Archive for January, 2008

Where’s your line?

Ft. McDowell, Arizona

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post we listen to and appreciate the podcasts from Bethel Church in Redding, California.  The teaching there is much different than anything we have heard in our “Baptist days” and so we find it stimulating and frankly life changing.

Sometimes what I remember about one of these messages is not, I suspect what the speaker intends for me to remember, but usually it is a phrase or an idea that sparks something in my mind and starts me thinking.  That is good preaching, by the way.

Here is one in the form of a question that I think is compelling: Where’s your line?  That is, when you hear the Spirit calling you into some new venture, or a new idea, or a new view of Scripture, or a move of the Spirit, or a gift of the Spirit, where is the line you won’t cross to follow Him into something new, or maybe especially, in to something, new to you?

A number of years ago when we were trying to lead an old, rather staid congregation into a more expressive form of worship there were lines being drawn all over the place.  Drums are evil and I will not go to a church where there are drums.  I won’t raise my hands.  I refuse to sing those songs, I will not under any circumstances dance in church (for a lot of Baptists dancing anywhere is a line), I will not stand in worship for longer than one or maybe two songs.  Well you get the idea, even if it is clear that the Spirit is moving and the Presence is in the house, there is a line some would not cross to enter in, no matter what!

How about the gifts of the Spirit referred to as manifestation gifts or sign gifts.  There is a list in 1Corinthians 12 that clearly says there are some gifts like the prophetic, word of wisdom, knowledge, healing, tongues among others that, unless you apply some major theological gymnastics to make them go away, are clearly still for today.  There are a few pockets of theological resistance that still buy the argument that these gifts stopped being useful for building up the church when the canon of Scripture was completed, but there are not very many left.  But there are still many sincere followers of Jesus who have a line, related to these issues they are not going to cross, even if the use of those gifts would bless others and bless them.  They are willing to miss out on what the Spirit has for them and the church needs more than ever today, rather than cross that line.

Sometimes our line has to do with calling.  I will do anything God asks me to do except… I used to say I would never be a preaching pastor, that was my line.  My dad was a pastor and that didn’t look like much fun so I drew a line.  I would be involved in the church and do para-church ministry but I drew a line at ever being a preacher.  After almost 17 years of preaching and two years of not, I miss it in lots of ways.  Crossing that line and doing what I was called and gifted to do was a huge blessing to me and I think to lots of other people. I actually think it blessed the Father.

Crossing the line to reach out to groups of people who are not like you or who are participating in lifestyles you are opposed to, many draw the line there.  What does that do to the advancement of the Kingdom?

I think that our drawn lines thwart the moving of the Spirit more than any other thing.  When we say “I will go this far and no further” we are saying in effect, “Father, I do not trust you or believe that this thing you are doing, saying, calling me to is really You and really for me, therefore I will not do it”.

Where is your line?

January 31, 2008 at 11:49 am 3 comments

Agreeing with the enemy.

 Fort McDowell, Arizona

Linda and I subscribe to podcasts (find them here) that come from Bethel Church in Redding, California. It is some of the most anointed preaching I have encountered, not because they are such great communicators or orators but because they say things I can understand and relate to.

For example and this is a paraphrase because I can’t remember it exactly: Never say anything (or believe anything) about yourself that the Father doesn’t say (or believe) about you. 

Here is how I understood what they were saying.  When I put myself down and say negative things about my intelligence, my character, my abilities, my worth, value or whatever, that does not agree with the Father’s assessment of me, I am choosing to listen to the enemy instead of the Father.  When I choose to listen to and believe what the enemy says about me, I enter in to an agreement with him that if “ratified” over a period of time will  bring bondage and build strongholds and lead to all kinds of emotional and physical problems.

Most of us, at one time or another (probably multiple times) have done things we aren’t proud of or that was humiliating, something that grew out of a poor choice or a bad decision.  When we confess our sin the Father says, “I forgive you” and we are immediately back in a place of freedom.  At that same moment the Father chooses to blot out His memory of our poor choice (sin) but at the same moment we also have a choice to remember it or not.  The enemy never wants us to forget our failures and so he comes at just the right moment to remind us of our failure and to tell us what a fool we are, what a disappointment we are, that we might as well go and do it again because poor choices are what we are about and so on.  At the same time, if we will listen, the Spirit is bearing witness with our spirit that we are dearly loved children of a forgetful Father and that we are a saint not a sinner, we are new creations, we are children of promise and so on.

When we listen to the enemy and believe his report we are choosing agreement with the enemy over agreement with the Father.  The more we do that the more it becomes habit and the more habitual it is the more bondage and the more bondage the more of a stronghold.

