Archive for September, 2009

Why the Oaks Fall

Last night, out on the front lawn of campus (the “Sacred Six”) one of the giant Oak trees toppled over, almost taking out the Anderson Arch and landing on the brick wall.  Upon closer inspection this morning, i noticed that the whole base and root system was rotted away.  Combine that with the months of dry weather and then the sudden downfall of rain in the past weeks, you got a perfect situation to bring down a massive behemoth of a tree.

As it was pointed out to me, this happens to more than just trees, but to Christians and people around the world. 

On the outside we can look strong and solid, but if are not rooted in Truth (in Christ) then we are rotting inside.  Unless someone were to crack us open or inspect deeper than the surface, they would never know how broken we have become.

If we do not cut out the doubt from our lives, but continue to allow the rotting to spread, then it will consume everything inside of us, causing our foundations to crack and desolve into nothing.

In time we will topple over by the weight of life if we do not have a solid foundation or truth in our lives.  With the elements of society, questions, friends, relationships, and natural elements of life, we will come crashing down sooner.

I urge everyone to look at the foundations of our faith (if it is Christian based or not) and inspect the inner working of the mind, testing for any weakness or any doubt.  Make sure you are not rotting from the inside out.

Take the lesson from the Oak trees and dont let yourself rot away.

God Bless and PEACE

Enter the Battlefield

As Christians, we have been thrown into the middle of a war.  Each day, we are surrounded by battles, many of which go unseen by others.  We have been called to be light to the darkness, to set the captives free.  Spiritual warfare happens all around us, its time we take part.

We all face our demons.  Our inner thoughts that we keep concealed from the rest of the world.  The struggles that we face on a daily basis.  The mountains in our path, our giants, our Goliaths.

Throughout the old testament, we find that people face extraordinary challenges and have great successes and great failures.  The most well known of these characters is David, a young shepherd boy who triumphs over the foes of Israel and becomes king.

Take a look at 1 Samuel 17, the story of David and Goliath.  To put the story in perspective, lets look at some details.

The armies of Israel and Philistines are preparing for battle.  They each set up camp on opposing sides of a valley (vs. 3).  With a little bit of geography, one can usually guess that in the center of the valley was a brook or creek that separated the two armies. 

With a little military knowledge, we can tell that the armies were camped a fair distance apart, up on the sides of the hill.  When an army set up camp, it took the high ground, so that, if attacked, they could see the opposing forces coming and that the slope would be another obstacle for the enemy to face before reaching them.  How far apart were the armies?  Not sure, but if i were to guess, i’d say at liest a mile, if not more.

Now, the Philistines had a champion, Goliath of Gath (vs. 4-7).  Basically, a nine and a half foot giant that carried a set of armor that weighed about the same as your average man (somewhere between 125 and 200 pounds).  His spear head (not the whole spear) weighed between 15-25 pounds alone, and was traditionally wielded in one hand.  He was born and raised a fighter.  His sole mission in life was to kill, and he was very good at it. 

Each day, for forty days, Goliath would come out and taunt the Israel army, every morning and evening (vs. 16).  No man had the courage or strength to stand up to him. 

For Goliath to reach shouting distance from the camp, he would have had to start going across the valley, step across the middle and start up the other side.  How close if shouting distance?  Probably extremely close.  To close for personal comfort. 

Every day went something like this, the armies of Israel got up, put on their war gear, all their armor, gathered their weapons and headed out of camp to the battle lines.  They shouted their war cries (probably a slogan or just shouting at the tops of their lungs), then Goliath would step out from the other side and shout at the armies of Israel, and they would go home fleeing and afraid (vs 21-24). 

How often do our lives look like this?  Each Sunday morning, we get up and go to church to shout our battle cries, sing our songs of how great God is, then we leave and never actually engage in any type of battles.  We dont face our demons, hoping that with a miracle in the next morning that they somehow disappear.  How often do we avoid our troubles because we dont want to face them? 

