Category Archives: Theology

Shout It to the Heavens

Praise

Does the Next Generation See You Praising God?

Washington DC. RFK Stadium. 50,000 men. Preaching by greats like EV Hill and more. Gathered for one reason. To worship God. When the singing began, the stadium rocked and vibrated. Now I am sure it did that for the football teams that played there back then. I mean, I root for the Redskins quite often, but this was different. We were not there to praise 11 people on a field of metaphorical battle. We were not rallied behind a team or a sport that will one day pass away.  We were there to roar for the worthy God who loves us and saves us for eternity. We lifted praise for a weekend – and that was a little sliver of the praise that will go on for eternity.

Praise – we were all there to praise God.

One Word = Seven Words. No this is not new math, though some might think so. It seems that in Psalms, there are seven words in the Hebrew that are translated as ‘praise’ in the English. Just like ‘love’ has agape, eros, philio in the Greek, this little seven to one ratio/connection is often missed by English readers.

This season, when we give thanks to our God – may we also offer praise.
A Holy Roar in reckless abandon reaching the throne in Heaven.

These words give a fullness to the word praise. But more than that, they challenge us as to how we praise a God who is worthy to be praised. Arms extended, knees bended, hearts in brokenness, a raving excitement about the God who loves us, full liberation with no inhibitions to our praise for Him, a desperation of ourselves who need Him, with shouting and musical instruments, a roar that is heard beyond the walls. This is just scratching the surface.

This season, when we give thanks to our God – may we also offer praise. A Holy Roar in reckless abandon reaching the throne in Heaven. Now I could go into the seven words – but I leave that to the book. But I will attach a pdf that was done by the Jubilee Celebration Centre in Elgin, Il. They did a great job of summarizing the material from Chris Tomlin & Darren Whitehead’s work, Holy Roar.

7WordsForPraiseHolyRoar

Bottom Line – May we praise the God who is worthy!! Join me in a Holy Roar.


Post Script – some of the words from the song, Holy Roar.

Chorus
A holy roar
Reaching for Heaven
Our praise poured out
With reckless abandon
Our worship God
Is wholly Yours

Bridge
Forever worthy
Forever worthy
Forever worthy is the
Lamb who was slain

Outro
All the earth a holy roar
We’re lifting up a holy roar
All the earth a holy roar
We’re lifting up a holy roar

Disciplines …. Habits of Grace … Means of Joy

I rarely talk about a book before I’ve read the entirety, but recently I was drawn to the cover of a new book by David Mathis. Mathis is a pastor and an executive at desiringgod.org. The book – Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus Through the Spiritual Disciplines. Grace is very important to me, (See previous blogs) and to connect grace to the disciplines was definitely something I want to dig into. There is a lot to unpack … just in the title.

Habits … not a check list, not duties, but a lifestyle, a way of living.

Grace … we are honored and humbled to be able to do these habits that allow us, so undeservedly, to spend time with our Lord.

Enjoying Jesus … not duty, not dreary, not burdensome, but joy, true joy from the asking of kings and God of, well, everything.

Through … this joy, this awesomeness comes from living with this lifestyle.

Spiritual Disciplines … this is the method with which we spend time with God, this is means in which the joy comes, this is the lifestyle that is Biblically based, God honoring, and joy providing.

I want more of this, more joy in this crazy, messy world.

Mathis breaks the disciplines down into three categories … Hear His voice (getting into the Word), have His ear (prayer), and belong to His body (fellowship).

Now think about this, it is about our relationship and communication with Him … hear, talk, belong … to His Word, His eat, and His body.

So simply I ask three questions …

1) Are you spending time in His Word listening to what He wants us to know?

2) Are you spending time praying, sharing your hurts, failures, praises, fears to the One who really loves and knows you?

3) Are you spending time with the family in worship, fellowship, and sharpening each other as iron sharpens iron?

Hear His voice (getting into the Word), have His ear (prayer), and belong to His body (fellowship)

One more question. Do you have the Joy of Jesus in you? If not, then look at your answers to the first three question and you may know why.

Mathis closes his preface by saying he hopes we discover a life of simplicity, stability, confidence, power, and a means for joy.

