All posts by Dale

Ashes and Dust

Things that didn’t live up to their reputation:

  • The Ford Edsel in the 1950’s was to be an innovation in cars- sucked.
  • New Coke in the 80s was to build on Coke’s reputation- it didn’t.
  • PS3 is great! -unless you get the three rings of death… (old school, I know)
  • Facebook Games.
  • Planking.

There’s a difference between reputation and reality. Jesus, dictating the letter to the church at Sardis to the Apostle, John said:

“You have a reputation that you live, but you are DEAD.”

They were living on reputation, they were living on past accomplishments, they were living in the glory days, but had fallen asleep to living the life and doing the stuff of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

WAKE UP: Jesus says “WAKE UP!!!”…living on past accomplishments just isn’t enough. Any time we live in the past it is not a good thing, it robs us of today-good or bad. If you live in the past of the bad things that happen in life then you’ll never go forward, never heal, never explore and discover life now. The same is true for the good things: starting a business, being a star athlete in school, whatever the accomplishment; to live in the past is DEATH.

Paul speaks clearly words that the church at Sardis needed to hear and words relevant for us today in Philippians 3:13 “This ONE thing I do- forgetting what is past and move forward.” Do this and live.

Let us begin again! Saint Francis said something as he gathered the brothers around not long before his death- “Let us begin again, for up to now we have done nothing.” For Sardis, For our churches, for each of us individually, these words ring true. It is a time for us to begin again. Jesus said “repent & return to what you have received and heard.”

In ancient culture, cities kept a book with the names of all it’s citizens, when someone moved or died they would scratch the persons name out. Look at the promise Jesus gave to Sardis:

“He who overcomes will be dressed in white…and I will never erase or blot out his name from the book of life…” -Rev 3:5

Let’s not live in the past, not fall asleep, but be awake! & let us begin again; letting go of the past and moving forward! Let Ash Wednesday and the Lenten Season be a fresh start of your journey as you follow Christ.

Before The Season Of Lent

Trudge through the pain to get to the joy of really living

Don’t heed the tiredness of the hours

you’ve had a black eye before

not the first time

it’ll be alright

The snow gives way to sprouting green

Soon the leaf and then the fruit

The sun’s warming

the last fire of winter

reduced to embers

Cardinals feed on waning winter feast

New work is at hand now

Yoke the old horse to the new

experience and strength

side by side

Doing the Master’s work

The season is new

A Total Greater Than The Sum Of It’s Parts

 

People who are following Christ and seeking to imitate him in word and deed are the most basic element of what makes the church the church. Look at Peter’s words to the church:

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ

-1 Peter 2:4-5

A few things you’ll notice, Peter addresses the people-

  • As a stone, just like Jesus, a stone rejected by men but chosen by God.
  • As a house, a spiritual house.
  • A priesthood.

Whereas in the Old Testament people had to travel to Jerusalem in order to go to temple, and have sacrifices administered by a priest, when Jesus initiated the church he made us both TEMPLE & PRIEST. No longer did you go to the temple and the priest, the temple and priest (the church) is now sent out to the people, to the ends of the earth.

Paul, speaking of people making up the church as a body, put it this way:

Many Members of One Body, Many Gifts with One Purpose:

Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.

In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. –Romans 12:4-8

The Church at it’s best:

The church isn’t the steeple, the sound-system, furnishings, or even programs. It isn’t buildings or events. The church is the people of God; where they are, with what they have, doing what they can. The people of the church, when they become the hands, feet, ears, eyes and all the other parts of the body of Christ, can effect the world around them greatly and positively-

We aren’t meant to just be introverted on Sunday mornings, and  otherwise inwardly focused. The church is called to enrich the culture it finds it’s self in, often in the areas of greatest need, be it music and art, areas of compassion and mercy, or whatever the need.

Synergos: There’s a Greek word, Syn-ergos, it means  “The total is greater than the sum of it’s parts” The term synergy comes from the Greek word syn-ergos, συνεργός, meaning “working together.” This is a great picture of how the church works together.

Hebrews chapter 10 says: “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.” When we do this as the people of the Community of God, the total is greater than the sum of all it’s parts.

Come and Live! Kingdom Life:

We enter the kingdom through much tribulation…-Acts 14:22

Jesus said “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been suffering violence, and the violent have been seizing it by force.” -Matthew 11:12

This verse gives people much confusion on exactly what the meaning is, usually there are two camps of thought:

  • The Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing, and violent people are attacking it. 

