Archive for January, 2017

Holy Networking?

OK, I have to admit it, sometimes I’m a little slow at catching on to some pretty simple things. Back in my business days and racing days, networking was of the highest importance. Knowing who can help you find your way is absolutely priceless. Yet, until lately, I haven’t really applied it to advancing Gods Word. We seem to be like sheep and just follow the locals and that seems to be all of the pool of resources that we have to work with. If you happen to be in an area that has Christian drought, well, that’s just unfortunate.

Still, I’m learning the power of networking in Christian circles. I didn’t necessarily say church circles, that’s worth noting. We often pray for God to help us with things, even the things that we really feel that God is leading us to, but we restrict ourselves to our tiny group. Maybe God has very talented people that He trained for His purpose, waiting to assist you. Lets face it, Gods calling for you isn’t restricted to you doing things alone. God always provides a way. Its unlikely that God will send someone knocking on your door to help. Its possible, but for the most part, you are probably just wasting time. Jesus could have handled things anyway He wanted on earth, but when He was here, He had people to help Him. Willing people, flawed, but eager to help assist Him and be part of something bigger than themselves.  Jesus is God, but it wasn’t a one man show. After Jesus had departed, the apostles did a mighty fine job networking as well. Paul was quite spectacular at it and we can all learn from him.

If you truly believe that God has called you to step out, above the mindless mass of churchism, you will have to go find help. Go, that’s a verb, get off your butt and find people to help you. My experience is that you will need to go beyond your immediate surroundings to find them. You will be amazed at what true believers will do to help. God will truly blow your mind! Remember to treat those folks with love and kindness as they are sent by God.

Perhaps you are a Godsend to someone else. Don’t hold back, invest yourself in those folks. I’ve seen Godly groups of people do things that are really game changing. Even a few things that I’ve been humbled to be a part. Somehow, if its Gods will, things come together in supernatural ways, not because we are good, but because we are willing servants. As Tony Evans would say,” God can’t steer a car that isn’t in motion.” Wise words indeed.

Over the last several years, but more so in the last year, I’ve been the humble recipient of many blessings. Some folks have been so kind. Some folks were unkind enough to inspire me to step up to serve my Savior even more. Good and evil can inspire, I guess. But friends, the blessing to me is the good and solid Believers that we’ve met on our journey. I’m a happy introvert, but when my lovely bride has convinced me to step out (a little), we have been so blessed with a support group that I’m very proud to have known.

I guess what I’m really trying to say is that God has a plan for you. Yes, you. You aren’t the only one either. If you are willing to step out in faith, God has it all figured out and people in place to make it happen. Gods people aren’t hiding behind 4 walls, they don’t sit around and cluck with all the other chickens, and it isn’t just a Sunday thing.  You’ll be able to tell who they are pretty easily. The question is, will they be able to find you? Are you standing out as someone that God is able to use? Become active, not to be seen, just to serve. Don’t become a busybody for your benefit. Jesus had plenty of harsh words for that crowd. Humility has become such a rare thing these days and is a quality that seems to be required for God to use you. Find Believers to help you with that. There are so many kind and passionate people out there. I’m praying for you and your friends that you haven’t even met yet. Be humble and serve.

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No Junkyards in Heaven

My wife and I were very blessed this weekend with the opportunity to get to know our Brother in the Lord, Brian Cole. He has one of those unbelievable stories of coming out of a horrible lifestyle. Its so incredible that I don’t even know how to summarize it. Brian had made many bad choices that lead him into drugs and the occult, and 33 years of being locked up. His story is also about redemption. Through a God guided series of events he became a believer and servant of Jesus. It kind of reminded me of CS Lewis’ “being the most dejected and reluctant convert in all of England”.  I highly recommend that you check out Brians website http://www.setusfree.org . His testimony can be found on Youtube as well. I hope it moves you as deeply as it moved me.

As I listened to Brian’s testimony, I was reminded of Jesus speaking to Peter in Luke 22:32 ” But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.”

