Sermon On The Mount- Glenn’s Overview

Trusting all reading this had a great Thanksgiving (here in the U.S.). What follows comes from my own morning devotions today. I hope you find it worthwhile. Thanks for stopping by! -GlennThe Sermon on The Mount -Glenn’s Overview”The restoration of the church will surely come from a new kind of monasticism, which will have nothing in common with the old but a life of uncompromising adherence to the Sermon on the Mount in imitation of Christ. I believe the time has come to rally people together for this.”-Dietrich BonhoefferWithout question, others have done a far more masterful job than I will here. What follows are simple, blanket thoughts regarding one of Jesus’ most-quoted and important messages given to a large crowd on a mountainside:Mt. 5.1-16 (World English Bible Translation)5:1 Seeing the multitudes, he went up onto the mountain. When he had sat down, his disciples came to him.GK- Jesus actually sees people. Sadly, I and we do not always notice. He sat when He taught. The focus is on the Father and on the people. And His disciples came to Him. Sadly, at times we don’t and therefore do not hear His heart, His mind, His view on things.5:2 He opened his mouth and taught them, saying,GK- Jesus is rabbi, the Teacher, and not a mere academic nor orator/preacher/writer, but One Who truly communicates the very nature of God to His listeners. This is not about “wow-ing” the crowd, but about deep and needed information pertaining to spiritual, emotional and yes, physical health and of course, for the glorification of Our Father as we shall see.5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.GK- “Blessed” means to be envied, happy, truly satisfied. As we shall notice, all of the points Jesus makes are related to all people at various times in our lives. There are those times we are poor, empty, impovrished right down to our very breath (spirit). But there is a kingdom -coming-… and it is the kingdom of God where all who have loved and served Him in Christ will one day be!5:4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.GK- Early, middle or later in life mourning happens. Whether loss of loved ones in death, injustice, personal illness, job loss or any number of pains all of us face mourning. Jesus tells us comfort WILL happen in us.5:5 Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.GK- The gentle, the meek (which I have sadly often -not- been…) indeed have an inheritance, and that inheritance is promised by Jesus Himself. One cannot but think of those hearing this message, many who had zero power in terms of education, land ownership/rights, inheritance or any sort, political authority and on and on… and He is telling them all this -will- change not due to their own ability or strength but due to the Father’s will and in the Father’s timing.5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.GK- I have sometimes asked myself if I truly HUNGER… THIRST… for what God considers righteousness? Sadly, I often fail in this. And yet -being filled- with these things comes to us as we learn where our truest need really is! We-shall- be filled!5:7 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.GK- True confession: for years I have prayed for the spiritual gift of mercy. Merciful is not how I would describe myself and it is a shame and deep need for others to receive a sense of the mercy of Jesus via me. And so I pray. Of course I want to receive mercy, who doesn’t?! But the point is to -be- merciful and I pray for growth and the Spirit Who gives gifts and produces such fruit in our lives to do His work in me for this.Again, Jesus tell us such will receive mercy…5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.GK- Wow. He gets deeper still! Pure in heart. One heart, one mind, focused on Him, His will, His Word, His way, His plan, His desires, His love for others. Pure. Holy. Genuine. Unsullied. Such -shall- see God!!5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.GK- Making peace brings blessings to the person who helps bring it about as well as to those who were either fighting or on the edge of warring. In our marriages, families, churches, workplaces and world there are just too many fighters and not enough peacemakers. I am personally convicted to pray and work in my own prayer life, mind and inserting myself into discussions and writing that -making- peace is part of Jesus’ call to His people! I think in my own country (U.S.A.) that peace-making is not all that near the top of our list of priorities. It’s more about personal gain (see the book of James about why fighting and war exists) than peace between people. God help us find this blessing by working for peace! Help -me- be part of peace-making rather than another round of fighting and resultant pain! The true children of God are at core, about peace. How quickly we forget this!5:10 Blessed are those who have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.GK- What strikes me here is how often we as individuals and groups, consider ourselves righteous/holy/correct simply because we are