Thursday, March 28, 2013

Pregunta, Nada Mas

Pregunta, nada mas.

That phrase is how we are greeted whenever you walk into a store here in Bolivia.  It literally means "Question nothing more".  A better translation would be "It is okay if you are not buying what I am selling at this moment. You can ask me questions and I will not be bothered."

I am not saying that this is the ttruth, but I like the way that it begins a relationship.  It is okay to ask me a question.

I was thinking about this and I thought of a couple of things.  First of all, this is missing from the evangelical church across the world.  For some resons, we are not open to questions.  We are not wanting dialogue.  We do not want to communiate, we want to preach. Communication is a two way street, preaching is a one way superhighway.  Communication involves me listening to you, hearing your questions, and speaking to your concerns.  We don't do that.  We just tell it like it is.

The second thing that I thought of was 'Why?'.  Why don't we open ourselves up to questions?  We have the answer.  We have the truth.  The Bible gives us God's revelation to humanity.  Our worldview is the only one that works.  So, why are we so closed to anyone questioning what we believe or why we believe it?  (serious question, comments welcome)

A final remark.  Wouldn't it be great if all of our relationships invited dialogue.  It is okay to ask me a question.  I am not here to just 'close the deal' or get my purpose accomplished.  I am here for you, for us.  "Pregunta, nada mas".

Leia Mais…

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Elevator Lights

An interesting thing happened to me the other day. I was going to use an elevator. I pushed the up button. I know that I pushed it. It did not light up. I pushed it two more times. The light was burned out, so it never lit up. I stood there waiting and three more people walked up and pushed the same button more than once. We needed that light.  Inside, I pushed the 6. It did not lit up so I pushed it again just to be sure. So did the woman behind me after she saw me push it.

We NEEDED that affirmation. We needed to know that our effort was not in vain. It is amazing how we need feedback, positive feedback on something as small as an elevator button. I KNEW that I had pushed it. However, the little amber, "good job Joe, you pushed me" light did not come on. So I was unsure of myself.

If we need affirmation in something as small and insignificant as an elevator ride, how much more do we, and the people in our lives need affirmation? 

We are told to affirm and to encourage each other by God. Affirmation is such a big deal that, and do not miss the power of this next truth...EVERY TIME that God the Father spoke outloud to God the Son, He began by affirmation and encouragement. "You are my Son.  I love You.  You make me happy."  If God the Father felt that Jesus could use encouragement, then doesn't it make sense that the people in our lives need encouragement?

Lets take time to encourage our wives and the mother of our children. She works so hard, every moment of the day seeking to bless us and the kids. It is a tough job. A note of appreciation, some occasional flowers, maybe a special gift could mean so much.

How about your kids?  I read once that it takes ten positive words to overcome one negative one. As parents we tend to be fault finders. It is so easy to see where our kids are making mistakes and/or need to change their behavior. Why not try, this week, to identify five things that they are doing well and tell them?

Your pastor so needs some affirmation. He is working under tremendous stress and is the target of spiritual attack constantly. People readily speak out about things in the church that they don't like, but rarely say something nice. As a pastor, I can testify to how much sincere appreciation means.

The bottom line is this. Wy don't we take a lesson from an elevator button and light up when people are around. Lets help them see that their labor is not in vain. 

Leia Mais…

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Clearing Customs

When Denise's parents were visiting us for Christmas, we took them to the part of La Cancha where you can buy souvenirs.  While they were looking at things, I was strolling down the aisles and taking in various items.  Brass knuckles, switchblades, stuffed alligators and coca leaves were just a few of the things for sale to unknowing tourist.  I say unknowing because these things cannot be taken back to the States.  They are not allowed.  Yet people spend their money and buy them only to have them thrown in the garbage at the gate.

How does this apply to our own journey to heaven?  How much are we investing our time and energy in that won't 'pass' the gate?  How much garbage is our focus?  1 Corinthians speaks of our workds and some of them being tried by fire and burned like wood, hay and stubble.  OR we can invest our lives in eternal works for God's glory...the things that clear customs.

Are we investing in COMMODEities or are we investing in the Kingdom?

