Thursday, January 28, 2010
Just the other day I was driving down an intersection close to my home and I noticed a new building taking shape close to the shopping mall. It was an odd shaped building with lots of curves and sharp angles to it and I really couldn’t make out what it must have been. I did notice however that it had a strange name printed out front on a temporary banner, some kind of nautical term. I thought, ok it must be some kind of a boat shop or something. Little did I know that it was actually a church.
I received a mailer later that month inviting me to their “meetings”. It was a beautiful brochure with color photos of the new facility that quite frankly looked like a state of the art concert hall. The main stage had a large platform with huge speakers and showed a rock type band singing under gargantuan colored keg lights. The pastor was dressed in jeans with an Ed Hardy t-shirt under an expensive designer blazer. His hair was spiked and he was wearing an ear mike and he stood behind a small musicians stand like those used in recording studios. They had big colored pictures of the arena type seating with plush chairs that reclined and rocked (at least that’s what the brochure said) and the two screens at the front of the stadium were state of the art promising better sound quality than the latest movie theatre. They had everything you could want, meetings for kids at various times, teens night out and even a special day moms could come and drop off their babies for a free afternoon.
Only one thing was missing from the invitation “Jesus.”
Not in three whole pages of five color splendor did I read one word about Jesus or the bible. They said they were a “new” kind of church with a “new” approach to God. They said they were interdenominational and welcomed all faiths and even those with none. They promised great music with lots of relevant messages. No statement of purpose, no doctrine of faith, nothing. Just come and join us and have fun. Sounds pretty easy doesn’t it? Nothing too pressing, nothing too convicting, just everyone being happy with God. I wasn’t altogether sure just what God they were referencing though.
The great psalmist Keith Green sang the words “we have made God in our own image so that our worship is idolatry.” It’s a different gospel when Christ is no longer the center of our message. We are living in a day now when it’s hard to know who is on the Lord’s side. Lately fewer and fewer churches are wanting to identify with the risen Christ. They want to identify with cutting edge music, or technology or politics or socialism or anything but the unadulterated word of God.
Most people who currently identify themselves as Christian can’t even articulate what they believe to be true. We are entering into a time when the saints need to know what they believe. Now is not the time to shrink back and meld ourselves into the world’s woodwork. If a church doesn’t even look like a church, what of the people gathered inside? Our churches can be creative for sure but why is no one speaking of the cross or the blood for without either there is no remission of sin.
Perhaps it’s because sin is now of no consequence in this one size fits all gospel. We don’t want to talk of sin and hurt anyone’s feelings any more after all they might not come and then who would we tap for the building fund? These days we encourage and we psychoanalyze, we rock out and we get our dance on for sure but do we bring a heart to conviction and ultimate surrender to the cross of Christ? When God asks us "to rend our hearts and not our garments"(Joel 2:13) what does he mean? He means he wants an intimate connection and not a superficial demonstration.
All it takes is one voice to "ahem" speak what we know matters most and we could set the pendulum swinging in a new direction. Music and great storytelling are gifts that God can certainly use but they're only a means to an end. "Oh precious is the flow that cleanses white as snow, no other fount I know, nothing but the blood of Jesus." Gifts can bring a crowd but only the cross preached can save a soul.
Undoubtedly we’ve been dazzled by the gifts and never bothered to check the fruit. Gifts are not enough. It’s by our fruit that we will be known. In this new season there will be a strong focus on developing true spiritual character in ourselves and in our churches and that can only be achieved by the washing of his word. No sound barrier amps, stadium seating, designer duds or futuristic architecture will do the trick. It is by the fruit of the spirit that we will be known. Let's work on developing godly character, maturity and fruitfulness in 2010. The day is coming when the only way we will be able to discern true disciples will be by their fruit and not their gifts.
The old folks used to say; if it waddles like a duck it’s a duck. I look at the contemporary church today and just scratch my head.
Monday, November 9, 2009
Has any one else noticed lately that everyone on the planet is now claiming to be a Christian. Christianity has become a mindset but being born again is a conscientious decision.
Sociological trendsetters currently claim that we (Christians) are just a group of disconnected free spirits who collectively agree that something else is out there besides us. This modern definition of Christianity has no distinct moral aptitude. They would have us follow no defining criteria. They are recording for posterity that perhaps we are just like everyone else. By this definition we like to pray and often mix portions of the bible or Judeo-Christian thought with other bits of religious or spiritual jargon at will. It’s like spiritual scrapple. Surely you remember Scrapple, that old time breakfast entree that mixed sausage with bits of discarded left over meat product or whatever else you had lying around in the kitchen.
