Mistaken “Gircles” of Salvation

•February 3, 2010 • 4 Comments

February 3rd, 2010

It’s easy to make mistakes . . . to think something one thing when in actuality, it is another thing altogether.  How often do we label things one way when they should be categorized differently?

Koalas are not actually bears; they are marsupials . . . like kangaroos.

Mountain goats are not goats.  They are actually small antelopes.

The jackrabbit is not a rabbit at all, but rather a hare . . . but maybe we’re just splitting “hares” here.  And I digress.

My point is that we mustn’t let our reality be skewed by our own limited perception or experience.  To my little girl Sadie, anything that is round is a circle . . . or “gircle” as she says it.  The circle on the television screen. Gircle! The little elastic hair band.  Gircle! The little orange goldfish that we feed our children (we’re such health nuts.)  Gircle!

Ah, but the day is fast approaching when all of these things will stop being solely “gircles” and start being what they actually are.  Now, in the context of my parenthood, I dread this day.  But in the context of my faith, I hope that this day comes soon for me personally.

Take the word, “save” for instance.  We throw it around in Christianity like a corn hole bean bag. Are you saved?  When did you get saved?  We must get people saved! You know, I think that each of these statements is so true, but we often run the risk of missing the full meaning of the word.  James 1: 21 (ESV) says, “Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (emphasis mine).

In our context of spirituality, this is just another “gircle” . . . you know, saved.  Ah, but the Greek meaning of this word reveals so much more.  The word for “save” is “sozo” and it means “to keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction, to make well, to heal, to restore to health, and to make whole.” Wow!  There’s more to it than just what we think of as “being saved.”

My point?  May we approach the day . . . and our own salvations . . . with an ever-expanding conceptualization of what God has done and is continuing to do in us.  Salvation is free, but it is not simple.  It is a perpetual, miraculous process of rescue and healing.  It shouldn’t be easy to define or describe . . . just like being in love isn’t a simple concept to express . . . especially when you’re the one who’s in love.

Being “saved” is so much more than just a “gircle” of our religion.  It is everything!  Our bridge to the Father’s favor.  Our open connection to the heart of the Savior.  Our free-flowing source of restoration and healing . . . a process that began at a nasty cross a few thousand years ago and continues to expand faster than the universe and time itself.

Don’t mistake it for something else.  Oh and by the way, the killer whale is not a whale but the largest member of the dolphin family.  I’m just saying.

Keep Swinging!

•February 1, 2010 • Leave a Comment

February 1st, 2010

A golfing great, I am not.  In fact, I’m not even in the top ten.  I’m not as hopeless at the game as I once was, but I can still see the “hopeless green” from the “pretty-much-hopeless tee box” where I now stand.  Golf is a bitter friend of mine whom I seldom visit, who steals at least thirty dollars every time I do visit, and who sabotages me with false hopes and devastating outcomes that crisscross my emotional landscape along with the little white ball I’m chasing.

When asked how to improve one’s game, golfing great Ben Hogan replied, “Hit the ball closer to the hole.”  Nice.  And that’s pretty much how those whom golf has graced with its mysterious favor treat the rest of us.  I can shoot a free throw.  I can catch a football.  I can run ten miles.  However, there is a hex of some sorts that hovers around the clubhouse and my attempts to outsmart the smallest sporting ball of all.  No amount of money or slamming your four-hundred dollar driver onto the ground after another errant drive can satiate the hunger of the golf monster.

Yet Ben Hogan’s statement haunts me.  “Hit the ball closer to the hole.”  You win this time, Hogan!

At the end of the day, I think I’ve figured out the main problem with my game.  Now, I pretty much have to put all of my golf problems into categories and subsets or else I would become overwhelmed by their quantity.  Most of them aside, though, the chief offense for which golf constantly canes me with its cruelty is that I simply don’t play enough.  Last year, I played golf maybe five times . . . and four of those outings were my own tournaments for charity.

There’s a mystery to golf that parallels a mystery in our spiritual growth.  It’s easy to internalize a similar “sentence” of failure concerning spiritual disciplines.  “I’m horrible at prayer (or insert your discipline of choice) and every time I try, I feel even more horrible at it.”  Thus, we try less and obsess more about the obvious conspiracy that discipline . . . and maybe even God . . . has against us.

All the while, pastors and other “mature” Christians mock us in Hoganesque fashion, “Just pray more.”  Hmmm, that’s kind of the problem, isn’t it, Sherlock?  How can my problem also be my solution to the problem?

Find encouragement from a chronic-slicer . . . both physically and spiritually.  Hogan was right!  The answer to improving one’s game and one’s spiritual life lies out on the course, not sitting on the couch lamenting what happens out on the course.  In other words, we must keep swinging in order to learn how to swing better.  No one has ever brought home a better scorecard without leaving home.

