Sunday, December 20, 2009

What the Church Needs Now

Back in the early days of this century Christendom ceased… abruptly. We all shrugged wide-eyed, looked at each other and asked, ”Now what?”

With a bloated blogosphere at hand, virtually everyone has weighed in! The problem with all these prognostications is that the ones answering the question often happen to be the ones who brought about this church-plight in the first place!

Don’t get me wrong – we must “figure this thing” in one sense. Kudos to those of us who deign to comment on it. But, more words are not the answer. Condemnation of one another is not the answer. “Better ideas” solve nothing. We do not need simply to pedal harder, “do better.” Neither do we need more exotic and consumer-driven ways and means.

The ways and means of God are tight and tidy.

Listen, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today (Dt 6:4-6).

This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Dt 30:19,20).

No, O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God (Mic 6:8).

Jesus replied, “You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments (Mt 22:37,38).”

Yet, fleshing it out is another issue, right? Might we first ask ourselves: How did we get into this fix? I think the answer is both simple and obvious: We have crawled up on the throne and asked God to get down. And, being the gentleman that He is, He moved.
This is yet another chapter in the human story theologians call the Deuteronomic Cycle: Sin-punishment-repentance-restoration.

The answer, let’s admit it, is humility. How complicated are these words from James (4:10) “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor”? Or Isaiah’s words (Is 57:15):

The high and lofty one who lives in eternity,
the Holy One, says this:
“I live in the high and holy place
with those whose spirits are contrite and humble.
I restore the crushed spirit of the humble
and revive the courage of those with repentant hearts.”

In the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, there are these words and phrases regarding humility:

(Humility is not) Willful self-disparagement
(Nor are the humble) Guilty, vile, and helpless worms
Inward fasting
Aptness for grace (Luther)
Pure receptivity
Unassuming readiness to accept favor
(Humility) Requires constant self-examination
Trusting the kindness of the giver
I possess nothing I haven’t received

Saint Augustine: “If you ask me what is the first precept of the Christian religion I will answer, first, second, and third, Humility.”

In John 13 and Philippians 2, Jesus is our Model, our Exemplar, our Teacher.

God, Keynote Speaker at the opening of the Temple, gave of these bedrock words regarding the ways and means of our faith (2 Chr 7:14):

Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.

We need restoration. We need forgiveness. We need help. We cannot enjoy “restoration” until then. It seems a no-brainer; humility and repentance are the pre-requisites we so desperately need as a body of Christ-followers.

May I pray for us – God’s church.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Will the church survive?

The success, if you will, of the church lies with the few who willfully, yet counter-culturally, see hope in Christ alone, who are willing to answer the call, "Come to Me," and are daring enough to "Be still." I might add those who pray and fast as well.

It is those who let convention and outcome go hang, those who know God enough to trust Him fully for outcome and are confident He will honor their faith.These are the ones who are willing to go years upon years, if necessary, without what the contemporary church calls "results." The future of the church rests on those whose trust is truly radical.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

On the Future of the Church

I put the following on my Facebook status recently – my thoughts this summer are full tilt about church:

Leaders won't take the church into a healthy future. Neither will those intent upon "the will of God," nor the ones committed to a "healthy church." The hope for the church lies upon ordinary people who have experienced intimate nearness to God, Himself. Of Peter and John it was said, "They recognized them as having been with Jesus (Acts 4:13)."

A few comments on the future of the church:

 Pastors nowadays are good at evangelism, not helping others cultivate intimacy with God. These “converts” are like seed thrown by the path which will invariably get trampled by today’s culture and die.

 Pastors nowadays are good at running an organization. Churches have organization, but if the leadership is not in tune with the Spirit and deeply committed to personal Godliness, the only product will be fruitless activity, not kingdom building.

 Pastors nowadays are scholarly and good orators. But, if the words are not formed in the crucible of the prayer closet by a heart grown healthy in stillness and solitude ever heeding the Spirit’s direction, then sermons become nothing more than moralistic prattle telling others how to behave. And, God’s kingdom is not built.

