Giant-Slaying Love

Giant-Slaying Love

When I grow up, I want to be like David…

David answered, “You come at me with sword and spear and battle ax.  I come at you in the name of God-of-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel’s troops, whom you curse and mock.” (1 Sam. 17:45 Msg.)

King Saul and all the troops of Israel were terrified by the taunts of Goliath, not to mention his massive size—all, that is, except for David.  This teenaged shepherd from podunk Bethlehem looked at things differently than the rest of the men—including his own brothers.  David looked upon the situation, as Eugene Peterson shares, “with a God-dominated, not a Goliath-dominated imagination.”

Fixating on the “giants” in our lives is a common human condition.  It certainly was for Israel as the entire army was paralyzed with fear for forty days as Goliath baited and belittled them relentlessly.

I have certainly been there—and I bet you have been, too.  A “giant” problem or situation arises and all I can see, or think about, or worry about, or get sick over—is that giant.  The taunts and the fears can be paralyzing as the problem seems to be mocking me day and night.

One top of Goliath’s taunts, David had to deal with the hurtful way his own brothers rejected and mocked him.  Like the rest of the Israelites, they were focused on Goliath rather than God, and on top of that, they had an extreme level of disdain for their youngest brother (talk about sibling rivalry!).

But David…  David was so focused on the Lord and so unimpressed with that loud-mouthed giant that he brushed aside the jabs from his family, the disbelief of his fellow countrymen, and the jeering of Goliath himself…  And picked up five rounded stones.

I have shared before the significance of five stones.  The Bible makes clear that there were five giants left on the earth in David’s day—Goliath, and his four brothers.  David the teenager was not only a bold young man—he was already a Prophet of God.  The five stones spoke prophetically to the demise of the five giants—and the end to such flagrant demonic taunting of God’s people Israel.

But David…  David was so focused on the Lord that he could see past the problem and into the Eyes of the Solution Himself—the Lord.

When I grow up, I want to be like David…

When giants arise; when the night seems the longest; when there is no light at the end of the tunnel… These are the times we must—by God’s grace—learn to see through a God-dominated, not a giant-dominated imagination.

How did David develop such a God-focused view so early in life?  He was a worshipper.  He was a prayer.  He trusted the Word.  He developed early such trust in the Lord that the Giant… didn’t seem big at all…!

I am a bit slower than David in terms of becoming a Man after God’s own Heart.  (No one would accuse me of being a teenager!)  Still, I want to be so God-focused, with such a God-dominated imagination, that no “giant” will be able to mock me into submission.  I KNOW that is your prayer, too.  We are collectively tired of giants wanting to make us feel like we are defeated.  We are tired of big-mouthed goliath’s trying to rob us of our joy…  We are tired of being mocked by troubles; we are ready to pick up God’s weapons for victory!

When I grow up, I want to be like David!  Join me in that desire!!

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Secure Love

Secure Love

Jesus knew that the Father had given Him authority over everything and that He had come from God and would return to God.  So He got up from the table, took off His robe, wrapped a towel around His waist, and poured water into a basin.  Then He began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel He had around Him (John 13:3-5)

Jesus was absolutely secure in who He was and where He was going.  Security—as in knowing who we are in the Lord Jesus and where our eternal home is located is essential if we are really going to serve the Lord.

Peter was the poster child of insecurity in this story.  He first rejected Jesus’ attempts to wash his feet, and then asked Jesus to wash his hands and head as well as his feet—all of it because Peter felt so unworthy.  Peter’s insecurities got him in frequent trouble—until Pentecost—when the Holy Spirit assured Peter of the authority He had given him, along with the confidence of knowing he was chosen and destined for eternity.

So there are two main points to this passage:

1)       Believer’s need to be firmly secure in who they are in Christ Jesus.

2)      Once truly secure, they should “wash other’s feet,” serving others from a place of secure humility, rather than insecure pride or fear or control.

Now, let’s contrast this with what the American Church so frequently does.  Conventional Church wisdom dictates that we should put people to serving (doing) as soon as possible—or risk “losing them to another church.”  Insecure and barely saved is no problem—as long as a soul is willing to work.

