Saturday, August 30, 2008

Void the Void

Hebrews 12:1-2

1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

I still find myself to be broken in so many ways; frustrated that I don't seem to walk in grace and faith and victory at all times. I mean really c'mon! How can I lose? How can I stumble or fall?! I have the Holy Spirit of God with me, Jesus in my heart, and His Word implanted in me. Obviously I haven't allowed it to be engrafted to the point of saving my "soul" (renewing my mind to the extent of walking in perpetual righteousness). I'm not saying I'm not saved - just incomplete in him

I often think of all of the Psalms and Proverbs that speak of walking "upright" before the Lord. I find that my gaze often darts from Him, or my countenance is humbled in shame. How can I walk upright before Him when I feel so inadequate in my failings and humanity? Oh that I could understand the treasure in the clay and walking in His way in lieu of my own.

As my flesh cries out for it's desires to be filled, be it Mcdonald's fries or the sloth of the sheets, I find I am as likely to walk in disobedience as not. I need some spiritual steroids, performance enhancers if you will. Now don't get me wrong, its' not about works to earn right-standing, but having my feet follow my confession of faith. I desire to have clean hands and a pure heart.

I believe two those things can be divorced. We can have the desire to walk in righteousness with our hearts in love with our Savior while finding that we do that that thing we wish not to, or not doing the thing we wish to as Paul says in Romans; or as the Hebrews author puts it, that "sin that so easily besets us." When we fall prey to such devices of the devil, or to our own selfish interests, we diminish ourselves with self. The Spirit seeks to sit where sin and/or self reigns. What is your sin(s) that so easily beset you?

The lust of the eye?
The lust of the flesh?
The pride of life?

Yep. That's me - all of the above. At some point or another, I will still fall prey to one of these implements of the enemy. I may see something to make my mind stray from Him and His purpose in me, or I will desire something that is contrary to His will and/or my benefit, or I will demand my right for MY way over his. Why is that?

I conclude there is still a void in me that needs to be filled with more of Him. So I am proactively seeking to submit more to Him today than I did yesterday, and then pursue Him with greater intensity tomorrow. Intentionality is a word I keep hearing over and over again. My prayer for you as that you will intentionally inquire of the Lord what you need to submit to Him this day so you can take that next step in your journey to Him and to wholeness.

I crave His Presence to fill the holes of my heart, for in His Presence is fullness of Joy. I have asked Him to illumine the spaces in me that are playrooms of darkness and let His Light dispel it. I continue to invite Him to come, stay, and occupy, instead of temporal visitations and manifestations of grace. Lord that you would live in and work through me.

May I walk upright before you looking into your face for strength rather than downcast in defeat. In You is found purpose so I sing your praise that you may inhabit it and me - a tent of your dwelling. Fill me up with your mercy and grace that I can walk as a son. May you too be refilled, renewed, restored.

Psalm 51:10-13
10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence

or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation

and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,

and sinners will turn back to you.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Six Sigma...Sorta

Eph 4:16-19 (NIV) From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.

In the manufacturing world there is a point-of-focus tool used for efficiency and organization known as Six Sigma or commonly referred to as “6S.” These alliterative “best practice” categories (with slight variations from company to company) are listed as: Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardize, Safety, and Sustain. This is simply an easy way to remind people on how to order their work-life environs.

In the last few weeks I’ve been exposed to a couple of Bros who have had that same simplistic sensible yet spiritual sigma sound in their exegesis (see Jesus.exe).

My new friend Ty preached a sermon on the passage above. In it he spoke of our need to renew our minds so we could present our bodies (Romans 12:1-2). He talked about meditating on God’s word to allow the life therein to crowd out the crap (my word - not his) that has taken up residence. There is deliverance there. When we submit to the will of the Spirit, “works” can become a place of life-giving experiences born out of His grace and our Faith.

He spoke of the illegitimate ways we obtain Security, Significance, and Satisfaction. Those three “S’s” are found in the sensitivity of the Spirit yet we search for it in the scents of the flesh. Sensuality is never satisfied because it is driven by that flesh and its 5 senses. This is why the renewed mind is so vital. It understands that whole “Love is a verb” principle and willingly presents the vessel to be conformed into the Potters image.

