Monday, March 29, 2010

Passion Week

The more I have been reading, studying and preparing for this passion week, I am more convinced than ever before that we as Christians say some really dumb things. I know I do all the time but one that I have been convicted about is the phrase, "It's been a really bad day". Really! Are you sure about that reverend? Would you like to compare your bad day with our Lord and Savior's bad day.

My favorite book during this season has always been Charles Swindoll's "The Darkness and The Dawn: Empowered by the Tragedy and Triumph of the Cross". It is an older book but still has power and ministers to me. The chronology of Jesus' bad day is powerful in the sense that all of what we preach about, for the most part happened in less than 24 hours.

Prayer and agony at Gethsemane 1:00am
Betrayal By Judas and Jesus' arrest 1:30am
Unauthorized inquiry at Annas' residence 2:00am
Unofficial trial at Caiaphas' residence 3:00am
Formal Sanhedrin trial( Mk 15:1, Lk 22:66-71) 6:00am
Pilate's interrogation 6:30am
Mockery before Herod (Lk 23:8-12) 7:00am
Final judgement of Pilate 7:30am
Scourging in Praetorian 8:00am
Nailing of Hands and feet to the Cross 9:00am
Darkness 12:00 Noon
Death of Jesus

In less than 24 hours, Jesus goes from arrest to execution

Now, you were saying about your bad day?!


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Nine years old, Happy Birthday Rachael

Happy Birthday Rachael! I can't believe you are nine years old.?! What happened? I have been trying hard to keep you little but you refuse to do it. I guess I should have seen it coming as you were always in a hurry. Nosy from day one, head moving trying to see everything, walking too early, running off at the mouth even when words were not formed yet but Rachael is telling all the business. My pretty girl is nine years old.
There are many things I want to tell you but Daddy is a cry baby and I have been trying and retyping this for a week now because I keep crying as I remember the first time I held you, saw your eyes, held your hand, watched you give your life to the Lord, baptized you... I love you so much.
For some reason, this is harder for me than in years past so in order for me to make it through this blog, I am turning back to what has kept me all these years. I know I tell you Daddy can do anything, Daddy's are supermen and invincible but that is not true. I am still just as scared today I may mess up as I was the first time your mother left me alone with you while she ran to the store. Your eyes were big and mine were bigger.
There will be times as you grow up that you won't know what to do but God left us a promise that says, "I Can Do ALL Things Through Christ Which Strengthens Me"
The World will tell you that YOU CAN'T, That is called Pessimism!
What does that mean? It is a negative spirit or outlook, someone always telling you that you can't do this or you won't do that. You may hear that from a teacher, a church member, even a family member but there is nothing you can not do. You can graduate from High school, You can attend college, you can and will go to Georgetown(ok my dream) you can be successful. You can wait until marriage to have children, you can live drug-free, NEVER LET ANYONE TELL YOU WHAT YOU CAN'T DO!
This is the language of I CAN--That is called Optimism
I am scared all the time but I still say I can. The first time I sat down with you and we practiced braiding hair on the bratz dolls I said I can't learn this, but you said Daddy you can do all things... and I learned. Its funny how many church people bother you on Sunday and say. Who did your hair, it's so cute, and you say, MY DADDY, I TAUGHT HIM. I wasn't good in Texas with hair but I didn't give up and I became better. NEVER GIVE UP. Things may not always come easy or on your first try but NEVER GIVE UP, always tell yourself I CAN.
To prevent you from becoming arrogant, you need a Mechanism--Through Christ.
Optimism without a Mechanism is nothing more than wishful thinking. You need help. Rachael, Jesus is your help. By yourself you can do nothing, through Christ you can do anything. Through Christ, HE gives you strength. That means Jesus imparts, infuses strength into you daily, especially for your weak moments.
I know age 9 seemed so traumatic for you. We will laugh later because 16, 18, 21, 30, 40, they are all coming and it will be hard, but God has given you a way to make it, it is THROUGH CHRIST JESUS, HE IS YOUR MECHANISM. Use Him, Trust Him, Love Him, Rely on Him.
I love you, Rachael Simone, forgive me in advance for the tears, lol

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Friends are Without Wax

I am not sure about the authenticity of this story as it relates to the derivation of the word sincere, because I have seen so many versions in books and over the Internet, but I love the story. The ancient Romans used to prize Greek sculptures for their aesthetic excellence. The statues were already a few centuries old; however, and some of them had cracks or gaps where marble was missing.

