A Real Church

06-02-06I was thinking about the church in Acts 2, and wondered what it was really like. I experienced a group of people a few weeks ago that I think may have come pretty close. Joe, the guy who was my youth minister when I was in High School, holds a Bible Study at his house on Tuesday nights. I was in Ft. Worth a few weeks ago for a conference and dropped in on them – I surprised Joe – It was great fun to see the look on his face when I walked in. It’s a beautiful community of people. They truly celebrated Jesus and seem to really work/walk through life together. I witnessed accountability, support, discipleship, joy, passion, prayer, fellowship, worship, concerns for mission and ministries. Acts talks about how the people had everything in common – I sensed a true sharing among them that night – like if someone had a need, together they’d find a way to fill it. I know it’s only from the outside looking in, but it seems to me that what they are enjoying is truly what church is supposed to be. I wonder what it would take to develop that kind of community right here where I am? I wonder what else God would desire for a community that my imagination can’t even dream? How can I really invest in people and simply give myself “to” them and “for” God’s glory?

Joe, If you’re reading this, thanks for letting me sit in – I’m encouraged by my experience with you.

Manly Man

06-02-01Here’s a really cool poem that I found about what is to be a “Manly Man!” It’s from a poetry book called “All the Hits so Far, but Don’t expect too much.”

(I wonder if one of our girls could write a poem like this about what it means to be a woman of God?)

 

 

Here is the poem:

Manly Man

I don t want my long hair, pretty green eyes, with ( no! I do not have on mascara. ) eyelashes, skinny figure, undersized t-shirt, hip shake too much when I walk confuse anybody. I am a manly man.

Within this sissy frame, obviously rib laden chest lies a heart that beats to the drum of a native American ritual dancing wildness. It pumps an ever cascading supply of untamedness that a herd of wild mustangs have yet to grasp. If danger lurks about, I will seek it out. If adventure abounds, there I will be found. If a damsel be in distress, I will show her who is best. I am a manly man.

Because I don t flush, and I leave the lid up.

I drive a 1988 Ford Pick-up truck. Girls don t break up with me, I break up with them first. ( Except the last time, it didn t really work out like that ) I don t shave the hair on my face ( Because I still can t grow facial hair yet ) But when I can, I won t, because beards are tough.

I fart, burp, and spit when I want, not caring who s nearby. Disrespect my momma, and I will punch you in the eye. I am a manly man.

Or am I? I tell my guy friends that I love em. And sometimes, sometimes I even hug em. Not because I m gay, but because I love em. And when I watched Bambi, I cried. And when my Mema gets mad, I still run and hide.

Like David, I wanna be a man after God s own heart. And I m not there yet, but I m past the start. And when people talk, I try to listen. A spirit of compassion, that s my vision. Surely I am a manly man. I want to be loved and have love and give love.

And not just that romantic kind either. Although I am looking for that beauty. Not helpless, but wants to be rescued. The damsel in distress, man, woman, myth, true. I will fight for her, climb the highest tower for her, love her, share with her, delight in her, be her warrior, her protector. She will be my crown and I will be hers. My masculinity will be passed down and affirmed to my sons. And each of my daughters will know they are lovely, and deserving of authentic romance.

Society tells me all day long that I ve defined manhood completely wrong. But you ask any honest man, and he will agree. You ask any honest woman, and she too will see, that I am a manly man.

Jewish Wedding Lessons

06-01-23 01I heard a guy (Dan Kimball who wrote “The Emerging Church” – www.vintagefaith.com ) talk the other day about what a Jewish Wedding back in Jesus’ day was like. He related the Jewish customs to our relationship with Christ as the groom. We are the bride. He is the groom. Here’s my take on it all:

1. Selection of the Bride – The first step in the process was when the father of the groom selected the bride. Young Jewish girls had little say in who they would marry and would dream about who would select them. The groom committed his love the the bride based soley on his father’s decision. The bride loved her groom simply because He had loved her first.

