Category Archives: church

Motivation

IMG_0120People give more of themselves if they are given realistic goals over the short and long terms. Leadership does a great disservice by classifying some church members as untouchables. Or whatever, maybe they just don’t fit in the leadership clique.

I observe former bad boys straighten up their lives because there’s a Christian girl in the picture. He wants to be worthy to marry her (short term). He also wants to go to Heaven (long term).

But for others, the goals seem simply impossible. Why study and do boring and hard homework if I’m not going to go to college anyway (short term)? Better to live for short term pleasures than strive so hard for nothing. If he doesn’t buy into the dream, he’s not going to be motivated. The key is that it must be realistic — for him.

I’m not unaffected by this basic psychological need. So it is with great rejoicing that I am moving out of seaside Santa Monica into the sweltering San Fernando Valley with the opportunity to start a Bible study. Van Nuys has all the allure of the Promised Land because what thrills my heart most is ministry. Thank God my pastor is giving me the chance.

I’ve been a Christian for 36 years. I think that it’s easy to get bored. At some point, you know the scriptures, you know the songs, you know the sermons. What has kept me excited has been doing, not sitting and listening. It has been bringing others to that initial knowledge of Christ. Are you bored with Christianity? You are in danger of backsliding. Get involved in expanding the kingdom, getting souls saved and establishing them in His truth.

You’ll never be bored again. Getting involved in ministry will motivate your heart to give your utmost for Him.

Back in Guatemala

IMG_9606

Six year ago, we quit Guatemala after 16 years of ministry. It looks like God is opening doors for me to start a new church in the U.S. (more to come later). But for now, I’m in Guatemala visiting, preaching, reinvigorating, helping. And I have my son, Hosea, with me. So I guess this post, I’ll just be asking for prayers. Thanks! It’s great to see everyone again!

Don’t underestimate your impact

little groupsLittle groups have always been the ones to change the world.

The disciples were 11 — and they made the world largely Christian. How many people were on the original Apple team? — and now they are one of the world’s most profitable. The Wright brothers were only two guys — and they flew the first plane.

Maybe your church is small. Don’t count yourself out.

When good guys fight each other, something is very wrong

batman-vs-superman

I admit: I’m not schooled in the intricacies of superheroes fighting among themselves, but the core of my being finds this repulsive Good guys are not supposed to fight good guys

So too, when the church fights among themselves, it’s a tragedy.

Some Christians fight over ministry. Others let personality conflicts prevail. These are wrong-headed approaches to church. First, God describes the church as a physical body without redundancy. Every part of the body has its valuable function They eye cannot say to the nose that it is superior.

Secondly, you can always go out and CREATE new ministry. As long as there are unsaved souls on the planet, there cannot be a limited number of ministerial positions.

Thirdly, Christ told us the greatest among us should be the servant of all. Usually, there are ministries in the church that need workers. I myself have taken up the cleaning ministry.

Fourth, church members who believe they have the gift of criticism are more Pharisees that Christians. Stop finding fault with what your brother is doing, and do something yourself to build up the church or add members.

I’m sure someone somewhere can explain to me the plot of Superman fighting Batman and how this makes sense. But can anyone anywhere explain why Christians fight in the church?

Get into the ship

ship
Fellowship
Worship
Discipleship

Don’t miss the ship.

Don’t put too much “I” in Sunday

sunday.jpgDon’t put too much “I” in Sunday — else it become SInday. Keep the “U” in Sunday.

Afterall, Sunday is about others. Put God and others first on Sunday.

Let your imagination run wild!

EliManningAs Peyton Manning was winning his second Super Bowl, the cameras panned his family. A grim-faced Eli Manning, who quarterbacks for the New York Giants, just got his record (two Super Bowls) equaled. The media speculated wildly: He was mad that his brother and rival tied him. He was no longer the favored child. Etc. and nauseating etc.

It turns out the wild imaginations were all projecting their own evil thoughts on poor Eli. Yes, he had a grim face, but not because he had a rivalry with his brother. He was thinking, he came forward to clear up the record, about strategy. What would the Broncos do next to guarantee the win? Deep in playroom cogitations, he didn’t show on his face the rejoicing of the rest of the family.

No, you’re not “hearing” the Holy Spirit guessing what a brother or sister is thinking. If you suspect evil in his heart, maybe it’s your own evil. Maybe, if YOU had that face it would be because of some bad thoughts. But maybe the other person not so.

