Willing to be Forgotten

Monday is for Reflection

Forgotten RuinsO LORD my God, If I have done this
.       if there is injustice in my hands

Let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it.
.       And let him trample my life down to the ground
.       And lay my glory in the dust.    Selah.

Psalm 7:3, 5 (NASB)

Willing to be Forgotten

I am willing to be forgotten,
A ruin surrounded by forest
Dismembered from humanity,

Unrecognized, unheeded, unacclaimed,
Unappreciated and dismissed
Forgotten, buried and unremarked.

If only you would rescue each of my children
each of my grandchildren
each of my accomplished brothers and 
both of my extraordinary sisters.

Rescue their children, their spouses
Rescue them and never let them go.
Draw them to Yourself.
Show them Your beauty.
Make idols cease.
Let truth reign.
Rescue them O God for Your name

You hold all the cards.
Yet this is my “bargain.”
I am willing, eager, to make this trade.
Give me obscurity and You, (I must have You), 
And rescue them to You,
That together we might enjoy and cherish You, forever.

Go to Psalm 8

Choosing “Us” Over “Me and My”

Thursday is for Discipleship

Not my ink!

Not my ink!

I am reading what I hope turns out to be a wonderful book right now. I can’t give a full-throated endorsement yet–I’ve only read the intro and first chapter–but I can say it has been really helpful and thought provoking so far. It is causing me to think hard about what it means to live in community and how the gospel calls us to a communal rather than individual life.

The book is Living the Lord’s Prayer by David Timms. It is available in hardback, paperback and on Kindle. The first chapter is devoted entirely to a reflection on why the Lord’s Prayer uses the pronoun “OUR” rather than “MY”.  Here’s the last paragraph of the first chapter.

The little prayer-word our calls us back to others. It forces me to consider us. Me and God creates a cocoon that isolates me from others and, ironically, from Him. Us and the Father reinforces the indispensability of the community. 

We need this perspective in the American church. I need it. My wife needs it. My children need it. Millennials, and Gen X, and Gen Y, and Boomers, and Boomer parents need this. “WE” need this because we are driven by the individual passions of this age. And my fear, is that we don’t even have antenna for understanding what we are missing and failing to comprehend about what it means to be “in Christ.”

An application:
Join me in reading and praying the Lord’s prayer over and over this week. Let’s see what God wants to teaches us as we give attention, meditative attention to the words our Savior used when he wanted the disciples to learn the kind of things they (and we) ought to be praying for as we pursue Him, together.

Exciting Story of Church Planting Simplicity

Tuesday is Church Planting

Church Planting ImageThe following story is from the Paul Becker, the founder and  President of Dynamic Church Planting International. It is thrilling to hear of what God does when a man is sold-out to reaching others with the life transforming message of the gospel. Read it and thrill to the power of the gospel. But read it also to see the simplicity of the vision: Go and tell people about Jesus.

Let me tell you the true story of a church planter who is alive and serving God today.

His name is Paulo Andrade. He grew up in poverty in northeast Brazil. He had almost no education. Still, he knew at the age of 19 that God called him to plant churches. By the time he was 31, God had used Paulo to plant 14 churches. Ten of the churches have buildings.

Once he went to a village without any churches at all. He evangelized from house to house. His church met in a bar. Many people came. They used the pool  table for their Bibles. Everyone who came, including the bar owner, gave their lives to Jesus. The bar owner donated the bar to become the church building. The drug trade in that village went way down because the new Christians stopped using drugs. The primary drug dealer told Paulo that he would kill him. God protected Paulo by keeping the drug dealer from seeing him.

Later, Paulo was sent by his home church to regain where there were 31 villages. Noe of the villages had a church. This is a place so remote that not even the Catholics are there. Everything that Paulo has done, he has done by done by foot. He experienced God’s favor and hundreds of people came to Christ and churches were planted. His vision is to see at least one church in each of the 31 villages.

What is Paulino’s biggest dream? To see people being set free from the hands of Satan. He hates to see people enslaved by Satan. He loves to see them set free and transformed by Jesus. Paulo says, “I have never owned a house. But many of our people have houses in heaven.”

Puting Church Planting on the MapIsn’t that a fantastic report? Paul Becker uses that story  to encourage us to think about what God’s dream might be for us. [Bracketed comments added by me.]

It is a great joy to know that Paulo was trained by Dynamic Church Planting International.  [That's DCPI's vision, training as many Paulo's as possible to plant 5,000,000 churches worldwide.]

What does God want to do through you?

11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plan to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
(Jeremiah 29:11-13)

  • Pray to God.
  • Ask him what he wants to do through you.
  • Listen to his voice.
  • Do what he says.

God has a plan that will give you hope and a future. You and the people will be blessed.

It’s a great suggestion. I wonder how the world would change if all the Christians in the world simply asked God that one question, “What is your dream for me?” And then responded to his answer to our prayer, “Your will is my will.”

Overnight, the world would change.

OVERNIGHT.

Let’s start asking tonight.

And when you do, pray for the continuing work of DCPI as they train church planters around the world.

Who Will Give the World Sustaining Hope?