It’s good for us to remember that God chose us. Even in the midst of our sin against Him, He still loves us. Romans 5:8 “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Of course it is out of our response to the love that He offers us that we are able to love Him. 1 Jn 4:19 “We love because He first loved us.”


06-01-23 022. Mohar – The second step in the process is called the “mohar.” This is the price that was paid to the bride and her family. It represented the magnitude of how the groom valued her. The greater the price, the more value they had ascribed to her.

For us, we should remember that Jesus (the groom) paid the ultimate price for us with His own life. This is proof that we are incredibly valuable to God. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 “You are not your own; You were bought with a price.”

3. Engagement Contract and Gifts – After paying the “mohar,” the groom would offer the bride a list of promises which he was committing to her for the life of their marriage. This is list was called the  “ketubah.” In addition, he would give her gifts to remind her of his love while he was away. (see next step) He would also offer a cup of wine to his girl. If she accepted his offer, then she would drink of the cup without saying a word. This act ceremonially sealed the engagement before he left. (check #5)

We were given a “ketubah” (list of promises) called the Bible, and many gifts (Romans 12:6-8 – spiritual gifts, the Holy Spirit, the church, etc.) to remind us of Christ while He is away. Mark 14:25 Jesus says, “I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine again until the day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God.” The last supper represents the seal that Christ has on us.

06-01-23 034. “Mikvah” – The fourth step in this process is called “mikvah” which is a ritual bath that the bride would take to “set her apart” from the world and “for” this man. She would symbolically say – my old life is gone and the new has come.

Our baptism is our “mikvah.” It is the time when we decide to “set ourselves apart” for Christ. It is during this time that we are made “new” again. Jeremiah 1:4-5 – We are set apart for God.

5. Groom leaves to prepare the wedding chamber. Typically this would last about a year, but the groom could not decide when he was ready to come back for his bride. This decision was made by his father. Most grooms would typically want to rush through the preparations to “get on with” the wedding, so their fathers would decide when the chamber was ready. When the day finally came, the groom would gather his friends and together they’d march into town blowing a “shofar” to announce their arrival. They’d make all kinds of noise to show how proud they were for this union. It was the bride’s job to be ready (to have her lamp trimmed) for when he came.

John 14:2-3 – Jesus speaks of leaving to prepare a place for us in heaven.

Matthew 24:36 – Not even Jesus knows when He is coming back, only the Father does.

Matthew 24:31 & 1 Thessalonians 4:16 – Jesus will come to get us loudly – with a loud trumpet call.

Matthew 25:1-13 – It’s our (we are the bride) job to be ready for His arrival.

06-01-23 046. Wedding Ceremony – In most cases a “chupah” (canopy) was built for the ceremony to be performed under. It symbolized the “covering/blessing” of God on this union. The bride would receive a crown and the couple would drink another cup of wine. (Another custom which was added later is that this cup would then be broken as a symbol of the “bittersweetness” of the day – sweet for the couple, but bitter for their people whose temple had been destroyed.)

When Christ returns and gives us our crowns, our union will be complete and we will be with Him forever. As the cup is destroyed, we can remember that we will no longer need it for communion – we’re already communing with Him.

7. Wedding Feast – There was one final step in the wedding process. The party time!

This is the time after we are joined with Christ forever and begin the eternal party with Him. Rev 19:6-9 and check out who is invited to the wedding – the normal/poor people – Rev 3:20.

What God Deserves

06-01-17I was listening to a sermon by Paris Reidhead called “Ten Shekels and a Shirt.” He explains how we Christians have become humanists without even recognizing it. By coming to Christ because of heaven or some promised “better life” we are coming to Him out of our own selfish desires. We are really only after what we can get out of God – this is humanism. He goes on to suggest that God is still God and still worthy of us giving our lives for even if there was no heaven. More simply – God deserves to receive the lives that He paid for on the cross regardless of anything we might get out of the deal.

