Joy

The fruit of the spirit is love, joy… (Gal 5:22)

JoyJoy is a word that I believe is easily misunderstood.  Let me give you an example. About eleven years ago, I adopted my little dog. I named her Joy because her personality radiates joy.

One day a young workman came to my house. After he finished the repairs in the kitchen he asked me, “You named your dog after soap?” He was referring to the bottle of Joy detergent that was on my kitchen counter. I explained that she was not named after soap, but I named her because she always acted so joyful. He did not seem to really understand, but I think that is not as unusual as it may seem.

Joy and happiness are often used interchangeably and people assume that they cannot have joy unless they feel happy. I disagree.

Continue reading

Touching the Heart of God

Touch the Heart of God


Even in my sorrow, I also know gratitude. Jesus is able to handle both, and as they’ve merged I’ve touched the very heart of God.
https://crossroadjunction.com/2009/03/30/sufficient-grace/

.
This last year has been marked by very painful and difficult health issues. Through it all, however, I’ve been grateful for what the Lord has done for me even as I struggle with the sorrow of diminished capacity.

Continue reading

Words

Words have the power to not only define, but to create reality – for good or for bad. Too often, we forget the power of words: not only ours, but of God Himself.

power-of-wordsI don’t think it was a coincidence that God spoke the universe into existence, chose to reveal Himself through His spoken Word of scripture, or came to dwell among us as the Word made flesh.

I also don’t think it is a coincidence that God still speaks to us today, or that He has empowered us to speak authoritatively on His behalf.

Continue reading

Organic Church Worship

Lately, I’ve been contemplating what worship is, and looks like, when God’s people authentically gather together as His “ekklesia”.

In the Bible, “ekklesia” is the Greek word often translated “church”. But it means far more than what most “churches” have become.

For Christians, the New Testament concept of ekklesia involves God’s people actively forming community, including meeting together. As a community, and in our gatherings, we then participate – each and every one – in expressing the life of Christ in us, among us, and through us. These days, that ideal is often called “organic” church.

Continue reading

Theology and Reality

Miguel Labrador has posted another thought provoking blog, entitled Theology Precedes Practice, Vice Versa, or Something Else?

Keeping Theology and Reality in Balance

In it, he states: “orthodoxy (theology) & orthopraxy (practice) are ‘simultaneous.’” I think he’s right, in the sense that we must seek to keep both in balance – our walk must match our talk, and our talk must match our walk.

Sometimes, however, the Lord allows one or the other – our doctrine or our practice – to be challenged in ways that force us to then adjust the other.

Regardless, it is important to keep them in sync, as much as possible, and not let one get too far ahead of the other.

Continue reading

Beyond Scripture? (Part 2)

Jesus Loves Me

(An existential version of that favorite childhood song.
I encourage you to have some fun by singing along as you read it.)

Jesus loves me, this I know,
Postmodern grace has made it so.
With His Spirit in my heart,
External truth now has no part.

Chorus:

Did Jesus tell me?
Oh, how can I know?
I feel Jesus told me,
I hope that makes it so.

Additional Verses:

The Bible says that I must go,
Proclaim His Word – oh no no no!
Now existential I’ve become,
‘Cause His commands just leave me numb

My sense of Jesus is true light,
I do not worry what is right.
With my sensibilities,
I do not need moralities.

The Bible’s NOT the Word of God.
My own perceptions earn my nod!
The Jesus I have come to see,
Surprisingly looks just like me.

I only want the Living Word,
The Bible seems just too absurd.
Now I perceive reality,
The way I want it all to be.

Continue reading

The Power of God

We don’t go looking for or emphasize miracles, but in our fellowships we’ve been seeing the miraculous happen time and again.

We had one man collapse and then die right in front of the paramedics and the fellowship he had been helping to start in the jail – and then come back to life shortly thereafter on the gurney in the jail infirmary after brothers gathered together to pray for him.

Continue reading

Life or Reaction?

So much of our “theology” (and we all have “theology”!) is forged these days by hurts.