 Pastors nowadays are good at telling others about obedience to Jesus. I know of very few that know Jesus – see the difference? We can figure out the implications of this one quite easily.

 The “successful” church will consist of, as Brennan Manning puts it, “bedraggled ragamuffins” whose desperate and primary goal is to plumb the depths of Christ-acceptance. Church people nowadays (who get this honestly from their leader(s) who think they know the love of the Father, but don’t) are driven by guilt or fear that God is gonna getcha! This will not survive the current wave of cultural and godless persecution.

 The healthy church will devote priority energy toward building community, true community – the context for true spiritual growth. (I have defined community elsewhere in my blog).

 The healthy church will hold tradition loosely, careful not to jettison practices just because they have been around for a long time, nor lose the respect for the holiness of God through crazy and novel innovations.

 The church of the future will live by and submit to the authority of God’s Holy Word, the Bible. Scholarship is a must. The right combo is a smart mystic!

 That’s all for now. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, July 19, 2009


The experience of Jesus as Lord, which brings forth the response of faith, varies as widely as the people who encounter it.

Could it be that we “experience” God more than we think or are aware of? We so limit ourselves by our already set ideas of experience.

(Quoting John McKinzie) The basic element seems to be recognition. In Him [Jesus] the obscure is illuminated, the uncertain yields to the certain, insecurity is replaced by a deep sense of security.

Our trust in Jesus grows as we shift from making self-conscious efforts to be good to allowing ourselves to be loved as we are (not as we should be). An inner stillness pervades our being….

Self-absorption fades into self-forgetfulness, as we gaze upon the brightness of the Lord.

Incremental and a slow process for me! I want fireworks, adrenalin and sky-writing. God wants to cuddle with me and warm my heart!

… The personal experience of the glory of Jesus, the shattering encounter with the transcendent/immanent Christ, is the foundation of the faith and the hope that form and inform a life of naked trust.

Oh, how I want everything under the sun but what I really need… HIM!

Like faith and hope, trust cannot be self-generated. I cannot simply will myself to trust. The one thing I need to do I cannot do.

Yet, somewhere along the way, we must practice stillness, solitude and a protracted willingness to listen and obey.

What does lie within my power is paying attention to the faithfulness of Jesus. That’s what I am asked to do: pay attention to Jesus throughout my journey, remembering his kindness (Ps 103:2).

Trust comes from some experience of the other person, an experience not reducible to proof. Most often, it grows in a relationship of mutual love, one in which we have loved, and been loved, by another.

Experience comes from a humble, yet eager, heart.

The story of Job implicitly states that we can endure the unwanted intrusion of evil when we have experienced a theophany – that is, an insight into the reality of God.
Walter Burghardt writes: “Only trust makes evil endurable – trust not because God has offered proof, but because God has shown his face.

Experiencing God seems to be, at its core, an experience of being totally loved and accepted by God and accepting that acceptance.

[Quoting Walter Kasper] “Experiencing God’s love in Jesus Christ means experiencing that one has been unreservedly accepted, approved and infinitely loved, that one can and should accept one’s self and one’s neighbor.”

[Quoting Julian of Norwich] It is God’s will that we receive three things from him as gifts we seek. The first is that we seek willingly and diligently without sloth, as that may be with his grace, joyfully and happily, without unreasonable depression and useless sorrow. The second is that we wait for him steadfastly, out of love, without grumbling and contending against him…. The third is that we have great trust in him, out of complete and true faith, for it is his will that we know his will that we know that he will appear, suddenly and blessedly, to all his lovers.

Experiencing God comes from an existential awareness that I am God’s little boy (girl), that He is my Daddy in the purest and most infinite sense of Daddy-ness!

(From Ruthless Trust by Brennan Manning, Chapter 7, “Trusting Jesus” – bold words are my own)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

ALL of God's intentions are good (Ephesians 1:9). No matter what we think. The wording in the Greek means that God exercises His will ONLY for a Good Purpose! Do we SEE God that way... all the time? Or is He often aloof, distant, un-caring or even mean? May we seek with relentless passion to have a clear and correct understanding of our GOOD God.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Thou shalt have no bearings!

