Transformational Theology – Part 1

Transformational Theology

Discovering who we are!

Romans 6:1 – What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with,[a] that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. 14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

Someone recently asked me if I had any concerns for the church in this time of world-wide upheaval? I affirmed that I was deeply concerned. Then they asked why? Then I had to decide how to structure my thought and emotions into something that is coherent and understandable. What I finally came to understand is that I am not concerned with God and His plans, but with the natural arena of the church on planet earth and what we are doing to ourselves.

  1. I am concerned that the church is leaving its commission.

There has always been a tendency for the church to move away from the power of its nature and heritage back to the law. We seem to be comforted by that which is easily defined and categorized. Adam and Eve were attracted to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and so are we. We want to know the definitions of good and the warnings about evil. We want things codified, and reasoned, so we can be measured as good, in contrast to the equal opposite of evil. We want to be safe in a context that affirms that we are OK and that our behavior violates nothing.

The problem is, that the law, that which defines good from evil, is powerless to deal adequately with evil or to measure properly what is good. The end result is the rule of human government and the need to trust fallible humans with our state of being. This becomes increasingly difficult by the nature of the law. It tends to expand in scope, and reduce us as it becomes more intense in its application. The vortex of human government is ever revolving like a water spiral, becoming more dense at its core while the mass is spinning at greater lengths. The mass increases until it crushes we who are caught in its process.

Law is constructed for seemingly good intentions, yet its principle course is not to remain in place but to increase in density. Freedom is always the ultimate victim of law without grace and purpose.

The church tends to move from revival and revelation to identification of the revelation, then to codification of the revelation then to the legalization of the codification, then to enforcement of the legalization. That is, God speaks into the church and it experiences Him in relationship and the sense of His presence and the expression of His power, then, over a short period of time, it tries to capture God’s presence in a legal form and to use that form to prove that it is the right way, the true church, the best of God’s people and the presence is reduced to a golden calf.

Right now, we are experience a falling away from the church of a generation who simply cannot relate to doctrine, dogma, religious systems and the hard cold control of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The definitions and the legal descriptions of God do not suffice for His presence and His power. Besides, with high taxes to pay and the cost of living being what it is, who wants to shell out another 10% to support more bureaucracy?

As Christ is the express image of God, we are to be the express image of Jesus. But when the image is compressed into an icon without the substance, it has little attraction to gather to worship the shadow, devoid of the substance. The commission of the church is to be (BE) the image of the creator, not just talk about the legal representation of Him.

The other day two nice Jehovah’s Witnesses came to our door. In the good old days, we were told to never talk to them, but I am not inclined to be that impolite so I always try to take time with them. While I was pastoring, several came to the church because of that interchange. Most stayed.

Anyway, they started in with their Bible in hand, thumbing through and telling me why they were right and why the rest of Christianity was wrong. I listened. Then I asked them if they were trying to prove that they were smarter than me and if I was stupid. It was quite a pointed question, and they back-peddled, assuring me that they were not trying to put me down. Then I asked them if God was partial to smart people with right doctrinal statements but was somehow prejudiced toward the many stupid people He had created? They looked toward each other for support and a way out of this dilemma.

So I asked if God’s acceptance was determined by our ability to construct the right description of Him? They looked at each other once again then the lead spokesperson bypassed the question to get back on script. He talked about the way in which they had found the truth and how they studied to find the truth and how they knew the truth. So I asked how they found the truth. They described the process of gathering, hearing the word of instruction and of finding the revelation of the word.

I love it when a plan comes together.

So I asked if they received revelation during their times of instruction. They nodded in agreement, as though I had finally understood the source of their rightness. Yes, they affirmed, that is how revelation of truth happens. So I asked if they received revelation, then the assumption is that they did not know what was revealed prior to the revelation, so they had to give up prior presumptions and understanding to receive the revelation. They agreed. So, if your being right is the basis of your acceptance by God, you were not right, before the revelation????

Confusion filled their faces as they saw that they had walked into a trap. The very basis of their argument, being right, was turned against them. They had to admit that they believed error while in the pursuit of truth, but that God loved them anyway. And if they had that Grace from God, then the rest of creation must also have that grace also, for God is no respecter of persons.

I had just destroyed their entire platform and they had to now admit that others may have revelation and be on an equal footing and that their entire approach of contrasting right from wrong had holes in it. I pointed them back to the concepts of the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil. I challenged them that eating of the tree of definition and contrast was a substitute from the Tree of Live and the fellowship with God. They politely excused themselves and beat a quick retreat.

Yet, that is the tendency for all of us, who are human, born in sin and shaped by insecurity and fear. We need the security of our own parameters, of our own definitions, of our having some foundations of personal security. That is not wrong, but it is not faith and it is not to be confused with having the presence of God. God is not a concept that we fabricate from arguments and dogma. He is a person to be experienced, to be related to and to be acknowledged. Jesus did not say that He understood the truth or that he had discovered the truth or that His teachings contained the truth. He said He was the truth –

John 14:6 – Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

It is so easy to confuse the shadow and the substance. It is the story of human history that we choose to have information about God rather than to walk in the intimacy with the person and presence of God. We far too often reduce God to a system, a codification of right and wrong and provide measurements of acceptance by God through our systems. The church is its own worst enemy, as it bites once again into the apple from the wrong tree and fall prey to the subtle surface images of a god of regulations.

We tend to the law. It is easier that way. In the passage at the start of this chapter, the concluding “because” is, we are not under law but under grace. The task of the church is not to dress up the old man in the right suit. It is not to cover the old man with new rules of conformity. It is to declare the old man dead and to live in the freedom of the newness of life in Him who is our life.

The practice of baptism is a visual declaration of what becoming a Christian is about. It is a declaration of death. We are dead to the old and alive to the new. We are not reformed by a new context, we are transformed by new life. It is not a redefinition of our beliefs or our behaviors but a transformation from old life, now dead, to new life now revealed. The task it not to restructure or revive or to find a new context. It is the revelation of a new content, the transformation from death to life.

I shall never forget a simple event, when I was a young pastor. We had invited people to come forward to receive Christ and one fellow came, with deep emotion and a repentant heart, knelt at the alter and was weeping as God was dealing with him. I knelt beside him and opened my Bible and started to talk to him about passages I though he ought to know, when I felt a definite and clear correction in my spirit. A still small voice said, “What are you doing?” I replied, “He is a new Christian and there are a lot of things he needs to know and a lot of things he will have to change!” Then as clearly as I have ever heard the voice of God, He said, “I’m in here now, and I will take care of it!”

