The Audience. The Preacher. The Message. The Result.

I noticed today that someone entered “Dr. Craig Hicks emergency surgeon” in their search engine.  They ended up at my place.  I hope they’re not dead.

On Sundays Memorial Drive has a large adult Bible class named “The Connections Class.”  This quarter I’m co-teaching with a team of fine gentleman.  Our assignment is the book of Acts.  I think the best Bible study anyone can do for themselves is to simply read the text.  As such we’ve challenged the class to read the book of Acts once a week for the duration of the quarter.  I’m already getting some positive feedback on the results of that request and I’m excited to see what God will do with a room full of adults who are consistently in the Word.

Yesterday I taught Acts two.  My life is so boring it is difficult for me to string together a bunch of amusing anecdotes and funny stories with spiritual applications.  Consequently, I’m dependent on the text to fill the time.  In a way I’m glad because I’m always learning new things.  The following is the outline I made in order to present Acts two.

I.  The Audience.

A.  Devout (v5).  It’s possible to be devout and to be devoutly wrong at the same time. Peter is about to introduce some concepts that will challenge their ability/willingness to change in order to be right with the will of God.  To obey is better than sacrifice.

B.  From every nation under heaven (v5).

1.  Parthians. 2. Medes.  3.  Elamites.  4.  Mesopotamia.  5.  Judea.  6.  Cappadocia.  7.  Pontus.  8.  Asia.  9.  Phrygia.  10.  Pamphylia.  11.  Egypt.  12.  Districts of Libya around Cyrene.  13.  Visitors from Rome.  14.  Jews.  15.  Proselytes.  16.  Cretans.  17.  Arabs.  I looked up a little background on each of these places and suffice it to say it was quite a cultural mix.  Customs, languages, histories, world views, ethnicticity, etc.  What does this do for cultural relativism?  One sermon  with the same content was preached to this diverse group.  They were not divided into their nationalities and given a custom made sermon.  All of them were expected to believe and practice the identical theology.  Their customs and cultures were not meant to give the message meaning and application to the message.  The message, the thing to be believed, was intended to give them meaning.  Their ideas, customs, practices, opinions didn’t define Peter’s words.  His words defined who they were supposed to be irrelevant of their cultures.  Give the Holy Spirit His due.  He’s pretty smart.  Almost as if He knew our thinking might be, “Yeah, that was then this is now.” He said, The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.”  (v39)  Somehow I think that includes us.

C.  Conclusions.

1.  Audience was culturally diverse.  2.  One sermon=Same content – Why?

II.  The Preacher.  His manner of delivery and what it reveals about the truth.  Or at least what he thought of the truth.

A.  Manner of Delivery.

1. Taking his stand (v14).  2.  Raised his voice (v14).  3.  Declared to them (v14).  4.  He solemnly testified (v40).  Kept on exhorting them (v40).

B.  His Conviction.

1.  Give heed to my words (v14).  2.  Listen to these words (v22).  3.  I may confidently say to you (v29).  4.  Let all the house of Israel know for certain (v36).  5.  Be saved from this perverse generation (v40).

C.  What does it reveal?

1.  The message was something which could be stood on.  2.  It was declarable not debateable.  3.  It could be defended.  4.  It was divisive.  5.  It drew a line in the sand.  6.  It was urgent.  7.  It offered a way for a “perverted” generation to become un-perverted.

The change in Peter is amazing.  Bold.  Confident.  Cool.  Commanding.  I love the way the text says, “taking his stand.”  It’s almost military-ish.  Here he becomes the hero of all counter cultural revolutionaries.  He’s pushing back, for the sake of Jesus, and going toe to toe with the devil.  There is no hesitation on his part.  No holding back.  No compromising.  No effort to make his message less daring or brazen.  He gives no quarter to the enemy.  Goodness gracious – he called them perverts.  How’s that terminology for reaching the “un-churched?”  On the other hand, most of the people who were listening to him were “churched” to the extreme.  Yet Peter doesn’t let them believe for a second their religiousness or devoutness or spiritual background allows them to share the stage with Jesus Christ.  Their religious heritage must completely yield to the Christ for them to be in God’s good graces.  They will have to be the ones who change – not Peter – not the unfolding Revelation – not Jesus.  The Transcendant God has once again inserted Himself into the space/time dimension of man to appraise them of what they need to do in order to be right with Him.  If they want to be right with Him.  3000 of them wanted to on that day.  I bet they were grateful for Peter’s clear direction and honest communication.  I am too.