I want that life, and I hope you do to.


Postscript. I was able to download Mathis book in ebook form here. Check it out.

Grace, Have Mercy … thoughts from Me & David Jeremiah

His story is one of rebellion and forgiveness – a sinner most of us would discount, a preacher reached by the amazing grace of God – a human trafficker that became the one who pinned one of the greatest hymns of all times. I am referring to John Newton, the slave merchant reached by God’s grace, who became a proclaimer of God’s mercy – because he had received it himself. And his song is Amazing Grace.

By weaving Newton’s story with a rich study of Paul’s life seen from Scripture, David Jeremiah’s Captured by Grace is powerful, moving, and life-changing work. He clearly shows no one is beyond the reach of a loving God. And this not only touches how God works in us, it shows how we should be responding to those around us.

A rich principle David Jeremiah posits is the distinction between grace and mercy.

Mercy is not getting that which we deserve – punishment. Grace is getting that which we do not deserve -His love, Salvation, Restoration.

Let me show you how the difference is seen in Scripture …

— Mercy withholds the knife from the heart of Isaac, Grace provides the ram on the thicket … Gen 22

— Mercy runs to forgive the prodigal, Grace throws a party with a robe, a ring, and a fatted calf … Luke 15

— Mercy bandages the wounds received from the robbers, Grace covers the cost of full recovery … Luke 10

— Mercy hears the cry of the thief on the cross, Grace promises paradise that very day … Luke 23

— Mercy converts Paul on the road to Damascus, Grace calls him to be the great Apostle … Acts 9

— Mercy closes the door to Hell, Grace opens the door to heaven … Eph 2


My prayer is you’ve experienced His grace and His mercy. And my prayer is that you show that same mercy and grace on others. After all, we are supposed be conformed to His image. So let’s live it.


Live in His amazing grace … Todd

Grace … TD Jakes on Grace in the Workplace

I googled ‘grace in action’ and ‘picture of grace’ and a few other searches in an attempt to have a visual illustration of what grace looks like in real life. I mean, if we are challenged to show grace then I was curious how the world thought it would look like. What I got was hundreds of Pinterest pins of scripture art, the word ‘grace’ shown artistically, and cute sayings. But I did not get any visual snapshots of examples of grace.

It’s easy to talk about in the abstract, but what does it look like in the concrete, where the rubber meets the road, having the walk match the talk, the … you get the point.

Fortunately, I got better results when I looked for articles. And I came across this gem by TD Jakes on grace in the workplace. Now that’s more like it. Jakes gave 5 good things you could practice, or adapt a bit, and put into your ministry in your workplace. Let me share …

1. Don’t take bad moods personally – We all have bad days or get in a blue mood. So don’t get defensive, snap back at others, or even respond to a bad mood. Just keep smiling, show patience, and take the high road. There will be a day you will be in that lousy mood, pray they show grace to you as well.

2. Offer to help – if you see someone overwhelmed, frenzied, or just having some bad circumstances roll there way … then get involved and offer to help. Their car in the shop? Offer a ride. A deadline looming? Chip in. They are busy and coffee cup is empty? Do a run to the break room, or even Starbucks. And surprise them with a cookie too … or a cake pop. Everyone smiles when they get a cake pop!

3. Reach out to new employees – a new job is stressful and often lonely. Take them to lunch, offer to answer questions, show them the ropes (go beyond what HR should be doing) … show them they are part of the team.

4. Don’t gossip – okay, this is more about not doing something, but we should be part of the integrity of the workplace. Maybe even kindly ask gossipers to stop. No one like people to talk behind their back. So do not be a part of it.

5. Bring in treats – maybe this is a bit like bribery, a bit like grace. Put candy/mints on your desk. Love to bake? Use it. Have a fav place to get sweets? Share from it. I once took Sprinkles cupcakes in for the shift before mine.

You know, these work for a church setting as well. Generosity and helpfulness are ways to show grace. So this week, show some grace. It will change relationships, and it will change you!

So show some grace at work this week. You’ll be glad you did, and so will others.

