Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Barbed Wire and T-Posts

Hey all...hope things are well in your world today!  I am grateful for the amazing Easter celebration we enjoyed at NLT.  Elaine told me we had roughly 75 guests in service!!  Amazing huh?  All glory to God!!

Last week the torrential rains caused the river to swell out of its banks.  It was the highest I had seen the water in my backyard.  The river floated huge logs and tons of silt down stream, doing damage to most things in its way, including my fences.  I had a couple of fences go down as a result. can guess what I have been doing lately.   That's right, fixing fences!  Cowboy up and EEE-Haw!

While hauling around barbed wire and tapping in a few T-posts I started thinking again about our church's transition.  Coming from a 'holiness' / legalist stance to a more balanced / Grace position, I renewed the value of the transition in my mind.  The fence became a perfect illustration.  

Most holiness preachers speak about the value of the boundary.  "Fences are to keep folks in and wolves out," they say.  Well in truth, sheep do not rely on fences but on the Shepherd.  It is the voice of the Shepherd that keeps them safe.  Jesus said, "My sheep know my voice...and another they will not follow."  

It occurred to me that, no matter where I made a fence, it did not change the legal ownership of the property.  In fact, one of my fences is actually over on my neighbor's side of the line.  The fence however, does not mean I am the legal owner!  It is the legal platt which dictates ownership.  With that said, understand that God's Word determines who is saved and who is not.  The deed for my redemption was signed at Calvary.  A fence or standard, no matter where it is placed, does not qualify me.  My only qualification is of Christ's blood...and not of my works "...lest any man should boast!"  Sure, the fence may help to identify to whether I am of this strain of cattle or whether I am of certain breed of sheep, etc.  But, fences do not set the legalities of ownership.  The only lines of demarkation set forth in the Word are sin lines!  Sins that will keep one out of heaven are clearly marked and need no interpretation from men. 

To help us understand further, I have much appreciation for people with strict disciplines of dress and behavior as long as they recognize they are not the only ones on the farm.  But I have little appreciation for people who look down their noses at someone who does not run inside 'their' fence and assumes they are not part of the 'ranch'.  Get the point?  Men do not decide who is on the ranch or not, God does!  And since God is more interested in the heart, He does not place nearly as much value on where men drive their T-post and attach their barbed wire!  

Wouldn't it be great if Christianity had a baptism of tolerance.  What if the holiness folks really believed fellows with whiskers on their chin, and ladies with powder on their noses or a necklace about their neck could be saved?  What if the liberal people didn't overly criticize ladies who consider it part of their worship to wear their hair uncut?  I can almost hear Louis Armstrong singing..."What a Wonderful World!"  You can be sure the ranch is bigger than we think.  Have a great day!

Pastor Tim 

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Too Much of A Good Thing!

I have just finished working on my fence.  The fence was taken out by the floodwaters that covered half of my pasture.  Did anyone else get any flood damage?  Working, I had time to think about the paradox of water.  Water is a basic necessity of life, but also a threat to it.  

If you and I were disconnected from a water source, no matter how much food, perfect temperature, cable TV, etc. we would be dead in a matter of a few days.  We have to have water to live.  Yet, the same thing that gives life to us, can also destroy us.  Water in abundance is just as deadly as having none of it.

Fire is the same way.  There is nothing as comforting as a warm campfire on a chilly evening, especially with the smell of smores in the air.  Smores anyone??  A fire is relaxing and inviting and helps facilitate good stories and tall tales, especially in deer camp.  Amazingly, there is nothing more frightening than a raging fire.  To witness a house fire, or a forest fire, where timbers are exploding and fire races across fields at tremendous speeds, is nothing less than horrifying.   

It is all about the quantity, or at least the increments in which the quantities are dispersed.  I suppose it is much the same with most things in life.  Entertainment is good and fun unless we overdo it.  Friendships are great unless they are abused.  Money is necessary unless we fall in love with it...then the root of all evil takes over.  Even a little anger...some grit in your craw, is beneficial under the right circumstances and for a right cause.  That is why the Bible says to "Be angry...and sin not!"  Don't let the campfire get out of control!  

This is why Paul speaks to the Christian about moderation.  Our faith should be able to set its own limits.  Keep it in the middle of the road and you will do fine.  Just don't get too much of a good thing.  Like having too much water, you can drown...or lose a good fence!



Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Passion Week: Jesus' Sacrifice for Me

The approach of Easter always causes a time of personal reflection and intentional focus on that incredible week prior to Christ's death.  This blog will be an admixture of both.  

