Thursday, February 11, 2016

 

Waiting on God... and it was worth it

Some of you will know about this and some will not.

Our daughter Julie has been on a very long five year medical journey.  She had internal issues that just could not get diagnosed.  During that time she went to Drs. in Abilene, specialists in the Dallas area, and specialists in a major medical facility in Central Texas.  Test after test, a few surgeries, and lots of "don't worry, we will fix this."  Bills, bills, and more bills.

There was suspicion of pancreatic cancer, congestive heart failure, and kidney failure.

Pain, exhaustion, fear, and depression.  For Julie, her husband Bobby, parents and family, kids.

But we kept begging God for answers and healing.  Our elders prayed and anointed her with oil.  She prayed.  We prayed.  For five years.

Sometimes we got our hopes up, sometimes we were resigned to life as it was.

Julie kept working, kept doing the best she could to be a wife and mom.  Fought to believe and to keep her faith.  Lived by Philippians 4:6.  Giving it to God.  Nursed her son Jake through a bout with Kawasaki disease, buried her Pap-pa, worked as a school nurse, even taught Bible school.  Lived and worked with situations I am not sure I could have handled.

Kept working to believe that she was not crazy and that God could -- and would -- someday heal her.

Finally, a couple of years ago the Doctors began to narrow it down to bladder issues.  Kept asking God to find her a Doctor that could help.  Or for God to just heal her.  Then she found Dr. Rinard, an Abilene girl who came home to practice.  Said the same things everyone else said.  But this time it was true.  

She got approval for a new treatment.  Insurance came through.  Had two surgeries this month.

Had a checkup yesterday and everything really is working.  Feels better than she has in five years.

Healed.

So glad for our GP, Dr. Chad, who is a believer and a friend.  Thankful God used Dr. Rinard who I do not even know but I love her.

But mostly thankful to God and giving him the glory.  We are.  Julie is.  The whole family is.  Our church family is.  The kids are celebrating Mommy's healing.

After five years.

So here are a couple of things I have learned.

God always heard.

He is in charge.

He did answer our prayer and heal our Julie.

He would have still been God and we would still have praised him and given him glory even if we were still waiting.

Never quit.  Never give up.

Faith.  Family.  God.  Jesus.  Love.

And gratitude.

So thanks God for healing Julie.  Thanks for being patient with us when we were frustrated.  Thanks for drying the tears.  Thanks for equipping good doctors.  But we believe the healing came from you.  So we give you the praise and the glory.  And we will not forget.  We will tell others what you have done.  We will use this story to bring others to know you and your son.  

GO GOD.  

 

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

 

When you argue that Scripture does not say what it means or mean what it says...

I don't think that any church leader sets out to take away from God's Word.  But it does happen.

Not too long ago I posted about how we can end up adding to God's Word by insisting he said things that he did not say.  It works the other way too.  Here is how we end up taking away from God's Word by insisting he did not say things that he did say.

It starts by studying God's Word and applying principles and forming opinions based on your study of what Scripture says and means.  But if not careful, your thoughtful  interpretation and opinion can transform itself into a conviction that any verse does not seem to fit with your theological view does not really mean what it says.

Here are some danger signs that worry me about negating (taking away) from Scripture in order to fit my convictions.

When someone says one passage is more important than another.  Unless God says it is more important (greatest commands, of first importance, etc), be very careful.

Using a passage to prove your point of view even if the passage does not say it applies to the position in question.

Proving the meaning of a passage by using only outside sources.  In other words, "you would not understand this passage just by reading it, but if you knew all the appropriate context, culture, and linguistic studies of when it was written you would know it does not say what it seems to say."

When you are told you cannot possibly understand what a Scripture means unless a real scholar tells you what it means,

Or... you are reading the wrong scholar.

Here is why these kind of things bother me.

If I really believe them, then what is the point of my even trying to read and/or study my Bible?  Just let the preacher (at least if he has been educated in theology) tell you what you should believe.  And of course, that assumes there will be no changing of opinions by the scholars.

You may think I am against scholarship or theology.  Quite the opposite.  I really appreciate and gain much from the work of people smarter and more educated than me.  but not at the expense of studying the word of God for myself.  And certainly not to the point where I begin to wonder how God could be so unclear that only a scholar could possibly know what he meant.

I even have a degree in Bible.  I even have a Master's degree.

But when we start explaining how Scripture cannot mean what it says unless interpreted for us then it seems very close to taking away from God's Word.

So we end up with opinions about salvation, Christian ethics, worship, and church organization that say the opposite of what Scripture says.

And I am afraid to do that.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

 

Hudson, Heaven, and Being a Hope Griever...