Imagine that, Jesus knew Peter was going to fail, but still had great plans and work for him to do. Jesus was already beyond Peters sin and knew that Peters heart was with Him. Jesus didn’t throw him away. Jesus didn’t throw Brian away either. Brian didn’t have faith, but He had plans for him, and even before Brian was saved, he had a purpose.

What needs to be convicting for the rest of us, is that we didn’t think God could use people like Peter or Brian. Do we consider that God could have a purpose in mind for a Satan worshipper and meth head. Someone who denied Christ? God was way past their sin and today, both of them get glory in Jesus’ eyes because they are strengthening their brothers. Brian sure was an unyielding and needed breathe of fresh air for us.

Maybe the next “Brian Cole” is still sitting in prison. Maybe some of us need to get off our Holy Arses and go find him. Jesus didn’t find any throw-away people, all had value to Him. Enough value to die for. Jesus died between two thieves and one got saved. Not because he wasn’t as filthy as the other, but because Jesus was there and offered him hope and he trusted Jesus. Who is telling the thieves and criminals of today about Jesus?  Why are we keeping eternal hope to ourselves? It really seems like the ultimate cruelty doesn’t it? If they were important to Jesus and we are His humble servants, why aren’t the same people important to us? Not everyone recovering from the effects of sinful decisions will go out and change the world, but you can for them. You can change their eternity. If only one gets saved, the rejoicing in Heaven will blow your mind. Throwaways matter to Jesus, they matter to Brian and they matter to me. Do they matter to you?

Honestly, I’m a bit ashamed that I have neglected those folks in prison. I haven’t even prayed for them or their families. It seems like we want them put away so we don’t even have to think about them or even see them. That is sin too, but we aren’t getting punished for our sinful attitudes. We only read about theirs. Are you ready for a paradigm shift ? I say lets go get them and serve them. Lets humble ourselves and reach out to their families. We are totally kidding ourselves if we think we are one ounce better than them. God has a plan for them and maybe it involves you. Change the world. Pray hard friends.

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The Ugly Church

There was a time, many years ago, that I was able to wear a suit and tie to church. Please understand, it wasn’t to impress anyone, it was just that I enjoyed wearing those types of clothes. I totally had it nailed with the “Dress for Success” crowd. Years later I found myself in a bluejeans  and t-shirt financial condition. It set me back a bit on how differently I was treated, not only in the outside world( I get that), but in the church as well. People spent a lot less time with me, and people no longer sought my advice on anything. There were still plenty of nice people, but it showed me an aspect of church folks that I didn’t care for. Eventually I got past all that, but I had developed a sensitivity for how church people treat those who look different. I was comfortable in church regardless of how others treat me, but what if it was the first church experience for someone? Would they ever come back? I doubt it, and I don’t blame them one bit. They will tell that story on how they tried religion once, but will never go back because of the judgment they received.

One day my wife and I were discussing how, again, someone else was shunned by others because of tattoos and attire. I made an off the cuff remark about how I would like to start The Ugly Church for folks that don’t fit the typical church model. Certainly not that these folks are ugly, just that they are rejected, even though they are really the type of people that Jesus had compassion and fellowship with. No one was too ugly for Jesus. I don’t just mean piercings, tattoos , and t-shirts, I mean folks that have made some really bad decisions in life and those who were victims of other peoples bad choices. They have been treated horribly by church people, in Jesus’ day and in ours. I say messed up people are loved by Jesus, friends of Jesus and deserve a place to worship Jesus without the Harper Valley PTA looking down their noses at them. That was the birth of The Ugly Church concept.

Well, another 5 years have passed and now I think its time to make that idea a reality. We’ve been really doing our homework on this subject. There are a lot of biker churches that are doing a terrific job, while traditional churches are failing miserably. Most biker churches really embody that Ugly Church idea. They know that you can’t clean up enough to come to Jesus, come to Jesus now, as you are, and He will make you clean. They are WAY ahead of me here and deserve a ton of respect for it. The name has evolved from The Ugly Church to The Salvage Yard, but the concept is the same.