Till next time … live and love in grace

Todd


See Jakes article here

Grace … Get it, Share it, Appreciate it

I met a guy this weekend. A young man that understands grace in a way that I never really will. Scripture tells us that the one forgiven much – loves much. Now don’t get me wrong, I know I am a sinner and I know I don’t deserve His grace … but I also know I am loved and forgiven based on His grace. But the story I heard this weekend just reminded me how huge God’s love really is – an ocean doesn’t even come close to describing it, for an ocean can be measured. Yes, huge, but still measurable. God’s love is even greater. Wow!

So, Grace.

This young man had a rough background. He has done some intense criminal activities, and still could face prison time. But you know … I saw tenderness, humility, and a love for others. He said if he went to prison, he was okay with that. He would just share God’s love there. Wow.

Years ago, I was blessed to travel with a ministry group. Once, a former Hell’s Angel travelled with us sharing his story. Just like this weekend, I was in the presence of someone who understood great forgiveness, great grace, and had a deep love for God.

Scripture tells us that the one forgiven much – loves much!

Neither of these guys were perfect. They both were still growing in the grace and love of our Lord. But they both reminded me how much I too, and you too, need God’s love and forgiveness.

But we often forget it – take it for granted – and don’t even care about showing it. One of the saddest memories in my ministry was the response of a church member when we were doing an Purpose Driven Life Weekend in Louisiana. I scheduled prayer meetings for various small groups in homes scattered throughout the community. One of the homes was owned by a person that had made some unwise decisions in the past … had confessed to his small group and asked for forgiveness from God and from them. And I was the leader for the prayer meeting, not the home owner. But another member said it was inappropriate and I should move the prayer meeting. When I discussed forgiveness and grace with the ‘disappointed member’, they said we shouldn’t forgive and that we forgive way too much. Again, wow. I asked if we should accept his tithes and offerings, let him sing in church … after all, he had asked for forgiveness. They stared in disbelief I would even ask. Once more, wow. But this wow is in my disbelief.

Now, where am I on this scale? Too often a bit too unforgiving and lacking compassion. Too often forgetting how much He has forgiven me. I’ve softened as the birthdays have piled up. It helps me understand how in John 8, when Jesus wrote in the sand – it was the older ones who dropped their rocks and walked away first. We realize how messy we really are … and how great His love truly is.

So … don’t wait till your my age to appreciate His grace. Know now, live in it now, and let the world know – we are forgiven.

Be blessed.

Todd, one with muddy shoes.

Weeds of Bitterness, Fruit of Forgiveness

Forgiveness and the Root of Bitterness …

Years ago, while on my hands and knees weeding a flower garden at Friendship Baptist, Jim Reese politely and humorously gave me weeding advice. Yeah, not the best at flower gardening … but I did appreciate his advice. I think the chairman of deacons enjoyed way too much watching me struggle a bit.

I saw a commercial this week of a handy, dandy weed remover — you don’t even have to bend over. One step on this marvel of science digs up the weed by the roots, then push the release handle and let the weed simply drift harmlessly into the trash bin … voila (or wahlah for this southern drawl). If only it were that easy in life.

Getting rid of weeds quickly is important. They have abundant seed production and rapid population establishment. They adapt, spread, take over. They reduce crop quality, interfere with harvest, serve as host for diseases, and can produce toxic chemicals to humans and animals. Pretty heavy stuff. Which may be why the Bible warns against the root of bitterness in our lives – a poison. One clear verse is found in Hebrews 12.15 …

See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness, springing up, causes trouble, and by it many be defiled

Also this week, I got a chapter excerpt from Mark Driscoll’s October’s upcoming book Spirit-Filled Jesus. It dealt with forgiveness and gave seven benefits to true forgiveness. This brief excerpt was an excellent encourager and gut wrenching reminder of why believers should always be forgiving people.

If you are forgiven by God, then you are to be forgiving like God – Mark Driscoll

Here are the seven points …

1. Forgiveness glorifies God

2. Forgiveness blesses the one forgiving

3. Forgiveness blesses the one being forgiven

4. Forgiveness defeats the demonic (doesn’t give him a foothold)

5. Forgiveness is grace to your offender

6. Forgiveness is a witness to others

7. Forgiveness opens you to the flow of the Holy Spirit

I will just throw them out there, let you ponder, and maybe entice you to dig a little into these principles.

