Archives For Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)



Great day I experienced with classes, super-sessions and keynote messages from some of the finest people in Christianity. I typed 10 pages of notes yesterday so I cannot include everything here but I want to give you some highlights that stood out to me.

Tuesday Morning, Mike Cope “Spiritual Intubation: How Community Keeps Us Alive” The Wizard of Oz: Revelation’s View of Community

  • “No church ever existed in a pure state. The church is made up of sinners. The fleas come with the dogs.” (Eugene Peterson)
  • Four characters who are known by their deficiencies. Much like Christians today.
  • Showing of who Oz really is. “The great Oz has spoken, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”
  • Pergamum
    • It’s a great distance from Colorado Springs to Pergamum.
    • In Pergamum it was very, very different.
    • Everywhere people went they told two stories: the power of Rome and Greek gods and goddesses. Everywhere they went they are told that they are caught up in and how could they not believe it. It “has to be true.”  Every market, athletic event, silver item told them about temple worship.
    • Where is the Pergamum church of Christ?
      • A tiny…insignificant few.
      • Imagine holding on to the story of Jesus while walking among the temples and other places where the minority is huge.
      • Have you been the minority?
      • Power, honor, identity was wrapped up into gods and Rome not Christ.
    • Persecuted Christians get it
    • “Though St. John the Evangelist saw many strange monsters in his vision, he saw he saw no creatures so wild as one of his own commentators.” G. K. Chesteron
  • Deep Community is anchored in Jesus
  • Deep community has to be eschatological in nature.
  • Deep community is at its best when it is part of a mission…a larger story.

Tuesday Morning Keynote Kurt Johnston @kurtjohnston “Deep, Redefined”

  • Have you ever stopped and thought about all the things in youth ministry that you don’t do very well? We are great at trying to control the perceptions of other people. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are great at creating perception of us.
  • Four truths I have learned that have 1) pointed out my shallowness and 2) led him into a deeper experience in faith.
    • Life is a squiggle
    • I need a travel partner
    • Busyness will keep you in the shallow end.
    • When you begin to have a long view of youth ministry

Tuesday Super Session Frank Viola @FrankViola “The Missing Ingredient”

Observations about ministry to young people:

  • Catch30 Crisis – Human beings go through developmental stages as they get old. When they are 30 they reassess every decision they made in their 20s and they either abandon what hey believed or abandon them. You don’t know where someone is spiritually until they are thirty. You could not serve in the house of God until you were 30. Jesus did not begin his ministry until he was 30. Young people need to be prepared for this.
  • There is a difference between youthful enthusiasm and spirituality. Most of the big Christian movements are built on youthful enthusiasm. The problem is that many operates on youthful enthusiasm and the well runs dry
  • You can’t pass on to those whom you minister to what you have not experienced yourself.
  • I have to prepare them for the forgotten beatitude. Blessed is he who is not offended by me.

Other Notes from class…

  • If you cut the bible in any place it will bleed Jesus Christ.
  • Moses and Christ
  • Creation and Christ
  • Isaac and Christ
  • Jacob and Christ
  • Conclusion  – #1 – Find Christ in the bible. #2 – Do business with the Lord

Tuesday Afternoon Class 1 Josh Graves @JoshGraves “The Bible Jesus Read: Genesis 1-2”

2 Timothy 3:14-17; John 5

  • We need a more mystical understanding of Scripture. But also how it calls us to new spaces.
  • “All Scripture” does not exist yet and he has in mind Torah.
  • Inspired…he does not infallible, inerrant. They never show up in the bible. Sometimes the most important work we do is not learning new things but relearning old things.
  • 2 Timothy is not about proving Scripture over science but it is about inviting people into God’s world in order to see the world differently and “to do something about it.”
  • These stories carry the freight in any given culture.

Genesis 1

  • God can’t help but to create. He is in control. The things God creates would not be believable if we have not seen them.
  • Everything else that has creativity or imagination that somehow it is all linked back to the God who started.
  • One of the ways Genesis invites us to go deeper and that we live in a good creation. Does not deny the dark side of life but he made everything and called it good.
  • Most people who tell the story of God begin with Genesis 3 and not Genesis 1.
  • We have to introduce paradox to our students. Life is full of joy and pain. Paradox is one of the greatest contribution to the Western world.

