I Didn’t Realize What I Had

Posted: March 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

Being a product of the 1980’s (young adulthood I mean) I remember when the IBM 286, Commodore 64, and Atari 2600 were cutting edge technology.  So unlike the under generation biting on my heels, I still over complicate my I.T. world.  My recent goal was to get a photo on my blog that was not “available” except for the odd fact that I was HOLDING IT IN MY HAND.  Do I even have a scanner?  Oh, yeah that all in one printer/fax we bought is also a scanner.  SOOOO…I scanned the picture and said to myself –  COOOOL … it even looks better than the actual photo, so I started scanning…& scanning, & scanning!!!  Thus…the ministry mosaic!

What I really had going on in my mind was putting our years of ministry into perspective.  Sometimes when God is manipulating you into a place of preparation for His next big assignment, He does it by totally combing back through all the lessons in your past.

As I began to comb through pictures, I began to scroll through my brain files.  It was exhilarating to look back at the beginning of our ministry and see that it contained the same DNA as our current determination and vision.  We are older, wiser, more seasoned, sadly more used, abused, broken, yet welded back together, reinforced, and …well… very very different…YET basically the same.  Our rally cry in the beginning was “Reality Christianity”, “multicultural, multi-racial ministry”, actually doing what Jesus SAID instead of just shouting it at people, teaching what the Bible actually SAYS…not what grandpa or grandpa’s preacher said.

Truth is we ALL need to get rid of A LOT of religious garbage.  My most common thought lately is, “show me the chapter and verse”, and “don’t twist & contort it into something barely recognizable”.   As I combed back over our ministry the common element is this: we are more Biblically founded & “truly” reliant on the WRITTEN word than most of the fundamentalists we know…but ironically, we have ALWAYS consistently LIBERATED the people with whom we have had a meaningful relationship.  I think of some of our very best long time friends commenting, “well, you can definitely tell that (our daughter) was baptized and first discipled by you!  She thinks exactly like you!”

I ponder this last year of facebook reunions – basically hearing from past ministry partners a similar spiel, “we’re a bunch of misfits because nobody understands our views, our actions, our lifestyles.  We don’t fit into anyone’s preset mold”  So how can a theological conservative… LIBERATE people.  It’s simple; just stop the charades.  Stop faking it.  Stop competing with your own team.  We will NEVER win like that.  Seriously, I’m waiting for someone to get brutally honest and just name their church Balderdash Community Church.

My answer: don’t take what THEY say quite so literally (no matter), whether they seem to love you or hate you.  Usually they don’t really LOVE you that much NOR HATE you that much.  Truth is, we tend to agree with people who are saying what we want them to say and we oppose people who seem to oppose who we are.  To take the words from Coach Herman Boone (Remember the Titans), “I’m not an answer to your prayers. I’m not a savior, or Jesus Christ, Martin Luther King, or the Easter bunny. I’m a football coach that’s all… just a football coach.”

From the 1980’s until now, Lis & I have focused our teaching and preaching on… what the Bible ACTUALLY says, what Jesus ACTUALLY SAID to do.  On the other hand, our EQUAL task has included a huge burden to bring light to the very common & convenient principle that has absolutely ZERO foundation (none whatsoever) from the Bible.  That of INTERPRETING God’s Word to suit OUR own ideas.

“The Bible Belt” of the USA is probably the most needy mission field we have in my opinion.  WHY?  Easy…the Holy Bible, PLUS a “special exclusive voice from on high” to some random dude sitting under an oak tree …equals a CULT…an antichrist.  The most commonly used Bible in the world is not the Bible that has 66 books, 1189 chapters, some 31,000 verses, some 780,000 words.  The Bible that is MOST common is the PEV version – The PERSONALLY EXPANDED VERSION (customized to suit our preconceived ideas & arguments) which probably adds another 30% of material to the real deal.  By the time we “explain it” there is a good chunk that’s “just implied”.  You know “a teenager shalteth not cometh in after midnight with some lameth excuse unless he be groundeth for an eternity…eth”

But isn’t that what we all do?  Don’t we all “interpret” the Bible, present it in understandable terms, give explanation to what it really means?  Use it as a two edged sword to cut what needs to be cut.  NO…NOT, if we’re smart enough to recognize our human ignorance and tendencies.  Yes we have to internalize it but…1)  it is TRUTH… 2) WE are …well, clueless.

When I argue with my wife (which is honestly seldom) I surely NEVER argue “HER POINT OF VIEW”, HER INTERPRETATION of the subject.  That would be rather oxy-moronic (and moronic).  NO…I argue vehemently for what I have already blurted out and am NOW committed to.  Even when I begin to see my “facts” falling apart, I tend to attempt propping it up with whatever is at my disposal.”  Yeah, I KNOW… YOU don’t do that!!! Well the rest of us DO!  We ALL tend to, until we finally liberate ourselves enough to admit that there actually IS an absolute truth out there, truth that is ALWAYS TRUTH, truth not always easily internalized through our personal, cultural, & behavioral norm.  But, no matter how loudly we talk or how angry we get – TRUE TRUTH IS TRUE TRUTH.

There is a reason that the Bible says in 1 John 2:27   , “But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.” AND it warns us, “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.” James 3:1.   BUT WHY???  If I take upon myself the responsibility of teaching, I will be held responsible for every misrepresentation that I present as truth because it taints the REAL truth.  The wise goal of a teacher is to provide assistance for students to receive the written truth without twisting and manipulating it through our “approval” system.  How many times have you thought – “that person is living in denial”?  Real truth is the truth no matter what.

I am currently working on a holistic ministry concept which is profound only in its simplicity -  BASICS CHURCH.  It’s not a “church”, it’s a concept.  As I continue to see the Holy Spirit flesh it out on paper, it is amazing how simple it is.  Jesus had some very specific MANDATES for us and we just dance all around them.  I love church history and if we take a broad look at Christianity there has consistently been an ebb and flow of adherence to these Jesus mandates.

We’ve been called by Christ to propagate the truth of the simple gospel…that through Christ ANYONE can be reconciled to God.  Surprisingly, we’re not here to do most of what seems to be our priority at times.  We’re not here to announce and argue about the million things we are AGAINST.

What REAL TRUTH are you willing to stake your life on?  The easiest answer is NOTHING?  I’ll just EXIST and MIND MY OWN BUSINESS.  But, IF THERE IS …ABSOLUTE TRUTH and we MISS it…it is STILL absolute truth, we were just too “smart” to recognize it.  ME – It’s simple – I’m going to concentrate on getting the gospel of Jesus Christ to as many people as I can before I die.  I really don’t care about ANY peripheral issue at all…COMPARED TO getting people into an understanding and acceptance of a redemption in Christ.  The center of my “Basics Church” basically comes from the center of the Bible.

Jesus left and told us to take his story to the world and teach people to follow His teaching – His commands.  That’s found in about 150 pages – from Matthew through the 1st chapter of Acts.  Most everything to the left of it sets the scene, everything to the right explains HOW to rightly apply and practice it.  That’s the TRUTH !  And I’m sticking to that!

