The Power of Waiting


Judy and I worked in our garden a lot last fall, cleaning out the finished plants, burning piles, adding amendments and turning the soil over. We collected all our grass and leaves over the summer and laid them down as mulch on the beds to keep weeds down and get the garden ready for spring. Now the beds are all tucked away waiting for those first warm days to stir the life in the soil. It got me to thinking

Fall is the time in Idaho when the agricultural community slows down and the fields all over the valley are waiting for spring. By the time the first snow falls we will be spending a lot of time indoors by a warm fire, doing catch-up work around the house and generally just waiting for spring to come. Sometimes we get anxious to get the winter season over and get on to the activity of spring and summer. But I say, wait.

Fall and a winter are a great parallel to seasons in our lives. There are times when the Lord speaks to our hearts and sets us out on great adventures. Our hours are filled with activity and doing. Then sometimes He has us wait and the waiting time is just as valuable as the “doing” time. It is during the waiting time that the Lord refreshes and renews our lives. As we sit with his word, wondering, “What’s next, Lord?” we find new strength and wisdom just sitting at his feet. Mary discovered that secret long before Martha did.

So my counsel is this: don’t let this fall and winter season be a time where the limitations of inactivity make you anxious or unsure. The Lord always has something new for us, and it often takes a season of waiting to give us the strength to go on. So rest in this time and know that He’s got something for you just around the corner. And when it happens, you will run and not be weary, you will walk and not faint, and you mount up on eagle’s wings.


But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31 KJV




The Tebow Controversy

Here’s a late flash: It appears “Tebowing” is here to stay.  The Global Language Monitor website says it acknowledges that the word Tebowing — the act of taking a knee in prayer during an athletic contest — is now part of the English language.  In today’s online world, that’s practically the equivalent of gaining acceptance to Webster’s Dictionary.

This fellow, Tim Tebow, has created a storm of controversy around his open acknowledgement of Jesus Christ in his personal life, in his writing, but particularly when he is on the athletic field. The main topic on every sports show is Tim Tebow.  Everyone admits that he’s an honest, real, open guy – that there is nothing phony about him.  They cannot fault his dedication to his faith or that he puts his money where his mouth is and supports hospitals for orphans in the third world. What drives them crazy is that he has in essence, hit a walk-off home run in the last five games he’s played, pulling off brilliant, last-minute victories and bringing a mediocre Denver team into the spotlight as a possible playoff contender.

The sports writers agonize over it.  Other football players mock him by “tebowing” when they tackle him. He’s like a burr under everybody’s saddle.   The talk show hosts dwell on the fact that he’s a terrible quarterback in spite of his awesome athleticism.  Last night on KNBR, former 49ers great Steve Young was mulling over the latest stats to come out on Tebow.  In the first three quarters of the games he’s played,  Tim Tebow has the worst quarterback rating in all of football.  Yet in the last quarter of the games he’s played, Tebow has the best quarterback rating in all of football.  Young and Tom Tolbert, the show’s host,  just couldn’t understand.  Tolbert said, “How can this be.  He’s got to fail at some point.  There is just no answer to how he’s accomplishing this.”

I would like to offer a solution to the problem. Since all the pundits, writers and talk show hosts have examined every other possibility, only to discard each of them, why not try this one, and  I know this is a radical thought.  Maybe because Tim Tebow honors Jesus Christ openly, Jesus Christ honors Tim Tebow openly. Of course you would have to believe that God is real to accept that …  but on the other hand, that might be worth considering.

Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.  Matthew 10:32

De-Evolving The MacChurch – Part II

We might as well rename the churches “MacChurch, Burger-Church, Wendy’s Church, In and Out Church, Colonel Sanders Church, ad infinitum. Different buildings, same menu. Open the phone book to find a church and every one will offer you the same items – “Contemporary Music, relevant sermons, connecting with God, great Youth group, small groups, missions trips, stewardship classes, How to join the Church,” and on and on. Take a look at the ads in your local yellow pages and count the number of times you see the name of Jesus mentioned in the ad copy or even in the name of the church. So we have dozens of churches in each city, all offering the same “menu,” all competing with each other for “tithing units.”  (De-Evolving the MacChurch – Part I)

