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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Ministry Update-Closing out 2014

2014 was an interesting year and a year of change for Dianne and I.  I wanted to share some of the important points and some interesting data points.

 

1.       2014 was our first year operating without an affiliation to the institutional "church".  We discontinued our formal relationship with Journey Church in December of 2013 and set about relearning and reclaiming the word and our awareness of "church".  We experienced the largeness of the Assembly of Believers worshipped with believers in five different local fellowships including Methodists, Wesleyans, Church of God, and Lutheran traditions.

2.       Under the heading of relearning and reclaiming the word "church", I piloted the first ever Doctrine Work Group.  We started with 15 participants include clergy and laity, men and women, old and young.  Our topic was a doctrine for church.  I expect to complete this in 2015 and submit it for publication.  It will include both the process of the Doctrine Work Group and the work on a doctrine of the Church.  I am looking forward to starting another topic in 2015 and will be asking for participants when we do.

3.      Continuing with the relearning and reclaiming of the word and concept of "church", while we worshipped with a number of fellowships, we stayed in community the whole year with a couple of consistent groups. 

a.      Sunday nights were spent with some Senior High students at Columbus West Church of God.  We started working our way through the books of the Bible using a set of core questions (What is revealed about God?  About me (or man)? About Jesus?).  Depending upon the Book, there were other questions.  Each participant studied independently and presented the results of their study to their peers.  It was a rich and rewarding year and the students proved faithful and the conclusions insightful.

b.      Tuesday nights (Every other) were spent with some friends with whom we have shared life for several years now.  We added a couple new faces this year and had some friends drop out of the group, but the core group remained intact.  We shared together, prayed together, held each other accountable, and performed some ministry together.

4.      I have and had the privilege of meeting one on one with a dozen guys throughout the year.  We meet monthly or quarterly or on demand as our relationships dictate.  Several of us got together as a group toward the end of this year.  We work on our discipleship and benefit from accountability to one another.

5.      There was a group of guys who met every other month at Beef O'Brady's.  We called it "Boys at Beef's".  Many of this group were my oldest son's friends.  Most were not practicing disciples.  Some were not believers.  We met, shared some food and a pint, and talked about what was going on in life.  It took the form of current topics or a particular question that I brought to the meeting.  This group broke up with the deployment of a majority of the group (Army) and college for a couple.  I look back on this group with great fondness.

6.      I completed a Devotional Guide on the Book of Romans in 2014.  It guides the reader over 21 weeks (7 days a week) through Romans using reading, praying, quiet time, and journaling.  It was piloted on our Tuesday Small Group and the first run was distributed as Christmas gifts.  It is the first of what I hope will be a devotional guide for each book of the Bible.

7.      I got back to my Blog in 2014.  I published 33 new entries and wrote an addition 13 that were unpublished.  I found most of the Blog entries flowed out of my devotional studies.  Some were cathartic.  I enjoy the process and the sharing.

8.      Musically, I played in 6 bands in 2014.  Four of them as a regular.  I was blessed to average about one gig every other week.  In addition to the bands, I was fortunate to contribute to worship using the musical talents God gave me.  I realized how much I had missed worshipping in this way.  Most of our venues for the bands were either dances or performances in Retirement communities and Assisted Living Centers.  A few of my musical friends passed away in 2014.

9.      Dianne and I contributed financially and through prayer to a number of other ministries, groups and individuals (as a ministry) as God brought their needs to us.  This was a joy.

10.   Like most of you, we worked "day jobs" in 2014.  Ministering as "Tent Makers" in Paul's model enables us to talk with people from their "shoes" so to speak.  In reality, we are asking them to do what we also are doing from much the same context - as disciples in this world but not of this world.

11.   Our awareness of the homeless, poor, and oppressed was renewed in 2014.  Current events, the ministry of our daughter, and the prompting of the Holy Spirit guided us into a number of ministry opportunities both planned and spontaneous. 

12.   I was blessed to teach a few times to various adult communities.  I reaffirmed and realized anew that God has gifted me as a teacher.  It is what I must do.

I am and we are committed more than ever to God, Jesus, and the Bible as our foundation for life and ministry.  We seek to continue to be molded into the image of God's Son realizing He is the measuring stick (Ephesians 4:13).  I will leave you and 2014 with the verse that served as a primary provocation for me in 2014 and as the platform for continuing in 2015... 2 Corinthians 5:14-17:

 

"For the love of Christ controls us once we have reached the conclusion that one man died for all and therefore all mankind has died.  He died for all so that those who live should cease to live for themselves, and should live for him who for their sake died and was raised to life.  With us therefore worldly standards have ceased to count in our estimate of anyone; even if once they counted in our understanding of Christ, they do so now no longer.  For anyone united to Christ, there is a new creation: the old order has gone:  a new order has already begun."