Don’t let the confusion of “churchy talk” keep you from the truth of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

1 John 2:18-21, 26-27   Children, it is the last hour. And as you have heard, “Antichrist is coming,” even now many antichrists have come. We know from this that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. However, they went out so that it might be made clear that none of them belongs to us.

20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. 21 I have not written to you because you don’t know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie comes from the truth.

26 I have written these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you.  27 The anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you don’t need anyone to teach you. Instead, His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie; just as it has taught you, remain in Him.

My wife is a morning person.  And though I’ve learn to live with Sunrise Polyanna I simply must “straighten out” her theology on the subject.

First off, if God intended us to wake up at 4:15 he would have scheduled sunrise for 2:15.  He also would have planned all sporting events to be played in the afternoon.  Primetime TV would be between 2-5 pm.  SO THERE, God never intended for us to see HOW He gets the sun over the horizon.  WHERE IS YOUR FAITH!!!  We should take it by simple faith that it’s going to be shining WHEN WE ARISE.  How else could we rise and SHINE and give God the glory glory.

SUNSETS are romantic…sunrises are for people who got drunk on the beach and have passed out.  It’s to make sure THEY rise before the TIDE does.  DUH!!  Being the health conscious guy that I am, I fully believe in getting 8 hours of sleep.  Where’s your concern for HEALTH?

God made the universe in 7 days (oops…6…just caught that) AND HE RESTED.  Nowhere does it say that God ROSE at some ungodly hour to do anything.  I also would like to remind you that Isaiah 14:12 says “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the MORNING!  You don’t see mayhem like that happening at a reasonable hour.

Have you never heard of the importance of first mention in the Bible?  Well in Genesis does it not say that there was EVENING then morning and it was a day?  Genesis 19:27 says that Adam got up early the next MORNING…  We all know what happened THERE?

Job 24:17 says “For all of them, their midnight WAS their morning, they make friends (don’t worry about the rest of that verse).  Do you not want to make friends?  Do you hate people?  Come on girl!  ME, take the Bible out of context?  How dare you?   I’m a conservative.  I take the Bible LITERALLY.

Psalm 55 says, “Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice”.  Well how about if you get up BETWEEN morning and noon…what then?  I’ll tell you.  You miss the morning distress and have time to prepare for the noon distress.  Think girl!

Oh I know…you say “that’s ALL Old Testament”.  But what about John 21:4, “EARLY IN THE MORNING, Jesus stood on the shore, BUT (now listen to this) the disciples DID NOT REALIZE that it was Jesus.”  DO YOU NOT THINK that if they had gotten up JUST a little bit LATER that they WOULD HAVE KNOWN HIM?  DUH!!!

I put a lot of late hours in studying and lately I’ve been working on how important it is to interpret scripture CORRECTLY.  I want you to know that IT TAKES A LOT OF HARD WORK to interpret the Bible in a way to make IT SAY WHAT YOU WANT IT TO SAY!!!  Sometimes it takes GREAT CREATIVITY (I might add GOD GIVEN creativity).

Sunrise is better than sunset.  Don’t make me laugh!  Don’t you know we are to be watching the eastern sky for his return?  Well why is that?  Just think about that for a while!!!  Yeah.

If you don’t buy any of THAT…surely you KNOW, Paul himself said in I Corinthians 14:34 that WOMEN SHOULD BE SILENT!

Now I’ve got to get back to my study of “why REAL Christians don’t use deodorant”!!!

LOVE YOU DARLING!!!  See you in the morning?

(P.S.  In the almost impossible chance of someone who doesn’t know me thinking I’m serious here….don’t!)  Except the “love you darling” part!!!

Lessons on Insecurity

Posted: December 10, 2010 in Uncategorized

Probably the most IMPRESSIVE man in the “make believe” world to me is Patrick Jane (I know he’s not real!).  If you don’t watch The Mentalist on CBS you’re missing a really good show.  Now let me define something here, right off.  My girls (women) think that Simon Baker is close to the best looking man in the world.  If my wife could change anything about me it would be for me to look exactly like Simon Baker, smile and all.  We’re going  to talk about that smile later…oddly enough it really is Simon’s … even though it MEANS more on Patrick.

The main lesson to me with psychology, sociology, anthropology, any social science…is the overwhelming role SECURITY (really insecurity) plays into every second of our lives as a community.

WHY IS IT THAT YOU (or anyone) ARE SO MEAN SPIRITED?  Because you’re INSECURE.  WHY ARE YOU SO RUDE?  Because you are INSECURE.  WHY DO YOU HIT YOUR KIDS or BULLY people, usually obviously weaker than you or when they’re already down?  Because YOU are insecure.  WHY ARE YOU SO DESPERATE that people SEE anything & everything that you can ACTUALLY DO WELL?  Because you are INSECURE.  WHY ARE YOU SUCH A BRAGGART THAT COMMANDS EVERYONE’S ATTENTION?  You know by now!!!  WHY DO YOU MEASURE LIFE BY WHAT SOMEONE or EVERYONE SAYS ABOUT YOU?  You know!

More serious…WHY DID YOU KILL THAT GUY TO FIT INTO THAT GANG?  Sorry tough guy… insecurity!!!  ASK the real Marshall Mathers what he’s ALL ABOUT with the whole Eminem persona.  He will tell you straight up…because of all the filth and foul that he had to put up with growing up.  Marshall doesn’t mince words.  BUT he, like Snoop, doesn’t like swearing in his house.  In other words…they UNDERSTAND insecurity and THE NEED to offer their little juniors security at HOME.

We are ALL people in search of acceptance and security (Me, You, him, her…all God’s chirren need security).  That’s why we feel so BLESSED to have either family or 1 or 2 or (a stretch) 3 or 4 friends who TOTALLY accept us and appreciate us for WHO WE ARE and what we’re ALL ABOUT! Now, I don’t mean they tolerate our stupidity, but they LOVE us and take time to understand where our stupidity comes from.

This is all I’ll say about CHURCH in this post …

The church is SUPPOSED TO BE A PLACE, much like our homes. It SHOULD be THE SAFE ZONE where we go to get COURAGE and SECURITY.  I’m not talking about that whole judging others thing.  I won’t go into THAT here but, since you brought it up…yes, I believe that  the Bible tells us that we BETTER “JUDGE” people if we have any sense … read the whole book…not just the “judge not” verse.

There are SOOO many in the church that I KNOW FOR A FACT…DO NOT know the same JESUS that I know…in the same way that I KNOW HIM.  Maybe they know Geeesus or, my favorite, “The Goood LORD”…  I don’t have a clue.  I do know that I have met as many “you gotta be kidding” Christians as I have the AUTHENTIC ones…probably more.

OK..back to the main path

SO WHY IS PATRICK JANE CLOSE TO PERFECT??? Hush Lis, take a pill…and I don’t need YOU to chime in either Jena.  It’s not his wavy hair, smile or his Aussie accent.  And it’s not the way SIMON BAKER carries himself because I’ve seen Simon on other shows and interviews.  HE’s just as insecure as the rest of us.  Patrick Jane, on the other hand, is a brilliantly written character with practically ZERO insecurities.

