Monday, November 30, 2009


November 29, 2009


Yesterday, Bob Moore (Restoration Church) spoke on the subject, "The Pathway of Brokeness." It was on target and very challenging.
The response was strong.

He said the pathway of brokeness involves these stages:
1. We start in carnal competence
2. Calamity comes on
3. We enter into a time of conflict - and wrestle
4. Character is developed in us

As he ministered, I got caught up in the main text of reference - Jacob's story of wrestling and encountering God - especially Genesis 32:22-31. (Bob's Point 3)

And I began to scribble down some fresh thoughts about this wrestling match.

1. God arranged the match, the place and the time.

2. God brought a "foe" to Jacob - and this "foe" was one who could have crushed him in one blow.

3. God limited the "foe" so he could not do the crushing...but let him wrestle titanicly.

4. God let the fight go on for a very long time - all night - the longest match ever?

5. The match never had a formal end, nor a winner declared.

6. The fight changed Jacob forever..... a/ The "foe," finally convinced he could not win, "touched Jacob" and Jacob's hip was forever out of place..he would "limp" for the rest of his life....the sign to everyone, all the time of the big story in this man's life - ("here's the man who struggled with God and prevailed" "he's limping here, but not up there")
b/ God changed Jacob's name - it was kind of like the
fight had birthed him again:
Jacob (the conniver) became Israel (he struggles with God) my free sense: (he went from "he get's his way by pushing and pulling"
- to "he labors before God and God does incredible stuff through him")

And everthing in the Bible....flows from there.

And so I ask myself today:

>Am I earnest enough for more of God to just keep wrestling on an on?
>>Will I tap out and quit fighting and walk a distance from the life of His blessing?
>>>Am I so hungry for Him...that I will "limp" for the rest of my life, if that is what it takes?
>>>>Do I want His name for me (Christ-follower)
...or my name for self (successful, well-regarded)?

The buzzer is sounding....
will you leave your corner?
Will I leave mine?


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Giving Thanks

November 23, 2009 (Blog #134)


The title is intentional.

In this week of Thanksgiving, I am personally hoping to make it far more than food and football. (And I really love them both.) (Did you notice I left out shopping? :)

Somehow deconstructing that word (Thanksgiving) and putting "Giving" in the foreground, helps me think and act more clearly.

'cause the real stuff of this week comes from initiative not just appetite.

And letting "Thanks" stand alone, makes it somehow clearer.

Giving Thanks is not just a mumbled "good food" as everyone gets up from the table...
Giving Thanks is a clear, from-the-heart expression of appreciation and regard to someone that is meaningfully expressed and well-received. You can tell when you are in that realm because it is often the realm of watering eyes....and trembling lips.

And it is the same with can't go very far in expressing a depth of thankfulness to Him before your heart is so full that a holy meltdown can be drawn very close.

This piece, in fact, got triggered in me by a recall of Romans 1:21 -
"Though they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him,
but their thinking became futile and
their foolish hearts were darkened."

No wonder there are so many (100+) references to the example and benefit of giving thanks in the Bible. Somehow it feels to me like Romans is saying: one of the signs of darkness within, and a creeping darkness at an absence of giving thanks. (Withold the thankfulness that should be expressed....and the darkness creeps in a little further.)

So in the days of this week (and beyond) may we give thanks clearly and lavishly.
Not just for a wonderful meal.
But for a sunny day, a cool breeze, a multi-colored sunset, a warm bed, a smile that cheers, a partner who stays, a child who delights, a job that provides, faith that lifts, grace that forgives, courage that just keeps going, and stars that humble, birds that mystify, and rocks that solidify, and memories that bring jollity...and...
......keep going,
keep going,
keep going.

We are surrounded by a thousand things (really) for which we can speak our thanks.

So may we find times this week to be deeply giving thanks God, to friends and family.