We sometimes act as though God is only a thought, an idea, a doctrine, a prohibition, a context, when He is, in fact, a real presence, quite capable of ruling His own universe. Our task, is not to be God for people but to declare the presence of the Eternal and walk as an example of the newness that is found in Him. Christianity is not a change of clothing but a transformation from the rule of the old tree to the rule of new life. It is a death of the old and the growing of a new life in Christ. It is more than the joining of a church or the taking of a class to become oriented to new loyalties and practices. It is “All thing have become new!”

Grace is not just that I am forgiven of my old sins, but that I am transformed to a presence of God in me. I am new, the old has passed away. The act of baptism is a declaration to me, to others and to the powers of hell that attended me in my sin, that the old me is gone, dead and buried. The new me is living by a new power and a new means. It is not just a change of context, it is a change of content – Christ in me the hope of glory. The old man is dead, dead, dead! Changing his clothes, altering his beliefs, changing his context is not the point. Life is Christ is not a change of context – it is a transformation of spirit.

How are you doing with the Jesus factor?

Earth in HandsWhat if someone were to observe our life in detail, from outside?

Certainly God knows the number of hairs on our head, but most people do not even know if we have hair to comb. Mark Twain once said, “People would care less about what others thought about us, if the realized how seldom they do!”

Yet we know that God cares. He knows us and to some degree, we know ourselves. But to most other people in this world, we are but a prop in a sea of people, playing on the stage of the drama of nothingness. We exist and we are acknowledged in part by but a very few. Opinions vary as to our life, our value and our character, but for the most part, the world has no opinion of us nor does it care.

But what if, our life and the intimate details of it were revealed to everyone on the planet?

  • What would their opinion be of the God that we serve and the faith that we declare?
  • What would it say about the relationship that is available between God and man?
  • What would we want others to know about us and our God?
  • What would there reaction be?
  • Would they want to emulate our life?
  • Would they be attracted to our God?
  • When asked these questions, do you feel guilty or excited?

The objective is not to produce guilt but to stimulate us to think about our own intimacy with God and of the potential that is there, but may as yet be imperfectly implemented. You see, as we are fully and completely known to God, God desires to be fully known to us.

Ephesians 1: 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit[f] of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

One of the most powerful verses in the Bible, gives us a picture of the purpose of God in Christ, and though Him to us. We are to, not just have information about God, but to be the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way.

BibleThe writer of this verse, the Apostle Paul, is not speaking about our having good church services. He is not talking about correcting our doctrinal statement to conform to orthodoxy. He is not talking about the hierarchical structures of church life. He is not talking about denominational affiliation. He is not talking about the color of your clothing or the fabric of your religious covering. He is talking about your being the exact expression of Jesus, in all that He is and all that He represents, in love, power, beauty, and in the application of His glory to the planet on which we live.

Here is a picture of our destiny. Here is a potential that we can actualize once we envision it. Here is the purpose of the eternal into the nature of the natural that He created. Here is the redemption from the fall back to the rule of man over the planet He placed in our care. Here is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, transcendent over national issues, political uncertainty, violence, war and hatred. Here is the final epic conclusion of the plan of the Eternal – His people being the expression of His total nature and character.

The image of who I am in the present is not all that God has ordained. He is in me to be the expression of all things that are in Him.

He is there! Present! Ready!

Let Him be seen and expressed through you! Be bold, He will be all that He is as you realize all that you are to be.

Pastor Dave

 

Thou Shalt Not Judge…

Blind JusticeA friend said something to me about the tone of the internet these days, being judgmental of our President and, as a Christian they though it more spiritual and moral to refrain. So I thought about it for 3 seconds, and responded.

  • I have never hesitated to judge my children – because I am responsible for them.
  • I never told my Dad to not judge my behavior, no not my Dad. He was on top of it and we had to toe the line. The line was broad, giving us plenty of room to be human, but it was there and his judgment of our behavior was always there.
  • I served as a police officer for many years, and I faithfully measured the behavior of others by the law and brought those in need of correction before the courts.
  • The courts I went to judged the case before them and pronounced judgment.
  • Judgment is all around us, anywhere there is a relationship of responsibility.

Yet, Jesus told us to not judge. How then are we to view this statement? How would we survive in a world without judgment?

The simple explanation is, and I do think this a simple matter, that where there is a relationship of responsibility, we are to judge. What Jesus was referring to was the judgmental attitude of people who, out of their insecurity and fear, gossiped, slandered, and put down others for behavior that was none of their business. It was spoken to those who, out of a Pharisaical context, were devouring one another with judgementalism. Legalism kills when it is the means of rallying the pack to attack the weakest of the group to destroy them. Everyone knows the setting. You may have been a victim of this sort of bullying or you may have participated and later felt guilty.

In any event, the same Jesus who told us to not judge, went into the temple in a fury and overturned the money changers tables and drove them out of the temple. I would like to have seen that! He also confronted the Pharisees, corrected his followers and, well, evaluated, measured and judged.

So, how are we to look at his command in contrast to his actions? Again, it is the issue of responsibility that determines when judgment is demanded and when it is condemned. Parents, police officers, judges, and anyone in authority within the scope of law, has the responsibility to judge, evaluate and deal with the issues present at the time.

But gossips, complainers and busybodies should just leave it alone.

Now the greater application has been for some to condemn those who are criticizing our government and our President and his administration right now. It is growing and it is becoming a major movement. Should they shut up and go away, because they should not judge? When we ask that question we reveal a basic misunderstanding of authority and responsibility. The illusion is that our leaders are above us and have authority over us, therefore we should obey without question or complaint. But that is not America. Let me explain.

Freedom 3Our Founding Fathers were rebelling from the absolute authority of the king and in that wrestling with how to keep that from ever happening again, they established a philosophy of government that reversed the flow of authority. The leader in America does not serve as king or have any more power than we give them. Power flows from the people upward, not from the leader down. So, unlike the monarchy we rebelled against, our system of government places responsibility for our rule, in the hands of the people. We are responsible for the actions and rule of our leaders, and we have not only the right to judge their behavior but the responsibility to do so. We only get the level of truth and righteousness in our leadership that we demand.

But if we are Christians, are we not supposed to avoid politics and honor the separation of church and State? The ‘separation’ is largely misunderstood in our culture these days. It is impossible to make a separation in the terms some would like, while studying our history. Our founders were deeply spiritual men who studied the Bible and made reference to is often. The monuments to their memory in Washington D.C. bear frequent reference to God and to the Bible. There was no separation in their mind and they wrote the constitution. So how are we to see it?

The first amendment states:

Amendment I – Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

The clear objective of this amendment is to prohibit government from establishing a state church as was the custom in Europe at the time. It was never intended to keep people of faith from participating in the process of government. If it was, then none of our Founding Fathers would have been able to function as they did. This prohibition has been turned around by some who are antagonistic to religion to mean that the people of faith should go away and shut up. Not so.

