Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Love is ...

Life runs ahead at break-neck speed. It also comes to a screeching halt, and everything goes flying. Life can come crashing down on people.

God’s family should realize when the roof has fallen in on someone, and move in to put clean up, push everything back into place.

God’s family should possibly even monitor others, and move in to for a support team and prevent a collapse in the first place. Strengthen the beams and joists. Erect pillars.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Love is ...

One thing is axiomatic to Jesus’ disciples: in everything Jesus said He intended to promote God’s purposes, strengthen the relationship between God and His people, and among His people, and draw people to unite with His community. What He encouraged led to building, enhancing and promoting these things. What He encouraged led to wholeness, integrity and authentic living.

How can someone rejoice when people experience misery and alienation? We rejoice when God’s truth is applied and people experience peace, growth, rest and health.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Love is ...

Coming into contact with other human beings inevitably leads to periodic collisions. How we handle the collisions is related to how we view the ones we collide with.

What were their intentions? What am I hanging onto? What is more important: this person? This relationship? My feelings?

To Jesus (falsely accused, illegally executed), the people and the relationships were more important than His suffering. If we have the attitude of Jesus, all reminders of these collisions will be dismantled bit by bit until any suspicion of their existence can only be a matter of speculation.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Love is ...

There are numerous things that get under people’s skin: aggressive driving, tail gating, negativity, whining, frustrated expectations, or misunderstandings. Being sick or tired can make little things grow very big.

And these can light a short fuse with people – either because they are the cause or because they are in the area. Often our focus is glued to an issue, and we respond to the issue with people getting damaged incidentally.

Are people reckless, trouble-makers, or selfish? Are they afraid of losing their job by being late again? Or do they feel like no one listens to them, or takes them seriously? Or maybe they don’t understand?

Usually, we cannot control the causes of irritation, but we can control our responses to people. The response God desires is a longer fuse and extending grace.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Love is ...

Sometimes, it seems like people have an internal need to reveal themselves to others. We need to be known. It is part of our need for community. We hope that when we open our hearts, someone will listen. Someone listening affirms who we are. It affirms our acceptance and worth.

(People don’t open up, because they are unsure how they will be received. Maybe they will be rejected. Maybe the contents of their hearts will be mocked and ridiculed.)

We all know people who only seem to be able to talk about themselves. Any event is interpreted solely by its relationship to them.

(Are these people convinced they are the only ones with worth? Or are they convinced of their worthlessness, and are continually seeking someone to listen, and thereby let them know they are wrong?)

There are people are encouragers. Their focus is not themselves, but out to other people and how they may able to affirm who they are in their hearts. There are people who are servants. Not only is their focus outward, but they are alert for needs … and consider ways and means for meeting them.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Love is ...

In every society, people come to agreement about the basic patterns of conduct toward other people. In the West, these practices are called “common courtesy.” They apply to family, friends, acquaintances, strangers and visitors.

Keeping these practices is important. Because they are applied indiscriminately to everyone, it puts everyone on equal footing. Everyone is treated equally, so everyone is perceived equally. If they are perceived as equal, they are equal.

Respect, acceptance and honor are shown with these practices. Disregard, rejection and dishonor are shown when refusing to keep these practices.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Love is ...

A common metaphor for success in the business world is climbing the ladder. The higher one climbs the better.
Often, it is accompanied with the idea of knocking others off the ladder, so one can advance more easily. The main concept of the metaphor is that it is better to look down on people. When a person looks down, it places them in a position of superiority. To remain in that superior place, a person needs to continue to move higher or push others lower.

The world seems to reguard this pursuit as bringing life. In reality, it brings death – to those below and those above. On the contrary, life and energy seem to be created when people give no consideration to their “height.” If a person does not look at life in terms of up and down, he free for other considerations, other focuses. Maybe one that pushes everybody up the ladder.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Love is ...