Leia Mais…

Friday, March 15, 2013

Entitlement or Blessing

I am on my way to Miami on a business trip and I just went to the restroom. I know, TMI.  There is a point beyond my peanut sized bladder.

I went to the restroom at the back of the plane, which is where my seat is always located.  I fly 'no-class'.  I actually think that my seat has special ejection switch in case the crew has to jettison dead weight in an emergency.  Any way, walking back to my chair, I passed so much technology.  Smartphones, ipads, laptops, MP3 players, ipods, headsets, DVD players, etc.  At the same time Jay Leno was doing a monologue on the in-flight movie, and the flight attendents were preparing to pass out hot and cold drinks. 

I am typing a blog while crossing the planet at 500mph and drinking a freshly brewed hot cup of coffee as Munford and Sons plays a tune in my Bose (yea Baby, Bose) headset.  The incredible thing is that none of this seems incredible.

I took photo of a lady handwashing clothes a while back.  She was so happy. It was the first time she had ever seen a photo of herself.  She could not believe how it worked.  It was incredible to her.

I thought about how we don't think about this mind-boggling technology.  We should be like that lady looking at the photo, and instead we in our sense of entitlement simply want someting bigger, better, or faster.

Then I thought of Jesus.  Forgiveness.  Relationship.  Love. Hope. Mercy.

I thought of sins forgiven and eternal life.

I thought of my best friend and wife.  My children. My life.

I take it all for granted.  I should be awestruck at the smallest blessing, yet I just take ETERNAL LIFE WITH GOD for granted as if it were normal.  I assume that I have a right to these wonderful children.

When is the last time that you were overwhelmed with gratitude over what God has done for you?  When was the last time you just said thank you to your wife for, well for everything?  It has been a long time for me. 

Leia Mais…

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Yet another chapter

Meet Samantha Stevens
         Remember Darren and Samantha from the old television series Bewitched?  Samantha and Darren fell in love and spent all of their time kissing.  Darren decided to ask Samantha to marry him (at this point the kissing stopped).  He then found out she was a witch. The entire television series was basically one episode after another of someone or something being bewitched, and the characters trying to solve the consequences of the bewitching.  It was a cute show, and I spent many hours wishing I could bewitch our lawnmower and tractor to do my chores like Mickey Mouse did in Fantasia.

         It was cute.  But it is also a sad statement of the church.  God says that our discipleship curriculum of read your Bible, pray, go to church and try to get other people to read their Bible, pray and go to church is a witch’s spell. Continue reading in Galatians 3.  In Galatians 2, Paul gives a little of his history for the Galatians to connect with his message.  In 3 we go back to the message of chapter 1.  It is the gospel plus nothing.  It is faith alone.  It is Jesus.

(Gal 3:1)  You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?

This is some of the strongest language in the Bible.  It is a harsh, harsh statement.  Look at that first part.  God is talking to people like me.  I have a Masters Degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and over 20 years of pastoral experience.  I am an educated, moral, and devout man.  But look at the word that God used to describe me.  “You foolish” person.  The word used for fool is only used in a couple of other places.  It is what God says happens to us when we love money, we fall prey to foolish lusts.  He also says that before we knew Christ, we were sometimes foolish people.  The best way to translate this word into modern English would be the word, “Stupid”.  The amplified does this with it: O YOU poor and silly and thoughtless and unreflecting and senseless Galatians! (Amplified Bible) .

         You poor, silly, thoughtless, unreflecting, and senseless person.  You fool.  You stupid little boy.  Wow!  This is God talking.  Who is it that deserves such a scathing remark from GOD?  Is this some horrible atheist?  Is this passage addressed to a white supremist?  Is it targeting a cult leader? An abortionist? A politician increasing taxes on the rich?  God must be talking to a pretty big sinner to say things like this.  So, who is the target of this tongue lashing?  You and me!  Any Christian that believes you are saved by faith and then you modify your behavior by following a certain list in order to grow in Christ or to stay saved…that person is a poor, silly, thoughtless, unreflecting, senseless fool.  Look at how he described it.  I am going to re-write it with a little creativity to try and capture the emotion.