Pentecostal Christians make a mess of church ministry by confusing psychological projection with Holy Spirit thinking. Don’t pay attention to the face. Just preach the word and love people. Don’t judge them based on their face.

Ha ha ha! Orange marmalade has ‘wires’

Orange-marmalade1The pungent and sweet taste of orange marmalade is one I missed as a missionary in Guatemala. So when we got back to the U.S. a few years ago after 16 years abroad, I got it, and I shared it with my youngest son. To put it mildly, Hosea didn’t like it.

“Dad! It tastes like it has wires!” He was somewhere between aghast and livid. He believed it was his duty to inform me what I didn’t know. The rind gratings — um — were grating to his palate.

Of course, I cracked up. For his ingenuousness, thinking I didn’t know it had rind gratings. For his descriptiveness.

This is how I feel when newbie leaders want to give me a lecture on spirituality. When does the senior ever let the freshman tell him how to play varsity football? You have to take things with humor or it can be a discouraging thing coming back into your mother church. And you gotta enjoy the orange marmalade despite what people say.

God reminded me why

coaching soccerIt had been a frustrating day — criticisms of my efforts to get people saved and discipled. (It seems like the church is full of people who don’t save or disciple others, but they are experts to let others know what they’re doing wrong.)

As I prayed, God reminded me that I’m not working for the critics. I’m working for the kids.

I teach at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica and I coach for the middle school soccer team. We took some bruising losses this week, but I love the kids, and they seem to appreciate me. We have fun — all in Jesus’ name.

These are the powerful Saints! We have won only one game. But their enthusiasm, their joy, their love of Jesus, their positive energy makes them powerful in my book (quite a few players missed practice this day)!

Gifts received and gifts given

gifts serviceA gift received is a gift given. Whatever God has given you as a talent or a special characteristic, you must give to others.

Too many stars and intelligentsia use their talents for themselves. They believe themselves entitled to superior treatment. They fail to recognize that their beauty, voice or ability comes from God. God didn’t give you that gift because He has favorites — not to use it just for your own benefit.

If you are in the church, you must understand that God’s giftings come from God and are owed back to Him. I’m mystified by Christian servants who charge fellow servants for the use of their giftings. We are governed by capitalism more than the Bible. If we hold back on our service to the church, we are not being faithful to God.

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in various forms — 1 Peter 4:10.

 

 

He could have played for instead of against

lionel-messi-Lionel Messi, with whom defenders can only keep up with their eyes, was loaded with so much talent, but clubs in Argentina were unwilling to give him the costly growth hormone he needed.

At 9, he would put 100s of touches on the ball to elude the best kid defenders. At 11, he was diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency. His club, Newell’s Old Boys in Rosario, agreed to pay the daily injections that would cost $1,500 a month but only wound up given him 300 pesos.

messi cup of clubsSo he signed for FC Barcelona, which has since seen its investment amply paid back. Messi has won four consecutive Ballon d’Or, three Champion Leagues and six Spanish League titles.

He just won the World Cup of Clubs against an Argentine club, River Plate. When he scored the first goal, he raised his hand to apologize out of respect for his motherland. Still, ultra fans insulted and spat on him at the airport. But had River Plate been willing to invest in Messi, the world’s best player (my opinion) might have played for them.

I have seen this in the church and it makes my stomach churn. Don’t despise anybody God brings in. Everyone has talents and destiny. Appreciate everybody; they’re there for a reason. They have talents you don’t. Without their contributions, your church will be deficient.

I love waterfalls


I’m from parched California. We can’t take showers any longer.

So you can imagine how strange I felt driving over river after river in Idaho to visit my brother in Idaho Falls. Then we visited Lower and Upper Mesa Falls in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest. If I could live near waterfalls, I would.

Water is life, beauty, tranquility.

Jesus is the water of eternal life. My waterfall is my church.

People who say they don’t need church are spiritually drought-stricken.

Giving to the poor is overrated

Christian loveIf you give to the poor BECAUSE of love, that is a very good thing. But Paul seems to indicate that a human could give to the poor without having love. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor and have not love, it profits me nothing. — 1 Cor. 13:3.

Maybe people give to the poor to appease their conscience or to compensate their evil actions with good ones. What’s surprising is that we can DO loving things without love.

Of course, I think love is an action (like giving to the poor). Yeah, no smug love that I just wish upon the world without doing anything to alleviate the world’s sufferings. Indeed, Prov. 19:17 says: Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done.

Prepare the way for another

Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi

If you ponder who is the greatest footballer of all time, Lionel Messi would be a contender for the title. Thanks to Messi, FC Barcelona are the team to beat, the standard-bearers of magic on the pitch, a distinction formerly held by nemesis Real Madrid.