Tuesday Afternoon Class 2 Sally Gary @centerpeaceinc “Reaching out to Teens Who Identify as Gay and Lesbians”

Many who struggle with same sex attraction but still love the Lord.  Struggles do not divide us.

Starved for Intimacy. Facebook and its struggles for intimacy. Question is: How can we meet this need? This desire for community. There is a great need for this connection.

What teens learn from the world: Glee, Modern Family.

What teens learn from the church: Nasty messages about homosexuals from the church

What they need is looking for a safe place.

How to be a safe place?

Deal with our own fears.

  • Change our thinking
  • Change our language
  • Listen
  • Be consistent
  • Model the Love and Acceptance of Christ

Tuesday Night Keynote Frank Viola @FrankViola “God so loved the world vs. Love not the world.”

The world in the New Testament is used in two ways…

  1. Speaks of the material universe. Jesus of Nazareth is this world’s true Lord.
  2. A system or network or order of things designed to draw us away from God.

Historically Christians have taken two postures: 1) Retreated from the world’s system (Isolationism) 2) Enmeshed by the world and married to it.

The most miserable person is a Christian who is living in a way where deep inside them they are told to give something up and they can’t. When we are in community with other Christians the Holy Spirit is clearest.

The Holy Spirit will reveal to you what is of the world.

2 Kind of legalists: 1) Salvation by works 2) I am going to take what the Holy Spirit has shown me personally and make it a law to you.

“The gospel spreads best not through force but through fascination” (Shane Claiborne)

Dinner in Colorado Springs: Uchenna Ethiopian Restaurant

This was ranked #2 in Colorado Springs by TripAdvisor and it was awesome. I had Yebeg Alecha which was tender pieces of lamb marinated with butter then sautèed with ginger, garlic, and 12 spices. There were no forks but you had this roll that you put the meat and the sauce in. It was excellent. The owner’s name is Maya and they cooked everything to order so it took a while but the food was worth it. They have mostly organic food and a substantial vegetarian menu. I have never tried authentic Ethiopian cuisine but this was a must! Went a left the owner looked at me and said, “Go in peace.” I love her already.

 


“Messy Spirituality is the scandalous assertion that following Christ is anything but tidy and neat, balanced and orderly.  Far from it.  Spirituality is complex, complicated, and perplexing-the disorderly, sloppy, chaotic look of authentic faith in the real world.  Spirituality is anything but a straight line; it is a mixed-up, topsy-turvy, helter-skelter godliness that turns our lives into an upside-down toboggan ride full of unexpected turns, surprise bumps, and bone-shattering crashes.  In other words, messy spirituality is the delirious consequence of a life ruined by a Jesus who will love us right into his arms.”

Mike Yaconelli, Messy Spirituality, p. 27.

Messy Spirituality Quote

Memphoplin (Part 1)

June 22, 2011 — 6 Comments

For the first time in a long time I have the opportunity to blog.  I was out of pocket for most of June with back-to-back mission trips and we have VBS this week so my blogging has been pathetic at-best.  What I wanted to do is share a few stories about what we did as a church and some of the experiences we shared.

Memphis

We worked with Memphis Urban Ministry (specifically the Raleigh Community Church of Christ) in operating their day camp.  From 9am-11:30am (M-F) we had a VBS where they participated in “Walking through Jerusalem.”  Each day they got to experience a different marketplace and learn about the culture when Jesus was on the earth.  You could tell that the kids were absolutely amazed at what they saw and experienced.  Jerica Briggs, one of the hardest working individuals I know, operated the day camp while we were there.  She had a special gift from God that enabled her to reach the students in a way not many could.  In the afternoons we helped with various activities and assisted the staff in whatever capacity we could.

There are more specifics to what we did but I want to share with you one story about one of the inner-city children.  Jerica explained to us that the Raleigh community looks like a nice neighborhood (and it did) with nice suburban homes (there were) but the problem is that when the black folks started going out of the city toward the suburbs the white folks left (white-flight).  As a result, the gangs moved in and crime has escalated in areas outside of Memphis.  One example is the story of John Doe (not his name but I want to keep things private) who, at the age of seven, aspires to be in a gang.  When asked, “What do you want to do in life?”  He said, “be in a gang.”  He already knows the gang symbols, the gang colors and the Tuesday before we came his house was “shot-up” by another gang because his dad was in a rival gang.  I have experienced some rough kids in my day but this one has to top them all.  There was no respect for authority, he did not trust us, and he could care less about the songs we sang or the games we played.