persecuted. Not so! But alas, this is how we are at times tempted to interpret this verse. It is about Jesus, about the righteousness of God, not our own righteous behavior. It seems to me the core of the persecution Jesus is talking about has to do with living out His love in relationships and societies where others seek something or someone other than God’s love and will.5:11 “Blessed are you when people reproach you, persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, for my sake.GK- What always leaps out at me here is “my sake”. It’s all about Jesus. For HIS sake we at times may get blamed for this or that. False stuff, hard knocks due to our allegience to Christ are simply part of our road. He’s worth it.5:12 Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.GK- I suppose a root point here is “prophets”. People don’t like being told to repent, to change, to get their relationship with God in order and often neither do I! So if and when we are speaking truth (even in the real and super love of God) there are going to be detractors, angry people. Consider John the Baptist’s end and face the reality of this if you are going to be salt and light in a pagan society.5:13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt has lost its flavor, with what will it be salted? It is then good for nothing, but to be cast out and trodden under the feet of men.GK- In the most basic sense, of what value are you and I? To God, we are fully, totally, always valuable regardless of what we do or don’t do, regardless of whether or not we “produce”! Having said this, it is also true that in terms of humankind, our works speak louder than our thoughts, words or intentions. Salt indeed gives flavor, seasons, preserves, burns away germs and infection (think “gargling with salt” when one has a sore throat, etc.) and is important for life. Light is essential for good health as well (the good stuff from the sun’s rays) as the simple ability to not stumble in darkness- literally and spiritually. God is light and the entrance of His Words bring light. The New Testament calls Christ’s followers “children of light” and “children of the day”.5:14 You are the light of the world. A city located on a hill can’t be hidden.GK- See my above comments. Salt and light must be genuine, authentic and present for a real life. And there is the “shine”, the reflective properties of light. We are like the moon- we have no light of our own but relfect the sun… or literally, The Son. Trying to hide or bury the salt and light, always and forever remaining silent, refusing our various prophetic callings (the varied ways we reflect Jesus Christ in our daily life) is not only a cop-out and irresponsible, it reveals a lack of the very love of God within us. The more we are filled with Him the more we will sense ways to bless others around us -regardless of personal cost.5:15 Neither do you light a lamp, and put it under a measuring basket, but on a stand; and it shines to all who are in the house.GK- Jesus continues with His “light” metaphor. Here again we don’t see “secret service” Christians but Christ-followers who stand out in bringing God’s love, light, truth to those around them. It is NOT “the pastor’s… or other professional’s job”… it is the daily, supernaturally natural life of all believers to relfect Jesus where we are to those around us. I don’t hear Jesus saying we should be obnoxious, rude or jumping up on a stage every chance we get. What I hear Him saying here is something along the lines of “Of COURSE you are going to reflect Me as you daily follow”! But do we? Today, am I? God help us!5:16 Even so, let your light shine before men; that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.GK- This is -not- about salvation by works, nothing anywhere near it! Jesus is saying that humankind NEEDS to recognize our life in Him. A genuine salvation experience with Christ will ultimately result in our living out the Good News which means (Jesus’ words, not mine) your and my “good works” will be seen. They will be noticed. In the end, the question is “what motivates these people to live like this, to sacrifice, share, give and love like they do?” And of course the answer is our relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Therefore, a witness is offered through you and I… and the true end to all this is the glory of God! Jesus always and always points to God the Father, always teaches and acts in order to turn hearts, minds and actions towards the Father. ALL of what He has been teaching them and therefore you and I about thoughts, beliefs, difficult circumstances, actions and even the painful trials coming to His followers while we witness to Him on this earth, such a calling, such a lifestyle and even through the pains of “Jesus is coming, these blessings ARE COMING” but are not always each moment ours yet. They are wrapped in need, want, desire, wrapped in the “coming but not yet!” All of this boils down to glorifying God. This IS our life, LIFE. “For Christ IS our life” (Col. 3.4)and the glory of God our goal as it was/is His!

