Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Perfect Day

Perfect day...
  • Woke up well rested beside the woman of my dreams
  • Heard God speak to me in His word this morning
  • Watched my kids' face light up as I surprised them in the lunch room to take them out of school early, then watched them laugh, splash and play in a friend's pool, and in our dog Lady's bath water.
  • Had a picnic in the park with good friends and charcoal fired meat (insert grunt here... thanks for bringing the grill Chris!)
  • Heard God speak to me again in His word at the end of the day (wasn't even in a devotional time!...I'm not nearly spiritual enough to have 2 in one day!)
  • Lying down beside the woman of my dreams to close the day out
  • Enjoyed the freedom to do all of the above and tell you about it because men like my dad, my grand-dad, my step-dad, my father-in-law, my neighbor, several friends, and thousands of strangers I'll never know and who will never know me gave their time, blood, sweat, and tears...and in many cases their lives to protect me, my family, and our freedom.

Thank you Lord! Yet another day when I got far more than I deserved...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Quick on the Draw

In the old John Wayne flick "The Sons of Katie Elder" , there's a scene in which an overeager deputy is loading his gun to go bring in Tom Elder (played by Dean Martin) whom he hates. The wise, peacekeeping sheriff warns the deputy to do it reluctantly.

I am a lot like that deputy. Not only am I quick to load my gun...all too often, I keep one in the chamber ready to fire...when it comes to angry words that is. "Impulsive listening" and "impulsive patience" are phrases that seem so oxymoronic to my existence that they make me laugh briefly before the shameful realization sets in that these tools are seldom found in my saddle bags. I'm quick to shoot first and ask questions later when I'm angry--especially when I don't fear reprisal (like with my kids or my wife).

The thing is that when you shoot first and listen later, there's just so much blood! Angry words are like bullets--they're painful, destructive and deadly. On the other hand, no one ever died because of a drive-by listener. No police report has ever been filed because of a random act of patience. No family ever split up after complaints such as "All you ever do is listen to me!" or "You're so stinkin' patient with me! I just can't take it any more!" That's because listening and patience are always constructive and productive, while my anger is nearly always destructive and counterproductive. God already knew that of course...just read James 1:19-20. I want to be "quick on the draw" but not with angry words...with a listening ear and patience instead.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Between the Ears of Crazy Bill

I planned to go "light" this post and do something totally whimsical and fun and not terribly deep, or even spiritual. But doggone it, my bud Bobby "The Bobbage" Austin in Clayton NC (www.wellspringcommunity.com/) messed up my plans a bit by turning me on to Tim Melton's blog and the poem he's posted. I just had to share the experience with you!
Not long ago we shared a message on the Gerasene Demoniac called "The Power of Story" (Mark 5) and I wish I'd known then about Tim Melton's first person look into the mind of the man with a 1000 demons. Check it out for yourself at sacrosanctgospel.wordpress.com. In spite of the author's recommendation, I suggest you read the poem first before listening to the audio track of "Crazy Bill" that Tim has provided. It'll mess you up whether you think you need it or not. Thanks "Bobbage" for sharing...and thanks especially to Tim!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Innoculated but still Sick, What now?

The question of the hour for this "post bible belt" missionary:

How do we relate to / deal with the "innoculated"?
When you get a measles shot, they inject into you a weakened, dead version of the measles bug. Your body develops antibodies so that when you encounter the full strength, "real" measles you aren't impacted by it. You have been innoculated against measles.
So many in the Southeast have been innoculated against the Gospel. They've had just enough of a dead, dying, weak version of the Gospel that they are oblivious to the real, full strength version. They see themselves as Christ followers but are missing the transformation that follows an encounter with the "real" Gospel--a Gospel full of Christ. They've had their shot of religion.
The folks I'm particularly concerned about are not antagonists--like the antagonistic religious leaders that Jesus faced. They are merely apathetic for anything more than nominal Christianity. As a missionary in the Bible Belt, what do we do with these people? I don't have the answers...yet...but I know it's a question that we Bible-belt missionaries, church planters, and church leaders have to wrestle with. What do you think?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Great Quote from "The Tangible Kingdom"

Here's a great quote from Hugh Halter and Matt Smay's book The Tangible Kingdom (and there are many more where this one came from):

"In a second-century letter, Diognetus, who was a tutor to Marcus Aurelius, wrote the following about the Christian community: 'They dwell in their country, but simply as Sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country and every country of their birth as a land of strangers.' This early church would have been an affront to our (Western / Modern) paradigm of security."