Over the last few years, I have come to realize that some people want to hear “good news” about people they know. But I also realized it is only true if they value other people and are not consumed by their own issues.

Most people would not want to be bothered. And we all know people who would be depressed for a week by someone else’s “good news” and the fact they did not have any. Some, we suspect would sabotage the “good news” if they could.

If we get outside of ourselves, we will celebrate everyone’s “good news” and embrace their “bad news” with them also.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Love is ...

Too often people are engrossed in their own affairs. They only see their own problems, pleasures, space and world.

There always seems to be a surge of relief, gratitude and joy when we find someone who sees beyond their circumstances and steps into the circumstances of others, getting involved, providing help, solutions, benefit, comfort, courage or encouragement.

Life, society and the nature of man can lead everyone to self-focus. Alertness to the condition of others and willingness to step in and act require firm commitments to the inherent value of love and of people and discipline and courage to look at the world with a heart to engage it.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Love is ...

Emotion that gets expressed too quickly or too soon is often uncontrolled. It gets expressed inappropriately – harshly or in anger. So, love stretches out the expression of emotions.

Strong emotions take off by themselves. The person needs to hang onto them, so they don’t run wild and crash into anything. So, they stretch them.

A person who keeps a firm hold on his emotions recognizes the value of people and the damage run away emotions can cause. Stretching emotions is a choice to avoid damage to other people. It expresses value given to people.

Monday, October 12, 2009

More Missions

Sin entered the world and marred the nature of God’s creation. His intentions, desires and goals for mankind have been eternally thwarted. So, He packs it in. He quits. He takes His ball and goes home.

No He doesn’t. His purposes have not been thwarted. His intentions and goals remain the same. He will create a people who enter into a love relationship with Him. He will create a community that will mirror His community within the Godhead.

More over, the fallen nature of His community will bring an opportunity to bring Him greater glory.

• Part of the Godhead will go on a mission of redemption.
• People will choose to become part of His community.
• His family – marred by the fall – will be transformed by His presence among them and their participation in His family.
• His family will become an influence that restores His creation to what He originally intended.

God is working consistently, steadfastly and strategically, sometimes behind the scenes, and sometimes with great fanfare. But He is always active across the great backdrop of history to bring these things to pass.

We already rejoice at the completion of Jesus’ mission. We already rejoice when people choose to be part of His community. Don’t we rejoice when we see people change and conform to His image? Do we rejoice when His community works to restore the original image of creation?

Friday, October 09, 2009

Mission as Fuel

Mission is fundamental to the nature of God. God created with a purpose. God ties His glory to the completion of that purpose. God chose Abraham for more than the beginning the lineage of David, for more than the giving of the Messiah. God chose Abraham to live a life a blessing, and to give that blessing to the world. As the world receives that blessing, the world will turn their eyes to the God who gives all good things. And when Israel failed to be the blessing, He called people in the world to be a kingdom, a family, a special assembly designed to bless the world. That assembly should bless the world, calling it to share God’s life, and uniting themselves with God – under His name, as a part of that assembly. That role should be part of His family’s DNA. To live as if there is no mission denies God’s purpose for His family.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

God's Mission

All of God’s thoughts, words and deeds are designed to bring Him glory.

All of God’s intentions toward us, His works for us and with us are designed to bring Him glory.

And our mission is to paint the world with His glory … three coats! We are to describe His glory by sharing who He is and what He does. We are to live and act so others give Him glory.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Power of the Gospel

Several leaders of a church were gathered in prayer. During this time, the Holy Spirit revealed that He wanted two of the leaders to become church planters. After a time of preparation, the two men left to plant churches. The visited eight large cities, and planted four churches.

Normally, God spread His presence with His people. If His people are not in a place, then His presence is not in a place. God’s intention has always been for His people to cover the earth. But, at this time, as today, there are some places where His seed is planted, and some not. The cities they visited had varying degrees of influence by God’s people – some a lot, some not at all.