When we look at the contemporary American church, it is very easy to draw a comparison with fast food restaurants.  Whether it’s a “Whopper,” a “Jumbo Jack”, or a “Big Mac”, the reality is that what the fast-food places are really selling is a slab of beef between two pieces of bread.  There is no discernible difference, except in the external packaging, and special additions to the menu that characterize that particular eatery.  One burger is square, one is round, one comes with special sauce, but they basically taste the same and have the same nutritional content (which is usually nothing.) So it is with the contemporary church – same current popular christian rock songs, same youth programs, same VBS, same Awana program, same teaching, all flavored with that particular denomination’s take on the essential truth’s of the Bible.  And now we have entered the era of the Mega-church, where charismatic leaders build a huge following apart from a denomination, and then “franchise” their movement to thousands of smaller churches that are desperate for growth and recognition.  We have the Purpose Driven Church, Willow Creek, Emergent Church, Contemplative, Dream Center, Joel Osteen, Word of Faith – all with their own  group of pastors that download the weekly “Pastor’s Toolbox” and follow blithely along with their leader’s teaching, even if it is heretical, or makes no biblical sense.  So what is to be done?  Let me share something from my pastoral experience that may throw a little light on the problem.

When I was associate pastor at a smaller church in Northern California, our senior pastor announced that he was leaving to go into missions full-time.  So I was asked to be on an interim leadership team while the Deacon Board started a “Pastor Search.”  While we were preparing with fasting and prayer, we studied the history of the church.  What we discovered was that the church had 13 different pastors in a 40 year period.  Wanting to get to the root of the problem – why so many pastors? – we decided to spend some time trying to find out who we were as a church body and what our calling in that particular city was. In that process, we uncovered many of our weaknesses as a church and some strengths.  It occurred to us that we were wasting a lot of our resources duplicating programs that were being done on a higher level by other churches around the city.  Digging deeper, we found that the churches who offered better programs than ours in certain areas also offered programs that we, or another church were doing better.  The outcome was a radical idea.  Maybe as a church, we should find our strengths and concentrate on them, and let the congregations who excelled in different areas handle those.  We happened to have an excellent worship program and a thriving preschool.  Another church down the street had good teaching but no real youth program.  Our proposal was to share the work instead of duplicating efforts.  What we didn’t know was that a certain element on the board had already decided who the next pastor was to be, and had no interest in a radical departure from “church as usual.”  Needless to say there was a minor church split and many of the regular and old-time members of that church left for greener pastures.

Suppose we had actually implemented that plan – what would it have looked like?  Let me show you, radical as it may seem:

1.  All senior pastors in the city would resign and become simply a member of their flock
2. Set non-salaried teams of elders – and I mean elders – older wiser solid christian men in place in each small group to guide and direct the flock.
3. Congregations in the city would meet and decide what their strengths and weaknesses are.
4.  Assign each congregation a particular program to carry out – be it worship, teaching, youth group, pre-school. Christian Education, Missions, small groups, Sunday School. etc.
5. Shift the teaching and preaching from topical to Expository – in other words, here’s what the Bible says, here’s what it means, here’s how we apply it to our lives.
5. Give the members of each church the opportunity to move to another body more aligned with their personal gifting.
6. During the week, all members of the city-wide church go to different locations for the different expressions of each body, be it worship, teaching, youth etc.
7. Elders and leaders gifted in specific areas such as preaching and teaching should organize city-wide teams with other leaders and share the teaching.  i.e. one teacher takes a series on a particular book and then another teacher follows along.
8. Meet together as a corporate city-wide body.  Church membership determined by the administrative boundaries of each city i.e. the church at Ephesus, the church at Philadelphia, etc.
9. Get rid of the tax-free 501c3  non-profit status.  Render unto Cesar what is Cesar’s and get out from under the controlling thumb of the IRS.
10. Stop demanding tithe of Christians – it’s an Old Testament practice detailed in the law of Moses that has to do with taking care of the tribe of Levi under the inheritance laws of the OT and is never, never mentioned in the new testament except in reference to the Jews and their obedience to the Mosaic law.  Present needs to the city-wide body and let members give as the Lord leads.
11. Raise up elders and teachers from local congregations.  Stop doing “pastor searches” and bringing in hirelings from Alabama or New York that have no relationship to the flock in Washington state.
12. Limit congregation size to around 50 members – any group larger than that cannot be effectively shepherded by an elder team.  If a congregation grows larger, break it up and start two new ones.
13. Stop claiming the promises  made to Israel by God and the prophets and attempting to apply them to the Gentile church.  Learn what Paul has to say in his thirteen epistles to the churches and follow those guidelines.
14. Teach members how to share the simple gospel of grace –