This book is a must read for church leaders...if we can handle it.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Burning Bushes and Fru Fru Dogs

I read Exodus 3-4 today and noticed some cool stuff in Moses' encounter with the God of the burning bush:

  • The Lord got Moses' attention via a supernatural detail in the midst of Moses' everyday life.
  • The Lord spoke to Moses (calling Him by name in fact) only after Moses paused to turn aside and take a closer look at something different (a burning bush that wasn't burning up).
  • The Lord knew and called Moses by name even before Moses knew who God was (see Exod 3:4 & 13).
  • Moses just met God but was called to serve in an outrageously important role; he would come to know God intimately not in a multi-tiered discipleship course or seminary but in the course of fulfilling God's call to service ("The Lord would speak to Moses face to face as a man speaks with his friend"--Exodus 33:11).

How many times have I failed to notice something different--a glimpse of the supernatural--in the midst of things I've seen a 1000 times? Do I just assume that every brush fire I see is just like the last 999 I saw? Or do I take a second glance to see if there's something different happening, something worth looking into? God has placed in us a natural curiosity that causes us to turn aside when we see something out of the ordinary, but we may be just too busy and distracted to see the extraordinary details.

This weekend someone got a new yorkie pup and wanted to bring it over for my daughter (who thinks dogs are a higher life form) to see the furry ball of joy. As a result, my family and I spent a whole day talking, eating, laughing, and sharing life with some folks I love dearly who need a fresh if not first encounter with God. Just another overpriced fru fru lap dog? I see something supernatural in the details...I see a burning bush. God help them to see the same in us, then turn aside, and hear you call them by name.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Time to Dust Off the Equipment

I'm a guy so I'm prone to like toys. I have a history of getting a hair up my butt (that's "a whim" in redneckese) to do something, like say fishing for example, then trying to buy everything I can to do it well . . . no, to do it perfectly. I will obsess over having all the right stuff before ever getting started...I tell myself that first I need all the right rods, baits, coolers, clothing, hats (a real need for bald guys), etc. I could do the same over camping, woodworking, landscaping, whatever. I have the proof in my attic and garage. My climbing tree stand...used it 3 times to go hunting and the last was 10 years ago. My fishing rods...I've spent more time changing the line on them (after letting it sit and get old) than I have wetting the line in some fish-laden body of water. My power tools (insert male grunt here)...the most expensive of which have been tables for garage clutter rather than frequent shapers of wooden masterpieces. I have a whole lot more equipment for the things I intend(ed) to do than stories and evidence of how the equipment has been used.

Sounds a lot like modern American Christians and churches doesn't it? We are obsessed with getting more and more equipped, but somewhere along the way we stopped using it and started simply collecting it. I recently heard Tim Keller say that our failure to reproduce as Christians and churches "is not because we aren't smart enough; it's because we aren't alive enough."

Have we traded our Daddy's obsession for the harvest for an obsession with farm implements? Have we traded Daddy's obsession for fishing with our obsession for rods and reels? We're like kids who'd rather gaze at our baseball card collections than join Daddy playing ball in the yard. We keep searching for a closer relationship with God inside the church walls by collecting more equipment (Check out Ephesians 4:11-12...we are equipped for a purpose). All the while, God can easily be found pursuing his one obsession--the one who is lost. He'd be glad to hang out with us in the harvest. Maybe we should take our equipment out of storage, dust it off and join Him. We were made and remade in the image of The Missionary God and filled with the Spirit of The Missionary God who obsesses over lostness. And we will only be fully alive when we find ourselves alongside our Missionary Daddy pursuing his obsession, his mission. Time to dust off the equipment.