Hudson Wade died this morning from Leukemia.  Our church -- and many others -- prayed and prayed for his healing.  Over the past few months and years, their have been so many parents I know who had to bury their kids.  Some from sickness and some from accidents.  Some saw it coming, others had no idea till the phone rang.  Some died in the womb, some were grown.  So I think on Hudson, Matt, Ashton, Scottie, Nick, Matt, Caleb, and Lane.  And so many more.

I have prayed and cried.  I have preached many of the funerals.  Attended most of the others.  And now I am grieving again with the Wades.  But I am remembering that as believers we are hope grievers.

So I don't have the answers about death, God, prayer, and suffering.

But I do know some things to be true.

Here is what I know.

This world is a tough place.  Sickness, sin, pain, and death.  It is real and it touches all of us.

God is here in the midst of all of it.

This world is not our home.

God will be glorified.  We will praise him in the storm.

We do not grieve like those with no hope.  Because we believe.

We will see Hudson around the throne of God someday.

I have to tell the world of our hope.

So they can know what we know.

In a broken world of death and pain...

Jesus rose from the grave.

We believe and because of that, we will see our babies, our sons and daughters, our children, again.

Until then, we cry, praise, and hang on to God and each other.

And wait for the Lord to take us home so we can all be together again.

And I know that I cannot fathom how you survive without Jesus.

So come quickly Lord.

Take us home.

Friday, January 29, 2016

 

Why I Stopped Teaching the Five Steps of Salvation a Long Time Ago

The "Five Steps of Salvation" is a term that members of the Church of Christ and some Christian Churches will recognize.  This was a common evangelism approach.  It is one I grew up on and one I stopped using in college.  So if you did not grow up in this heritage, you may not find this post interesting.

And I am not going to bash those who use this approach.  I am really negative about this approach but that is not the same as being negative about the people who use it.

I am writing this because there has been quite a bit of discussion about this floating around in various forums lately so since I talk about this in some of my seminars, I thought I would weigh in.

If you do not talk to lost people about Jesus, I really do not care about your opinion.  If you aren't doing it, don't criticize the way others do what you will not do.  If you are not talking to non-believers about Jesus, you have much bigger issues than what approach to take.

I do believe their is a better way to share Jesus.  My preference is to share stories.

But here are my concerns about the five steps and why I quit using that approach over 40 years ago.

It is really easy to skip past talking about Jesus and put the focus on how to become his follower.  Very easy to end up with misplaced priorities.  Very easy to end up with baptized non-believers.  Getting the cart before the horse.

In practical ways, it was "here are the first four and now let's focus on the important step -- #5."  So you end up with a lot of baptized people who never really understand discipleship.  I get how that becomes a natural reaction to those who minimize the importance of baptism.  But anytime we teach something in reaction to to others, you can end up losing the main focus.  And by the way, I am of the opinion that reducing baptism to a step devalues it.  Being crucified with Jesus just seems way bigger than a step.  Hard to talk about being crucified with Jesus without talking about Jesus.

But here is the thing that bothered me the most.  We would tell someone that we were a people of the book and that we would only teach from the Bible.  You would not find any denominational doctrine among us.  Other groups would put forth their doctrine and try to support it with proof texts.  but we would only use the Bible.

Then we put out what sure looked like Church of Christ doctrine backed up by our proof texts.

Hear, believe, confess, repent, and be baptized.  And here are the proof texts.

That may not be how it was intended and I am not even arguing whether it was right or wrong.  But I am saying that is exactly what it looked like to those we studied with.  And then you end up with members of the Church of Christ instead of disciples committed to being the church of Christ.  We ended up putting the emphasis on the wrong C-word.

So being a lot more interested in actually reaching people for Jesus instead or arguing over how to become a Christian...

I decided to try a more effective way.  Jesus taught by using stories.  So that is what I started doing.  Sharing Jesus stories with people. Sharing stories of those first Christians in Acts.

Made a lot more disciples.  More time on what Jesus did. And when they bought into that, what to do was never again much of an issue.

Passion to reach the lost, sharing the story of Jesus, seeing them become disciples.

Feel free to use any approach you want in talking to your friends about Jesus.  I am just sharing why I changed my approach.  But above all, talk about Jesus.


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

 

How Christians end up adding to God's Word ...

It is easier than you think to add to what God says.  Here is how Christians can end up claiming God said things that he did not say.

Good Bible students apply principles and make applications from Scripture to form an opinion.

That opinion becomes practice and over time we forget how we decided it originally.

If not careful, our opinion becomes the right way to do something.

Then it become the only right way.

Then it becomes entrenched doctrine.

So anyone who believes different is wrong.

And if they are wrong, then of course their differing opinion is sin.

So they are not a Bible believing, New Testament church.

And having failed to remember how we came to certain conclusions, we then preach against those that do not agree with our conclusion.

And draw lines of fellowship about it.