Jesus said it like this, “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.”  (Matthew 7:7 NLT) So as you embark upon today’s challenge of pursuing the little white ball of spiritual discipline, be encouraged to know that as you keep on “swinging,” you’ll keep getting closer to the goal . . . or the the hole.

Unlike golf, God actually wants you to succeed . . . and He’s already covered your green fees . . . spiritually, of course.

IMMEDIATE HELP NEEDED FOR HAITIAN ORPHANS!

•January 26, 2010 • Leave a Comment

January 26th, 2010

Please read per my good friend, Andrew Wharton:

IMMEDIATE HELP NEEDED FOR HAITIAN ORPHANS!

Last week I had a scheduled trip to Miami, Florida to tend to several ministry issues and projects that are pertinent to our church in the upcoming months.  I seldom use terms like these, but I truly believe that God positioned me for a very specific moment in time and for a very specific need.

The Ethiopian eunuch who encountered Philip in the desert didn’t know what was coming his way.  He had just left a “religious” experience in Jerusalem, yet he remained confused about God’s plan for his life.  Who ever would have dreamed that God had “teleported” a man into the desert at the exact moment the eunuch’s chariot was passing by?  At that moment, God’s timing was irrefutable.

I believe that a similar moment has occurred.  For several weeks, I had been prescheduled to visit a children’s home in Miami called His House.  Little did I know that when I walked though the door I would encounter a frantic hustle and bustle of activity.  The reason for all the madness?  They had just received a phone call that soon they are going to take in over 90 Haitian orphans in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake.

His House is located on a 220-acre campus that is riddled with old government buildings constructed in the 1960’s.  I toured the campus and walked through several abandoned buildings that had been boarded up for many years.  These buildings are the locations where these precious Haitian orphans will lay down their heads to sleep.  I knew that I was there for a specific purpose: to prepare the homes that will house these children.

The repairs and supplies needed are mostly cosmetic . . . things like paint, fixtures, and appliances.  I am going back to Miami next week with a team of men to begin the actual repairs and upgrades to the facilities.  Furthermore, we have begun a drive to acquire basic items that these children will need . . . pillows, car seats, blankets, etc.

All that being said, I need you . . . the children need you!  We have established a 501c(3) charitable organization called A Work Of Life, which is ready and equipped for online financial donation.  Go to http://www.aworkoflife.com/His_House.html to learn more about His House and to make your contribution.  When you make your tax-deductible donation, simply click His House under the drop down menu.  All monies given will go towards helping to prepare the facilities for these Haitian orphans.  We may not be able to physically travel to Haiti, but God has brought Haiti to us.

Thank you again for your prayers and consideration in this time-sensitive matter.  The children have already started arriving and we are moving quickly to meet this need.  This is our desert and the chariot is passing by.  Please forward this email and links, tweets, Facebook messages, etc. to anyone you think may be interested in helping.  Together, we can help to change the lives of these children.

For Life,

Andrew Wharton

Free Album Download from The Daily Thread

•January 15, 2010 • 2 Comments

January 15th, 2009

There’s just something about free stuff. I don’t just mean this in the discount sort of way; I mean that when we give something away, it has a different kind of value.

I’m not a very good salesman or promoter, but I do want to tell you about a few things that have recently happened in my life. Last year, a good friend of mine and producer named Rick Altizer approached me about writing songs for our church that would benefit our congregation. I was sold! Rick and I began to write and we knew early on that there was something divine happening both in our songs, as well as our friendship.

The end result was a worship album entitled Li(Fe) Worship Elements. Several good friends joined in with vocals, instrumentation, and writing. Some of them included Jonnie Wethington (jonniew.com) and Dane Allen (skyhooktheband.com). We also heard from the lovely Chloe Kohanski. Before we had even released the album, one of our songs “Your Name” was picked up and published by Brentwood-Benson (Universal).

Just last week, I learned that “Your Name” has been chosen for the Worship Leader Magazine Song Discovery program. This basically means that it will be featured on a compilation CD for March-April with about a dozen other worship leaders and writers from around the country. The last SongDiscovery CD included writers like Chris Tomlin, Todd Agnew, Paul Baloche, Jon Abel, Tommy Walker, Steve Fee, Phil Wickham, and more. We’re pretty excited about it and the possible thousands of individuals, churches, and worship leaders it could reach.

That being said, we want to be givers. Therefore, in partnership with our church, Life Assembly, we are releasing the Li(Fe) Worship album Elements as a free download. The download comes with album artwork, an iTunes LP, a link to lyrics and chord charts, and more. It’s a pretty cool opportunity.