Problem:  Most people, like Peter, love to serve—even if their insecurities trip them up at every turn.   For the fear of losing a person to another church, the institutional church finds a place to work them—even if that “ministry” takes them away from spending time with Jesus… Even if their “serving” becomes an idol (as it tends to do for people who are rushed in to doing before they mature into BEING a Christian) and causes them to elevate a ministry over Jesus—and over everyone else in the congregation.

So many good folks get terribly bent out of shape because they feel others are infringing on their ministry territory; others quit and go elsewhere if a change in their pet ministry (or class, or social structure) should ever occur; still others replace any other connection to the church with their involvement in a ministry—thinking the ministry—rather than the Lord and His Bride—is the point.

Does this sound like the spirit of foot washing?  Of course not.  Congregations have been split and even destroyed because insecure people fought against each other rather than “washing each other’s feet.”


Unless and until we KNOW we walk in Kingdom authority, KNOW we have been chosen by God, and KNOW we are destined to live with Him forever—we WILL fight and balk and whine like Peter…

Again, did “doing ministry” make Peter secure?  NO!  He had “served” for three years by this point, and was still terribly insecure—and therefore a terrible candidate for doing ministry!  ONLY deeply intimate exposures to the Holy Spirit can bring the necessary maturity and security needed.

SO, you feel led to wash feet?  Good!  Go spend time with Jesus in the power and flow of the Holy Spirit, and you will soon come to the place of KNOWING you are truly ready to wash feet—not drawing attention to yourself, but rather to Father God!!!   THAT is the true spirit of foot washing…!

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Misunderstood Love

Misunderstood Love

When Yeshua had come closer and could see the city (Jerusalem), he wept over it, saying, “If you only knew today what is needed for shalom!  But for now it is hidden from your sight… all because you did not recognize your opportunity when God offered it!” (Luke 19:41-44 CJB)

Misunderstanding love is the hallmark of the fallen human race—regardless of how God presents love; regardless of how explicit He is in foretelling it.  Not only are we guilty of misunderstanding His love, we are guilty of redefining His love—even though He has clearly defined what real love is—and is not—in His Word…

Jesus wept over a city that should have known better.  Zechariah 9:9 clearly states that your King comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey.  The crowd outside the city got it…sort of.  They covered the ground with palm branches and clothing and shouted praises as King Jesus rode toward Jerusalem.  But they misunderstood the Messiah coming in humility, regardless of what the prophet had said.

That misunderstanding caused Jesus to weep over a city that would be utterly destroyed—with enormous loss of life—less than forty years later.  Many in Israel never did come to see their Messiah…

I wonder if Jesus’ second coming—this time as the King of Kings riding on a white horse—will be equally or even more misunderstood…

While the religious leaders and most of the public two thousand years ago could not fathom a Suffering Servant as the Messiah (despite the prophet Isaiah’s clear words), most of our current world can’t seem to fathom a mighty victorious King coming in perfect authority and righteousness in His Second Coming.

In perfect humility—or in perfect glory, honor, and strength—Jesus is still… Perfect Love!  His love is equally evident in suffering for our sin (as He did on the cross), in calling us to righteous holiness that finds victory over sin (as He does now), to returning in all glory and power to restore perfection (as He will soon).

The Love of God is still misunderstood and it is still being redefined as people long to manufacture a god who serves our needs and scratches our itches rather than submit to the one true God who—in humility and in all power—calls us to surrender to Him, as if… He is God and we are not! 

Both, I believe, make Jesus weep as multitudes miss the peace Jesus brought, brings, and will bring.

  • He came as a humble servant, but they wanted a militant king…
  • He is now the King of righteousness who demands transformation by the Word and Spirit, but many bristle at the suggestion that HIS definition of righteousness and love, not ours, is the standard.
  • He will come in all glory as God the King, but many will balk in full-blown rebellion.

This Palm Sunday, perhaps the thing to do is to lay down our lives before Him (rather than palm branches), and to receive HIM until our misunderstandings and redefinitions are overpowered by His enormous and perfect love…!

