From the monthly archives:

June 2011

The new band of brothers

“Love covers…”  1Peter 4:8

The bottom of the pan comes alive when the chopped onions and spices meet the hot oil but quickly settles into the perfect temperature that is the beginning of great food.  After a few minutes the bottle of wine and raspberry chipotle jelly is added halting all forward processes.

Now you stir.  And stir.  For the next 45 minutes.  The thin and pungent soup slowly begins to change into a sauce, thickening and losing it’s singular scent as the ingredients become symphonic.  A little further and it is the consistency of a paste which is applied to the little bacon-wrapped bits of meat smoking on the grill.  Now you know the secret of my dove and quail wraps that blend the very best of God’s green earth together as one.

The key to all of this is the commitment to stir.  Blending together does not quiet get it done.  You have to cook it down all the way until there is no outstanding scent left as the stock is reduced by two thirds. It becomes thick enough to stick in the heat of the fire, holding the spices and sauce to the meat until it all becomes part and parcel to one another.  And another Texas summer feast is now in session.

Oh, yeah.  I’m hungry.

If you take all of the ingredients of Kingdom living and add to it the heat of life, the fine wine of fellowship and the patience of years that reduces it all so it will stick, then you will you understand the complexity of biblical love.  It is simply not simple.  It is complex, unique and… may I use the word again?… symphonic.  It is also the true and biblical picture of the glory of God.  Unity is the outcome of God’s glory which Jesus petitioned the Father for on our behalf the night before He went to the cross.

I’ve been thinking about God’s glory that produces unity lately.  In the midst of the humdrum of another hot summer in Texas, I’ve realized that our church is coming together in a way that I’ve never experienced.  Examples…

  • Over 10% of those committed to FFC are headed out the door to national and foreign fields of service this summer.  That means that over 45 individuals have or will take the Kingdom of God beyond their own comfort zone.
  • Over $75,000 has been raised individually and corporately to take the Kingdom from inside the building to the uttermost parts.  Though this is a modest amount for larger churches, it is a high water mark for us.
  • Partnerships with two church planting missions has expanded our ability to go.  Both IGO and E3 are noted indigenous church planting missions whose model includes partnering with local churches to see the Kingdom come.

And though the battles against our unity are at times wearisome and unrelenting, the glory of unity is being realized in the release of ministry from our doors.  Let me say it plainly;

  • The glory of God results in unity.
  • Unity results in cooperation of work.
  • The work of the church is the sending of the Gospel of God’s love.
  • No greater love is expressed than when we love this world the way Jesus did.

The battle in the western church today has become a battle of unity and commitment… unity that submits and commitment that sticks.  Those two attributes are so lacking in churches that pastors no longer expect or preach the pair as necessary for the maturity of the saints.  It is easier to feed the fast food of fancy programs than to mix the raw ingredients of life with the biblical promises of God that produce the true glory of the Lord.

Yes, that’s right. Though we would like for it to be about dogma, doctrine and dramatic displays of revival, Jesus’ last prayer for us was that “the love wherewith Thou didst love Me may be in them, and I in them.” It is the “love that covers” that is lacking, because we have misused the glory of God to our own best advantages.

What does that kind of love look like?  Here’s a short list to chew on during these hot days of summer.

  • Costly forgiveness.

  • Intentionally living out the scriptures.
  • Constant attention to the wells of fellowship.

And stir and stir some more.  There is no substitute for the dogged desire to see the Kingdom come.

There is a feast that is scheduled in the future after all of this here is over and done.
Isaiah saw a vision of it and recorded these words,

The Lord of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet of refined, aged wine and choice pieces of marrow.  And on this mountain He will swallow up the covering which is over all peoples, even the veil which is stretched over all nations.  He will swallow up death for all time and the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces and will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth.  It will be said in that day, “Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us.  This is the Lord for whom we have waited, let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.”  Isaiah 25:6-9

Maranatha!  Come quickly, Lord Jesus.


The Goat Patch

June 16, 2011

Wisdom comes in many packages.  At times, the wisdom and understanding that we need arrives in well defined and attractive packages. When I think of “Jesus the Good Shepherd” for example, I can easily reflect on the wonderful imagery of our Savior as He carries the lamb safely in His arms.

