Sunday, January 30, 2011

God Will Give You What Your Money Can't Buy

2 Kings 4:8-17

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I Am Done with "Cool" Church

I am through with "cool" church. It has taken me so long to come to that conclusion. Every time church leaders are in a conference, seminar, or just visiting over coffee, the subject of how to make our ministries more cool always comes up. The ideas of modern technology begin to permeate the levels of communication. Use of videos, screens, lights, sets constructed for sermon series, worship leaders in jeans, drums, smoke machines, ATMs, data ports in the pews, WIFI, elephants, Carrot Top doing comedy, and others aspects have become this generation's talk of how to conduct church.

Utilizing modern tech support in presenting the Gospel message is always wonderful. God has gifted this generation with a vast array of weaponry in order to reach the ones outside of the Kingdom stockholders. The reason I am done with "cool" is because in so many instances nowadays, "cool" has replaced Christ. AND, my friends that are outside the faith or have been hurt by religion seem to criticize the worldly relevance of church services as opposed to what their hearts long for...just Jesus.

Creating atmospheres with lights and sound and basing that importance as higher than the power of God is the cardinal sin of our Church generation. People in today's world are desperately reaching, not just upward, but backward. As one friend of mine said recently, "I can go to a concert anytime I want. IF I do go to church, I want Jesus."

Tullian Tchividjian says in his book, Unfashionable, "It's not that the Church is culturally out of touch; it's that we are theologically out of tune." I realize this because I have tried to get into the "cool" mode, and I fell flat. I have even tried to strike up relationships with the "cool", cutting-edge leaders in certain areas when I am speaking, and they want nothing to do with fellowship. WHY? Does my breath stink? Am I not metro-sexual enough in my dress code? NO! My ministry is not relevant enough. I sweat, yell, and entangle the audience in a road trip through the text in order to initiate a "now" response to the message in which the Holy Spirit can interrupt at anytime, as well as heal broken hearts. I don't appear tech savvy, I guess. And I am "cool" with that.

Our culture is not so much weary of institutions as they are skeptical of the ones that do not do what they are supposed to do. What scares me is that, as the Old Testament prophet says, we are destroyed for a lack of knowledge. Knowledge leads to wisdom, and wisdom leads to the making of decisions based on the freshness of the move of God's Spirit, rather than "coolness" of presentation. When the size of God grips us more than the size of our lighting rigs and tech toys, only then will we be able to serve as God's cosmic change agents.

My heart breaks for those who have never experienced a move of God based on the supernatural moving of the Spirit, and nothing else. God can use everything we have in this modern generation, but He has no problem using nothing but a willing heart. He has been wooing the hearts of mankind for thousands of years, without any "coolness" in the mix. He is all you need to reach a hurting generation. If Jesus is lifted up, HE does the drawing of a man's soul. May I never forget that.

So, I will just go back this year to the basics, and if I appear "cool", great! If I do not, it does not matter. Because today's cool is tomorrow's "lame." Be who you are, and I think God can worry about the cool stuff on HIs own...

Monday, January 17, 2011

Broken But Not Shattered

Growth is a process-one that includes setbacks, failures, hard lessons, and yes, brokenness. Life is crazy, and God does have a purpose in pain. All the more reason that I hate it!

If I asked you, "Do you really want God's best for your life?" I feel confident you would say "yes!"

If I asked you, "Do you want to become who God designed you to become?" I am sure you would say "yes!"

If I asked you, "Are you willing for God to do anything necessary to bring you to total surrender so that He is free to accomplish all that He wants to do for you and all He wants to make out of you?" Don't know bout you...I am slow to answer that one.

It is one thing to say "yes!" to the thoughts of the cross. It's another thing to go hang on one.

My life, so much less than others, has been a series of success one minute, brokenness the next. Over and over it seems the process never ends. Whatever it is that we may experience and however brokenness comes, I have to remember that God has a good end for all of this. After years of the success/brokenness cycle, a bit of refreshment comes when I am reminded that my brokenness is not the end, but rather, a passage. A passage of revealing what does not belong, then lovingly removing it. God sifts me through my tears, confusion and moments when I feel I am at the end of my pitiful rope.

God would never sift someone who does not have something to be sifted...

Brokenness is that condition whereby my will is brought into full submission to His will so that when He speaks, I will put up no argument, make no rationalization, offer no excuses, and register no blame. The end result is one of blessing. That sounds good. In fact, I hear all the good Christians singing it in their latest worship songs..."Lord break me". "Lord I will follow". "I am wholly yours because you are so very, extremely, wonderfully, amazingly, HOLY!" I hear preachers talk about brokenness, and yet where is the brokenness??

All theology, and all for the Sunday show. I know. I used to be the best at that type of showmanship. Until God started His process, it is not that He broke me, but rather, He started breaking me. At that point I began to see people in front of me from the platform, not a crowd.

And that brokenness does not end with the worship set or the sermon. This is for life.