I want to serve in a place that is ruled by the Word of God and some spiritual leaders encouraging and teaching people on their journey so they can move on to spread the love and good news of Jesus. That’s really how Jesus and a dozen Jewish guys changed the world. They didn’t dress pretty and hide behind 4 walls, they got out there and shared the love and hope that Jesus offered. John the Baptist just had to be a biker! You can’t be too ugly for me or Jesus. If you were hurt or mistreated by a church, you are loved here. If you were looked down on for your economic situation, you are loved here. If you listen to Christian metal, rap or rock, you are loved here. If you have tattoo’s, piercings, are biker trash, or trucker trash, you are loved here. No matter how dirty, unworthy or messed up that you think you are, Jesus loves you, and you are loved here. If you wear a suit and are among the pretty people looking for more than what you’ve been told, even you are loved here. All that’s required is that we treat each other with respect.

Friends, this is an ongoing process, and I’m bringing you along for the ride. I’ll share our successes and even our failures. We are getting a lot of our ideas from the home church movement. If you are interested in learning more, I highly recommend Starting A House Church by Larry Kreider & Floyd McClung or House To House by Larry Kreider. This won’t happen overnight, so I’d really like some input from you folks. We don’t want your money but we sure do need your prayers. Plenty more coming soon! Pray hard friends

 

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The Toughest Hombre in Town

I can’t imagine a more difficult job than being a Pastor. He has to live out Philippians 2, while being surrounded by those who don’t. He has to be the church handyman, lawyer, counselor, babysitter ( for church members and their children), referee, preacher, student, and teacher. He has to have his phone on 24 hours a day. He has to try to minister to us whenever we have difficulty at any hour, share the love of Christ instead of punching us in the nose, which is more likely what we deserve. The people who most loudly detest being judged will nit pick a poor preacher apart. He must dress right , get his hair cut right, only say things to make people happy, and out of a 2000 word sermon, they will only remember a mispronounced word. He has to mediate between the elites and the lowly, and often finds himself stuck between some old bats having a lifelong cat fight. He needs to be perfect, but is still a man like the rest of us. I can’t pass that scrutiny for a day.

Perhaps the only job worse is the Pastors wife. The grand old bitty’s are watching over her like a hawk watching over a mouse. They are ready to pounce. She is free slave labor for church leaders and has to dress perfect, hair perfect, sit in the right place, talk to the right people and her cooking must satisfy everyone’s taste. She is responsible for having the perfect family, dressed perfect and on time, all the time. She is under the magnifying glass 24 hours a day and better not have a weak moment. It would never be forgotten or forgiven.

So why would any logical thinking person make a career out of being a preacher? Why would anyone subject themselves to such horrible treatment for such little pay? Only the love of Jesus. Sharing the love of Christ is so deeply ingrained in him that he just cant stop. It’s part of who he is. His identity is in Christ. In most countries that outlaw Christianity, he is the first to die. In America, church members and leaders crucify him differently. He has become their whipping boy. Nothing will pound the love of Jesus out of someone like his own church. Its pretty sad, we need our Pastors more than ever right now and we feel that a gift certificate to the Golden Corral on Pastor Appreciation Day is plenty.

Perhaps we need to adjust our mindset to serving our Pastor, and not be so critical. Maybe we would get to know him well enough to know how difficult his job is. Lets look for ways that we can take some of the weight off his shoulders so he can focus on Gods word and Gods work. Lets look for ways that we can support him, not to be seen by others, but to truly serve. Most importantly, pray for your Pastor. Really do it, don’t just say it. If he isn’t there to teach and minister to you, who else is there? Thank and pray for them both, they need it!