Additionally, my buddy Paul was studying the parable of the Sower. As he digested this passage, he began to sense and see some savory spiritual Sigma morsels himself.

Matthew 13: 1Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water's edge. 2He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: 3"Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.

5Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. 8Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times."

My bro Paul noted the “birds of the air” coming to steal or snatch the seed sown is shown to be Satan. The rocky ground that doesn’t seem to support the seed sown because it is shallow he says is “Self.” And finally, the thorns that strangle the seed sown because of the cares of this world and pursuit of riches is this world’s “System.”

I can certainly see that this seed-sowing story says more than what we see on the surface. Jesus himself had to sit the disciples down and show them the truth of what He said. Seeds are sown daily. Good seed and bad. We can let the bad wither and die while becoming fertile soil for the good, or vice verse.

Our enemy prowls seeking to steal, kill and destroy; our selfish pride and lust of our own fleshly desires won't sustain the life of Christ in us; and our pursuit of happiness in any source but our Savior will choke out the destiny He has set in our sights. If we could apply the simplicity of secular Six Sigma to our spiritual sojourn then something savory and succulent might manifest in our journey.

Sort - put things in their proper perspective seeing with His eyes.
Straighten - as my friend Byron says, "make the first thing the first thing." Give stuff and Him their proper priority.
Shine - Let your light shine as a reflection of His.
Standardize - remember the fundamentals and your first love - Jesus. He is our standard by which we live, and our standard bearer and banner of victory.
Safety - When feeling vulnerable or weak, run to Him. Dwell in the secret place of the Most High beneath the shadow of the Almighty.
Sustain - He is the Bread of Life - our sustenance.

In Him we find we are secure, significant, and truly satisfied like no other. Through Him we have the power to resist satan, self, and senseless systems. So sing songs of deliverance, and celebrate being salt and seasoning in your surroundings. Sow, say, and share the salve of serindipitous service to others. See the glorious appearing of the Son in their lives. Savour the sound of sons and daughters sprouting as shoots of Saints, or as sand on the shore of His chrystal sea of love. Say, that sounds like the roar of rushing waters. Slurp.

The Revelation 19:6 Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: "Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. 7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. 8 Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear." (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) 9 Then the angel said to me, "Write: 'Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!' " And he added, "These are the true words of God."

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Love is a VERB

James 2:18-20 (NIV) But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that-- and shudder. You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?

Zealot Tim the Younger was sitting at his desk one day at lunch reading his bible. The quietness of lunchtime in that particular place was an incredibly serene setting compared to most offices. As the prophet sat feasting on the bread of Life, a Catholic acquaintance of his came skipping by and noticed Tim lost in the Word.

Wanting to impress the studious man of God with his scriptural prowess, "skippy" pierced the tranquility like the first cannon shot in a volley of artillery. He fired off a quick quote of John 3:16 as he passed by Timmy's desk. To this the prophet stood and responded with equal self-righteous vigor, a line from the above verse, “Well, even the demons believe and they shudder!”

You would have thought “the Rev” (as he was known by many back then) had just set off a tactical nuke! The gophering that took place in that cube farm was nothing short of well, biblical proportions. Heads popped up with the ensuing interrogation from a few that went something sort of like this:

Faceless crowd member: “So you are saying it takes more than faith to be a Christian?”
Man Of God: No. I’m saying if you have real faith, your feet will follow what your mouth professes.
Insignificant sojourner: “What you’re really saying is that we are justified by works?”
M-O-G: No greasy grace guy, I’m saying if you believe what you say, then your faith will be on display in your actions.
Carnal "Christian Wannabe": “That sounds a lot like works to me.”
M-O-G: Um – do you use a black “highlighter” on the parts of scripture you don’t like? What I quoted was as much scripture as your beloved Baptist once-saved-always-saved so set the cruise control and onto heaven we go John 3:16 passage. If you don’t like James as much as John, just tear out that part of your bible and be done with it, otherwise take it up with the Holy Spirit, He wrote it not me. I’m just trying to walk it out. Any one else?