So, I want to give this album to you, my faithful blog readers. Some of you may already have the actual CD, but feel free to download it anyway and check out the cool artwork features that it brings into your iTunes.

Now, I would like to ask a one thing of you. Our goal is to get Li(Fe) Worship Elements out to as many people as possible. We are already in the works on several avenues of release that will hopefully take it all over the world and as of right now, we’ve already had worship leaders from many different parts of the country download the album.

Therefore, I’m asking that you would forward the download link to everyone you know, especially those whom you think would benefit from it or enjoy it. Feel free to listen first obviously and only send it if you like it. Tweet about it. Post Facebook messages about it. Email everyone in your email list about it. Climb to the top of your local water tower and spray paint about it.

It’s free, so we have nothing to lose! The link to the download is www.lifeworshipmusic.com. Thanks again for all that you do and for being a part of The Daily Thread.

Haiti and the Modern Opportunity

•January 14, 2010 • 1 Comment

January 14th, 2010

The tragic events in Haiti have left me reeling.  One of the byproducts of such a technologically-advanced age is that we have instantaneous information, photographs, and videos of events almost simultaneous with their occurrences.   As a history guy, I’m blown away by the implications of this feature of our modern society.

In recent modern history, news of major events and catastrophes took at least hours, oftentimes days and weeks to reach the public ear.  These days, that period has been reduced to seconds or minutes.  Thus, you and I can pick up our iPhones and watch history as it unfolds before us.

The result is that we should feel more intensely the humanity within the crisis.  We should see their faces and realize that they don’t live a world away; they live just a few hours away by plane . . . a few seconds away by digital airwave.  They have names. Faces.  Twitter accounts.  Facebook pages.  Dreams.  Fiancees.  Children. They are us living in a different reality that could easily be our reality tomorrow.

So the world is smaller in this respect.  The flip side is that along with speedier and more accurate information comes a greater capacity to respond.  I’ve been positively shocked by the Twitter and Facebook efforts of common folks like us in their own personal relief efforts.  Promoting relief websites where people can give.  Organizing supply drives.  Raising awareness along with funds.

It reminds me that we’ve been given opportunities in this age that no one in history has had before us.  With one click, we can communicate with Moscow or Zambia.  We can give money without writing or mailing checks.  We can make a difference from our living rooms and offices.

For all the often true criticism of the perils of modern technology upon our society, in this moment I see God-given potential to respond in ways the world has never known.  Where was God when the earthquake hit?  He was there.  He still is.  He’s also right here with you and me . . . and we have the opportunity to touch the lives of the broken all over this world.  He’s given us this opportunity.

Greater opportunities mean greater changes to squander them . . . but they also mean greater potential to do something that matters.  I pray that each of us embrace our opportunities today while we can.  Pray for Haiti.

Fret Not Yourself

•January 13, 2010 • 2 Comments

Psalm 37 is riddled with the wisdom to “fret not yourself” (ESV). Oh man, are we not a generation of “self-fretters”? The most important aspect of our lives are . . . well, our lives themselves. Our dreams. Our fears. Our security. We are intoxicated with a drink that has had plenty of time to “ferment” in self-focused living.

Is this normal? Sure. Is normal okay? Negative.

Jesus wasn’t revolutionary just because He called us to change; plenty of religions do this. His message was uniquely absurd because it refocused His followers on something besides themselves. It was mysteriously lacking in the “self-improvement” mantra that most people expect from religion.

Do we improve by knowing Jesus? Indeed. But with Him, our improvement comes through a sacrifice of self rather than a worship of it.

Today, I want my life to be about more than just my life. What do you think?

Basic Training

•January 12, 2010 • 1 Comment

January 11th, 2010

Within my tenure as a minister, I have had the honor of seeing several young men enlist in the military.  This past Sunday, our church honored a young man who is now experiencing basic training at Parris Island.  When he emerges from the experience, he will be thinner.  Sharper.  More sober.  Equipped. He will be a Marine.

Don’t we want our soldiers to be well-equipped?  Don’t we want them to understand how to fight and the correct procedures for securing peace in any situation?  These skills will require a season of testing.  They will be require training.  Basic training, to be exact.

I Timothy 4:8 (NLT) says, “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.”  Training, by definition, will require testing.  The process is a crucible of sorts that heats up the consistency of who we are . . . and changes our physical state.  From solid to liquid, certain things that were once stationary within us will now float to the top.  They could never be removed without the heat.  They could never surface without the testing.  Training brings liquidity, and therefore the possibility for movement, to that which is static within us.

So today, I remember my friend who is in training and I remember that I am also in my own boot camp.  Today, may I face the training that is necessary to equip me for battle.

What about you?