In fact, I suggest that you plan a time of Giving Thanks for the gathering and celebration you will be a part of.
Have someone take the lead and invite people to engage one another, or the group as a whole in a time of giving thanks....let it go long enough so that it will have time to become very real and include everyone in the group.
Then follow that up with a time of prayer to God, Who in His great love and mercy "has given us everything richly for our enjoyment." (I Timothy 6:17)

Have a wondrous week...



Thursday, November 19, 2009


November 18, 2009


Lots of shifting going on these days.
People moving, changing jobs, dropping "unneccesary" stuff, adding "what really matters."
Triming down.
Running scared.
Watching their commitments.
Looking for stuff that will help them manage the pressures and tightness of life AND
dropping stuff that "really isn't helping," but instead is just draining energy and using up time.

It seems that in a lot of places people are more restless...unpredictable....less resilient...less committed.

I think of recent stories of long-time members just disappearing, people who made promises seeming to forget them quickly.

Result? Pastors feeling abandoned and overloaded....too much to do, and too few to do it.

A tough situation
but not a new one.

(Wasn't it Paul who wrote, "Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world" - II Timothy 4:10? Or as The Message renders it, "Demas, chasing fads....went off ...and left me here."

So how can we get a hold of some glue that will make the church more cohesive?

Here is a short list of ideas on getting more Glue.

Glue 1: Be clear on the issue of commitment.

If people sense that we are committed without wavering, it will increase their likelihood of being committed as well. Have you told them these times challenge you too?...but you have heard from the Lord to stand firm? Sometimes churches have had such a history of pastoral change and instability that they must say within, "why should I hang tough here?"

Glue 2: Regularly encourage those who are sticking strong.

Everyone is drawn to stability and continuance as they sense that what they are doing really matters. If you are leading them, one of your big responsibilities is to see that they know they matter and are appreciated on a regular basis. (Not just once a year in a formal manner!) Be lavish in your gratefulness to people. All the time. Get creative here too....have fun, and celebrate faithfulness.

Glue 3: As a leader, share your life with those you lead.

Jesus walked hundreds of miles with, foraged with, ministered alongside, struggled with, and risked with his followers. It was life that drew them in, not just words. It was not was life-based. (And He lost a few too.)
They were in on His life and it motivated them greatly. It increased their love for Him and their willingness to die for Him.

Glue 4: Always try to relate even the smallest of tasks to the big picture.

People need to know that cleaning up a room is critical to the larger picture of people being a part of the Family of God, living in an orderly and appealing manner. Even the smallest strokes of the brush are part of the whole picture.

Glue 5: Make sure everyone knows the protocol of coming AND going.

Disengaging is a process just as coming and engaging is. Did they suddenly leave because they had no idea how to do it otherwise - and their discomfort made that an easy choice? (Incidentally, being willing to be open here, will draw most people towards you. It will also build character in them for their business and life relationships.)

Glue 6: When people complete a term of service or big task, be sure to debrief with them and thank them.

Sometimes people lead poorly...and then live with an internal negative backwash and that adds to the desire to leave and escape the whole scene (ie church). Debriefing will help greatly.
Also, don't let leaders just go on and on and on letting people serve...that sometimes precipitates an exit when a sabbatical from leadership would be so much better for everyone.

Glue 7: Make sure Jesus is on board actively with you.

His presence is truly the greatest cohesive plus in any church that would be strong.
Paul put it this way: "Everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible...
everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment. And when it comes to the church, he organizes and holds it together, like a head does a body." Colossians 1:17ff.

Finally, don't beat yourself up when people leave. That will only take precious energy away that is really needed. I remember counting over 200 who had moved, left, disappeared in just one year when the church was otherwise thriving. (But more than 200 had come - :))

Keep adding the glue....and when that is not enough, don't accept the gloom.

Proverbs 4:18


Tuesday, November 17, 2009


November 17, 2009


In our travels, for many weeks now, one theme has emerged large in our conversations with church leaders.

The challenges of economic belt-tightening.

It seems that no community is exempt from the pressures being faced all over the country due to the economic downturn.