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Discipining Love

Disciplining Love

One of the most telling areas where the modern church not only fails to act like the early church but actually rejects outright a major tenant to New Testament life is in the area of Church Discipline.

As Scripture makes clear in 1 Corinthians 5, wayward church members, like the man in Corinth who was having sex with his stepmother, were disciplined with expulsion from the body—with an expectation that repentance and restoration would follow.  In fact, that is exactly what happened to the fellow mentioned above.

Real love, Agape love, New testament love… kicked a sinner out of the church, leaving him open to satanic attack—until he repented.  In doing so, the man was actually healed instead of petted… his sin actually exposed, instead of excused… his heart and soul actually transformed, rather than deformed…!

In the early Methodist Movement, behavior like heavy drinking, missing a Class Meeting (Life Group) too often, or failing to attend to Sunday Worship and the Sacraments was met with similar love—disciplining love—that called people to holiness rather than showiness…!  The early Methodists kicked out many—and saw a nation moved by the revival, even as most of the removed came back repentant and healed!

Our modern American Church is all about show, with little depth of character or faith and absolutely no taste for calling people to accountability.  The result?  Lots of people sitting in churches who are trapped in life-destroying sins while the church pretends everyone is good.

Why can’t we pull off discipline anymore?  Here are at least a few reasons.

1)       We live in a consumer culture where there are dozens of church “choices.”  If one congregation dares to call a member to accountability or discipline, they simply choose to go elsewhere, badmouthing their former church all the way.  Do they get healed?  Almost never.  But most churches are more than willing to welcome “that poor lady who was so mistreated down at …”

2)      Churches that attempt to employ church discipline are often called “cults” and belittled as legalistic.  Was Corinth legalistic?  Was Paul legalistic? Were the early Methodists legalistic?  No.  They just loved people enough to want them to be free in the Spirit rather than free to keep on sinning.

3)      Power-hungry pastors and legalistic, cultic churches HAVE arisen—and given a bad name to any form of discipline and accountability.  It is a shame, but the bad ones—usually “non-denominational” and therefore under no headship outside themselves—have really made it hard on the rest of us.

4)      Finally, it is easier to look the other way… to ignore bad behavior even when we see it destroying a person or a family, rather than to confront, in love, with discipline.  That is exactly what the Corinthian Church was doing until God through Paul commanded them to quit playing around with sin.

For all these reasons and a few others, I have never been able as Pastor to pull off much in the way of meaningful discipline.  I have been laughed at, called legalistic, and a few other names.  I have been ignored, as if being Pastor means nothing to a person or Class or wayward “life group” that wants to do…whatever they darn well want to do…

We in the American Church, like Corinth, have mistaken grace for license and will doggedly refuse to be corrected—even in the gentlest terms—if it makes us uncomfortable or embarrassed.  It is truly a shame—and millions of American Christians are in bondage because of it.

So are we doing something new or different here?  No.  This is one area where I honestly don’t know how to buck the prevailing trends.  But trust me in this:  I love you enough to call you out if you are doing something stupid that I am aware of.  You and I both trust my Pastor (the D.S.) and Bishop to do the same for me…

Awakening will look like many things, but this is a hallmark:  When the Church can discipline in love and its members receive with love said discipline, then a true move of God is happening!

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For the Love of the Children

For the Love of the Children

I am very pleased to announce to you that your Staff-Parish Relations Committee (SPRC), after careful prayer and deliberations, has promoted John Paul Cahill to be our new Children’s and Youth pastor.  Tina Green, our Counselling pastor, will assume some of the responsibilities previously fulfilled by Jennifer Officer, and John and Tina will be assisted on a part-time basis by Carissa Houser.

John brings a deep love for children, not to mention his deep love for the Lord, to the job.  His passion to see kids experience God and thrive in the presence of the Holy Spirit promises to not only continue the great legacy of Son Seekers, but to usher us into a new season.

Tina’s love for children comes with 30 years of experience as a teacher and as an administrator.  She brings all those years to this job—along with her profound love for the Lord, and her strong desire to build on the legacy already in place.

