Monday, June 30, 2008

I'm loving Ben Affleck

I learned a lot from a brief conversation with a missionary last night. She told me that "missions groups" or "relief groups" can in the name of Christ (or the name of good) arrive in a community and actually do more damage than good. They dont mean to...they just dont do the ground work to determine the needs. We should take heed, and really do our homework.

She gave this example.

There was a village in "wherever"...and this group brought a medical clinic to town....free of charge, good thing right? Well on the surface yes...but there was already a doctor in the village. He wasnt a rich man..and charged whatever people could afford...maybe a penny...maybe a chicken.... Well, everyone went to the "free clinic" and put the doctor out of business. Then, eventually, the relief group left...leaving the village with no clinic and no doctor.....he had moved to another village where he could make a living.

It made me think of all of our efforts....why do we do them? Do we do them because we know the needs? Or do we do them...because they are what we think the needs are. Maybe even something more cynical than that…maybe we do them for acclaim and notoriety.

1 Corinthians 13:3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

I think this is what Paul may be alluding to. Matthew Henry writes; "How are those deluded who look for acceptance and reward for their good works, which are as scanty and defective as they are corrupt and selfish!"

I think about people like Bill Gates, and Oprah and Lance Armstrong...who do charitable things...now I am not the judge at all....but I just wonder their heart. I saw a story on Ben Affleck...doing what it takes to understand the needs of the the people in the Congo...is this love? I dont know...but kudos for going first to evaluate the needs.


"I've been coming here to learn about the Congo because I don't want to involve myself without first understanding what I'm getting involved in," he says in his narration.

http://abcnewsstore.go.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/DSIProductDisplay?catalogId=11002&storeId=20051&productId=2019974&langId=-1&categoryId=100015

Honestly...I can say I have never liked Ben Affleck....not as an actor, not as a human being....now I dont personally know him...but I know what I have read and some personal accounts from people I know.... but I know when people start showing "true charity" they are very close to the heart of God....possibly seeking Him through the things they are doing. So I pray for him...and his journey.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

No contact, reality, lost bags

Well, its been almost a week...ok maybe more than a week and I haven't written a thing. I pretty much checked out other than a couple of calls to my kids.
Alaska was a blast...and at least in the summer is a beautiful place to be. With the exception of one coffee shop in Sitka, everyone was super nice and we did and saw so many things for the first time.
Glacier Bay was by far the prettiest place I have seen on this planet.

Over Jennys left shoulder is a glacier that is 5 miles away..and 1 mile wide (just to give you a little perspective). It blew me away...just seeing the size and magnitude and beauty God made...that so few people will ever see, let alone hang out in ... and enjoy. Glacier Bay is a National Park and the number of cruise ships are allowed to be in the bay are regulated.
Zip Lining through and over the canopies of 150 foot trees was, by far, one of my most thrilling moments. And The Hatmakers, the Comstocks and the Pruets on 6 Vespas in the streets of Victoria BC...was one of the funniest experiences to date....So needless to say, we had a lot of fun.
To see more pics go to http://alaskaanniversary.site.shutterfly.com/
But we came crashing back to reality when we arrived in Austin with NO luggage. Neither the Pruets nor the Hatmakers received one of our 8 pieces of checked luggage. UPDATE....I just got a call that the airline would be delivering out our bags within the next couple of hours. Now the reality of washing clothes sets in.
Jenny is going to pick up the kids in Corpus this afternoon...and return in the morning. I am excited to see them. I have to stay in Austin to go to Luis and Zoes rehearsal...for their wedding tomorrow! Cool.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Grace to Outsiders

1 Corinthians 5: 12-13 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. "Expel the wicked man from among you."

Simple rule to live by…. coupling chapter 4 and 5… I get the underlying meaning of both.

Don’t brag about what you were given…and don’t judge outside the church.

This isn’t saying once a person steps foot inside the building (remember the church isn’t the physical structure) to judge them. But if one represents themselves as part of the church, they are held to the standard Paul is talking about. Those outside the church....should be shown grace, plain and simple. Never judged.