The task of the church and of the Christian faith is to be instruments of God in redeeming the earth from the effects of the fall. Therefore we have a responsibility to measure, judge and evaluate the moral and spiritual quality of government and to call it to task when it is damaging the call of redemption.

So those who name the name of Christ as Lord and Savior have a dual responsibility. They are responsible as citizens of the country to hold their leaders responsible for their actions and they also have a spiritual responsibility to hold the spiritual, moral and ethical high ground for God’s plan of redeeming the planet and humankind.

This dual position of responsibility requires that we carefully evaluate the direction of our government and judge it because of that responsibility.

Thanks for judging this presentation…. It’s OK to do so!

The Value of Service – The Danger of Presumptive Leaders

Me10There is a terrible evil in our world and it is often called leadership. But the core value of many who lead, is the root belief that they know better where you should go, what you should do and how you should act than you do. They are masters of Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. They define for us, make laws over us and create systems of control to make us like their solution to ‘our problem.’ But in the end it does not resolve problems, their solution is ‘the problem.’ As Ronald Regan said, “Government is not to solution to the problem, it is the problem.”

 

Adam and EveCome back with me for a moment to the Garden of Eden, and the fall of man. Adam and Eve had a close personal relationship with God, walking and talking with Him in the Garden. But along came Lucifer and, in effect, convinced Eve that if she only knew the difference between good and evil, she would be as God, and would be able to have power over her own life and decisions. And the rest is history.

 

It would appear that we got a good deal. We get to know the difference between good and evil, make quality decisions, do good things, know the future by postulating the effects of good and avoid tragedy by avoiding that which is bad. What a deal! The problem is, we lost the context. We lost the presence of the Eternal, and we are far too limited in knowledge and understanding to chart a course through the universe. We are not omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent. We are human. And that is the problem with the world.

 

When we are led by the infinite mind of God, we can live within the safety of principled leadership. But when we live outside of that context, we are vulnerable to the shifting sands of popularity, philosophical nonsense and personal egocentricity. Yes, there are always those who define their world view with their self in the center and everything else in concentric circles outward from there. They are important. They are leaders. They know what is best. They will show us, by imposing it on us and by saving us from ourselves. (Sarcasm intended!)

 

CalmIt does not matter the context, whether it is a club, a church, a political party or our national government. When the leader does what they want without constraint and tries to convince us that they know what is best for us, we are in trouble. Egocentric leadership is dangerous. Very dangerous indeed. The arrogance of the superior mind will destroy not only itself, but the rest of us as well. That mindset, is from the root of evil, from the rebellion against God and the leadership He provided. God’s leadership involved making His infinite mind and power available to us – every one of us. His government structure is simple, to have a personal relationship with every individual. It is this concept of man in relationship with God that our Founding Fathers discovered when they said that we (each individual) is endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights… So God’s government structure is that He is personally connected to every human being, and because of that personal relationship, we are free from the need for an intermediary. Anything that gets in the between God and the individual is evil.

 

But along comes Lucifer and tells us, “No, God is lying to you. He knows that if you have the right information, you do not need Him any longer. It will be like being a God yourself.” And so we have leadership – at least some call it that. We have those who have accumulated more data, information or insight than we do and they will solve our problems, direct our course and lead us to the promise land. But look, the Garden is not ahead of us as we are being led to it, it diminishes in visual size behind us as we move away from it and the principles it provides. We were sold a lie.

 

It is a lie, because, by buying into the promise that someone of power can solve my problems and give me what I need, I am removing myself from the responsibility to get that supply directly from God Himself. Junior Gods do a poor imitation and always, yes always, fail to accomplish what they promise.

 

Why then do we vote for those who promise the most? Because we fail to understand the premise – they cannot do what they promise. They are lying. The supply for all things is in God alone and He has already given the supply to us, if we but had the wisdom to understand that.

 

Next election, how about voting for the person who promises little, but envisions much. How about looking for a leader, not who will solve all of your problems but who will be an encourager and coach in the process of your harvesting the answers for yourself out of the bountiful provisions of the Creator. In this sense, leaders should never take the place of God but always the place of serving those that they lead. They are not the answer, they are only ministers to support and encourage our progress and growth in our own personal accomplishments and freedom.

 

In January, 2000, I retired from my service as Pastor of one of the Great Churches of America. It was great, not because it was famous, or because it had political power. It was great because of the people who came and gathered to worship God and follow His purposes.

 

After two and a half decades of service there, in communicating my resignation, I wrote the following letter to the congregation. Please read it through. I just did and believe that I learned leadership from them. I came to change them and solve their problems. In the end, I was the one who was changed.

 

Here’s the letter:

 

It was about 45 years ago, at the age of 15 that I felt the Lord asking me to come to Reno to minister. I was a child and incapable of stepping out at that early age, but I never forgot the sense of being called to a place and to a purpose. It was from that simple encounter with God, that my life’s plans unfolded. Now, the years have gone by and we are about to celebrate our 25th anniversary of ministry to this community and beyond. It is rewarding to look back and see the path of divine destiny, the circumstances of Divine provision and the resulting history of His grace.

 

I remember driving into Reno with the moving truck stacked full of treasures, furniture and plain old stuff. It was an adventure of life changing proportions and frankly, I was scared. Today, I sense that same excitement and fear. What if…?

 

The future can be projected and planned but the element of uncertainty is always present. The best-laid plans of mice and men, we are told … Yet, for each of us, life holds both the unknown terror of night and the un-experienced dawning of days of wonder. We are always required to walk through the night to find the dawn. The challenge of change and adventure always has an element of risk.

 

So, we strike out on a new adventure. Twenty Five years of pastoral care has been one of the most rewarding experiences in our lives and we hold that experience with fondness of memories, as a truly monumental experience. It has not been easy. There have been battles, conflicts, dangers and the presence of the dragons of despair. But that is not the end of the matter, it is only the context in which good things have happened. Some testify that our presence has benefited them, but that is not a judgment I can make. I can only judge whether or not the experience was of value to me. It certainly was.

 

One of the illusions of ministry, if we are not careful, is the assumption that I am capable of changing other people or a congregation or even a community – you know ‘let’s take this city for Jesus!’ The subtle temptation is to assume that we as leaders in the church, are capable of knowing what is best for people and of leading them into it. Little do we understand, until later in life, that the issues of ministry was not the city, the congregation or the other people we presume to know what is best for, but the issue all along was – ME! God was after me and was using the ministry as His means of changing me into His image and likeness. I thought I was headed for fame and glory. God urged me on toward crucifixion – “to which you are also called,” – Paul wrote. I looked for the rewards of success and the symbols of accomplishment. God brought me to the realization of my need for Him and the beauty of knowing God. I honed my skills and sharpened my tools for conquest but He drew me near to Himself in times of bitter confusion and whispered in my ear the security of His love and the passion of His heart.

