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Take Care

Be careful about what you receive.
A few weeks ago, I decided to go see my doctor after a dream and a couple of conversations. (Getting me to go to the doctor is probably more difficult than geting a bill through Congress!)
He ordered a couple of diagnostics, including a chest X-ray, since I am at risk of lung problems.
My first X-ray showed a nodule in my left lung. As soon as I heard that, I called some friends and asked them to agree with me in prayer. My sense: I was not to pick this up; I was to stand in faith and not fear.
I had to get a second set of “pictures.” They came back “normal.”
This is the second time in my life that I have heard God say very clearly that I was not to own a diagnosis. The first one was in 2000: I had been told that I had FibroMyalgia. Immediately I heard, “Don’t pick that up; don’t own it. It is not yours.”
I had symptoms for almost a year.
Then, I was praying and fasting in preparation for a conference I was going to.
Most of the time, I clean house or work in my yard when I fast: It helps me to focus. This time was no different.

In the middle of cleaning the cat’s litter tray, I heard, “If anyone says you have Fibromyalgia, they’re lying: You have been healed.” I didn’t have a single symptom after that.

This time, the possibility of a life threatening condition challenged me to reaffirm my zeal for living. I’m searching out new goals and dreams; I’m pressing into prophetic words that still need to be fulfilled.
I will have a long, joyful, prosperous life; I will not accept anything less than that!

Now to be clear, I am not talking about Mind Over Matter or the power of positive thinking; I am standing on the word of God and declaring to you that you have choices to make: Will you receive curses, even “benevolent” ones – negative characterizations, predictions, diagnoses, general opinions – that are not in line with God’s plans for you? Will you hold to lies, such as, “God has made you ill…or poor…”
OR
Will you seek God, his Kingdom and righteousness? Will you agree with blessings?

Take care: Choose what you will receive or not. Being able to say, “No” is vital to prosperous, blessed living; saying “yes” to the good things that God has for you is even more important.

By the way, it is equally important to guard your lips: Take care not to utter curses about yourself and others; be diligent in proclaiming blessings.

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In It Together

_71435662_m3750096-family-splDear Millennials:
You desire truth and authenticity, the freedom to be and do you; you want enough safety to become vulnerable; you want significance. I want that, too.

Like you, I learned to be cautious and mistrustful.  I am anti-establishment and ever seeking new ways.
Dear Boomers:
Do you remember wanting these things? I do.
What happened? Why did you give up on these and settle into the status quo?

I know so many of you – you still value authenticity, social justice, idealism and freedom.  You have not lost the fire in your hearts that cause you to work for a better world.

 

Dear generations in between:
You want identity, prosperity and freedom.
Do these not add up to the same things that milennials and boomers seek?

We are in this world together, searching and working for the same things.
Let’s join hearts and hands and include each other:
Boomers need you, Xers, Mes and Milennials;
I hope you recognize that you need us as well.
There is such a lie that has been promoted – Anyone over 40 is done.
No! We’re still here; we’re alive and desirous of the same things.
Instead of opposing or excluding each other, let’s come together in the unity of our ideals and searches;
Then we’ll see what God makes from all of this.