Carissa has served on the Son Seeker’s team for years, loves the kids, and will help with many of the day-to-day chores.  Her maturity in the Lord will be a great asset to the ministry.

The Son Seeker’s Team, which gathered a couple weeks ago to brainstorm, continues as the heart of this ministry.  John and Tina will work with the team to continue a smooth transition and to dream God-sized dreams for our children’s ministry!

I would like to commend our SPRC for the careful and prayerful way they approached this decision.  They came up with a creative solution to a difficult problem in less than a month—by listening to the Spirit and thinking outside of the box.  We will continue to have a fantastic children’s ministry—and even move forward in new ways which will make it easier for church members to serve, and for our kids to experience the Lord in profound ways at an early age.

I also want to thank and commend the servants who make up our Son Seeker’s team.  You have given of yourselves to the Lord unselfishly—many of you for years—and the fruit of that love is amazing.  I am grateful for your excitement going forward!

Finally, I want to thank this entire congregation—which has been the “incubator” all along—allowing a creative children’s ministry to be birthed and to thrive.  God continues a unique and amazing work here which allows and calls all of us to a place of mature relationship with the Lord which is truly biblical—and truly rare in our consumer-driven church culture.  Thank you for loving children, loving Jesus, and loving each other!

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LOVE Called; Called to Love!

LOVE Called; Called to Love

I am beginning to think that my beautiful wife may be up to something…  She has told me to stay off Messenger; she has forbidden me from opening any mail that might look like a note or card; she won’t allow me into my own office at the house…

It probably has something to do with the fact that this Sunday marks the 25th Anniversary of my beginning to serve as a preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I was asked in mid-March of 1992 by the Murfreesboro District Superintendent to go to three small churches in rural Rutherford and Wilson Counties to preach “on a trial basis” for two weeks.  Nine years and three months later, I was appointed to serve in Livingston…

Tina and I were jointly called into ministry the previous August at the Aldersgate Conference which was held that year (1991) in Chattanooga.  We each separately heard the Lord’s call—on the same day and at the same Conference.  We were not running away from a bad situation; in fact, we owned the third largest ServiceMaster Lawn franchise in the nation and owned the franchising rights to two states.  But when we each heard God call—in perfect love—we began running toward Him and that call immediately.

We came home from that Conference and began to meet with our Pastor, Rev. Frank Blair, as well as Rev. Gary Moore, the leader of Aldersgate Renewal Ministries.  As they and other deeply trusted Christian friends and mentors confirmed the call, we began to move forward.  In January 1992, I enrolled at Vanderbilt Divinity School.   Once a person has heard a defining call from Love Himself, it becomes a matter of obedience to follow and fulfill it.  We have been about that ever since!  The specific call?   To be instruments of renewal within the United Methodist Church…

YOU, in Christ, have just as real and just as transforming a call on your life…!  LOVE Himself, Jesus the Lord, has CALLED you just as surely as He has called me and Tina!  And you happen to be part of a congregation where “equipping the saints for the work of ministry” is first and foremost in your Pastor’s heart!  But part of that equipping is based on these absolute Biblical truths:

1)      True Ministry will NEVER take the place of dwelling in the Presence of the Most High God “behind the veil!”  We don’t find and “do a job” for Jesus at the expense of being with Him and beholding His glory!

2)      The CALL of God flows from His heart, not from our program…!  If HE is calling you to start a parking-lot greeter’s ministry, or to build a Habitat House, well, Hallelujah!  You should meet with trusted leaders to help discern and refine the call, and then “go for it!”  It is not my job to program it for you; it is your job to obey the Lord and His call and then not look back!