 

No, I have not taken the world for Jesus, not even Nevada, and not even Reno. What I have experienced is the subtle shift to God’s perspective as I prayed, “Give me this city,” He answered by giving me to the city. While I asked for strength to work for Him, He made me increasingly aware of my weakness without His abiding presence. While I clamored for the rewards of success, He gave me desperate people whose need for God was so great they pressed me into God and into the security of His everlasting arms. When I demanded justice, He provided grace. When I stirred the people for need of activity, He responded with peace and rest. God has been good – very good to me. I have served, but I have lost nothing in the giving of my life to this calling. I have been the benefactor and the student.

 

And so, as I conclude this phase of my life and move on into new forms of ministry, I do so with great thanksgiving. I thank those who have faithfully been a part of our lives for these many years. They have made it all worthwhile. I thank those who thought to reject us, even at times to be our enemies. They have pressed us to assessment, change and the grace of God. I thank my family for putting up with me, my schedule and my activities. They have proven to be my inspiration and valued counselors. I thank this community for allowing me to practice ministry on it and for surviving all of my good ideas. There are so many arenas of life that comprise the context of life and make us what we are. I am thankful for a context that has both challenged me and rewarded me. I am the better for having been here.

 

Lastly, and most important, I thank God for His eternal love, His abiding presence and His unchanging purpose that marches incessantly forward, slightly out of our focus and totally without our consent. It is God who rules in the hearts of men and who ultimately works all things after the counsel of His own will. To God be the glory – great things He has done.

 

Pastor Dave

 

 

“MEGACHURCH – Because it is more important than feeding the hungry….”

I’ve had this conversation with several over the past year, and in fact, before. I am not sure exactly where is all started but some of it started with some of the more traditional pastors defining what is and what isn’t ‘kosher’ doctrines and practices for the church. Their aim was obvious, targeting some of the names already mentioned in this discussion. The definitions elevated from categorizing of the better gospel as opposed to the watered down version, and the war was on. So far the war is one sided, those who are the targets seem to be relatively silent as their attackers proceed and gain some adherents.

So, let me start by defining my experience so you will know my bias… Of course most of us will not admit to a bias, we are the balanced ones, speaking truth without any personal taint! Right? OK, you’re laughing aren’t you? Sure we all are subjective along with what we hope is our objective side.

I am a classical theologian, holding a TH. D. degree. I was Director and Dean of a Bible college for many years before pioneering a church and serving as Pastor for almost 30 years. Our church was in a small community, as populations go, yet it was the largest church in our region for almost all of the years of our serving as pastor. So, we were not a mega church, but I did get some flak from other churches for various reasons, most of which were, in my own subjective mind, justification for their not being larger than they were and our being larger. It was sort of a need to point out how we had short circuited the gospel, and they, by contrast, had not, therefore they were smaller than we were.

Frankly I never started out to have a large church, and gave zero thought to how to appease people to get them to come. They just came and I have no idea why. I suspect it was for a variety of reasons and a thorough study by a research team would find as many reasons as there would be members of the team. So I have been in the middle of this stuff for a life time and that may give me an unfair disadvantage. <grin>

So, I have had this discussion before and I suppose I will have it again, unless I decide that it is not worth my time. Well, to some degree it is not, but I do fear that there are others who are embroiled in the issues and possibly I can help with some thoughts that will allow you to move beyond it.

Many years ago there was a fellow on the radio who was quite popular. His ministry consisted of defining what the true gospel was and what was false. He named names and labeled many as cults. While I think I hold fundamental doctrines and am evangelical in my foundations, the fellow bored me. First of all, he became the judge and jury and refocused a large group of listeners on being against those who preached Christ, but not to his liking. Secondly, he reduced the gospel to an intellectual level, where having right facts saved one, rather than a true spiritual conversions experience. Yes, little children, idiots and people with diminished capacity love Jesus too and are forgiven and bound for heaven. That has to be a fact, because as we grow in grace and in the knowledge of God and our relationship with Christ, we change our view. Maturity has, at its very foundation, the requirement that we also learn and change, both our behavior and our thinking. So if being right is the issue, we are all suspect and in big trouble.

Now let’s focus back on the controversial issues of those under attack today. I am retired and the church I pastored was not world famous, and I did not make a lot of money, so I am safe. Besides, my background in teaching theology allows me to escape – no one wants to argue with me, usually. <grin>

Prosperity

Yes, there is a brand of Christianity that proposes that you can command God and make him into a big Santa Claus and get anything you want if you have enough faith. It can be extreme and it, in my opinion, can reduce faith to being a commodity we have to barter with God and overcome His reluctance. But we do not live by our feelings of faith but by His faith. Faith is a gift from God not an emotion we generate. You cannot measure one’s spirituality by their possessions of net worth.

But the opposite can be extreme also. Why do we teach moral behavior, ethical positions, and responsibility in our marriage, churches, and communities and in the work place? Why do we apply for promotions at work or ask for a raise or… So we can live at the lowest possible level of economic outcome? Nonsense. We do so to get ahead. Come on now, we all want to prosper and be creative and productive. It is part of our created nature, created, I might add, by God.

So I doubt that anyone would construct a contrasting doctrine that measures spirituality by ones poverty. No, we do not try to gain poverty for the sake of some reward from God. In fact, God is involved in every area of our life, if we allow Him to be, and economics is a big part of life. I have a couple of good friends who are wealthy, well, not just making a good living, they are filthy rich, if rich can have filth associated with it. They are good people, love God and live moral lives. They do good things with their wealth and cannot be described as stingy, corrupt or immoral. I wonder what it is in the human framework that makes us suspect of those kinds of people and makes us want to demonize them? We do so politically, we do so emotionally, and if we are not careful, we do so spiritually. They are successful, so they owe the rest of the world which is not?????? How do we come to that conclusion? Is their learning how to do certain things that brings rewards essentially evil?

Sound Doctrine

I was a critic of a ministry in Southern California that was very successful, had a TV ministry and the pastor wrote a lot of books and made a lot of money from their sales. One day a group of us were standing together talking about this ministry and its ego driven profile. Each person chimed in with their criticism and all agreed the whole thing was ego drive, ego focused, ego this and ego that. Finally, one young man, who had said little, took a step forward into the ring of conversation and said, “Ya, it is all ego and no one should have one of those, should they?”

In an instant a curtain of conviction covered our gathering and we all knew we had been chastised. If ego is, what I have studied in class, then it is simply our concept of self, our view of ourselves, and if so, then everyone has one. The question is not do we have one or not but is it healthy, productive or is it insecure and needing to downplay others so we feel better about ourselves.