Today’s modern Christians put Christ off and on like a new Rolex whenever they need to impress. Isn’t there some kind of disconnect here or am I the only one who see’s this? Technically, could this be the star athlete who kneels to pray when making a touchdown on Monday night but is arrested on Friday for brawling at the strip club? Or perhaps is this the actress who thanks God during the Oscar speech for the role she played with full frontal nudity. Or maybe it’s the musician who decides to make a Christian album during a secular career that’s unapologetically called all women ho’s and bi’aches (yes I spelled it that way on purpose), or perhaps it’s you Mr. or Mrs. average, living life on your own terms occasionally acknowledging God and whatever parts of his word you happen to agree with at the time. Don’t mind me, I’m just asking here?
Christianity has been watered down in the American lexicon to mean anyone who acknowledges a higher power. This is quickly becoming the incorrect but more acceptable palatable public face attributed to Christianity. The bible says, “That though we are in this world we are not to be of it”. It admonishes us to “come out from among them and be ye separate says the Lord”. We are supposed to look, act, talk and be different than the world. No I’m not talking about being clowns or being loopey, looney as some of us have been guilty of in the past (a whole other blog post). I mean that when people meet us they should walk away saying there’s something different about them. In a good and refreshingly clean way. We should be like water in a dry land. We should be like something that others are looking for.
We are supposed to be born again, blood washed believers who have surrendered the lordship of our lives to Christ. Something in our character has got to distinguish us from the world. The bible says that they shall know us by our fruit. That phrase “fruit” refers to the fruit of the spirit. What dwells within us and is the basis for how we relate in society. What kind of characteristics do we display in our daily life? Hopefully it has something to do with; modesty, humility, love, joy, peace, temperance, patience, forgiveness, etc. This should be what sets us apart from the world. Not just that we use religious jargon or shout hallelujah or fold our hands in prayer whenever the mood suits us. That is so surface and so very fake and artificial. l almost wish we could use another term to describe who we are or at the very least get it back from the masses. Because the brand has been copied and compromised so much that you can hardly tell the real ones from the fakes.
I need to confess something as a consumer before we proceed. I am kind of embarrassed to tell you that some years ago I bought a knock off hand bag by mistake. I’m certainly aware that buying knock-off’s purposefully helps no one but I was taken quite honestly with an on-line purchase. I thought it was the authentic article I was buying at a deep discount. Serves me right for thinking I could get something so valuable for next to nothing.
When the handbag arrived it was beautiful I must say. Perfect in every way down to the last identical detail. I was so excited to get it. I stuffed it with all my essentials and used it almost everywhere I went. I got compliment after compliment on my expensive looking designer bag. One thing though, as I began to use it, I noticed it didn’t take long for the leather to fray and the rivets to loosen up. No way should a bag like that have been disintegrating over just a few months wear. I finally realized that there was good reason that the real bags were so costly and displayed in such small numbers. Most high end retail stores only had about 4-5 for an entire city. Quality never allowed for copy cat mass production. Each one was a work of art within itself. I didn’t realize that with substandard artificial materials you could only fake it for so long before the product showed its lack of structure and foundation.
I learned that was how you detect a fake. It couldn’t stand up to even the slightest pressures or seemly routine circumstances. Similarly it’s time for us as men and women of God to move beyond artificial surface relationships with Christ. I don’t want to just look like the world’s version of a Christian. I don’t want to be a pretty package dressed in a jewel studded cross t-shirt with a bible verse on the back. I want to be the real deal, full of power and anointing able to conquer anything this world throws at me. I want to be a reservoir of hope and truth for a hurting and hungry world. We were created to have substance and depth not to be the white-washed seplicar’s the bible warns us about.
Why is this so important to discuss? Well, if everyone thinks that they are already Christians because of a mindset they’ve adopted they will not be open to the real message of Christ when it is presented to them. They will never get beyond a surface acknowledgement of his presence and they will miss an opportunity to know him in a real and personal way. So now, when I see an open door to minister to someone, I no longer ask them “are you a Christian” but rather I ask them, “Have you been born again”? Nine times out of ten these same “Christian thinking “people will look quite puzzled and say “no”.