As I reflect, I wonder if it’s possible? Is there any way to give Him all I am without expecting anything or does my humanity mess that up for me. I do believe He should have what He deserves, but can’t seem to give myself totally selflessly either. If there was no heaven or any kind of reward, I would hope that I could still serve Him wholeheartedly simply because He deserves it, but. . . .would I???? How can I love selflessly?? How can I give myself unconditionally??

Only by His Spirit. Only by His power.

Lord, help me to be yours.

This link will get you to sermonaudio.com. From there you can search by speaker (Paris Reidhead) and find the download for this sermon. (Ten Shekels and a Shirt)

http://www.sermonaudio.com

Anniversary

06-01-11Miranda and I just celebrated our 2nd anniversary! It’s a miracle that anyone could live with me for that long. Thank you Jesus! I don’t do very well at the whole “romance” thing – well, not since we got married anyway. Anyway, I thought I’d make a real effort this year. I spent quite a few hours making arrangements and shopping and getting things set up with some youth from our group and planned a candlelight dinner in a park. Meggaen came to the door and picked us up as our chauffer and she brought flowers which I had pre-arranged and placed a card in. We sat in the back of her little car which was filled with flower petals and she drove us to the park. It was just about time for the sun to set as we park and we were escorted to our table which was covered in white (along with the chairs) near the water where the sun would set across the lake from us. We enjoyed a candlelight dinner as some other youth (Katie, Cristy, and Tiffany) served us. They had also placed a CD player there which played music which I had recorded for the occasion. After the sun set and we had finished dinner, (still not completely dark) we fed the ducks and made our way to a little dock. The girls had placed tealight candles around the dock and set it up for a great little dance floor. After dancing, we made our way back and helped pick things up – we also tried to leave a big tip for them of course.

Anyway, it was a beautiful night. I hope Miranda knows how much I care for her and love her. This was alot of fun to plan and arrange (I don’t do it enough) but it still wouldn’t even come close to expressing how much I feel for her. She is my bride! She is my friend! My encourager! My love.

All this is to say, I wondered afterwards about how I express my love for God. Have I gone the extra mile like this to tell Him I care about Him? What would it mean to Him if I did? How could I do that? It all reminds me of the Ten Shekel Shirt Song “Unashamed Love.”

You’re calling me to lay aside the worries of my day

to quiet down my busy mind and find a hiding place

Worthy. You are worthy.

I open up my heart and let my spirit worship Yours

I open up my my mouth and let a song of praise come forth

Worthy. You are worthy.

Of a childlike faith

and of my honest praise

of my unashamed love

Of a holy life

and of my sacrifice

Of my unashamed love

Worthy. You are worthy.

Brenda’s Wedding and My Dad

05-12-21 02Dec 21, 2005

My sister just got married this past weekend. I must admit (something you will rarely hear me say) that she was beautiful.

The wedding was at Chain of Lakes near Livingston, Texas. It was nice, but not quite what she had hoped for. The original plan was to be married on a a beach in Cozumel, but Hurricane Wilma destroyed both the resort and her plans. It was pretty funny to see my sister in a wedding dress designed for the beach and Schonn wearing a Hawaiian shirt in the middle of winter. It was about 40 degrees outside too.

Brenda and Schonn have been together for a long time, but finally made it official. It was a small little service (family and close friends) and Mike (my Father-in-Law) and I kinda tag-teamed in leading the whole thing. Brenda wanted a personal, informal service and she hads given me permission to tell a few stories on her. I was able to say a few things that only a brother could say, and we all laughed, but I tried to be quick to point out the beautiful things about their relationship and the commitment they were making. In addition to asking them about their commitment to each other, I also thought it was important to have the “family and friends” make some promises. We promised together to encourage them in their relationship and even told them collectively that we believed in them.

Anyway, I guess right now as I reflect on the whole thing – I’m hit by the feelings that come when you watch your little baby sister making a truly adult decision. I’m proud of her, excited about her future, and yet I will be sad to never know her as a little girl again. I don’t think I’ll ever see her cry over an Ewok (Star Wars) stuffed animal again. I might never double bounce her on a trampoline again. And calling her “baglady”. . . . – well, that’ll probably never change.

