Sunday, August 7


“Some of you would like it if I said we were going to find a healthy balance between unhealthy extremes……..when we are referring to God, balance is a huge MISTAKE. God is not just one thing we add to the mix called life.” Francis Chan, Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect Of The Holy Spirit. (Emphasis and italics added)

I can remember back when I thought I had achieved the pinnacle of God’s purpose for me. It was a frightening time……the two weeks before I was set to give my first ‘sermon’ as an certified Community Chaplain at Meadowbrook Chapel in Novi Michigan. This was Mark’s chapel, a dear friend of mine whom had passed after an accident a few months before I called his dad to see if I could help out with the chapel ministry. And, as Reverend John had told me when I called, specific prayer had been said continuously for months for me, not just someone but me, to come and assume the chapel duties. Pretty high expectations, even with the ones I have always put on myself especially when handling God’s Word.

So much so was this heavy feeling of expectation and rightful fear that the completed sermon was about twenty-five pages thick…..complete with commentaries on the specific verses, combinations of various translations of the verses and some ‘filler’ material from some of the top theologians (properly attributed, of course) in case I totally BOMBED, which in my eyes was a definite probability given the deliverer of it.

As my children will loudly and swiftly declare, I am very seldom late for anything. If there is a fault with me in this area of my life, it is that I am chronically and almost embarrassing (definitely if you talk to my kids) extremely early for events and meetings. Needless to say, I showed up at the extended care nursing facility where the chapel was held about an hour early. I ran up to Dunkin’ Donuts to get a cup of coffee and came back…..still majorly early. So I did something that would become a tradition with me ever since; I took out my book of my sermon and proceeded to pray over it.

And I realized that I wasn’t going to preach that Sunday.

Its where I got the nickname from some of my congregation there at Meadowbrook of “Toilet paper chaplain.” Because, as I began to pray and seek out God’s true plan in the service that was to be my first (at where I perceived my ‘high spot’ in purposed living to God’s kingdom building plans), the gentle and teasing voice whispered to my heart saying “Nice preparation……now are you prepared for My material?” and so on, a Father’s proud and steady voice whispering His satisfaction and joy at this son’s stepping into uncomfortable ground for the sake of the Purpose. The forty-five minutes that I was ‘early’ for the service went by quickly, it seemed. Towards the end of the prayer time, God directed me to three specific verses.

All I had to write on was a piece of toilet paper that was in the backseat (why I don’t know).

Hence, the nickname, for it wouldn’t be the last time. Not by a long shot. Most of the time, I would listen to God’s gentle and sometimes not so gentle prompting and come in with a flimsy piece of toilet paper (yes, I kept a roll in my car from then on) that had some scribbled verses or comments on it. I realized as the chapel service I was committed to progressed beyond the ‘four month trial’ period I had agreed to into six, then eight months. Through Easter and Christmas and the death of one of the original saints who had ‘built’ the chapel (and prayed specific prayer for me to be the chaplain). Through my ordination in January of 2008 and up to my hiatus from the Chapel that became permanent months later due to other events in my life.

“….do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.” Mark 13:11b NIV

Before the first New York Mission Trip to the Bowery Street Mission, I jotted down several verses that God had impressed upon my heart for some (at the time) unknown reason. I was apprehensive about the NYC trip because it was far from home and I had realized by that time in my journey that when you walk into situations where God is, you are going to meet up personal and close with Him. And my ‘natural’ dislike for the homeless (due to personal impact and experience) made me nervous about properly ‘displaying’ God to the men and community that I would be immersed in for a week.

Then the leader of the group found out I was a chaplain (I found out later I was ‘ratted’ out).

I gave one service that year, spending an hour in one of the staff’s office seeking God’s direction among the scribbled verse references that I had stuffed into my bible. And I began another ‘tradition’, closing my eyes and envisioning not the words I would say or the dramatic prose I’d seek to emulate from other great speakers I have been blessed to see and witness. No, it was envisioning the, well, flow for the lack of a better description. Seeing how the tide of God’s word would surge upon the shoreline of the world and regress back out to sea only to come back stronger and with more power before it again swept the unprepared back out to the vast ocean. For that is how the Word of God hits me and impacts me…… the waves of the ocean hitting the beach until I have lost my grip on my faith and my pride to be swept into the immensity of Him.
I had a small piece of paper in which I outlined my ‘sermon’ and as soon as I opened my mouth to speak, promptly skipped most of it.