Does he even have a home?  I think he sleeps at the CBI station on the couch.  I don’t know where he keeps his clothes.  It might be the same clothes every week, to tell you the truth, I haven’t noticed.  He drives an old Citroen, which was NEVER even marketed in the US because it’s so ugly that it makes the Gremlin and the Pacer look like Ferraris.

The only thing he has is “WHO HE IS” and even though he personally questions that constantly, it doesn’t affect who he is, in society (on the show).  Insult him, fire him, leave him on the side of the road, threaten him, shoot at him, tie him up and torture him and he never BOWS UP to retaliate like some INCREDIBLE HULK wannabe.  He just remains the VERY SELF CONFIDENT Patrick Jane that he is. He stays TRUE to HIMSELF.  He just shines that smile and it seems like he’s saying “OK…funny one,”  I really like that and  “I’ll get you back” just because it’s all in good fun.

When he is in the worse scenario possible…he remains calm…SOMETIMES VERY MUCH AFRAID…but calm and somehow he gets out of the situation and pretty soon he’s back on the couch trying to figure out how to catch RED JOHN.

HERE’S the deal!!!  SATAN is the “REAL” RED JOHN. He’s still pretty ticked off about that whole “can’t be equal with God”, “being banished from God’s presence” deal. He has tried his best to ruin my life, just like I’m sure he’s on to you.

He hates the fact that I have a very personal, unbreakable, unVOIDable, relationship with the owner and creator of all this stuff around us.  I’m talking about GOD.  Surely no sensible person thinks all this just happened.  The utmost of arrogance is for us to think we humans are the ultimate just because we are “one”.  I’m staking my EVERY LIVING HOUR on the fact that I KNOW OF the creator, and I’m staking ALL I AM on the fact that I KNOW HIM as PERSONALLY as a “creation” can know a “creator” at this point in the life cycle.

RED JOHN is our nemesis. He is THE ENEMY that manipulates people and circumstances around us EVERY DAY OF OUR LIVES, in an effort to steal, destroy, and ultimately (he still thinks he can) KILL us.  The brilliance of Patrick Jane is WHAT I WANT AS A CHRISTIAN.  I’m going to LIVE LIFE.  I am SURE of who I am…I know my strengths AND my many limitations.  I know that circumstances, good and bad, come and go AND DO NOT really change the BIG picture at all.  I have, like other real followers, learned to be CONTENT.  OF COURSE, it’s easy when things are clicking, but truthfully, I have a tendency to learn more when the world around me is falling apart.  (Just saying!)

The POINT is this…like Patrick…the only thing you’re going to get from me, if Red John is using you… IF I CAN HELP IT… is a smile (sometimes a smirky smile) and AN ASSURANCE that you have ABSOLUTELY NO EFFECT on my LIFE.  I will do all I can to REVEAL RED JOHN for WHO he is and for what power he wields…and how easily he uses otherwise innocent people around us.

MY GOAL IN LIFE – JESUS CHRIST is NOT what you see those “manipulated people” portraying.  HE IS THE epitome of the TRUTH and PURPOSE we ALL seek after.  I am completely sorry that we have a hard time painting that path for searchers … but as long as I’m alive I will continue to be SURE OF WHO I AM in HIM…and I’ll do all I can to reveal the shenanigans of the psychics and charlatans…and prove that the very thing they SEEM TO MAKE RIDICULOUS by their actions is ACTUALLY the  TRUTH if you can get beyond their smoke and mirrors.

IF YOU HAVE GROWN UP… DESPISING CHURCH or “those” CHURCH PEOPLE…I’M ABOUT WITH YOU…I’VE GOT ONE FOOT IN YOUR BOAT…because I want to scream with all I have…The very OBJECT that THEY blaspheme is the SAME TRUTH that RED JOHN wants to hide from you IN PLAIN SIGHT.

Every 5 Minutes Counts !

Posted: December 3, 2010 in Uncategorized

OK… so its 4:50 am and I just had a dream that was just SUPER cool…in that way that only dreams can be.  You know – you can see a flying purple moose, ridden by a polka dotted pygmy, asking directions to Michel Jackson’s house and you just think “There’s not a single thing strange here”, so you give him directions without cracking a smile.  I really have to stop eating those weird mushrooms in my spaghetti.

So anyway, if you know me at all…you know I very well might be “walking around” at 7 am, but I don’t actually know that I’m walking around until somewhere closer to 9ish.  I’m definitely NOT a morning person.  So for me to turn the lights and computer on and jot this down…you can bet I didn’t want to FORGET it.

I passed through the seven levels of the Candy Cane forest, through the sea of swirly, twirly gum drops, and then I walked through the Lincoln Tunnel.

Seriously, in this dream, I was my age NOW and at the same time somehow my childhood merged into my adulthood because I think we must have been living at mama & daddy’s house, but daddy was gone and most of us were in the yard when we saw the tsunami coming down the road.  Not from the ocean but a river…maybe it was a dam that busted.  There was NOTHING that we could do but “go with the flow” and it floated us right up and into the house.

The flood had risen, I figured, 4 feet up the walls, but of course the upstairs was completely flooded floor to ceiling (go figure).   I had to be really childlike because I couldn’t wait for the one guy that was not there (my dad) to come home because I wanted to be the first to tell him that “I figured”… it was at least $50,000 worth of damage.  He came in and I started giving him my appraisal of damage.  It’s got to be $50,000 don’t you think.” Every piece of the drywall in the entire house has to come down.

YA’LL STICK WITH ME HERE…I promise THIS IS GOING SOMEWHERE.

Weird side note – I don’t actually remember Scott being there but, there was an old chair outside and while we were running (or swimming) through the house trying to save what we could…when it was all over Jena said lightheartedly but very serious, Scott kept trying to get you because he wanted to save that chair because he said it was so comfortable. It was like some old office chair from the dump.  I have NO CLUE what that means.

I remember Lisa, Josh, and Jena floating in and my mom was inside.  Then we looked outside and the neighbors on the other side of the river had already made good out of it…they were riding inner tubes and stuff down the rapids over the waterfall.   It wasn’t really all that tragic, just kind of a WOW thing.  We must have had good insurance. LOL

Then everything was suddenly dry, as if it never happened. NEXT SCENE!   An old car sped by with teens in it and a lady cop stopped and said “have you ever seen anything like that”.  We said “NO”, and I pointed which way the car went to her, they rounded the block and the driver swerved and caused an oncoming convertible to hit a school bus and flip a few times, coming to rest 10 feet from me.  My first impulse was to wait for him to stop flipping…then I ran over to him.  (I’m sure it was the Bruce factor.)  The young guy was still alive so I began to use HUMOR to encourage him.  I said, “Dude, hang in there because you’re going to be PROUD of this.   This car is SMOOSHED  flat. You are definitely going to want to show these pictures to your kids, personally.  THEN I woke up!!!