  • You are born dead in your sins and separated from God;
  • This separation is called death;
  • This condition was caused by Adam’s rebellion in the Garden of Eden; spurred on by the fallen spiritual being once called Lucifer and now known as ha Satan – the accuser;
  • There is nothing you can do to resolve this separation;
  • God sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to die as a substitute for you so you could be free to choose reconciliation to God;
  • Jesus died on the cross – it was not the terrible beating and torture that he endured that saves us, but the fact that He actually died – physically and Spiritually in our place;
  • Jesus rose from the dead and defeated the power of death over your life;
  • Jesus returned to heaven and sent the Holy Spirit into the world to live in you and work through you:
  • If you believe this and turn from following your own will, and place your faith and trust in Jesus, He will restore you to relationship with God and you will have eternal life.

15. Set the members of the church about the business of leading family, friends, neighbors and co-workers to a saving faith in Jesus Christ.  Forget about conquering the world for Christ – He has that well in hand and doesn’t need the help of the church.
16. Prepare the church for the imminent return of Jesus Christ – first to take His church out of the world to a place of safety, and then to deal with the apostate nation of Israel and all those who hate God.

If these “suggestions” strike you as having some potential, please leave a comment.  If you have other ideas to add, feel free.

And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth; I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.  Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.   Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.    Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.  Revelation 3:8-11

De-Evolvolving the MacChurch – Part 1

The Church was not left in this world to perfume the dung-heap of fallen humanity, but to take out, one by one, those who will be saved from the coming destruction. Donald Grey Barnhouse – “The Invisible War”.

The church has come a long way since it was born as a local body of Jewish believers in Jerusalem fifty days after the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  From a fanatic and almost communistic sect of Judaism to a worldwide expression of Gentile religion, the church has morphed into an institution that Jesus, Peter or Paul would hardly recognize.  The church has traveled a long and winding road from its inception. It was born with leaders like Peter and John who walked in a visible demonstration of the Messianic, Davidic Kingdom that Jesus had offered to the Jews, and Paul, the thirteenth Apostle, who was given the revelation of the mystery of the Gentile church and gave the Gentiles their own inspired guidelines to live by.

From these men who lived lives surrendered fully to the will of their Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, we have descended all the way down to the likes of Jimmy Swaggart, Ted Haggard, Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Jeremiah Wright, Brian McClaren, and a host of others who offer a Christianity that does not look like the sermon on the mount, nor does it conform to the teachings and reality of Jesus Christ, either in what is declared from the pulpit, or in what is represented in the lives of the speakers.

Where is the Cross?  Where is the Atonement?  Where is the Deity of Jesus Christ?  And especially, where is the manifestation of the two commandments Jesus gave us that summed up the whole Torah – Love God with all your heart mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. These basic principles that Jesus gave us have been relegated to theological storage closets filled with old-fashioned, not-relevant ideas that are not culturally compatible, and frankly (according to the pastors), are offensive to the unchurched.  Instead of getting the message that God loves them and wants to spend eternity with them if they will change their ways and follow Him, the typical visitor to a local church hears about feeling good about themselves, the great ministry of  this particular church, or all the activities that are available to entertain them and their kids.  They hear this message after they are subjected to forty minutes of ear-splitting worship led by undulating young women in skin-tight clothing and musicians in their musician outfits that make them indistinguishable from the worldly punk or alternative bands that frequent the local bars and rave clubs.  After the show (where nobody worships God, but everybody worships the band), the pastor makes his triumphant ascent to the platform and visitors get a sermon that never mentions sin, the gospel, repentance, self-sacrifical love or Jesus.  They hear about how easy it is to connect with God, join the church, get involved, but they never hear that they are dead in their trespasses and sins and are in desperate need of a Savior.