The next year, I was ‘prepared’ better since I knew I was going to give the majority of the sermons (six in all) during the week. The paper I carry up to the pulpit was less, more of a scribble than a step-by-step outline to follow. It is always great to see the impact of God’s Word when He is allowed to speak, allowed to overcome you and use you to be His voice, His love and His conviction to those whom He has gathered to the place to worship, find and understand Him.

I could never give the same sermon twice and would probably be hard pressed to recall the specific examples and conversations that were given during its pronouncement.

But in every opportunity where I gave the Holy Spirit His due and His desire to speak through me, to use my hands and my feet to carry God’s Word to those He had purposed to hear it, I always had someone come up after and tell me how it spoke to them or to a situation… genuine and impactful it was and how it was evident how much I was in that spiritual ‘sweet spot’ that God uses to show us the miraculous and promised joy of being ‘on purpose’ for His plan.

It wasn’t a collaboration or a regurgitation of some private time between me and God. It was a transparent time in God’s Word where there were others who, at their own choosing and the Spirit’s opening their eyes, would share in the Word that God wanted to speak into our lives.

And it seems to extend for me outside the purpose of being a chaplain in charge of Chapel Services. In everything that I am uncomfortable in, or would rather not do, there comes a comfortable replacement when I get myself to let go after I step into the circumstances or situation and allow the Spirit to be the voice, the movement and the focus.

Totally out of balance……..All God.

The perfect way to be in God’s purpose.

Sunday, July 31

I am sure....

“If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead.” 1 Corinthians 15:19-20a

In Adam, all have died….corrupted from the original design by the original sin of Adam and Eve. There’s simply no way around it, there’s no smoothing the brutal truth of that fact.

We have been condemned to die because of the introduction of sinfulness and rebellion against God, just as Lucifer has been before us. But, unlike the continued demand of Satan to be a god and to be given more than his due, we have an opportunity to turn from the corrupted nature of our humanity and become secured in the righteousness of Christ. There is nothing we can do to change our lot as those alienated from God, nothing that we can entice God closer with and definitely nothing that we can bribe ourselves into His Holy of Holies with…….there are no shadows in which we can hide in to cast our eyes upon God’s wondrous Holiness without Him knowing. There is nothing we can do to sneak past His righteousness and hide in the alleys of Heaven’s streets.

We come to a place where we come face to face with the great I AM and either are destroyed in our evilness or transformed by the blood of His Son’s holy and perfect sacrifice.

Some are blessed to be broken enough, humbled enough and wide-eyed enough to realize the magnitude of this experience. These are the like of Piper, Chan, Mueller, Mullins and others, some well known and others, many others, who will never be world widely proclaimed but whom have inspired a few who have inspired a few who have inspired a few……and so on, like Lucy, The Robynsons, Rings, and Barlow. (If you want some background, buy Francis Chan’s Crazy Love).

Honestly, how much do we live in the ‘fearful’ shadow of those we have raised into idol status, even at the antithesis of those idolized, and limped along inside the protective walls of our communities that we label with inspirational names and gaze out the doors with blind eyes to those who stand outside the walls and reinforce an image of who we are with inadequate (or unfortunately, correct) information on ‘those Christians.’ Francis Chan quotes a friend who said, “Christians are like manure: spread them out and they help everything grow better, but keep them in one big pile and they stink horribly.”

We either brutalize the leadership of the church in our criticisms or we are ignored by the leadership of the church for our criticisms, there is no middle ground for those who would call themselves Christians. I have done so, and when I speak of the problems of the church –I used to speak of it in terms of ‘they’ and ‘them’ rather than ‘us.’ It has been a long journey away from that, because when I have done that, even when I have spoken truth in what I said, I have limited God and ignored what He has called me to do. It is funny, He never said that I’d walk in the door of the many churches or ministries that I have been blessed to experience and find the validation of the Call immediately or even a few years down the road. He simply said “I want you to do this for me” and then started to work on preparing me for that service.

Funny thing is, it wasn’t to ‘fix’ His church or to correct the nature of humanity to corrupt instantly anything that God inspires.
Nor was it to convince through action or deed my credentials to perform the fearful work of speaking God’s word to those of the family, and to live it to those outside of the family.