Yet, toward the end of the week, because of one of our adults Clay, this rough kid started singing and participating in the games.  I could tell that a change was occurring in his demeanor and he (though he wouldn’t admit it) actually wanted to be there.  I can’t speak for the teenagers but only speak for myself in saying that I have failed in reaching the inner-city communities of Springfield.  I have falsely assumed things about them (like they don’t want to listen) yet they, in my experience, were more hungry for the Word than I was.  Any affirmation or praise that we gave them was soaked up like water in a sponge.  They were more than willing to learn and even showed signs of absolute brilliance.

The problem with these mission trips is that we go thousands of miles on thousand dollar budgets to get an experience on reaching the poor yet we fail (miserably I might add) at reaching people in our own backyards.  I think there are some serious reasons we are not reaching our inner-city folks like we should:

  1. Racism – Not everyone is a racist but I believe there are many who still cannot worship with people of a different race.  Not only is that ethically wrong to be like that it is biblically wrong (see Matt. 22:37-39; Col. 3:1-11 to name a couple).  Mixed in with this idea of racism there may be the assumption that we have an African-American church in town that can reach “those types of people” while we can reach “other types.”  Something is incredibly wrong when brothers and sisters in Christ cannot worship each other based on skin-color or socio-economic status.
  2. We are not set up to reach people like that.  I think this assumption is correct.  If you look at our church buildings, most of them are set up to suit the member’s needs.  After all, the members are the ones who pay to keep the building in operation.  You have these massive buildings that say nothing more than, “Look how much money we spent on this building!”  to make matters more difficult, our attire says, “You have to own a suit or a dress in order to show up for services.”  That may not be the intention but that is there is assumption.  Then we say, look right…dress right…then act right and then you can come to our services.  If someone was addicted to crack the last place they would go is a church.  Why?  Because they have it all together right?  Someone got upset at me one time because I did not wear a tie on Sunday night while I preached.  I looked at them and said, “Why aren’t you wearing a tie?”  “Well that’s expected of a preacher to wear a tie not me!”  I said, “Where in the Bible does it say that?”  The argument quickly fizzled and the point I made was that we are never going to reach inner-city folks if we do not set up our building, worship and mentality to address their real needs.

Of course, all of this is operating under the assumption that we need to bring them to a location.  What would it be like to grab a few people from church and on Wednesday nights or Sunday nights bring the church into the community?  Chew on that for a little bit…read the gospels and Acts to see where I am going with this thought pattern.

I am going to pause here because I feel like this is enough for now.  The experience opened my eyes about ministry and how we as a church are not being mission-minded like we should.  Tomorrow I will talk about Joplin.

The Graduation Speech

May 16, 2011 — 1 Comment

[DISCLAIMER: It is 3,299 words so pack a lunch and read it then.]

The Graduation Speech

By Robbie Mackenzie (Preached at the Main Street church of Christ May 15, 2011)

            I have done many things since I have been alive.  I have been to South America and Africa.  I have attended numerous World Series games.  I hiked down the Grand Canyon and back up in one day.  I have watched four beautiful kids come into this world.  But there are many things in this world I have not experienced.  I have never jumped out of an airplane.  I have never, unfortunately, found gold on the other side of a rainbow.  I have never been to the North Pole and I have never, ever participated in synchronized swimming.  Something else I have never done is speak at a graduation.  I have probably sat through some thirty graduations and even leaving one in the middle only to arrive at another in the middle.  I have heard every quote imaginable like, “This is the first day of the rest of your life,” and “If it’s to be it’s up to me.”  I have heard many people misquote enough Scripture for me to pull my hair out and by the looks of my hair I have heard a lot of misquoted Scripture.  Nobody remembers a graduation speech because they are all the same.  This is why I am offering you a different graduation speech but in the end it will be forgettable and pretty soon it will be—well—just another graduation speech.