BESIDES THE OBVIOUS FACT THAT I NEED SOME SERIOUS THERAPY and to stop growing those mushrooms … meanings began to flow to my NOW awake…more sober brain. The Bible says that old men dream dreams and young men see visions.  Well at 50 I’m somewhere in between because … the Lord began to give me some very NICE insights into that STUPID dream.  And I smiled at 5 am.  I don’t know if I have EVER smiled at 5 am.

What This Is All About

I immediately remembered a seemingly random 5 minute event in 1972 that probably changed my life forever for the good, and made my dad a literal superhero in my mind.  Now let me quantify this for you RIGHT OFF.   My dad was & is a good man…he is NOT a perfect man.  He, like all of us, has good qualities and things to work on.  Me too!  You too, dummy!

This man, who used to beat the besnooki out of me every day (little exaggeration) whether I needed it or not, just so happened to be my role model.  I DON’T KNOW THAT I’VE EVER ADMITTED THAT BEFORE.  Of course, his brother, my Uncle Kenneth, would say “YOU’RE KIDDING??? Ol’ BROTHER here???  No wonder you turned out like you did!

There were many, many 5 minute intervals that I hated my Daddy (at least for 5 minutes).  When I heard his belt coming out of the loops I began to scream and dance like a scalded monkey (whatever that means).  He was “just plain” MEAN (I figured) and I was no dummy (nor a sitting duck) … the higher and quicker I jumped the more tired he’d become.  However, I also don’t remember going to bed …NOT knowing that my dad loved me more than anything.  So his love somehow overshadowed his discipline.  And of course eventually, I too took the stern discipline route on my kids early in their lives.  There IS a statute of limitations on that… isn’t there?  If not…I retract that statement.

My dad was smart, he IS smart.  I’m talking smart smart … David Newman smart … maybe smarter!  My dad is also on the other hand known as Mr. Bull Head.  (Me, too.)  I’ll say it again … he, like me…and you, is not perfect, but he is a very good man.

SO WHAT were the nuggets of truth the Lord allowed me to ponder at 5:30 (when it has been proven that I don’t think on my own)?

A lot of people say that my dad and I are JUST ALIKE.  Most of the time my wife means it in a bad way, even though she loves my dad to death.  Most of the time my mom means it in a good way and everybody else means it in sort of a, poor Mary Lou and Lisa way.

One day when I was about 12, we were in our brand new house that we all were so proud of (oh it must have been like 8000 square feet on 40 acres – really @ 1300 sq. ft. on a 100 x 300 ft lot …don’t know why I remember that).  It cost, I think like $18,000.00.  We lived at the top of the hill, and we had just experienced one of the worst storms that we had ever had (and we had seen our share of tornadoes come close by and do damage several times).  My dad’s old Nash car flooded out at the bottom of the hill and he had to walk a half mile  to the house in the torrential rain.  He smoked a pipe back then and when he came through the door he was completely drenched – pipe STILL in his mouth and to be funny he looked at mama and us and blew a fountain of water out of his pipe.  My kind of humor even today.

As he stood in the doorway there was a terrible lightning strike that knocked the power off.  We stood in the kitchen for a few minutes until mama said “Oh no…Gene do something!”  We looked down the hall and my sister’s bedroom was glowing bright.  Without thought my dad charged down the hall quickly assessing the situation and said something to the effect of, “I will NOT watch my new house burn down…TODAY”.  He grabbed the flaming curtains and with one or two jerks, ripped the curtains, rods and all off the wall, rolled them up against his body (flames and all) into a ball, walked deliberately to the front door and tossed them out into the front yard in the rain. He knew that he could probably get away with that because he was soaked. But to me,  he was like flippin’ Superman come to save the day… or more like Batman…you know…no REAL powers except for tenacity, determination, and a duty to protect.

I guess I learned a lot that day.  As a matter of fact I may have cemented down some of my best traits that day during that 5 minutes.  How to have real courage, how to keep your head in the game, how to use humor to calm the situation, especially with your family, how to take a little time to assess your situation then act deliberately & confidently, how common sense, and leadership works.

When people ask me MY best characteristics those are the ones I mention.  I guess THAT 5 MINUTES in 1972, not only put my dad in the hall of fame for me, but it made me aware of what I admired about him.  Makes me wonder how important EVERY 5 minute interval is to those around us…watching US.

Someone has an opinion of YOU because of SOME particular 5 minutes that they watched.  Fact is for ME, some have been good and some bad.  Some people absolutely DO NOT EVEN KNOW me and don’t really CARE FOR ME because they assessed the WRONG 5 minutes.  And I want so DESPERATELY TO PROVE to them that the 5 minutes they saw was not indicative of the real me…BUT they can’t forget THAT 5 minutes.

We best be aware that every 5 minutes counts.  Also know, on the other side of the table… maybe, if you had given consideration to ANY other 5 minute interval in THAT PERSON’S life, your relationship with him may be totally opposite to what it is.  Forgiveness, compassion, and understanding are all great and Godly things.

Family is a little different – we have the luxury of weighing ALL of the 5 MINUTES INTERVALS we’ve shared.  Personally, I can think of plenty of five minutes that I deeply regret my foolishness or immaturity with my wife and children.  I’m so glad that it’s the GOOD 5 minutes that we tuck back, save and treasure. We try our best to forget all the bad 5 minutes.   I can only hope my kids remember FOREVER…ALL of OUR BEST 5 minutes.

A guy named Jimmy Soul had a #1 R&B song about being happy back in 1963.  He may have been warning me, as a 3 year old, to prepare for ministry.  It goes something like this:

If you wanna be happy for the rest of your life, never make a pretty woman your wife, so from my personal point of view, get an ugly girl to marry you.      Don’t let your friends say you have no taste, go ahead and marry anyway, though her face is ugly, her eyes don’t match, take it from me she’s a better catch.

If you wanna be happy for the rest of your life, never make a pretty woman your wife.  So from my personal point of view, get an ugly girl to marry you.  

Should I have married an ugly woman? ARE YOU KIDDING!  You see, I’ve already told you, when I was young, graduating high school, I figured I could do ANYTHING.  So it only came naturally that when “I SAW her …walking down the street… singing do wah diddy diddy”  I told my college room mate, Danny Rogers, “I’ve gotta have a date with HER!”  The rest is history.

Truth is I didn’t want to be 75 and have something scary lying beside me at night.  We all know monsters ought to always stay in the closet, and who knows how strong my heart will be then.  That was just one concern.

All kidding aside,  when I met Lisa and got to KNOW her, (I know it sounds corny, but) her inner beauty outshone her outer beauty.  She was the REAL DEAL.  Most of my wife’s friends have told her “when I first met you I figured you were going to be a … snot.” But, it didn’t take long for me to love you.

I remember some of our dates back then…”her idea of a date”…visit the nursing home across from campus and brighten up some old soul’s day that had been forgotten by their family.  I KNEW I had a KEEPER.  Of course our relationship had normal slick patches like everyone else’s.  I’d get jealous when someone looked at her, and only the Lord knows why, she’d get jealous if anyone looked at me.