We live in a country that has outlawed compasses. And, we are now being told that compasses don't exist. And, those of us who cry out with the truth that says compasses DO exist and are vital to our survival as a culture are being shot on sight. Hmmm ... scary!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Aphorism, anyone?

Saying NO to sin means saying YES to the Presence Who takes away our fears. (Isaiah 41:10)

Thursday, March 26, 2009


We must expend our greatest energy coming to know with all our heart that we are loved by a God of pure, infinite and unfathomable love. Yes, we obey, trust, worship, serve and witness. But, we have come to think of these things as primary. Not so! Recall the words of C.S. Lewis:

Put first things first and we get second things thrown in; put second things
first and we lose both first and second things.

True love, true and pure service and devotion to God, is an outflow, a result, a product of a heart that has been consumed (or is being consumed) in God’s unconditional acceptance. This love is new and admittedly foreign to our experience, mysterious and inexplicable, outrageous and incomprehensible. This love is the zenith of too-good-to-be-true! It is the treasure hidden in the field, the pearl of great price, the Alpha and the Omega!

As you journey life’s days, as you daily serve the God you barely know, may you find a way to allow God to express His love to you. Practice solitude – be alone and quiet long enough that you can clearly hear His voice of love. Also, practice community. He will commonly appear to you in the form of another person, a friend – one who, like you, is on the same journey.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

I’m sitting here re-reading George Barna’s Revolution, now 3 years old (a long time in today’s terms). In it he describes this 20 million strong sub-nation of Revolutionaries this way: The have no use for churches that play religion. They eschew ministries that compromise or soft-sell our sinful nature to expand organizational turf. The refuse to follow people in ministry leadership positions who cast a personal vision rather than God’s…. They refuse to donate one more dollar to man-made monuments…. They are embarrassed by language that promises Christian love and holiness but turns out to be all sizzle and no substance.

They are seeking a faith experience that is more robust and awe-inspiring, a spiritual journey that prioritizes transformation at every turn, something worthy of the Creator whom their faith reflects. Revolutionaries zealously pursue an intimate relationship with God, which Jesus Christ promised we could have through Him.

(All this is quoted from pages 13-15).

For God’s sake, let’s give it to ‘em!

Sunday, February 15, 2009


I hear from all points that the church is not doing community. Community is missing from the church and is an essential ingredient to kingdom growth.

Yet, I see churches “committed to” building community… community is even in their name and kingdom growth is not happening to any appreciable extent.

I’m sure I could Google community and find many valuable definitions, characteristics and points to be made about what community is and how to do it.

Here’s mine.

I believe that community is like the wall on which a mosaic is cemented, the fabric on which a cross-stitch is sown. Community is an environment – not un-like the agar in a Petri dish… wholly conducive and pristine for growing the things desired. (Oh, and by the way, you can’t make things grow!)

In our contexts – the world and the church – community is the medium in which kingdom growth occurs most verdantly, freely and purely.

Community is life-on-life intimate relationships among Christ-following believers. It is characterized by, in a word, love.

In Christian community there is sacrifice, investment.

Community comes at a high price.

Community is messy, mysterious and frustratingly unpredictable.

Community is not something that can be forced or hurried.

Strategies and tactics are often of little use in the grand scheme of community. A thorough look at the life of our Community Exemplar – namely, JESUS – and one sees very little “plans” and “process.”

That is because community nearly defies a recipe! (By the way, don’t forsake planning, setting goals, praying for results, making outlines and lists! Recall: The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps. Proverbs 16:9)

Jesus chose some friends, allowed them to live with Him, gave them things to do commensurate with their readiness for ministry and then he … kinda just … LIVED. And DIED that others might live.

And his friends – having been in community with Jesus and having grown to trust and obey Him because He had been found to be TRUST-worthy – began to act like Jesus.

Better yet, they began to LIVE like Jesus did. Outsiders “recognized them as having been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13) – community was successful, and the kingdom of God grew.

Ya just gotta get in there and get dirty!