Let’s get a clear picture of the environment. The cities were spiritual cesspools. Idolatry, superstition and immorality were rampant. There were no Bibles in the heart language of the people. And if there were, there was only 5-10% literacy.

The cities were used to make commercials for relief organizations like Compassion. Families made their living sifting through the dump. There were some land owners, some soldiers, some subsistence farmers, some craftsmen, and possibly half the population were slaves. Poverty was overwhelming. Cities were dirty, smelly and unsafe. There was disease and malnutrition. There was a 25% infant mortality rate. 50% did not reach the age of five. 30% did not reach the age of eighteen. Life expectancy for men was 45. Life expectancy for women was 38.

These cities were “unplowed fields”, with lots of birds, rocks and thorns. The ground was hard. It was next impossible for any “desirable plant” to take root.

Moreover, there were no planes, trains or automobiles. There were three modes of locomotive power: wind, animal and feet. The journey was around 1200 miles, taking about two years. Average travel was around twenty miles a day. 1200 miles at twenty miles means 60 days of traveling. (That is, if everything went well – no sicknesses, no shipwrecks, no robberies, inclement weather, etc.)

Let us assume they attempted to plant a church in every city they visited. How do they do that? There is no TV, no internet, no radio, no newspapers or printing presses. There were no big evangelistic rallies. There were no call-forwards.

(“Call forwards” were not invented until the 1830’s or 1840’s. So, not only were they not part of these church planter’s arsenal, but the world had experienced several large, high-impact revivals with it.)

They sought out those who they believed would be most open. So, they went to the synagogues, arguing from scripture that Jesus was the Messiah. From there, they approached God-fearers wherever there were groups of people: markets, schools and places of business.
So, if they took:
• Two months to travel
• Fours to reach out to four unresponsive cities
• And eighteen months to plant four churches.

That’s an average of four and a half months for each church plant. And in most of the churches that were planted, they were beaten and thrown out of the city. And they left a group of baby Christian to fend for themselves for 1-2 years.

Understand –
• On barren soil,
• In destitute physical circumstances,
• Amid opposition and persecution,
• Amid scores of deceiving voices,
• Without leadership,
• Without resources,
• And with minimal grounding.

(Which sounds like a recipe for disaster) These baby churches survived, thrived and grew.

They presented the gospel and painted a picture of Jesus in a way that all those factors had no power against the gospel and the Spirit behind it. The testimony is that the gospel grew and increased. Transformation was evident everywhere it went.

Monday, September 21, 2009


When we became followers of Jesus, why didn't God perfect us? Why not transform us into morally perfect beings? Imagine the tremendous testimony.

Part of the answer is: going through the sanctification process is not just about becoming like Jesus. It is also about learning about God, people, relationship and forgiveness.

God also created many cultures. Why? God has placed a small piece of Himself in every culture. As we express this piece of God in our culture, we demonstrate God's nature to the world. And, as we see the faithful of God in China, India, Kenya and Kazakhstan express that piece of God from their culture, we see God in new ways. We learn what God values from His heart being expressed in and through them.

Many cultures have well-defined expressions of community. We learn God's heart about unity, mutual care giving, mutual encouragement and the need for all of us to have a place.

I have heard American praise these cultures amd lament living in America. As if God was displeased with America and its culture. As if God was somehow surprised by the way America turned out. What do we see when we look at America with God's eyes? We see how God values personal initiative, creativity, responsibility, risk taking, hard work, diversity, as well as individuals and minorities.

(There are not too many places in the world, where one person can stand in front of the whole nation and say "You're wrong!" and be right.)

Friday, September 04, 2009

Being Part of the Mission

If you are a disciple of Jesus, He has given you a mission. He has sent you into the world. He did not send you to be a part of the world. He did not send you to apart from the world. He sent you to fill whatever niche you are in with His presence.