Pretty soon we came to the conclusion that we had NO CONTROL over the THOUGHT life and MISERY others may be experiencing in their personal love lives.  We became more and more convinced of an enduring love that would be harder to break through than Fort Knox (Not impossible – we aren’t stupid.  We still work on & protect our relationship.)  But, it really became sort of funny to both of us because people have a misconception that ministry people are not romantic creatures.  Don’t know why cause ALL my life the news has remained full of MINISTRY people who, “can’t get enough of your love baby, or your love baby, or YOUR love baby”.

On the street, it became funny, because when a man would do a double take at my wife, instead of getting mad at Lisa for being beautiful, I’d put my arm around her, pull her tight and say something under my breath (just loud enough) to the affect of,  “bro, she’s way too much woman for YOU” or “just HOW UGLY IS your woman … that you have to gawk at mine?”  The street was funny.

Church was not funny. Oh, yeah, there was one funny time.  We were in concert.  I played “at” the drums.  The old 65 yr old organist kept staring at Lis.  I told Lis and our bass player, Kenny… I’m gonna go smack that old dude.  He’s not even trying to hide it.  Then, Lisa got up and left and he kept staringAT ME.   Kenny looked over at me and busted out laughing in church.  Never did hear the last of that.

The street was funny, even the old geezer organist was funny.  What’s NOT funny is when church men, young and old, I’m talking so old they’re senile, HIT on pretty women at churchLike women don’t know when you’re looking them up and down at church.  The older they are the less pretty you have to be, and the more invisible THEY think they are (you can’t see me).  My wife and daughter have come in soooo many Sundays saying if Mr. Smith doesn’t quit STARING at me, or if Mr. Doe holds me TIGHT like that again I’m GOING to knee him so hard … he’ll never look at another woman.  I have tough girls at my house.

The ministry couple Lis talked about earlier that turned out making a better pastor than youth minister … we really had some very good times together at one point.  He and I would die laughing at each other talking about that church sign thing.  I hate church signs – you know like “What’s missing in ch__ch? UR.” YUCK,YUCK!!  It sort of backs up people’s idea that we church people are from another space & time.  Our sign had been “The Sweetest Fellowship This Side of Heaven” which we thought was the ABSOLUTE utmost of arrogance.  We’d laugh our heads off at OUR different ideas for the sign… just random meaningless stuff like… “we have cheese puffs”, “free potato”, “did you brush your teeth?”, “20% off 2nd pair”, …just the most stupid thing we could think of to make people say “WHAT?”

The funniest thing that ever happened with his wife was when she encountered old Mr. Squeeze and HUG.  (Look guys, don’t get freaked out….I REALLY honestly DO want you to love my wife and HUG her (in a respectful way).  In New Zealand we always greeted the ladies by hugging AND kissing on the cheek – young & old, big & little, pretty & just plain “tow up from da flo up”… and we greeted the men with a hug and a brotha shoulder bump. (It’s a Poly thing.)  But when Mr. Touchy Squeezy came around, Lisa and Jena had learned to throw an arm up in between.  He came up that day and eventually asked where “new pastor’s wife” was.  Lis made a dash to the children’s building but couldn’t get there fast enough.  10 minutes later “she” came in … violated … wide eyes, “that old man just grabbed my butt!”  We laughed – her husband was ready to go take care of business – BUT… since the man WAS like 103 – we just laughed.  Those were the good ol days!  Still makes me smile.

Pretty women actually have it tougher than you would think… if they’re Godly.   Right now, I have a HUGE crowd of men who come to my mind whom I would give big blessings and KUDOs to for being ultra faithful and respectful to your God, your wife or girlfriend and random pretty women (who really can’t help it).

Lisa and I have the kind of relationship that – I have said a bunch of times – “that woman/girl is really pretty”.  And she has said the same thing about men – “he’s one of the nicest looking men I’ve seen”.  Usually we honestly agree with each other – I say, “he IS a good looking guy” – or she says, “I know, SHE looked like a model”.

In premarital counseling I always tell couples, “Just because you love each other and are marrying each other doesn’t mean the rest of the world automatically gets UGLY!”  But I also remind them that the Bible never says to “marry the one you love…it says to LOVE the one you marry.”

My point … why is it that we allow other people’s insecurities to affect OUR LIVES? I’ve preached many, many times – the most dangerous people we come into contact with daily are INSECURE people.  That’s the main reason I want to introduce people to a real understanding of GOD.  The proudest thing I have is the fact that the Creator wants to have something to do with me.  As a matter of fact, he LOVES me.  What do I have to be insecure about?

Jeremiah 29:11  says “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  And that never comes at anyone else’s expense. You can be blessed beyond measure and unless I am selfishly insecure … I can celebrate with you … instead of begrudging you.  The name of my next book is going to be “Experience the Mountaintop, But Don’t Forget the Valley”.  I’m proud to say it will be my 23rd unwritten book.  LOL

But, if you get tortured, trashed, talked about, let down, hurt, lied to, rap`ed, murdered, etc. it is 99% of the time a very INSECURE person…I don’t care how TOUGH HE TALKS, chances are he’s battling insecurity somewhere….the other 1% are just insane.  So don’t you dare allow the insecurities of other people to affect your confidence. That is no doubt the reasoning behind, “love your enemies … do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who despitefully use you.”  Cliff notes version – pity them because they have the REAL inner problems going on.

One of the best preacher statements I’ve ever heard is, “We try to buy stuff we don’t need, with money we don’t have, so we can impress people we don’t even like.”  So whatever you’re going through right now…STOP & ASK YOURSELF,  “Am I being faithful to who I am … in Christ’s mind?”  If you ARE then probably your “problems” are not even REAL.  They are figments of some insecure person’s mind … made up & imposed on you, and you took the bait.

Did your dad tell you, “you will never amount to anything”?  Well… is that actually a TRUE statement (seriously, think about it) … or is that HIS problem.  Did someone try to BULLY you by making fun of WHO you are, or what MISTAKE you may have made, or some trait you have?  Is that really a problem for you to shoulder or should you understand that … it’s the person saying it who should really be pitied!

One of my favorite quotes is Teddy Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena”.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat”.

Whatever you may be facing RIGHT NOW… is NOT the end of the world.  Peace NEVER comes from what’s going on OUT THERE !!  What’s going on INSIDE YOU, right now? God made only ONE YOU and he wants you to BE that person HE DREAMED you’d be! Now go out there and SEIZE THE DAY!          Oh, by the way… one more thing

I saw your mama the other day…and man, she is UGLY!  Don’t look like I’m gonna be able to take her to the prom this year!!  Now, that’s a mama joke!!!   Long live “The Titans”!

The Worst Day of My Life

Posted: November 11, 2010 in Uncategorized

November 15th marks the 3rd year anniversary of the most horrific experience of my entire life, and NO… it has nothing to do with internal church problems…but then again it’s the worst “INTERNAL” church problem I’ve  ever experienced.