The whole boasting about what you are given, may be like the difference between Pride and Arrogance. I take a certain amount of pride in a job well done, or better yet, one of my kids doing a good job…. I think this is a good thing, a good pride. Arrogance is pride before, during and after….and not considering others at all. I feel that the church at Corinth…or some in it…were arrogantly boasting about their extra stuff they were doing….legalism, and Paul was pointing out that;
1. we are all equal at the foot of the cross.
2. You didn’t earn it….so you can’t brag as though you did
3. If you have different giftings…its because God gave them to you.

God thank you for keeping me grounded, today. I pray for all my brothers to boast only in the cross of Jesus. Give me peace today among the craziness.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Shhhh...Don't Tell the Church of Christ

1 Corinthians 3:1-4Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? For when one says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos," are you not mere men?

16-17Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple.

Something rampant in the Corinthian culture was a competitive spirit. It was the culture, Corinth was a thriving metropolis, know for diversity, culture, commerce, paganism, immorality and wealth….sound like anywhere we know?
Well, as the founder of the church at Corinth…Paul was hearing things about the divisive, competitive nature of those inside the church…and he is reminding them…The Church (collective) is the people not the building…and we the Church are suppose to be united.
Whats funny about the argument about “I follow Paul” vs. “I follow Apollos” is that they basically had the exact same teaching. So to argue about which one you follow….would seem to mean the early church was arguing about style, or personalities or looks. How petty is that? But that is exactly what we do today. The Free Methodist have a problem with Southern Baptists (Mike), the Presbyterians have a problem with Episcopalians….etc….

The church has grown, but it is still collective. Yet all believers are still part of one body. And to this day, we still argue about style, personalities and what the church looks like.

I’m pretty sure denominations are not God’s idea, but mans idea. Another funny notion is that The Church of Christ (which my sister in law is one) doesn’t consider themselves a denomination….they believe that they are THE Church of Christ. Well, when we get to heaven….we’ll be quiet, as to not let them know we got in.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Allow the Spirit to Lead

1 Corinthians 2:1-5 When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power.

What a great word today.

I have taken “How to Share Your Faith” classes and I have taught youth and young adults for years. In those classes the thing that strikes fear in most people about sharing the Gospel…and me to an extent…is being stumped, someone asking the hard question…that will just stop you in your tracks.

The cool thing about Paul here is that he didn’t come in wisdom, he had wisdom, but he came fearful and in weakness. In that, the Holy Spirit could operate and Paul and his wisdom, took the back seat. I believe if we are obedient, the Holy Spirit can and does work through us in these instances. I just believe that Satan likes to paralyze us with our own fears and thoughts of embarrassment. When in fact, 99 times out of 100, people are open to spiritual talks….when you are prompted…there is a reason.
1 Peter 3:15
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect

I think about the “spirit led” (or spirit prompted) conversations and they are always better than the scripted, regurgitation of another story, a chapter in a book, or a sermon I heard.

Paul does recognize a different message on a different level with believers, those who have the spirit of God in them. In that I see a different level of maturity even among believers…and not all believers speak on the same level. I would probably have to tell Paul to speak slower and use smaller words.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Called

1 Corinthians 1
1Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God
9God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.
24but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
26Brothers, think of what you were when you were called.
27But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29so that no one may boast before him.

I read this first chapter of Corinthians this morning…and was obviously reminded of my own calling. When God first called me to trust in the name of Christ for salvation and also the times I surrendered lordship of my life to him. The most recent call, was when I surrendered to the ministry…and eventually accepted the call that God had placed on my life.

I am the poster child for “The foolishness of God being wiser than man’s wisdom” I do know that I am in good company though…early leaders in the first churches, “Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.” Yet Paul was wise, influential and noble....

