

Eugene Petersen translates Luke 9:23 as Jesus saying, "you have to let me lead".  Some people have lived lives of control and being controlling.  We have to get our own way.  Sometimes controlling people are controlling because they are afraid of being out of control.  One of the things that all Christians learn is that we are not in control.  We say, "Jesus is Lord", when we get saved, but then we each must make Jesus Lord of our individual lives.

My pastor used to say how people make the mistake of thinking Christ is an add-on to the house of our lives, when he really wants to take over our whole houses.  C.S. Lewis made the same point:
"Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you know that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of--throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself!" 
-C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
What needs to hear "Taps" and have a funeral?  The parts of our selves that are not in-Christ.  The parts of us that are not raised from the dead, resurrected in Christ.  'Christian' does not just mean a believer, but a transformed person who is being transformed by Christ today.

Have you died lately?  Have you had to let something die in your self that needs to go, because Christ has not transformed it through the cross and his resurrection?  My pastor used to always say that there is one prayer God will always answer, and it is, "Lord, what is wrong with me?"

The way we live the Christian life is in Christ.  If a part of our life is not in Christ or needs to go through the cross, then that very part will trip us up and cause us pain.  There are parts of our lives that do not work, they cause slow-downs, and dysfunctions.  These areas need upgrades into Christ-likeness.

One of the issues of transformation into Christ-likeness, is trusting God.  Amy Grant had a song called "Got To Let It Go", where she sung:
Lord, here's my heart,
I've been keeping it from you,
And I got to let it go.
Holding on just breaks me, worry,
Got to let it go,
Come and take it from me, hurry,
Got to let it go.
Go to let it -- got to let it go.
Got to give up all of my control!
God is saying to give up your control and let him take the wheel, like Carrie Underwood  song, "Jesus Take The Wheel":
Jesus take the wheel
Take it from my hands
Cause I can't do this on my own
I'm letting go
So give me one more chance
Save me from this road I'm on
Jesus take the wheel
When Jesus was raised from the dead, and came back for 40 days, before he ascended, he did not talk about heaven, as in, "now you can go to heaven, I was just there".  No, he didn't talk about that, but he talked to them about the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3).

Before the cross, Jesus' message was the kingdom of God, and it was the same after he rose from the dead.   The message of the kingdom is God's kingly rule breaking into the earth realm and taking over and transforming lives of God's mission in Jesus to save the world.

All the trans-formative work God wants to do in each one of us is to give us better, more Christ-like, lives now, in this earthly life.  You die, he lives.  That is good news.  The parts of our lives where we haven't met Christ and let him take over, because we are afraid, or don't believe, have to die, so Christ can live there.  We stretch our faith to believe that God the Father really does want to take care of everything in each of his children's lives.


Towards A More Effective Sermon Time

We pray, we study, we reflect, we craft a sermon, we illustrate it with stories, we deliver it with passion and integrity – but it has very little impact on those who listen to it.
-Anonymous preacher

I love sermons.  I love preaching.  I am very interested in preaching and preachers.  My preaching teacher at Fuller was William Pannel, who was very kind to me.  He and I went to dinner once after I preached on Galatians 3:28.  He was one of my favorite teachers.

I have listened to many thousands of sermons, in person, on cassette, on CD, DVD, TV, podcasts, vodcasts, and in print. Sermons and sermonizing must be a passion of mine, and has been since 1987.

I have been wondering if there is something wrong though and if something is missing.  While I absorbed sermons, like a dry sponge, I saw Christians around me who also listened to those same sermons, but were not growing.  I always noticed the crowds of people who dress up for church, then file in, listen, and file out; but don't seem to experience growth.

About 99.9% of the many thousands of sermons I have heard have been monologues.

When I began studying Paul's teaching methods, I found out that it was more often than not, dialogical.  When I began to study how Rabbis taught when Jesus taught, I found out that the method was to continually ask questions of your learners.  Remember when Jesus asked the disciples, "who do you say I am?".

Teaching is a gift of the Holy Spirit and preaching is completely Biblical.  When I first noticed that something might be wrong with sermons or sermons in church meetings, because of the lack of growth in the hearers, I thought that the answer was revival and renewal.  I thought that if all these people who are not growing could just get a mighty infilling of the Holy Spirit, then the church would shine more.

But, as time went on, I realized the problem is more complicated.  Even people who are very filled with God's Spirit were not getting it from the traditional monologue sermons.  We were encouraged, we felt good, and sermons are often quite entertaining; but growth, not so much.

Jeremy Thomson, in, "Preaching as Dialogue: Is the Sermon a Sacred Cow?", observes:
'But people may listen week by week to the best prepared and presented sermons, given by thoroughly sincere preachers, and yet make little progress in Christian discipleship. Some preachers blame congregations for a lack of expectancy that God will speak, for an inability to listen to a “solid exposition”, or even for disobedience to what they hear. But I suspect that there is a more significant factor in the failure rate of the sermon than the quality of the preacher or the responsiveness of the hearers. I want to suggest that the problem lies in our concept of preaching itself.’
We could spend time criticizing the monologue, but the better way is to look at alternatives.  You may know that the lecture is the most ineffective method of teaching.  Go to lunch or dinner after the church service and ask your brothers or sisters what the message was and some will have completely forgotten it and others will not have comprehended what the preacher was trying to get across.