Talk to God -or The Individual?

In a very good conversation I recently found myself commenting that on plenty of occasions I’ve found prayer for a person to be more effective than direct talk.I also recalled a number of situations through the years, especially early-on, when my wife joined with a few loving, trusted friends and rather than confront me directly on a point (which had been done several times with little success) they simply prayed for God to touch my heart, mind and attitudes in such a way as to bring about real enlightenment (mine!), repentance where needed and true character/behavioral change. And it worked :)The longer I live, the more the Lord convicts me about thinking and praying far more than direct confrontation.Mind you, there are those times when our leadership team ask me to deliver the difficult news (and of course we all get our turn).This is part of a leadership calling which is anything but fun -but there are times when it falls to me as to most anyone in such service to God and people.ALL of us get defensive, some (at certain times, or if the message is delivered not to our liking) are more defensive than others. Of course some smile a bit and act as if they’re listening but will not deal honestly with the issue in question. Often the thinking is “I’m right, you’re wrong, why do I have to listen to this” and that’s the end of it in a person’s own mind.But neither I nor anyone reading this has ever thought such thoughts, right?!In other words, we avoid change and few of us like confrontation, even those that God either calls for or allows to help bring needed change in our life.We each have the component of free will and only when God the Holy Spirit convicts and one is willing to accept the truth- sometimes ugly as it is about me or you- only at such times will a real spiritual transformation take place.I’m of course aware that some simply read the Truth in the Bible and apply it, or read a devo, hear a teaching, attend a seminar, conference or get counsel in another form, but relational person-to-person ministry is clearly a scriptural part of how we hear truth, learn to accept and apply it to our life.There are a number of great tools godly Christians may employ to help their brothers and sisters encounter God, hear His voice for themselves, grow and change.At times I (or you, perhaps) are -not- the person to bring the information to a particular person, couple or church.Fine! Really. Why?God is perfectly capable of bringing His sure Word to anybody, and He’s not bound by His church (people) as to whether He’s able to bring that Word no matter how numb, thick, even outright self-centered and rebellious they/we may be.He IS sovereign.At the same time as stated above, the Book is loaded with direct preaching, teaching, writing of letters and other means of person-to-person ministry to individuals and groups.Sometimes we’ve wronged people in our delivery, timing or even re. the facts of the situation. Nobody is mistake-free in communication… and I mean nobody.Sometimes we may have been (put bluntly) “casting pearls before swine”. A hard word, but one Jesus spoke to His disciples. There are those who just will not face up to what the most basic verses of Scripture mean in terms of their own need to deal with sin. It does not always matter who, how or when the truth is delivered, they are just not ready to face God or themselves. It’s important to not take it personally if at all possible, for if such is the case their beef is not with the messenger, but with Him. Returning evil for evil doesn’t edify anyone.Jesus tells us that the prodigal “came to himself”. A “self-revelation” with any truth in it comes from the Lord. When that happens, self-awareness and a real sense of humility, perhaps even remorse and despair can move us towards God and His people rather than into hiding or fighting and lashing out.But it can go either way and of course, does.I and many reading this have often found intensive prayer for a person, couple or group is the best way to lovingly serve them.Indeed, this can be a cop-out with you or I simply wanting to be liked and seeking to avoid difficult communication, issues and people. It is also, at times, the very wisdom of God to intercede for a person and watch God move.There are those who enjoy challenging, rebuking people. Believe it or not, I am not one of them. But I have learned that the real point is to be loving and consistent in prayer for those I don’t believe I can or should personally talk with.Certainly there are those in ministry “who have been burned”. I hear it all the time all over the world- from leaders nearly as often as congregational members. Guess what? ALL of us have burnt and been burnt. Yes.So what do we do? Withdraw? Hide out? Pretend “the elephant in the room” isn’t there? Quit ministry because of the pain involved?It is at this juncture that some should speak, some remain silent and all pray, pray and pray for God’s wisdom and grace. Often the good stuff happens by our talking with godly people who love the person(s) in question, who know the Word of God and who perhaps have a closer relationship to the extent they might accept good input from them.We must each and all check our own motives as well.Is my/your thinking, position on the matter, attitude toward the person(s) sourced in God’s loving care for them… or is it irritation, frustration at something in them you just don’t like? Is it a Bible doctrine, theological disagreement, is it methodological? Is the idea of direct discussion simply to get your way and ultimate control in the relationship or regarding the issue?One must humbly ask one’s self such questions. Love and truth are the key and must be the key focus.Prayer. Honest soul-searching. More prayer. Genuine care for the person is first of all expressed to God as it is His very own concern.As I age, I find I am no more happy about confrontation than ever- but I’m a great deal more apt to pray, be quiet or say far less than I think I know. I am working at being a much better listener and of course, trust the wisdom and gifts of others to minister to folks when I should not or cannot.Yet prayer is THE thing I do more for those who seem to be in need. They may never know I was even involved in such ministry to them. The point is spiritual growth, forward movement toward Jesus and His Word applied in a person’s life.In the end, it’s God “truthing in love”. Sometimes… sometimes, you and I are called to do it as well, but let’s not neglect the grace, power and effectiveness of prayer as opposed to direct talk.Thanks for stopping by! -Glenn