3)      God’s CALL is NEVER at the detriment of the Church—local or universal.  If a person believes that God is calling them to start some ministry that pulls them away from the church and Godly cover and authority, the call they are hearing is NOT from God!  He does not undermine His church to bless His church!  When we left Antioch Church to begin ministry at Dunaway’s/Lascassas/Cainsville, it was with their blessing and under their covering…

Here is the really cool thing—and a truth I am still coming to understand—when Love calls you, He calls you to love…!  And you will love what He calls you to!  You will love WHO He calls you to!  True love, however, isn’t born and nurtured simply in the easy times.  The fires of adversity and hardship refine and define true love far better than any “honeymoon” does!  Cancer has made me a better pastor.  Praying with a desperate mother in the parking lot will make you a better greeting pastor, if that is your call.  Praying with a family and living amidst their hardship and lack will make you a far better “Habitat” builder.  Conversely, serving in a “ministry” where you feel little love or connection isn’t ministry at all—it’s just being religious—which is ALWAYS beneath the real and legitimate call Jesus has on your life!  Find it, own it, obey it, and live it!!!

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Worshipful Love

Worshipful Love

If God’s love language to us is Grace—in all its forms, our love language to God is Worship—in all its forms. 

Catherine Cates, our Worship Leader, wrote and sent the following to me a few weeks back.  I felt it was so good that I wanted to share it with you as this week’s blog. 


This is my belief and practice concerning worship:
God heals spiritually and physically.
God breaks yokes and strongholds personally and in the community.
God softens the heart and draws people close, displaying and pouring out his love.
God goes to battle near – in and around the person and far – in the community and world as we worship.
God speaks encouragement, edification, conviction, and correction through prophecy and tongues during worship—personally and corporately.
During worship, God gives a call, instructions, answers to questions, directions for missions, and delivers us from demons.
God sets people apart for the ministry He’s called us to during worship.

We have a great foundation to build upon.
Here are some ways our worship can move forward:
The worship ministry team is just that—a ministry team.
We need to be about the mission of ministry—ministering to Jesus, the Body of Christ and community.
We need to have regular committed additional times of worship and ministry besides Sunday mornings.
You grow, learn, deepen fellowship and receive freedom to worship corporately the more that you participate in corporate worship/prayer services.

Here is my mission statement and a mission vision:
The Father is seeking worshipers, and those who worship Him must worship in the Spirit (led and filled by the Holy Spirit) and in Truth (the Word of God, Jesus, the Scriptures)
We’re worshiping Warriors like David, a man after God’s own heart, rebuilding the tabernacle of David.
We are the tabernacle of the Holy Spirit, not a place and not a building.
He is forming a building out of People for His praise to inhabit;
A People that worship Him above all things; a people that find in Him satisfaction above all things.

This is my calling and my mission: to encourage, instruct and lead people to be insanely and completely in love with Jesus and free from fear, from strongholds; to worship in freedom of the Holy Spirit and truth; to experience deliverance from fearful cringing slaves into the glorious liberty as a son and daughter of God, confirmed by the Spirit of adoption.

I have been given the assignment to take “the promised land” with the high praises of God in our mouth and the sword of the Spirit in our hands! Joy filled worshiping warriors speaking the truth, full of the love of God, shaking off the veils and the blinders of darkness, helping the Father seek and save the lost, seek and recover the worshippers.

This is the Army God is raising up.

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Philia Love

Philia Love

The New Testament was written in Greek, and the Greek language has four words which we translate love.  Storge’ love is what we would term affection.  Romantic love in Greek is known as eros love.  Perfect love, God’s love, is known as Agape’ love.  But the love I want to talk about in this blog is friendship/family love, known as Philia love.

The Church of Jesus Christ is loved by Her Groom Jesus with Agape’.  That love calls and nurtures us to love God as fully as we can, as well as to love each other as deeply.  Peter, when asked by Jesus if he Agape’ loved Him, answered as honestly as he could, saying, you know Lord that I Philia You… 

So as the Family of God, we philia each other, strengthen by Father’s agape’ for us…!  When Tina and I moved here almost 16 years ago, we felt that Philia love by many—but in a very deep and special way, by the staff we inherited from Pastor Tom.  Cathy Oakley was the amazingly gifted youth pastor, and the veteran on the staff.  She was joined by three young but incredibly gifted women of God—Amy Fletcher, Jennifer Officer, and Amy Oakley.