Heads slowly disappeared behind fabric of beige and crickets began their chorus of chirping once again. I returned to my bible study of one, unfazed by the spiritual wounds I had inflicted. Tim – 0, Others – 0. That exchange happened about 16 years ago. My oh my, how time flies when you’re slaying demons…and Christians.

Since that time I have gone more charismaniac, got burned out and left the church completely, embraced ooey-gooey-greasy-grace, returned to church, and finally discovered some modicum of spiritual balance while noting I am still in this tremendous glorious incredible and frustrating journey. Thank you Jesus.

I find that through it all there is still this battle between faith and works, and where one ends and the other begins. What I often discover is that others are okay with someone else doing “works” but are rarely okay in being challenged to engage themselves.

“That’s not my calling.” Newsflash: It doesn’t take a “calling” to recognize a need in someone. Insert primal scream here. I can see the “anyone can yell the truth” rebuke coming. Yep – and anyone can whisper “fire!” too.

If God is Love, and Jesus is the full expression of the Father, and Jesus is the Word, and the Word of God is living and active, then what in the wide world of sports are we “doing” in a proactive way to further God’s Kingdom?

It’s like we’ve become the Cousin Eddie character in Christmas Vacation who has been waiting for a “management position” for about 7 years. Hey Lord, I’ll just hang our here until someone in need falls in my lap, then I’ll call someone else who I know can help them.

My bride called her “Women’s Ministry Pastor” at a church we used to go to and asked for her to gather a few ladies to come with her to minister to a friend whose husband had left her. The agreed upon plan was to get two or three women to meet her at this lady’s house and just love on her and pray with her while my wife Ally cleaned her house.

A week or so later, at the appointed time, and as she was on the way to meet them, she got a call from the “women’s pastor” saying that no one would be meeting her and they felt like since it was her friend, she would be better equipped to minister to her (and clean too I guess). I’ve seen this type of nonsense in “the church” repeatedly, and we wonder why congregations dwindle and the world thinks us hypocrites?

Our Christian cliché of "Jesus is the answer" is really not enough to the world anymore – or even the hurting in the church for that matter. While that statement is truth it is not the whole Truth. The “Truth” is that the Jesus IN us may be the answer that responds to someone's pain or meets another’s need. If there was ever an example of Love as a verb it was Jesus and his relentless walk through this life meeting needs along the way, and ultimately submitting to a torturous death.

He spoke of examples like: the rich man and Lazarus, the Good Samaritan, and "the least of these." He taught us how in the sending out of the 72. He became the ultimate verb on the Cross, out of the grave, and on the throne. What's not to understand here? Pardon my passion but its time to get off your butts and love someone like He loves you, because this is how we know you are His disciples.

I am no longer impressed by the confession that rings hollow from the couch. Don't hear what I'm not saying. I know “good works” don't save you, but they are a pretty good yardstick for where you are in your journey. Some of you set up camp when you got saved and never broke it.

In the grace and blessings we all have received, how is it we still struggle with sharing our time, talents, and energy outside the Sunday morning church service? I love the local church, it does great things, but we can’t use that as our excuse to insulate us from where the rubber truly meets the road.

Galatians 5:6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

We have had 12 straight days over 100 degrees here in DFW. I bet there were some homeless people that have died of dehydration. How difficult would it be for us to just load up a cooler of Gatorade, or even bottles of water, and take it to the streets and hand them out? Just giving someone a bottle of water and telling them that Jesus hasn't forgotten them might change their life. Jesus is our and their only hope-eternal and we need to share that with them.

Do the thing that is next, saith the proverb, And a nobler shall yet succeed: 'Tis the motive exalts the action; 'Tis the doing, not the deed. Margaret Junkin Preston

My friend Byron, a father in the faith, does some marriage counseling. One of the most important principles he teaches a young lady is to not pay as much attention to what a guy says, but pay close attention to what he does instead. As the bride of Christ, that is valuable information to have right there. Jesus’ actions matched his words. Does ours? Activity void of love is a clanging cymbal. Faith without works is dead. Marry those two up and it’s life. Let’s live it and move it!