Worship Together

“When I first began leading worship, I served at a tiny suburban church plant in West Fort Worth. The pastor of that church constantly reminded me that folks would never leave our Sunday gathering humming the sermon he preached. They’d leave humming the songs we had sung together. In fact, they were far more likely to have the words we sang rattling around in their minds all week than any words they heard from the pulpit. For whom do we sing? I believe we sing for ourselves and for one another, that we might come to believe more fully the truth of the words we sing and to love more deeply the God to and about Whom they were written.
That belief has transformed the way I personally worship God in song, the way I plan the musical portion of any worship gathering I’m involved with and the way I discern which songs should or shouldn’t be a part of our corporate worship life. If music is, in essence, sung theology, then things like lyrical content and melodic hook become significantly more important to consider.
However, that doesn’t completely quench my desire to know “why we sing.”
If that was all there was to it, then why not just leave the singing to the pros, and attend a musically excellent, theologically rich concert every weekend? Or, for that matter, why not just buy musically excellent, theologically rich music on iTunes and listen to it day in and day out? Why must we gather and actually sing together?
I’ve long been fascinated by the prayer Jesus prays in John chapter 17. He prays specifically for the oneness of those who will come to believe in Him. He prays that we, His people, may be united together; that we might be one just as He and the Father are one.
In the book of Acts, we find the early church living and worshipping together day in and day out. They share what they have. They break bread together. They seek God together.”
…”How many acts of worship are communal in nature? Congregational singing lends itself perfectly to the togetherness & vulnerability that the Gospel demands, deserves and seeks of those living in community. We, together, are the people of God. We, together, are the bride of Christ. Therefore, it’s right and good that we, together, with one voice, should express our affections for our great bridegroom, Jesus.
When we step outside the familiar walls of liturgical tradition and peek back in through the window at all the people standing and singing and raising their hands together, it may look a bit foreign or silly. But, brothers & sisters, as I said, it is absolutely vital to the life of the Church and to the lives of the individual believers therein.
When we gather together, let us lay aside any concern about the quality of our singing voices. Let us lay aside any reservations about whether or not we “feel worshipful” in a given moment. Let us sing. Let us sing as an act of discipline, training our hearts to believe more completely the Gospel of our salvation. Let us sing as an act of community, knowing that the people around us are our brothers and sisters and that they need the truth of the Gospel on our lips to ring in their ears.”
From “What’s the Point of Singing,” by Luke Brawner
Found on
http://www.vergenetwork.org/2014/10/28/whats-the-point-of-singing/

I’m reminded of something Paul writes in Ephesians and Colossians:
singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves,
and making music to the Lord in your hearts. …
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

I have had more than one person tell me that they don’t care about the quality of music or musicianship; they just want to feel God’s presence.
That sounds good, but it’s not biblical.
God designed us to worship, individually and together. He calls us to join in unity (Psalm 133) He tells us to sing to each other…
I think this is especially important in a day when people are so isolated. The last thing we need is to go to Sunday Morning Gathering for more of the same.
There is also a synergy that happens when the worship is made up of live voices. It has a vibrance to it that simply cannot be communicated in recorded or streamed music. Joining our voices says, “I’m with you. I know and love you, here and now.” We desperately need that.

By the way, Scripture also admonishes us to dance, raise our hands, shout and declare.

 

Grandiosity; Reality

Here is a short list; a sampler, if you will, of who we are:
Temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16)
Reflections of God’s glory (2 Corinthians 3:18)
God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10)
dearly loved children (Ephesians 5:1; 1 John 3:1)
Light (Ephesians 5:8)
Dead and raised with Christ (Colossians 3:1-3)
God’s chosen people (Colossians 3:12; 1 Peter 2:9)
A royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9)
A holy nation (1 Peter 2:9)
Saints (Colossians 1:12)
Heirs (Romans 8:17)
Joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17)

Apart from God, this is nothing more than grandiosity.
Because of Jesus and in Him, however, this is reality!

The Truth Spoken in Love

There is a trend in much of the western Church these days:  “All or nothing.”
Either I embrace everybody, including all religions, choices and lifestyles as true….
OR
I reject people, based on their beliefs, identification, words and actions.
Me?  I say neither of these is biblical.
Jesus definitely met people where they were; yet he didn’t accept their choices out of hand.  He told the woman caught in adultery, “Go.  Sin no more.”  That was after he confronted her accusers and refused to condemn her.  He told the rich young ruler, whom he loved, to sell everything he had and “come, follow me.”
He accepted the offering of tears and ointment from a woman known to be “a sinner.”  His reply to the teachers of the law indicated that he forgave her for all she had done.
When the woman who had come to the well in Samaria encountered Jesus, her life was changed.  He totally read her mail; yet did not condone her lifestyle.  He addressed her as a real person – likely an experience she had not had in her whole lifetime.