Well, this will turn into another long post so I’ll cut it off here and finish the last two points tomorrow.  I didn’t finish on Sunday morning either.

Have a blessed day.

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Sunday

It’s been a quiet weekend.  Amy is out of town.  Her mother is going to have surgery Monday morning so she won’t be back until sometime Tuesday.  I spent most of Saturday working on my Bible class lesson for today.  By the way, Amy’s birthday was on Friday and she liked the gifts I got for her which is an enormous relief.  Not long after we got married I got her a vacuum cleaner for her birthday.  It was a nice one.  She hated it.   She couldn’t even pretend well enough to fool me.  She didn’t even try.  Lesson learned.  Amy doesn’t want anything that can be plugged in for her birthday.  As far as I’m concerned this greatly reduces the pool of great gifts which exist.  I love to get stuff that has to be plugged in. 

 Today was my turn to teach.  My text was Acts 2.  Tomorrow I’ll try to post the outline I made with some thoughts added.  I had a lot of fun teaching today.  There aren’t many differences I’ve discovered yet between an adult class and a teen class.  Adults have just perfected what I call the “stare.”  It’s the look you get when you ask a question.  Any question.  

Who was the first president of the United States?  “Stare.” 

Who was the Son of God?  Hint, His name begins with J?  “Stare.”

Okay, what is YOUR name?  Audience’s self-talk = “Obviously he didn’t prepare anything so he’s trying to kill time.”  “Stare.”

Of course the “stare” is better than the “glare.”  The glare is when the person is communicating they know the answer but they prefer to see you die in public.  They won’t answer for all the tea in china. 

 I’ll take the stare or the glare any time over the few who consistently answer, but never the question which was asked.  While they’re blabbering on I’m thinking, “I have no idea what they are saying.  It has nothing to do with the question, the text or the theme of the class so how am I going to pull out of this without offending them?”  For some strange reason though, the people who make these sorts of comments seem to be completely immune to being offended.  They are not merely in their own world, they inhabit a completely different universe from the rest of us.  They do entertain the starers and the glarers though.  You can tell by the looks on their faces they just can’t wait to see how you’re going to pull out of this one.

And everybody wonders why a “discussion” class has become a series of Sunday morning lectures. 

The most bizarre response for me?  I was teaching on an Indian reservation in New Mexico and asked a question.  A man on the front row proceeded to pluck a nose hair and offer it to me.  In full view of everybody.  I assure you – it had nothing to do with the text, or the question.  I had never been on an Indian reservation before.  I had no earthly idea what this “token” meant.  I would rather have been scalped than to accept another man’s nostril hair.  Indian or not.  I can’t remember exactly how I got out of that one, but the starers and glarers were in heaven.

I hope your Sunday with your brothers and sisters was as blessed as mine.

 P.S.  In Tulsa we have a great used book store called Gardner’s Used Books.  I went their yesterday and bought two great books.  If the books we read reveal something of our personality my choices send a confusing message.  To myself.  One of the books I purchased is called Caesar and Christ by Will Durant.  It’s a classic.  Lots of history.  Colorfully written.  The kind of information which can add insight to a sermon or lesson.  It’s about the fall of Rome and how Christianity affected the Empire.  It’s the kind of book which makes a person feel smart just by owning.

My second purchase.  King of the Night:  The Life of Johnny Carson.  It’s the one I’m reading first.

How one man overcame the occupational hazards of ministry and thus proved to be a man like Jesus.

