Wednesday, September 23, 2009


I have learned a few things in the years of living in Oklahoma. I grew up in TN, so trees were everywhere. When we arrived in Oklahoma 13 years ago, I noticed a distinct lack of trees. As I learned more about Oklahoma, the heat and droughts come often. The grass burns and trees wither. Yet, there is a place where trees do not wither: river and creek banks. Here, we find long curving lines of trees that live. Actually, they thrive. Not only do they thrive, but everything around that tree thrives because of the food, shelter, and relief it brings to all who come near.

The Bible tells us that those who trust in the Lord and have made Him their hope and confidence are like those trees.

7 "But blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence. 8 They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.

Jeremiah 17:7-8

I want to be around that kind of person. Those whose trust is in the Lord have reconciled their life, actions, and eternity with the life, actions, and love Jesus Christ. He has become their hope. I need hope these days, don’t you? With the increasing financial concerns in our families and in our churches, hope is a high commodity. Jeremiah told the people they would be blessed if the Lord was there hope. This hope is precipitated by our trust in the life and activity of Jesus Christ. Our trust, or belief, brings hope. Those who have this trust and hope are fun to be around because they have joy. Just being around them lightens your load. The way they trust. The hope that oozes out of their attitude, tone, and posture can cause you to forget about the trouble briefly. He has become their confidence. Trusting in God allows us to walk tall in the face of discouragement, stand strong in the face of fear and the enemy. These people have trouble. These people have difficulty. However, their trust is not in themselves or anyone else. Their trust is in the Lord. Those who are around that kind of person thrive because of what they provide. They are like trees that are not bothered by the heat of the moment or long months of difficult circumstances. They provide the food, shelter, and relief others need.

I want to be that kind of person who, because of being close to Jesus, becomes help and hope for my family, friends, and future. Don’t you? I must place my trust in the Lord. Whether in good or bad I must trust in the Lord. With my past sin, my present situation, and future sentence I trust in the Lord and not myself. In Shade for the Children, Steve Camp writes,

“Shade for the children, a shelter from the storm. To be a place where they can grow. In the ways of the Lord. To train up my child, to live a pure and godly life. Through the struggles and fears, Dreams and tears of every day, to be shade for the children.”
I watch our people as they come in and out of church with emptiness in their souls. How many people do we interact with everyday who simply need a little spiritual fruit, shelter from their storm, and relief from their journey?

May we trust in the Lord making Him our hope and confidence so that those around us may benefit.

Oh God, may my trust be in You today. Bless me with hope and confidence. I want to be like a tree planted by a river. Make me that tree today. Let me feed the hungry soul, protect others from the brutal winds of life, and relieve them from life’s burdens. Amen.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Beyond Belief to Love

Isn't it beyond belief that God would condescend to our needs? He had, and has, every right to demand holiness. He had given the law, the priests, the leadership, the sacrifices, etc. Humanity had all it needed to understand and maintain the unique relationship with God. But sin changes lives. The law became god. The priests became political. The leadership became lazy. The sacrifices became scheduled more than spiritual. God had no logical reason to come to us. He had created. He had fed and clothed them. He had protected them. He had fought for them. He had forgiven them. He had warned them.

Why should God do more? It is beyond belief…to love.

I love the book, Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney.

Little Nutbrown Hare, who was going to bed, held on tight to Big Nutbrown Hare's very long ears. He wanted to be sure that Big Nutbrown Hare was listening. "Guess how much I love you," he said. "Oh, I don't think I could guess that," said Big Nutbrown Hare. "This much," said Little Nutbrown Hare, stretching out his arms as wide as they could go. Big Nutbrown Hare had even longer arms. "But I love you this much," he said. Hmm, that is a lot, thought Little Nutbrown Hare. "I love you as high as I can reach," said Little Nutbrown Hare. "I love you as high as I can reach," said Big Nutbrown Hare. That is very high, thought Little Nutbrown Hare. I wish I had arms like that.