Ever wonder why you often don’t feel well or why your life seems to always be less than you hoped for or why you don’t enjoy the blessing of a deepening relationship with the Father?  I suggest it could be because you have entered into agreement after agreement with the enemy as opposed to agreeing with the Father.  Start believing what the Father believes about you and watch your life improve.

Not sure this is what Bill or Kris (don’t remember which one) was saying but that is what I like about their teaching.  I hear some comment and it sparks a whole new line of Spirit filled thoughts in my own mind.  So don’t blame them if this is not what they said. 

January 30, 2008 at 9:04 pm 1 comment

Monday morning meanderings. Vol.29

Ft. McDowell, Arizona

After a day and night of Northwest like rain, the sun is out and the weather is not bad here in the Valley of the Super Bowl.  If you are coming for the Super Bowl we will rent you our coach for $1000.00 a night and that’s a bargain. 

Item one. The Monday meanderings are generally a light hearted way to get me started blogging for the week.  There are a few readers who enjoy knowing what we are up to and there are a couple who think it might even be funny (well, there was one person who said they laughed once while reading it).  So if you are not all that interested in where we are or my jaded sense of humor, just skip Mondays.  You know who you are Dennis!

Item two. Speaking of a jaded sense of humor but with a message worth reading, especially if you are a parent, read this from Kamp Krusty.  This is my favorite blog, mainly because you get hooked on the lame way he writes only to discover that he has something really important to say.  Give it a try.  Find it here.

Item three.  Have you ever had your car stolen?  My brother and sister in law were in a motel near Denver International Airport (DIA) spending the night in anticipation of leaving the next morning for some exotic port of call that I can’t remember.  They took an over night bag and a few things into the motel, leaving the rest of their bags in the car.  You guessed it, they came out the next morning to go to the airport and their truck was gone.  A brand new burgundy Tahoe with OnStar and all that.  Think they could find it?  No sign yet.  All their baggage, some money and other stuff you keep in your car-gone!.  Check this out: There is a vehicle stolen in these United States every 26 seconds.  Over 9 billion dollars worth of vehicles go missing every year.  I wonder if the new car dealers steal them so you have to buy another one?  By the way less than 14% of the dudes who rip them off ever get caught.  Who would have thought that Texas thieves prefer pickups and California rip off guys like imports?  Wonder what rigs get stolen the most?  Here are the top ten: Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Honda Civic, Oldsmobile Cutless (huh?!), Jeep Grand Cherokee, Chevy Full size pickup, Toyota Corolla,  Ford Taurus (surely not), Chevy Caprice (huh, huh?!), Ford F150 pickup.  Want to know why these particular vehicles are in the top 10 of ripped of rigs you can read about it here.

Not a Tahoe in the bunch.  Must be some guys working off a different top 10 list got my brother’s truck.

If I were to steal a vehicle I would steal a Ford F450, Lariat, four door, diesel, long bed, duel rear wheel, 4×4 pickup truck.  And no, I don’t live in Texas and neither do my exes.

Item five.  Here is a site that fits in well with my post on the Glory of God a few days ago.  Find it here.  It is a site about the “heavens declaring the Glory of God…”  I plan to write some more about Glory this week.

Item six.  Have you seen these comics?  This guy doesn’t need many words to get his point across. Check this one out for example and then check it out regularly.

Have a wonderful week.

January 28, 2008 at 1:27 pm 5 comments

Starved for the Glory of God.

Fort McDowell, Arizona

I have been putting Fountain Hills on these posts from Arizona and we are very close to it but in reality the RV park is located on the Fort McDowell/Yavapai Nation.  Thought you should know the truth.  Fountain Hills is a much more upscale place then Fort McDowell and I thought it sounded better too.  Now you know what a name dropper I am.

Several years ago I either read or heard a story, told by Pastor Jack Hayford, about a time early in his ministry when he and some of his staff or leaders were in their small building and they each stood in one of the four corners of the room and prayed for the glory of God to descend on the them–it did and it was awesome.  Ever since I have wanted to be somewhere where the physical presence of the Father would come down in an unmistakable way. In fact when we were in Sayre for the dedication of Trinity’s new Living Room (my term) I wanted to ask everyone in the room to go to one of the four corners of the building and invite the Presence to fill the room.  It wasn’t my house so I didn’t, but I wanted to.

Twice today, while reading blogs (a favorite pastime of mine) I came across the words that title this post-Starved for the Glory of God.  Because we are so often caught up in the pursuit of self glory we starve for what is real and what is totally unique-the glory of God.