Stuart Murray Williams suggests four interactive alternatives to the monologue method of preaching:

1.  Learner-focus.  Disciple means learner.  People learn through interaction and participation.  People learn through 'paying the price' of digging down deep.  How can we teach people to fish rather than feeding them fish?

2.  Multi-voiced.  The body of Christ has many voices and no one person has the monopoly on God's wisdom or revelation.  Moses wanted all God's people to speak God's words (Numbers 11:29) and was not threatened by it.  Paul also said that each one that has a word can give it, one by one, in the church meeting (1 Corinthians 14:31). 

3.  Open-ended.  Allow people space to think, reflect, and explore.  Allow people to have uncertainty with what the Bible says, you say, and what other saints are saying.  Learning is a process and discipleship is a journey.  Jesus, The Word, asks us questions so that we have ownership over our knowledge.  The Bible is so deep with treasure, that there is always more insight and light to be gained and discovered.

4.  Dialogue-based.  Interactive preaching makes room for questions, comments, challenges, ideas and exploration.  This might mean inviting interruptions.  This might mean having discussion groups in the middle of or after the sermon or talk.  This might mean re-arranging the chairs to a circle or semi-circle to make dialogue and discussion possible.  This might mean two preacher/speakers debating each other and inviting congregational participation.  It might mean asking two people to prepare a message on a sermon together.  It might also mean that the preacher tells the congregation what the passage is for next week and everybody studies it at home.

Obstacles to the interactive sermon:
  • Fear.  We are threatened by change.  People don't want the challenge.
  • Sacrosanct.  We believe that the sermon, as is, is too important to be messed with.
  • Preachers are insecure.  They might be afraid of losing control.  
  • Monologues just feel good, both for the preacher and 'preachee'.  Nothing is better than an anointed message!  To put it bluntly, preacher satisfaction and listener feel good, take precedent over spiritual growth.

-This post was first published in 2013.
_______________________________
The top photo is:  
"The Rector of St. John's, Rev. Dr. Drew MacDonald, and guest speaker Rev. Derwyn Costinak bring together an Anglican and a Pentecostal perspective on the significance of the Day of Pentecost."
Link to the video
Another video of two guys preaching tag-team style.

The Way

This is what the Lord says— he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick:  “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.-Isaiah 43:16-19 

Did you know that God makes a way where there is no way?  You don't see a way.  See God who makes a way where there is no way.  See God in your heart, with your eyes of faith.

If you are God's child, God will take care of you.  He makes a way, like a good father or mother makes a way for their own child.  

God loves to surprise his children.  The way he makes and the gifts he gives are surprises for you.  He knows you and what you will be thrilled by.  God makes a way for you.  See God and see the new way with your eyes of faith.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he saves those whose spirits are crushed.
Psalm 34:18

If you are brokenhearted, the Lord is with you.  He is close you you.  Whatever your problem is, whatever your past, and however crushed you are by life; God has a way out and a way on just for you.  God is with you in your weakness, and your no-energy feeling of hopelessness.  He has got you and he has a way out for you.

A broken spirit is my sacrifice, God. You won’t despise a heart, God, that is broken and crushed.
-Psalm 51:17

We need not be ashamed of our brokenness before God.  God wants us to show him our wounds.  The highest form of worship is lament.  God wants our sorrows, our hurts, our broken parts.  True joy is when we receive God's love when we feeling worthless.  Listen to Augustine:
"In my deepest wound I saw your Glory, and it astounded me."
 This is where Jesus wants to be let in to.  He wants you to know his love, in spite of what you have done, or what has been done to you.  He wants to love you with your ugly exposed.

When they finished eating, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

Simon replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.”

Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
-John 21:17
All that God asks of us is that we love him where we are.  That love is the basis for ministry or service.

Hidden Treasure In the Other Tribe

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”
-Matthew 13:44, 52(ESV)

Diversity or Division?

There are many differences in in all the peoples of the earth.  Sometimes we call other people who are different than us names.  We name them and those names are often derogatory or negative, disrespectful, degrading, pejorative, or humiliating.  People like to call other people names who are different.  In case you needed to be told, doing this is sinful

Tree Eaters

Sometimes people nick-name other people who are different, purely out of  a need to describe them.  Many things that the Europeans brought to America were probably very peculiar to the Native Americans, for example

Many Native American tribes learned the value of eating tree bark.  There are usually three layers of bark, before the wood and layers two and three are very edible and very nutritious.  I imagine that most people I know do not and never have eaten tree bark.  But survivalists know all about it.

Hidden Treasures From God

There are many hidden treasures that Christians have discovered and rediscovered.  Various Christian groups have made discoveries and celebrated that treasure and made that treasure an emphasis of their Christian culture.  There are hundreds and even thousands of emphases that different Christian groups have.