Every career, job and position comes with its own unique set of hazards.  Occupational hazards.  Ministry is no different.  By its nature ministry attracts people who have been blessed with what I call public ministry gifts.  In some ways it requires the same skill set you might find in a political leader, or even a professional entertainer.  Not to be funny or trite, but I think some of our ministers would have made outstanding politicians, and others would have been fabulously successful comedians etc.

Communication skills, attractive personality, a leadership aura , driven, ambitious and the ability to stand center stage without breaking into a sweat are all excellent gifts God can use.  On the other hand, these very same gifts can become  hazardous to the one so gifted.  If they do become hazardous  bad news for many of the people in this person’s ministry usually follows.

Preachers are not exempt from feeling insecure.  They are not immune to jealousy.  There is not a pill to pop which dulls the angst brought on by the competitive surge they experience when they compare themselves to other ministers.  The gulf between who they know they should be like, Jesus, and the raging realities of their insecurities can seem insurmountable.

Unfortunately some of us are probably aware of situations where the occupational hazards of ministry and a particular minister’s inner battles with self erupted into the public arena of faith.  It’s never pretty.  I don’t want to talk about it.

I said all of the above because I want you to know one of the hero ministers we have Memorial.  His name is Bobby Smith.  He’s the youth minister.  My old job.

If you know me then you know I have a “loud” personality.  I talk loud.  I laugh loud.  I teach loud.  Although it’s been five years since I was employed at Memorial the nature of our ministry there, team ministry, and due to the energy and excitement of how God used that at the time people tend to remember me.  In the same way they remembered, and never let me forget, the youth minister who preceded me.

When Amy and I came back to Memorial I don’t know how that made Bobby feel.  I do know how I would have felt.  Weird.  Uncomfortable.  Insecure.  Possible jealous.  Probably threatened.  Bobby may have experienced those things.  He may even still be wrestling with all of that.  I don’t know.  It doesn’t matter.  What does matter is how Bobby lives his faith in spite of how he may feel, or misgivings he might have.  By that token, his faith in the public arena is heroic.

A year and a half or so ago Bobby, Jason Thornton and I met for coffee.  The youth group was in transition.  A decision had been made to split the jr. high from the high school during Sunday morning and Wednesday night classes.  They needed a teacher for the jr. high.  Bobby asked me to be that teacher.  Contrary to expected human behavior and by silencing his doubts and fears with a physical, public act of faith Bobby revealed his true colors.  He is a man of God.  He is one of my heroes.

Bobby is a true Kingdom man.  It’s not about what he wants.  He isn’t allowing his inner battles to dictate the course of his ministry.  He is refusing to lord over a personal fiefdom hell bent on protecting his turf.  He is not afraid to let others shine.  He is not flinching in the face of possibly being “out-gifted” by me or anyone else in his domain.  In fact, because of his humility and confidence in Jesus his star rises higher and shines brighter.

I wonder how many people have had to go unblessed because a minister was afraid to let his co-workers shine?  I wonder how many people have gone untaught because the person God gifted to speak to a particular person was denied access because of jealousy?  I wonder how many lambs have sustained fatal wounds in the clash of public personalities?  How many others will needlessly be ignored or alienated by the raw pride of church leaders?

I know this for certain.  If more of our leaders were like Bobby Smith there would be a marked decline in spiritual fatalities.  Bobby knows it’s not about him.  It’s not about being the funniest.  It’s not about being the most profound.  It’s not about being popular.  It’s not about invites to lectureships.  It’s not about being a Christian celebrity.  It is about being like Jesus.  In Bobby’s ministry he has demonstrated to me, to his youth group, to the Memorial Drive family, to his co-workers and now to you that he is a true superstar when it comes to ministering like Jesus.  And many people will be blessed because of it.  Thanks Bobby.

Are you allowing your insecurites to determine the course and actions of your ministry?

Another Sunday and thinking about a Blog Mini-Convention/Reunion

It’s Monday afternoon and it is BEAUTIFUL in Tulsa.  Warm not hot, and the oncoming Fall can be felt.  For some reason this time of year always reminds me of my first Fall in Lubbock, Tx. when I was there as an AIM student.  Lots of good memories whisper to me in the gentle breezes the emerging season.