Or

  • People have been ardently pressing in to the kingdom with all their strength.

Which one is right? Yes. probably both.

We are hindered at every side, attacked, sometimes actually, sometimes verbally, sometimes emotionally, to keep us from participating in the unstoppable, moving, coming Kingdom of God. At the same time we must determine not to be deterred, slowed down or hindered in any way. We must ardently press in to catch the moving train that is The Kingdom if we intend to ride that train, if we want to be a part.

Sometimes I think we get sidelined, we forget, or think “I’ve been there and done that.” but we have to practice being attuned to the Holy Spirit, and practice sharing hopeful news, or just stopping for a few minutes to pray with someone.

YOU have a part in The Kingdom. You get to “play.” John Wimber, a leader of the early Vineyard Church said:

“When you joined the kingdom, you expected to be used of God. “

But then soon we lose vision, lose fire, we’re told to sit, be quiet and then soon we’ve forgotten about anything that has to do with being used by God, serving, using our gifts, or just being willing to participate. Wimber continues:

“Folks, I’m not saying,Do some-thing heroic. I’m not saying, Take on some high standard, sell everything you have and go. Now, if Jesus tells you that, that’s different. But I’m not saying that. I’m just saying,participate.”

We’re all made to do different things, we don’t all do the same things easily. But at the same time God can do anything He wills as is necessary regardless if we are “gifted” or not.

Here are some of the gifts that the New Testament speak about in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4: exhortation, giving, leadership, mercy, prophecy, service, teaching , faith, administration, discernment, healing, helps, knowledge, miracles, prophecy, teaching, tongues, interpretation, wisdom, apostle, evangelism, pastor, prophecy, and teaching

No gift is given to us just for us. Gifts are given to serve God and to serve others, to bring His kingdom in some way.

John Wimber said:

“Give some portion of what you have; time, energy, money, on a regular basis to this purpose, to redeeming people, to caring for people. That’s where you’ll really see the kingdom of God.”

Teddy Roosevelt said “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” We all can participate in bringing God’s Kingdom by simply doing what we can, with what we have, where we are;  just by participating. Don’t underestimate the small testimony of what God did in your life this week or last week. Don’t underestimate the significance of offering to stop for 60 seconds and ask someone if you can pray with them about anything.

This week ask the Lord to show you an opportunity to participate in The Kingdom!

Fuel

 

What fuels the gifts of the Spirit? What fuels us to do the things we are made to do day by day? We cannot operate effectively the gifts God has given us unless we operate those out of AGAPE love. This is a godly love, a love with no strings attached. No other love will do- not STORGE (family love), not PHILIA (brotherly love), or EROS. (love between lovers) The only place for us to receive AGAPE love is from God himself. He is the source.

The love of God has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.- ROMANS 5:5

 

Saint Paul writing to the Corinthians:
Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts… Love others and desire to be operating in your spiritual gifts…especially the gift of prophecy… everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.

-1 Corinthians 14: 1,3

Sometimes we think some spiritual gifts are hard, or difficult, or freaky, but look how Paul defines prophecy here: strengthening, encouragement, and comfort
The fact is ALL gifts should encourage, strengthen, or comfort others. In 1 Peter chapter 4, Peter is talking about living the good life. We’ve already lived long enough like people who don’t know God- But GOD is calling us to live differently now.

Everything will soon come to an end. So be serious and be sensible enough to pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:8-10

Love, and serve each other with your gifts: Love each other deeply. Be quick to forgive. Offer hospitality to one another without complaining or trash talking. Use whatever gift you have to serve others.

Paul instructs Timothy:

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity and fear, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
2 Timothy 1:6-7

In other words: make full use of the gift that God gave you when I placed my hands on you. Use it well, God’s spirit doesn’t make us scared or fearful, The Spirit gives us power, and love, and self-control. Don’t sit idle, don’t let a talent go to waste. Paul said “Fan into flame the gift of God.”

He urges us to set the invincible power of the Spirit which God has given us, against those storms which may, and do come upon us. The gift of God is, as it were, a certain living flame kindled in our hearts, which the flesh and the devil go about to put out. Literally, Paul is saying blow the coals into a flame.