I once attended a Pastors’ Conference at a huge church in Phoenix.  The first night, the pastor of the church spent four hours of our time, parading every ministry in the church across the stage.  There were live animals (no kidding – camels and horses with a chariot), a two-hundred member choir, full orchestra, and about 2000 people who traipsed across the stage.  When they had a time of worship they pumped smoke out from behind the curtain to simulate the Glory of God in the Temple.  Man, what a show!  And at the end, the head pastor stepped up in his $2000 suit and asked us for MONEY!!  Can you believe it?  All the poor pastors from churches with 25 to 100 members, just barely making it, already in hock for the $300 conference fee and the airplane ticket, and the guy asks them for money!  And then, when he got a small offering, the guy had the nerve to yell at the pastors and call them “cheap, no-vision, ungrateful penny-pinchers”, and warned them that God couldn’t bless people who wouldn’t give to his obviously blessed ministry.

As A.W. Tozer said, excessive need for support from without is proof of the bankruptcy of the inner man.  If this is true (and I believe it is) then the present inordinate attachment to every form of entertainment is evidence that the inner life of modern man is in serious decline. The average man has no central core of moral assurance, no spring within his own breast, no inner strength to place him above the need for repeated psychological shots to give him the courage to go on living. He has become a parasite on the world, drawing his life from his environment, unable to live a day apart from the stimulation which society affords him… Many churches these days have become little more than poor theaters where fifth-rate “producers” peddle their shoddy wares with the full approval of evangelical leaders who can even quote a holy text in defense of their delinquency. And hardly a man dares raise his voice against it.”

At one church where I was a pastor, the youth pastor had a saying: “The message is sacred, but the method isn’t.” Then he would lead his kids in car-bashing, paintballing, skateboarding, laser-tag rooms, graffiti boards and the like.  One night some of his kids carried their enthusiasm over to the middle school across the street by spraying graffiti on the walls.  The senior pastor used up a lot of his credit in the community smoothing that one over.

So why do I use the term “MacChurch?”  (It didn’t come from me.) It’s because these days it seems we have a church on every corner, but, to tell the truth, most of them remind me of the old Malvina Reynolds song about the houses out in Pacifica, California – “…and there’s red ones and there’s blue ones and there’s green ones and there’s yellow ones, and they’re all made out of ticky-tacky and they all look just the same.”  We might as well rename the churches “MacChurch, Burger-Church, Wendy’s Church, In and Out Church, Colonel Sanders Church, ad infinitum. Different buildings, same menu. Open the phone book to find a church and every one will offer you the same items – “Contemporary Music, relevant sermons, connecting with God, great Youth group, small groups, missions trips, stewardship classes, How to join the Church,” and on and on. Take a look at the ads in your local yellow pages and count the number of times you see the name of Jesus mentioned in the ad copy or even in the name of the church. So we have dozens of churches in each city, all offering the same menu, all competing with each other for tithing units.

Competition is the operating principle here.  Most of the pastors I know make their living from their job at the church.  Instead of being free to speak the truth about what the Bible says, their theology is tied to their salary.  They spend most of their day figuring out new ways to attract new people to the church. Then they go on the internet on Friday and download a sermon from Rick Warren’s Tool Box. Or they spend their time engrossed in the latest best-seller on church growth, Christian publishers fill the church mailbox with the latest and greatest programs to attract customers, Christian recording artists wear out their index finger calling churches for a paying gig.  And the pastor responds to each invitation, or each new thing that sweeps through the church.  We have Forty Days of Purpose, the Prayer of Jabez, Space Mission Bible Camp, etc. etc. etc. … Recently I read an ad on the internet that screamed:  “DOUBLE YOUR CHURCH ATTENDANCE AND KEEP THEM COMING BACK!!!”  The secret was to subscribe to this company’s church growth newsletter and RSS feed.  Never once did they mention the name of Jesus or the preaching of the simple gospel message as a possible way to bring people to the church.

Now that I’ve had my rant, I suppose it would be the right thing to offer a solution – so I can be part of the answer, instead of part of the problem.  (That saying has always made me sick.)  I will give some options in Part II of this article; not because I want to be  “good boy,” but because they are just common sense and we are in a time where the church needs to wake up or it is going to slide right off “The Rock.”

And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;  I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.  So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.                                                             Revelation 3:14-16

Carry Me

I was reading Joyce Sheldon’s book, “From Fear to Faith”. It’s a journal in poetry and prose about the years she spent as a caregiver to her dying husband. One of her poems reminded me of a song I wrote years ago, called “Carry Me.”