Paul doesn’t use language like I do. He doesn’t say responded to the call or trusted Christ or surrendered lordship or accepted the call….Maybe because Paul understands that the response isn’t as important as the call. Pauls call and experience with God was indeed very life changing….very humbling and Paul is one who wants no credit or glory for the work God is doing in his life. Maybe its our own pride that feels the need to claim that we responded, or that we answered the call.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

seeker vs user (both not saved)

Romans 16 17-18 I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.

Paul is issuing a warning. He is telling those within the church to watch out for, be careful of, and keep away from people professing to be believers yet are merely praying on the softness that God places in our hearts for others.

I have seen “wolves in sheeps clothing” before….and they take all shapes, sizes and orientations.

I think the distinction is between those professing to be believers and non-believers. Actually both are non-believers…one may be “seeking” and the other may trying to serve their own carnal, sensual and worldly desires. Paul just made the distinction, so we should keep our radar up.

God I pray your protection over ANC. I pray that we would be a place where the “seeker” is welcomed and the user is uncomfortable. I also pray that those who are using the church would hear your word and trust you for salvation.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Happy Birthday Dad

My dad would have been 67 today.
He was such an example of a loving man.
He was such a great example of someone living outside of himself.
He was such an encourager...my biggest fan.
He was a great dad..... and grandfather to my kids and my nephew.
He was a great husband, business man, friend, boss, and city leader.
He was not a great golfer.

I miss you dad!

Love, Tray

Monday, June 09, 2008

I dunno......geeez

Romans 14:14-15As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean. If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died.

22So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God.
You know…one thing that I am certain of….its hard to keep your belief on this between yourself and God.

i had a Baptist Minister friend in my home a couple of weeks ago...and he said to me, " only an idiot would read the bible and decipher that it is a SIN to drink wine (alcohol)" not to get drunk mind you...but drink period, yet the Tradition of the Baptist Church...is that drinking is a sin.



Bllly Sunday an evangelist who was a former professional baseball player and lived from 1862-1935 said, “I tell you I never saw a drinking, dancing, card playing Christian who amounted to anything.”

OUCH!


then you could listen to this guy..and therefore...he must be an idiot.

http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?currSection=sermonsspeaker&sermonID =8405104120

Im not sure of the history...and after looking it up on Google....the best I have found is that during prohibition, most churches publicly denounced all liquor because it was acceptable to denounce it. Over time, alcohol has lost its stigma and therefore become more mainline..and only the “freaky” Baptists adhere to this century old practice.

WIKIPEDIA: Prohibition was an important force in state and local politics from the 1840s through the 1930s. The political forces involved were ethnoreligious in character, as demonstrated by numerous historical studies.[6] Prohibition was demanded by the "dries" -- primarily pietistic Protestant denominations, especially the Methodists, Northern Baptists, Southern Baptists, Presbyterians, Disciples, Congregationalists, Quakers, and Scandinavian Lutherans. They identified saloons as politically corrupt and drinking as a personal sin


Drinking is a sin for some people.....minors, alcoholics, people who are under covenant NOT to drink, also...for some mainline Baptists drinking IS a sin. The whole weaker brother (one adhering to some form of legalism) I feel applies to this person. I was at one time, one who adhered to the policy of the church i was serving under. I abstained and held the position of the church. Did i believe that all drinking was bad...no, did I believe Jesus turned water into wine...yes,

where I have now landed is this...... I can drink....but there are times when I wont drink.

My kids have never seen me drink....however my son knows know I have drank in the past (sinfully) and I may on occasion drink now (with clear conscience/no sin) because he has asked the questions and we have "gone there" with him.