This is exactly the same as the Israel forces.  They somehow believed that if they went away and slept the night and returned the next morning, that Goliath would somehow disappear.  They didnt want to face him, so they ignored him. 

We cannot ignore our mountains or our giants.  The only way we can get them to go away is to face them head on.  To go to battle with them. 

So, this scrawny little shepherd kid, David, speaks up and tells the armies of Israel that he will face Goliath in one-to-one combat.  What does every one do, laugh at him.  His older brother scolds him for being there (vs. 28). 

Eventually the Israel King, Saul, hears of this and sends for David.  He is probably expecting a great warrior to walk though the tent flap, but when this small shepherd boy walks in, even he tells David to give up (vs. 33).

David recounts the struggles of the past, the lion and bear that were killed to protect his fathers sheep, and tells Saul that God helped him before, God will help him now (vs. 34-37). 

To David, Goliath isnt a big deal.  He has killed a lion and a bear.  Probably before that, a wolf, a coyote, a snake, a spider.  Before that, God probably helped him conquer his fear of the dark.  Goliath isnt a big obstacle to David, just another stepping stone in life.  Another every day struggle. 

If we truly trust God, nothing will be that big, because he will give us strength to over come the small obstacles in life first, then continue on to the others. 

From a distance, a mountain is a formidable obstacle in life, bus as we continue to approach, we come across sloping hills, when we reach the top, we see that the mountain is that much smaller, so we go to the next.  And each step towards the mountain, it gets smaller and smaller because the little victories in life. 

This is the same with every struggle in life.

David gained a huge victory for Israel because he didnt allow people to hold him back.  He crosses over the stream and approaches the Philistine camp, calling out Goliath.  He doesnt rely on his own strength, but on God to help him to victory (vs. 45-47). 

We know the rest of the story.  He slays Goliath with a sling stone (vs. 50) and then severs the giant head with Goliaths own sword (vs. 51). 

I share this because it is a great example of how we should live in life.  I challenge each and every one of you to stop hiding behind the doors of a church and confront the darkness in the world.  Start by stepping over the threshold. 

The church is not the battlefield, it is the camp.  There are plenty of images for the church, a hospital, a regrouping site, a command tent.  Stop shouting war cries and confront your stuggles with your actions.

God Bless and PEACE

What type of Light are you?

Tonight at FCA, Doc got up and shared part of his testemony with us.  As he was leaving the stage, he gave us a challenge that i pass on to you.

We are the light of the world.  As Christians, we need to shine out in our lives.  But light is useless when in the presence of other light.  Light is only helpful when one steps out into the darkness. 

In our walks with the Lord, are we trying to outshine everyone else?  Do we try to out-prove ourselves when we are only a vessel for God’s unending Love?  If we surround ourselves with only other Christians, our light to the world is useless. 

Doc asked us what type of light we are.

Are we a Refrigerator Light, only coming on when we open up to people and let them explore who we really are?

Are we a Streetlamp, a light that only turns on in a part of the day, in the darkest hours?

Are we a Turn Signal, showing others the way to go, but never going ourselves? 

Are we a Dim light, one that is close to burning out because we tried to outshine everyone else?

Are we Candle Light, that, at the first instant of trouble, go out and leave others in the darkness? 

Are we a Spotlight, searching out the lost in the darkness, so that they may find there way home?

What type of light are you?

God Bless and PEACE

Nothing without Love

“If I speak in human or angelic tongues, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If i have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if i have faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, i am nothing.  If i give all i possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that i may boast, but do not have love, i gain nothing”

1 Corinthians 13:1-3

Right before the traditional “Love is…” piece of scripture, I ran across these words this morning and was reminded of how important love is.  Without it, we can do nothing.

God Bless and PEACE

Thoughts on Community

At The Well last night (aka: BCM), Stuart Fuller came and delivered a powerful message on what it means to be a community of Christians, sharing his struggles and successes throughout the years of his experiences with different types of community. 