When we were at the Grand Canyon a few weeks ago I was poignantly aware of my smallness.  If you have self esteem issues the Grand Canyon isn’t going to help!  But wait a minute, actually it does help.  There is greater healing for our souls locking on to something as stupendous as the Grand Canyon then there would ever be in locking on to a view of ourselves. So much of self-esteem issues are really more about self centeredness then they are humility.

How ridiculous would it be if when I was looking at the greatness of The Canyon and I stopped looking and ran inside to find a mirror so I could gaze at my own image?  Looking at something so magnificent in its size and beauty gives us a glimpse of the Glory of God and in the Glory we find what Martin Luther called “appropriate smallness” and it is healing.

Why does the Father leave so much magnificence lying around? It is about glory-the glory of God.  The heavens declare the glory of God, the Scripture says. While visiting Traci and family in Utah we watched a video at their church by Louie Giglio called “How Great is our God”.  It is an utterly amazing statement about the vastness of the Creation and how small we are by comparison.

As I watched it, besides being completely blown back by it, I kept asking myself this question: Why does God waste so much space on a universe so huge and out of proportion to the earth?  Why does He locate this piddling little planet called earth in such vastness?  If there is no life anywhere else in the universe, what do we need all that extra “stuff” for?  Why not just have this planet and forget the rest of it.

The answer, I think, lies in the need to experience the glory of God. It is about understanding the difference between who He is and who we are.  The universe is so huge in order for us to get a glimpse of the great glory of the Creator.  The vastness of the universe shows us that. Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these [stars]? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing. (Isaiah 40:26).

Our souls are starving to see, know and enjoy the glory of God. We spend so much time on self-glory, we forget what we were made for.  We were made to experience Glory!  Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth . . . whom I created for my glory, says the Lord (Isaiah 43:6-7). To see it, to revel in it, and to declare it-is why we exist.

We are starved for His glory and the mad obsession we have with ourselves and our stuff is proof. 

Father, show us your glory, bring down your presence until we are overwhelmed by Your greatness, Your vastness, Your majesty-Your GLORY.  Make us tired of us and our stuff by letting us see Your GLORY.  Blind us to us and our possessions with a blaze of Your GLORY.  Satisfy our hunger with GLORY.

For Yours is the Kingdom and the Power and the GLORY!

January 25, 2008 at 11:36 am 7 comments

Monday morning meanderings. Vol.28 (Wednesday)

Fountain Hills, Arizona

We returned late last night after almost a week back in Sayre plus the travel time.  We had a good trip both ways.  We drove it all in one day going out but took a day and a half coming back here.  It is 815 miles, one way, so it is a nice two day trip and a hard one day.

Just haven’t had time nor motivation to post lately but will try to get the meanderings up today and then maybe the spark will return now that we are a little settled here in Arizona again.

Item one.  Part of the reason for going back to Oklahoma was to teach a class as part of Convergence, the ministry school we are helping to launch.  The first semester went great and we have a lot of classes planned for the rest of the winter and spring.  This class was part one of a two part class called “Making Sense of Scripture”.  What we tried to do was introduce the students to the doctrines of revelation, inspiration, preservation and illumination with a discussion of how books were chosen to be in the Bible we have now.  Then we did an overview of the OT with an emphasis on how the Messiah is seen in each OT book.  We had a good time teaching and I think the students felt the time was well spent.  We will do part two the end of February when we return to Sayre.

Item two.  We went back to Sayre for the dedication of the Trinity’s new worship center, affectionately called the Big House.  It was really fun to be part of the celebration and to be part of worship in this beautiful new House.  After a lot of years in a small inadequate facility the Trinity Family is really enjoying gathering in a place where there is room for everyone.  They have had the largest attendance the last three weeks in the Big House that the fellowship has ever had.  Andy asked us to share during the service and it was an honor to be asked.  What I shared had to do with how we came to Trinity after a “death” experience and have found so much life there that I felt the Lord saying that this room in the new House should be called the Living Room because you can’t help but feel the Life that is there.  Many people, like us, have come to Trinity to “get well” and to be revived and to experience the abundance of Life we are promised and we have found it there.  Sharing those things with the Family on Sunday really affirmed why the Father has us there for this season. Linda read the prayer of David from 1Chronicles 29 as the temple was begun.  It was a fitting expression of praise to the Father for this new Living Room.  O Lord, the God of our ancestor Israel, may you be praised for ever and ever!  Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory and the majesty.  Everything in the heavens and on earth is yours, O Lord and this is your kingdom.  We adore you as the one who is over all things.  Riches and honor come from you alone, for you rule over everything… O our God, we thank you and praise your glorious name!  Pictures coming soon.