Vendors discovered that if they put wax in the sculptures, these figures looked great---for a season. The wax looked like real marble, but over time, the wax would yellow and harden until it became apparent that the statue was not totally authentic.

So if vendors wanted to sell a statue and it was all marble---the real deal through and through--they would mark it sine, the Latin word for "without" and then cera, the Latin word for "wax". Sine cera! WITHOUT WAX!

I am beginning a journey into this ministry that God has given me where I am starting to discover the "wax" in people. Please understand, life is good, life is fine, ministry is great, God is moving and I am excited and yet with all of that said, I am realizing the difference between the authentic marble Christians and the wax supporters.

We all have experienced this. We take a job thinking this will be a wonderful place to work only to discover later what we saw was nothing more than wax, looked good for a season. We took a mate/spouse/girlfriend etc and it all looked so good for a moment only to discover it was wax, and it yellowed, hardened and decayed.

Understand, this is not a complaint or a criticism but rather this is my prayer of thanksgiving to God today. I thank God for showing me the "wax of people" because it showed me the wax in me that needs to be removed. If I never saw the fake, I would not truly appreciate the authentic. If I never saw the haters, I would have no appreciation for the supporters. If I had never encountered the temporary nature of the wax, I wouldn't appreciate the permanency of the marble.

I thank God for the sincere, WITHOUT WAX people that HE has placed in my life and I pray I can be to them what they are and have been to me.

Henri Nouwen wrote, "When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face us with the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares." It is a friend without wax


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Let God Have His Way

I am sitting here at Chicago's O'Hare airport waiting to catch a flight to Memphis to attend a funeral in Bolivar, Tennessee for two of my deacons whose mother went home to be with the Lord. As I am sitting here, I am reflecting on what God did through our church service Sunday and to tell you GOD IS AWESOME does not even do justice to what He did Sunday.

On 1st Sundays I always start church with Baptism. This Sunday we had one to baptize, a young lady whose parents had already joined and were baptized. I went downstairs, changed clothes and came back up. We always have a welcome song where we greet our visitors and church family and I use this time to try and personally connect with all visitors and people who don't have access to me on Sundays after church for a variety of reasons.

As I greeted, I came across a man by the name of Vance Moore. He told me, Pastor when you were baptizing I knew that I needed to be baptized but I didn't know how to come down there. Excited, I told him at the invitation period come and give your life to the Lord and we will take care of that. As I was walking back to the pulpit, I heard God say, "GET OUT OF MY WAY". I listened, which is a major accomplishment for me (another story, another day).

I told the church, God has added to the church so why wait for the time on the program and I asked Vance to come forward. I wasn't prepared for what would happened next. The church went bananas. His wife started shouted, the mothers who have been praying for her started shouting, women hit the aisle and started dancing and it was over, BUT GOD WASN'T DONE.

The Bible says, "In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." When the aisles cleared, there wasn't one man who wanted to be saved and baptized, THERE WERE FOUR! ALL MEN!!! They said we were thinking the same thing Vance was so we decided to come. I heard God again say, "GET OUT OF MY WAY". I offered the invitation right then, no sermon, the choir hadn't even sung yet, but God was moving and I was listening.

Four people joined the church right then and we shouted awhile again. I told the church God has preached and we are the witnesses so I went back downstairs, put back on the baptismal gear and took four more in the water, as we shouted some more.

I had planned to preach "The Obedient Life" today. God gave me a chance to live the sermon I had planned to preach. What could Macedonia be if I would learn to stay out of God's way EVERYDAY? What kind of pastor/preacher could I become if I learned to stay out of God's way? Forget me, what kind of church, what kind of life, what kind of ministry could you have if you stopped playing control freak, trying to run every detail and let God have his way?

Wonderful sermon today! Why? New close, cute story, full throat and holla, nope! God preached! Wonderful service today! Why? New song, musicians hit new riffs, new soloist dumped the house! Nope, God was the worship leader. God said, GET OUT OF MY WAY AND WE LISTENED.

It's time for me to catch my plane but in my ear I hear the song DeWayne Woods sings that was written by Paul Morton Jr. that says:

There so much going on Sometimes I can't find my way And often times I struggle Struggle from day to day I have to realize that it's not my battle It's not my battle to fight I have to know if I to put it in His hands That everything will be alright
As soon as I stop worrying Worrying how the story ends I'll let go and I let God Let God have His way That's when things start happening I'll stop looking at back then I let go and I'll let God have His way


Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Tithe Rap?!?!?!?!