Charles Spurgeon wrote when being called out on his smoking a cigar:

"I demur altogether and most positively to the statement that to smoke tobacco is in itself a sin. It may become so, as any other indifferent action may, but as an action it is no sin. Together with hundreds of thousands of my fellow-Christians I have smoked, and, with them, I am under the condemnation of living in habitual sin, if certain accusers are to be believed. As I would not knowingly live even in the smallest violation of the law of God, and sin in the transgression of the law, I will not own to sin when I am not conscious of it. There is growing up in society a Pharisaic system which adds to the commands of God the precepts of men; to that system I will not yield for an hour. The preservation of my liberty may bring upon me the upbraidings of many good men, and the sneers of the self-righteous; but I shall endure both with serenity so long as I feel clear in my conscience before God. The expression "smoking to the glory of God" standing alone has an ill sound, and I do not justify it; but in the sense in which I employed it I still stand to it. No Christian should do anything in which he cannot glorify God; and this may be done, according to Scripture, in eating and drinking and the common actions of life."

I think the mainline Baptist (who adhere to this tradition) may have a leg up on us when it comes to keeping this disputable matter between themselves and God…because we don’t seem them drink…..but they have need to tell us that they don’t drink…..and worse yet…..take it a step further…and since their own belief is not to….condemn drinking as sin.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Sometimes your inspiration is in Hollywood

I read Romans 13 this morning and was a bit distracted by emails, me being around the house, kids being around the house...Nascar 2008 screaming in the playroom upstairs, kids packing for camp....and I figured out why.

Facebook.

Yep... a guy I knew in Corpus when we were in High School, is a friend on my facebook page. We havent communicated much if at all, other than adding each other. But today I see that he is a believer....an assumption I made when I see that he is part of a group memorizing Romans 8. What makes this story more intriguing to me is that he is an actor in Hollywood.

This guy, living the dream, surrounded by 'the world' and there he is...a professing believer, in Hollywood, reading and memorizing from the same book of the bible I am currently studying. So I acknowledge him this morning..and say...
"A believer in Hollywood....is it true?
Keep up the good fight!"

To which he replies:
"A believier in hollywood- TRUE!

And a good fight it is, but as I pray to God: To be a bright light in dark places.
Hebrews 13:2"

the very book and chapter I am in today.....thanks God! ***Note, I am in Romans not Hebrews...still good stuff****

Romans 13:12-14 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.

God thanks for a reminder that this fight isnt against man.....but against The Enemy. I pray for Clint this morning who stands as a beacon in dark place....not so dissimilar from where we are. But I pray that he loves others and represents you to a lost world. What a platform you have given him...and as an approved workman....he is not ashamed.
Lord protect us from Satan and his schemes. Clothe us in Jesus' righteousness. Amen

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Grace is Given

Having been urged to read the bible more linearly, this verse really gets deepened. Paul has talked all about freedom in Christ, unmerited favor, mercy….God’s calling….and now….Paul urges, ‘in view of God’s mercy’ or by the mercies of God offer your lives as living sacrifices.

Romans 12:1-3Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.

What do we have left to offer the very one who created us, who set up the law, who completed the law, and who now calls us to be His children. In light of all that….in view of His mercy… we should offer our bodies as sacrifices.

Old testament sacrifices were laid on the alter dead. We have this propensity to get up off the altar. We seem to be very short term sacrifices. I can lay down my life, offer my body, but if something comes up, I do reserve the right, to get back up off the altar.

We have many physical acts of worship. We can sing, give (time and money), serve, use our gifts, etc. But Paul makes a distinction in your spiritual act of worship. I take this to mean a higher level of worship, solely between you and God. Sure, it will manifest itself in your giving, your serving, and your giving….. but you want to let God take you to a ‘whole notha level’ offer your bodies as a living sacrifice.

And not conforming doesn’t mean removing yourself from the world…. I believe on the contrary. If Paul had meant that, he would have said that. But reading Paul, and knowing Christ, I take this to mean….we (maybe) are suppose to get into the dirty parts of society, yet DO NOT CONFORM. We are suppose to minister to the sick….not the healthy, yet DO NOT CONFORM.

And last, grace was given us…..never let your status as a believer go to your head. Whether you feel chosen or not….its only by God’s grace you have been saved. The very faith God planted in you….drew you to Him. And the more ‘mature’ you become as a believer, the more pitiful you find out you are.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Chosen to Enemy

Romans 11:24 After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches (Jews) , be grafted into their own olive tree!