The Bible has been used as a club to beat us into conformity, so we reject its plenary authority.

Our need for mercy has been abused, so we latch onto a concept of grace that excludes the Lord’s occasional rebuke and discipline.

We have suffered from authoritarian leadership or a controlling church, so we become autonomous and discount the need for healthy, accountable community.

We realize that some pet doctrines were wrong, so we seek a purely existential Jesus and cringe at objective truth.

In doing so, we are reacting to hurts, wrongs and mistakes – rather than embracing life.

Continue reading

Now, For Something Serious…

I don’t usually talk about stuff like this, but I’ve discovered an insidious conspiracy of silence about a chemical called dihydrogen monoxide.

Dihydrogen Monoxide is Everywhere!

Few know that we are all exposed to it every day.

It is in nearly all the food you eat, and even in your drinks. Daily, your children consume it. I’ve even seen kiddies swim in it because of government regulations that allow it in our pools.

In fact, the Obama administration provides funding to produce vast quantities of the stuff, even though literally millions have died from it.

It is, without a doubt, crony capitalism at its worse – funded and directed by the federal government with taxpayer money.

And yes, the conspiracy includes Republicans – even Ron Paul is in on it, so you know it runs “deep”.

Continue reading

I Want More Religion (Part 3)

I figure that if half of the folks reading my blog say “amen!”, and the other half say “oh my!”, then I’m right where God wants me.

The Whole Picture

The consternation and angst – in blogs, Facebook comments, podcasts and the like – generated by this series have convinced me that what I said needed saying.

My point is simple, and 100% Biblical:

I go, do and obey because of who I am in Christ. It is His life in me, expressed through me.

But here’s the kicker: If I do not “do”or obey as Christ commands, then the life of Christ in me is a lie – at least in those areas where I choose to disobey or stay trapped in my own sensibilities.

Continue reading

Glorious, Messy Reality

Danger, Danger, Danger: Are you someone who is adamant about Jesus and fellowship needing to reflect your own theories and sensibilities, yet are not yourself in functional ekklesia (the Greek word used in the New Testament for “church”)?

The wonderful, multifaceted Body of Christ

By ekklesia, I’m not talking about your traditional Sunday-go-to-meeting “church” with it’s hour of worship-band sing along, directed prayer and monologue sermon. Nor am I talking about posting on Facebook.

Rather, I mean authentic, flesh-and-blood community which finds expression as the multifaceted, multi-gifted Body of Christ – including dynamic, diverse and participatory fellowship gatherings.

Because I am very, very careful not to spout off pet theories divorced from reality, I try to keep my blog rooted in such fellowship. There’s enough naive, aspirational gibberish in the blogsphere these days, and practical reality seems to be sorely lacking.

Continue reading

Finding Freedom From Life’s Hurts

Finding Freedom From Life’s Hurts

This is a fifty-five minute teaching I shared with about thirty men, based on hundreds of pastoral counseling sessions where God showed up and brought freedom and healing from deep hurts – including abuse, abandonment and so much more.

My blog is a feeble attempt to upload a lifetime of service to the King of Kings. I believe this audio teaching, however, captures better than anything I’ve written some of the most significant things I’ve learned as I’ve walked with folks to those ugly places of bondage and hurt in their lives. When we get there, and they exposed their hurts and lies to the Lord, He brings His loving, healing truth.

In this talk, I also share some of my own very personal story about my own places of hurt, which I had to expose to Lord so He could then bring wholeness to me.

You may think you know me from my writings, but this captures my heart in ways that a written blog never can.

 
If this resonates with you, I also recommend my related blog, God Shows Up.

Eating of the Tree of Life? Watch Out!

A strange new doctrine has emerged over the last decade to support the old dualism of everything being about my personal, subjective relationship with Jesus – to the exclusion of any transcendent, objective moral code or (in some extreme cases) even Scripture itself.

Choosing Moral Autonomy

The new doctrine goes like this:

God wanted us to eat of the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve, however, rebelled and chose instead to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The Tree of Life, they say, is Jesus (which I think is questionable, given that Jesus walked with Adam in the cool of the day and obviously was not a tree, but that’s not my point).