Item three. Quote from Rick Majerus: “Then the new coach [Majerus], a product of a Jesuit education himself, broke up the room by musing that “the greatest mystery of faith to me is not the resurrection or the virgin birth. I want to know if the Corinthians ever wrote back.”

Item four.  Daughter Traci has some new posts on life with Eyob, her adopted son from Ethiopia.  Check them out here.  I am proud of her vulnerability related to all of this.  By opening herself, as she has, friends and family have been free to share things with her that have really helped.  I am proud of Brandon, our son in law whose patience during this time has been amazing.

Item five.  Cool gadget of the week  (never had a cool gadget of the week item before and may never again, but this is still the cool gadget of the week). Give it up for the worlds first transparent toaster.  Find it right here.

Item six.  Anyone have any ideas for new posts so that I can quit posting things about transparent toasters?  I feel kind of stuck with the whole blogging thing and need some new vision.  Does anyone have any laying around.  Seriously.

 Have a great week, what’s left of it.

January 23, 2008 at 1:17 pm 2 comments

Monday morning meanderings. Vol.27

Fountain Hills, Arizona

Windy today, which we have not had since we have been here.  Otherwise it is the same old thing, sunny and 60+.

Item one.  Did you know Arizona has mountains?  I sure didn’t.  When I would think about Arizona I would think desert, Grand Canyon and flat, but Arizona is a very mountainous and “wild” place.  This is not the greatest map but it does show how mountainous this state is.  In fact, if I had to guess, my guess would be that Arizona is in the top 2-3 of states with land mass elevations above 4000′.  Anyone know for sure?  We have been exploring the mountains because the two little fellowships we are helping are in the mountains.  Yesterday we came over the Apache trail from Tonto Basin, Roosevelt Lake area into an area just south of Mesa.  It was an amazing road, like none I have ever been on.  Check it out here.  If you ever come to Arizona, get out of the RV parks and the cities and see some of this beautiful state.

Item two.  Yesterday was the first anniversary of The View From the Juniper Tree.  One never knows where a project like this will go and what difference, if any, it will make.  Having never been a blogger before, not knowing anything about it, I just started and let it flow.  Like the seasons, you could read through this blog from a year ago, up to today and see what season of life I happened to be in at the time I was writing.  I wrote and frankly still write for myself, as an outlet for the things I am thinking and reading about, doing and experiencing, but it has been a neat blessing that there are around 1000 unique hits a week to the site.  Some come because I have an email list of about 50 that reminds some friends and family that a new post is up.  Some come, led by a “tag” I add to the post that indicates a topic that is discussed in the post.  Some come because they once found a tag and now come back because they enjoy, are stimulated by, find what I write interesting, some come because they find a link from someone else’s blog, etc.  When I began most of the hits came from the area where we lived the last 18 years and from places recognized as locations our families lived.  Now most by far, come from locations all over the country and world.

At the time I started we lived in Washington, were travelling in California, (the Juniper Tree was birthed in the Joshua Tree National Park in California) now we are stationed in Oklahoma and visiting Arizona with our address still in Washington.  I have written 223 posts from at least 12 different states this year and there have been over 400 different people comment 690 times to the things I have written.  For awhile I was counting the different countries represented by visits to the Juniper Tree and stopped at over 40 different countries.  One of the really enjoyable things about blogging is watching where people come from to visit the Juniper Tree.

It has been fun, brought some needed release of emotions I didn’t know what to do with and it has been challenging to keep up the pace of writing over four posts each week for a year and to do it at a level that pleases me and continues to bring in readers.  I must admit that I am at a place in my writing where I am less challenged or motivated to write and so the pace has slowed a bit, but I hope to catch a second wind and keep going.  I tell myself it makes a difference that I do this and I know it does because it makes a difference in me.  I am grateful for those of you who stop by.  As always, if you have something you think I could or should write about or you have questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to let me know. 

By the way, the most read post, by far, actually many times by far, is this one.  It has been more than two months since I wrote it and yesterday after Lee and Mary were mentioned on the PBR broadcast there were multiple visits as a result.  I owe it all to you Lee!

Item three. The park we are staying in is almost full because of the largest classic car auction in the country, going on in Scottsdale.  Don’t know much about cars, car shows or car auctions but this one is big.  It goes on for 10 days and multiple millions of dollars of classic cars are auctioned off at gala events.  Here is a link to the auction site.  If no one else is interested I put this in for my brother Mike, who is into classic cars.

Item four.  Each day in our email in box comes a short devotional from the works of Henri Nouwen.  This one speaks in a small way to what I hope The View From the Juniper Tree is and will continue to be.  Not so much successful but fruitful.