From my early childhood I have ALWAYS viewed life as being simply too short.  I remember dreading to go to sleep, not because I didn’t enjoy rest & leisure.  I was just afraid I’d MISS something FUN or important.  I have even daydreamed about being CLONED somehow, so I could do 3 or 4 lives all at one time.  My problem with graduating high school – I knew I could technically do ANYTHING…but not EVERYTHING.

When the Holy Spirit got through to me in 1976, I realized how many “church” people are actually NOT Christian people.  I prayed and was baptized in 1972 but made it REAL in 76.  Who knows, maybe I’ll stand before God and hear Him say…no son, I actually redeemed you in 72 and you just got serious in 76.  Either way, what came with getting serious was a literal “counting of how many days I have left”.  I still hated sleep but now it had as much to do with possible “wasted hours”, as the missing out on fun.

Just last week I looked at my dad after he and I took a trip to town to let an auto mechanic walk around my car only to say “Naw, I can’t possibly see how it could have bent the struts, but bring it back Monday and we’ll put her up on the rack.”  “Well”, I said as we returned to the road, “there went an hour of our life that we’ll NEVER get back”.  My dad who is definitely the rock from whence this chip was hewn said “Ain’t that the truth.  Why didn’t you just tell us that on the phone and save us a trip.”

At 18, when I knew God wanted me to preach and presumably pastor as my vocation, I saw it as a race… not a slow paced marathon, but a very, very, VERY long hard sprint.  Seriously, consider that if you are old enough to read this and understand it, you only have at best some 3000 weeks left?  If you have $5.00 you’ve got 3000 weeks.  If you have $5 billion, you have 3000 weeks.  Point is…3000 weeks.  Of course you might only have ONE.  But even at that, my request to God is to go out in a blaze of glory.

So my ministry has always been one of urgency.  I have a sign in my office that reads “Thou Shalt Not Whine.”  And, to exponentially multiply this, I married a perfectionist who happens to have more talent in her little pinky than me or most people I know.  SO…our quest together is to GET IT DONE, get it done RIGHT, get it done FAIRLY, and get it done YESTERDAY.

Quick synopsis of our ministry – youth minister – couldn’t wait everyday to get off of my mail route to get to our REAL job – youth.  Church of @150 – we had 25-30 youth.  But, that wasn’t enough.  We started a para-church city ministry in 2 neighboring towns – saw 100+ young “spirit warriors” give their lives to Christ within months.  If their parents went to a church we directed them to attend THAT church.  25 years later this “Spirit Warrior Youth” thing is well into its second generation and there’s no telling how many people these “warriors” have influenced for Christ.

Seminary – I prayed God, “I’ve got two kids and a good job…if you can work out a transfer with the post office, I can go.”  Weeks later I was working in the Gretna, Louisiana post office.  Second year a classmate said, “I know a church that you need to talk to.”  Weeks later, I became a full time youth minister of around 75 youth (church avg. 700) – we maxed out at 152 before we got the call back home to come and pastor a small country church in SC…a “GREAT” small country church, ran about 50-60, and we saw over 40 baptisms the first year.  Then we got the call to a big city church – big city church where half the deacons & leaders were having affairs and two were having an affair with each other (& all our deacons were men).

We did 6 years of evangelism (conferences & revivals), and 5 years as foreign missionaries, six if you count deputation.  There have been many life lessons that we have gained along the way.  And many great experiences worth mentioning, but I won’t bog you down or hold you up.

Lis and I both have always been serious soldiers, showing up first in line …for the Captain.   Lord…you SAY it…we’ll DO it.  One day in 1987 during Spirit Warriors, I felt the Lord saying, “If you really want THIS building…walk around it 7 times (like Joshua) and claim it as yours.”  I know…I’m a NUT.  Well, after my seventh time around, I felt good.  Lesson learned – the Lord just wanted ME to realize that I WOULD DO IT.  No, we didn’t get the building…but I DID exactly what I was TOLD.  I’m almost positive God laughed for AGES.  Glad to bring you a smile… SIR.  I still laugh over that because I can imagine all of heaven laughing.  There would come many more examples to follow.  The overwhelming GOD message – “Chip, I don’t need you to FIGURE IT out…I just need you to keep your eyes HERE ON ME.  I’ve got this.  When I say move…you just MOVE.”

So, now I am downright obsessive about the days that I have left.  I figure statistically, if you stand before the Lord (in that day) without having had SOMETHING to do with at least 5000 coming to Christ, you’ve wasted your life.  THINK…If you interact with 3 people a week and let your light shine and your words be heard, 5000 is a minimum over a lifetime.  It’s like Amway, you influence one who influences one, who influences one.  The absolute best feeling in the world for Lisa and me has been recently finding out that our old youth have stayed active for 25 years influencing new converts.  I got a Facebook from MY old youth pastor – Mike Catt (Albany, GA) – of “FIREPROOF” fame.  He said what “40 yr old youth” were you referring to for prayer.  I returned the note, “Mike, NOT one of YOUR youth.  I HAVE 40 yr old youth…YOU now have 50 yr old youth.”  BUT… if I have them … HE ALSO has them … because of his influence on me.  Think Amway circles.

NOW MY TRAGEDY!!!

I don’t share the following with you for your pity…your pity and $5 will buy a venti cup of caramel macchiato at Star Bucks.  I do (honestly) hope that some of my friends and former church members might finally understand… BUT, mainly, as Barney Fife would say, “It’s theraPEDic” just for me.  I just told Lis last week that “I really MISS working with the military” mainly because somehow I felt connected to their psyche after this event…sort of the brotherhood of the affected.

My wife and I had just gotten to the new church – a church that had been written off by most.  The people promised, after I BEGGED over & over …DON’T call me unless you are ready to REACH THIS IMMEDIATE COMMUNITY like you’ve NEVER done before.  I am NOT AT ALL interested in maintaining your church.  There was an Army base next door (tattoos… no way) and a housing project (poor, unruly, kids of different races … you’re kidding)

We began to head in the right direction with a great unified attitude as we started to renovate a 1970’s church into a state of the art 21st century place of worship.  Instead of putting the jailhouse industrial look back into the bathrooms we created “a beautiful Tuscan tiled bathroom that people actually came out talking about – $5000+ instead of $2000 or less.  We…excuse me (I) … yes I … insisted that the wallpaper from the Brady Bunch’s split level come out of the 30 ft high sanctuary and throughout all the halls.  Also the children’s building needed to be “themed,” as well as our nurseries.  OF COURSE, it was only the idea that originated from me.  It took my wife and some wonderful ARTISTS and some strong construction oriented people to make it happen.  We also wanted to turn our youth house into the MOST cutting edge hang-out that it could possibly be … on our budget.

Lisa and I were in our office area like we were on most late afternoons.  Everyone else had gone home and we were getting ready ourselves.  We had hired a wonderful Christian man who sang Southern Gospel with his family group on the weekends and worked as a painter by trade during the week.  He was the low bid and we knew him & his ministry so he got the contract.

They were in the process of repainting our two-story, 30 ft tall, fan shaped sanctuary from top to bottom.  It was Bruce, his son, and two workers that had been with him, like forever.  Bruce had borrowed a scaffold from a dry wall guy in our church and had his extension ladder braced on top of the double scaffold.  We had enjoyed him singing “I’m winging my way back home” all day while he worked away.