Boat-Rocking 103

WHEN’S THE LAST TIME YOU WERE CALLED TO ACCOUNT?Interesting question ‘eh?If you’re like me you’d rather be CALLING someone to account for their words, behaviors, choices, doctrines and relationships… rather than being the one “on the hot seat”!I bet most reading this are like me.And one thing I learned long ago: if it’s been a loooong time since someone asked you about something in your general life and/or behavior, beliefs and such where you really couldn’t (or decided it best to not) blow them off and just walk away or break fellowship… how did you respond to them and how truly accountable are you… really?That old double-standard of talking to or about this or that person or group re. negatives… how often are you actually on the receiving end of such yourself? Have you considered sometimes you’ve earned it? Is there any truth in the words we’d rather not hear?I’m not even thinking about the specific issue in question, not whether you or “they” are or were right or wrong, or who was 60 percent correct or 20 percent or whatever. I’m not talking about winning or losing an argument. I’m really not even talking about gossip, slander or what the old King James version names as “backbiting”. Interesting word, that :)Rather- if it’s rather rare… maybe even super-rare that you have to re-think your thoughts, choices, behavior, even spiritual positions on things it’s also likely you are removed from the sort of deeper fellowship that would engender spiritual growth as God would have it in your life. Or perhaps your relationships, even friendships in Christ are more superficial than discipling.It often stings when someone cautions us. We don’t like our “boat rocked”. As I say, it’s far easier to rock others than to be rocked!But in the end, there are two (among a lot more…) verses that come to mind from God’s Word:Eph. 5.21 “…and submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”Ever asked yourself how much true reverence for Jesus you have in relation to how truly submitted to He and His godly people you actually are? I have. Ouch. But if we see things God’s way, a really good ouch 🙂 Crosses are like that.1 Pet. 5.5 In the same way, you who are younger must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you must clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”Note: less-spiritually-mature-and-experienced AND “ALL OF YOU” meaning gifts, calling and position isn’t the core matter here, only one of them. And the core of the core in all this? Humility. Yep. Another good ouch!All of us must learn to listen, pray, take other’s views to heart and take the time and gain the humility to “search the scriptures [daily] to” find out if what an individual or group is saying to -you- is true or not, is actually based in the Word of God… and then if you don’t have more than a rather non-challenging relationship with friends… (huge issue there!) I would suggest you ask someone with the love, wisdom of the Lord and His Word who actually knows you and has the sense as well as courage to tell you straight whether or not the input directed to you should be acted upon.It is this area where my title “103” comes in.Lots of believers have a genuine salvation, an authentic walk with Jesus Christ and take time to pray, study the Bible, attend a local fellowship of Christ-followers where the Word is both preached and the people seek to apply it in all areas of their lives and service. Excellent! And such a sad deal when you are a believer who lacks any of these!And yet, many of us camp on a spiritual plateau due to need of personal revival, renewal, a fresh move of God the Holy Spirit in our lives.I think prayer (many forms…), solitude, quiet reflection, excellent books and writings online, etc., audio/video, web forums, chatrooms and various methods of spiritually-focused schools (be they organic, local church-based, Bible college, seminaries, what-have-you) are all wonderful parts of our growth process. BUT… BUT… BUT…:Far too many Christians love these methods and more due to a relative safety due to distance allowed within them. Even in the midst of several of these which include accountability measures, one can often ignore or “duck” the crosses of someone disagreeing with you or challenging you to a greater depth or integrity, or merely to learn more about an important area of God’s heart and your own life.Let me add that NO MATTER THE DELIVERY OF THE TRUTH, truth is often the last thing I want to hear when it has to do with me having to change. How about you?Therefore, some of us camp out on a sort of spiritual island by ourselves… and wonder why we are so lonely, “always mis-understood”, afraid, and really disengaged from the actual spiritual battles God would have us strengthended through. Yes, I said “through”. For if you only hear, read and walk with those you  are comfortable with- how much of The Comforter do you really think you have in your life?God the Holy Spirit loves you and I, and will frequently use “enemies”, “false friends” and those we think (rightly or wrongly) are “lording it over us” to bring us back to Himself, to His Word (especially on the core issues in question) and for the maturing and solidifying of our own faith and spiritual growth.The more you avoid such encounters the less you grow up into Him Who is the Head, that is, Jesus Christ!Why?Because God uses books, internet writings, audio, video, film, nature and plenty of other means by which to speak into our lives and cause growth in His character, nature and in fruitful service to Him and others… but He also uses people in our direct, sometimes daily life, to speak truth to us. And by the way, whether that truth is spoken in love or not!Paul rightly tells us we don’t fight flesh and blood. Has he ever been in a deeper relationship with another human being… church Christian, ANY Christian or non-believer??! Ha! Of course he was. But we often would rather fight, get defensive and park on our own position than pray, search our hearts, search the Word of God for -truth- about ourselves and our situation than to admit we may need to re-think and perhaps change.By the way, I do not write this as a pastor or a position of Christian leadership- rather as a brother in Christ just as much in need of input as any individual Christian! Please know that.None of us is God. Not one of us has a full, revealing spiritual mirror, but if and when we are able to hear and actually in a right heart, respond to input from godly people who love us enough to bring correction… we can continue a disciple’s path of spiritual growth.I have heard plenty of input in my life about my own shoddy Bible interpretation, plenty of poor sermons, songs that I liked that others thought worthy of leaving off cds, harshness/lack of love, inability to communicate well (and of course communication is the main thing I do!!) and on and on.I have been loved, and also loved inadvertenty by folks who would rather have seen me driving a garbage truck than being in any position of leadership or speaking into their lives. And by the way- I have been greatly blessed and benefited from all and each of these.Paul writes: (Rom. 8.28) We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.Nice verse. Do I, do you, do we Believe this when it comes to someone disagreeing with us or challenging us regarding an area of our life?I am convinced many Christians are stunted in spiritual progress due to lack of relationships where genuine, godly and wise people speak into their life. Further, they either have never begun such a practice or are so out-of-practice with such input they consistently close up, close down and separate from those who seek to help them face “blind spots”, or perhaps areas of actual rebellion against God.You can dress this up any way you like but in the end, if it is true about you (as it has been from time to time with me!), I suggest taking steps of linking with someone and paying the price of a genuine spiritual accountability.But if you are looking for non-stop ice cream and cake experiences with God and His people… and if you are not willing to get out of your boat of safety and security (my/your old life and comfort zones) I suggest you stop listening to Jesus who is calling you out on the water.”My sheep hear my voice and I know them… and they follow Me.”When’s the last time you were called to account? How did you react? How might you do better in this area?I have benefitted GREATLY from such input. It rarely “feels” nice. But chastening that really comes from God- even via others:Years ago my boat began to be rocked as well as finding myself out on the water from time to time. Hebrews 12 sums it up rather well I think:11 Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.  12  Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees,  13  and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.  14  Pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.  15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and through it many become defiled.Let’s rock! Love, -Glenn

