Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Friends Are Friends Forever... (ARGH!!!)

Okay, so that's a little strange for the title to a post... but perhaps it got your attention. If so, it accomplished one of its purposes. Perhaps you'll read on and it will accomplish another. And if you read to the end and find it descriptive of what the whole post is about it accomplishes its other purpose as well. Let's see.

Last week a kind friend shared his good fortune with Julie and I and one other couple and the six of us went to the annual Michael W. Smith Christmas concert in downtown Nashville. Other than a night of awesome company and good music, I had one of those thought provoking experiences which finds its way to here.

Other than a couple of songs from his new Stand release (Denver had that title first Michael!) the rest of the music has been around on Michael's Christmas works from previous years. Don't get me wrong... great music... just old and tired. And speaking of old and tired after the obligatory extended applause at the end of the concert Michael and band "returned" for an obligatory encore song. I have to tell you I was NOT expecting what happened next. Michael appeared to jokingly begin playing his Friends Are Friends Forever song and even tweaked the lyrics to indicate something like he might never have written it if he knew he was going to have to sing it at every concert from that point on. I was hoping this was the joke and we were going to get some other Christmas piece or maybe even something else new from the Stand release. Nope... after the humorous beginning to Friends, he tightened up and played it with all the vim and vigor possible for a song he's played 8,543,729,621 times. It was old and tired and you could kind of tell he was tired of doing that one.

But, the "fans" seem to always cry out for it at concerts. For some reason there is this little throng of concert goers that cry out for and listen to over and over those songs that prompt some emotional response over and over and over. Maybe they first heard the song at that youth retreat where everyone was feeling warm and fuzzy and spiritual and they just go back to that feeling everytime they hear those touchy feely songs. You know the ones... El Shadai, Awesome God, Thank You, even back as far as it only taking a spark.

The odd thing was I started trying to think of a counterpart for those songs in the "secular" music world. I could not think of any of those touchy feely songs that emote so many lighters (or cell phones in this case) and swaying while people cling to feelings of past spiritual, or emotional in the secular world sense, highs. I could not think of any. Row, row, row your boat and Hang down your head Tom Dooley, even the ever popular Ninety nine bottles of milk (or beer) on the wall don't hold the same experience.

So, what is it that keeps taking us back emotionally to all those tired songs that should be simply considered classics and put away rather than the musicians needing to pull them out during every live performance? Then it hit me — so much of our spiritual experience is based on feeling. We want to reproduce those feelings of being close to God that we had at some concert or spiritual event and those songs take us back there emotionally.

I don't need to feel like I'm in a right relationship to my God, I simply know it. Those feelings will go away, but what we know will stay because we know it no matter how we feel.

One of the classic passages describing the permanence of our relationship with our Father is 1 John 5:11-13:
And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.

I've bolded some of the words on purpose. Notice that no where in these passages does it talk about feeling a certain way. It's only what you know and believe. And what you know and believe should then define the feelings we experience. Another great verse is Romans 12:1-2:
So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life-your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life-and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. 2Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. [The Message]

What is it that you cling to... a relationship or a feeling. Feelings come and go. Relationships are forever. Oh wow... so maybe Friends Are Friends Forever... (ARGH!!!) I'm back there again. (But I don't need to ever hear THAT song again. Please Michael... retire that one!)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you—[this is] the Lord’s declaration—plans for [your] welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. [Holman CSB]

I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out-plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. [THE MESSAGE]

His plans always make my plans look insignificant because His plans have eternal purpose.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Acts — Impressed or Impression?

In my NT trek to take an unfiltered look at what Jesus and the early believers had to say about the body gathered I reached Acts today! Hooray! I'm reading through this time in The Message. While I would not recommend a paraphrase for study, this one is really outstanding for leisure reading like I'm doing during my trek.