I await the whole book to see if it becomes a resource as I hope it can be. Forgiveness and non-forgiveness are critical issues in people’s lives and I pray that this work may be help to those who need it. I know there are times I do. And I bet you have times you need it as well.


Link for the excerpt here

A Rescue to Remember

They’ve all been rescued. 12 teens and their assistant coach. Heroic actions by Thai seal divers, including one diver who gave his life in the process. Drama, suspense, peril – – all while the world watches. Unless you’ve been in solitary confinement, you know to what I am referring. And I, along with millions, wept, cheered, prayed, and gave a sigh of relief when news came out that the last one emerged. And now, Hollywood is already lining up their ducks to see who can get this to film the quickest. Oh, how quickly things progress in our society.

But to me, I see this in a bit of a twist – maybe a bit introspective but also with appreciation for people right around me and for the church. These guys were there exploring this beautiful world. I too love exploring new trails, having new adventures – and the best times I have had doing it is when I had friends along with me – Calvin, Taylor, Jones, etc. But then circumstances change, like having to move back to Dallas for family. And I seem a bit trapped. Don’t get me wrong. I know we are in the center of God’s will, and our returning to Big D was important. But, the path forward is a bit dark. And I am not alone, many today are facing tough times, often feeling trapped, and not sure of what is ahead.

Here is the first big lesson … these boys survived because they were not alone. Not only did they have each other, they had a mentor – a coach who used his life skills to get them through the dark times. We need others, especially wiser, seasoned personas in our lives. Or maybe, you are somebody’s coach. This could be a pastor, a small group leader, a teacher, a big brother, etc. But in this case, the coach helped them survive, but it took more to rescue them.

Herein lies the second lesson … hundreds on the outside were involved in the rescue. Some had specific skills, some had resources, and then millions more were on the sidelines cheering on the process.

Let me throw my twist in here … let’s look at this from an evangelistic aspect. There are people all around us lost, trapped, with no hope for the future. And if the church was as passionate for those trapped right around us as the world was for the 13 that were trapped in that cave – what a difference that would make for them, for us.

Not going to go too preacher here, just the simple challenge to the church that we would be passionate about people. Whether sharing at Rockwood Park, talking to a coworker, having a conversation on a plane, or simply inviting someone to church with you, we can be used as part of a team that God uses to rescue souls for eternity.

That’s a rescue to remuneration and that’s something to celebrate.

And if the church was as passionate for those trapped right around us as the world was for the 13 that were trapped in that cave – what a difference that would make for them, for us.

Hospitality, Xenia, and Turquoise Tables

Crazy Auntie Maxine is at it again … the US Senator from California states, “If you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd and you push back on them, and you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere …”

Wow. Again … Wow. It seems we keep tumbling down the rabbit hole with little to slow down the descent of civility. Some say one of the reasons we are spiraling out of control is society no longer has foundational institutions that play a role as community anchors and bedrock to much needed civility. This is referring to institutions like churches which are being minimized, sidelined, and pushed out of the way as insignificant. What can be done? I believe there is a solution, and you can be part of it. A return to civility in society can be ushered in through a strong ethic of the prioritizing a personal practice of hospitality, which can specifically be seen as a ministry of hospitality. (See yesterday’s blog to see some insights from Scripture).

This is not new – nor is it exclusive to Judeo-Christian ethics. The Greeks practiced Xenia, the generosity and courtesy shown to those far from him, as well as his companions – developing a guest-friendship. Maybe they did it because they thought Zeus might be in disguise and they wanted to bless and be blessed. The term theoxenia refers to entertaining the God’s themselves, a popular subject in classical art.

Basically they held to two basic rules …

1. Respect from host to guest. Take care of them, show great courtesy, etc.

2. Respect the host. Be courteous and do not be a burden.

Key word here … respect.


Here are some practical ways you can start the process of seeking to show hospitality.