Saints.

Tonight I had dinner in a large room full of people who began this long journey of discipleship with us at JPUSA in the 1970’s. Singles, spouses, children and family members shared stories, looked at a long stream of black and white pictures and swapped jokes and trivia related to our shared community life and mission.We laughed, enjoyed fellowship, sang a number of old but not forgotten songs that rarely are sung these days.At the end of the night those who wished to do so prayed.As I thought about whether I should lift a prayer up aloud or not, I found myself simply thanking God for His incredible grace in the experience of serving for so many years with these incredible friends. Yes, saints.Well, I actually prayed thanking God that I was blessed in not only being able to read about saints, but to actually live with so many!Biblically speaking, all Christ-followers are truly saints through faith in Jesus, nothing more or less.Christians celebrate the “known” names, those many famous ones either in terms of them being mentioned in the Bible or throughout church history.Many churches display plaques, photos or paintings in order to help congregations remember and on occasion visitors inquire about who this or that person was. Whoever they were, they were part of the local church family, the life, mission and loving service of the Lord among those people in that place. They are remembered. People need reminders, though of course God never forgets His children and their service in Christ.Yet there is a very real blessing in being part of a local congregation with the same core of committed people serving- as imperfectly as we do and have.It is a unique and encouraging witness in a world that increasingly seems fragmented, disconnected, distanced from one another except for online social networks or the rare face-to-face meeting where anything of depth is actually shared.Perhaps like myself, those reading this have visited local churches around the world and from time to time have realized some of the people have actually served the Lord together for many decades. There is a closeness as a result of all the shared struggles, exchange of forgiveness and living out their faith as a group as opposed to being closed individuals living apart though in the same local church.Perhaps you are blessed in sharing a part of such an intimate fellowship. If you do, you know the cost and in truth, how amazing such a long-term shared walk is in our times.Celebrate!Or perhaps seek God honestly about what you are willing to do about that depth of shared call and mission with others where God has placed you.Saints. I’m so blessed by so many- right in my own house!-Glenn