What are the reasons we sit idle? Why don’t we operate the gifts God has given us?Sometimes we lack direction. Sometimes we have to clue in to timing, life-changes, seasons. Sometimes I’m lazy, unsure, or may need affirmation. All these reasons are true,  several are temporary, but here Paul addresses the primary issue:
“You have not been given a spirit of FEAR”
The reasons we often  sit idle comes from discouragement and fear. It’s the last thing your adversary wants so he wants to intimidate you out of doing what God’s made you to do.

There’s a lie your adversary wants you to believe, and it usually sounds like:
– You can’t do that-
– You are no account-
– A Failure –
– Why try?-
– Why bother?-

If he can get us to buy the lie then we just sit and do nothing. But God has not given us the spirit of fear, instead He gives us the spirit of power, of courage and resolution to meet difficulties and dangers. We have the spirit of love which will carry us through opposition. We have the spirit of a sound mind, quietness and strength of mind.

Paul said “Stir up your gift Timothy”, don’t fear, do what God has made you to do.

The Holy Spirit is not the author of a timid or cowardly disposition, or of slavish fears. We are likely to bear afflictions well, when we have strength and power from God to enable us to bear them.- Matthew Henry

When We Have Dreamed Too Little

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

We ask you to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push back the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

This we ask in the name of our Captain,
Who is Jesus Christ.

A prayer by Sir Francis Drake, 16th century

Before you judge…

It doesn’t take long on social media these days to find outrage. We think we see, watch, or read about a situation and quickly make a judgement about it then post our opinion. Many times, however, a few hours later we realize that we took the click-bait and the story is bigger and more detailed than what we originally ascertained.

Recently I watched an episode of The Orville that addressed this phenomena of 21st century life. People were rated, judged, sent to prison, or lobotomized according to societal consensus and outrage via social media. I found it to be a very insightful episode.

The problem is that our society judges harshly, yet I doubt we would want to be judged by the same measure by which we judge or display our outrage at others. It is one of the least appealing or Christ-like things we can do. I have said for a while that we are living in an age of “non-grace.” This has to change, especially with our harsh judgement upon each other. Too often we quote moral leaders but neglect to apply their teachings on peace, love and forgiveness. 

We often make fools of ourselves when we judge the intentions of another…Our own intentions or prejudice are easily revealed in our outrage. The heart is deceitful and so wicked we don’t know the evil in our own hearts.

There is hope. We just have to remember before we react, and see like Jesus sees. He saw everyone as a potential disciple and friend, that was his baseline, not to see anyone as an enemy but as a child of God, however imperfect.

“Father help us to be kinder to others, giving the benefit of a doubt, not pre-judging but believing the best about others whenever possible, for we would seek the same on our own behalf when they encounter us.”

Rediscovering what it means to be the church

Jesus said: “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? …It worthless.”

“You are the light of the world–like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.

  •  It’s not about buildings, it’s about people
  • It’s not about membership, it’s about discipleship
  • It’s not about performance, it’s about presence
  • It’s not even about success, it’s about obedience

Looking Deeper:

1)It’s not about buildings, it’s about people

We’d all love to have great buildings b/c people like great buildings & cool spaces, but remember the early church, where did they meet? Wherever they could. Homes, under trees, the steps of the Temple, caves, wherever. No one had a building that was referred to as a church till about the time of Constantine in 4th century. In many ways the church is beginning to return to these early roots. Anchor Mission churches meet in coffee shops and schools, and basements, and storefronts more than we do in actual church buildings. Non of that matters because it’s about the people & not the building.

2) It’s not about membership, it’s about discipleship

It’s been called the ABCs of ministry, (attendance, buildings, cash) America’s church often has fuzzy vision that resembles the materialism and values of the corporate world model; but our call is the call of the early church; to real discipleship, to make disciples. All other things serve that goal, not vice-versa.

At the end of the day did we take Jesus at His word and “Go, make disciples” or did we grow our membership? There is a difference. As disciple-makers  we seek to encourage each other not to buy into the corporate church model.

3) It’s not about performance, it’s about presence

Of course we want to do all we can to do a good job, do things well, “professional”, decently and  in order; but at the end of the day we need the spirit leading and anointing what we do. As Paul said “I didn’t come to you with men’s wisdom but with the spirit”.