            If I were to graduate again (which may happen) I would want to hear this type of speech at my graduation.  I would want to have someone tell me what really might happen as opposed to God’s plans to “prosper us and not to harm us” (Jer. 29:11; taken out of context of course :)).  Those who have battled drugs, alcohol, divorce, financial heartache and difficult circumstances usually are not the ones invited to speak at graduations.  Why?  People want to hear the wealthy, famous, successful and “problem-free” at graduations yet those people are in the minority.  Most of us fit into the second category of simple, problem-full, but content with our lives.  That’s boring and nobody wants to hear about it.  So this is my attempt to put pen to paper and give flesh to words that I would say if it were the last words I would say to a graduate.  The speech is more about what you really may experience but it is a little uncertain.  So here we go.

            First of all, you’re going to grow apart from your friends.  There are certain people in your graduating class you will never ever see or talk to again.  Even your BFFs, whom you swore, pinkie-promised, and vowed to stay in touch via text, phone, SKYPE, or even just a visit on weekends, will grow apart from you.  It’s going to be awkward when you come home and go back to a high-school football game and see your old buddies.  You will realize they have changed and so have you and it will be a cool feeling knowing you are the college kid.  Pretty soon you will just feel old and then you will stop going back to high-school functions.  The saddest part about going different ways is watching some of your friends who cannot accept the fact that they are no longer in high-school.  They still talk like high-schoolers, hang out with high-schoolers, and their maturity level stays that way for years.  If they could just grow up and move on life would be better but they can’t.  That may be you by the way.  What they don’t tell you after you graduate is that life happens and things get in the way and we just become too busy.  You might even lose a friend tragically in a car accident, overdose, or a physical ailment like cancer or something else.  It’s going to hurt and you will cry.

            You’re going to realize that the boyfriend or girlfriend you thought you would spend the rest of your life with will not work out.  Nor will the next three or four.  You will realize that there are some seriously messed-up people out there who are looking for nothing more to score with you and that is going to hurt.  Perhaps you’re on the other spectrum and you will just wait, and wait, and wait while everyone around you is getting a significant other without trying yet you pray, ask someone out and still nobody will date you.  Then you’re going to go home and it’s going to sting every time someone asks you, “Are you seeing anybody yet?” and then the awkward look you get when you say, “No!”  To make matters worse they will offer you a monologue about them having two kids by the time they were your age.  That doesn’t help either.  Life does not consist in a relationship but it sure beats being lonely sometimes.

            You’re going to have to say goodbye to your parents.  Whether you work at home or go off to college you will have to say goodbye to them somehow.  You’re going to have to convince your parents that them moving in with you in your dorm room is actually a horrible idea.  They are going to call you, once, twice maybe three times a day just to hear your voice.  Some of you will want to run from your parents so bad and so fast that you are going to blaze a trail along the way but some of you are not going to want to leave your parents because you will be afraid.  You will get homesick because you’re going to miss the family meals, nights at the park, and games of uno, vacation and long conversations on the way to school.  The phone calls from mom will get really annoying but deep down inside her voice will be like water in the driest African desert.

            You’re going to be broke.  Growing up your mom and dad were like a free-flowing ATM but now that day is long gone and you actually might have to work which, by the way, you don’t have time for.  You may get into credit card trouble thinking you can pay the balance sometime later if you just meet the minimum payment and it’s going to come back to bite you in a very personal way.  Worst of all, you might actually get that date with that someone only to be so broke you have to spend your romantic night at the dining hall or McDonald’s because you can’t afford anything else.  By the way, your mom is calling you and you probably should pick the phone up.

            You’re going to change physically.  It’s a strange thing that actually eating 8-10 Krystals used to be fun and proper nourishment but now all of that eating during freshman year has become a part of your backside that you, literally, carry with you wherever you go.  The concept of “freshman 15” no longer is a myth as you’re just trying to avoid freshman forty as you huff and puff up the stairs to your room.  On top of that, guys you might start to notice that you lose hair at this time and girls you might start getting wrinkles.  Your chaotic schedule and stressful demands does not make your physical issues any better.  You may also get the world’s worst case of Athlete’s Foot because apparently your roommate does not have the human dignity to wear shower shoes or at least cut his feet off.  The sad part of this is that you’re going to realize quickly that the physical issues, from this point on, only get worse.