The savior is calling us all into a deeper more authentic walk with him in this coming season. It is deep calling unto deep. Let’s do more than just look good and play the part. That’s easy enough for any of us. Let’s dig deeper into the spirit realm and really allow the savior to shine through us. Let’s do more than just scratch the surface of this life he sacrificed to give us. Let’s be the real article.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
“It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” Lamentations 3:26. “Therefore I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; My God will hear me”. Micah 7:7 “Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, And he shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say on the Lord”! Psalm 27:14.
I remember being told as a child that good things come to those that wait. I also remember telling my children to just be patient and wait. Wait your turn in line, wait until you can save for that, wait until you’re called to the table, wait until you’re old enough..wait, wait, wait, wait. Why is it that our whole lives seem to be about waiting? Everyone hates to wait.
The kind of waiting I described above is different than God-like waiting. While it may be polite for young children to wait as we get older the principle can become risky. We all know that as adults in the world sometimes when we wait we miss out; we lose the advantage or the moment. If we wait too long for something in the natural we can be passed by and forgotten. Jobs can be lost, relationships can be broken and opportunities can be squandered all at the expense of us waiting for too long.
Fortunately, all of this is the complete opposite In God. Because in divine order waiting breeds patience and patience births faith. We know that without faith, we cannot please God and so to please him we must learn to wait on him. He is not calling us to wait as in the world. Not knowing what may be left for us after we wait. But to wait in Him. And know that whatever you have asked for when first you prayed was already yes and amen. So unlike the world we are not waiting on an answer but rather the fullness of time.
Man is often impetuous, erratic and emotional. We view things based on the exterior and the carnal. But God looks at things from the eternal. That is why it is so important to understand his role as our Savior and our Lord. God is a God of order and process. As we wait on him we find that he is ever so gently leading us and guiding us in his way. As his process develops, his will for us becomes more eminent. We need to constantly check our plans against the will of his spirit and not resist his decisions and his determinations at particular stages of our life.
At times it may feel as if our prayers are not being heard. This is far from the truth. And this is not how he wants us to feel. He wants us to trust him even when we can't trace him. Even in the midst of little evidence or progress we can rest assured that he heard us the very first time we uttered a word to him. He asks us to wait but to wait in faith that is the key. In essence, he does not say to wait without knowing, or to wait with an unexpected outcome. But to wait with the understanding that our prayers have not only been heard but they have been answered.
Wait, because sometimes we’re just moving too fast and out of such habit that we don’t hear the stillness of his last direction. He will never allow us to be too far ahead or too far behind his plans and his purposes for us. He knows the way that we take. Life has a way of wearing us down and confusing us. We're always measuring our selves against what someone else has accomplished or achieved. When we wait with patient expectation and with faith the bible says that we renew our strength. The bible also says that we learn by the things that we suffer. So we need to stop asking God why and begin to say what, what are you trying to show me in this. I have learned that his thoughts are not my thoughts and his ways are not my ways. When we say yes to him that includes his will and his way of doing things.
So take a deep breath you’re not going to miss this boat. He knows exactly what he is doing and just when he wants you to arrive at your next stop. Always remember he will not disappoint like others in our past. He is not a man that he should lie. Nor the son of man that he should repent. He will do what he promised in his word. Jesus tells us continually to be strong and of good courage, be not weary, wait and faint not. The vision will come to pass..though it may tarry it will surely come..just wait I say on the Lord.
In God’s kingdom the last are always first, so relax, it just seems like its taking too long. In actuality you’re right where he wants you to be. Just wait and see………………..
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Has anyone seen the new "I Am Second" media campaign in their city? I love it! It's sheer genius. It's compelling and its to the point. Much like the Batman media blitz about 10 years ago. We weren't sure what the advertised symbol's were on billboards everywhere, so we just had to rush home to check the website to see what the messages were referring to. Remember those, first you saw a circle, then the bat sign..etc.
Well, the concept of these messages are similar in that it does create the desire to find out more. And the strategy is simple; various people in all walks of life acknowledging Christ as the driving force of their existence. Actors, politicians, singers, housewives, business people, average teenagers all giving their testimony of overcoming different challenges and obstacles to find the answer to their striving's in Christ. When they surrendered their lives, took a back seat and made Jesus their Lord, he became first and they became "second".