This new doctrine goes on to say that we should only want the subjective, relational attributes of Jesus and not let any objective concept of what is true, real and right get in the way. This is because, they say, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil represents things like morality, objective standards, Scripture, commandments (again, this is of dubious exegesis, but again, that’s not my point), and anything else that may contradict their feeling-driven experience of Jesus .

Like all great errors in Church history, this one has enough truth to be tempting. But truth out of context is deadly.

Continue reading

Feeling God’s Pleasure

Feeling God’s Pleasure

This scene from Chariots of Fire helped define my life when I saw it as a young man in 1981.

In it, Olympic runner Eric Liddell explained what motivated him: “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.”

What a wonderful way to feel, know and experience the Lord and His purpose.

Most of my life has been guided by the sense of His pleasure as I’ve been the man He created me to be and done the things He created me to do. Even when there’s been adversity, I have felt His pleasure as I serve the King of Kings with whatever gifts He’s given me.

There is no greater joy, no greater fulfillment, no greater purpose.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uwyltmUR3MU%5D

Beside the Stream

Sitting on a log beside a quiet stream as it weaves it way through the forest, to me is peace.  I used to do that often before I married Jim since my house was very close to Bull Run.

Bull Run, Manassas, Virginia

I spent many hours in those woods, near the stream, because it was my favorite place of solitude.  That scenario is not as available now, so the Lord has been teaching me that peace is not dependent on location.

Streams are interesting.  They display a multitude of facets.  After a storm they can race, foam and spill over their banks.  During a drought, they can dry up or stagnate, with mosquitoes hovering over the scummy pools.  Throughout a normal spring season, the water flows serenely as it curves around the bends.  Streams, like rivers, only flow in one direction.  There is no going back.

So are the streams in my life.

Continue reading

God in a Box

We all tend to put God in a box bounded by our own biases, giftings and sensibilities.

I do it. You do it. We all relate to Jesus within the confines of our own God-given (and sometimes not so God-given) attributes. And we all tend to think our own box defines, or should define, the totality of life, reality and even Jesus Himself.

Maturity, however, is recognizing and affirming Christ – often in others (including their warts and shortcomings) – outside our box.

Continue reading

Sufficient Grace, Part III

Several have asked how things are going with my health, so I though I’d post a quick update to my prior posts (Sufficient Grace and Sufficient Grace, Part II).

Peace in the Storm

Two weeks ago I was accepted into a NIH Phase II clinical trial which is evaluating two drugs for treating pulmonary fibrosis in scleroderma patients.

That I was accepted is a miracle because my lung function was just below their minimum. It’s a double blind study, so I don’t know which of the two drugs I’m taking (either cytoxan or cellcept), but they are both really strong, serious medications that typically have significant side effects.

My close community of brothers and sisters here in Virginia, and others, have been lifting me up in wonderful prayer. It has been mature prayer, not desperate prayer, rooted in making our requests known but also being at peace in God’s ultimate grace and sovereignty.

Continue reading

Fathers and Teachers

Fathers and Teachers

I keep hearing from folks who have felt troubled and marginalized by authors and bloggers who seem unable to go beyond their own sensibilities and who seek to make their own gifts and limitations normative for the entire Body of Christ.

In response, I can’t shake this urge to proclaim what I see in scripture and experience daily in our own fellowships: The multifaceted, multi-gifted, multi-called Body of Christ.

I am convinced that God’s heart is passionate about releasing His people to be all that He created them to be – not just in our churches, but in all spheres of life.

Our collective failure to do this – both within the institutional and organic church communities – and the insular, anemic fruit that has resulted, is one of the biggest challenges facing the West today.

Individual Limitations

Here’s the problem I see daily among individual Christians:

Those who are primarily motivated by the heart, feel all must be the same. Those primarily motivated by renewed minds, think all must be the same. Those primarily motivated by transformed wills, act as though all must be the same…

We are post-modern in our sensibilities, so all must be the same. We are called to this, or to that, and so all must be the same. We not are called to this, or to that, and so all must be the same…

Please, everyone, can’t we just stop this nonsense!