I can accept anybody as a person, created and loved by God.
I can – and do well to – disagree with all that is not biblical and true.
One road leads to Heaven; not all of them.
One God is true; not whatever or whomever someone decides to glorify.
Sin is sin; idols are idols.

I have heard more than one source say that love means I accept people, behavior and all.
No.  Love means I accept the person and speak truth to him or her.

Are you looking for abundant, healthy, eternal life?
Give your heart to Jesus:  The Way, The Truth, The Life.

“There, But for the Grace of God, Go I.”

This quote is creditted to a man by the name ofJohn Bradford , a Protestant who was martyred in England in the 16th century.
On seeingseveral criminals being led into the scaffold he remarked, ‘there but for the grace of God’ goes John Bradford. His words without his name are still very common today.

I originally heard this phrase as a response to learning of someone else’s mistake or sin.  It carried the message, “Take care not to point fingers or judge; you have your own struggles with imperfection and sin.”

John Bradford, however, was expressing gratitude for another day alive and the understanding that God was having mercy on him.

It seems that we could apply this both ways in our modern world:
It is true that we need God’s grace to live holy lives.
It is also true that we do well not to judge others or look on their circumstances without compassion and mercy.
What happens to one group of people can happen to another.
I am thinking of the ban on people from countries that are largely Muslim who want to travel to the United States.  Brothers and sisters, the Bible says that we will face persecution.  We are as vulnerable as Muslims, Iraqis, Sudanese, Syrians and all of the other people who are being denied entry, or even detained.  That is why we must stand with them in resisting this injustice.
“There but for the grace of God go I.”  Next time, it could be Christians.

Zechariah

Luke 1:5In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. 7But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.

8Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.

11Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

18Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

19The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”

21Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.

23When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25“The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”
I learned recently that the phrase , “your prayer has been heard” (v 13) carries the sense of a prayer that has been let go for a very long time.  This could probably read, That prayer you used to pray before you gave up on it…

I relate to that:  There are things I have sought the Lord for; then given up on because they haven’t happened.  I’m betting you have some of those as well.

In the light of this understanding, Zechariah’s reaction makes perfect sense.  It is far too easy to allow doubt, discouragement and unbelief to move in.

The question is, what shall we do with prayers that don’t seem to get answered?

I only have a whisper of insight:  Keep on keeping on.  One thing Elizabeth and Zechariah did right was to continue in their lives and work.  They “were righteous in the sight of God.” (v6)  When the Lord’s timing came, he gave them their desire.
I understand with all heartache, quandary and “hope against hope” about fighting that sense that “It’s too late.”  Zechariah and Elizabeth certainly struggled with that one.  God’s answer:  He gave them what they had asked for.

Is it ever too late for God?

That’s Good News

The Gospel of Christ is greater than any tradition or bent we could possibly come up with.
It reaches higher, deepr and farther than conservitivism, progressivism, liberalism, communism, socialism, libertarianism, greenism and all other isms.

 

The Good News is this:
God loves each of us.  It doesn’t matter who, where or what you are; Time in history is of no consequence.

 

He wants every single person to be saved; He is not willing that any should perish.  Yes, that even means progressives, communists, socialists and all of the other ists!
God’s love reaches to every income bracket, from the welthiest, most powerful people in the world to those who have absolutely nothing.

 

Jesus doesn’t fit in any box; yet he is present in every last one of them, even yours!

 

He has every resource you willever need.

 

Now, that’s Good News!!

****
2 Peter 3:9
John 3:16-17
Psalm 139
Matthew 18:14

What Do You Think Is Happening?

As one who belongs to Jesus – a Christian, I wrestle with a quandary:  I fully believe in the Lord and follow Him; I don’t embrace a lot of conservative thinking; I am not really a progressive either.

