Archive for the ‘Spiritual Transformation’ Category

I sit typing this blog entry while watching this amazing and historical day online. I am filled with a sense of excitement as I await the innaugural address to the nation. Now, for those of you who know me wel, know that I am no fan of American politics. In fact, while I did vote, my vote did not count as Jesus Christ was not on the ticket OR the write in candidates (can you believe it?). But deep down I was excited about the wind of change that has come in the form of a black family being brought into the oval office. This is amazing because just over 142 years ago the 13th Ammendment was ratified and ended legal slavery in the United States. While this may seem a long time ago, the effects of slavery and oppression of blacks in America has yet to see its end.

Today, God is seemingly making great strides in our world. Merely, 55 years since Rosa Parks sat her ground on that bus in Montgomery, AL, 44 years since Civil Rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, 28 years after the “last lynching” (though many would argue this), just 17 years after the brutal treatment of Rodney King by those protectors of our streets, today, marks the fruits of progress that so many have died for, lost fathers and mothers for. Today, we find ourselves hopeful. Today, as you watch the innaggural address, notice how the color of one’s skin is lost in the zooming out of camera’s and how together we stand in unity. It is a glimpse into what the kingdom of heaven may be like. While God and Christ will be mentioned today I look forward to the day when Christ draws a crowd larger than what we see this historical day.

May we all, find this unifying moment a glimpse into what is to come when Christ our true President of presidents, our King of kings and the true and only Prince of Peace. Oh Lord, bless the Bush’s as they move into a new chapter of their lives, bless the Obama’s as they begin to lead this country as you have ordained, bless our government as they seek to guide our country in these tough financial and spiritual times, bless our citizens with humility and contentment in times of great distress, bless our world in this time of war and lack of peace. Lord we truly desire that Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Lord come! Amen.

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fl000051Fewer things in the Christian life are more difficult than sowing the seed of Christ in a world where the soil seems awfully polluted. Some say it is a gift, while others say it is a calling on all who claim Christ as their Lord and Savior. I tend to agree that the commission is multi-faceted but demanding on all of Christ’s followers. Never has that been more evident to me in my life until my wife, sister, brother-in-law and I started VineLife Church a little over two years ago.

During those two years we have been planting seeds in the life of people who didn’t even know they were God’s fertile soil, some to the point of denying the seed all together. I got to tell you this has been a hard process. Sometimes seeing the seeds grow before our eyes. Other times seeing the seed produce a seed of its own and plant the seed in others. And yet, there are those painful times as well. Where the seed is planted and seemingly never to sprout (only God knows). Or other times where the seed is planted and nurtured and cared for, showing promising growth only to realize later that it believes it needs a new pot (i.e. church body). But the hardest part of all is how close one must get to people in order to plant these seeds. Building relationships, tilling the soil of their lives and in the end scattering the seed not knowing of it will bring forth the fruits of the kingdom. When it doesn’t, it hurts and calls into question the whole point of planting seeds of the Gospel. However, those that do sprout always far out weigh those that don’t and the fruit they produce is uncomparable to the tremendous crop that one plant alone can produce. All in all, sowing the seed of Christ is the most rewarding challenge of my life.

How about you, is it hard for you to share Christ? If so, why? If not, tell us more. What are your experiences in sowing the seed of Christ?

Funding Fears

From: Worldmag.com, “Obama,” November 15, 2008

Will the nation’s economic storm zap U.S. charities? While the data won’t be in until well after the holiday giving season, the nation’s nonprofits are already bracing for a blow.

World Vision’s Phillipe Guiton, for example, said his group plans to trim hiring, a move that will likely affect the delivery of overseas aid. “What we are going to do now is to issue an order to reduce spending, to delay recruitment, delay purchases of capital assets, etc., until we can see clearer how much our income has dropped,” Guiton said

Other groups, such as Catholic Relief Services and CARE International, say they’re watching to see whether major donors will recover from portfolio shock in time to continue year-end giving at previous levels

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As I read this the words that came to mind were from the Kingdom Prayer (aka. The Lord’s Prayer). “Give us this day our daily bread.” We pray this prayer out of the surplus of our lives. Granted we spend on borrowed money, we often partake in bread bought at a high interest rate but we also play hard and collect toys that are so far superfluous. Though spending may go down this holiday, it is highly unlikely that we will stop to consider if God’s provision really intended we buy the Nintendo Wii go along with our PS3, or to replace our 2006 model Chevy pickup truck with a 2009 because of all the good deals (Here’s a shout out to all my car dealer brothers and sisters in Christ who readily demystify these bogus incentives), or a new doll to sit next to the other five dolls that sit in our daughter’s closet. At the risk of an overgeneralization, it is difficult to imagine that out of the great generosity of God that we operate in this American culture, that we could even consider giving up our contributions that go to aid the poor, the hungry, the widow, the prisoner, etc. OR hold back on our giving in order to protect our own skin as though we have ever had control over this in the history of the world.