Former Glory

In a conversation with a well-known Christian leader many years ago I began to think about something that I had rarely (until then) considered. As we age we often wish for the earliest, best times of our lives to somehow return. We sort of want to experience the simplicity, the innocence, perhaps the “former glory” we were blessed with.At some point I realized I had been hearing the same basic thoughts from a lot of people. Some were only in their very early 30’s, had great families, solid local church and ministry experience and quite fruitful lives on all accounts- and yet they had that wistful longing in their eyes as they spoke of earlier times.For myself, things seemed to get progressively better rather than mundane or worse. I don’t think there is any sure-cure formula for a die-hard sentiment- and in some cases it is not a spiritual maturity but rather a sentimentality and being a bit stuck on a mountain-top experience with God and others that we want to continually visit.When Jesus took the three up the mountain, Peter immediately wanted to erect tents -and I think it may have been as much to hold on to the experience as it was to glorify God and the prophets that he had seen there!We cannot go back, nor should we. Nor can we!What is God calling you (and I) to do now, today, this very week in loving obedience to Him?Give thanks for the high-points, the moments of bliss and immediate presence of God, the fruitfulness and outpourings and times of refreshing of His Spirit. There will be more, but they will come by HIS hand, in HIS timing, as HE brings them about.Though I am a Wesley guy, I truly think it’s a hyper-Arminian view that thinks we somehow must move from honeymoon to honeymoon and not be thankful and focused on our marriage!I expect God has seen plenty of wood, hay and stubble piled up as opposed to gold, silver and precious stones… sometimes due to people working far too hard trying to gain some sort of former glory.The immediate presence of God is HERE, NOW, REGARDLESS of how we feel, regardless of what we produce.By the way, what I am doing now is in my view (and I truly believe God’s view) absolutely as important as anything I have done in the past. I’m fully convinced of that. Why?Because “obedience is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams”… simple obedience to the best of our faith and sense of spiritual hearing THIS DAY is where our focus must be.Don’t get me wrong, I am so thankful and blessed with all the grace God has brought me (and perhaps sometimes through me) over the years of ministry. Really, I get emails near daily from kind poeple about all this, but The Deal is my walk and fruitfulness this day.Ha, some days it’s doing the laundry, taking out the garbage, rehearsing songs (not my fave thing to do) or simply enjoying my grandsons. Why? Because these are the places God is and has me serving at the moment.As for the BIG MOMENTs? I’ve had plenty and expect I’ll have many more- but many of what I consider to be such moments would often seem so mundane and lacking in fireworks to most reading this you’d likely be surprised!The will of God, nothing more or less.-Glenn

Change of Seasons

My entire life I have loved the change of seasons. I just love autumn in particular, but there is something about each of the four seasons that is a tonic to me. Change is not always easy but it is needed for real life. For too many, change is not only un-wanted but just too difficult or fearful to want to face. And yet life is loaded with situations, details, both good and bad things that are truly beyond and outside of our control… and unless we learn to flow with change and make peace with the reality of it- as well as at times, our own NEED for it, life will often be a royal pain in seasons of change. There are good and not-so-nice things about each season, in terms of weather and climate. But I find God is alive and moving in each of them. For myself- and both farmers and all others whether or not they know it, autumn is harvest time. It is a time when the grain and much produce is ready to bring to market and much of the world therefore is fed as a result. But of course any harvest takes work. Actual thought, budgeting of time and resources, making careful choices and consideration of detail is all involved for any successful harvest, storing and then use of the fruit of our labor. By now most reading this will understand I am not only thinking of food production, but also spiritual outreach and growth. There is a time for every purpose under heaven, and we do well to consider the time we are given and the times we live in, specifically with regard to loving prayer, thought, outreach and discipleship. Nobody but God knows how much time any one or all of us have left. Let’s use it wisely! Happy Harvest! -Glenn

The Sum of Godly Advice

Many years ago I came to a conclusion that I’ve found helpful as well as painful with regard to offering advice.People have often asked my opinion about all sorts of things- their personal lives, marriage, ministry, on and on. I learned as many have that not every one who asks really wants input. Certainly there is a time to be silent or simply keep the reply basic and above all non-threatening (at least sounding!) to the individual. But sometimes there is no way around the tough answers.Early days of ministry I took people at face value. That is, I thought they really wanted an un-varnished, straight answer. Over time I realized that some did, some did not. Sometimes what they want is an honest, biblical (to the  best of our ability of Bible knowledge and experience) reply while other times what they want is to feel good about the answer.Sometimes they already  know the answer they want and unless you can affirm the same to them, you get into trouble.Town after town, church after church, ministry group to group I have been approached by both leadership and non-leadership from congregations of all sorts. Again and again I ask if they are praying, humbly attempting honest face-to-face discussions about the issues that at times separate them, or applying Matthew 18 principles or if they are rather looking for me to “side” with them this way  or that.But the key issue is the  Word of God connected with the truth of individual motives, goals and intent to love, unify under the lordship of Jesus and to serve others… or rather, demand (as one did before Jesus) “Lord, tell my sister to get in the kitchen and help with the serving”. Of course, Martha had a heart for the Lord too, but she was ticked at Mary and simply wanted Jesus to affirm what she wanted.One boil-it-down key for me is simply this: can I in good conscience before God help you get what you want or not? If I can, I will. If for what I believe to be scriptural, honest reasons I cannot, I cannot. Sometimes that makes me the great friend… sometimes it makes me the enemy.While all of us want to be liked and respected, I cannot sacrifice what I believe to be honest, biblical input simply to maintain the status quo. At the same time, there are people and times when silence and a great deal of prayer serves both them and myself better than direct answers- even though I may have a strong sense of what the most solid, true, needful answer might be for them.Not mere knowledge but wisdom, discernment and timing are all part of the process.God help us feed the sheep with love and grace and by all means to encourage one another when we can! God give us grace to take the heat when affirmation of a given desire is not what seems to be on His agenda.Sometimes love speaks. Sometimes love remains silent. God is faithful all the time- and notice that He Himself sometimes speaks to us and at other times refrains from speaking –whether we like it or not. The issue is what -He- knows is best.I don’t pretend to always know what’s best for anyone, including myself. What I do know is that God’s desires must be tended to first and last, not mine or any other’s.For God… IS God.