Genesis 1:1-3 shows us three different names for God.  As Stuart put it, there is Him, Himself, and God.  The Creator, the Spirit, and God in the Word (aka: Flesh).  Throughout the Bible, the English translated hundreds of Hebrew names for God into the simple name, God.  Without knowing the original use in each form, we loose all we know about God.

“Then God said, “Let US make human in OUR image…”” Genesis 1:26

Now look at Genesis 2:18.  After everything he made is pronounced good, he states “It is not good for the man to be alone.” 

We are not fully the image of God because we cannot have community with ourselves as God can.  This is why he created woman, together, united in marriage, man and woman create the image of God.  As community, we create the image of God. 

Then the fall happens.  Cain and Abel come onto the scene.  Jealousy leads to shame, which leads to isolation, which leads to murder, and when God asks Cain where Abel is, he replies “Am I my brother’s keeper.”  Individualism.  We have lost the image of God because humanity no longer has community.  In truth and community, you are your brothers keeper.

Life continues on and the people of Israel continue to seek individuals to lead them, not relying on one another in community, but a single leader, a prophet, a judge, a king to guide them.

Then God in the Word comes down to teach us what it means to community, Jesus, the God in Flesh.  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1)

Throughout His three years of teaching, Jesus shows us the perfect example of community, by living it out.  He teaches Israel that it is not you and God, it is always US and God.  Each time he talks about the community, the Kingdom, of God, he teaches using “each other” or “one another”. 

1 Corinthians 6:19, Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.  How many times have we used this verse to try to prove a point of not getting a tattoo, or eating healthier, or working out more because, as individuals, we are each a temple for God? 

Another thing that the English language cannot translate is the difference between you (individual) and you (singular).  As Stuart pointed out, the original text is not talking about individuals, but about community.  The body that Paul is talking about is not a single human body, but the body of believers, You All (or ‘Y’all’ in the South). 

To connect with God, we need community.  We need to be engaged with one another, encouraging and loving one another.  Stuart did a much better job as showing us the community that God desires as followers of the Way.  He also gave us some advice on Community, something that I will pass on to the world.

First, communities need to learn to pray together.  We need to trust one another to unlock the Holy Spirit that dwells in our communities.  When we pray, we need to be truthful about ourselves.  Don’t pray for generic problems, but we need to be able to open ourselves up to the truth about ourselves and share our individual struggles with one another. 

If you don’ have conflict, it isnt community.  As a community of God, we need to learn to fight well over sin.  We need to learn to leave ourselves open to examination, as well as fully examining the lives of those in our communities, so that no sin can enter in and destroy what God has given us.  In doing this, we need to learn how to risk everything to grow in Christ. 

As a community, we need to give ourselves away missionally.  We need to seek out problems in our communities and share our talents, strengths and weaknesses to accomplish what we cannot do alone.  This can be helping your neighbor in your housing development or helping to ease the burden of a Global problem.  Big or small, we need to engage in missions.  Reproduce the Spirit that has been poured out into us, so that the world may know the change. 

Just because you live close to someone does not mean you have community.  Taking a large body of believers and putting them in a smaller room does not create community. 

As a community, one person needs to take authority.  Authority, as Stuart put it, is the ability to love others more than anyone else can.  The one that shares this unconditional and sacrificial love will be given authority in a community.

It is healthy and natural for communities to constantly change.  God may not call us to stay in one place for a long time.  It is healthy to allow people to leave communities, because God id calling them elsewhere or because they are being sent to start a new community. 

Lastly, communities are natural and organic, they can never be forced.  If it becomes an obligation to get together, then it is not a community.  They must learn to flow with the Spirit, open to change and the will of God. 

Community is something that we, as the American society, struggle with.  We live in a world that calls us to be independent, but God is calling us to learn how to trust in the image of God.  He is calling us to believe and dream like children again, to trust in one another.

I am not perfect, I struggle with almost all of the points that Stuart made about community.  I still have much to learn about God and about living a life of ministry. 

God Bless and PEACE