Then Little Nutbrown Hare had a good idea. He tumbled upside down and reached up the tree trunk with his feet. "I love you all the way to my toe!" he said. "And I love you all that way up to your toes," said Big Nutbrown Hare, swinging him up over his head. "I love you as high as I can hop!" laughed Little Nutbrown Hare, bouncing up and down. "But I love you as high as I can hop," smiled Big Nutbrown Hare- and he hopped so high that his ears touched the branches above. That's good hopping, thought Little Nutbrown Hare. I wish I could hop like that.

"I love you all the way down the lane as far as the river," cried Little Nutbrown Hare. "I love you across the river and over the hills," said Big Nutbrown Hare. That's very far, thought Little Nutbrown Hare. He was almost too sleepy to think anymore. Then he looked beyond the thornbushes, out into the big dark night. Nothing could be farther than the sky. "I love you right up to the moon," he said, and closed his eyes. "Oh, that's far," said Big Nutbrown Hare. "That is very, very far." Big Nutbrown Hare settled Little Nutbrown Hare into his bed of leaves. He leaned over and kissed him good night. Then he lay down close by and whispered with a smile, "I love you right up to the moon- and back."

We can’t account for love. It is hard for us to understand, right? We write people off. We have irreconcilable differences. We denounce. We divorce. We destroy. We abandon. We hate. We leave. God loves.

At just the right moment, God stepped in with love. A love that says…

It doesn’t matter where you have been because my love is greater. It doesn’t matter what you have done because my love can forgive you. Not to believe the lies you’ve been told because this love is forever.

This is beyond belief, right? Isn’t He way up there? Aren’t we left to natural law and physics? Though God may be silent He is not absent. Though you may not have answers God still does.

The Jews had gotten it just the way they wanted. They had it all figured out. But they were not happy and God knew it. At just the right moment, God stepped in with love. It all began with a man by the name of John. This is not the John who wrote this book, he comes later. No, it began with John the Baptizer. He was loud and raucous. The Pharisees even came all the way out of there security of the temple to examine what was happening. He preached a message of repentance and expectation. He was preparing the way for the light.

6 God sent a man, John the Baptist,*7 to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony.8 John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light.9 The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.

John 1.6-9

This light is Jesus. He leads us out of our dark places. He leads us beyond our dark memories, our dark side. For those who believe and accept him, he gave the right to become children of God!

What? How can he do that? Who gave him the right? This is unbelievable! There’s the problem. Somehow in the back of our minds we have this judge and jury that examines the claims of people. If it seems unbelievable, then it must be. After all, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually isn’t. Right?

So the writer, John, is telling us that Jesus is the son of God. He is the light for our darkness. He is the promise for our problem. He is the strength for our weariness. He is the wisdom for our ignorance. He is the light. John is telling us, right up front, that He was sent by God to give away the family jewels.

12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.13 They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.

John 1.12-13

For those who believe him and accept him, they receive the right to be children of God.

How fantastic? God’s design for the family is that it would be child-centered, not child-controlled. God, through Jesus, is offering us the opportunity to be at the center of His attention, His love, His home.

Do you realize what this means? By believing the claims of Jesus and accepting his activity on the cross as sufficient for you, then everything can be different…better.

That horrible home life can be exchanged for a home with God.

That difficult upbringing can be exchanged for the loving leadership of God.

The beating, the abuse can be traded in for a new home, new life, a new moment.

That is beyond belief! That is love!

Sunday, September 06, 2009

I'll Have the Elephant

How do you eat an elephant?

This is a very good question for us today. Too often we try to accomplish too much in short amounts of time. If I remember correctly, the tortoise won the race going slow and steady. Our conventions hand out awards every year that, I believe, promote detrimental movements. I am sure these churches who win these awards are good churches filled with good people. It is the machine that is our problem. We want the exciting. We want the growth. We want big churches, budgets, and salaries. We want to grow faster than the Pentecostals and be earlier than the Methodists. All the while we become distracted from our primary goal: make disciples. This is not a quick, large group process. We as Christ-followers are all capable of making disciples through relationships and long-term strategies.