Another thing that hits me is the thought of my dad. Brenda stressed over this day for years ’cause he wouldn’t be there to walk her down the aisle, but you know, I never felt like he wasn’t a part of it.

Dad, you are still very much a part of who we are as a family. Schonn may have never known you, but then again, he knows us and we are just an expression of you. If we laughed, (and we did) it was because you taught us to share the joy we have. When we hiked with the boys, it was with your example before us. When we cried, it’s cause you showed us that men could hurt too. Even the simple fact that we wanted to be together for such an occasion, is a testimony to the love that you had for us and that you taught us to have for one another. The older I get, the more I see you when I look in the mirror. I love you Dad!

Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays?

05-12-21Why are Christians making such a big deal about the use of “Happy Holidays” as opposed to “Merry Christmas!” I guess I understand the concern about taking Christ out of the season, but is that really possible? To those of us who are Christians, it’s certainly not possible and to the rest of the world, well, how can they celebrate the birth of a Savior they don’t know?

I guess I just feel like if you’re gonna be upset about something, why not worry about the guy you work with who doesn’t know Christ? It seems like a much more worthy concern to me.

This whole thing just seems like something that’s “not worth the fight” to me – I’m not apathetic to the gospel, but rather I am passionate about it, and want the opportunity to communicate Christ to others without more hurdles to jump than are neccessary. These kinds of fights just throw up more walls between people and Christ. It just seems to me that our efforts should be spent serving and sharing Christ with individuals, rather than fighting over words on some billboard. Maybe even the perceptions that the world has of Christians could actually be changed by people truly loving and serving the world???

By the way, if you want to complain about the words in a phrase – Mark O from Youth Specialties says this too – is “Merry Christmas” really the best thing we can wish people during this season? “Merriment” (is that a word?) certainly isn’t at the top of my list. What about wishing them a “Peaceful Christmas” or an “Ever-Aware Christmas?” Wouldn’t it be better if people experienced the “peace that passes understanding” during such a hectic time or if they were somehow able to be “ever aware of Jesus’ presence?”

I dunno – just some random thoughts I’ve been having lately.

Chronicles of Narnia

05-12-12Chronicles of Narnia – Whoa! I just saw it movie yesterday! It was great! I’m not really into the whole fantasy genre (Lord of the what???? Well done, but just not my thing.) But this was not a typical movie. I loved all the imagery and Christian metaphors.

Lucy (disciple) stumbles through a wardrobe (salvation) to discover Narnia (spiritual world) – the land which always existed, but she had never seen.

Lucy (disciple) tells others about Narnia (spiritual world) and they don’t believe her.

Lucy’s brothers and sister only believe when they have experienced it for themselves.

Everyone tells them about Aslan with a sense of expectation and reverence.

Aslan (God) was both someone to be feared and someone to find friendship in.

The White Witch (Satan) was strong, but even she feared Aslan.

The everlasting snow curse (sin) began to melt as soon as Aslan showed up.

Edmund (Judas) betrayed his brother and sisters.

Turkish Delight (temporary satisfaction) began Edmund’s doubt about Aslan.(God)

The promise to rule Narnia is Edmund’s motivation for betrayal. (Ours is the promise to rule our own lives.)

People who have been snared by the white witch (Satan) are turned to stone. (Those who have fallen to Satan have hearts which are turned to stone.)

Aslan (God) can breathe on them and they come back to life. (We are given new hearts by God.)

Aslan (God) sacrifices his own life for the sins of his followers to satisfy the “deep magic.” (Old Testament Law requiring death for sin.)

Aslan (God) dies on the stone table (cross). When he is resurrected, there is an earthquake and the stone is broken. (The stone in front of Jesus’ tomb is moved.)

Susan and Lucy (women) were the first to see the risen Aslan.