This gets tricky when I seek a Church home.

I’m not alone in this. It seems that lot of believers are in flux…and quandary.

 

(There are plenty of us who did not vote for Donald Trump.  That doesn’t let us off the hook, however.)

 

Donald Trump and the Transformation of White Evangelicals
Robert P. Jones
Nov. 19, 2016
Robert P. Jones is the CEO of PRRI, a nonpartisan research organization based in Washington, D.C., and the author of The End of White Christian America.

“The Trump era has effectively turned white evangelical political ethics on its head

White evangelical Christians set a new high water mark in their support of Republican candidates by giving Donald Trump 81% of their votes, according to the 2016 exit polls…
How did Trump defeat people with much stronger Christian “credentials”?

But perhaps a more important question—one that will have relevance far beyond the Trump administration—is not why evangelicals supported Trump, but how white evangelicals’ early and steadfast support for Trump has changed them.

 

Perhaps the most dramatic example of the shift in white evangelical political ethics is the way in which white evangelicals have evaluated the personal character of public officials. In 2011 and again just ahead of the election, PRRI asked Americans whether a political leader who committed an immoral act in his or her private life could nonetheless behave ethically and fulfill their duties in their public life. Back in 2011, consistent with the “values voter” brand’s insistence on the importance of personal character, only 30% of white evangelical Protestants agreed with this statement. But this year, 72% of white evangelicals now say they believe a candidate can build a kind of moral wall between his private and public life. In a shocking reversal, white evangelicals have gone from being the least likely to the most likely group to agree that a candidate’s personal immorality has no bearing on his performance in public office. Today, in fact, they are more likely than Americans who claim no religious affiliation at all to say such a moral bifurcation is possible.

 

This about face is stunning, especially against the backdrop of white evangelicals’ outrage in response to Bill Clinton’s indiscretions in the 1990s. As Jonathan Merritt documented, Pat Robertson called Bill Clinton a “debauched, debased, and defamed” politician. But this year, Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network featured multiple friendly interviews with Trump—the candidate who bragged about sexually assaulting women and appeared on the cover of Playboy. And Robertson had this to say directly to Trump: “You inspire us all.”

 

Rather than standing on principle and letting the chips fall where they may, white evangelicals have now fully embraced a consequentialist ethics that works backwards from predetermined political ends, refashioning or even discarding principles as needed to achieve a desired outcome.

The key to understanding this reversal is grasping the sense of crisis felt by white evangelical Protestants today…
This is the first presidential election in which white Evangelical Christians find themselves clearly in the demographic minority: 43% today, down from 54% in 2008 and right at the tipping point in 2012. It’s also the first election in which they find themselves in the clear minority on one of their signature issues: opposition to same-sex marriage. In 2008, only 40% of the country supported same-sex marriage, and the country had just crossed into clear majority support in 2012. Today same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states and roughly six in ten Americans support it. The moral majority they are no longer.

Amid this identity crisis, fears about cultural change and nostalgia for a lost era—bound together with the ties of partisan identity—combined to overwhelm the once-confident logic of moral values. The Southern Baptist Convention’s Russell Moore, an early and consistent critic of Trump, put it starkly. White evangelicals have, he argued, simply adopted “a political agenda in search of a gospel useful enough to accommodate it.”
A closer look at long term white evangelical voting patterns suggests that Trump’s candidacy has laid bare dynamics that have been operating under the surface for decades, dynamics that were put in motion when white evangelicals unevenly yoked themselves to the party of Reagan in reaction to the civil rights movement in the 1980s.

More than a few white evangelical leaders and pastors are wringing their hands and rending their garments over the tribal support white evangelicals have rendered to the Republican nominee for president. But if these leaders expect to make any headway in recovering a political ethic based on moral values—one that is capable of speaking truth to party and president—they will need to begin much farther back than Trump.”
Read the full article at
Donald Trump and the Transformation of White Evangelicals