Sunday Afternoon Musings

Suicide“Suicide kills more people than cancer and HIV/AIDS, and more people ages 15-44 than war.”

Christianity Today,  July/August 2014,
“Staying Alive in a Suicidal World”, p. 28.

Think about that statistic for a moment. Add up all the people who die of AIDS and all the people of all ages that die of cancer each year and it doesn’t equal the number of people who take their own lives each year in the United States.

Think of it from another angle.

Add up all the people who die around the world from war. The war in Syria, the war in Ukraine, the various wars on the continent of Africa and in the Middle East–more people take their own lives, people between the age of 15 and 44, young people, than die from war!

Think of the heartache, the loss of promise and talent, the pain of those left behind. Think of the sense of hopelessness, darkness and despair that causes a person to think of death as more tolerable than life.

Our world needs the gospel. It is desperately in need of Jesus.

It is our job to give the world the hope of the gospel.

Who will tell them if it isn’t us?

Again, it is our job to give the world the hope of the gospel. 

Who will tell them if it isn’t us?

Teaching a Soul to Sing

Saturday Musings

broken_heart_by_midget_penguin-d46fbldHe’s on a mission. He is trying to teach his soul to sing. Life is hard and then you die. But he has heard of the doings of God. He has heard the stories of God’s faithfulness. So he is on a mission to teach his soul to sing the song of trust in a living and involved God.

Four times. 

Four times the writer follows the same pattern. Four times the song of his heart is . . .

“Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
           and he delivered them from their distress.”
                                                      (Ps. 107:6, 13, 19, 28)

Four times he reminds his heart that the God he loves is a God who hears,

Is a God who knows,
Is a God of compassion,
Is a God who delivers.

Four times a heart is encouraged by the memory of God’s faithfulness in the past.

And four times his heart is invited to respond.

Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
           for his wondrous works to the children of man!
                                                  (Psalm 107:8, 15, 21, 31)

And in between each reminder and each invitation to praise the “wondrous works” of God are the specific things that God did in response to an impassioned cry for help. 

  • He made “a straight way” for a wandering people. (v. 7)
  • He comforted those grieving death (v. 14)
  • He freed people from bondage. (v.14)
  • He sent out his word and healed them, (v. 20)
  • He delivered people on the verge of destruction. (v. 20)
  • He stilled storms and hushed the sea (v. 29)
  • And he delivered them safely in their travels. (v. 30)

This is the God I need to teach my soul to love. This is the God who reveals himself in his word. This is the God whose “lovingkindness is everlasting” (v. 1), “who the upright see and are glad” (v. 42).

Who is wise? Let him give heed to these things,
              and consider the lovingkindness of the LORD. (v. 43).

___________

When the Heart is Broken

When my heart is broken
When the hurt is deepest
When the sorrow’s so thick
When the rejection is most painful
When the abandonment is complete
When the doors are all barred
When the voices are silent
When the accusations are shocking
When forgiveness is not on the horizon
When I have been written off
.       counted as nothing
.       less than nothing
.       unworthy of love
.       unworthy of respect
.       unworthy of half a moments smile
.       and the eyes stare from a distant north
Then Lord,
Make my heart this wise.
Let me heed who You are,
and consider all Your lovingkindness,
and remember You;
So that none of the things I long for
become an idol that causes me to forget You.

Go to Psalm 108

John Piper on Why We Should Care about the Issues Surrounding Ferguson, MO

It is a  BLOOD-OF-JESUS  Issue

Michael Brown's body being examined by police

Michael Brown’s body being examined by police

As a pastor committed to racial-reconciliation, justice, compassion, the cross of Christ and the gospel, it is CRAZY that the title of this post is even necessary. Unfortunately, such is the state of thinking about the gospel in the American church. There is ahole in our gospelas one writer has put it. We are too narrowly focused on salvation issues and not focused enough on the gospel implications of what it means to be saved “for good works” (Eph. 2:10).

For nearly 20 years, I was the pastor of an intentionally-planted, multi-ethnic church that at the end of that 20 year run celebrated a congregation composed of saints from 23 countries of birth. It was glorious. It wasn’t perfect but it was at least a grainy (and colorful) picture of what heaven will be when all the saints down through the ages gather around the throne of the Spotless Lamb of God. You can read about that church if you are interested, in book edited by John Fuder and Noel Castellanos titled A Heart for the Community (Moody Press, 2009). My chapter is labeled “Becoming a Multi-Ethnic Suburban Church.”

So it is with a mixture of delight and sadness that I post this brief offering from Kairos Journal cited from Dr. John Piper’s brilliant book, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals (Nashville, 2002). It is timeless and helpful for the church as we mourn and seek to make a difference in our world so that the events in Ferguson, MO becomes a thing of the past.

A Blood-of-Jesus Issue—John Piper (1946 – )

John Piper is pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota. By any measure, he is also one of the most widely regarded Christian leaders in America. Ministering in downtown Minneapolis, Piper has been forced to think deeply and profoundly about racial prejudice. His words to fellow pastors are a stirring—even jarring—call to both repentance and action.