Hidden Treasure Can Save Your Life

Eating tree bark is like a hidden treasure.  Trees were almost everywhere in the New World of the North-East of what is now the United States.  The European explorers or pilgrims were sometimes malnourished or starving, and there were the trees, all around them; and little did they know that eating these trees could heal scurvy and give them food.

Crossing Boundaries to Receive From The Other

When they crossed over and started communicating with the very different native peoples, the treasure of the tree bark was given to them.  It is the same way in the whole church, the Body of Christ.  We need the treasures that others have discovered.   What you lack, another group has discovered.  You must cross lines to get it.

Descriptive or Pejorative Name Calling

Many Native Americans discovered and practiced the eating of tree bark.  They were called 'Adirondack' by the Mohawk tribe.  The Mohawks were different than the bark eating tribes, in that they spoke a different language.  The various Native American tribes had many differences and had wars against each other.  We don't know (I don't know) if the Mohawks used 'Adirondack' as a purely descriptive term or if it was derogative.

Christian Porcupines

Adirondack also can mean 'Porcupine' in Mohawk, because Porcupines also eat tree bark.  Christian fellowship is sometimes like porcupines.  We draw near, but then we hurt each other with all our prickly spines.

Some Are Dying For The Treasure That Others Have

Like the Europeans that came to a new land, who brought all of their European knowledge, but some of whom were sick and dying from malnourishment that they had no cure for; we also need the treasures that have been found by and deposited by God, in other groups, tribes, movements, or denominations.

Old and New Treasure

Jesus remarked that those who already were teachers or knowledgeable of The Torah or the Old Testament, could and should become disciples or learners of the secrets of the Kingdom of God.  Jesus calls us to hold onto the old and discover the new.  The whole Bible, including the whole Old Testament is His-Story!  The challenge with new treasure it to integrate or harmonize it with the old Treasure.

Reinventing the Wheel

When we are sectarian, we tend to not look outside for help and are even suspicious of people outside our tribe.  So, when we decide to move into a new dimension of ministry, we "reinvent the wheel".  As you can imagine, our wheel will not be as good as the wheels out there that other groups have been using with good function for years or decades or longer.

Jesus is The Wheel That Connects the Whole Church

The center or hub of the wheel for all Christians is Christ, and all the tribes, groups, movements, networks, or denominations are spokes that go out to the surface of the wheel, where it meets the ground of the world, which is the great co-mission of Christ and his church..

Cross Over

The treasure that another, different tribe, in the church, has is in Christ.  They got it from Christ and Christ can give it to you, through them.  It is the same Christ, but different people, and they could be very different from you; but they have a unique gift....  for you, if you will cross over and receive it.  One last thing.  Jesus is the bridge to them for you.  You cross over in Christ.


Jesus is Outrageous, Scandalous, and Shocking

They were repulsed by him and fell into sin.
And they were deeply offended and refused to believe in him.
And they took offense at him.
They were offended by Him (by His teachings, by who He was).
-Matthew 13:57 CEB, NLT, ESV, VOICE

Why would anyone get offended at Jesus?  Why would someone flip out in a bad way, after hearing Jesus teach and seeing Jesus minister to people in miraculous power?  Why would people reject someone who is good and who is teaching good things and doing good?

The one word answer is: prejudice.  Antisemitism is not what I am talking about, nor racism.  Prejudice is when we judge before we have the relevant facts.  Prejudice is when we have things figured out in boxes and when someone comes along that challenges our judgements, we focus our ire on the person rather than humbling ourselves and taking in new information and changing our minds.

The last thing the people did before taking offense at Jesus was to say, "Where did this man get all this?”  The implication is that he did not get it from God, because their reaction is to be repulsed.  Imagine a man in his thirties coming back to the town he grew up in.  He goes to church and offers to give a message.  The people are surprised, amazed, or astonished at the wisdom he speaks and the miracles he does or works.

But their surprise is an unpleasant one.  They are outraged, shocked, and scandalized.  Why?  Prejudice.  They prejudged Jesus and they prejudged how someone could or would bring wise teaching.  They saw the miracles and still took offense.  They reacted badly to good deeds.  Why?

Their surprise or astonishment at Jesus was not linked to faith.  Later, Matthew writes that they had unbelief.  Their surprise or astonishment or amazement turned to outrage, shock, and offense.  Jesus was scandalous to them.  Why or how could they possibly be like that?  Prejudice, unbelief, envy, and pride.

Sometimes people are surprised or astonished or amazed at your good news.  You got a job, you got engaged, you are pregnant, or you got a big gift.  But the ugly side is when that surprise, astonishment, or amazement is not about being happy for you or celebrating with you.  It is really about jealousy and envy.

I can remember examples of when I had good fortune and another person expressed surprise.  By their actions and words, I realized that they were not happy for me, but were jealous and even offended by my good fortune.  This is sad and it happens from Christians to Christians.

The point of this story in Matthew 13, of Jesus offending his own hometown, by doing good things; is two things.  If it can happen to Jesus, it can happen to you, and when Jesus gives you good words to say and good ministry to do (even miracles), people might get offended because of their unbelief, which is rooted in prejudice, pride, and envy.