            You’re going to struggle attending worship services because mom and dad are not there to wake you up.  Wait—is that mom calling me again?  You are going to wonder what’s the point of attending services.  You’re going to look at the people in the church and say it is filled with hypocrites and, you may be right.  You’re going to struggle immensely at fitting-in and you are going to wish you could come back and participate in youth group again but your jerk of a youth minister will not let you.  You’re going to wrestle with what the church is versus what it was in Scripture (welcome to the club).  You’re going to wonder why churches invest so much time, resources and money with programs like the youth, older members, missions, building funds and yet not much time, resources and money (if any) are invested in college students.  For you, church is going to be difficult.

            You’re going to do some things you’re going to regret.  Some of them may be minor but some of them are going to be major.  You’re going to wish you could take it all back but you won’t be able to.  You’re going to remember what your parents said about the dangers and now you’re going to have to tell them what you just did.  It’s going to break their heart.  The saddest part of it all is that you’re too stubborn to learn your lesson and so you’re going to do it all over again.  You’re going to sit there late at night looking up at the ceiling wondering what you are going to do with your life.  You may want to end it all.

            You’re going to struggle with God.  Who is this divine being that was taught so heavily to you?  God has not been helpful to you and by the looks at what’s happening in the world God really doesn’t seem to care anymore.  You’re going to have people cast doubt on your faith with different beliefs, ideologies and philosophical inquiries which some seem possible to believe.  You’re going to try to help your faith by doing what your parents, youth minister or preacher suggested.  It’s going to be tough and in my experience, when the going gets tough sometimes…well…the tough gets tougher.  There are going to be moments when all you can think about God is anger, frustration and confusion.  Like David, you are going to say, “How long, O Lord?  How long?” (Psalm 13).

But…

However…

Nevertheless…

            You’re going to make new friends.  The kind of friends who do not have strings attached to them.  The kind of friends whom you will laugh with, cry with and the kind of friends who will be, like the Proverb writer said, “closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24).  The friends you make will be in your weddings,Teen girls on college campus at the hospital when you have a baby and next to you when you lose someone you love.  The kind of friend who will utterly depend on you and years down the road these friends will need you most when their own world is turned upside down.  You’re going to go to baseball games with these friends, have cookouts, go on mission trips with them and you might even have the opportunity lead a few of those friends to Christ.

            You’re going to meet someone…it may take years…and you know what…it may not happen.  You’re going to look at that sweet lady who keeps asking you if you’re married yet because she had two children by your age and you’re going to smile and say, “that’s not what God wants me to do right now.”  God will make it happen if it needs to happen and you’re going to be just fine with that.  You just might have four kids before you are thirty though and people, by the way, will make fun of you and call you crazy and psycho but you will realize that you will be 47 by the time your last one graduates high-school which will be the age your buddy will be when his first one starts middle school.  But it’s also ok if you wait that long.  You follow what God wants you to do not someone else.  It’s ok to be crazy so don’t change that for a second.  In the words of the musician Tom Cochrane, “Life is a highway and I want to ride it all night long.”  You’re going to be able to look at the person you will spend the rest of your life with and vow to be with them in sickness, and in health until death due you part.  You’re going to get that same passion every time you go to someone else’s wedding and you’re going to wake up each day feeling unworthy to wake up beside the most beautiful person in the world…not your youngest child who crawled in the bed…but your spouse.  You’re going to really feel blessed to be next to that beautiful person especially when you make it to the mirror in the mornings.

              You’re going to regret trying to run away from your mom and dad so quickly.  You’re going to want to pick up the phone and call them as much as possible.  You’re going to remember their lectures, words of “wisdom”, and caution and know that they were actually right.   If God blesses you with a child you’re going to name the child after your parents because of the influence that had on your life.  However, if home was a nightmare filled with abuse then you’re going to prove mom and dad wrong.  You’re going to make a difference and with God’s help you will show them what you can do even when they told you it couldn’t be done.

            You will eventually make money but still, somehow, be broke for a while.  It will be tough at first (remember the credit cards and loans?) but God will provide and mom and dad will help you out.  I promise.  If you don’t go to college then no worries because no matter what anyone says it’s ok for you not to go to college because, get this, college is not for everyone.  You will show them that you can still provide and work hard and do what God wants you to do.  The church will step in and provide for you in times when you could not provide for yourself.  You will have to fight the evils of consumerism and you will eventually give much of your income to the church.  People will think of you as crazy, stupid and a little off kilter but you will consider that suffering for the kingdom’s sake and little bit like emptying yourself which is what Jesus did for you.  You will have ups and downs financially and there will be days you will have to eat beans and rice and rice and beans but you will make it because all you need is a roof over your head and food on the table.