Pressures indeed.....salaries cut, offerings down (in many situations, not all), ministry support being reassessed, people moving to get jobs, businesses closing, retirements postponed, cars driven longer, community programs trimmed or shut down, restaurants with lots of space, parks in disrepair.

It seems like it is everywhere you look.

It is a sober and anxious time and one that calls for reflection and response.

And that is where I begin to gather the fact that this is not an isolated thing.
Everyone around us is feeling what we are feeling.
It is not your church that is somehow singled is all of us.
We are not alone.
And most of all...we are not alone, because God is with us.
He specializes in showing up when things are difficult...and we feel so dependent on Him.
It is in these times when He especially seems to delight to put His fingerprints all over our lives.

God IS with us.
This season is not surprising Him.
In fact, I am convinced more and more that He has a specific intention in mind in what is happening all around us.

In Acts 11, the same chapter that says believers were
"scattered by persecution" and
"severe famine was about to devastate the country"
these words also are found:
"for the first time they were called Christians" and
"the community grew large and strong in the Master." (from the Message).

God does not drop in and out - with us in the good times, and away in other places in the bad times - His secure pledge to us is this: "I will never leave you or forsake you."

He is with you right now as you read and think about these words...and with me as I write them.

So our challenge is to pray,
"Lord, show me Your presence,
and what I can do to respond to this crisis,
and how my life in the midst of these times can show others who are living in great anxiety what a difference it makes to know you as my Friend."

And here are a few of my ideas - hopefully to prime your pump and tune you in a bit more to what the Spirit of God might say to you and your circle of believers as you listen to Him:

Five Community ideas...

1. How about a more purposeful sharing of meals together? Not asking the cooks among you to wear out, but perhaps building a rotation that frees cooks up from some nights each week and brings believers (and non-believers?) into a more purposeful (and money-saving) relationship.

2. How about sharing tools? appliances? and building/repairing energies?

3. How about sharing living spaces? (Wow, do you remember the community movement of the 70's? We had community houses - with a total of about 30 living there - as a part of our church and it really was used of God.)

4. How about pooling care-giving to children, and the elderly?

5. How about establishing a resources response team to oversee the development of all of this within the church? And a way for all to communicate that the responses can become more timely and effective?

God, thank You that You are with us. And You have a plan for these times.

May each of the communities You have placed us in become stronger in these days...not faithless and fearful.

May many look and see tangible evidence of Jesus' people standing in practical and loving strength in the midst of challenging times.

And may this kind of response bring many to want in on this Family, and trust You with their whole life.

Could this time be a setup?



For instance, just one chapter in Romans offers

Monday, November 9, 2009


November 9, 2009


I pushed my chair back from the desk and began to pray fervently.
I had just received word that Fort Hood was the site of violent activity
and now was on complete lockdown.

Where were our kids?

The lockdown was to last for 6+ hours,
and after it, 13 were dead and c40 were injured.

Micah heard the sounds of gunfire, but was in a building about one mile away.

And now our prayers shifted from the issue of their survival,
to "God do not waste this moment in their lives."
Jackie was especially focused in this way.

In the hours that followed here is what happened:

was asked to deliver possessions of a fallen soldier to his mother who had been flown in because of what had happened. It was a very sober assignment
and he would have Ella with him as well.
Would this even work?
When he came to the room where the mother was, he did so with, Ella in arm.
The mother came to the door and he expressed his deep sympathy and that of his fellow servicemen
....and the mother began to weep.
With that, Ella (aged 2) held out her arms to the mother
and in a moment she was being held by the grieving mother and providing comfort to her.

was asked to provide some keyboard and vocal leadership at a Fort Hood vigil Friday evening. She did so, and her ministry to several hundred mourners, was wonderful.
The head chaplain of the Army gave her a special gift honoring her for her for her service.

3. They both ended up in the media coverage of the events at Fort Hood.

4. And since, there have been further signs of God at work in them.

And I think back to the times of decision about enlistment the times of stress and danger in Afghanistan
....and to the patience required now relative to current placement and progress.