For some reason, the people of Nazareth were not open to Jesus giving them wisdom or miraculous ministry.  Their prejudice, pride, and envy put Jesus in a box.  They had Jesus pegged as perhaps a nice guy. but not a prophetic wisdom teacher and worker of miracles.  In their minds, Jesus' promotion, in God, to being that was not possible.  Why?  Prejudice, envy, and pride.  In a word, unbelief.

We might also be carrying unbelief, which is expressed in prejudice, envy, and pride.  Sectarianism and elitism are two dangerous sins for Christians in the church world today.  James Fenimore Cooper wrote:
In America the taint of sectarianism lies broad upon the land. Not content with acknowledging the supremacy of the Deity . . . the pride and vanity of human reason enter into and pollute our worship, and the houses that should be of God and for God, alone, where he is to be honored with submissive faith, are too often merely schools of metaphysical and useless distinctions. The nation is sectarian, rather than Christian. 
Religion's first lesson is humility; it's fruit, charity.  In the great and sublime ends of Providence, little things are lost, and least of all is he imbued with a right spirit who believes that insignificant observances, subtleties of doctrine, and minor distinctions, enter into the great essentials of the Christian character.  The wisest thing for him who is disposed to cavil at the immaterial habits of his neighbor, to split straws on doctrine, to fancy trifles of importance, and to place the man before principles, would be to distrust himself.  The spirit of peace is not with him.
This was written in 1838, when there were about 500 denominations.  In 2007, there were over 40,000.  If current trends continue, we will have 260,000 by 2100.

Sectarianism is when we major on the minors and it is rooted in unbelief, which is paradoxical, because the sectarian person believes they have strong faith; but it is actually rigid pride.  Diversity and unity are both rooted in God.  We can be diverse, but unified in God.

Jesus says to the person who is already set in there ways of worship and practice: religious activities, to combine the new with the old.  The saying of Jesus, recorded by Matthew, just before the scene in the synagogue where the people take offense at Jesus is this:
Then he said to them, “Therefore, every legal expert who has been trained as a disciple for the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings old and new things out of their treasure chest.”  -Matthew 13:52

"Legal expert" means "Scribe" or "Teacher of the Law".  In other words, Jesus is remarking that those who lead in or have knowledge of faith and practice, who then become disciples of the kingdom of heaven; are like a head of a household that has old and new treasure.  The point being, that there is new treasure for 'religious experts' to find.  The humble person, with faith, is open to the new.

Pride and unbelief say, "I know all there is to know".  What if Jesus is in the business of widening our horizons, helping us realize that the more we know, the less we realize we know.  That is faith.  That is humility.  That is the opposite of prejudice.  It is deliberation.  It is thought-full-ness.

What if Jesus offends us today, in order to help us be more like him, whole and holy?  He offends the parts of us or throws them for a loop, that need upgrades, that need sanctification.  Does how you think need to change?  That is what Jesus is about, through the Holy Spirit.

The real Jesus is outrageous, scandalous, and shocking.  He is always going outside the camp, outside the box, and off the map.  If you are troubled about him doing this to you, hear him say, "I am the way".  In other words, he is our map, he is our destination, and he is our dwelling place.

If you put things, ways, concepts, or thoughts; even ones about him, before him; you are in trouble.  Salvation is a process called sanctification.  To become humble, we have to humble ourselves or be humiliated.  The former is easier.

Sky Link 8-18

Photo: Spacebridge by longobord CC 2.0
When you search for me, yes, search for me with all your heart, you will find me.  I will be present for you, declares the Lord, and I will end your captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have scattered you, and I will restore you to the place from which I exiled you. declares the Lord.
-Jeremiah 29:13-14


Love Me Where You're At 

Some day, we will be judged on how we loved.  Many people feel guilty about not doing enough, but God is looking at the love.  When we love, we do the do.  Francis Frangipane posted this excerpt from his book, I Will be Found By You, this past week.


One day, as I stood in the kitchen pantry, I repeated again my abiding prayer: "Lord, what do You want of me?" In a sudden flash of illumination, the Lord answered. Speaking directly to my heart, He said, "Love Me where you're at."

In this time and season, remember, I was not a pastor or minister. I was a television repairman doing odd jobs on the side to provide for my family. I hated what I was doing. In my previous church I taught against TV, and now I was "laying hands" on television sets and raising them from the dead! The Lord's answer cut straight to my heart. I was awed at its simplicity! I asked, "Love You where I am at? Lord, is that all You want of me?" To this He responded, "This is all I will ever require of you."

In that eternal moment, peace flooded my soul and I was released from the false expectation of ministry-driven service. God was not looking at what I did for Him, but who I became to Him in love. The issue in His heart was not whether I pastored but whether I loved Him. To love the Lord in whatever station I found myself -- even as a television repairman -- this I could do!