We must make God sick sometimes. Oh yes, He even told one of our sister churches that very thing! (Hint:Last book of your Bible) It must apply all across the board in the family tree. Fake brokenness abounds under the ceilings of nice lit worship houses. It is scary to think that this American generation of God-followers, so many times, have never tasted the freshness of revival and the power that comes after a period of incredible brokenness.

The more I submit during those times of breaking, the more God does in me. I am freed from guilt. I am freed from the responsibility of having to "go it alone" in my sin. God is there to strengthen me. I am freed from confusion, and that continual wondering if I am right or wrong. My heart may feel shattered, sometimes for years at a time, but I must admit that blessings exceed brokenness. Strutting leaves my life's vocabulary, humility rises to the top, and grace abounds where pride once did. (Gal. 1:15-2:1)

It stinks to think about, but I will never outgrow my need to be freshly broken in one way or another. He only asked that I trust Him, so that I can give Him greater glory.

Break on, oh King!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

My New Simple Life

There has never been an age in which we could get so much done so quickly. There has also never been an age in which we were so overwhelmed with information and tasks, and I am feeling it this week for sure! For many people these days, work is a constant stream of emails, instant messages, notes, and files. We are drinking from a fire hose of information, with no idea how to reduce the flow.

Some very personal, yet life-changing goals are going to be incremented into my life this year. As I continue to evaluate my life and priorities, I am realizing how stressful and wasteful all of this can become. So, as the journey begins to reshape some aspects of my life, like being able to concentrate on meaningful projects and not just "urgent" ones! I need to make some hard choices. I bet you do too...

What is the alternative to information and task overload? In order to make this better, do I have to follow the example of Thoreau, and build a cabin in the woods? Not for the WHOLE year. So, I am proposing a middle ground for myself this year. The solution lies in setting limits to how much I consume and do. It lies in making the most of time by focusing on the important things, instead of everything. I don't know about you, but the canvas of my life has been cluttered a bit too much with bolds and not enough pastels. Only I can choose to change what I will stress over, and what I will not. Finally, the day has come, and I can already sense the peace just from making up my mind about it.

The answer comes from living a life of..................

Simplicity. I am becoming a firm believer in it. My life is better when I simplify it. Those who love me and are close to me recognize my stress, and they also know when I am walking in simplicity. It's when I cut down the noise and I am able to enjoy what I do.

I could write all day on how the Holy Spirit is revealing these things to me. I plan to do less, not more. Amp up what is important, and let go what seems useless in the big picture. One man wrote, "why go to battle if there are no spoils?" Applying that is already beginning to make me much happier, less stressed, and perhaps surprisingly, more productive. God gives the revelation, but I have to implement it.

Simplicity, for me, boils down to two things I MUST do this year:

1. Identify the essential
2. Eliminate the rest

Join me on this, and this time next year you won't look so grouchy....(that is, when I look in the mirror) :)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Birthdays and Halftime

"A pier is nothing other than a frustrated bridge. It is connected to one shore only and does not have another shore to attach itself to."

Today is my birthday, and it has become a day of great reflection. Forty years ago my mom pushed out her baby boy. As the youngest I pride myself on being a momma's boy. My job description will never veer or change from that.

The questions that arise in times of life-reflection are always the same on. The BIG questions , or so I've heard, start hitting near the end of your third decade. You begin to feel something coming. It's not a bad feeling-simply the sense that something is not entirely pleasant around the corner. Sometimes it comes in the form of questions about your contribution.

"Is what I'm doing important?"
"Does it matter to anyone but me?"
"Do I have enough?"

Enough of what? Enough time to dream on? Enough money to live? If you are like most people, we are more comfortable at the current stage than our parents were at the same stage. And yet, the future still seems uncertain. You begin to question your effectiveness in the past. The desire to make your life count has arrived in full force. You sensed it as a teenager, you felt it as a young adult. But now a few aches and pains, and time that shows some miles of travel in your rear view mirror, push you to reevaluate it all.

"I have found that what I have been feeling is normal; and the changes I desire are reachable."

God is behind it all. To begin something new and freshen up what you dare not let go of brings into focus a fresh vision of the rest of your life. More important, there is a need for something that makes you want to get up in the morning. And that nagging sense that instead of just working for money to pay bills, we want to do something that counts. Stuck, yet wanting to move into something fresh. Bob Buford calls this "Halftime." The awkward, disconcerting place between a gut-wrenching, hard-charging, first half of life, and the second half; a life filled with the hope of making a difference, makes evaluation of life more intense.

Time is passing by..and that begins to scare the fool out of me.

A word about lost years- You and I cannot reclaim lost time, but God can. He told Job in Scripture that He can restore the years that the locust have eaten. He can walk backward and reclaim in the second half of life the wasted time in the first half.

These moments carry with them an unmistakable fact- You do not want to, and you may even be able to continue doing what you do with the same level of intensity and passion. Something has to change, and you would prefer to have a hand in what the change looks like. Changing where you have been provides data for the future; changing where you are going provides an opportunity for the unknown to become a reality.

The truth about me is that I feel the best, look the best, and become the best when I am investing in the lives of others. So, I better get busy, because the second half MUST rock....

I hear the whistle blowing...halftime is over. Game on!