Following that little conversation I was invited to attend a conference at that church with a friend. The pastor talked about their doctrine, their practice and laughed about his public persona. He saw himself, not as the point of the ministry but as a means of getting people’s attention so they could convey the gospel to them. The more he talked the more I was convicted for my critical viewpoint. I was wrong – dead wrong. His doctrine was as sound as my own but I had presumed that it was weak and misleading.

I would not be too sure that large churches have a franchise on bad doctrine or poor motives. It may be that the entire process of living under the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, produces definitions, counter definitions, defensiveness and conflict. Religion, as opposed to Christianity, is the epitome of right and wrong, good and evil, contrast and comparisons. It is the opposite of the Tree of Life and the central focus on love that a relationship provides. Religions, all of them, produce self-righteousness. Relationships produce love. Christianity is therefore not a religion in these terms but a personal relationship with God, through our Savior, Jesus Christ. That is the substance of the matter, the style is another thing. I will contend for good substance, but will refuse to criticize the style. As Paul writes:

Philippians’ 1:15 Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will:

16 The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds:

17 But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defense of the gospel.

18 What then? Notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretense, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.

19 For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,

20 According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.

21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Sound Focus:

The issue of focus is also a catch 22. That is we are conditioned by culture to accept certain assumptions about ministers and the church. The church is supposed to feed the poor. Yet, we know that unless the poor learn a way out of poverty they will be poor forever and feeding them, while admirable for the moment, does not address their real need. We have to do more.

To teach people how to live and how to make Christ real in their discipline, habits and attitudes goes a long way to lifting them out of poverty and into a productive life. But here again, we could interpret that as preaching the prosperity gospel and become critical…. See the problem. In the end, I have to say God bless those who lift people from where they are to a better place in life. After all, the challenge of the gospel is not just to get people to repeat the sinner’s prayer and give them a ticket to heaven. It is to be instruments of His creative power in bringing redemption to the planet and presenting unto Him the reward of His sacrifice. The church has lost its way and forgotten its purpose. We have a great and high destiny in Him, that we are instruments of His power, His glory and of His plan for this earth. We are here to reign in life by one Christ Jesus.

Romans 5:17 – For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.

Finding our Focus:

I have decided that I am not against other churches even those who – “notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretense, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.” I may not want to attend some or recommend others, but that probably has more to do with style than substance. Some personalities are not pleasing to me, but that is my flesh. God uses people that I do not care for and I think I will let Him.

So, I have decided to find my focus in dealing with real issues, not matters of difference and degrees of accuracy. We live in a world that is falling apart. Our political world is an absolute mess. Our economy is bankrupt, but no one has announced it yet. We are still ignoring the reality of our spending and looking for new ways to print national governmental credit cards. Violence it alive and well in the Middle East, Africa, Russia, China and let’s not forget Chicago, Detroit and Washington DC. We have major problems in our world that we, the church, are commissioner to address. It is the effects of the fall and the result of sin. We are at war with evil and we need to be serious in our focus.

With all that said, may I suggest that the size of the church across town and their style is not the real enemy. If 100,000 drug addicts get saved and delivered from their pain in any one of the churches mentioned, I will probably thank God and aspire to do as well, at least within my sphere of influence.

And that is the context of focus. I cannot be any one of the more famous ministers. I can only be me. That will bring some success and will have its built in limits. I am not responsible for others, but I am for myself. Self-acceptance in Christ releases us from the competitive spirit that contrasts. If we are called to lead, then we should do so. Whatever the results are is up to God and, well, maybe the personality He gave me. I will accept that I cannot do more than I can, but should never accept doing less than I can. How many people follow is up to them and to God.

A young man came to me years ago asking for my help in finding him a church to pastor. He had graduated from Bible College and was ready to go. I mentioned a home group in a neighboring city who wanted a pastor. He said he was not interested. He was called to pastor a large church not a home group. Then he asked how he could get there. I told him to go outside and start walking…. Then to look behind him occasionally to see if anyone was following. If they were, he was a leader. If they were not, he was just out for a walk. The size of the following is of no consequence.

Well, that’s my take on the Mega-churches and their critics. I do not desire to pastor a church larger than the one I retired from. I will not criticize those who do!

Pastor Dave

 

 

GOD DID NOT ASK!

Exodus 3:14 – God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”

Earth in HandsAs we approach the celebration of Easter 2014, I invite you to take a trip with me back in history. We will go back before the founding of this great nation, America, back before there were inhabitants on this continent. We will go back before Noah and the Arc, before Adam and Eve in the Garden, back to a point where creation as we know it did not yet exist.

There, before all things is God! He exists. He is, yet He has not yet created the universe of the physical dimension. As far as the material universe is concerned nothing yet exists, except in His mind. He is free to create in simplicity or great complexity, or to not create at all. He may do as He pleases, for He is God.

There is no Supreme Court to judge His actions or to correct His inaction. There is no United Nations to lobby for world domination or to stipulate what is the rule of law for the world. There are no human organizations, councils or counselors. No one is there to influence Him or to guide Him or to exert their authority. He does as He pleases, for He is God.

There is no time, for the dimension of time exists only in the physical and material arena. There is no schedule or no vacuum of authority to fill. There is nothing that foresees, forestalls or demands. There is nothing of existence as we know it, except the “I AM!”

Then in an instant, out of nothing, creation begins. We still conjecture as to when, but we cannot know for certain. In the moment of beginning, shapes, sounds, materials, all take form and are ushered into existence. The reality of the physical and material universe as we know it takes the shape determined by God alone. He does not ask for counsel, for He is God. He does not consult with engineers or scientists, politicians or preachers. He does as He pleases, for He is God.

He did not ask Adam and Eve what they needed, for He created the needs and the supply for them, because He is God. He did not ask for permission to make humankind as He did, for He is God. He did not ask for counsel in bringing Israel out of Egypt, for he is the Great I AM!

Walk from that point of beginning with me through the annals of human history. At what point does God ask for permission, or determine His will based on anything other than His own creative mind? No, He is not confined to any course of action, determination or permission. He is the Great I AM, and there is nothing outside of His determination. That is the nature of God. He is inexplicable, all powerful, and exists above and beyond the creation that He expresses.

  • He did not ask Noah if He could send the flood, because He is God.
  • He did not ask the Pharisees if He could be born in human form and go to the cross for our redemption, because he is God.
  • He did not gain permission from the King of England to bless America, because He is God.
  • He did not ask the Supreme Court for permission to sanctify life, because He is God.
  • He did not ask President Obama for permission to bless His people or to give humanity freedom, because He is God.