A deep and remarkable transformation occurred in me. My identity was no longer in being a pastor but rather in becoming a true lover of God. Having settled my priorities, amazingly, just a couple days later I was invited to pastor a church in Marion, Iowa. In spite of all my previous anxiety about returning to ministry, I did not jump at the opportunity. For I had found what the Lord truly desired of me. Though I eventually accepted this call, my focus was not merely on leading a church but on loving God.
-Francis Frangipane, from I Will Be Found By You

Walking

Certainly the faithful love of the Lord hasn’t ended; certainly God’s compassion isn’t through!
They are renewed every morning. Great is your faithfulness.-Lamentations 3:22-3 

God is not finished with us yet.  We have not exhausted God's faithfulness either.  There is more and more, every day.  You might feel hopeless.  You might feel exhausted.  You might be running out of hope.  You might be so identified with those feelings that you begin thinking that God is through with you.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  He is faithful.  You can take that to the bank (as they say).

My brothers and sisters, think of the various tests you encounter as occasions for joy.
-James 1:22

Whatever the tough time you find yourself in, look for the grace package to go through it and look for the up-grade into deeper Christlikeness that God wants to form in you.  You have to choose how you think.  Wisdom says, look at it, think of it this way.  God isn't trying to give us a fun, easy, entertained life.  God wants us like Jesus and God wants relationship with a Christlike people. 

The Lord isn’t slow to keep his promise, as some think of slowness, but he is patient toward you, not wanting anyone to perish but all to change their hearts and lives.
-2 Peter 3:9

Many of us are waiting on God for a variety of things.  That is good.  But here is another reality.  God is also waiting on us.  God is waiting for us to be ready, to get ready.  God is available every day, to help us get ready to receive the promises.  Will we allow God to make us into disciples?

I looked for anyone to repair the wall and stand in the gap for me on behalf of the land, so I wouldn’t
have to destroy it. But I couldn’t find anyone.
-Ezekiel 22:30

God is a covenant God.  God partners with us to get things done on the earth.  Sometimes God can not find a single person to fill an important assignment on the earth.  Will you be that one who stand in the gap, where ever God calls you to stand?

The Law stepped in to amplify the failure, but where sin increased, grace multiplied even more.
-Romans 5:20

Sin and sinfulness is everywhere.  We might even be somewhat desensitized to it.  There is so much of it in our culture and infecting all of us, to one degree or another; that it might seem hopeless.  But God's grace always has sin beat.  The greatest sins can be forgiven.  Cleaning up or blotting out sins is a jaw-dropping awesome accomplishment attained by Jesus on the cross.  We might need to raise our awareness of the power released on the cross to forgive sin.

A Samaritan woman came to the well to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me some water to drink.”
-John 4:7

What if Jesus is showing us something here about how to minister, how to evangelize?  Talk to strangers.  Jesus is outside the building.  What if the gift of healing is for evangelism?


“Come, follow me,” he said, “and I’ll show you how to fish for people.”
Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain until I come, what difference does that make to you? You must follow me.”
-Matthew 4:19, John 21:22

Jesus says to follow him.  We do follow people and have human leaders, but we are all following Jesus.  The main thing is that you and I are following Jesus.  Our human leaders are secondary and  change over time.  We need to not get hung up on other people's lives or assignments.  Hear him say, "you must follow me".

Sky Links, 8-11-13

Photo: Spacebridge by longobord CC 2.0
Say hello to Andronicus and Junia, my relatives and my fellow prisoners. They are prominent among the apostles, and they were in Christ before me.
-Romans 16:7 (CEB)

Junia

Leonard Hjalmarson posted Scot McKnight's introduction to his book, Junia Is Not Alone. Junia was a female apostle, that Paul mentions in Romans 16:7. I was thrilled to dig into this text in a paper one time. It is interesting that some translations do not agree with Scot McKnight's, NT Wright's, nor Eldon J. Epp's conclusions; that Junia was a woman and she was an apostle.

Epp's conclusions, from his book, Junia, The First Woman Apostle:
1. Junia was a woman.
2. There is no evidence that any man had the name “Junias.”
3. Junia is not, as some have argued, a contracted name of Junianus.
4. “Among the apostles” means means Junia herself was an apostle and not simply that the apostles thought she was a good egg.
Translators and commentators seem to bring a bias to their work, that carries an extra-Biblical assumption that a woman cannot be an apostle.  Church father Chrysostom did not have this bias:
To be an apostle is something great. But to be outstanding among the apostles— just think what a wonderful song of praise that is! They were outstanding on the basis of their works and virtuous actions. Indeed, how great the wisdom of this woman must have been that she was even deemed worthy of the title of apostle.(344 A.D.)

Millennials Leaving The Church

No one pours new wine into old wineskins. If they did, the wineskins would burst, the wine would spill, and the wineskins would be ruined. Instead, people pour new wine into new wineskins so that both are kept safe.
-Matthew 9:17

“We’re not leaving the church because we don’t find the cool factor there; we’re leaving the church because we don’t find Jesus there. Like every generation before ours and every generation after, deep down, we long for Jesus.”
-Rachel Held Evans
Probably thousands of people have responded and reacted to Rachel Held Evans' piece on Why Millennials are leaving the church.  I want to share a few thoughtful ones.  Meghan Florian wrote:
One assertion is that the reason for this exodus is that young people are looking for Jesus, and when they don’t find him in the church they go elsewhere. Fair enough. But if we’re looking for Jesus, one place we are supposed to find him is in the gathered body of believers, and while I am the first to say I have not always seen him there, it is too easy to point to one simple issue and to ignore deeper problems. We’re not only supposed to be looking for Jesus, but being his presence for one another. People come and go from the church, but perhaps we were never supposed to “go to” church in the first place, because we are actually supposed to be the church. Those are different things.