Sunday was a good day for me and Amy.  I didn’t teach in our Acts class because it was my teammates (Shane May) turn to lead the class.  He was outstanding.  He made a connection from the Day of Pentecost all the way back to the Tower of Babel.  Languages were used to seperate men at Babel and used to unite them at Pentecost.  It was a good point.

Worship was uplifting and encouraging.  One of our dear friends, Billye, was at worship for the first time in awhile so that was probably the best thing about the morning for us.  However, the singing was inspired and the sermon made our hearts race with joy and possiblities.  Terry has been on a roll of late so that’s been a lot of fun for us.  Yesterday he unveiled a plan to sponser a golf tournament to benefit all of the elementary schools in Tulsa.  Can you imagine the impact our congregation might have on the entire city?  Whoo hoo!  I must confess though I am little interested in sports of any kind.  If I go I will found a shade tree to sit under with a group of people who are more interested in talking about the latest issue of People Magazine.  If celebrity gossip was a sport I’d have a gold medal for sure.

After services our worship minister and his wife, Shane and Alice, came over for lunch.  Also over was Van Priest, one of our elders ,and his wife Jeannie.  Two of our very best Tulsa friends, Rick and Linda Lathrop, ate with us too.  We had such an enjoyable time I almost didn’t  miss my Sunday afternoon nap.  Which is a big deal.  After the meal we sat around the living room and sang for a bit.  To do this I “borrowed” several song books from our church.  I figure due to the fact we project the words on a screen it will be a long time before anyone notices six song books are missing.  When and if someone notices I plan on blaming Shane.

– Blogging has turned out to be an amazing blessing to me.  I thank God for all of you who have taken the time to read my posts and for the comments you leave too.  You are ministering to me. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

– Have you ever listened to the radio and wondered what the dj looks like?  I have.  I feel that way with blogging too.  Some of you do have pictures but it’s not the same as seeing the real live person.  I said that because I know many of you come to Tulsa for the Workshop every March.  I think it would be cool to take advantage of that and have some sort of mini-bloggers convention at some point during the Workshop.  Even if it’s just to meet someplace for lunch or supper.  If there’s enough interest I bet we could work out some kind of food deal at the Memorial building during one of the scheduled meal times.  I have not talked to Terry about this so I’m not about to promise any kind of offcial function.  Even if it’s just to meet at a local restaurant I think bloggers and blog readers would enjoy spending some time together. What do you think?

The Glory of Ministry. The blessing of our Ministers.

I love our men and women who have chosen ministry and missions as their vocation.  Someone said it is “The poorest of trades but, the noblest of professions.”  I agree. 

There was a time in this nation when ministers were accorded the level of respect with which we regard doctors and scholars and leaders of men.  They were looked to as pillars of the community.  They were given a voice on the platform where the great social and political issues of the day were debated.  To be in ministry was to be respected.

Times have changed.  Ministers in some measure have brought these changes upon themselves.  Scandals.  Money.  Sex.  Hypocrisy.  Celebrity.  However, I can’t help but believe since the devil can disguise himself as an angel of light that he has purposely set out to destroy the public and the church’s perception of what a minister really is.  Why not?  Think how effective it has been.  He has so stained the general reputation of the King’s heralds that the message itself has been called into doubt.  It’s a brilliant military strategy if you ask me.  And we are at war.

Our noble ministers in the churches of Christ not only have to deal with a general perception of what a minister is, and their own sins, but they must also deal with the truth of a priesthood of believers.  There are no “Fathers.”  Priests – Reverends – Holy men.  We’re all the same.  However, I can’t help but think there is something special about them.  And while I would never argue they have authoritative powers I think it’s interesting that Titus – not an Apostle – just an evangelist – was expected to appoint elders in every city.  “Appoint” is a pretty strong word.

We are blessed beyond words to have men and woman minister to us whether at home, or on a far flung mission field.  At some point in their lives they sacrificed their dreams, and we all have dreams, to help us.  Isn’t that amazing?  And comforting?  And a blessing?