            You will learn to live with your body.  It’s ok that your body is not in pristine shape or that it’s shape looks like a hamburger rather than an hour glass.  It’s ok.  God just wants you to be healthy.  You will eventually enjoy eating things like salads, grapefruits, tree bark and you will especially enjoy drinking lots and lots of water.  Balding only gets worse and so do the wrinkles and your physical deterioration will be a daily reminder thanks to your kids and sometimes teenagers who decide to take a stab.  Laugh at this and consider it a way God humbles you.  Look at your body as a gift from God and each day is another opportunity that someone else did not get.

            You will eventually grow to love and adore the church.  Yes there are hypocrites in church but your experience in life will show you that there are hypocrites everywhere inside and outside the church.  The church never claimed to be perfect anyways besides there are so many people in the church who have changed their lives drastically because of the work of the church through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.  The church will need you to teach a class, lead a song, direct a program, visit the sick or teach a bible class.  You will have a renewed commitment to the church and it will drive you and you will soon find out that it is not you that is driving you but it is the Spirit of God inside of you.  You’re going to find out that the church is filled with plenty of people as messed-up as you!  That will put a smile on your face and the face of thousands of angels watching.

            You’re going to think about the regrets from time-to-time and they will enter your thoughts at weird moments.  The regrets will be like a bruise that won’t go away or rainstorm that will not depart.  You may have to call people to apologize for what you did and you may have to tell them you have changed.  You may have to earn someone’s trust back because of what you did but it’s going to be worth it.  You’re going to show God and others that you are a radical disciple who has radically changed.  “I’m not that way anymore” will come out of your mouth as effortless as air discharged from your lungs and you will say it with a smile.  Like Paul, your past will not break you rather it will shape you.  Your story will become a testimony for so many people to hear.

            Then there is God.  He always was and always is and always will be.  You’re going to find him because you’re going to long for him.  Like a fire in the midst of a blizzard you will long for his warmth and light.  He will show up in your life not as a boxed-in, compartmentalized God but as the living, active God.  He is going to lead you to places in life you never thought were possible but pretty soon you will realize that God is in the making-the-impossible-possible business.  You are going to realize that truly Jesus came so, like John told you, “we may have life, and life to the fullest” (John 10:10).  You will long for something John and Isaiah described as the New Heavens and New Earth.  You will feel God’s presence in your life with the utmost assurance that nothing can separate you from the love of God which is in Christ (Rom. 8:31-39).  You will feel God in your bones and in your core and it will be most satisfying.  There will still be valleys where the questions of theodicy (making God just) come back but you will know, deep down in your core, that eventually God will reign over all and all will be made right.

            This is my graduation speech and it is filled with paradoxes, difficulties, some contradictions and uncertainties.  But such is life right?  Life is never a linear process but often we find it as a cyclical pattern that repeats itself but rests on the grace of God.  So may you find the friends you need.  May you discover the spouse who is yours or may you rest in the state you are in.  May you love every minute your family is alive.  May you live fiscally sound so you can give until it hurts.  May you rejoice in the body God gave you but may you treat it well.  May you love the church and realize it truly is, like the preacher said, a hospital for the sick.  May you use your regrets to empower and inform your future.  And may you run to God, wrap your arms around him and never, ever let go.

            So, Dr. Seuss was right…a little…“be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ale Van Allen O’Shea, you’re off to Great Places! Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.  So…get on your way!”