Meet The New Boss

The title of this blog is comprised of the beginning of a line from the Who’s hit song “Won’t Get Fooled Again”. The conclusion of that line was “…same as the old boss.”Years ago a brilliant cartoonist named Walt came up with a line in his Pogo newspaper comic strip- “We have seen the enemy and he is us.”I often quote Buckaroo Banzai (crazy, silly movie somewhat worth seeing:)- “Where ever you go, there you are.”Then I fondly recall Jean Vanier’s brilliant one-word reply when asked what the biggest problem he had with living in community: “Myself.”I recently find myself reading through and interacting with a couple blogs regarding the state of the church.I believe it fully true to say few commenting on the issues in both blogs have traveled and heard the issues I have from all sorts of local and denominational congregations over much of the world these past 38 years. And I hear it from those in leadership/supposed leadership positions and equally from those not in any sort of influential position, the everyday congregant.Both threads have garnered very honest, good and in my view, well-thought out points related to doing church differently, escaping the institutionalized- read that ungodly/dysfunctional- church and just not looking back.Forgive me if I pop the balloon, but none of this is new.I have called off and on, for a reformation among Christians for most of my life. I think the Holy Spirit continually calls for it in MY life!So- coming from what might be considered a huge small group or living in intentional Christian community which is much like a large gathering of small groups who worship, study, serve and play amongst ourselves and also interact serving those throughout our neighborhood and in fact, many places throughout our nation and world… I can say with complete sincerity there ain’t no structure nor leader, group of leaders nor gathering of those banishing the term (leader) who live sinless lives. NOBODY gets it right all the time.While I truly appreciate people looking for a genuine experience with God and/or authentic Christian community and/or who think the term Christian should be dumped and/or who struggle with hardcore right-wing politics or gay bashing or (fill-in-the-blanks), the idea that ANY structure or lack of one will solve what ails us is chasing windmills in their dreams…I’m not saying don’t try to do church or your Christian life, missions or personal or group discipleship a fresh way- not at all! I’m saying full-on knuckleheads and rather mature, godly Christ-followers exist in every and all places, structures, forms, intentionally organized or disorganized local fellowships! Is this rocket science? Not at all.From countless conversations at all levels of Christ-seeking gatherings I have heard the cries, and I truly mean from both leadership and non-leadership spheres.What I worry about a great deal is the sometimes tragic fall and extended misery of the person who seeks something (even “THE CHURCH of ALL CHURCHES!!!”, that is, landing in their own concept of doing it RIGHT) and still find the emperor (often themselves, at times, others alongside them) sits as naked as can be. I worry about the crash of those who never plant themselves and face their own personal baggage.It’s just so clear from my own experience and as I read through both Testaments that human nature is what God says it is.By the way, Bono and others have long ago distanced themselves from “typical” church involvement… this just isn’t anything new!Meanwhile I do believe too many work too hard in their focus on either institution X, Y or Z, just as some do small group or house church, emergent or emerging church X, Y or Z. Don’t we get it? As a dear friend recently wrote in one of the blogs I mentioned, it’s about character and fruit. Yes, it always HAS been!The problem is that we can spend forever debating how to somehow cooperate with the Holy Spirit/foster (or both) biblical, godly change in ourselves (first… please!!!) and others (make disciples, not merely converts), while someone must explain to me how one or two hours per week of ANY style are going to accomplish such a task?We give God, His Word, His mature people so little time. We expect this or that or a different form to do the trick. I just don’t buy it and have never seen it.What I HAVE seen over and over are individuals, families and large portions of all sorts of local gatherings of Christ followers (and I do mean followers…) with character, fruit and gifts that put myself and most of us to shame. There just isn’t a biblical template (read that, denomination, independent typical church, house church, whatever sort you care to name) or mold commanded in the scriptures. Why not? Apparently we care a great deal more about it than God does.Let me ask a few questions that may help sharpen our focus a bit:-IS the Lord adding people who are coming to saving faith in Jesus daily, weekly, monthly, ever- in your Christ-following gathering?-ARE you (any/all of you) directly involved in teaching people of all varieties to obey whatever Jesus has commanded you/us/all, that is, are disciples of Jesus Christ being made in your chosen Christ-focused group?-DO you sincerely find growth in yourself regarding: a greater desire for fellowship with Father, Son, Spirit, His Book, confession of sin, communion (Lord’s Supper), and deepening prayer and authentic worship?If not, you need to seek God for some personal changes and pray, graciously encourage and model change within your chosen assembly -regardless the style or form of church.If the answer to these three questions is more on the positive side, carry on and don’t fret too much over the shape of the transport- you/your local family of Christ-followers are doing a great deal right whether you realize it or not.