8:54 am est 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Agitation

Agitation is defined as: 

-        A persistent urging of a political or social cause or theory before the public.

-        Also called psychomotor agitation. Psychological and physical  restlessness, manifested by pacing, handwringing, or other activity, sometimes occurring as a symptom of severe depression, schizophrenia, or other mental disorder.

-        Word Origin and History for agitation: 1560s, "mental tossing to and fro" 

 

With agitation there is a connection between the mental, emotional, and physical.  I think a certain thing which causes an emotional response which prompts me to act.  The act could be "urging" or pacing, or handwringing, or engaging in some physical action or response to the agitation.  In nature, an oyster deals with agitation by coating the source with a mucus which diminishes the agitation and results in the formation of a pearl.  When watching an animal making its nest, there is a persistent activity removing or arranging or padding or adding to make the nest effective and "comfortable" (agitation free).

 

In relationships we deal with agitation.

 

We can be a source of agitation.  We are persistent in an "urging".  Babies are great at this.  When they are in need, they cry.  In most cases, this is a "cue" to the parent to respond to a need.  When we get tired and our reserves are depleted, it can become a source of agitation.  I have watched and read recently several friends' communications.  As their reserves have become depleted (tired, strained, challenged) their response to the "persistent urging" confirms their view of it as a source of agitation versus a response to a need.  As a source of agitation, we must check our motives and work hard to communicate our motives.  What is the response we seek to provoke?  Are we being effective?  Does it honor God?  Is it our timing or God's timing that moves us?  Is there room for God to work or does it have to be our way in our time to our understanding?

 

We can be impacted by a source of agitation.  As I mentioned above, we move from responding to a need to feeling agitated largely based upon the availability of resource to deal with the source.  When we run low or out, the persistent urgings become agitations (and typically irritations).  Good questions to ask ourselves when feeling agitated are... Am I using the resources God has given me in ways I shouldn't, leaving me depleted?  Is it time to take a break?  Am I usurping God in this, leading to the depletion of my resources and the ineffectiveness that may result?

 

Timing and purpose belong to God.  When we insert ourselves outside of His will we can find ourselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.  When we are in the wrong place at the wrong time bad things can happen.  A chronic addict, exposed to the substance of their addiction, in a moment of weakness leads to a lapse.  In sports, if a team leaves the outcome of a game in the hands of others (officials, the opponent) they risk not getting the outcome they desire.  This is a variation on the wrong place and time.  If we put ourselves in a context where agitation exists, we risk being misunderstood and being mistreated and possibly impeding God's agenda by asserting our agenda.

 

There is a sphere of Responsibility, Authority, and Permission (RAP) that is God ordained.  All of it comes from God, is assigned by God, and is ordained by God.  Man has responsibility to decide to accept and believe God.  Man has the authority to exercise our individual will in the context of decision making.  God has granted man permission to exercise his will independently from or collaboratively with God.  God has ordained and called people to various roles and purposes.  Ephesians 4 identifies a number of roles.  Romans 12 identifies that God gives us gifts to be used in an ordained and called capacity.  Romans 13 identifies that God puts governing authorities in place and permits them to stay in those roles.  Everyone and everything is accountable to God.  The Church (defined as the Assembly of Believers or the collection of Disciples of Jesus Christ) have been commissioned by God with responsibility, authority, and permission as agents for His purposes.  I'll not enumerate a list here.  I'll only offer that our traditions and history get in the way of understanding and in the way of sharing together as one body in these responsibilities, authorities, and permissions.  This calls for patience, dialog, and intentional interaction.

 

God is God.  I am not.  You are not.  We are not.  If we are not where God wants us, doing what God wants us to do, when God wants it done, we risk usurping God.  When we usurp God, we don't have the resources to be god and usually find ourselves making messes and being agitated and a source of agitation.  God can use agitation to create something of value.  God can.  Not you and not me.  God's preferred path is obedience, peace, unity.  When those things don't exist, God is missing somewhere.  Our RAP (Responsibility, Authority, and Permission) is to introduce God so that He can restore order, peace, and unity.

8:02 am est 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Peace on Earth?

Is peace on Earth a scriptural potential?