Life does exist after 30

January 18, 2011 — 7 Comments

I have delayed writing this post much like I delay going to the dentist, doctor or even a car repair shop.  It is the self-discovery that I dread and the inevitable bad news that comes from a doctor’s office or a repair shop that I loathe.  Nevertheless I drudge on through because it is only through self-discovery where we truly find the living God who dwells in our past, present and future.  Last Friday I turned 30 and it was a wonderful experience that capped off a week of a softball party and a surprise birthday party.  I feel both loved and supported by so many individuals and I truly am a man most blessed by God.  I would like to share some lessons I have learned in my life in the first 30 years that will help you live your teens and twenties to its fullest potential.  I will try to avoid trite sayings that preachers use but I find that those sayings are regretabbly unavoidable…

  1. It’s not all about you. If there is one word that could characterize my first 30 years it would be the word, “narcissism.”  I know we all are a little selfish at times but it seems that I struggled with this more than most people.  In my teenage years  if there was a worldly pleasure easily accessible to me than I took advantage (without disclosing much just let me say, for the record, that I have not always been a moral person).  If I had to walk over someone to benefit my cause then I did it.  If someone neglected me, punished me or ridiculed me then they were ignored, ostracized or even punished for lambasting my integrity.  As I recall some dark periods of my past I can’t help but to think much of my pain was avoidable if I just realize that it was not about me.
  2. Life is a roller-coaster. Different seasons call for different experiences and the ever-changing ebb and flow of life brings about conflicting narratives that tug on a person’s soul.  Early in our marriage (December 29, 2003) Heather had a miscarriage and we were devastated at our loss.  Amelia (our second-born) was born with a whole in her lung, Kaleb had RSV as a child and recently my youngest broke his leg.  Mix that with financial troubles (some self-inflicted…see point #1) and economic hardships and life can be very hectic.  God created us to weather serious storms in our lives and it seems that while a current struggle may be significant we should always look at the trial with a lens of perspective.  Some people flip-out over the small things but lately I have learned to not worry as much and it has made me a better husband, father, son, friend and minister.
  3. Not much is happenstance. I look back at my life and believe in the providence of God.  I place my finger on significant events in my life and ask the million-dollar question, “Why did __________ happen like that?”  A friend of mine overdosed years after I moved and I ask, “Why was that not me?”  After dropping off a high-school girlfriend my car spun out of control in the rain in the direction of a 20 foot drop-off.  “Why did my car stop right before the edge?”  A girl in college just recently got out of a relationship and I did too and I asked her out.  “Why did Heather  say yes?”  Not much is happenstance…not much is chance…we are merely paint on the canvas of the divine painter.
  4. “God is not made by human hands…” Paul said that in Acts 17:24 to the men of Athens and I believe it strongly to this day.  I have shifted in theology since I first arrived at Freed-Hardeman in 1999.  I used to think I had everything figured out and that I could put God in this neatly packaged box and if someone needed me to explain who God is/was then I would open this box and show them who God was.  That worked until I realized that God was doing some amazing things that confronted (opposed) my preconceived notion of how God operated.  Scripture used to be information for me to dissect, translate and pattern for people to understand.  Now I still believe in good exegesis I think we can almost treat Scripture as an idol instead of its intended purpose as transformation (Psalm 1; Rom. 12:1-2).  God is not solely bound to leafs of paper but is living, active and powerful.  Scripture, at best, is an attempt by God to describe an infinite concept using finite terms.  That is why no perfect description of heaven exists…it cannot be contained by human vernacular but God paints the best picture he believes we can understand.
  5. Life is never over. Abraham got his call to ministry when he was 75 years old!  We never should get to the point where we think God is through with me I shall now die.  As a minister I see at Main Street God using people who are infants and who are 90 years old!!!  God uses us for his purposes in every season of our life no matter what age we are.  Sarah laughed because she thought she was too old, Jeremiah was afraid because he thought he was too young and God essentially told both of them that nothing is impossible with God.

So here I am, 30 years old and ready to do whatever God wants me to do wherever he sends me.  I am not wise, but I am wiser than I once was.  I am not experienced but I am a little more experienced than I once was.  Regardless…I am content.

I came across this verse today in my reading and thought that it was not happenstance.  A lot happened to Joseph that could have caused him to be bitter and angry but because of God’s providence Joseph did some amazing things.

“Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt…” (Gen 41:46a).


From Oswald Chambers My Utmost for His Highest accessible at http://myutmost.org.  Taken from James 4:8.

It is essential that you give people the opportunity to act on the truth of God. The responsibility must be left with the individual— you cannot act for him. It must be his own deliberate act, but the evangelical message should always lead him to action. Refusing to act leaves a person paralyzed, exactly where he was previously. But once he acts, he is never the same. It is the apparent folly of the truth that stands in the way of hundreds who have been convicted by the Spirit of God. Once I press myself into action, I immediately begin to live. Anything less is merely existing. The moments I truly live are the moments when I act with my entire will.