There is often a disconnect between people who have power and the creator. Those who accumulate power tend to feel as though they have the right to make determinations for the people they rule as though they know best and are all knowing. But they do so to their own demise, for God does not share His position with anyone, because He is God. He will rule creation as He has made it to be and anything that stands between His purpose and His people, will ultimately be ground to powder.

He is the Great I AM, He is the ruler of the universe. He is!

Little more can be said of He who is, yet everything can be ascribed to Him. He still walks among us and speaks to us and calls us upward into His presence. He is the Beginning and the End… He is God!

Our limited finite minds cannot grasp the wonder of all that He is, nor can we comprehend the vastness of His existence. What we had better do, is walk in His ways and be responsive to His will. Anything less is self-destructive.

As we celebrate the resurrection of the Savior on this Easter season, let us stand in awe of the God who is in control of all things. He is not finished with us yet. He has not abandon us to the rule of tyrants, the misguided purposes of egomaniacs or to the deranged mind of those who stand in His way. He does all thing well, for He is God!

 

Living in Friday

PassI only wish that every day of life would be an eternal spring, with beautiful flowers, fragrant breezes, warm sunshine and the colors of sheer wonder. But that is not how we experience life. Try as we might, we often find ourselves living in Friday. Friday, you say? – Let me explain…

Cherry Blossoms 4Years ago Linda and I went to Washington DC for a special gathering of Christians from across the nation. It was a delightful time, with cherry blossoms galore, beautiful weather and a chance to get away and enjoy each other.

The thing that bothered me was an undercurrent of fatalism in many of the meetings as speaker after speaker told us of the dire condition of our nation and how we were doomed. I suppose they were attempting to garner cooperation for the coming election and they also supposed that electing a Christian to the White House would solve the problems.

Constitution hallToward the end of our stay we attended a gathering of Christian leaders at Constitution Hall. It was to be the capstone of the entire event for us. Speaker after speaker came to the podium and provided another layer of fear and doom, and the noise in the hall grew as people were talking, mostly in worried tones.

The final speaker was announced. I forgot his name, but I shall never forget his message. He was a dignified appearing black man, with greying streaks on the ends of his black hair and sideburns. He walked to the podium and just stood there, silent, exhibiting a commanding presence. Soon, the hubbub and chatter grew still as the focus of the crowd came to the podium and the man standing there.

Cross 4He finally spoke, softly at first, then the volume rose as he worked through his speech. “It’s Friday… The disciples have all left the grounds and retreated to their despair. The crosses have been taken down and the bodies placed in their respective tombs. The tears of Mary have followed the trail to burial and their bitter sting lingers on her ashen face. She too had great hopes for Jesus. She too thought he would deliver them all from their bondage and the oppression of both the priests and the Romans. How had this happened? How did all those dreams come tumbling down?”

“The disciples huddled, some together, and some could no longer be found. They were in deep despair – all hope gone, all that they had dreamed of and hoped for had been destroyed in a few short hours. How could this man have allowed them to hope for greatness and freedom and then be crucified in such a terrible and cruel way? How had they been suckered into this grand movement only to see it disintegrate in a moment?”

“All is lost. All is gone. Nothing turned out the way they expected.”

“But listen to me, that’s only because it’s Friday! Sunday’s a coming!”

Satan & Demons“The devil had surrounded himself with the hordes of hell, shouting victory over the God-man. They had won the day. They had finally put the redeemer out of commission and now the victory was theirs to enjoy. It was party time in hell. But that was because it was Friday! Sunday’s a coming!”

And he continued to work that theme is colorful ways – It’s Friday, but Sunday’s a coming!

He told us that he realized that things looked bleak on the political scene, in our educational systems, in the economy and, well in life in general. He agreed with the speakers who preceded him. He had no quarrel with their assessment, but that was because if was Friday! Sunday is a coming.

Worship 2Little by little he took the fear and depression that was on the crowd and lifted it into the presence of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. By the time he was finished, the meeting was transformed from defeat to victory and the sound of praises of triumph resounded in the hall. Sunday was coming and everyone knew that was the plan all along.

What is your Friday experience? Illness, death, depression, financial ruin, loss of love, betrayal, lies… The list goes on indefinitely as the effects of the fall attack us and bring us under the curse. But that is not the end of the story. For there is something working in us and through us that brings resurrection into the experience of the now! Redemption is not a word disassociated from our experience. Redemption is the promise for which His death was necessary, but from which His victory over the fall and its effects is entirely realized. Hang on! Hold out! It’s Friday – But Sunday is coming. The resurrection is sure and certain. It cannot be deterred or delayed, for it is secured in the past, present, perfect work of Calvary!

Easter 4Listen! Stop for a moment and tune your ears heavenward. Is that the sound of angels I hear? Is that the hosts of heaven singing? Yes, it is; it is the anthem of Sunday. The tomb is empty and the victory is won. Your Friday experience was part of the bargain. It is paid for and finished. Get ready! The victory does not come by our trying or by our flesh. It is already in the works, already paid for, already released.

Friday is swallowed up as the stone is rolled away, revealing an empty slab. He is not here, He is risen, and has triumphed over death, hell and sin. It’s Sunday! Rejoice!

Pastor Dave

 

Freedom and Responsibility – A Call to Action!

Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

Garden in HandsIn these brief words are the foundations of God’s purpose in mankind. Man is not created as an observer or as a robot, but as a participant in the ongoing work of creation that God intends. Man is to ‘rule over’ creation. Man is made responsible. It is this relationship between responsibility and freedom that underpins the whole of human history. There is a direct corollary between the amount of responsibility and the amount of freedom. That is why God allowed man options from the very beginning. He did not intent to control man but to allow him to succeed or fail, win or lose on the basis of his actions and sense of responsibility. Freedom is a God thing!

God’s control of His creation is in the genetic structure of the elements He created. He made thing to work a certain way. These principles of creation or laws of nature, if you will, are the means by which God exerts His ongoing influence into the creative process. Mankind is not independent from God or His purpose, but we are invited to fellowship with God and know His ways or to go our own way and learn from experience that which we will not learn by obedience. That is, we are not compelled to go against our own will, but it sure makes things work much better when we do things the way they were created to be.

The actions of humankind is initially to run from God. Cain went out from the presence of God and built his own city. The history of man from that time on is one of the struggle between human control and freedom, of responsibility and patronage. They who rule over others in human forms of government, always assume some God given right to do so and assume that they have better information and a higher intellect to know what is best for those they rule over. This elite assumption always ends up stripping men of freedom and of centralizing responsibility at the top of the governmental structure.