I'd like to begin with this admission; I am a sinner!  That in and of itself is why there is an Easter story.  It is a story of passion, of love, of rescue and ultimately eternal salvation.  There are some things about the saga that causes me to ponder.

1.  The depth to which humanity can fall.  Only a few verses into Eden...there is ruin.  Only a few chapters into the first family...there is murder.  And the list of heinous sins continues even to this day.
2.  The price Jesus paid to save us.  The God/man, Jesus Christ was treated a horrific, torturous manner.  They beat Him, spit on Him, cursed Him, drove thorns into His head, mocked Him, tied Him to a stake and beat Him virtually to death!  They laughed at His weakness, gambled for His garments, robbed Him of dignity...but they could not take His life.  He lost His life only because He laid it down and gave it as a gift...a substitutionary death for me!  My sin and yours is the price of calvary.
3.  The hope of the resurrection.  Since the power of God raised Jesus from the dead we have reason for our faith.  If Christ did not rise again, Paul said "your faith is in vain!"  The pain of death in this mortal realm is real...but our grief is not like those who have no hope.  Our hope is due to the empty grave in Jerusalem!  Jesus is alive and so is our eternal hope of rising to be with Him forever.

Keep the thoughts of Jesus near you this week especially.  Blessings to all of you!  If you are grateful for the grace of God as I am, express your feelings here on the blog.  

Pastor Tim

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Drudgery II

Hey we finally got a little feed back!  Thanks y'all!  The blog interaction will grow once the word travels.  Since we received some hits, lets take the subject a little further.  

Drudgery and tough times is a fact of life.  I think it is important to discover how we cope with those 'less than exciting' moments of life.  Some people hide it and 'act' like everything is ok. Some try to capitalize on their sorrows by making everyone else join in their pity party.  Some seek to drown their disappointments in drugs, drinks, work, pleasure, etc.  Others attempt to ignore it and hope it will go away before their facade does.  I'm sure all of these cases represent what we should not do.

That being should we react to disappointment, failure, setbacks, unfulfilling work, depressive situations etc?  Let me know how you normally react and how you should react. We can all learn from be honest!  

I will go first and tell you that I often bury myself in work!  That is not the right response...but I am being honest here.  I know that I should step back and attempt to learn from the moment.  God is helping me with all that.  (Confession is good for the soul they say!)  Your turn now!

As Christians we should always return to our foundation of faith.  Faith is trusting that which we can't always immediately confirm in the natural.  Sometimes the distance between what we know in faith...and what we receive by faith is that critical and valuable time of testing.   I am anxious to hear from you.

Have a great day!


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Domain of Drudgery

Trish and I attended a graduation party for Nathanael Stone.  During the celebration, Nathanael's parents, Tim and Karen spoke lovingly about their son and their hopes for his future.  It was really special.  (By the way, good luck to for a new band from Florida..."Adam's Road")  

Karen used a quote from Oswald Chambers wherein he mentioned serving God and knowing God in what he coined, 'The Domain of Drudgery'.  The phrase stuck a chord with me and I want to explore it a bit with you.  K?  Here we go...Drudgery, as defined by Webster, is "hard, mundane and dull work."  Did I just define your life or your job or your relationships?  Honestly, we all spend the bulk of our lives living in the moments that are less than exciting.  I am not saying life is not good and we are not happy, but in truth the routine of living is not advertised as Vacationland!

I personally think part of the problem with our culture is our craving for adrenaline.  We love the high's the exciting, the supercalafragalistic!  (if you know the song...go ahead and sing a little of it.)  There is nothing wrong with the highs except...well, we can't live there.  I mean for every vacation we take, we work 50 other weeks of the year.  For every trophy bass I catch, I catch 350 dinks! (short for dinky)  For every luscious meal at Outback, I eat 50 drive-thru burgers.  Catch my drift? 

Remember when Peter, along with Jesus went to the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus?  Jesus let them see a glimpse of the glory that is to come.  There they saw Moses and Elijah!  Talk about adrenaline baby!!  Peter was so ecstatic he commented..."Lets build three tabernacles!"  Interpreted he said, "Lord, I'm loving this!  Can't we just stay here a while?"

But alas, we gather up our stories, our lessons learned, our new outlook and head down with our head down, prepared to get back to the domain of the mundane.  What I want to explore with you can we make the most of this area of life wherein we spend the most of our time?  I believe the joy of our relationship with the Lord is not merely reserved for the moments our chill bump machine is in high gear.  We need to learn, grow, relate, and find fulfillment in the times when life is nothing but routine, difficult, boring, wearisome, w...o...r...k.   Let me here what you think?  How do you deal with the Domain?