Like the wind, on the water
like the moonlight through the trees
Jesus come, to me softly
Carry me, carry me

Carry me to the Master
Hide me there in His Heart
Lift me up, to the Holy City
Where we’ll never be apart

For like the pillar
in the Temple
He’s the Rock on
which I stand
And I will never, ever leave Him
for He carries me, in His hand

He’ll be there when I need Him
He’ll be there when I’m alone
He’ll be there when my heart feels
Like a stone, like a stone

Like the wind, on the water
like the moonlight through the trees
Jesus come, to me softly
Carry me, carry me…

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom 8:38,39

A Christmas Reflection

Two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ left his eternal abode in heaven and became a man, being born of the Virgin Mary when the Holy Spirit overshadowed her.  We all know the Christmas story.  We know that Christ came as Savior and King, but have you ever thought about the purpose behind His coming?   You see, God the Father had a reason for sending His Son into the world.  We read John 3:16 and we see that “God so loved the world…” and that’s a good thing.  But what did the Father really accomplish by sending His Son?

First, He fulfilled the goal of earth’s history – that fallen man, separated from God on a planet that had fallen under a horrible curse, would be restored to relationship with God and the earth would be remade – restored to its Edenic state, which man will administer as God’s representative ruler.  All this summed up in the perfect Man, Christ Jesus, the Messiah, ruling over the earth as King of the redeemed nation of Israel;

and second, God regained full dominion over the heavenly realm and placed an elect group of formerly fallen, now redeemed men as rulers over that realm, with the heavenly man, the Lord Jesus Christ, as the glorified Head, and His church placed in Him and seated with Him as His body – administering the heavenly places.

In fulfilling His divine purpose, God cast down a usurper named Lucifer who had stolen control of these two realms when he made himself Prince of the Power of the Air and the God of this world.  He then created a hopeless, helpless, useless, faithless, creature called man to rule in Lucifer’s place.  When that first man, Adam, failed the assignment, God knew that He could only trust Himself to carry out His eternal purpose, so He became a man, not dead in sin as Adam had become, but born alive by the Holy Spirit, and filled with the power to do everything His purpose required.  And as we watch history unfold, we will see the final outcome – Christ the King reigning over the earth in the millennial Kingdom, and Christ the Lord reigning over the heavenlies forever.

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.  John 1:14

Touching Heaven by Giving Thanks

The ancient Hebrews had a very structured set of rules by which they performed their worship in the Tabernacle of Moses and the Temple of Solomon.  These rules were given to Moses on Mt. Sinai along with the Ten Commandments.  God was very strict about how the Levitical Priests came into His presence, because He was giving them a glimpse into the heavenly realm.  This is what the bible tells us about Moses’ meeting with God:

...there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law;  who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, “See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”  Hebrews 8:4&5

What God was saying to Moses was, “The pattern I showed you on the mountain – for your earthly worship – is a duplicate of the pattern that happens in the heavenly throne room, when the citizens of heaven worship me.”  So the priests knew that if they followed the heavenly instructions they would align themselves with the heavenly realm, and in that way, actually experience the Divine presence.

The book of Psalms is a liturgy for Temple worship that the priests used every day.  One of the keys for coming into the sanctuary was exuberant praise and thanksgiving.  Psalm 100:4 told the priests, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving in your heart, come into His courts with praise.” This was not a suggestion, it was a commandment.  The priests never entered the temple unless they were thanking God with all their hearts for His many blessings. Why?

First, God had shown a way for humans to actually catch a glimpse of the peace and joy that existed in heaven, and to share that joy – like a down payment on the next life.  And second,  God knows that the best way for us to deal with our problems is to put our attention somewhere else.  And if I am being thankful to God for all the blessings in my life, instead of blaming Him for all the bad things, it’s amazing how the answers to every situation just seem to come, along with real peace.  The Apostle Paul understood this when he wrote, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;  and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  Philipians 4:10

President Abraham Lincoln also understood the value of giving thanks when he declared a national day of thanksgiving for a nation wearied and troubled by the Civil War.  The nation needed something to get the country’s mind off the troubles of the war and focus attention on the good things in life.  It was such a great idea, every president since then has declared a national day of thanksgiving.

So this year, when you sit down to thanksgiving dinner, wherever you are – with your family or at the Gospel Mission – remember that giving thanks is the way we touch heaven, and that thanking Him for all our blessings opens a door for heaven to enter our mundane lives and bring a bit of God’s glory to bear on this earthly existence.

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, come into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.  Psalm 100:4