God's WorldThe results of this propensity for man to control other men always leads to the same tragic end – rebellion. There is something inherently free in the human spirit and for creation to work as it was supposed to be, responsibility needs to be given away to everyone, not held by the few. When people are responsible that seek freedom to carry out their responsibilities. When they have no power, they become dependent and unproductive. Power was never to be held but shared. Everyone who is responsibility must have the freedom to be responsible for their administration of life and the power to do it. That is God’s order and that is the way it works.

When human social systems tap into this principle, they work. When they set up contrary systems, they do not work. God does not need to control the details of life. He can leave us free to learn and explore. He simply allows us to be frustrated by our error until it dawns on us that there is a better way.

The common assumption is that if I submit to God and His oversight, He will take all the fun out of life and I will be bound by religious activity. The opposite is true. When we submit to the Creator, He places us back in freedom and responsibility. He invites us to partner with Him in the ongoing work of redemption and restoring the planet. If we choose to not walk with Him, then true bondage and control happens. We become slaves of the passions and addictions of the flesh.

John 8:36 – Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.

Earth in HandsWe often think of spiritual principles as something ethereal and apart from our social world or of the day to day affairs of living in this world. But the greater reality is, what is true spiritually has practical application within our physical world. Freedom, whether in the spirit or on the ground, is a God thing. Whenever we see bondage, if we are partnering with God in the administration of His life on this earth, then we have a responsibility to speak freedom to it. This is not some religious separatism or spiritual escapism.

You don’t get to walk away from that which is ungodly in our world. We are here as representatives of the King and as such are to be busy bringing the kingdom of God into being in the now. The role of the believer is not to hold out and survive until we die and go to heaven but to bring dominion over creation back to the King of Kings.

AllowAlthough we acknowledge a dual kingdom relationship, in which the Kingdom of God co-exists with the kingdom of man, our involvement within the kingdom of man is part of our context in bringing dominion to the planet. We are here to invade every avenue of human life and to see redemption worked in it. Love does not ignore human suffering or the tyranny of human arrogance. We have bought a separation attitude from American liberal philosophy, that the church should not be involved in politics, which means with people’s lives. Separation of church and state in its original meaning and intent is that human government should not be involved in creating or authorizing or establishing religion. It does not mean that our Christian principals and mission should stop the gates of the city. We have a responsibility to speak principle and grace into all areas of life.

Some might ask, then how does that differ from the Islam objective of imposing Sharia Law on a nation or a state? The simple answer is, Christ acknowledged the existence of two kingdoms and proposed that we cooperate with and walk beside human government…

Mark 12:17 – And Jesus answered and said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at Him.

Billy Graham 2It is not that we should overthrow human government, but we should in our role as citizens of this earthly kingdom, effect the principles of redemption within it as we can. God did not restrict the Christian from speaking peace and righteousness into the world in which we live. In fact, we are responsible to see it work in the human family wherever we are.

Does that mean that we should be political? If we understand what politics is, then we should be responsible. Politics is simply the systems of the administration of group dynamics. It is part of any group, church, club or organization. It is the means by which people govern and structure social groups. That’s all it is. And it is everywhere. What we usually object to is the dirty tricks people play in manipulating the system, or in the nature of power hungry people who seem to always come to the top and rule. I agree, politics is dirty and needs to be cleaned up. So let me tell you a little story…

Years ago I worked for General Motors as a consultant to GMC Truck dealers. It was a fun job, going from place to place and discovering the problems dealers were having and attempting to work with them to find a solution. I liked the job. The part I did not like, was the politics.

It all came into focus one day when I was telling a Christian friend about a company party that we attended the night before. All of the dealers and company people gathered for dinner, some entertainment, a few speeches and dancing afterwards. I watched as various low level manager worked the boss, and his wife and noted that some of the low level manager’s wives were not averse to making points with the boss, in my opinion, inappropriately. I reacted and was not happy about the politicking and positioning I was seeing.

Billy GrahamAs I was telling my friend about it, I voiced my objection and reaction and stated that I was not going to any more of these political nightmares. He looked at me with quizzical eyes and said, “So you chose to be an observer rather than a participant, and because the political interaction is abhorrent to you, you will walk away and have no influence into the setting that God has placed you in?”

I was dumbstruck. How could this fellow make me responsible for the behavior of others, jockeying for position? What was I supposed to do about other people’s behavior? What influence could I have without having a greater position from which to set the context for such meetings?

I thought about it for a while and then felt that still small voice inside my head speaking words I really did not want to hear at the time, but words that brought understanding and freedom. He said, “If the corruption continues, and you do nothing, then you are part of it. If you will not involve yourself then you consent to the problem. You are here to bring redemption in my love, not to observe and complain.” I wept…

I wish I could tell you that I knew what to do, but I did not. So, I asked the Lord to give me wisdom for my dealer’s problems and started seeing things turn around for them. The district that I served was last in the nation in per capita truck sales. I had some ideas and they worked. In a short time, sales began to rise and the district was no longer last. The dealers were happy and made it known to the corporation.

First-Amendment-on-scroll1Then we had another meeting, this time a luncheon to give out awards. I was surprised to receive an award for making the greatest turnaround in the company. My district had gone from last place in the nation to first place in the nation. I was thankful, but I knew that it was not me who did it. I took the award and said nothing, but something had changed. My influence in the politics of the company was different. I was consulted by other managers and treated differently by the boss.

It was not to last long, for the President of our Division called and asked me to come to Pontiac, Michigan to talk to him. When I arrived he offered me the National Sales Training Manager position. So I returned home, told Linda what had happened, and then we moved, not to Pontiac but to Reno. It was time to step out and fulfill our call to ministry.

Our world is a mess. We can see it. We can understand it. We can stand aside and be the observer and the critic or we can speak into it and affect it. If the condition of our world remains the same, and we do nothing, then we are the problem – we consent to it.

It is not a matter of forming a Christian political party or of taking over an existing party. It is a matter of involvement, of influence and of actively working to make this world the kind of place where justice, peace and freedom reign.

Freedom of ReligionI apologize to my friends who sincerely believe that they should not get involved in politics. I understand the perspective. But may I ask if you are not involved in that you are a citizen and a contributor of tax funds to our government. Then are you not involved already? The question is not are you involved but of what role you will play in bringing God’s grace and redemption to our world.

I am feeling some old feelings. I am hearing some old counsel. I am probably not going to be able to just watch and criticize. Just the way I am now! God already dealt with my hesitance. Ready???

Pastor Dave

A Right Time for Clay!

LandslideI just read a wonderful article by a lady who is rich, not as we usually consider riches, but rich in her wisdom and in her relationship with God. See: www.danceintherain.com.  It reminded me of a time in our lives, Linda and me, probably 43 years ago or more.