To fill it with His glory. To fill it with His love. To apply the gospel – in word and deed. To be a priest of the Most High God – caring, serve and prophecy. (Phophecy in this case refers to understanding and proclaiming God’s word and purposes to where it is needed.)

Thursday, September 03, 2009


Watching over the church of God is a good thing. And it is a good thing for a man to aspire to it. But not just anyone can be an overseer. The primary qualifications must be a certain type of heart or character. This heart-character will be revealed by certain types of activity. Scripture tells us in several places that words and actions reveal what is in the heart.

God takes these men and set them to watch over His family. God also gives them to be models. He encourages His children to imitate these men. So, God wants all His children to grow to have this heart, this character and to demonstrate this activity. This description should describe anyone who follows Jesus.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

God's Spirit of Hospitality

Throughout eternity past, the Father, Son and Spirit lived together in a completely satisfactory, mutually fulfilling lover relationship. God was a complete community.

In the infinite past, God made plans to extend this community. He would create a multitude of finite beings to share His love relationship. He would create a community within His community. This community would demonstrate his nature, his community and his love relationship.

God chooses to create a community that will have a love relationship with the Godhead, and a love relationship with one another like the love relationship with the Godhead, demonstrating the community of the Godhead.

God chooses to create a community that He will invite these created being to join. He will extend these invitations partly by Himself and partly through His created community.

One of God's primary impulses in His nature, in creation, is hospitality.

(Thank you to Frank Viola. The initial picture of for this post came from
Untold Story of the New Testament Church.)

Friday, July 24, 2009


It is not the pastor who has the greatest impact on people. A large portion of the population will never enter a church.

It is not the televangelists who have the greatest impact on people. Christian TV is not meant to reach the world. It is aimed at Christians. I don't watch Christian TV. And if I don't, what makes anyone think those not following Jesus will watch.

(I don't want to the impression that I think Christian TV is worthless. Still, I don't think it is effective in influencing those who don't follow Jesus.)

Those with the greatest impact on people not following Jesus are everyday, normal Christians. Those who will never preach a sermon, never play in a worship band, or never have a title with the word "pastor" in it.

If someone follows Jesus, the Holy Spirit lives in his heart. So, the Holy Spirit goes wherever he goes -- work, school, the mall, a New York Yankees game, little league, golf, sailing, Mcdonalds, jogging, camping, recycling, I95.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Possibility of Radical Transformation

The family of God is full of individuals where the Spirit of God dwells. where the Spirit of God is, there exists the possibility of radical transformation.

Most people reading this will think in terms of ther personal life. And this is a true application. But there is a bigger application. Radical transformation is possible wherever the people of God are.

When I order Hunan Chicken from Happy Garden, and I go to pick up my order, the Holy Spirit is now at Happy Garden. There exist the
possibility of radical transformation
at Happy Garden.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Imitate God

We are encouraged to imitate God. It seems to be a reference to a child’s tendency to imitate its parents’ actions. So, what does the Father do? What is He like? He is infinite. He is holy. He is personal.

The infinite qualities of God are things like being all-powerful, all-knowing, present everywhere and transcendent. These things are physically impossible for us. We cannot hope to imitate them. We cannot hope to understand them.

The holy qualities of God are things like being sinless, moral perfection and righteousness. Human being were designed to follow these patterns. However, sin corrupted the image of God in humans. Until mankind is glorified, people cannot maintain this standard of perfection. But we can strive and move toward it. Commitment to make right choices after failure honors God. Making right choices in the midst of temptation really honors God. Choosing right continually so it become instinctive honors God.

Personal qualities seem to form the largest group. These include things like love, mercy, compassion. And they include the need for community, beauty and creativity. And inner qualities like will, aspirations and hopes. People are designed to move in these areas. We struggle with some, especially those that intersect with the lives of other people. But we can choose to grow in those areas, and choose to sacrifice.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Living Like Jesus

Reading through one of the biographies of Jesus, I asked myself the question, “what did Jesus do?” What a person does and says demonstrates their values and priorities. So, I tallied up his activitiy.