As has been my pattern I purused the introduction which NavPress placed at the beginning of each new book. This one sparked an interesting thought:

Because the story of Jesus is so impressive — God among us! God speaking a language we can understand! God acting in ways that heal in help and save us! — there is a danger that we will be impressed, but only be impressed. As the spectacular dimensions of this story slowly (or suddenly) dawn upon us, we could easily become enthusiastic spectators, and then let it go at that — become admirers of Jesus, generous in our oohs and ahs, and in our better moments inspired to imitate him.

Throughout my years I'm met many people that have impressed me for a variety of reasons. Something about them prompted me to stand up and take note. To admire him or her for some feature of how he or she lives. Dedication. Organization. Genuineness of care for others. And so on...

However, on the few and far between list are those who have made an impression on me. These are folks who didn't just pass through my life intentionally or unintentionally marketing a noble quality. These are the folks who took the time and cared enough to impress upon me who they had been impressed into being.

Now this one may not be fair, but my dad is one. He spent his college years at the Citadel military college in Charleston SC. His school has a rich tradition for impressing upon cadets a noble and responsible lifestyle. The work they did in his life doubtless transfered through to the families of every cadet in some manner. In my case, it was a good impression on who I am today.

John Wyatt was a man of God who led the church we attended during worship services. But, personally, in those moments I had alone or in small groups with John, he always impressed upon me a life of worship. John fell out of bed in the morning on his knees in prayer and praise. Then, he spent the day on his knees. Though he walked on his feet, sat in a chair, or -he was on church staff you know- stood on his head. John impressed upon me a daily walk of worship.

Frank Case, Perry Floyd, and Steve Kunkle were men who impressed on me the importance of being a 2 Timothy 2:2 believer. For about 14 years I lost touch with that impression, but God has recently drawn it back to the top. During college and seminary I was taught and trained how to do church but it was the time and focus poured into me by men like Frank, Perry, and Steve (and John of course) which truly impressed upon me how a disciple of Jesus lives his daily life.

Harold McGlamery was a lay leader in the church we were a part of in Aurora, CO. Harold thank you for your passion to be an impression on my life for Jesus, not just a leader in the church. Harold cared about who I was, not just what I did as a leader in his church. He invested in me as a person and tried to be a tool used by God to smooth off rough edges (he'd tell me I was being a little wordy right now as a matter of fact).

Many have taught me along the way. Few have allowed themselves to be used by God to make an impression upon my life. How about you? Who have you allowed God to use to make an impression upon who you are? In whom are you allowing God to use you to make an impression?

Some may be called to be apostles and pastors and teachers and evangelists. But we are all called to be impressors - discipling as we go in the name of Jesus! Won't you pray and start watching for the impressionable ones whom God has placed in your path right now?

Monday, December 11, 2006


On my trek through the New Testament striving to look intently at what Jesus and the early believers had to say about what it was to be the body of Christ in the world, one of the interesting ah-ha sideline discoveries came out of a desire to watch for themes or patterns of topics which Jesus taught to His disciples. I'm through John now, and it's pretty clear the core of Jesus' message was an understanding of how to look at... well... stuff. To say the world would be inadequate. To say possessions would be short sighted. Even to say life would sell His message short.

In the book Spiritual Leadership Henry and Richard Blackaby outline the work of a spiritual leader to move those over whom we have influence off of the agenda they are on and on to God's agenda. I read that book over two years ago. Now, having plodded through Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John it appears in retrospect Jesus was carefully and methodically watching what His Father was doing in the lives of those who followed Him [Jesus] closest and relating it all to an adjusted view of everything with God and His agenda at the center.

Most of us carry some sort of planner. I carry a Palm Treo 700wx. It's my feeble attempt to stay on agenda. Well, my agenda and the agenda dictated to me by the pressures of work, family, household, etc. typically fall into the arena of the critical urgent. Fires that need to be put out, projects that someone needs me to get done, stuff my honey would like me to do, just... well... stuff.

This re-read through the New Testament has re-ignited my passion to be on THE agenda that matters. If you want to, pray for me as I seek to see and walk in the path that is laid out straight before me as I trust and ponder He who matters most! (Prov. 3:5-6)