Once a week I receive updates, study notes, sermon ideas, sermon series, etc from former Oklahoma Baptist University and/or Southwestern Theological Seminary classmates who are now pastors or are on staff at respective churches. Many of us stay in contact with our professors who help us with challenges, Biblical questions hot button issues, but more than not, just to pray with us and for us.

I was recently sent this for discussion. At the present time, I am at a loss for words and I am trying to remain an Acts 5 preacher. However, maybe you can help me with this discussion assignment for class. What do you think?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Instincts without Direction

We continued our series about "The Me I want to Be". Last Sunday we talked about "The God-Centered Life" and this Sunday we discussed "The Transformed Life" and Deo Volente we will talk Sunday about "The Obedient Life".

Instincts without direction will always lead you down the wrong path. Roy Riegels is a classic example of this. Roy was a football player who played for the University of California. In 1929 at the Rose Bowl, Roy's instincts kicked in. Roy was not a brand new football player, he had played his whole life. He was not a dumb player as his coach called him the smartest player he had ever coached. He was not an average player as he has been inducted in The Rose Bowl Hall of Fame. Roy just ran the wrong way.

Roy played center. Centers handle the ball but don't run with it. In this Rose Bowl game a fumble took place and the ball hit the ground, Roy saw it, grabbed it and started running. Instincts took over and he ran as fast as he could. He had a caravan of his players running alongside him, yelling, screaming and to Roy cheering him to run on. When he crossed the end zone, he discovered he had been running the wrong way. This great play in football history cemented his legacy as Wrong Way Riegels.

Wrong Way Riegels' legacy is a metaphor of our own lives; our instincts to run with the ball but disconnected from direction so we run in the wrong way. Instincts without direction will always lead you down the wrong path. Saul discovered this principle.

Saul saw a fumbled ball. Judaism had dropped the ball allowing this "Jesus movement" or people of the way to go to far. Someone needed to pick the ball up and run, so Saul ran. Saul thought he was running for his team, working for his God, scoring for his beliefs only to discover, HE HAD BEEN RUNNING THE WRONG WAY. Instincts without Direction will always lead you down the wrong path.

We look like Saul. Living life by raw instincts. We think only radical rebellion can lead you down the wrong path but more often than not, it is through disregard and disconnection that we began to stray and start running in the wrong direction. Whether it is through self-directed living, abandoned restraint or transitory joy, instincts without direction will always lead you down the wrong path.

Even though God sends us runners to run alongside us like Roy Riegels had to show us we are headed in the wrong direction, we don't see it until either we are buried under a pile of disappointing results or we have a Damascus experience. The disappointing results reveals to us the errors or our judgments, over spending, over eating, wrong choices etc. However, the Damascus experience shows us the excellency of God who gives us direction and frees us from living a life based on our instincts. He transforms our lives.

John Ortberg shared this in The Life You Always Wanted (p.55-56):"It's like a motorboat and a sailboat. A person can operate a motorboat without assistance, given the right equipment and effort. Operating a sailboat is different--it is dependent on the wind. The operator of a sailboat does whatever enables him to catch the wind. Spiritual transformation is like this: ...we can open ourselves to spiritual transformation through certain practices, but we cannot engineer it. We can take no credit for it."

A Transformed Life is a life where God:
Changes your Outlook 9:5, "Who are you, Lord"
Changes your Outreach 9:15 "he is a chosen instrument to carry my name to the Gentiles"
Changes your Outcome

Shortly before his death, the legendary film producer Cecil B DeMille wrote this beautiful meditation:"One day as I was lying in a canoe, a big black beetle came out of the water and climbed up into the canoe. I watched it idly for some time. Under the heat of the sun, the beetle proceeded to die. Then a strange thing happened. His glistening black shell cracked all the way down his back. Out of it came a shapeless mass, quickly transformed into beautiful, brilliantly colored life.

As I watched in fascination, there gradually unfolded iridescent wings from which the sunlight flashed a thousand colors. The wings spread wide, as if in worship of the sun. The blue-green body took shape. Before my eyes had occurred a metamorphosis--the transformation of a hideous beetle into a gorgeous dragonfly, which started dipping and soaring over the water. But the body it had left behind still clung to my canoe. "I had witnessed what seemed to me a miracle. Out of the mud had come a beautiful new life. And the thought came to me, that if the Creator works such wonders with the lowliest of creatures, what could he do with me!

That is a changed outcome, I was in the mud, headed in the wrong direction, living life by instincts but I met the Lord...........