 


And on the seventh day, God rested.  The Hebrew word for rest is where we get our English word sabbath.  It is “shabbat” and means to cease or to rest.  That’s what this week was all about for me.  To cease.  I did not text for the most part and I only made a few phone calls.  I avoided e-mails and facebook and I tried to be there for my family.  They deserve that.  Some people take their phone with them and answer every phone call from every person.  I have the right to not answer the phone especially on my vacation.  It was…fulfilling to say the least.

Today was a long day in that we drive back and it took 10 hours since my daughters have bladders the size of a pumpkin seed.  I felt great though as I looked on my GPS and it had a selection that says “GO HOME” which is pinpointed to my home address.  Vacation is nice but coming home is an indescribable, undefinable feeling.  I looked at my house and a smile came across my face.  It is not a big home and there is nothing special about it but it is where my family lives.  As I am writing this my three oldest are in bed with me and I can’t help but to think I am the most blessed man alive. 

I look forward to preaching and teaching tomorrow.  Most people get Sunday to recover…ministers do not and quite frankly I could care less because I am ready to hit the ground running.  The Spirit is at work and I am not sure what is happening but I feel more empowered than ever before. 

Get ready…


Last year I had the opportunity to teach the college class in the summer for 8 weeks and this year I have been asked to do it again.  I am honored nonetheless.  I have developed 8 lessons on the Holy Spirit and have entitled it Pneumatology 101: A Study of the Holy Spirit.  Here are the lessons:

  • Week 1:  An Introduction: Misconceptions, assumptions, perceptions and fears. 
  • Week 2:  The Spirit in the Old Testament
  • Week 3:  The Spirit in the Gospels
  • Week 4:  The Spirit in Acts
  • Week 5:  The Spirit in Paul
  • Week 6:  Indwelling of the Spirit:  How does that work?
  • Week 7:  What does the Spirit do for/to the believer?
  • Week 8:  A Pneumatic Church

Week 1 is sort of a “feeler” as to where the students are in their knowledge of the Spirit.  Weeks 2-5 is a theology of the Spirit, looking at what the Scriptures say about the Spirit.  Weeks 6-8 are the application weeks or self-awareness weeks.  There is obviously much more to discuss but this will be a good introduction to a much-needed theology on the Spirit. 

Works I am gleaning from:

  • Francis Chan’s Forgotten God.  A book that is tremendously readable but is surface-level stuff. 
  • John Levison’s Filled with the Spirit.  A deep, scholarly, well-researched treatise on the subject.  You will not find a book that is more thorough than this one.  I highly recommend it. 
  • Various commentaries. 

Have you ever heard someone say, “I know he makes mistakes but deep down he is a good person”?  That statement frustrates me more than most because it seems the call to carry the cross is not a call to fit in a little Jesus when you need it. 

Nowhere in Scripture do I see a “balanced life with a little bit of God added in” as an ideal for us to emulate.  Yet when I look at our churches, this is exactly what I see: a lot of people who have added Jesus to their lives.  People who have, in a sense, asked Him to join them on their life journey, to follow them wherever they feel they should go, rather than following Him as we are commanded.  Francis Chan, Forgotten God, pp. 121-122. 

I can’t help but identify with Chan’s comments in that many people pack the pew and it makes our numbers look great (it even gives us ministers a salary) but it makes our spirit look and feel awful.  I am tired of being the good person, the nice person, the polite person, the quiet person, the ______ club person, the good citizen, the peaceful neighbor, the ‘at-a-boy person.  Basically I am tired of trying to lead the Spirit instead of being led by the Spirit.  We are not (necessarily) called to be anything else but Christians and that is the bottom line.  We do not need good people…we need Christians!  

If all you want is a little Jesus to “spiritualize” your life, a little extra God to keep you out of hell. you are missing out on the fullness of life you were created for.  Not only this, you don’t need the Holy Spirit.  You don’t need the Holy Spirit if you are merely seeking to live a semi-moral life and attend church regularly.  You can find people of all sorts in many religions doing quite nicely without Him.  Chan, p. 122.