“One healing. One teaching. Another teaching. One exorcism. Another healing.”

Jesus’ life ― outside of the cross ― seems to involve:

He takes people’s circumstances, and makes them better.

A person should not be ill or deformed in body. So he healed. A person should be controlled by evil forces. So he liberated. A person should not be in need. So he fed.

He takes people’s misconceptions and wrong perspectives, and turns them right side up. (Or upside down.)

He shared about getting right with God, the fatherhood of God, acceptance, right living, grace, legalism, money, family and responsibility.

He demonstrated what a right heart and attitude was.

He touched lepers, tax collectors, and the immoral. He uncovered silly rule, rules that did not accomplish what God intended. He made decisions with one ear tuned to God, the other to the ground, one hand to the plow, the other held out in welcome, one eye on the road and the other one the prize.

He lived his journey in an efficient, effortless and assured manner that we cannot hope to match, but which we are urged to imitate.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009


True learning or discipleship cannot be accomplished in a "pew" or a classroom setting; related activity must accompany lecture or true learning does not happen.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

God of Surprises

Life is not easy, because there does not seem to be any rules.

When Israel arrived at the Jordan River to go into Canaan, the river was flooding. God commanded the priests to carry the ark into the river, ahead of the people. When all the priests were standing in the river, God pushed the river back so the people could walk across on dry land.

Sometimes God’s guidance is just like the opening of the river. We have to get our feet wet before the way to go opens up before us.

Sometimes God does reveal the end from the beginning. Abraham knew that he should travel to Canaan, have a son, and bring blessing to the world. Moses knew he would lead Israel to Canaan. Jesus knew he would go to the cross. Paul knew he would take the gospel to the gentiles.

God does not lead everyone one way. He is the god of surprises. If God laid out his rules, and always followed them, then He would become predictable. To follow Him would not be a matter of faith. We could follow Him by sight.

“OK … God just applied rule #1, so He is going to apply rule #2 pretty quick. That means I better to A and B, not C and D.”

Even though He showed Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Paul what the end would be, that does not mean they knew every step of the way. (With the possible exception of Jesus. Jesus breaks the mold in a lot of ways. He lived in complete dependence on God, but He was God.) They needed to trust God for the next step. And the next step. And the one after that. So, they could be sure to reach the end.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


What is the sustaining force of any church? It is God's Spirit which sustains, directs, empowers and gives gifts and brings growth.

Who is the head of the any church? Jesus followers everywhere proclaim that Jesus is the head of the church. Jesus is the head of the church and they are a family of priests. All believers minister.

So, what would happen to the average church if the building blew up and the pastor and staff went with it? The church should still exist. The family of God still exists. The head of the church is still alive. The one who sustains it still exists and still is working. Life may be different because important members -- even strategic members -- are gone.

So how would the average church react?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Steve Covey wrote that we all create thing twice. First, we create them in our inner life. Then, we create them in the world. So, the shape of our inner life determines what flows out of our lives. Our character,  temperament, perspectives, worldview and experiences give birth to our actions.

James seeks to demonstrate that a proper walk with God produces proper actions. So, he encourages:

  • Right response to trial/temptation
  • “doing” the word
  • Fair treatment of people
  • Faith and works
  • Right speech
  • Wisdom and its deeds
  • Being friends with God
  • Being content
  • Right use of wealth
  • Being patient
  • Being honest
  • Being devoted to prayer
  • Encouragement to follow the Truth

The life of a Jesus-follower oscillates back and forth between flection, listening and absorbing to doing, loving and obeying. Doing allows the grace, love and spirit of God to flow from us.

The filling of the Holy Spirit alone does not produce fruit or promote spiritual maturity. The flow of the Holy spirit produces fruit and promotes spiritual maturity.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Guidance II

Just because there are surprises, it does not mean that God is arbitrary. He does not follow whims. He is not capricious. He does want us to know Him, understand Him, so we will trust Him.