Pastor T

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Paradigm Shift

What is your view of God?  Perhaps that is one of the most important questions you will ever be asked.  Secondly, has your view of God changed?  I truly hope it has.  While God never changes, we know that 'our perspective' of God is altered according to our position with, and relationship to Him.  

It is my feeling that our view of God, our paradigm or pattern of thinking, should be in a constant state of flux.  While I say that, let me add it is one of the most exciting and dangerous things to see your understanding and revelation of God expanded.  The excitement comes from witnessing the growth of your comprehension of God and to know that it aligns with the Word of God.  The danger comes in creating a mythical god who functions on the terms of man's ideology.  

Romans 1:23 describes those who knew God and then made a dangerous paradigm shift when they, "...changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image...".  Therein is the danger.  When our understanding of God goes outside the boundaries of Holy Scripture we are in serious trouble.  Those who worship at the altars of idolatry have assumed God has become a tree stump or worse.  

Equally erroneous is the idea we can breach God's commands and not suffer the consequences.  This is where man-made religion runs amuck.  Man makes up his 'own' rules and then attaches the authority of God to it.  Churches who legislate lifestyles and cultures stating it is a hell-fire doctrine are crossing a line of attempting to add Divine authority to their own preferences.  This is not only dangerous, but also seriously misleading. 

On the other hand, 2 Corinthians 3:18 describes the changes we enjoy as we traverse from glory to glory, or revelation to revelation.  As we see God more accurately through His Word, we are able to make the right adjustments, or paradigm shifts, within our own lives.  We literally become more and more like the Lord, because we are able to see Him more perfectly. 

Finally, the greatest change will be on that day when we finally reach perfection...for we shall be like Him.  You want to know why we will at last be like the Lord?  Because our view of Him will be perfect.  Notice,  "...for we shall see Him as He is!"  (1 John 3:2)  The change from corruptible to incorruptible will be the final link in a long chain of wonderful changes we have made, the closer we have gotten to Him.

I am interested in how your view of God has evolved through the years.  Write in and let us know.  Be blessed!

Pastor T  

Sunday, March 2, 2008

New Conversations

Hey Friends!!

Just thinkin' about some conversations I have been having lately.  As a pastor there are always plenty of conversations in which one can be involved.  Usually many, especially in days gone by, revolved around problems they were having with the church, or others, or themselves.  Please understand, I welcome problems, but a constant barrage of complaints and gripes can make my brain a little mushy.  Admittedly I have to keep all this in balance so that I don't send the wrong signal.  An old pastor told me years ago, "The day people are out of problems is the day you are out of a job."  So far, it looks like my job is pretty safe.

With that in mind, it dawned on me how often, recently, I have been having a 'new kind of conversation.'  The new conversation focuses on new people looking to connect to our church.  Since connection to a church family is a huge and vitally important decision, the questions Trish and I get are more than interesting,...they are completely refreshing!  Seriously!

Here are some questions we have fielded lately.  Any one of them would be great blogging material.  If you have particular interest in one, we can open it up and discuss.  Following is a partial list;
1.  How long have you been the pastor?
2.  What kind of church is NLT?
3.  What is the future and vision of NLT?
4.  What is your belief on repentance & faith, water baptism and Holy Spirit baptism?
5.  What is required to become a member?
6.  How do we negotiate a similar transition as you have gone through? (from legalism to grace)
7.  Do you have any regrets about transitioning to a non denominational position?
8.  What does your church offer for our children and young people?
9.  Is your music always that loud?  
10.  How long do I have to wait to be used in your church?

Now these are the kinds of questions that create optimism for our future.  We are at a position of total openness...nothing to hide.  We do not have to pick and choose our way through the verses of the bible in order to validate a particular denominational view.  Objectivity is the goal.

 Our church is a Bible-based, Christ-centered, Spirit-filled church.  We learn together, grow together, and forgive together.  My life is a story of Grace that will give hope to many others who are struggling on life's way.  New Life hopefully lives up to its name by offering a 'new life' to those who enter.  Our failures are not our focus and they are only final if we let them keep us down.  We look to lift, to help, to serve other people.

I realize our future is amazingly bright for many reasons.  One, I know the miracles that have been given us through the years are for a purpose.  This church is on track to do great things for the Lord.  Second, God has graciously allowed me to look more deeply into His Word with understanding that will provide pathways to freedom for many people.  Finally, our future is amazingly bright because, for the first time, people are asking the right kind of questions.  I am enjoying these 'new conversations'.  

Blessings to one and all!
Pastor Tim