There is a great difference between successfulness and fruitfulness. Success comes from strength, control, and respectability. A successful person has the energy to create something, to keep control over its development, and to make it available in large quantities. Success brings many rewards and often fame. Fruits, however, come from weakness and vulnerability. And fruits are unique. A child is the fruit conceived in vulnerability, community is the fruit born through shared brokenness, and intimacy is the fruit that grows through touching one another’s wounds. Let’s remind one another that what brings us true joy is not successfulness but fruitfulness.

Have a great week.

January 14, 2008 at 10:38 am 5 comments

Excellence? Part 2

Fountain Hills, Arizona

Yesterday was our day to drive into Young, Arizona, a little mountain town north of where we are parked.  It is about 115 miles one way and the last 16 are on an unpaved road that was recently plowed of new snow and now, very muddy.  I probably didn’t need to drive with the truck in 4 wheel drive but it made it easier.  It was colder when we came out so it wasn’t so muddy. This is a very isolated community one very few people even know exists.

Going to Young was a good time to think about this subject of excellence that I started writing about yesterday.  Let me tell you a little about this tiny church as it relates to this subject.  The church has no building and meets in a run down community center.  The leader is a young man with little or no formal education and certainly no Bible or Seminary training.  There are no worship leaders, I led worship just so there would be some exposure to what worship is and it’s value to them.  (anyone who has heard me play guitar knows we missed excellence by some distance) The church has no mission, vision or purpose statement.  They know nothing of church growth paradigms, power points or powerful preaching.  So if it wasn’t excellent, and I assure you it wasn’t, was it not worth doing?

Yesterday I tried to communicate what I thought was wrong with excellence, (find it here) as the goal for church life and mininstry. Here is what comes to mind as some alternatives to a relentless and fruitless pursuit of excellence. 

Operate from approval rather than for approval.  I think it was Kris Vallotton I heard say this and it makes a lot of sense.  If I do what I do in order to feel valued and worthy, it doesn’t matter how good what I do is, it is all just rags.  However, if what I do in my life flows out of a solid conviction that I already have my Father’s approval then whatever we do, whether it is average or excellent will bring the Father glory.

Serve with patience not driveness.  It is fine to have goals and to pursue them but learn to be okay with not meeting them as quickly as we might plan.  Just because some other church, ministry or business doubled in size in six months doesn’t mean if our’s doesn’t, we are failures.  There is  something that makes me suspicious about rapid growth.  A wise person said, the only thing that grows fast in my garden is weeds. Being driven to accomplish goals often ends up producing something that looks excellent but the excellence often lacks substance and depth.  Be patient.

Go back to where you lost your peace. If your pursuit of excellence leaves you at peace, blessed, calm and enjoying life and enjoying the people around you, then your pursuit is probably honoring the Father and blessing those you serve or work with.  However if you are constantly stressed, anxious, angry, frustrated and hard to get along with, then whatever you produce from that place, while it might be excellent, is not honoring.  Go back to where you lost your peace in the process and start over.  Then whatever is accomplished, even excellence, will be a whole lot more fun and I suspect a whole lot more honoring to the Father.

Be inclusive not exclusive. We must find ways to do ministry and all of life, for that matter, with people of average intelligence and ability.  Why?  Because most of us are just that, average.  One thing I really appreciate about our church in Sayre is there is little superstar attitude around.  Our pastor is a gifted and capable man but he isn’t a superstar nor does he aspire to be one.  That attitude permeates the culture of the Family.  It is inclusive rather than exclusive and invites average people to be part of what the Father is doing.

Realize it isn’t all about you. I tell anyone who will listen these days that the key to life in ministry and anywhere else is coming to the realization that it isn’t all about you.  It seems so many of us born since 1945 have the attitude that the world revolves around us and that we are somehow deserving of the very best just because we are breathing.  That attitude is what drives the pursuit of excellence.  I hear it said all the time; “we want to do this with excellence so God can get the glory.”  I suppose many are genuinely concerned with giving God glory but often it is a fear of failure and the need to look good doing what we do that drives us to pursue the unattainable. 

What happened in Young, Arizona last night fell very short of any measure of excellence, but I am certain the Father was pleased with what we did because the focus was not on how we were doing but on what we were doing.  What we were doing was encouraging and supporting some folks to enjoy a relationship with the Father and a relationship with each other and in spite of the less than excellent worship leader (I had a good time playing and singing, by the way) and the less than excellent facilities etc. people were catching a vision of a Father and a Family that could reach their community and enhance their lives. 

Any thoughts?  I would love to hear them.

January 9, 2008 at 11:50 am 2 comments

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