And then this happens
and we realize that God's placement process is so much more complete than ours
....His ways are higher.

If we will stay the course,
with open hearts to listen and obey,
He will extend His Presence and Life through us.

And only heaven itself will reveal the infinite impact of it all.

His placement is perfect.

So, today,
may you and I bloom where He has planted us.



Thursday, November 5, 2009



November 5, 2009

They entered the water in ones and twos.

The ocean.

LaJolla, California.

November 3.

It was 60 degrees in the water...a bit warmer on land....with a landward breeze.

We sat at a table near the window, watching, and eating, and murmUring at the site below.

The final beach preparation:
stretching, and putting on a wet suit and a bright colored head covering.

Then it was into the water and a long, long swim. Over waves and across the long arms of seaweed. The floating course markers went out almost as far as eye could see. Until the splashes from the swimers seemed like raindrops on the horizon.

They swam for close to an hour and then returned....some at considerably slower pace. But many driving hard for the finish.

I asked a local: "Who are these people?"

"Triathletes, preparing for the next olympics."

So, this far off,
a race before the world,
and the hope of a medal and raised arms on the victor's stand
is what IS propelling these people forward day after day.

Ah, I think I understand.

And I wonder - what is propelling me?
What is calling forth endurance in my life?

"Do you see what this means?
- all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on?

It means we'd better get on with it.
Strip down, start running - and never quit!

No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins.

Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in.
Study how he did it.

Because he never lost sight of where he was headed - that exhilarating finish in and with God - he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever.

And now he's there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.

When you find yourselves flagging in your faith,
go over over that story again, item by item,
that long litany of hostility he plowed through.

That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!"*

In the swim...with you!


*Hebrews 12:1ff...The Message

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The 7

November 4, 2009


About 30 years ago, The Seven gathered on the hills of Texas to meet in a comfortable setting and do some very important team-work. Our assignment was to draft an enduring core philosophy of Chi Alpha, the international campus ministries arm of the Assemblies of God.

The Seven:
Dave Gable - remarkably engaging, disarming, and on point - national leader, prophetic
Brady Bobbink - discipler par excellence, and clear thinker, and fun, and abandoned to Christ
Jim Hall -passionate for evangelism and with much intense commitment
Dennis Gaylor - a make it happen guy, with energy and joy and can-do to share with all
Harvey Herman - a straight-ahead campus lifer, with depth of process and total commitment
Hershel Rosser - a wise, loving, committed, humble man
and....Dave Argue - (I won't try the descriptives)

And we took some pics....all smiles, and bearded, and 70's clothed. :)

And we worked really hard....over phrases and philosophical fits and big principles...and went back and forth until we couldn't do it any more. Teamwork. No-egomaniacs. All we wanted was Jesus on campus. And in a few days we were all somewhere between exhausted and satisfied.

And between the seams, it was fabulous food, and play in the Guadalupe River, and stories that had us all in fits of laughter. (Shoot Blue!! :)

And a few days ago we met again as a group in LaJolla, California, to remember, and see what would happen. Lots of the hair is white, and lots of it is gone, and we're moving a bit more carefully and there are war stories that bring tears to the eyes.

And the work of the 7 fact it is an anchor in the training materials to this day.

And along with that....the fierce hugs and laughter, and deep affection and open-heartedness remains as well. It seemed to all that getting back to the way it was 30 years ago, was almost effortless. It really is an eternal Kingdom.

And I think it has helped me believe even more, that when the relational stuff leads the way, the work will remain. When there is truth at the core and passion on the edge...the product will be good and endure. When there is God...whatever is done lasts.

And heaven looks even more wonderful.

And I pray for you, my friend, that you may have a "7" time in your life. Where a foretaste of heaven will break forth and you will feel so at a part of something that lasts.

And maybe just reading this is the Spirit's way of moving you towards a hunger....and times of living that will surround you with God's love.

Just think....the best is yet to come.