In Acts, one of the most challenging stories for us “New Testament Christians” (whatever that means) is the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5. The story goes like this. This is after Pentecost and the outpouring of Spirit, over 3000 people were saved and daily people were selling everything they had and giving to those who had need. To be sure, radical at best. Enter Ananias and Sapphira. (more…)

“I love the church!” Isn’t it a profound thing to say. It seems like such a given, right? Yet today, it seems that more than ever the church is under attack from even her members. Perhaps, I should qualify this and say, the church in America is under attack even by her members. Things like, the problem with the church is… Or if I had it my way, I would…

Truth is, I have been one to have speak in less than honorable ways about the church as well. Now, I want to confess and say I am sorry to all who listened to my moaning and groaning, as though I knew the direction better than those called to cast vision and move the church into Christian formation. To my youth ministers, I am sorry for thinking you didn’t know what you were talking about, though I chalk that up more to, my teenage mentality. To the ministers overseeing the Seekers class at University CofC in Abilene, to the shepherds and ministers (and my mentor, Doug Peters) at North Davis CofC in Arlington, to my professors/shepherds at Minter Lane CofC and finally to the Singing Oaks shepherds and ministers, though only with you for a short time, I AM SORRY FOR MY ARROGANCE AND LACK OF HUMILITY. I was seeking to manage the unmanageable. For Christ gave up His power, he relinquished his equality with God. While, I sought to bring it to success. The notion is laughable considering the two thousand years of growth and survival.

Please pray for your family at VineLife for God is moving powerfully among us and yet the evil one is seeking to destroy what God has already set in motion. I believe he has a plan for this body that is huge and magnificent but evil is lurking around every corner. May we not succumb to the management of Christ’s body, for He has had a plan since the beginning of time. I believe that in the management of the body we are serving the destructive ambitions of the evil one. May we all remember that when we speak ill of the body and it’s members, we speak ill of Christ, himself. In Matthew 25.31-46 Jesus says…

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,  43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Our goal is not the management of the body of Christ. Our job is to live as Jesus out loud and for the world to see. To submit to His love so that we may love. To grow in his image so that others may see Him. To see in others the face of Christ, who was born of a virgin, lived among us, died on a cross and was raised to the newness of life so that we may enter into His glory by the power of His Spirit Holy. When we speak against the church, we speak against Christ. When we speak or tear down our brothers and sisters, we in turn are crucifying our Savior yet again. But when we build up the body and serve the “least of these” we in turn serve Christ himself. I long to hear our Savior say to his church, “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Won’t that be a grand and glorious day.

A qualification for this article is in order. To those of you who know me, I am not one who believes that the end all be all of Christianity is showing up to church on Sunday. Instead, I believe that we live church, which might call some of this article into question. This is not the case. While the language of church as something you “go to” is in this article, hear it instead as a concern for living in the community and gathering when the community gathers, especially where our primary intent is to worship and praise God as our Lord and Savior.

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This article copied from:

The Christian Century Magazine

Living by the Word

October 04, 2005

Balance sheet

Matthew 22:15-22
by Judith Johnson-Siebold

Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Matt. 15:20-21)

I was emphasizing to parents of confirmands that the young people should be with their families in worship as part of their preparation for membership. “I’m afraid we don’t have time for worship,” one mother told me after the meeting. Her words were soothing and gentle, yet they sounded condescending, as if she were explaining something to a not-very-bright child. “We’ve committed to soccer and cheerleading for my youngest on Sunday mornings. We have a full plate. Maybe in a few years.”

This same woman had been adamant that her children be baptized and confirmed. Although she and her family could fit in brief forays into religious rites, other activities were more important than a steady commitment to the church. (more…)

So I want to begin a discussion on what is radical living. However, the word radical is not in the Bible and I think we must deal with the reality of this first and foremost. There are many synonyms for radical that I think might give insight to what we mean by radical but for the sake of discussion I will merely list a few and then tell you what I believe is the root of this radical life. Some synonyms are…basal, basic, foundational, fundamental, original, primary, underlying, drastic, extreme, fundamental, heretical, heterodox, original, primitive, revolutionary, thorough-going, unconventional, unorthodox, conservative, derivative, moderate, slight and trifling. However, words such as extreme, drastic, revolutionary are not words used in the Bible but at best are merely alluded to in notions of extreme love, faith, hope, care and ideologies compared to the context of Judaism and Roman ideals. So my argument is that it is virtually impossible to live a radical life in and of itself but that radical can only be the adjective describing something done radically. So what is it in light of scripture. Well, I dare not take the space to prove it now, time does not permit. But, at first glance, one might consider faith, hope and love but the greatest of these is love. So in light of a Savior who dies on a cross and has the last words offered to our Father of “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” The question I pose is, What is radical love look like in the following arenas?

1. Christmas

2. Service

3. Discipleship

4. Work

5. Giving

6. Equality

7. Community

8. Other