Abraham, Isaac, Joseph, Moses and Paul didn’t need specialized training to do what God called them to do, nor did they suddenly have theological degrees in the hermeneutics of Gospel presentation. They didn’t micromanage the churches they were part of or even founded, demand support and adoration from the people who followed them. They weren’t perfect in all aspects, but constantly broken in recurring aspects of their humanity over and over.

It wasn’t to lead in areas that I am told to lead or to emboss my weaknesses in other areas to resemble strengths. It wasn’t to seek affirmation or acknowledgment of God’s ‘Hand upon Me” or to find that someone that had enough clout to make things happen. It wasn’t to do a wide variety of things simply to be doing those things. It wasn’t to seek a niche and defend it with tenaciousness.

It was to do what He had purposed me to do, to seek His will in that place and to step out in a crazy, audacious and totally insane way of trust into that place where I was totally not comfortable and totally afraid so that He could step in and do through me what He wants to do.

Pretty humbling when we think about how often we don’t do that stuff that He’s given us to do.

We worry about the church and how much it has lost its effectiveness in the world that is growing more and more immoral and separated from God each and every day. We have those of us who have the conviction of their own twisted theology that take it upon themselves to inspire hatred of Christians through their hatred of those who are not, and others who can turn a phrase sweetly and with honey dripping from the periods who have dramatically gutted the reality of Christianity to be more conformist to the other religious movements that man has inspired to compete with God.

We look at the pastor who doesn’t speak as eloquently as another, or leads a congregation smaller than a popular four-campus church pastor and even demand a level of perfection in those who aspire to follow God’s prompting with structurally-generic goals that may be impossible or incorrect for them to overcome.

We give these things as excuses to not do what we are called to do because of the messiness of the ‘church’ and its attitude towards us.

We live in the foolishness of man rather than the impossibilities of God.
And the world pities us because of this disconnection.

If one Christian, one who lives what Francis Chan calls ‘thinking biblically rather than conventionally’ and being part of a body ‘where radical living is becoming the norm’, then we no longer have to fear what the church has become, because simply the church that is of man’s construct (business model, seeker model, model of the model) is changed by the Church that is radically living in eternal sight regardless of its inhabited spaces. A Church that is inspired by, convicted under and transformed in Jesus Christ.

Francis Chan walked away from a ‘mega-‘ to start a ‘plant’ and has never been happier. Even the mega was transformed by his willingness and genuine pursuit of a God who met him a few steps into that passionate pursuit with a relentless will to transform him into a warrior without a home, country or membership outside of His identity. Chan isn’t the only one, there are others who step along the road to that selflessness desire to be radically transformed.

Some end up wandering into the rock-hard soil where their own skills and passions (or wounds) have lead them into hardened ground and have misled thousands and others have been brutalized by their very own congregations because of their crazy schemes to follow God’s will.

I’ve stopped worrying about what others say to do, or what others refuse to let me do because of some scrapped together goals of the Christian leader. I have realized when I am in purpose, when I am doing the work that I don’t feel I can do justice to and living in the fearfulness of disappointing someone I seriously love, that then I am doing those things that others say are lacking here or not seen there. It’s why I desire to be there, to do that work, and struggle with my pride and insolence when I have to leave it behind because……..

I need to convince no one of my ‘calling’ to God’s purpose, nor do I have to fight for the right to do such things. As I grow in trust, inspired by love and girthed by grace, I can simply walk into the opportunities of God’s provision; still struggling with aspects of my faith that may never truly be satisfied this side of Heaven, and watch God show up to make His will be done, His inspiration known and His pleasure at the participation of His son in the work at hand.

There is no set model, no definite structure or required training that fits each and every one of us. There is the absolute Truth and its fruitful pursuit that is evidenced either in great or small ways in our lives as we no longer subscribe to limiting God to our standards but inspire to conform to His.

We belong to a God who so radically loved us that He GAVE us His ONLY Begotten SON, that no one who desired the gift of Salvation should perish but would know everlasting life, not in the future but in the realization of living radically in love with a God who shows us that life in real ways each day.

That is what I know for sure…….as Michael W. Smith sings…….

“I like to think about the new creation/Things that God will do/So every now and then I stop and close my eyes/I enjoy the view/And the heart grows strong/And the fear grows weak/And I cannot wait for the new world to come to me/And while I dream/Oh, I pray for you/'Cause He wants you to go/I know"

And I will live my life and my faith like I the suretity of His authority, truth and love.