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Lost Love

I’ve been reading a pretty interesting book by Larry Kreider and Floyd McClung called “Starting a House Church.” I’ll admit that as I put more years behind me, I’ve become pretty impatient with churches that are just social gathering places. Their contribution to Gods kingdom is maintaining a building, and to feel justified, they participate in food drives and clothing for the poor. Feeding to poor and taking care of the widows is a good thing, its a terrific thing, we should always be doing that and more, but that isn’t the main function of the church. Free fruit for old farts isn’t the great commission. The church is for spreading the good news of salvation through Jesus. God isn’t gonna ask someone if they got a piece of fruit from church, He’s gonna ask if Jesus is their Savior. That’s our job. That’s our purpose.

Here’s a paragraph from Larry and Floyds book, ” The greatest catalyst for spiritual growth in Christ is turning our eyes from ourselves and setting our sight on Jesus and the needs of those around us. A group of people who are always looking inward and who are content with the status quo will never grow and multiply. When house churches become content to stay the same, they build walls around themselves, causing others to feel unwelcome. On the other hand, the group that has a heart to reach out and to disciple new believers will be willing to change and will enjoy tremendous fellowship and meaningful relationships in the process. All this is to say that an outward focus benefits everyone in the long run, whereas looking inward prevents growth and, like an ingrown toenail, usually causes pain. Looking inward also results in competition and stagnation or, worse, spiritual pride.”

Hmmm, what do you think of that?  Is your church growing do to an outward focus or is it contracting because of an inward focus? Has it even become hostile to  ideas that could share the word of God? Has it become so stagnant that your church gatherings more resemble  the faces at the Department of Motor Vehicles? Attendance lower than the little bar down the street? At least they are happy to be there every night!

Where would Jesus be? He wouldn’t be hiding in a self justified mutual admiration society, that I’m sure of. I don’t have all the answers, but I do know this, we are doing church all wrong and if Jesus came back today, he would kick our phony holy asses! Pointing that out will also make you wildly unpopular and really lights up the gossip channels! I’m ok, I don’t need it. Our leaders, in whatever form, MUST be in constant study of their Bible. Are you too busy? Then you don’t qualify to lead. Pick your priorities. The idea of someone coaching in a sport without knowing the rules or how the game is played is ludicrous, but  having people leading the church that aren’t even students of Jesus is even more crazy! This isn’t a game, this is eternal heaven or hell for someone who isn’t being witnessed to. If you need a social club to feel good about yourself, join the  Lions club or the Shriners. Maybe you do need to work two jobs to get by, but maybe spending less could be a worthy option for some too. Spending more than you make just makes you irresponsible and disqualifies you as a leader. If you truly need help, let us help you. Materialism can be a wicked master.

My discontentment with the status quo has  led us to make some hard decisions. We’ve moved into a less expensive home( poorly built so it turned out to be quite a project), we have kept our old cars, and are drastically reducing how much we spend and paying off what we are able. I will admit that it was hard at first, but I also don’t have to earn as much or pay as much taxes either. It has also freed up more time to be around other people and help them in various ways. Most importantly, it has freed up time for me to study the word of God. I’m pretty angry with myself for not hopping off the materialism train a long time ago. So much time wasted. I’m now able to take my eyes off all my cool stuff( and coveting other peoples cool stuff) and look outwardly as to what I can do, at what I should have been doing, and look outwardly at serving others and using my home for the glory of God. Ha Ha, silly concept isn’t it, as though anything that I have, I own. There are no U-Hauls behind a hearse, I own nothing.

So that’s where I’m at in my journey. Discontentment leads to anger if you don’t seek out solutions. God has blessed me with the answers and confirmation that I needed, but I’m the weak link in the chain. God has again, chosen the unqualified. This is going to get pretty fun shortly. I will need a lot of prayer friends, as The Salvage Yard becomes a reality. I’ll share more of that with you next time! Pray hard friends

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Pauls Woodshed

One of the Apostle Pauls biggest challenges in the early church was in keeping the leaders of the newly founded Christian churches in line with Gods message. Some of those early leaders were simply drifting towards error, but some were becoming hostile. Paul had to take some of them to the woodshed to get things straightened out and he sure wasn’t bashful about it.The early church was simply a group of believers following Jesus command to spread the good news to all the world. It wasn’t a building. Their weren’t any church specific buildings for another 200 years. That command to the church still applies to us, despite of our inaction. Still, how did Paul know when a church leader was doing well or going astray? Because the leader was responsible for teaching the word of God. That’s a big statement, the leader was responsible for teaching the word of God. Someone didn’t get to be a Pastor or elder and hide. A leader was a teacher. That’s how you knew if their motivation lined up with Gods word. They had to come right out and tell you.