...The thing that I miss most in this flurry of articles? Mention of the holy spirit moving in people’s lives. Encounters with the living God. That is why “looking for Jesus” isn’t enough.
Chris Morton shared 7 Lessons Learned from a church of Millennials, about his church in Austin, TX.
  1. Look (and sound) like your city: They need to know that they can come and learn about Jesus and still be themselves.
  2. Be a safe place to come back to church: Our gathering isn't meant to be "attractional", just familiar enough to be safe.
  3. Wear your brokenness: When we lead with our own brokenness, others know they can be themselves.
  4. Structure is your friend: "So structured that creative things happen."
  5. Everyone has a role: It's everyone's job to be a good host.
  6. Ask lots of questions: Make space for the word to do its job. (Open discussion after messages.)
  7. Live in proximity: Reality is that it is easier to be in each other's lives when you see each other every day.
Nate Pyle wrote on The Millennial Exodus and Consumer Church.  Nate wrote:
You see my fear is, that with all the talk of what millennials want from church, we are just playing consumer church with different words.  Outside of the call for more substance (which is a cry I echo), it seems like we all want the same thing done differently.

But here is the deal, unless we want a new wineskin, we don’t want something new.

Christendom is coming to a close. Church is going to have to change. Call it a new reformation. Call it a changing of the guard. Call it what you want, but change is on the horizon. This makes how we have this dialogue very important. My hope is that, if we do it with a lot of grace and love, our dialogue might just be as beautiful as whatever emerges.

Why We left The Church (Our Stories) Complied by Micah J Murray, who wrote:

We are not a statistic, a headline, an issue, a problem to be solved. We are not a
theological debate. We are flesh and blood. So don’t say that we left because we didn’t want to follow Jesus, or because we’re too consumeristic, or too selfish, or too sinful. I remember what it’s like to be facedown on the carpet praying to a God you barely believe in; the self-righteous assumptions and finger-pointing are a kick in the ribs to those already paralyzed by fear and aching doubt. Please don’t do that.
The Stories

David Hayward wrote this insightful comment in his post, Why Millennials Are Leaving The Church Really:
I agree that the church is fascinated with tweaking but not transforming itself. I agree there needs to be substantial change. I think maybe some millennials might want change in substance. But not all. So I would like to push Rachel Held Evans’ argument a little further and suggest that most millennials just don’t care what the church does. It is actually dead to them already.

You can change the style. You might keep some. You can change the substance. You might keep more. The substantial change people are talking about, in my opinion, is not substantial enough. Again, the substantial changes suggested are, in their own way, a more radical form of tweaking. I suspect a much deeper change is coming because the church is becoming not only less and less relevant, but less and less necessary. The suggested substantial changes can now be achieved without the aide or even presence of the church. This is the church’s problem that it doesn’t seem willing or able to admit. The church is gaping down the throat of its own death and can’t face it.

The millennials I know don’t even think about the church. It never crosses their minds. It doesn’t appear within the scope of their needs. As their fierce sense of spiritual independence grows, the need for external spiritual authorities, institutions and venues shrinks. I think that even using such words as “belief”, “faith”, “church”, “kingdom of God”, and “Jesus” betrays a desperate devotion to a passing paradigm.
The metaphor of death and resurrection applies here. Death, of course, means the end of everything. The story of Jesus’ death is not a mock up, staged, or, as some gnostic theologians taught, partial. It was total annihilation. Complete death. An utter and tragic end to all of it. 

Of course, this then sets the stage for the powerful metaphor of resurrection… something totally new and, compared to the old, barely even recognizable. This is what we are resisting because of our attachment to what is and our premonitory grief for its passing.
 Ten Myths About Church Leavers by Alan Jamieson
1. It is only the traditional mainline churches that have large numbers of leavers. While it
is true that people are leaving the traditional churches1 people are also leaving evangelical, charismatic and Pentecostal churches.

2. The people who leave are young adults, people on the fringe of our churches, and people who have not been in the church for very long. Obviously some leavers are in these categories, but they are not the only ones to leave. In the research I did - based on 108 interviews with church leavers across New Zealand - I found the church leavers from Pentecostal and charismatic churches were predominantly middle aged (70% were aged between 35 and 45 years) and had been involved in their respective churches as adults (ie beyond their 18th birthday) for an average of 15.8 years.

3. Those with children are less likely to leave. While we may have an understanding that children will draw people back, or hold them in our churches, this assumption is called into question by the choices the people I interviewed have made. 80% of them had children under their care but nevertheless they chose to leave their church, with the almost inevitable result that the children left too.