It had been a hard period of time. We had gone through some extreme pressures in our lives and marriage. Things were not good. Try as I might, I could not make them good. The harder I tried, the more tired I got and the worse things seem to get. But I could not give up. That was not part of my makeup. I always win. Well, almost always. But this was not a sporting context and there were no rules and I had no clue how to play this game.

BibleWomen do not come with an owner’s manual and life only comes with an old one, in fact thousands of years old. I read it, looked through it for answers, but none seemed to come. I felt alone and lost and without a clue how to proceed in life.

I was working for General Motors and traveled from time to time to various places to try to fix various problems for GM dealers. I was good at what I did and received high praise from both the dealers and the company. But, when the time was over at a dealership and I had to leave, there was no shaking the inexorable sense of failure for not fixing my own life and making everything work the way I had planned.

Somewhere in that battle with a growing sense of failure, I decided I could not fix it. I remember the growing awareness that my sense of omniscience was not my friend but my enemy. I was not God and the illusion that there was a solution to every problem was just that – an illusion. This problem did not have a solution and I was not going to be the hero and fix it. I would have to walk away, leave it to God and place my efforts on those things that I could fix.

About a week later I got a call from Linda. She was coming to San Diego where I was visiting dealers and she wanted to talk to me. I knew what was coming. She was going to ask for a divorce. I knew it. All was lost. But it was time to face it and to move on with whatever was the inevitable consequence of life without illusions. I took deep breaths and met her as agreed. But what I found was something quite different than I imagined. Instead of a confrontation and the dreaded notice I expected, she fell into my arms weeping. Something had broken inside, and it poured out in bitter tears of remorse and pleas for forgiveness. This paragraph is short, but the story is long. The details are gone, and not of any importance.

Potter with clayWe drove to Old Town in San Diego and had lunch at one of my favorite Mexican restaurants, then walked through the shops, talking, remembering, thinking and planning. As we entered a pottery shop we shared the marvel of the colors, shapes and skill that the artisan displayed, but were draw to the indoor studio where he worked. There, his hands glided over the clay on the spinning wheel, as he shaped, little by little, step by step, his next masterpiece. Wetting his hands, he started at the bottom and worked the clay upward, drawing it into the rough resemblance of a vase, then suddenly he stopped, turned off the wheel and crushed the clay into a ball again. The he kneaded it as a baker would knead a hunk of bread dough, then poked with his fingers until he found something. Reaching into the clay with his fingers he extracted a lump, discarder it and turner the wheel back on, and started over.

We stood dumbfounded, watching until he finished a beautiful vase. But as he finished, he tuned to look at us. We stood, hand in hand, opening weeping. He started to come over to us, then realized that this was a private moment and it was good, not sad. We had just seen in graphic form what God had been working in our lives.  “Hath not the potter power over the clay…”

We expect much of life in our youth. We never expect pain, suffering and difficulty. But the inescapable reality is, everyone gets their share. No one escapes the hand of God. The lessons are simple, yet they seem so terribly hard to learn. You either submit to the hands of the potter, or the hands of the potter will perform His purpose at your expense. It is not a matter of the will of the potter. He does not consult with the clay, yet his purpose is good and the end result grand.

Jeremiah 29:11 – For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Difficulty is not the end. It is not an end in itself, but a beginning. When the illusions of doing life your own way bring you only to the dead end of desperation, it is then that you can embrace the problem rather than run from it. It is in coming to the end of ourselves that we find the beginning of the masterpiece He was working toward all the time.

Brokenness is not weakness. Not at all. In fact, accepting our limitations and learning dependence on the Creator, is the path that requires a strength that we cannot psych ourselves up to. Brokenness is the point of release into a new arena of strength – His strength.

I recommend it!

Pastor Dave

Strength in Weakness

2 Corinthians 12:9 – And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

God in CreationSomewhere, deep in the soul of each person, is a reservoir of strength that seems to come to the surface only in times of deep need. Call it what you want, but it seems to be shaped a lot like God Himself, and represents power beyond our abilities or our normal resolve.

There are times when I have touched it, watched it work in me and my circumstances, and yet, I cannot say that I understand it or have any power to produce it. Yet, it is as though, once released, it overwhelms both me and the circumstance. I suppose that means, I believe in miracles.

Sometimes I wonder how I got to this point in my life. I do believe in planning, and have made my own goals and dreams a document I planned to follow. And, to a large degree I have been following the dream in a somewhat straight line. Well, somewhat straight means that it is not without interference, twists and turns and thus is not straight at all. It is headed in the right direction I am assured, but the events along the way are often surprising, both in their dynamic, there severity and their nature.

Dangerous pathI know where I am going, I just am not sure what I will encounter along the way. Of course my goals and dreams and my plan for my life, is, I would hope, only a reflection of the eternal plan and purpose of the Eternal Father of creation. He has a purpose, and it is always wise to not work contrary to it, for He does not change and it is always best to flow with the river. Pushing the river will only make you very tired.

It is in those unexpected events and times of surprise that I wonder if I am at all capable of living my life and orchestrating my course. Of course, in a greater sense I know that I am not able, but I also know that in a personal sense that I am responsible for the life I have been given and that I am accountable for what I do with it. Sometimes that seem like a dichotomy in which I have to rely on God for my strength and wisdom, yet I also have to make decisions, follow the principles of the natural laws god has placed in our world and to negotiate the difficult times as best I can.

With great affirmations, I declare my strength against the enemy, then look back to see how God is going to pull this one off. He always does, you know, yet I do not need strength when everything is easy, level and straight. Coasting through the good times is what we would all like to do, avoiding the challenging times altogether. But that is not how it words. I have had my share of pain in this life, and I would like to avoid it from here on out. Not likely! Not likely at all. More than likely, pain will continue to raise its ugly head and I will feel the insecurity of my mortality and be pressed into the resource of God.

It is there, in the depths of the river of trouble, that I am most aware of God’s love and of His abiding care. He has never failed me yet. He has never forsaken me.

Look to the LordHell surround us all. That is the purpose God has for every one of us – to encounter hell and to dispel its affects from our lives. We are not here for a free ride on the merry-go-round of eternal bliss. We are here as redemptive instruments of God power in a world gone mad. We are here as soldiers to face the adversary at the risk of our own lives and the loss of our own security and ease. We are also destined to discover that we cannot do what we are here on this planet to do without a total and ultimate reliance on God. We are His body and the fruit of His redemption.

We are not guaranteed a soft life. Quite the contrary. We are guaranteed pain and sorrow, difficulty and struggle. It is the inescapable result of our humanity. But we are not alone. We have this hope in Him that for every difficulty there is an adequate supply of His grace. He is sufficient in all things. Believe it. Walk in it! Overcome by it!

Pastor Dave