An example of what I’m talking about is music and worship in the early church. Paul, James and others instructed that the church support each other with songs, hymns, spiritual songs, words of wisdom, and scripture. But by the 4th century congregational singing was quickly diminishing, being replaced with performance chiors, which required  up to 9 years of training to sing in Latin. It had become about performance and not necessarily about presence. For 1000 years that’s pretty much how it was. One thing the reformation returned to the church was congregational singing, thousands more voices praising God. This trickled down via hymns, to the camp meetings, and then to Calvary the new expressions of worship of today.

Things should be done well. It’s important to do all things as best we can, but it’s more important to do so seeking Gods presence, seeking intimacy with Him, being focused on Him & not ourselves. It’s about presence. As a group we seek the presence of God.

4) It’s not even about success, it’s about obedience

We all want to be successful, to pay our bills doing what we love, to be known and respected for what we do.

According to the world’s standards John the Baptist was a failure, Isaiah-failure, Jeremiah-failure, Paul-failure. The early church, leaders of the early church were not called to be successful; they were called to live by the truth, and to make disciples. Often this meant death, persecution, or at least suspicion by a jaded and un-trusting world.

You’ve not been called to succeed, you’ve been called to be obedient, to try, to pick up your cross and follow him. Bonhoeffer says you’ve been called to DIE. You’ve been called to obedience, not necessarily success. As church planters we encourage each other to obedience.

At the end of the day all that matters is if you were obedient. All that matters is if it was all about presence and not performance…about discipleship and not membership, about people and not about a building. At the end of the day all that matters is if you took God at his word and encouraged people along their path to go forward on their journey with Jesus. Did you call them forward on that journey or not? That’s all that matters.

In the words of Saint Francis: “We’ve been called to heal wound, unite what has fallen apart, and bring home those who have lost their way…” We need to return to this simplicity often;  just what it means to be the church.

Real Humility Is The Hardest Thing

The Litany of Humility cannot help but to offend our 21st century American sensibilities, and that is precisely why we should wrestle with it at least a little. Even if hyperbole, it gives pause, it sucks the oxygen out of the room and makes us uncomfortable, and we realize how centered we are on self. It was written by Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930), Secretary of State for Pope Saint Pius X. 

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.

From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved,
From the desire of being extolled,
From the desire of being honored,
From the desire of being praised,
From the desire of being preferred to others,
From the desire of being consulted,
From the desire of being approved,
From the fear of being humiliated,
From the fear of being despised,
From the fear of suffering rebukes,
From the fear of being calumniated,
From the fear of being forgotten,
From the fear of being ridiculed,
From the fear of being wronged,
From the fear of being suspected,
Deliver me, Jesus.

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. (repeat after each following line)
That others may be esteemed more than I,
That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease,
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

 

Are You Worried That You’re Not Worried

What are you afraid of?

Most have a fear, phobia or neurosis: spiders, snakes, heights, tight spaces, going broke;

What are you worried about? It’s a slightly different question: Finances, health, unemployment , situations, relationships, it can be endless. So what’s the problem with worry? Let’s define.

Worry: “to fret, be anxious, overwhelmed, even paralyzed”

Wyrgan: Old English “to strangle”

Merizo: Greek “to be drawn different directions, divided, distracted”

So, paralyzed, strangled, drawn and quartered pretty much sums it up.

You are probably neck-deep into worry if it’s the first thing you think about in the morning and the last thing you think about at night, when it’s your constant topic, and when you’re wide awake at 4am, and when you’re not thinking about it… you’re worried that you’re worried… or worried that you’re not worried.

What we worry about can be, or become a little false god or idol in our life.  Jesus said “No one can serve two masters” False god’s love for you to worry. Father-God does not.

One of the biggest challenges in the life of a disciple is the willingness to develop trust, reliance, and dependence on God. This is our primary aim and goal, yet it is an uncomfortable one at times. He truly doesn’t want us to worry but to live life to the full! Instead of any false god that ultimately cannot deliver and cannot satisfy, He wants us to “Seek first the kingdom of God”. If…

“WORRY is an indication that we think God cannot look after us…”

~ Oswald Chambers

and if…

“No Grand Inquisitor has in readiness such terrible tortures as anxiety…”

~ Soren Kierkegaard

Then Jesus instructed us not to worry because He has more for us than that. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. (Matthew 6:33 nlt)