The Apostle Paul approached the leaders of the Galatian Church with what appeared to be an angry light in his eyes and stood about 3” from the pastor’s face. “What is your problem!” Paul demanded to know. 

Before the pastor or other elders could answer, Paul continued, “I thought you were wise.  I thought you were Christlike.  I thought you were mature.  I thought you were leaders.  Now I discover that you are all a bunch of poor, silly, thoughtless, unreflecting, senseless fools.”  The leaders were taken aback at this tirade and tried to defend themselves, but they did not have the time as Paul raised his voice above them declaring aloud for all to hear.  “There are only two choices here.  The first one…well I hope that it is it.  There is a witch in town.  She is an instrument of Satan. She is probably possessed with the very power of hell itself.  Using her dark arts, she has cast a spell on you.  It has confused you.  It has darkened your senses.  It has caused you to walk around like zombies, or be led around like a blind man.  She has cast a spell on you and it is overwhelming you.  So tell me, who is this wicked woman that cast a spell on you?  Where is she?  We have to deal with her and release you from this spell of stupidity that you are under.”

The pastor started to reply, albeit with a confused look on his face, but Paul interrupted. 

“If it wasn’t a witch that cast a spell on you, there is only one other option.  You are stupid.  So what happened?  Are you just plain stupid?  Are you an idiot?  Are you as dumb as a day is long?  Or is there a witch in town I need to go have a showdown with?  Stupid or bewitched?  Those are the only options that I can come up with as to why someone would believe and teach what you are saying, after you so clearly heard the truth.  You are either too stupid to understand the truth, or a satanic person has caused you to believe a lie.  Which is it?”

         Before you think that I took too much liberty with this passage, go back and read it again.  Look at what he said, and you will see it is what I captured in my re-write above. 

(Gal 3:1)  You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?

         There are the two categories.  Foolish or bewitched…what happened?  You know that Jesus Christ was crucified. Now why do think He died?

(Gal 3:2)  This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?

         Let’s go back to the beginning.  How did this Christian journey of yours start?  Did God come to you with a long list of items to be completed in order to establish a relationship with Him?  Did He come to you demanding that you change your life, modify your behavior, and become ultra-moral before He could love you?  Did you receive the Holy Spirit inside of you by complex behavior modification or simple faith?

(Gal 3:3)  Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?

         There is that word again. Modern terminology would be this.  Are you sssoooo ssstttuuupppiiiiidddd?  I mean, how dumb can you be?  Do you really think that the spiritual life, the life which you began by faith, is now brought to maturity by works of the flesh?  Let’s see.  Start spiritual life by faith.  Finish spiritual life by physical works.  Dudes, that is stupid.

(Gal 3:4)  Did you suffer so many things in vain--if indeed it was in vain?

         Remember what happened when you encountered God and He freed you from having to follow these complex religious laws?  You were persecuted.  Why did you allow yourself to be persecuted for your faith if it is religious law that saves you?  Even that would be stupid.

(Gal 3:5)  So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?

         God proved Who He was, and that His gospel message was true by doing incredible miracles among you.  What works of the flesh did you have to do in order for God to work miracles?  Which discipline did you have to perform that was the cause of God’s miraculous effect?  Did God work the miracle because you read your Bible?  Prayed? Went to church? Got other people to read their Bible, pray and go to church?  Did God work the miracle in response to your financial offering or week long fast?  Was it your ministry to the pre-schoolers that brought about the healing?  You also have the Holy Spirit inside of you.  Which of the 400 minute laws, behaviors, disciplines and rules resulted in God living within you?  How many acts of holy behavior did you have to do to prove to God that your life was a decent neighborhood so that He would change His address?

         Oh.  I see.  NOTHING.  All you did was believe.  Faith alone.  Faith plus nothing.  You had all your sins forgiven, the Holy Spirit regenerated you and indwelled you, and God did incredible miracles among you by faith and faith and faith and faith.  Now, if God would actually move inside of you…if God HIMSELF would die for you, forgive you of your sins, transform you into a new creation, then live within you by faith…what works is it that you are doing to try and get Him to do more?  It is faith. 

         If it was all God all the time, then why is it suddenly all you?  That is what God is attacking.

Leia Mais…