Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Which teens persevere in their faith?

1.  I am the youngest man in my Bible study.  I'm just about 61.  Almost all of the men in the study are saddened by the fact that one or more of their children no longer attend church.  Their children claim Christ but....
2.  There is a child in our congregation who is very smart.  Well instructed in the Bible.  Knows the stories.  Does not attend Sunday School or any of our youth groups or events.  
3.  Our theology at our church is so jumbled up it is hard to know what denomination we are.
4.  Most people don't care what our theology or doctrines are.
5.  There is no knowledge test you have to pass to walk through the Pearly Gates.
6.  You do have to know someone to get in, though.

These six little statements are very important for parents.  Our relationship with Christ is primarily held together not by theology or principles or Bible knowledge or miracles or even an experience with God.  What we know is good and informs our faith.  It helps us keep our understanding of Who Jesus/God is cleaner, more pure.  But the thing that keeps us in the faith, that keeps most people at St. John's coming to St. John's and returning to Jesus in the midst of crises is their relationship with someone here.  Same with kids.  In Smith's book, Soul Searching, it becomes abundantly clear to him and the reader, that to persevere in the faith, it takes Christ-centric friends.  Doesn't mean going to Bible studies all the time with them but just having them around.

Want your child in heaven with you?  Make sure their social life is heavily engaged with other Christians their age.  Their main peer group really must be a Christ-centric group.  Ohhh and adults....  Ditto.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Storybook Bible Advent

Here is a great Advent blog by a missionary in Australia.  Thanks Paige for pointing us to Adriel!

Adriel's Blog

Monday, November 18, 2013

Un-Holiness and Grace

Everyone has wondered at some point how they can grow spiritually. 
                Perhaps you feel God’s absence.  “Where IS He when I am praying?  It seems that I am just praying to the wall.”  Perhaps you feel frustrated at God’s lack of action.  Haven’t seen a miracle like in Acts lately.  Relationship with your kids is still on the rocks and, boy, have you prayed a lot about that.
Or you don’t get a thing out of church.  Singing is ok.  Sermon is ok.  Fellowship is ok.  But you still go home not feeling like you had any experience with God or made any progress towards Him…and don’t’ know how to move.  Feeling isolated and lonely.  God should take care of that shouldn’t He?  He is for me, isn’t He?
                First, anyone who is actually engaged in their faith is always going through this.  And it will never end…sorry for that bit of bad news.  It is a peculiar thing about Christianity among all other religions, that as you grow in holiness, instead of felling better about yourself and more holy, you actually become increasingly aware of how great your sin is and how much distance your sin creates between you and God and between you and others.  In essence, you feel worse about yourself.  Not very encouraging I know.  “Hey come and join us at our church and you’ll feel worse and worse about yourself.”
                But therein lies the beauty of grace.  As you begin to more fully understand the depths of your sinfulness and the impossibility of you making things better, you begin to despair of yourself, others, the world and self-help.  As you grow into spiritual maturity, God reveals more and more the state you are in.  God does not do this to punish you or to rub it in, but He shows your sickness so you can be made increasingly holy….which makes you increasingly understand how really unholy you are and the process begins all over again.
                Now here is the payoff for this unseemly process:  As you enter more and more fully into what would appear a hopeless downward spiral of despair, you begin at the same time to uncover how much God must love you.  You begin to experience in a real and tangible way, the peace that God has promised.  You begin to have experiences of God that are so profound that words cannot adequately explain them.  You become less and less dependent on miracles and overt signs from God because you interiorly, as Charlie Walton used to say, “know in your knower”, that God IS actually for you and that He IS there listening to your prayers and that He IS working on your children. 
                I have talked with many of you who have had an extraordinary closeness to God at some point in your life.  Unfortunately, the result of this experience for many of you has been increased frustration, in some cases to the point of anger at the church or others or the leadership - sometimes ending in church hopping trying to duplicate that experience or even leaving Christ.  The problem is that God has allowed you to taste this experience not so you will have a 2 year old’s hunger for more but so that you will grow the tree that produces it.  He wants to develop in you and through you in those around you, the tree that the fruit comes from.  Water flowing from you.  John 4:14  Simply handing you another pear will not help you.  It will taste good but you will sit on your couch waiting for the next delivery instead of being in His story of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:16-20) which is His – and, in reality, your – deepest desire.
                So how can you get on this bandwagon of understanding your unholiness and therefore grace?
                First, accept that you are treasured by God.  God’s relationship with you is as intense as marriage. 
                Second, quit having an opinion/agenda.  Take a back seat.  Do what others tell you to do.  Offer your agenda-less service and then simply be humble and do what you are asked to do.  If you cannot do this with your spouse, with the people around you, you will not do it with God.  (1 John 4:19, Philippians 2)
                Third, evaluate everything you do by starting with Christ.  He is not first on your list.  He is the arbiter of the list.  Christ controls you at work.  Christ tells you how to act in your marriage.  Christ controls the course of your hobby.  God speaks to you about your ministry.
                Lastly, for this short note, show up… no matter what.  Don’t miss your 6:00am appointment with God each morning.  Be at church.  Meet with a discipler.  Take on a job at church (Walt has a list if you need direction.)  Say “God” to someone outside your church family every day.  You can do this….You want to do this.  This is what grace is about...the freedom to do what will fulfill you instead of being controlled by desires.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Stepping across the Jordan