Aslan (God) crushes the White Witch (Satan) in the final battle.

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These are just a few of the things I noticed. Check it out yourself if you haven’t seen it already.

[re]Understanding Prayer

05-11-25I’ve been reading a book by Kyle Lake lately called “[re]Understanding Prayer.” (By the way, he’s the guy from UBC Waco who was electrocuted recently while doing a baptism.) Anyway, one of the chapters focuses on Prayer as Drama. He talks about how we learn certain “scripts” from the people in our church as we grow up in our faith. We tend to use certain phrases and emotional dynamics which we have learned from others in the church. He goes on to explain that those who have been in the church the longest seem to be the ones who are the best “actors” – they know the scripts better than everyone else.

I’d have to confess that this is true of me. I’ve been in the church long enough to learn the “scripts” pretty well – I can “act” Christian with the best of ’em.

You know, the youth that I work with are always reluctant to pray in front of the group. I don’t believe this is because they don’t know how to talk to God (I mean, they talk to God all the time privately) – I think it’s because they don’t know the “scripts” all that well and are afraid to look like bad “actors.” Why do we as the church create these kinds of situations where we make feel others feel insecure? Do we do it because it makes us feel superior with our fancy words? (Check Mt 6:5-8) I wonder what I can do to combat this issue? I wonder how I can help create an environment where we all can just be ourselves, and be humble and honest in our dealings with God?

I’ve seen alot of bad “actors” when it comes to prayer – but I’ve also noticed that many of them are the very ones who seem to have a passion that goes beyond my understanding. I wonder if their relationship with God is just more open. I wonder what it would mean to be “like a child” when it comes to prayer?

The best example I know of someone to look up to – who doesn’t follow a script – is my friend Jon. He just talks to God, “Well God, it’s me again  and . . . .”

Thanks Jon, I’m learning from you – oh – and also thanks Kyle for your book which has helped me recognize some of this stuff.

And thank you God for giving me the gift of each of these two men.

Alfredo, Lowes, a wennie dog, and a truck!

Alright – something strange happened the other day. I was at Lowes with Miranda and we were buying wood so I could build some end tables and a coffee table. Anyway, we got everything we needed – by the way – Lowes is cool! – anything you could ever need – I even found an orange cone so I could put them up around the area where I was working – How cool is that? OK – so I steered our little buggy palette to the car and started loading the car. Uh oh! You guessed it. A 4X8 sheet of plywood won’t fit in an Explorer. I thought it would ’cause we had put a 4X4 in the previous week. So now I’m in trouble and Miranda is getting embarrassed as people watched and laughed at us when they went into the store. Then, out of nowhere this man just kind of appears behind me and asks, “Where do you live?” As I turn around to look at him, I kinda mumble something, I’m not sure what I said.

Then he says, “You live in Lake Jackson?”

I say, “Yes!”

and he says “Here, take my truck.” and hands me his keys.

A TOTAL STRANGER HANDS ME HIS KEYS! – never even asked my name.

I try to talk him into coming with us, but he says he trusts us, and insists on giving us his keys. I decided it was the only way we were getting that stuff home and Miranda doesn’t need to be embarrassed anymore, and take his keys. I tell him my name and that I work in a church and then he says he’s a Pastor of another church. We take his truck with his little wennie dog “Katie” to our house and then bring it back to Lowes and give him his keys back. End of story. . . . .

Now here’s my take on it. We were studying John 4 the next day with the youth. That’s where Jesus talks with the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus broke down all kinds of stereotypes and laws when he spoke to her. Jewish men didn’t speak to women in public, they didn’t speak to Samaritans, and they didn’t speak to “ungodly” people (remember she had had like 5 husbands) Anyway, Jesus crossed all these lines just to give her a better life.

This man (“Alfredo” was his name) broke the unwritten law of not trusting strangers to make our lives better. He even trusted us with his dog.

“Alfredo” – wherever you are today. You should know, you were Jesus to me that day! Thanks! God bless you!