We must understand that the process is not quick. Jesus took three years to develop his disciples and they still all ran off in times of difficulty. Let us not stress out over similar issues. It will take a while for a person to adjust habits, change patterns, and develop new thoughts about God. Here are two thoughts:

First, a church must have a long-range plan of what a committed Christ-follower is to be. This long-range view extends out 10-20 years. What kind of disciple are we going to make? What is the most God-honoring way to develop others? What types of teaching styles and learning styles will be offered? What levels of development will we offer? How much doctrine? Theology? Missions? Hands-On?

Second, the church process should encourage disciple making opportunities. One church began a new approach to development. The process begins with worship. As people attend worship contact is made with the encouragement to move into a Small Group/Sunday School class. Out of these classes movement into further development and service is stressed. Several development opportunities on Sunday evenings as well as several opportunities for service on Wednesday nights. In this way faith is fed and exercised. Every Sunday School class is encouraged to do ministry that impacts the community [Power Up Your World]. Through impact the church and classes find potential members for their class, but more importantly begin to earn the right to be heard on spiritual matters.

How do you eat an elephant? You do so one bite at a time. Disciple-making takes time. Pick out a small group and begin to assist transformation. As they transform they will change the lives of those around them. Soon their fringe friends find themselves in worship and the cycle continues.

It's a Process!

"6-week old baby runs Boston Marathon"
"2-yr old allowed driving test for license"
"Toddler surprise medal winner at national track event"

If you were to read these headlines two things would happen almost instantly. First, you would smile or laugh. Second you would assume they came from a National Enquirer or Star. Either way, you would immediately believe these statements to be false.


Everyone knows that people of that age cannot accomplish those feats! They very well could accomplish them later in life, but not right now. There is a process of development that must take place first. The very things you take for granted today are a result of a forgotten series of events. A baby must learn to roll over, which strengthens muscles. Next we will sit up and begin to pull up. Once we have strengthened our stomach and arm muscles our legs must gain strength and balance before walking can occur.

Once that starts, look out!

Though our spiritual life has many similarities, we often by-pass crucial stages of development for more exciting moments. As adults, especially, we try to shrink the process. Because of intellectual and physical acumen we believe ourselves to be past all that childish learning. However, without the basics we set ourselves up for misunderstanding, malnutrition, and disaster. There is a reason why Jesus said we should come with a child-like faith. He also said that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter Heaven. Both statements speak to the issue of skipping stages having negative impact.

Most churches today are plateaued or declining for a number of reasons:
  1. No outreach plan
  2. Poor door-greeter mission/ministry
  3. Too many lost people leading the church
  4. Too many immature placed in mature roles

Now, some might take offense to the third and fourth statements. Bear with me. Over the past 30+ years of my relationship with God, I have noticed that we have shortened the gospel presentation down to "ABC: Admit, Believe, Commit". We call for decisions more than we do converts. We beg and plead for people to just ABC and never tell them the life-changing, transformative gospel message. Because of this we have churches full of members who made a decision but were never converted. These poor souls are attending, ushering, serving, teaching out of themselves and have no presence of the Spirit of God because of our irresponsibility with the Gospel.

The fourth statement is too often true. When a person makes a true confession and conversion, we fastpass them to the next level. We tell them to attend everything and something good will happen. There is no strategy to this line of thinking. There is no plan. Did Jesus come to Earth with the hope of something good happening? No. He came with a well-thought out plan and so it should be in our churches. If a church has a transformed life they often don't know what to do with him except tell him to keep showing up. The mandate is very clear. We are to make disciples.

Jesus took three years to make his disciples and they changed the planet. How long is your plan? Jesus took 12 people and shaped their behavior and thinking. Are you alone trying to change the whole church? I believe we need to review the plan of Jesus don't you? I believe we need to pattern our development after how Jesus did it, don't you?

Development is a process. Do you have one?