Stepping into the kingdom of God is a scary thing.  Too scary for the Hebrew nation.  With our past and our fears and failures and our oppressors nipping at our heels the Red Sea opens up.  Then in a cleansing baptism, they are all washed away.  Grace has set us free.  Just travel across a short desert while we get some basic operating procedures and step into the kingdom.  It is not a sea step with threatening walls of water on each side and the army at our heals.  Just waltz on across the river.  Why is this so hard?  Why can't I, we, embrace this gift of grace and provision?  Why let fear and uncertainty create new oppressors?
This is the work now.  A labor of love.  To move into happiness.  Move into a land of honey.  Move into a house already built.  It takes a battle or two but battles God has won already.  Just go through the motions, Walt.  Claim the riches of Jericho - the walls are down already.  Walk with Gideon through the valley of the enemy conquered with clay pots.  Crest the hill with Hezekiah to find the enemy slain over night.  Go ahead and join Ezra.  Cyrus, unbidden, sends us to rebuild temple walls.  A kingdom for the taking.
Has the surety of desert so much more appeal than risk?  Is the memory of leeks so much more lovely than the hope of figs?  Let the waters cover the chariots of Egypt.  Let them drown the memory and security of servitude.  Let the mighty waters crush the way back home.  Let our new security be not in what we had or have but in who parts the second water.  You are not far from the kingdom.  Indeed.  Not far.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


Community must be a “means”.  The rights, privileges, advantages of simple community life will not support community.  We will create the end by our pettiness and rivalry and selfishness and agendas.  We will alienate our loved ones and create alliances with those we dislike.  We will sabotage the entire mess if the goal is community.  Community, in order to be community and make it as a community, must be based on the missiology we are called into in Christ.  If we try to achieve community by living together and learning how to get along and sharing, it will always collapse upon itself.  It is the same as sadness or introversion or non-medical depression.  If we try to make things/ourselves better, happier, we will fail because we are looking at the problem for the answer.  We were designed to be outward focused.  The major result of the Garden fall was that we turned our focus inward, self looking at our own nakedness.  Adam’s first sentence after the fall has five “I’s” in it.  Five in one sentence.  Living in community was/is our design but not as an end but as a means to participation in God’s plan.  This is part of the genius of Michael Breen's 3DM www.weare3dm.com.  We all must be missional.
Community/belonging is like puzzle pieces.  We are meant to fit together to create a unified picture/story.
Each piece must be authentically that particular piece and not try to be something different than who they are -no covetousness.  Each piece must fit in with others and must be willing to fit together.  It must submit to the group.  It must move with the group.  Groups of puzzle pieces are not community.  Community is much easier if all pieces can see the outcome picture.  This is why not vision casting but vision revealing and buy in are critical.  Leaders are not the biggest pieces or even the vision caster but facilitators, helping all the pieces including themselves to discern the picture and come together in the right order/sequence/placement.  It can work but it is much harder if only a prophet has the picture but no one else can see it.  Much better for the prophet to teach.  It is not then required nor essential nor even desirable for the leader to have the puzzle picture in mind.  The leader only has to get everyone in on the game.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


Augustine says that Peter's denial was not one of unbelief but of fear.  No surprise there.  Peter still believed that Jesus was who He said He was but Peter was so afraid of the consequences of that belief that he lied and denied Christ.
Our actions are based only partly on our belief.  Our actions are generally based on trust or fear.  Fear about what might happen or trust about what might happen.  Not trust that God will make everything go well but trust that God can make wine out of water, redemption out of a cross, something good out of suffering if need be.  We must not be afraid to suffer.  We must believe that God is a God who does not end all suffering but does use suffering. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

...we exist for the praise of God's glory - Eph 1:11

Our occupation is to praise God.  It is not propriety or social action.  It is not to make money.  It is not to be happy.  It is not to provide for our families.  Our occupation is to praise God.  We must do that at all costs.  In doing that, the poor may be fed and our behavior perhaps redeemed.  Our families provided for.  Our happiness, and perhaps even with money, may settle in our hands.  Yet we must never be deterred if all else is lost.  We must never let up.  We must never lose our focus.  We must never give in to anything but that which praises God. Not for what He gives us or does for us but praise for who He is.  If you desire to be in God's will and be a part of His plan, simply spend time praising Him and you are there.  It really is that simple.
God, you are..........

God, you are the harbor.  Safety in the storm and a place for refitting.  A place for caulking my leaking seams and cleaning my hull.  A place of mending sails.  A place for fresh meals and supplies for the journey.  A place not home but preparation.  The place for new charts and orders.
God, you are the keel.  You steady my course and right me when I yaw.
God, you are the rudder, guiding me on my course through doldrums and gale.
You, Father, are the wind in my sails.  My energy.
God, you are the captain, of course. 
You are Polaris and sextant.  The truth and the way to find it.

And you are God, without me.  You are.  You remain.  I am a speck yet you love me the more.  I rebel and You call me back.
You are the God of lithium before there was "electricity".  You are God before.  You are God after.
You are the God Who plans and the God who redeems and re-plans.  Grace.