We learn to trust people, when they tell us what they intend to do, how they intend to do it, and they do what they say. So, God reveals Himself to us, and He acts according to what He says. He always does what He says. So, we can always trust Him.

He promises He will guide us. He promises that He will not contradict what He has told us about Himself, what He values, or the way He told us to live. He did NOT promise to give us the precise method of guidance. 

He could have promised to mail us detailed instructions, complete with diagrams and a MapQuest map. But He didn’t. He sometimes tells us  where the end is. He promises to show us the right road. But fairly often, we won’t know which turn to make until we are right at the intersection.

Friday, May 15, 2009


One thing that most Jesus-followers hold is that God is active in the lives of people. This includes providing guidance. Guidance should make life easier. God knows a lot more than we do. But there seems to be a surprising lack of rules.

When Israel arrived at the Jordan River to go into Canaan, the river was at flooding. God commanded the priests to carry the Ark, and walk ahead of the people, right into the river. When all of the priests were standing in the river, God pushed the water back into a heap, so the people could walk across on dry land.

Sometimes, God’s guidance is just like opening up the river. You need to get your feet wet before the way opens up.

But sometimes God reveals the end from the beginning. Abraham knew he should go to Canaan. There he would have a son that would bring blessing to the whole world. Moses knew he would lead Israel from Egypt to Canaan. Jesus knew he would go to the cross. Paul knew he would take the gospel to the gentiles.

 God does not lead everyone only one way. He is the God of surprises. If God followed one method, he would become predictable. And we would follow him by what knew, and not by faith. This element of surprise leaves God in control. Following requires a bit of courage and a bit of risk taking.

Even though he does show us where the end will be, that does not mean there will not be unexpected turns or landslides blocking the road. We have never been on this road before. We will always need to be actively engaged with the road and with our Guide.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter Thoughts

Some of us got together Friday night before Easter to watch “The Passion of The Christ”. I had seen it before. Two things stood out to me this time. First, a faction of the Jewish religious leaders committed legalized murder. The trial was at night. Only a part of the religious leaders were called. Jesus was struck at the trial. The high priest directly questioned Jesus. All illegal according to Jewish jurisprudence. And the Jewish leaders worked to incite a riot to convince the Roman authorities to crucify Jesus.

Second, Jesus was scourged and nailed to a cross. When he dies, the universe changes. A cosmic spiritual shockwave created a tsunami that engulfed all creation. Like creation or Noah’s flood, when everything was new. The rules had changed. Even the playing field is different.

Easter Thoughts

Some of us got together Friday night before Easter to watch “The Passion of The Christ”. I had seen it before. Two things stood out to me this time. First, a faction of the Jewish religious leaders committed legalized murder. The trial was at night. Only a part of the religious leaders were called. Jesus was struck at the trial. The high priest directly questioned Jesus. All illegal according to Jewish jurisprudence. And the Jewish leaders worked to incite a riot to convince the Roman authorities to crucify Jesus.

Second, Jesus was scourged and nailed to a cross. When he dies, the universe changes. A cosmic spiritual shockwave created a tsunami that engulfed all creation. Like creation or Noah’s flood, when everything was new. The rules had changed. Even the playing field is different.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Present and The Future

Does anyone remember seeing a bike in a store and going “Wow! I want that bike!” ? (It could have been – and probably was – something else.) You wanted that “whatever it was” (WIW) really bad. It embodied the best that could ever be. If the WIW grabbed ahold of you imagination, maybe you would starting planning and preparing to buy it. You volunteered for extra work to earn extra money. You sacrificed purchasing something else. And you began saving until you had enough to get the WIW.

Notice what happens here. We see something, and it creates a wonderful view of the future. And it changes the way we behave.

The present creates the future; and the future creates the present.