SANDCASTLES

Hendrix wrote and sang “Castles made of sand melt into the sea… eventually.”It occurs to me that selfish individualism is one major funnel-down as to why so many people hurt today. They not only hurt themselves but others due to this.I am thinking not only of the obvious such as, dictators who rape and pillage the country they supposedly serve and lead but also of average individuals in the world who seek at core, to build and maintain their own personal kingdom.What I am not saying is that all people everywhere in every decision ignore, overlook or otherwise trash everyone they are in contact with. What I am indeed saying is that all of us are tempted and at times for no other reason than we don’t like the feel of X, Y or Z cause others damage various levels because not getting our way rocks our personal boat.Keeping with the boat metaphor, Jesus shows up and does things like telling professional fishermen where the fish are.Think about that.All of us think we know what real life is or should be. So did Peter, James and John.When someone challenges our illustrious dream at least some of us want to fight or at perhaps talk them down or we may default to considering them a threat or just plain idiotic and disregard their thoughts and concepts straightaway.I have done this myself so don’t think I’m pointing all my fingers outward here!Self, in my view, is largely responsible for long-term hardening of the heart, extreme defensiveness, continual running from (or breaking up) relationships of love and trust, blame-shifting and “it’s none of your business if I do” attitudes.Unless you live on a deserted island alone and never have contact with other human beings, your selfishness will eventually affect others. That is certainly true of my selfishness and everyone else’s as well.Self is the constant companion and culprit: not the devil, the church, cops, anyone else who crosses me- or who has truly (or who I think has) abused me in some way.I mean, many of us have suffered due to these, but self… well… self is a core and continual part of -me-!Jesus commanded us (literally) to love our self, love our neighbor AS we love our-self. So there certainly a proper and right sort of self-love, seeing ourselves as God sees, loves and values us- but this is not what I am talking about here.I’m simply repeating what I’ve said many times, this idea of living as though we are God and have some sort of right to judge everyone by what we got or didn’t get from them is a serious monkey we need off our back. In part, because it sometimes neglect and other times attacks others.When your kingdom is as selfish, petty and small as a false god’s always is, who to blame but… self?We all make our own choices. Do we make them based on the true God and His Word or is that unusual for us?Is it more common or rather a rarity for us to consider and then choose sacrifice for another’s benefit?Now, the balance:Some reading this are likely saying “Dude, what about ME once in a while?” and my answer is “Give and it will be given to you, good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over. For with the same measure you measure it will be measured back to you”.Believe me, I can truly be a selfish clod but these words of Jesus are not about trading our gain for our sacrifice, nor our sacrifice only for rewards.I do not believe He is saying “If you suffer I will reward you in an exchange sort of deal for services rendered!” Rather the Lord is saying “Don’t worry about getting paid back, just give and watch how you reap what you sow… I will see to it you are richer in various ways than you were when you lived a fully self-centered lifestyle. Let that sort of life be done with for you!”Things like “It is more blessed to give than receive” ring in my head. It’s not about getting. He is simply saying “GIVE, don’t worry about blessings, don’t sweat getting anything or fret or worry or get mean about life- because My gifts and blessings will come in the normal course of life when you live as I modeled and taught you to live!”But oh how we want a return for our labor! And further, what WE deem fair trade is quite near the top of our false self-godhood claim.If you and I got what was fair, it would be hell. Nobody can earn the true God’s love. No one is righteous, not even one. All of us like sheep wander off from time to time, but what a sad world this is, mostly due to phony kings and queens seeking to rule fake kingdoms.Jesus said “when the storms come” not “if the storms come”. Storms and flooding melt our sandcastles every time. Only those houses built on rock will remain in the end.Those fishermen whom Jesus called turned the world upside down with a Good News that still changes lives for the better- for eternity.Most of them were martyred in the bargain. Did it hurt? You bet! Did their own kingdoms remain? Not a one of them. But by the time they left this earthly coil they had fully traded sandcastles for another kingdom, one that has no end- and but one King.