I know of few people in the priesthood of believers who are willing to live like foxes without holes and birds without nests as do our ministers.  Many of them live without health insurance.  Many of them are way underpaid.  Many of them live, whether here or abroad, in places which are different from everything they know.  They live in those places with their families.  Their wives and their children.  And pets too.  For us.

I admire them for doing so on my behalf.  It’s very Jesus-ie of them, don’t you think?

Ministry is not always easy.  Many times our ministers must silently listen to tirades about how terrible they are.  All joking aside ,they really do have many, many bosses.  They have to listen to what I call “You are” statements which, though may be well intentioned, can be so very crushing.  “You are not the right person for this job.”  “You are leading us down the primrose path to destruction.”  “You are boring.”  “You are doing nothing for the fringe kids.”  “You are lazy.”  And on and on.

Add to that, us lambs sometimes act as if being in ministry has disqualified them from knowing what the “real world” is like.  That’s simply not true.  If the world is people who have expectations – opinions – arguments – differences of opinion – loves – dreams – hopes – anxieties then I would say our ministers know well what the “real world” is like.

What impresses me the most about ministers is their heartfelt response to Jesus Christ.  At some point Jesus ministered to them, as He does to all of us.  Jesus saved them, as He has saved all of us.  But, for the minister something profound and sacred happened deep in their hearts.  In whatever way our blessed Lord intervened in their lives the collision was such that all of their personal dreams and hopes for glory were shattered.  As they gazed upon His face, in the moment of their conversion, they saw something in His eyes that made them want to be just like him.  They wanted to help Jesus do the very same thing He had done for them.  To me that’s the best definition of what a minister really wants to do.

Like a raging torrent, the furious love of God, in their lives, carried away their thoughts of being doctors – firemen – professional athletes – nurses – teachers – farmers and whatever else there is to have as a vocation.  Even as they caught their breath and rubbed the water out of their eyes they were saying, “I want to be just like that guy.”  “I want to help my best friend help other souls as He has helped me.”  That is what motivated our ministers and missionaries.  And we’re darn lucky to have them.

When I was in ministry I had a little saying I made up to express my philosophy.  I would say over and over and over, “Praise people to greatness.  Do not beat them there.”  You would be amazed at what changes that wrought in the people I was around.  And I have many witnesses to support my claims.  I think the lambs should go out of their way to praise their ministers to greatness.  Wouldn’t that be cool?  We would all be shocked by the results.

I think it would be such a great thing if the churches of Christ came together to have one Sunday in which, from coast to coast and around the world, we honored those who lead us.  Our ministers and missionaries.  Just to say thank you.  Just to praise them to greatness in the kingdom of God.  What do you say?

Meanwhile, I tip my hat to all the men and women around the world who speak for the King.  I’m listening.

PS.  Helpful hint #1 on understanding your minister.  The worlds worst time to talk to a minister is on Sunday morning.  Their thoughts are on sermons and people they need to see and asking them what time the ice cream supper is  three weeks hence will get you no where.  You might even walk away thinking, “He never listens to me.”  It’s like asking a doctor during an intense operation if he would mind giving you the current time.  You just might end up with a scalpel between your eyes.

PPS. Later this week I want to write an article about the things I’ve learned being out of ministry.  What it’s like to sit in the pews.  We’ll see if I actually do it though.

Peace to all,

craig

Oh yeah, one more thing.  Try telling your ministers what it is you like about them.  If you leave a comment here let us know what it is you love and appreciate about your ministers.  OK, I’m finished for real now.

Sunday and Stuff + A mini-church camp for ministers?

We had another amazing Sunday at Memorial Drive.

-One of the things Terry has in common with Jesus is he is not afraid to let the light shine on others.  For the last several months he has been sharing the pulpit from time to time with his co-workers.  Not when he’s out of town either.  Terry will sit there and listen just like the rest of us.  Anyway, Jason Thornton preached today.  I can never remember his job title, but it has something to do with helping people get involved.  He’s good at it.  And can he ever preach!  The lesson was about God’s authority.  I was challenged and encouraged by Jason’s words and his passion.  Beyond the content of a lesson I love to hear a well delivered lesson.  Jason’s outline was easy to follow, his points were clear and he spoke like Jesus – “as one having authority.”  Yet, full of love.  It was awesome.  I’m glad Jason is my friend.