4. If Mum and Dad go to church, their children will grow up to be churchgoers too. The leavers I interviewed were made up of 28% who had strong church backgrounds as children (that is they attended children's and youth programmes run by the church and were supported in doing so by their parents' own involvement in the church). A further 40% came from nominal church backgrounds (that is they attended some church-based children's programmes and/or youth programmes but were not supported by the regular attendance and involvement of their parents in a church). Finally, 30% of the leavers interviewed had no church background in their childhood and teenage years.

5. The people who leave lack commitment. 94% of those I interviewed had also been involved in significant leadership positions within their churches and 40% had been involved for one year or more as either a full-time (paid) Christian worker for a local church, para-church group, or overseas missionary organization, or studied full-time in a theological institution - many had done both.

6. Leavers don't have an adequate grounding in the faith. The people I interviewed had been, on average, part of their respective churches for 15.8 years. 94% held significant leadership positions within the church and 40% had been full-time Christian workers for at least one year.

7. They leave because of the increased pressure on people's time today.... Underlying each person's account were far more significant factors than those raised by the time involved in being part of a church community. In fact, many of the leavers had gone on to replace time spent in church with other faith-nurturing commitments.

8. They leave because of personal issues and disagreements with church leaders... For the vast majority of leavers, however, such points of disagreement were a minor part of the overall decision to leave. For many they merely acted as a final straw in a process of leaving that had been going on for a period of months, if not years.

9. They'll be coming back. The leavers I spoke with were adamant that they would not be returning to the kind of church they had left... Even when people do go back to another evangelical, Pentecostal or charismatic church they tend to stay very much on the fringes and do not become involved in the leadership and core roles where they were once to be found.

10. They are backsliding and giving away their faith. When I began this research I expected to find that the longer people were out of the church community the more their faith would decline, and in the end most would to all intents move away from Christian faith. This was not the case for a very high percentage of the church leavers I was to meet. In fact, while these people are clear that they have left their churches and have no plans to return, they are equally adamant that they are continuing in Christian faith.

The good news, from the chart above, is that according to the research, only 8% of church leavers become atheist, new-age, or agnostic.  In Family Therapy language, you move from dependent, to counter-dependent, to inner-dependent, and finally to inter-dependent.  Another way to look at the stages are, spoon-fed faith, deconstructed faith, reconstructed faith, and integrated faith.

Christian Leader as Impresario

Picture from: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/files/impresario.pdf


Their responsibility is to equip God's people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.
-Ephesians 4:12 (NLT)

I got this idea that leaders in the church are to be impresarios.

Impresario is an Italian word that was first used in 1746, to mean "operatic manager". The impresario was the person who hired the composer, the singers, rented the hall, and sold tickets; to put on an opera.

The literal meaning of impresario is to be an undertaker of business. In a word, impresarios are 'connectors'. Impresarios pull people together, they connect people into their place. They pull people and ideas together. That is what "equipping" means. It means to 'set in place", as in when a bone needs to be re-set.

The impresario is a showman or showwoman.

People will say, "who is responsible for pulling this all together?" The impresario was. But the church is not a show, as in an entertainment, that gets your mind off your troubles for a few hours, like an opera. The church showcases the greatest show on earth, and Jesus Christ as the star.

Impresarios help people to 'get it'.

We all need to connect to one another, we all need to connect to our giftings and abilities to minister or serve, and we all need to connect to God and God's mission to save and disciple. Leaders are impresarios who connect people to 'get it'. They help people 'get it' about what their gifts are and how God can use them to serve, to minister, and to build up the church.

God's people do God's work, which is ministry or service.

God's people also build up or edify the church, which is the body of Christ. People in the role of leader in the church are not the ones who do the ministry or the service or the edifying of the church. The leader's role is to help God's people to be in the right place and shine in their God-given gifts.

You might be convinced that leaders are supposed to equip or connect God's people to their God-given gifts, ministries, or services, as figurative 'impresarios'. But how is this done, might be the next question.

Connection happens in relationship.

Relationship happens in community. Impresarios do what they do in community. When we commune, we get to know each other, and those with the gift to connect, can help us connect to our gifts, role, or function.

I think the church needs to move from sages on stages to guides by our sides.


-This post was originally published in 2013.

_______________
The top picture is from a free pdf book, designed by:
Johnson Cheng, Tom Harman, Rina Krevat, Paul Quigley, Matt Radcliffe, and Jodi Sagorin


Sky Links, 8-2

Photo: Spacebridge by longobord CC 2.0
More Salt and Light Needed

“You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its saltiness, how will it become salty again? It’s good for nothing except to be thrown away and trampled under people’s feet.  You are the light of the world. A city on top of a hill can’t be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on top of a lampstand, and it shines on all who are in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise
your Father who is in heaven.
-Matt. 5:13-16

Gay marriage has been an issue lately.  The voices in our culture say there are two groups of Christians in regards to this issue.  The first are the tolerant, compassionate ones who love and say, "gay is ok, marry the one you love".  The other group is full of hate, and they are hypocrites and want to oppress and suppress anyone not like them.

The truth is that the second group is a small percentage or a fringe that the majority of Christians would disown, disagree with, and frankly call un-christian.  The first group is much larger, but hardly the majority.  The majority of Christians are in the middle.  They have Jesus heart of love, but believe in coming to the cross, for the forgiveness of our sins.