Wisdom can come from seeing the opposite.  In this case, the clearest understanding of a good shepherd happened on a trip to the Ivory Coast when I saw the result of no shepherd at all.

Long eared, brown, white, big, little... just goats.

Driving along a highway in the coastal city of Abidjan in West Africa, we came to a congested intersection and turned east along the bay.  Mind you, this a major city of over 3 million people and the sight I saw seemed so out of place it made me laugh. Stretching down the side of the road were hundreds of goats.  Long eared, brown, white, big, little… goats were everywhere.  There were no pens, just goats.  No flock, just a big gang of dumb goats.  Instead of good shepherds, there were men who were sacked out under the shade of beach umbrellas while the goats stood there eating, drinking and just sort of fellowshipping with each other.

I couldn’t help but laugh.  It struck me as so funny to see these goats just hanging out  on the side of a major road.  Being American, I had to take a picture and when I did, things began to make sense to me.  The reason they just stood there?  Each one had a little string that tied one front leg to the other.  Like a hobbled horse, these goats were effectively contained and made content with food and fellowship.

But behind the goats, just far enough back and too high for them to see over was a sight that was all the more sobering.  A rock wall about three feet tall ran the length of the goat patch and on the other side were the butchers.

Now I understood.  These hobbled goats, content with food and like-minded company, stood only a few feet away from their demise.  Every now and again, a customer would pick out a fat goat that would be thrown over the wall and returned in minutes packaged and ready for the fire.  The scene had changed.  It wasn’t a funny sight after all.  It was a scene of death.
Hebrews 12 says,

Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…

Have you ever had a sin that easily entangles you?  Mind you, it doesn’t have to be much, just some inconsistency that hobbles your journey.  Around you might be plenty of examples of others who are hobbled yet seem content to eat, drink and fellowship with you.  After all, those who are hobbled love company.  The problem is that you never know when the butcher will have at you.  You’ll never know when that little sin will spell your demise.

Here’s a valuable lesson to learn.  If you are not moving forward in Christ, standing still is as good as going backwards.  If you can’t run the race, standing around is just one step away from being thrown over the wall.  None of us are immune (read “too spiritual, too mature”) from the trickery of Satan.

Is there something in your life that ties your feet together and keeps you from running?  The enemy of your soul is quite content to let you feed and fellowship as long as he knows you can’t run off.  In the end, his intention is to make you ready for the fire.

So do something about the sin.  Don’t listen to the dumb goat next to you who tells you to ignore the sin and just keep eating, drinking and fellowshipping.  Wise up.  A true shepherd is an expert at untangling feet.  A true shepherd leads the flock to good pastures while protecting them from harm.  Find someone whose life is spiritually in shape and can lead the way the Good Shepherd instructs.

One last thing.  It took an outsider to notice the goats.  The pastor who lived in the city didn’t “see” anything unusual about the goats that day.  It was such a common sight that he didn’t even know what to call the place (we settled on “the Goat Patch” by the way.)  Often times, we reject those criticisms that are outside our sphere of influence.  But don’t be too hasty.  To the discerning, stinging words can deliver a soul from death.

Jesus described His calling as that of a good Shepherd.  He made sure that His title was distinguished from all others by the word good.  The attributes of a worthy shepherd are just the opposite of those that I saw that day.  Are you a shepherd called to lead and protect the sheep?  Learn the lesson of the Goat Patch.  God’s people are always in need of those who, by example, lead and protect the sheep.  Sometimes you are the only thing between the flock and disaster.


From the Streets to the Kingdom

June 8, 2011

“A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; and she refused to be comforted Because they were no more.”  Matthew 2:18 ____________________________ “I have no remembrance of my home, my parents… I was on the streets from my earliest memory.  We were a group of children that lived […]

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Monsoons and the Kingdom of God

June 6, 2011

The  monsoons are early this year. Like a real life Bogart film  there seems to be more rain than air at times. Outside every building umbrellas lay like giant flowers in the doorways ready to be plucked before the next deluge. Downstairs in the lobby the singing has started.  There are no drums or guitars […]

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The New Normal

June 3, 2011

The goal of biblical counseling is to untie knots in the soul.   Prevailing themes arise in people who are untangling from the harshness of life, one of which is simply redefining the boundaries of the word “normal.” The commonness of the word is part and parcel to the difficulty of defining it because every person […]

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