I’m going to take a break here and actually BEG…if you KNOW Bruce or you are his family…DO NOT READ ANY MORE OF THIS POST.  I write these details for ME and for those who I really, really NEEDED then to reach out with a hug… instead of a pointed finger or fist.

I repeat…please don’t remind yourself of this day.

Lisa and I were in the office wing…some 100 yds away, I’d guess.  All of a sudden we heard a “traffic accident”, a fallen power pole, maybe the wall of our church crumbling … SOMETHING … something loud and NOT good.  Time sort of went into slow motion when we realized that it was very close, like INSIDE.  I moved fast, then I ran.  When I swung the sanctuary doors open I caught first glance of a pile of scaffolding and ladder at the back of our church.

I have always known that I was a leader because in any tragedy I go into “Survivor” mode.  Yep, I’m the one they send home first – I automatically & very sternly instruct … YOU call 911, YOU get a blanket, and YOU come help me with this.

Only this time it was WAY worse. The 3 workers/son actually SAW it happen, so just one look at the result and (instant shock) it petrified them to such a degree that they absolutely could NOT come back inside.  Three grown men almost crying, “I CAN’T!”  I guess I went into three stages – 1.shock – 2.protect my wife – and 3. you’re IT buddy… whether you want to be IT or not.  When I approached what I thought would be, at least somehow, a fixable situation… it was anything BUT.

My first words were, “LISA   DO  NOT come over here!!!  DO     NOT – he IS alive – so call 911.  What my eyes were gazing on was straight out of anything but REALITY.  Oh…God…oh…God…oh God and I was not taking His name in vain.  Bruce had been painting the very tip of the peak of the wall when the ladder pushed the scaffold completely over causing him to plunge head first off the top of the ladder into the tangled scaffold and onto the concrete floor.  Claw marks were visible on the freshly painted wall.  The scaffolding sprawled onto the rear 3 pews and in the middle of it all was the contorted body of this gentleman who had brought a smile to us all morning with his singing.

When I got to him, he was inverted at about 30 degrees, his right leg twisted so far back that his foot was up close to his shoulder.  I couldn’t tell or I don’t really remember the other leg.  His back was no doubt broken because of the extreme bend.  Both of his arms were obviously broken, his left sort of parallel with his body, back just enough to be snapped.  And his right arm was not even describable.  It was exactly like an arm is NEVER supposed to be.  It was bent behind his back straight up, with 4-5 inches of a raw jagged bloody bone sticking out the end with the hand and wrist dangling below like a piece of rubber.  The worst part is that I knew I shouldn’t – I couldn’t possibly – move him, and the problem was … his face was slammed, nose first into the thinly carpeted concrete.  (We would later dig nose bone fragments out of the concrete.)

He was still breathing and all I could do was keep calling his name and trying to encourage him if he could hear me.  I wanted to KEEP MY WIFE AWAY from the horror and make sure HIS SON didn’t come back in.  The ONLY constructive thing I could do for him was to keep the blood away from his nose and mouth, so he wouldn’t asphyxiate.  And for what seemed like an eternity I scraped a quart of blood at a time away from his face, each swipe would only make room for the next quart to gush out.  I simply could NOT get ahead of the flow, but I knew he’d drown if I didn’t keep it up.  It started to GET TO ME and I don’t know if I cried out loud … or just inside.  But when the ambulance finally arrived, the paramedics came in, took one look and couldn’t have cared less about any damage that might take place by moving him.  They moved as much metal that could be moved and one of the two guys said to me “OK…now grab his legs and let’s flip him over as evenly as we can.”

He was immediately intubated and before long they were gone and there we sat…tired, clueless, helpless, SPENT.  My precious wife … (some of ya’ll … SOOOO don’t know my wife) she began to console the workers and son (she is the most compassionate person I know) and we got them to just sit & wait there until the family could arrive from 30 minutes away.  Bruce lived in ICU for several days but he never regained consciousness.  He was basically dead when I was in his face, urging him to hang on.

I left the church that day, NEVER to be the same.  For months all I can remember hearing from MY congregation was the scaffold guy (deacon) worrying about getting sued, and everybody talking about how tragic the accident was.  I was numb.  But I had a job to do and that job was to be the PASTOR, the counselor, the encourager.  Life became EVEN MORE URGENT for me.  Some  people  just went back to their normal belly aching about spending money, or whatever else they could find wrong with church life.  The chairman of deacons had helped me and Lis clean up the blood with a carpet cleaner (over & over & over & over & over…foamy blood).  I think if anyone understood he did.  We replaced the carpet squares in the middle aisle at the back under the clock next to the sound booth.  If you go into that church today you can see exactly where it happened (as clear as day) because the carpet doesn’t match.  Week after week, I stood in the pulpit staring back at the war zone that I had NOT yet come to grips with, as a reminder every week.  The “leaders” questioned why my preaching changed – more urgent – not quite as funny – more serious.  He has never preached fluff, but now he’s down right getting into our business…down where the rubber hits the pavement.

For months, there was not one single solitary HOUR that passed that I didn’t think about it.  I woke up one morning weeks later at 3 am throwing up, numb, really hurting in the chest, dizzy, head pounding, I could NOT move – a sure heart attack.  I told Lisa that she had best call 911, I thought it was bad.  When the ambulance got there and got me to the hospital I found out for the first time what a “panic attack” is and how it mimics a heart attack.  Weeks later, again I just randomly passed out in our hall bathroom and knocked a hole in the wall.  It scared the girls to death.  I told a few close friends, but by this time everybody was back to their normal lives .  The funeral was way past.

BUT, finally the breaking point came.  One day I was driving home and I heard an ad on the radio about this man’s family singing, still ministering, and I started to literally sob– they were going to be at such & such church.  I remember as vividly as if it were today…I SAID IT OUT LOUD to myself.  THE LORD NEEDED ME … TO HEAR IT.  I seriously said through a stream of tears, “IF I HADN’T KILLED THEIR DADDY…he’d be singing with them tonight”.  It was then that I knew I needed help…real help.  You see…with leadership comes responsibility, and down deep in my soul I reasoned that “if I had not insisted that our church look its best to welcome guests” Bruce would still be here.  I WAS GUILTY.

Thank God for doctors in a military town who deal with PTSD everyday!  It’s been three years now and I don’t think about it as much…probably once every week or two…and I don’t dwell on it as long.  I generally have a terrible memory, but I can reenact every microsecond of that event.  But my worst haunting of all is the fact that, in a time when I needed MY PEOPLE the most … the only ones that were there was my family and that faithful handful of die hard friends who had taken the time to get to know and LOVE their pastor and his family.

I HAVE changed.  Don’t we ALL change as we go through STUFF?  I DO take life more seriously than I EVER have.  I abhor “posers” more than ever.  I just don’t have time for it.  They are Christ’s worst enemy.  I have very little patience with those who SHOULD be teachers and yet are still babies, whining and demanding to always be the CENTER of everyone’s universe.  I have no patience for blatant racists, self proclaimed heroes, self appointed (exclusive) scripture interpreters and just general experts in their own minds.