It's an interactive website, where you can post your story or scan many others just like yours and acknowledge your faith among the Internet, YouTube community. It's refreshing, cutting edge and at the forefront of a new generation of evangelistic tools for a technically savvy generation of seekers. I applaud the genesis behind this medium and encourage my readers to check it out at http://www.iamsecond.com/
Lastly, let me say that I am so encouraged and excited to finally see a billboard somewhere that does not feature another airbrushed minister and his wife smiling down from some over sized glamour shot advertising their self professed gifting's and anointing. I don't mean any harm in that statement but I just think we're doing what we see others do and quite often we forget that it was never about us in the first place. As ministers and leaders when we put ourselves up on a throne its a really hard position to uphold. We set ourselves up to fail because in the end there is only one king and we are all in need of his constant grace and mercy to walk this walk with any kind of authenticity.
Because of the kind of work that I do, I more than many understand the fine line that exists between telling people about your ministry and promoting yourself over the message of Christ. I've had to balance it many times with clients in the Christian sector. I just think we need to more vigilant in not mistakenly crossing over it in our zeal to attract attention to our vision.
C'om folks except the Lord build a house its all in vain any way. We can smile all we want and buy all the designer duds we can afford. We may be well coiffed, poised and camera ready but none of that will guarantee his anointing for this new level. Its still about him. "He that wants to glory...let him glory in the Lord, for not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends" 2 Cor 10:17-18.
I'm praying for the eyes of our understanding to be opened. We need a fresh revelation and a new anointing to sweep over the body of Christ, whereby we fully understand what is the hope of his calling. It's time for us to begin to decrease so that he can increase in this shifting season. It's time to take ourselves off of the thrones and put Jesus back in his rightful place in our churches and our lives. We've gotten our order a little out of whack. He's got to be first and we've got to become second.
Friday, September 11, 2009
It’s a complicated film to be sure and many commentators have delved extensively into the pseudo meaning of each and every frame to both its praise and its detriment. That is not my purpose here. But rather to discuss an idea that was sparked during my viewing. The idea of the limitless power and ability that lies dormant within us until we believe.
Most of us know of the films latent hero named Neo who finds it hard to believe in an unseen and unlimited dimension outside of the Matrix. The protagonist Morpheus tries to convince him that the tangible is not real and the intangible is. It takes a while but eventually Neo unhooks from years of one dimensional thinking and embraces a new way of operating. A way in which he can move and create with incredible freedom and effectiveness. At one point in the film…Neo challenges his oppressors the agents and stops running in fear. His colleagues turn to one another and say…”what just happened” and Morpheus says…”He is starting to believe”. That was a pivotal moment in the film.
Then I thought to myself at what point do we as Christians start to believe in the intangible being more real than what we can see, feel or hear. Christianity has been called the “great confession” but it has to become more than mere words that we repeat out of habit and religious rhetoric. In John 6:63-64 Jesus tells us “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe”. In order for things to work in our lives we must leave the realm of the senses. Nothing in our senses can get us to where we are now trying to go. We are entering into a whole new dispensation on the eve of this New Year approaching. Many of us are standing right on the edge of our final destiny. This has been a far off and long awaiting. It has been prophesied to us personally countless times but without us seeing the full manifestation. Many of us can feel the change of the seasons in the spiritual atmosphere and we have been trying unsuccessfully to get there by our natural abilities.
God has gifted us. We are a talented group and he has blessed us with opportunities to use those things that he has given us from birth. But we have reached the edge of the water and we are now attempting to cross with well worn boats that no longer hold us safely. We are afraid to move forward and we unable to push back. We have heard him compelling us to come but we haven’t seen the provision to launch. God is saying that from this day forward anything you can see or feel or touch has nothing to do with where I’m about to take you. It’s a new day. We are going in but we have to take this one by faith. It’s a totally new season and it’s not another level but a whole different dimension.
His words cry out to us; God is a spirit and they that worship [follow] him must worship [follow] him in the spirit. The natural senses are gone because they belong to natural man. We have to die to self to get to him in this new day. It’s time now for the saints of God to “believe”. If only we could actually pull a plug on our old way of thinking and launch ourselves into the reality of the supernatural. But this requires a little more on our part. We must not only talk it but we now are required to walk it literally. We must put the petal to the metal as they say and stand on this thing. Either we believe the word or we don’t. Now I know it’s been hard for many of us recently but it is He that is at work to will and to do of His good pleasure. He has been stretching us and preparing us for maximum service.