Getting defensive when anyone asks us why we believe what we do.

So we claim God said it.

Even when he didn't.

And that is how you go from a reasonable opinion/decision based on interpretation and application to a rigid defense of what God never said.

Adding to Scripture.

And that is what is dangerous.

And that is the real sin.






Thursday, January 21, 2016

 

Salvation Issues

I often hear conversations about Scripture that refer to salvation issues.  I certainly want to be right about salvation.  I do not want to tell someone something is crucial to their salvation if God did not say it was.  Nor do I want to tell someone they are lost over something God did not say they were lost over.

There are those who seem to believe that every belief, decision, and conviction about spiritual things is a matter of salvation.  In other words, there is a right answer for every issue and every issue, doctrine, or practice is of equal importance to God.  You will be lost if you get anything wrong.  Jesus saves but only if you get everything about Jesus right.

Others seem to feel that nothing is really a salvation issue.  It is as if the Bible is simply of book of suggestions.  Most things are open to interpretation and all interpretations carry equal weight -- even with God.  As if you cannot really be lost over anything.  Jesus saves so you don't have to worry about anything else.

So I have been thinking about what things really do matter.  When I read Scripture, are there things that are more important than others?  Are there things I must get right or I endanger my soul?  Are there things I can be wrong on and still go to heaven.

So here are a few of the ways I am deciding what really matters in Scripture.

When a passage includes words like "saved", "salvation", "condemned", "lost", etc. then I conclude that God might intend for it to be a salvation issue.  Words like important, greatest, first seem to indicate that the subject being talked about is ... well, more important than others.

I believe that talking about how you make followers of Jesus is a salvation issue.  Lost people become saved.  I do not want to be wrong about that.  So things that have to do with becoming a Christian would seem to be salvation issues.

But truth about becoming a Christian does not seem to have the same eternal consequences as how you worship as a Christian.  How to become a member of the family of God would seem to me more a salvation issue than how the family of God operates.

Even when talking about how Christians live, I listen for definitive words.  And there are passages that say "do", or "do not".. That seems clear.

So I think baptism is on a different level than how we worship.  One is a salvation issue.  One is not.

But that is what I think.  You may disagree. That's OK.

But that is where I draw my lines of fellowship.  

And if I misread Scripture and am drawing lines too tightly, the good news is that I am not the final judge.  God is.

And if I draw them too loosely, I beg forgiveness and pray God will have mercy on me and on the ones I misled.

So let's all be very careful about what is and is not a salvation issue.

After all, none of us want to be silent where God spoke.  And none of us want to speak where God was silent.  Especially about salvation.  

Well, that's what I am thinking about today.  Salvation issues.  It matters to the lost I talk to and it matters as I decide how to live -- or not live -- in fellowship with my brothers and sisters here.

 

Friday, January 15, 2016

 

What are these seminars I do about sharing Jesus

I work for Hope for Life, a Herald of Truth Ministry.

It is a great job because what I do all day is talk about -- or write about -- Jesus.

One of the major things I do is go to churches and do seminars (usually on a Saturday and Sunday mornings) about how to share you faith using stories.  These seminars are designed to motivate, equip, and inspire Christians to engage with friends, family, coworkers, classmates, and neighbors in order to share Jesus.

Many of you have seen me post on FaceBook about going to churches and doing this.  And this is the same approach I use in my life with my friends.

The seminar is called Sharing Our Story and it is done is four sessions.

One:  why stories work.  We talk about why stories are natural and fit our culture.  And everyone can tell stories. We talk about how to use stories.

Session Two is about using stories to get hearts ready to hear the Jesus story.  How to answer questions about why if God is so good, then why is the world so bad.  Or, I just want to help people, but I don't want your rules and religion.  Or, if you really knew me -- or knew my past -- you would not be inviting me into your church.

Session Three is about sharing the real Jesus using stories from his life to show a Jesus who knows us and cares about us.  A Jesus who wants us to know him.  Stories about how that Jesus is still changing lives today.

Session Four: Stories that water and cultivate Jesus seeds planted in hearts.  Stories about people who decided to follow Jesus.  Stories about how it changed their lives.  In the first century and in this century.

We use stories from Scripture, from our community of faith, and from our own lives.  We show videos of people sharing their story.

I am not always sure what happens after I do these.  That is up to the people who were there.  But I do know they will leave the seminar wanting to share Jesus with others.  And they will believe they can.

And many of them do.  They do tell stories.  People do decide to follow Jesus.  Churches grow.  Just like God intended.

So if you are interested in knowing more, contact me.

I do have a great job.

Thanks God for letting me spend my life helping people know you and your son.  You get the glory.  So I am asking that you let me do this until the day you take me home.  And I am asking for opportunities for all us so that there will lots more with us living together with you forever. 




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