Gay marriage is a barometer that says there is a problem with a society.  Society is not helped or healed by condemning people with same sex attraction.  Actually it means it is time for the people of God to repent of their sins.  We Christians have our own sins, some of them sexual in nature, to repent of.  How strange it is for any Christian to criticize others and not deal with their own stuff.  This is what we are supposed to do:
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
-2 Chronicles 7:14
Darren Hibbs wrote about this, this past week.

The Lord's Supper

After taking the bread and giving thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
-Luke 22:19


Dave Black posted some thoughts on The Lord's Supper this week:

...some additional thoughts about the Lord's Supper based on certain New Testament texts (such as 1 Cor. 10-11 and Acts 20:7):

1) The Lord's Supper is the centerpiece of the Christian assembly.

2) The supper is superbly Christ-centered ("Do this in MY remembrance").

3) No believer is "invited" to partake of the supper; we eat and drink in obedience to Christ's command ("Do this" is in the imperative mood).

4) The supper is a genuine meal, not a ritual to be "administered."

5) The emphasis is both on remembering and anticipating.

6) It is a joyous celebration and not a sorrowful funeral.

7) The meal symbolizes the unity of the Body of Christ.

8) ALL are to partake, and ALL are to partake together.

9) The "unworthy manner" to which Paul refers has nothing to do with one's spiritual status at the time of eating. It refers to eating and drinking in a divided manner.

10) Self-examination is a necessary part of the Christian life, but in 1 Cor. 11 it is not a reference to the preparedness on the part of the believer. It is a call to observe the social nature of the meal in which distinctions based on partiality of any kind are forbidden.

11) The one loaf of bread not only symbolizes this unity but in some sense creates it.

12) Because there is only one loaf of bread, we are one body no matter how many we are or how diverse we may be. "Many yet one."
All are to partake.  That means seekers and children.  When we disallow people to partake, we are like the men who tried to get the children away from Jesus or were disgusted by the woman who poured perfume on him.  We all know that the elements symbolize Christ and Christ is about saving the lost.  He came to seek and save the lost, right?  So why would we bar the Lord's Supper from pre-Christians, including children?  Seems absurd.  Hello?

The business of eating and drinking in an "unworthy manner", and of "examining yourself", is not about just you, but it is about you and us, the body.  Christ died for all.  In Christ, we are all one.  We are all God's children.  There are no classes or status when we are in Christ.  The Lord's Supper is a place of unity.  We are all one in the Lord.  We have an individualistic, consumerist grid (hermeneutic) from which we view (worldview) and judge or interpret, that we need to set aside or die to.

Much of the time when the word "you" is in scripture, we read, "me", as an individual; but it actually means "you all", as in plural.  So when we think of "unworthy manner", we might thing of our individual selves being unworthy, when it is really about community.  It is about behavior that divides, is divisive, towards the gathering.  "When you come together", is an interpretive key in 1 Corinthians 11-14.

The "examine yourself" word is a call to unity and to love in the body.  Again, it is much easier to see this when you see The Lord's Supper as a meal.  There are all kinds of social interactions that occur around a meal.  Racism, sexism, classism, ageism, sheer rudeness; and everything else that divides, has no place among God's people in Christ, and that is what Paul was talking about.

For more thoughtful information:

Why Are Our Communion Meals So Paltry?  If we have such an extravagant Savior, we should attempt to create a fuller meal.  By Leslie Leyland Fields


Suppertime: Lord’s Supper Logic. By Rick Owen


Introverts and Extroverts


A pastor, who was an extrovert, tried to counsel me out of my introversion once.  I was thankful that
he at least did not call it sin or demonic.  We didn't become friends.




Introverts don't hate people. We actually love people so much that it hurts and we need to recharge.







Introverts & Extroverts

Need their privacy.   
    Don't mind and usually enjoy "drop-ins".
Do not like surprises in public.   
    Love surprises, especially in public.
Need to observe a new thing first.   
    Dive right in, often failing at first.
Need to think about it before answering.  
    Answers faster, seems opinionated.
Don't like to be interrupted.  
    Doesn't mind, will interrupt you back.
Need advance notice of changes.  
    Bring on the change.
Like to be warned that time is running out.  
    What deadline, I need a buzzer.
Want reprimands in private.  
    Not devastated by being called out.
Like to learn away from the spotlight.  
    Does not mind on the job training.
Often enjoy one best friend.  
    Have many close friends.
Cannot have many best friends.  
    The more the merrier!

Extroverts & Introverts

Are naturally independent.  
    Life is about connections.
Love compliments in public.   
   Blush.
Need their enthusiasm encouraged and accepted.  
   Still waters run deep.
Loves to explore, often by talking a lot.    
   Listens, observers, theorizes.
Loves thoughtful surprises.  
   Surprises are embarrassing and annoying.
Are often busy.  
   Need to unplug.
Love to dive right in.  
   Careful.
Love knowing the options.   
   Options evolve.
Love gestures of affection.   
   No news is good news.
Love to shine.   
   Love to be left alone