I HAVE changed – I’ll never be the SAME person.  I’m glad God is actively molding and changing me (and Lisa) for new and exciting challenges.  And we will proudly approach the next challenge with just as much ZEAL as we have faced prior ones.

I pray that I will continue to CHANGE – to grow and learn, and that God will correct me and/or reward me.  And I pray that November 15, 2007 will always remain “the worst day of my life”.

If I were to give you an acre of land and tell you that under the obvious mound of rubble were thousands of 100-200 lb pieces of treasure, what would be your M.O. for finding and digging them out?  Probably with the biggest track hoe that you could find, for as long as you could rent it, you’d plunge feverishly into the mountain one gigantic, destructive scoop after another.

What if I were to tell you that the acre we’re talking about was ground zero on September 12, 2001 where the Twin Towers stood tall the morning before?  That track hoe may be sporadically used to “gently” move the largest barriers, but the actual search for the 100 lb pieces of fleshly treasure would be more meticulously performed than the finest brain surgeon could imagine.  No chunk larger than a pound would be disturbed without wincing over the possibility of inflicting  further damage on the precious lives that could be awaiting rescue underneath.

The modern church growth movement has caused churches everywhere to crank up their track hoes and move around more and more dirt, build more and more buildings, and run up more and more debt.  Forget that our mission funds have been whittled down to nothing, there are people in our own neighborhoods going hungry, that need us.  Dare we dip into our “marketing funds”.  We absolutely HAVE to advertise the church so people will even know we exist.   Think…There is no doubt… if your city truly saw a church pouring Christ’s compassion into the community there would be no problem with “marketing”.  Novel idea…” And I, If I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.”

We are religious narcissists frantically searching for our own self grandiosity…WITHOUT ANY REGARD for the fragility of the souls that genuinely seek the actual REALITY we claim.  Despite all our good intentions to follow in the footsteps of the newest mega-church concept, to the contrary, we have repelled people as if they were walking away to avoid the carnival side show guy hawking his snake oil.  So THAT’S why they don’t fill those visitor cards out.

Book after book has been written about the ironic increase in church ATTENDANCE, yet at the same time baptisms and authentic CONVERSIONS have dramatically decreased.  We, as followers, were handed a mandate by Christ himself to, “Go and make DISCIPLES,” true FOLLOWERS of Christ, and to “teach them to observe (practice) everything that I (Jesus) have commanded YOU”.  Have we followed through on that plan or have we chosen “another, more simple plan of the Pharisees”?  Cisterns…broken cisterns that can hold no water.

God is not impressed with our buildings.  He’s not interested in our new promotional idea.  He simply demands that each of us “GO, MAKE FOLLOWERS, and POUR YOUR LIFE (His life) INTO THEM.”  How much time & money did YOU or your CHURCH spend last year on “your own stuff” and how much did you spend on real missions (actually going & telling).  Those fine buildings will rot and be torn down, but NOT ONE soul that you help deliver will be lost.

For as long as I can remember, (as a 50 year old, going to church since childhood) our quest has been to get a person to pray the sinner’s prayer, followed by baptism, followed by “just get in there and find your place and grow”.  When did we become so naive as to think that saying some words, getting dunked, and “living right” is what a relationship with God is all about.

I was 12, prayed precisely the correct prayer (led by the pastor… “Chip, pray after me…”), got dunked (thought it was cool) and began my duty of church boy adherence (and sadly non-adherence) to the system (Sunday School, RA’s, Youth, choir, discipleship classes).  The only problem is, it was all just a 12 year old boy trying HIS BEST to do the “right thing”.

Throughout my ministry we have celebrated THE PRAYER of decision, the “profession of faith”, the “sinner’s prayer” as if it were the “open sesame & grand finale” of eternity.  On our Christian scythe (wheat reaper, I looked it up) we carve another notch in the handle.  “Yeah baby, one more brought to the Lord.”  REALLY???   Just a reminder: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.”  One may say that Jesus was talking to Jews leading converts to the legalistic elements of keeping the “law & rituals”.  That’s the point.  That’s WHAT we do.  That’s WHO we ARE.  Just get them to SAY it, just PRAY it…and then stop your “drinkin’, & smokin’, & cussin”.

It is so much easier to check ‘em in at the door and let them fend for themselves, than it is to truly model our lives and ministries after our Jesus given mandate.  GO…and MAKE Christ followers, GO…and make disciples, and teach them to observe EVERYTHING that I commanded YOU.

So what Chip…are you saying that our whole foundation of a secured salvation experience is at question.  I would give a resounding, “YES”!  It could be IF they are JUST WORDS!!!  We will KNOW them by their LOVE, we will know them by their FRUIT. No one having put his hand to the plow looking back is worthy, if you do not leave ALL you CANNOT be my disciple, many will stand that day saying “we cast out demons” …  and hear “but, I never KNEW you”.

Yes,  IT IS the prayer of repentance, yes IT IS the prayer of acceptance, believing with all our heart, confessing with our mouths (Rm 10:9-10)…and we WILL be saved, but IT IS ALSO the FOLLOW THROUGH that PROVES what we have done to be authentic.  We don’t pull one over on God.  We don’t slip one through the back door.  Death bed conversions are very iffy, because they are unproven statements at a time of terror.  If your loved one had a death bed conversion, hold onto that hope, but hope that they would have meant it even if they had lived.  How about the thief on the cross?  Jesus (God) KNEW his heart.  That man would have followed Christ if he had been given a second chance.  Not everyone that says LORD LORD has a relationship with Christ.

So now we’re waaaaay out on this limb because most of us have rightly built our system of faith on proclaiming Jesus alone.  We correctly label cults and quasi-cults because they teach Jesus PLUS WORKS, or Jesus PLUS anything.  But is our own faith built on Christ or is it built on “OUR CLAIM to know Him”?

James (2:18) said, “Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith BY my works.”  Not, I will GAIN SALVATION…but I will SHOW you the PROOF of the REALITY.

Tell me the truth… (OH, who cares about me…just be honest with yourself)…if you were a random onlooker… what would you say or THINK about the REALITY of YOUR own claim to salvation.  Did you simply run through the right process…OR were you rightly processed (redeemed).

Let’s STOP the frantic competition… Seriously??  Are we trying to make up for always being picked last in dodge ball???  It doesn’t really matter whether you are the biggest church in town, or the biggest HERO in the church (riding in on a white horse to save the day).   What matters is that we make sure we are actually FOLLOWING and making followers of the one and only JESUS CHRIST.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m all for the “dog & pony” show… if at the end of the day we have more than just dogs and ponies.  No matter what we may believe, people aren’t just waiting for us to mess up. THEY KNOW WE MESS UP!  They’re waiting for us to be REAL, to get our act together and actually LIVE like we believe our own story.

DO YOU REALLY BELIEVE YOUR OWN STORY?  PROVE IT !!!