But there would have been no Messi, and Barcelona would have remained always in the shadows of white uniforms of Spain’s capitol city, had it not been for a legend from the past. Johann Cruyff is almost forgotten in the radiance of today’s stars. But it was Cruyff who made the way for Messi.

cruyff

Johann Cruyff

Wanted at Real Madrid, the Dutch dazzler opted to move to then-underdog Barca. Immediately he won the championship and two Ballons d’Or. Later as coach, he won four consecutive titles and one European Cup. He devised the farm training team for future stars to rise in. It was there that Messi discovered his own greatness.

Today, Cruyff fades into the background as the steamroller Messi continues to smash records. Who is greater? The one who became great or the one who forged the path for him to find destiny.

Maybe your ministry is waning, your influence declining. Fret not. What you have done for God has brought others into their own destiny and greatness.

God gives us

arkofcovenantIn the Ark of the Covenant, there were the law tablets, Aaron’s rod, and a jar of manna. These symbolize:

  • law: God’s guidance
  • rod: God’s favor
  • jar: God’s provision

arkWhat else could we want/need from God? The Ark of the Covenant (not Noah’s ark) represented the presence of God with His people. Now, His presence is with His people, especially in His church.

And that’s we go to church for. That’s what we get from God by seeking Him:

  1. guidance
  2. favor
  3. provision.

 

My heart goes out to them…

Cannabalism

Though my heart goes out to the multitudes who have been hurt by “toxic” churches, I am not among those abandoning the church. If Christ instituted, going AWOL cannot be part of the solution, regardless of damage done. You may need to change church, not leave it entirely.

I belong to the group seeking reform for the church. When I see reform, I wish to reform myself. I, a sinner, need to change. I am part of the church. As I change and become truly more Christ-like, the church will better reflect His love.

So many of my posts challenge unbelievers in their unbelief that I am even fearful to publish this challenge to the church to self-examination, self-surgery, self-healing. (I didn’t hardly even dare to make visible the stinging criticism in the picture. Only if you look closely can you make it out.)

Jesus said: As you judge, you will be judged. Let us therefore use mercy one with another. Love those who are hard to love in the church. Don’t come down to their insecurity. If they rattle off criticisms, don’t you do it.

Climbing without ropes

Like Spiderman, climbing sensation John Bachar moved quickly up the overhanging rock wall, sometimes sustaining his entire body weight with just a couple of fingers. And he did it without ropes.

When I caught up with Bachar in 1988 for interview on the dangerous sport called free-soloing, he philosophized about the freedom from cumbersome protective gear. He waxed about feeling at one with nature. It was a rush, other-worldly, like a drug.

An amateur rock climber myself, I made no plans to try it. Too many times, I had “popped off the rock” — insider lingo for losing your grip — and been saved by the combination of harness, rope, anchor and belay.

After years of feeding off the intoxicating sensation of brushing with death, Bachar fell fatally in July of 2009. Many other proponents of this extreme sport have similarly died. It would appear foolhardy to shun safety while scaling 100- and 1000-foot rock walls only for bragging rights.

Not only do I use ropes, I also go to church. I see in this body of believers a safeguard. The day I come crashing down, I have brothers and sisters to bear me up. I’m always “on belay.” (I personally am incredibly prone to crashing down.)

Others prefer to unencumber themselves of the church, to go it alone in life. It may feel restrictive, but that same restrictiveness is a safety.

Piano movers and piano players

Tex and Luis, after the blow to the nose.

A complete soccer team has its burly bruisers and its exquisite finesse players who can deliver a ball directly to the feet of a goal-scorer through a forest of opponents.

So Tex smashed Luis at high school practice today so hard that his nose bled out of both nostrils. I had to remind him to take out competitors, not teammates. Of course he did it unconsciously; without thinking the football player manifests.

A good soccer team is like the church. Everybody’s talents compliment and complete ministry in the church. No one’s is superior, nor inferior. We need people. Reaching out over the blogosphere is fabulous, but sometimes you need flesh and blood right nearby. I have prayed for other bloggers, but sometimes I need a church member to fix my washer. It is the combined effort that wins games.

It is the combination of so many different people that makes the church triumph over Satan. Surely, the church is guilty of so many crimes (judging others, drama, for example). I don’t like its ugly moments, but there’s nothing to take its place. Church is like marriage: detractors abound, but nothing better has every replaced it.