The greatest gift God through Tom Halliburton ever gave me was the world’s best church staff.  In the American Church, pastors and staff rotate in and out—of the local church and ministry itself—with alarming regularity.  The average tenure of a Senior Pastor in the U.S. is about two years, and church staff don’t generally even make it that long.

To think that Cathy served this church for 20 plus years on staff… that Amy Oakley was “interim” worship leader for 19 years… that Jennifer served in various roles involving children and youth for 21 years… that Tom served here as Pastor for 10 years and I am completing my 16th year, and that Amy fletcher has served here for 28 years… is a miracle!

Frankly, God has spoiled us greatly.  It should sober us that Jesus’ disciples only had 3 ½ years to get to know Him in the flesh…  We have had one of the most stable pastoral/staff situations found anywhere in the American Church.  That stability has allowed this congregation to move consistently with the Holy Spirit into a remarkably deep place and has allowed for genuine Philia love—built around Holy Spirit intimacy, not simply long term friendships—to thrive here…

The Philia I feel personally for Scott and Amy and Mike and Jennifer is as deep of family love as I have ever known.  We have walked arm-in-arm through some incredibly tough situations both in the church and in our families, laughing and crying and praying and rejoicing.  Our kids grew up together.  Many of Matthew’s best childhood memories took place in Jen’s parent’s yard with Sam (and the Colonel!), and my older kids cut their babysitting teeth watching the Oakley kids.  Tina and I were there when life slammed them, and they have stood right by our side when it has slammed us.  This Philia love is a deep and abiding love…

I remember when my oldest brother left for college when I was 10.  He wasn’t mad, he wasn’t rebelling, and he certainly wasn’t being forced to leave—it was simply time for him to move into a new phase of life.  There were a lot of tears and pain—because family love is deep and abiding.  It hurt to not see him daily, and it felt empty around the house for a while.  But ultimately, it was the best thing for him—and a place of real growth for the family…

As a family, we are rightly grieving.  The Oakley’s and the Officer’s are more than just great people—they are friends and family by the Spirit who love and are loved with the very deepest Philia.  It is going to be a little lonely around this house for a while.  The grief and pain is very real.  But Philia love not only knows how to hang on—it knows when to let goPhilia love recognizes new seasons as a gift, not a curse.  Philia love celebrates the expansion of the Kingdom even when it means letting go, just a little, and only for a while, of our closest friends.

So, it is with both with grief and excitement—in the most amazing place of Philia—that I and we say goodbye to Scott and Amy, and to Mike and Jennifer.  In the deepest sense of friendship/family love, it is hard to accept this new season—but at the very same time, it is that same love that compels us to release and bless them as they move on to new businesses and adventures.

We all join in loving the Officer’s and Oakley’s, and in loving the Lord who gave us such an extraordinarily long season together!  We are not losing part of the family—we are simply celebrating with them a new season of life!

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Offensive Love

Offensive Love

In the 26th chapter of Acts, Paul is finally given the opportunity to defend himself before Governor Festus, King Agrippa, Queen Bernice, and the large crowd of “important” people who had gathered to hear Paul speak.  They were waiting to hear Paul defend himself against the array of charges and accusations that had been brought against him during the previous two years.

If Paul would have approached this situation in a “normal” fashion, he would have tried one of two defensive strategies.  He could have mounted a defense based on the unsubstantiated and frivolous nature of the charges, using logic and eloquence as a speaker to dismantle the accusations and prove himself innocent.  Second, Paul could have thrown himself on the mercy of the court, trusting in their ability to spot the true nature of the accusations, and resting on his stature as a Roman Citizen.

Paul chose to do neither.  Paul chose to not defend himself.  Rather, Paul went on the offensive—preaching the gospel to all assembled, while effectively putting King Agrippa and the crowd on trial…  Paul, a prisoner for over two years, falsely accused and in jail because it appeased the religious authorities and because Paul would not pay a bribe—preached a sermon that day—rather than cry out for justice or mercy…

This is an amazing picture for us of what true Christian maturity looks like—when a person is so consumed with and transformed by the Presence of Jesus in their lives that they place sharing the truth of His Good News above their own comfort, reputation, and even life itself.