 

Luke records the angelic pronouncement upon Jesus birth (2:14) as follows:

               "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!" (ESV)

 

Jesus said (as recorded in Luke's gospel, 12:49-53)...

               "I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled!  I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!  Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth?  No, I tell you, but rather division.  For from now on in one house there will be five divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law."

 

From Genesis through Revelation there is conflict and opposition, oppression and wrong doing.  It is a consequence of sin in this world.  As long as there is sin and people who live in it, there will be no peace on earth between all men.

 

Don't misunderstand, Jesus does bring peace (John 14:27, 16:33).  It comes through faith in Jesus as the Christ.  Short of that, there can be no peace.  Even amongst the believers unity will be something that requires effort (Ephesians 4:3) let alone with and between nonbelievers.   As a disciple of Jesus I am responsible and accountable for being a bringer of peace.  It just isn't something that will be realized outside of those who choose to believe on a worldwide basis.

 

There will be a reconciling of all things in Jesus as a result of him shedding his blood on the cross (Colossians 1:20).  This is an event yet to come and doesn't appear in scripture to occur until the end of time.

 

To you who consider yourselves disciples of Jesus Christ, peace is a quality you must possess (Galatians 5:22) and a state you live in.  Those governed by the Adversary will oppose you and will oppose peace.  That is the Adversary's mission (to oppose those of God and the things of God).  We should be bringers of peace AND understanding that only in accepting the news of Jesus, his sacrificial death, and God's resurrection of him for our benefit, in accepting his role as Lord in our lives can there be peace between men.  Apart from that, expect violence, conflict, death, and destruction.  As John wrote, anyone who loves the world does not love the Father and this world, with all its allurements is passing away (1 John 2:15-17).

 

True peace only exists in the state and context of Jesus.

8:18 am est 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Fruit Trees

How do you know what kind of tree you are looking at?  You look at its structure, its leaves, the bark that covers it, and the seed or fruit it produces.  It is interesting to me that God chose this metaphor to speak of the disciple's life.

 

Jesus and Paul used the idea of a plant when referring to the Assembly of Believers.  Jesus referred to himself as the vine (Matthew 15) and he is referred to as the "root of Jesse" (Isaiah 11:1, Romans 15:12) out of which all believers live and thrive.  Paul refers to the Assembly as an Olive Tree (Romans 11) with Jews being the native Olive and Gentiles being the wild olive grafted in.  Isaiah wrote (27:6) "Jacob's posterity will take root and Israel will bud and blossom and they will fill the whole earth with fruit".  The Assembly of believers and redeemed Israel are that fruit along with the works produced (Matthew 7:15-18; John 15; Romans 7:6-7; Galatians 5:16-25; Ephesian 5:8-11; Philippians 1:9-11; Colossian 1:9-10).

 

The disciple of Jesus Christ will be identifiable and not completely unlike the method a tree is identified. 

1.       How is your life structured?  How are your values structured?  What are the "roots" (foundations) of your belief system that guide the decisions you make, the things you do?

2.      How are you ornamented or clothed?  Not what you wear (although that matters) but the things you surround yourself with that feed you.  What are the images, the messages, the "cultural statements" of the things that fill your life?

3.      What do you do?  What do you produce?  What do you leave behind?  What impressions do people have of you?  What is your "fruit"?

 

If, as a disciple of Jesus, I am indistinguishable from those who are not disciples of Jesus, guess what... people won't see Jesus in or through me.  If I live my life by the same values, the same agendas, the same priorities as those who haven't had their lives saved... If I fill myself and surround myself with things that don't send the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ but rather send the message of the here and now, a message no different from everyone else...  If I act as an entitled, selfish, consumer or I invest myself in causes but causes that conflict with God's message... how will anyone hear what God wants to say to them?  How will the message, even if it is delivered, be credible to its hearers?

 

What we do and say matters.  What we think and believe matters because it is the source from which we say and do.  What we expose ourselves to and take in matters because it influences what we think and believe.  The discipline of discipleship (i.e. putting the "disciple in you") is guarding and governing the source of all matters so that the downstream things align.  Solomon wrote... "Guard your heart (the core of who you are) more than anything you treasure, for it is the source of all life" (Proverbs 4:23).  Jesus echoes this idea in Matthew 15:18... "But what comes out of the mouth has its origins in the heart; and that is what defiles a person."