-Worship was great, as usual.  Shane is the perfect guy for Memorial.  I’m excited because Amy and I invited Shane and his wife (Alice)  to have lunch with us next Sunday.  And they said yes.  I’m excited about getting to know them although you can guess what we’ll be doing next Saturday.  We’ll work really hard so when they come over we can pretend our house is always immaculate.  It’s funny what we do to ourselves, isn’t it?  Don’t tell Amy I said anything because our house is semi-sort of-most of the time…well, I won’t use the word “immaculate” –  but it is clean.  I will freely admit if I clean only the part I messed up – then it would be immaculate.

-Sunday night the youth ministry welcomed the incoming 6th graders to the youth group.  Hot dogs, humidity, wet grass, bugs galore and Jesus everywhere.  Our youth minister, Bobby Smith, had a rousing word of welcome and challenge for the incoming kids.  He reminded them to be salt and light.  It was way cool and the church here is blessed to have him and his wife ministering among their kids.

Stuff:

-The internet is amazing.  I’ve had my blog for only three weeks and today I heard from a brother in Nigeria.  It’s thrilling.  God has given us a tool more powerful than we can imagine.

-Something I’m excited about:  During the first weekend of October I’m going to be with the youth group from Russellville, Ark.  I was invited to be the speaker for their fall retreat and I look forward to spending  time with them.  I’ve had a long time relationship with the Russellville church in that I’ve been blessed to be one of the speakers at a youth rally they have hosted for many years.  I don’t know how often I’ve spoken there over the years but it’s a bunch.  Here’s what I’m excited about though.  Youth rallies are fun, but I like getting to know people too.  There is only one celebrity in the church, and His name is on the sign.  Because of the youth rally format I have never really got to spend time with this church which has been so good to me over the years.  I want them to know me as a person and I want to know them too.  Best of all though, -the theme is Jesus and the book is Luke.

-Something I’m NOT excited about:  I have to look for a new job.  I gave my two weeks notice on Thursday night.  Basically it’s a sad deal.  I’m good at what I do there and as far as having a job I could have stayed there until other opportunities presented themselves.  My boss (Daniel) was in my youth group at Memorial.  Kinda weird, eh? We created a positive, happy and moral environment to work in.  People love working there.  However, Daniel’s direct boss is not a good man.  He is dishonest and goes out of his way to invent “situations.”  I don’t believe the owners know what he’s like, really like.  For the last two years I have watched this man systematically undermine Daniel in every way.  It’s sad.  Talking to the owners will do nothing as they believe what they want to believe and are resistant to believing there number one employee can any wrong.  In any event Daniel and I have kept our mouths shut.  We have never gone over the supervisors head because we are trying to do the right thing.  We don’t want to be perceived as troublemakers.  We don’t want trouble.  And, based on past experiences we have come to believe the owners will not listen anyway.  I can’t stand to see what this person is doing to my friend (and myself) so I need to leave.  I’m reaching the point of eruption.  It wouldn’t be pretty.  My nerves are shot so I feel it best to go.  I feel so bad for Daniel because he cannot leave at this point.  Please pray for him.  And pray for me.  It’s time to look at the classifieds again and I dread the whole process.  Pray specifically, please, that I will find something to do that will not interfere with my church activities.  Thank you.

-Finally.  I would life some yes or no feedback from any ministers who may read this.  A year or so ago Jason Thornton and I talked about working up a retreat for ministers.  We could even do it during the week so no Sundays are missed.  My thinking is it would be mostly along the lines of relaxing, sharing and learning from one another.  It would be great fun to hear from one another, to share ideas, to challenge one another, to unburden, to refresh.  I talked to Terry tonight and he’s willing to share some thoughts and I bet we could convince Marvin Philipps to spend  time with us.  I have some ideas about others too.  There are no details because we don’t know if this is something ministers would be interested in doing.  So, what do you say, a mini-church camp for ministers?