Yes, Christ is all. But is He just Lord of YOUR all, or Lord of all?

Is He just heart, or just mind, or just will?

Is He just mercy, or just prophetic, or just ruler, or just giver, or just relational, or just whatever you want or seem to need Him to be?

Is He just generation X, or generation Y?

And let’s get down to the nitty-gritty: Has He really surrendered His Lordship over all creation, culture, spheres of human endeavor, nations and history itself, just so He can be all about you and your sensibilities?

For real???

Leadership Limitations

It is bad enough when individuals try to make their own strengths and limitations normative for all. But it is an order of magnitude worse for a leader to do so.

Fathers delight in others exceeding them.

The more I contemplate and reflect on this, and seek the mind of Christ, the more I am coming to believe that these problems are rooted in the difference between a teacher verses a father in the faith.

Both are needed.

But teachers are primarily motivated to reproduce what they have only personally comprehended or experienced. They tend to minister from whom they are, and are very good at laying a foundation based on what they personally understand, but often are not very good at taking us much further.

Fathers (and mothers!) often stand on the foundation laid by the teachers, and may themselves engage in didactic teaching, but their motivation is very different. They tend to focus on who you can be, and are good at helping others be more than themselves and to exceed their own understanding and experiences.

Where teachers delight in replicating what they have personally figured out, fathers delight in us going beyond their own abilities, comprehension, biases and sensibilities.

Now, don’t get me wrong. This is not an absolute either/or. But there are different core motivations, even though some can operate in both arenas.

Maybe a hands-on father in the faith won’t be motivated to burrow down into all the details to bring us deep understanding on this or that – or be motivated to write many books – like a teacher. Rather, his greatest joy is releasing others to be more than himself.

The joy of a father is for you to exceed him by helping you find your own – and often very different – abilities and calling. He delights in watching you conquer the unknown as you venture into new spheres of endeavor in areas he may not even comprehend, rather than simply conveying and replicating his own motivations and understanding.

Moving Forward

We have wonderful teachers, writers and bloggers, and they have taught us much from the perspective of their own journey, their own comprehension, and their own sensibilities.

But we have too few fathers in the Body of Christ these days.

As a father who has birthed and mentored many in the Lord, I make this plea to the gifted teachers among us who have taught me much: Keep writing, blogging and teaching. You have much to offer. But understand that Christ, as head of His body, never intended for your own understanding and experiences to become limiting factors, or God forbid, the new legalism.

He calls all leaders in His Church to enable and equip others. And yes, Christ is all. But “all” is not defined by or limited to your own understanding and sensibilities.

Unless we all grasp this truth – individuals, teachers and fathers alike – we will never become the wonderful, amazing Body of Christ.

This is my passion. This is my calling.

Peeking Through the Cracks

Peeking Through the Cracks

Being the Church!

“Church” – as a platform for the gifted man and his anointed ministry – is crumbling all around.

As people start peeking outside the walls through the cracked facades, some find liberty.

Many, however, choose to remain trapped in the ruins.

We all have a choice. Liberty and life, or bondage and stagnation.

Seek grace, find courage, embrace joy and venture forth.

You’ll be surprised at how many other brave hearts await you outside the walls.

God’s call is clear: It is time to be the church once again.

Sufficient Grace, Part II

As my close friends know, for the last seven years I’ve been dealing with a rare autoimmune condition called scleroderma (also known as systemic sclerosis).

Recent medical tests indicate that it is now impairing my lungs. This is a progressively debilitating and likely fatal development, and there is no known cure. I was not surprised by the latest test results, as I’ve been feeling my health deteriorate more rapidly over the last several months.

I’m posting this to be transparent and so none of my friends feel blindsided. I am totally open about what’s happening, and not bashful over it, so don’t feel you have to ignore it when you’re around me. If you have questions or want to just talk about it, feel free!

However, I also do not want it to define me. My life has been, and will continue to be, about so much more than this disease!

Continue reading