– Make a list of those inside and outside your church/organization that you would like to encourage through an invitation for a meal. (Individuals, a family, a specific subset (singles, military spouses, college students away from home, seniors, shut ins, international students, business travelers at local inn, etc)

– Put it on your calendar to start as soon as possible. If you put it off, it will be forgotten.

– Think spontaneous too. Invite the first time guest right after church.

– Pray for joy through the process and during the time of interaction with your guest.

– Be flexible, it doesn’t have to be at your home. Think hanging out at the local diner, have a coffee or smoothie (can you say Sweet Frog). Or maybe just a serendipitous gathering. I love the ‘turquoise table’ story I heard on the radio last week. A delivery truck left the heavy picnic tables in the front yard. The home owner decided to leave it, paint it turquoise, and use it to connect to her neighbors. Within minutes, neighbors stopped by and the rest is history. This practice is spreading … around the world!

– Don’t be discouraged at ‘no’ or if it has speedbumps. Just keep at it and let them know they are valued. Stay at it. Romans 12.13 says to be constant, or persistent in our practice of hospitality.

– On a smaller scale, it could be simple sitting with guests at church, be part of greeter/connection ministry, etc.

There are no strangers here;

only friends you have not met.”

~ William Butler Yeats

Let’s replace Maxine’s rhetoric with a mantra of … you may different than me, but we care for you, we welcome you, and we wish to spend some time with you – anytime, anywhere.

Rooted in the Old Testament, repeated in the New Testament, and revealing the nature of God’s grace in our lives and a grace offered to all — hospitality can make a difference on our world. Be part of making a difference.


Article on Xenia here.

Article on Turquoise Tables Here

Tribalism, part 2

So we are in a volatile world. Duhh. So we are divided and fragmented. Duhh. So we have anger that is escalating and some are calling for utter annihilation of “the enemy” (whomever that is today).

How did we get here? And more importantly, how do we get out of this “here”?

We discussed the Tower of Babel yesterday. So let me quickly hit what one author (Anyabwile) showed as three routes avenues to Main Street Tribalism …

Relational Inclusivists … the ‘can’t we just all get along’ crowd, but with a twist. They have a big tent and will include you, but you have to drink the koolaid and – not necessarily agree with everything but – promise you don’t rock the boat. To not agree to this puts you on the outside of the tent and then they call you unloving, cold, and not caring about people.

Exclusivists … they define themselves by not allowing others to be part of the group. They are exclusive and set the bar to what ever they decide. The elitist mentality demands conformity to their man made standards.

Isolationists … these tribalists call any group as wrong and they see themselves as separatists with moral superiority. Their only real position is being against all other groups and the other groups’ positions. Ironically, the isolationists themselves form a tribe.

Okay, lots of sociological background to show you there are several facets to tribalism. Bottom line is arrogance, pride, outrage, and a selfish instinct that is taking America down a dangerous path. Some might even say we are headed to a second Civil War.


So what do we do to get out of this situation?

I gave the big answer yesterday – the Gospel is more powerful than any tribalism of man. But how does this look? Some would just say we need to talk across tribalistic lines. I mean we are people of reason aren’t we? Not really. We are more like selfish little brats.

First, we are to be grounded in the Word. Be fastened by the belt of truth. Don’t be lured by philosophies or other’s ways. Bringing every thought captive to the obedience to Christ.

Second, stay humble and keep the perspective of God’s grace and love. I love a recent quote by JD Greear … God didn’t save you instead of your non believing friends, he saved you for the sake of your non believing friends. We are here for others.

Third, learn the joy and benefits of Christian hospitality.

Above all, maintain an intense love for each other, since love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Based on the gift each one has received, use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God.

1 Peter 4:8-10

Hospitality from a Greek word that means ‘love of strangers’. We are to show love, kindness, and concern for those not of our ‘tribe’. And, we are to do it without complaining or grumbling. Our attitude is to be one of true concern. So much can be said here, and we will get back to it some day.

We are to have open hands … open homes … and open hearts.

What would it look like if we, the Church, practiced this?

It will not be easy, we might be taken advantage of, and it won’t change everything. But it might impact our little corner of the world. And with enough little corners changed, we can make a big impact.