Love to all,

craig

Why I go to Memorial

I moved to Tulsa in 1997.  I had been hired as the youth minister for the Memorial Drive church of Christ.  I loved what I did.  I loved the people I did it with.  And I think they loved me.  As my fourth year reached the half way point I looked forward to marking five years with them.  It was going to be a personal milestone for me.  The first time I had been anywhere and did anything for five continuous years.  I was proud of that.  I was fired before it became a reality.

Now, immediately,  you may be wondering, “Why?”  This is too public a place to discuss the reasons why and can’t be confined to the relevant people.  At the risk of allowing you to imagine me guilty of the darkest deeds imaginable I don’t think it’s proper to discuss the reasons “why” here.  Not that I am guilty of what your imagination produces.  Or was.  I’m also risking the chance you will be free to  imagine Memorial of being guilty of the darkest deeds imaginable.  Not that they were.  Or are.  Suffice it to say I was crushed.  And so were they.

Anyway, I lost my job, Amy and I lost our home, we lost our church family and I thought I would lose my mind.  I got a job as a security guard in the tallest building in Tulsa.  If you don’t know me,  you can’t imagine how funny that is.  One night as I provided “security” for a man who was walking to his car in the dark I said, “Sir, you know if anything happens , I will do everything in my power to outrun you.”

Many a Sunday morning I would stand high above the city of Tulsa.  On a floor with glass windows which were two stories tall.  All by myself.  I would gaze in the direction of the church building.  My church.  I would wonder who was sitting in my pew.  And I would cry.  And cry.  And cry.  I baptized that building with my tears.

Amy and I went to several different congregations in the city.  Over several years.  But I never really worshipped.  And, for a time, I quit going at all.  I was consumed with anger.  I hated.  I hated Terry Rush.  I hated the elders who fired me.  I hated myself.  

I was also consumed and fueled by blame.  I blamed Terry Rush.  I blamed the elders who fired me.  And I blamed myself. 

I can tell you,  this is no way to live.  And I didn’t.  Live.  I retreated from the world.  From my friends.  From my convictions.

However, I had a conflict which would not allow me to let go.  Completely.  I loved Jesus Christ.  I loved Terry Rush.  I loved my elders.  And I loved my church family.  And I could still read my Bible.

It’s in the red letters.  Quite easy to read.  They are even easy to understand.  It’s the living them which is difficult.  But there they are.  For all to see.  And do.

I’m paraphrasing.  And personalizing.  Craig, if you do not forgive Terry, the elders, your church family and yourself you are making it impossible for me to forgive you.

I called Terry.  We talked.  We hugged.  We cried.  We forgave.  We renewed.  We love.  Amy and I have been going to Memorial for nearly two years now.

We do so as a declaration of our convictions.  It is my puny way of staring the devil right in the face and saying, “YOU WILL NOT CONTROL MY LIFE.  PERIOD!”  “Jesus does.”

It is my weak way of saying to people, who have been hurt by other people, “It’s time to forgive.  It’s time to be Jesus.”

I love the thought that every time I go to church I am shaking my fist at the devil and saying, “HA!  Eat dirt sucker.”

I love the thought that every time I go to church I am saying to my brothers and sisters, “To live in hate is wrong.  To bear grudges is not right.  It is possible to be Jesus to those we’ve hurt, and those who have hurt us.  TODAY.  Right now.”

Yes,  this is my declaration.  It is what I believe.  Because it is Jesus who told me what I believe.  And I love Him more than anything.  Even more than any hurt.  Or hate.  So sock, pow, blam…take that Satan!

Finally I want you to know Jesus lives in my house.  In my house his name is Amy.  Amy never quit going to church.  And she never quit believing.  In Him.  Or me.  And us.

P.S.  Sorry for two posts in one day.  John’s not gonna be happy with me.  But if he reads the entire post he won’t stay mad for long.  Because he’s another Jesus.  But I’ll do my best to post nothing on Thursday.

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