Fast forward 2000 years, how does it work now? One of the biggest surprises that I got when I returned to church life 20 years ago is that a typical evangelical Pastor has very little control over his church. His role as a leader is in name only. Bureaucracy runs the churches now. The people that run the show now are committees, councils, boards of dictators, etc.. Be honest, do you even know who those leaders are? Are they worthy of any leadership position or is their time be better spent in study? Often church bureaucracy is multi tiered so that very few even know who’s in charge of what. It helps to discourage hardcore believers from making any inroads or changes. So how do we even know what our leaders believe? They probably don’t teach or even attend Bible study or attend worship nights. Are they even reading and studying their Bible, or  are they just giving God a quickie 10 minute devotional in the morn to feel holy? There are many very fine people in those positions and my intent is not to put them down. I’m grateful for their service. Still, I’ve found that some in those positions are prideful control freaks. I’ve known some that are just nuts, I mean really nuts! Listening in on a Pastors private conversations with other church members, snooping around town to see who’s visiting who and deciding who is allowed to fellowship with the pastor. That’s worse than our federal government! So what happens with those people? Nothing. Yet. There isn’t any accountability in church bureaucracy or any insulated holy huddle. Paul couldn’t do anything with them either, because they don’t teach, they scheme. They meet in secret. Even Jesus struggled with people snooping, scheming and trying to shut Him up because He didn’t follow orders. They were called Pharisee’s then. He called them a brood of vipers and whitewashed tombs filled with dead mens bones. Today the hearts are the same, only the names have changed. Then again, Jesus and Paul really took them to the woodshed, didn’t they?

We need leaders that teach in some form and are accountable to the flock. How can we increase the amount of Kingdom men in churches if they see the punitive actions that are taken? Who needs that? Even better yet, take the death grip off your Pastor and let him preach the Word of God as he sees fit. The Pastors job is to be the leader, as Paul described it, not a spokesman for the board. The Pastors job is not to make us feel good about ourselves and bring in more paying customers. Its a crazy setup, the board chases out the hardcore believers and the Pastor is chastised for not bringing in the money donors.  That’s what churchism brings in folks. The narrow-mindedness of looking inward and not outward like Jesus told us to do, is what’s bringing down churches. Its pretty stressful when you don’t follow church protocol. I guess that is what the early church was fighting too. Jewish church society had set up a system that became their god. Rules, regulations, and procedure overtook them and they became too justified in themselves to let God get in the way. Jesus rocked their world! I hope you are rocking yours!

I sure hope it isn’t happening to your body of believers. I hope you take the time to pray and fellowship with them. Pride and controlism are sins that are tempting them. Pray that they have soft hearts for Jesus’ Word and hard as a rock against sin. The Bible tells us to not forsake the fellowship of believers, so we have to get together as believers. Its not optional. Some days I wish that wasn’t in my Bible. Some days I think I could get along just fine without all that drama. Still, there are plenty of good faithful people there too. Jesus also commanded us, not if we felt like it, commanded us to share the good news of our Savior to the world. He is our King, not just when its fun, so we must continue to serve Him. Not inwardly to make ourselves feel good, while we hide in a building, but to the  lost. There sure are plenty out there. Getting the good news of our Savior is the only hope they have. Don’t let some frustrated old wineskins in a building distract you. Put fresh wine in some fresh wineskins. The old will be gone soon and there isn’t much to replace them. Jesus is still my Lord, with or without the board. Pray and serve hard, friends

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