Yet, community is the only environment in which true Kingdom Growth can take place. It is where believers practice new and godly forms of behavior with acceptance, patience and encouragement from others.

It is not simply an act of our will. Yet, we must simply will to be with Jesus. Willing community is skipping a step. Community is only possible in and through those who have experienced the personal acceptance of Jesus (both in solitude and community). Then and only then do Christ-followers have something (namely, love) to give to others.

In sum: For those who want to do and be about community.

1. “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness” (1 Tim 4:7b). I would suggest this where you decide to do things like pray, be alone with God, listen, fast, read your Bible, go to church, worship and so on. Seek both to learn about all these things and to practice each of them deeply, earnestly and regularly.
2. Pray for God to direct you into a true experience of community – the kind in which you can give and receive true love.
3. Live life with other Christ-followers.
4. Seek others – particularly those outside the faith – with whom you can influence as you live an intentional godly life.

5. Read the New Testament and pattern your life after Jesus’. Find out how He lived, who He chose to hang out with, what He saw as important, what He did, then … go thou and do likewise!

Saturday, February 07, 2009


Find a quiet place where you can be alone.
Get in a comfortable position with your back straight.
Reduce distractions – pictures, things. Don’t turn out the lights.

Sit and relax.
Shut your eyes and focus on as little as possible. Breathe.
Wait until you are aware that you are physically and mentally calming down. This may take a few minutes.

You will be distracted. Deal with each one with repentance – acknowledge each one and return quickly to your task of prayer.
Recall the father’s reaction when the Prodigal Son returned – open arms of acceptance and joy!

Read these words slowly and with a “listening heart.”

This is what the Sovereign Lord,

the Holy One of Israel, says:
“Only in returning to me
and resting in me will you be saved.
In quietness and confidence is your strength.”

So the Lord must wait for you to come to him

so he can show you his love and compassion.
For the Lord is a faithful God.
Blessed are those who wait for his help. Isaiah 30:15,18

Be aware that you are relaxing and focusing.

Take a few moments to tell God Who He is – how wonderful He is.
Use your own words. If it is not too awkward, speak aloud in a soft voice.
Don’t allow negative thoughts to enter your mind about the “quality” of your words to Him.

Read these words slowly and know that in praising God we draw near to Him.

Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth!

Worship the Lord with gladness.
Come before him, singing with joy.
Acknowledge that the Lord is God!
He made us, and we are his.
We are his people, the sheep of his pasture
Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
Go into his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good.
His unfailing love continues forever,
And his faithfulness continues to each generation. Psalm 100

Confess your sins to God.
Be specific. Start with these words: Read slowly.

Search me, O God, and know my heart;

test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life. Psalm 139:23,24

Have mercy on me, O God,

because of your unfailing love.
Because of your great compassion,
blot out the stain of my sins.
Wash me clean from my guilt.
Purify me from my sin.
For I recognize my rebellion;
it haunts me day and night.
Against you, and you alone, have I sinned;
I have done what is evil in your sight.
You will be proved right in what you say,
and your judgment against me is just.
For I was born a sinner—
yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.
But you desire honesty from the womb,
teaching me wisdom even there.
Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean;

wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Oh, give me back my joy again;
you have broken me—now let me rejoice.
Don’t keep looking at my sins.
Remove the stain of my guilt.
Create in me a clean heart, O God.
Renew a loyal spirit within me. Psalm 51:1-10
But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 1 John 1:9

Know now… try to experience the fact that you are forgiven, clean and pure before God!

Take a couple of moments to thank God. Thank Him for the things in your life that have eternal significance. Be specific.

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4:10

Wrap up this time of prayer with ASKING.
Ask whatever you want!

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6

Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. James 4:2

Remember the words of Jesus to Blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:51):


God is asking you that! Give Him an answer.

Ask God for a humble heart.
Seek a heart which says,”God, I want what You want for me.”

Maybe start a list of friends to pray for.
Ask God to bring your friends to mind during the day.
Ask God for ways to bless your friends.

Finish your time with the Lord’s Prayer. Concentrate on each and every word.

Tell yourself: Regardless of how I feel right now, this has been a Good Time!