This week, show a little hospitality to those who cross your path … and not just of your tribe. But to strangers too.


Some articles to go deeper …

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/thabiti-anyabwile/christian-tribalism-in-the-era-of-democratized-publishing/

https://www.lifeway.com/en/articles/christian-hospitality

Tribalism in an Age of Outrage

Will return to the all-mysterious Winnie the Pooh in a day or so. But today and tomorrow, I want to focus on tribalism.

Tribalism … one author calls the tribal spirit the common demonic zeitgeist of our time. That’s pretty deep. But what is it in terms for people who are more likely to read Winnie the Pooh over German theologians?

Tribalism “refers to a group attitude of undeserved pride and superiority based solely on identification with a group. It is the tendency to look down on other people for no other reason than they don’t belong to the group.” (R Olson). It’s an arrogance, a belittling of others, a mocking, ridiculing, harassing, anything to put others down and elevate ones own group. I think it may be more about insecurity than superiority. But what ever the reason – it exists today in a loud and prominent part of our society. And the sad part is it exists both outside and inside the church. Tribalism is dividing us, driving wedges between sections of society, an antagonism to the rights and interests of other individuals and thus the community as a whole.

– – Tribalism “refers to a group attitude of undeserved pride and superiority based solely on identification with a group. It is the tendency to look down on other people for no other reason than they don’t belong to the group. – –

What makes it even more volatile is that it is existing in an age of outrage (Stetzer). Twitter, FB, blog-a-sphere, and more … make this volatile tribalism in our face 24-7. Whether it’s the response to a baker not desiring to bake for a wedding he believes not supported by Biblical teachings, or a restaurant asking a political figure to please leave, or a politician calls to harass those of the opposing party, or a Hollywood Star calling for the abduction of the President’s son … we see this repeated louder and cruder. It is sobering to think where this might lead as we head own this road, even a bit frightening.

The Church is not immune – Calvinists vs Armenians, old vs younger, large church vs small church, denominationalism, contemporary vs traditionalism worship styles, those who wear jeans on Sunday vs every one else, and so on … we find arguments at on almost every level.

Now, one might trace Tribalism back to the early chapters of Genesis. The Tower of Babel might be the last time that everyone worked together. And where was it getting them? They were putting man on the same level of God himself. Building that tower as a sign of pride and arrogance. So God caused confusion in the languages and we all went our separate ways. And tribalism was born. Shortly after that, Genesis gives us the table of nations. God is Lord of all, but ‘all’ is now divided into smaller groups and history shows these groups fought at every turn. Wahoo. Man is broken and we fight. Nothing has changed since that field in Babel.

In simple terms … birds of a feather flock together. But the birds are getting angry and it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

Tomorrow, I will discuss how tribalism is seen is in our lives, but let me give the good news today. The Gospel overcomes the curse on man, and the unity in Christ is stronger than the tribalism of the world. Paul said there in neither Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, we are all one in Christ.

Caution … Danger Will Robinson …. we might immediately get proud of our salvation and think we are the better tribe – thus producing arrogance in us. The cure … realizing we are only in this tribe because of grace.

The Gospel doesn’t eliminate any of our group identities, but it does change them. Christ is the focus now – not our race, our economic status, our gender, or anything. Our identity is about being a Christian – all else is far second, and those categories are now defined by being a Christian.

We can pull for Spain in the World Cup even if your pastor is pulling for Russia. Redskin fans can dine with Cowboy fans – yes, I said it. We are to be submissive to our governments, be good citizens, be faithful to our biological family, and so on. But our identity is now first and foremost in Christ.

– – The Gospel overcomes the curse on man, and the unity in Christ is stronger than the tribalism of the world – –

And it changes the way we treat others. But I think I will hit that tomorrow. Today, focus on our new identity, an identity that supersedes everything else in our life, and an identity we have only because of grace.

To those who believe that Jesus is Lord and call Him Savior – Your new tribe has a name – You are a Christian, part of the family of God. And that changes everything.


Two references.

By Olson. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2015/03/the-sin-of-tribalism/
By Stetzer. https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2018/april/tribalism-outside-church-and-in.html