C.S. Lewis was once asked, what is the difference between Christianity and every other religion….to which C.S. Lewis replied…..”One word, describes the difference between Christianity and all other religions. That word is 'grace.”

Paul obviously loved his people….he very much wanted the Jews to take notice and be “jealous” or “arouse envy” from some of them to provoke them to dig. To question more….the grace of God, poured out on the Gentiles.

30-31 Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God's mercy to you.

Paul I believe is referring to the Jews disobedience and subsequent crucifixion of Jesus. He then puts them (the Jews) into the “enemy of God” category…and therefore reliant upon the very same grace that the Gentiles experienced. How can one go from ‘chosen’ to enemy category?

This has always been a question that I approach with as much couth and gentleness as I can muster. Will Jews be saved in the end? I am not the Judge, nor was Paul…..but Paul was inspired to believe that the Jews (some possibly not all) could be saved, in the end, according to God’s infinite and limitless grace…..the same grace that saves all Christians.

32For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Beautiful Feet

Romans 10:9-10 That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

It all comes down to this….forget all the other elect vs free will stuff ….. just confess and believe, let God sort out the rest…if that even matters.

14-15 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"

We can get so bogged down in the minutiae of church, of arguments between brothers, in work, in the rat race….that we forget to have beautiful feet. To be the hands and feet of Christ to a lost world.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Be smart with how you handle this

Romans 9:11-13Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God's purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls—she was told, "The older will serve the younger." Just as it is written: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."
21Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?
22What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction?
32Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works.

Great case for Election. Does God elect? No doubt. Is there a free-will decision to made by the elect? Maybe a bit more sticky…. I would argue (and I have) that one can co-exist within the other….but one thing I have landed on is this;
This is NO hill to die on, do not break fellowship over this. Don’t take such a hard stance on that you push people away. This is neither here nor there in the grand scheme of things. If I believe one way or the other, I am not an idiot. If I believe people have free will…I do not think God is a liar.

Because Paul makes the point FOR election….it doesn’t mean this is the only way for people come to saving knowledge of Jesus Christ…..it just means this is definitely A way. God can elect. He can choose some and on the flip side, create some (because his has fore-knowledge) bound for destruction as well.
I definitely know Christ called out…the rich young ruler, and he turned his back on Christ. Some will argue that he was never the elect, or called….then why would Christ set up this fa├žade?

I just know that as we do church, as we ware the body, God doesn’t ask us to determine who does and who doesn’t believe in election….we are called to love God and love our neighbor. Don’t lose sight of that.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Nutty Brown and The Gourds


Okay, it may be a little too early to tell...but I may have a new favorite band, The Gourds.
Front man, Kevin Russell, played a concert for us (Austin New Church) last Sunday night at Southpark Meadows and I was intrigued enough by the lyrics and style to make plans to go see the entire band at Nutty Brown Cafe last night.
First let me say, Nutty Brown is a cool cafe/local dive....as you drive by the front on Highway 71, you would never know the awesome outdoor venue in the back with the mature oak trees and seating for nearly 1000. After the sun sets...and the evening breeze starts to blow, it gets downright comfortable out there.
So to start the evening, Kevin Russell opened for his own band, i guess. He was basically playing solo like he did the week before, for us. But about 9:00 the entire band took the stage and the show really got underway. The band is part country, part rock-a-billy, part singer/songwriter's dream...and 100% Austin Entertainment. I have not yet seen a band entertain the entire crowd so well. Kevin engaged the crowd during and between songs with his crazy dance moves and lighthearted humor. Everyone had a ball!

The Gourds unique sound is a nice mix of acoustic guitar, bass and drums...with the occasional accordian, mandolin, and tamborine...played by the drummer (on the drums...you'd have to see it) I couldn't wait to download their songs on iTunes and I found them to have a plethera of albums to choose from, so I picked the newest release and a smattering of other songs I recognized the titles to.