The issue of racial prejudice and snubbing and suspicion and mistreatment is not a social issue; it is a blood-of-Jesus issue. When you get the conviction and the courage to say something about it to your people, tell them you are not becoming a social-gospeler but a lover of the blood-bought blessings of the cross of Christ. . . .

[Revelation 5:9-10] is a glimpse into the purposes of God in the death of His Son, the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ:

 “And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You [referring to the slain and risen Lamb of God] to take the book [that is, the book of history in the last days] and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth” (NASB).

Police Chief of Ferguson Police Department

Police Chief of Ferguson Police Department

The implications here for racial and ethnic harmony in the church are staggering when you let it sink in. The price of God’s securing ethnic diversity in the “priesthood,” and the “kingdom” is the death of His Son. The design of the atonement is racial diversity in the company of the redeemed. Applying and pursuing this is not merely a “social issue.” It is a blood-of-Jesus issue. That is what it cost. And that is how important it is.

Not only that, we can up the ante even more. Notice that in Revelation 5:9 this diversity was purchased “for God.” “You . . . purchased for God . . . men from every tribe”(NASB). The issue is not only a blood-of-Jesus issue, it is a glory-of-God issue. Blood-bought racial diversity and harmony is for the glory of God through Christ. It is all aiming at the all-satisfying, everlasting, God-centered, Christ-exalting experience of many-colored worship.

If the pursuit of ethnic diversity and harmony in the company of the redeemed cost the Father and the Son such a price, should we expect that it will cost us nothing? Or that it will be easy? No, the devil, who hates the glory of God and despises the aims of the cross, will not relent without a fierce battle.

Police Standing Watch in Ferguson MO

Police Standing Watch in Ferguson MO

To join God in pursuing racial diversity and racial harmony will be costly for you and your church—so costly that many will try it for a while and then give up and walk away from the effort to easier things.

But some will persevere and be found doing their duty when the Master comes. Be among that number, brothers. There is an old African-American prayer chant that calls us to “a mighty long journey.”

It’s a mighty long journey,
But I’m on my way;
It’s a mighty long journey,
But I’m on my way.

That’s where we are in the American church—on a journey toward the perfect experience of Revelation 5:9-10. And we want as much of it now as we can, don’t we? So the world will see the glory of God and the worth of Christ. So, brothers, read and study and pray and preach and take the risks necessary to sever the root of racism.1

Footnote:

1 John Piper, “Brothers, Sever the Root of Racism,” in Brothers, We Are Not Professionals (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2002), 197-209. Brackets and ellipses in Scripture quotations are Piper’s.

Finding Someone to Talk to

Wednesday is for Prayer

“A quarter of Americans say they have no one with whom they can discuss personal troubles, more than double the number who were similarly isolated in 1985.”

—Shanker Vedantam, in a Washington Post article titled,
“Social Isolation Growing in U.S., Study Says” (June 23, 2006)
cited in Living the Lord’s Supper, chapter 1.

Desperation Picture, Created by Brandon

Desperation Picture, Created by Brandon

It is ironic in the extreme that in a world where we are instantly “connected” to thousands we feel more alone than ever before.

Smart phones, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, e-mail, texting capability, all manner of electronic wizardry, and yet the isolation of the typical American seems to deepen with every passing day. News reports from plethora of outlets, [anyone to fit any prejudice a person may have], bombards us with images and “story lines” and “facts” and “conclusions” and “summaries” at such blinding speed that we have no time to process the validity of any narrative.

No one stops and waits on the biblical proverb, “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” (Proverbs 18:17)  We rush to judgment and then suffer the consequences. Convinced that only our perspective is accurate, we judge everyone else’s motives impure. I’ve done it. And so have you. And the result is that we lose connection. We lose the very thing we need to keep us from sinking into an oblivion of isolation from one another. 

Every pastor has the experience every week. A man or a woman calls. Overwhelmed by life. The details change but the story is the same. Life is hard and they are lost, befuddled, confused, fearful. The hurt has caused them to wake up for just a moment and realize how desperate their situation is, how ill-equipped they are to deal with it, and as they evaluate their resources and find no one to talk to, no one to bear the burden of life with, no one to help them navigate through the swamp of this sometimes wonderful and sometimes bewildering thing called life.

So they call.

And we listen.
And we pray.
And we marshal the resources we have to help them.
And we seek to be Jesus to them.
And we seek to show them and introduce them to others who will be Jesus to them.
And we pray with them again.
And we point them to Jesus.
And we point them to passages in their Bible.
And we encourage them to trust.
And we check up on them.
And we are always stunned.

Stunned that they have no one to talk to.

And so, we talk to them.
And we talk to Jesus for them and about them.

And we know that they need exactly what we are giving.
And that they are hard of hearing.

And all we are trying to do is pump hope into them like we are the billows and they are a dying fire.

Oh God, give your people patience and compassion and emotional stamina to love people until they know that it is not us but you that loves them more than they can imagine. Give them yourself to talk to, and lift, and encourage, and empower them. Help us to carry them to you so that you can heal the hurts this world inflicts. Would you use us in this way? Would you, for the glory of your name put your love on display through us? In Jesus name I ask it. Amen.