We were designed for the supernatural. God never intended for us to live as natural beings and rely on natural provisions, that is something we adapted for ourselves. My favorite scripture in Romans 12:2 says “Be ye not conformed to this world but be ye transformed by the renewing of your minds”. Renew or reboot, change your thinking. Change the system by which we operate. That is why we were born again into the spirit realm. The time for possibility thinking is over. God is moving us into the impossible. That is why our flesh and our natural gifts can take us no further. We’ve been relying and relaxing on an old dispensation that no longer works for this new season.
Everything that God is beckoning us to is impossible naturally. God is trying to teach us who we are in Him and He is showing us who He is in us. In order for God to do this new thing He has to dispense with the old. Open up your spirit eyes and see. All things are possible…..if you believe.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
These kids have clothing lines, health food endorsements, perfume contracts, lunch boxes, furniture lines, games systems, you name it. When in the world did this get started? It used to be a cute kid had a series..and maybe a comic book accompaniment would follow tops but now no one is satisfied to just have these kids play a character they've got to take over all of wall street with the sweep of one popular Disney series.
And Lord help us unsuspecting consumers who get swept up in all this. I know if I see one more horrific clothing line from the Olsen Twins in my favorite store I'm cutting up my credit card (did I just see my husband praying)? Anyway, its really enough. Granted these kids are ok for the job at hand but let's face it I haven't seen any that have real Oscar potential. Sure they're cute and most can carry a tune but does that qualify them to sell me signature snake skin boots and over sized sunglasses. Let's all agree to leave that to the professionals ok.
I want my kids stars to know their place. Be adorable and cute and then outgrow your roles and disappear..seriously leave for awhile and become big people far from the public eye. Take your money and do something worthwhile like join Greenpeace or go to Princeton like Brooke Shields or something. I don't want to see your freckle faced image on everything from chicken strips to cheap cotton bedspreads at K-Mart. Do I make myself clear! I mean it. I guess these kids really can't be sent to their rooms when they're the ones buying the whole house. Quite honestly what Hollywood parent can control the moneymaker effectively. Its complicated to be sure.
I wish your parents would stop being your agents and accountants and allow you guys to go outside and ride your bikes once in awhile and then maybe every marketing meeting on NASDAQ wouldn't require you to keep working on the expansion of your brand. Seriously guys enough is enough. I like my sheets white, my towels blue and I prefer a floral background on my bedspreads. I don't want to see you all over my boudoir before I turn out the lights..it's just plain scary. Hey I like these kids really, I just wish they could take some time and enjoy not only their gifts and talents but they're being kids. I'm not trying to rain on any one's parade here. Do the show, be a star, have a blast and enjoy the attention. But when the director calls cut really do it. May I suggest something new?
At five o'clock I think you should all break for the evening go home and get some rest. Just like the rest of us. Read a book...eat a snow cone on the back porch, skip the photo shoot this month. You'll feel better I'm sure. At least I know I will.
Monday, August 31, 2009
Wow, I can't believe it has been four years since Katrina poured through this once thriving and beautiful city. I have such fond memories of my childhood vacations spent with my friends and relatives in the 7th ward. Many of you know I'm a Jersey girl who married and lived in New Orleans for many, many years. I've spent most of my adult life in New Orleans and only moved away about 9 years ago to Dallas. I've gone back many times over the years still keeping ties and friendships in tact. As many other expatriates did I returned a few months after Katrina to view my families property and to attend the funeral of another lost relative. I hadn't looked at these pictures of the homes and the neighbors and friends I saw during that visit for quite a while. When I realized we were approaching another August I felt compelled to look through my files and to share some of my personal thoughts and photos.
It's bittersweet looking at this stuff and realizing that while the area is cleaner and slowly repopulating its needs are still great and unresolved. For so many of its residents the quagmire only grows after all this time. This August was the four year anniversary of Katrina if any body out there outside of the Big Easy is still counting; what with health care reform, the still looming war in Iraq and now severe economic upset here and abroad. It's enough to make our government forget that one of the most important and culturally influential cities founded is still floundering and gasping for breath. No this is not a critique of my beloved adopted hometown but rather a polite mention that it still needs some of the attention it was promised but never fully received. For those who love it and this country we know that more could have been done..and we're still waiting.