 

What kind of tree are you?  Make time to take inventory and question the "what" (content) and "why" (motives) of your life.  If it isn't clear that God is your God, that Jesus is your Master, that God's Word is your authority, that Heaven is your home and you are a transient here, and that what you do is because God calls you to do it, then act on the Good News, the Gospel... confess (tell someone, especially God you need and want to change), repent (do it different), be forgiven (accept, submit, and yield yourself to God in and through Jesus Christ).  As the Apostle Paul wrote: "For the love of Christ controls us once we have reached the conclusion that one man died for all and therefore all mankind has died.  He died for all so that those who live should cease to live for themselves, and should live for him who for their sake died and was raised to life.  With us there worldly standards have ceased to count in our estimate of anyone; even if once they counted in our understanding of Christ, they do so now no longer.  For anyone united to Christ, there is a new creation:  the old order has gone; a new order has already begun." (2 Corinthians 5:14-17)   

9:33 am est 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Dealing With Injustice

Acts 6:1-7

A paraphrasing for today.

 

During this period, when disciples were growing in number, a grievance arose on the part of those who were not of the dominate culture against the institutions of the dominate culture.  They complained that members of their community were being singled out and mistreated to the point of death.  The Spiritual Leaders of "The Church", called on all the disciples and said:

 

"It is important that we, the leaders, stay focused on God's Word and that we, the leaders, not get distracted with resolution of perceived injustices.  Therefore, pick leaders who will assist you in dealing with the perceived injustice. We will appoint them for this duty.  We can stay focused on prayer and the ministry of God's Word."

 

This proposal proved acceptable to the whole Church.  They appointed... (Whom are you looking to as a leader in resolving this perceived injustice?  Are they above reproach, sober, temperate, faithful to their spouse, courteous, hospitable, a good teacher, not a drunk, not violent, gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money, able to manage their own household well and with dignity and in submission, not a recent convert, of good reputation with non-disciples, dignified, a straight talker, knowledgeable of God's Word, and unimpeachable in character? Are you willing to follow them and submit to the resolution they recommend?) ...and presented them to the Spiritual Leaders of "The Church" who prayed and laid their "hands" of commission on them.  (Dear Spiritual Leader of God's Church, the Body of Christ...  Who are you praying for and commissioning to lead those you shepherd in a plan of action to resolve the perceived injustice?  Please make it clear.)

 

The word of God spread more and more widely; the number of disciple were increasing rapidly, and very many opponents became adherents to the faith.

 

Father, may we be faithful to be and do all that your Word calls us to.

 

My friends and fellow disciples... I encourage you to listen to, read, and follow the counsel of Dr. Jeff Cook  (on Facebook:  Jeff Cook - Denver, Colorado).  He is a disciple of Jesus Christ and I find, to the best of my ability, that he fits the qualifications.  He is calling us to action.

 

Dr. Cook... Who else is being called to action that fits the qualifications?  Please partner with them.  You, as a team, will be far more effective than you, as an individual.  Lead us in resolving this perceived injustice. 

6:58 am est 

Friday, December 5, 2014

God is Love

"Children, love must not be a matter of theory or talk; it must be true love which shows itself in action." - 1 John 3:18

 

"My dear friends let us love one another, because the source of love is God.  Everyone who loves is a child of God and knows God, but the unloving know nothing of God, for God is love." - 1 John 4:7-8

 

Let me show you a better way.  (Paraphrasing 1 Corinthians 13)

 

I may speak in a variety of languages or in the language of angels, but if I do not have God, I am a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  I may have the gift of prophecy and the knowledge of every hidden truth; I may have faith enough to move mountains; but if I do not have God, I am nothing.  I may give all I possess to the needy, I may give my body to be burnt, but if I do not have God, I gain nothing by it.

 

God is patient and kind.

God envies no one, is never boastful, never conceited, never rude.

God is never selfish, never quick to take offence.

God keeps no score of wrongs, takes no pleasure in the sins of others, but delights in the truth.

There is nothing God cannot face.

There is no limit to his faith, his hope, his endurance.

God will never come to an end.

 

Prophecies will cease; tongues of ecstasy will fall silent; knowledge will vanish.  For our knowledge and our prophecy alike are partial, and the partial vanishes when wholeness comes.  When I was a child I spoke like a child, thought like a child, reasoned like a child; but when I grew up I FINISHED with childish things.  At present we see only puzzling reflections in a mirror, but one day we will see face to face.  My knowledge now is partial; then it will be whole, like God's knowledge of me.

 

There are three things that last forever:  Faith, hope, and God.

The greatest of the three is God!

 

"This is what love really is:  not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to atone for our sins." - 1 John 4:10

 

"If God thus loved us, my dear friends, we also must love one another." - 1 John 4:11

6:09 am est 


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