I would love to tell you I have reached this level of maturity—where sharing the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit is more important to me than anything else—including my life, reputation, comfort, or security.  Unfortunately, I am not quite there…, yet.

But—just as in Paul’s case—life in Christ has a way of growing us up.  As Christians, worldly attacks and Holy Spirit rescues work together to take us from the defensive to the offensive—from defending our own flesh to declaring the majesty and glory of our King.

Did Paul’s “strategy” work?  Well, in terms of getting out of prison, the answer is “no.”  Paul remained a prisoner of Rome for the faith most of the rest of his life—which ended when his head was removed by a Roman executioner…

What about the crowd?  What about King Agrippa and Queen Bernice?  We have no concrete evidence concerning their salvation, but we can certainly stand on the fact that when the Word is preached, the Spirit brings a harvest.  I am CERTAIN that we will meet in heaven folks from the crowd—perhaps even a Governor or King, because their hearts were made alive that day as Paul preached on the offensive…

LOVE calls us to go on the offensive to share the gospel—rather than the defensive to save our necks.  Offensive love is mature and selfless love.  Offensive love overcomes Evil not only by “the Blood of the Lamb and the Word of testimony,” but supremely by “not loving our lives, even unto death (see Revelation 12).

My prayer is that we would all grow up together as a congregation to the place where we really could not care less what people say or think about us; rather, we would love offensively—sharing the truth and testimony of Jesus instead of rushing to defend ourselves against the accusers and their accusations…

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Tough Love

Tough Love

Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandments.  The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mathew 22:37-39)

Well, that is kind of harsh, isn’t it?  Jesus isn’t requesting a little lip service; He is asking for all-out commitment.  In fact, He commands it.  He even makes clear what is at stake for those who ignore or “forget” His commandments, saying that you are my friends if you do whatever I command you (John 15:14).  Friendship with God is based on obedience and commitment, not on simply mouthing a sinner’s prayer or showing up for church services…

By modern American standards, Jesus is being religious…legalistic…dogmatic…narrow-minded.   He is just being too hard and serious…!  He wants ALL our heart?  He wants ALL our soul?  He wants ALL our mind?  He commands me to love other people as if they were just like me?  IT’S TOO TOUGH!

To love Him with all my heart demands a lifestyle of genuine worship.  To love Him with all my soul demands the kind of transparency and vulnerability best found in small groups.  To love Him with all my mind demands an open mindedness to receive the Word from Him who is the living Word.  To love neighbor as self demands a love for others that supersedes my personal desire to “go to heaven,” commanding instead a “heaven here and now” love for the least and the lost next doorIT’S TOO TOUGH!

“Too tough” is what most of Jesus’ DISCIPLES thought when He commanded His followers in John 6 to consume Him and be consumed by Him.  All of them were called to decide.  Most of them decided to leave.

Frankly, Jesus commands us to a place of “Tough Love.”  Our fallen nature wants an easy fix; Jesus calls us to receive Him as Savior, Redeemer, Lord, and King.  Our fallen nature wants a “get out of hell” card; Jesus calls us to manifest Heaven on earth.  Our fallen nature wants to pick and choose as consumers what part of the gospel is easy or convenient; Jesus is calling us to be consumed with Him in a way that is NEVER easy or convenient!

Is Christ calling His Church to go after disciples who choose to turn away?  OF COURSE, HE IS!  But His Command remains—His FRIENDS will and MUST, at some point in life, choose HIM with ALL that they are!  Praise God, His Spirit is here to make that possible…!

Can a local church focus on the least commitment level necessary to keep folks comfortable?  Sure.  Many do.  But it seems to me the more authentic thing to do is call people as if “deep is calling unto deep” (Ps 42:7)!  If Jesus commands our ALL, why should we play church as if He only wants our SOME?  At the end of the Day (and that Day is coming!) I prefer to hang out with those who declare, Lord, to whom shall we go?  You alone have the words of eternal life…!

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