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November 2012
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December 2012 entries

What Non-Christians Say about Us Who Believe

I came into the office for a little while on this last day of the year and picked up a magazine. "Facts and Trends" is a publication of Lifeway in Nashville. One of the short articles caught my eye because it listed in order comments non-Christians say about Christians. I often disagree with lists like this, but I found these atatements to be in line with what I have found as I mark my 23rd year as pastor of Dalas Bay. I wonder if any of these statements surprise any of you? The list follows with my comments in quotes. 

1. Christians are against more things than they are for. (I've been convicted of this myself and am trying to change.)

2. I would like to develop a friendship with a Christian. (We tend to keep to ourselves and talk about non-believers as if they were aliens. Remember the only diffeerence between thenm and us is forgiveness.)

3. I would like to learn the Bible from a Christian. (I think this means he/she would like to learn from someone who is not a professional, like me.)

4. I don't see much difference in the way Christians live compared to others. (Unfortunately this statement is true more often than not.)

5. I wish I could learn to be a better husband, wife, dad, mom, etc., from a Christian. (When we do live out our faith those who are not believers really do watch and would like to know how we do it.)

6. Some Christians try to act like they have no problems. (When we learn that others can tell when we wear masks. It's best to let others know we have problems too, but we Have Someone who is with us in the dark.)

7. I wish a Christian would take me to his or her church. (People are basically spititual beings, but not all have experienced spiritual places of worship. Those things we do at church are natural to those of us who spend time there. They can be scary to those who are not familiar with our rituals. If someone went with them they would feel less uncomfortable.)

Why don't we all resolve to befriend someone we know who is not a believer. Be real. Don't force anything, but allow the the Spirit of God lead you as you share the love of Christ to them. Have a great New Year!  

December 26 thoughts...

It's the day after Christmas. This used to be the most dreadful day of the year. As a child, Christmas was so long anticipated that it consumed your every thought since Thanksgiving Day. The let down afterwards was like the deep depression you spiral into 30 minutes after you have eaten half a box of Krispy-Kremes. Not that I would know personally, but I've heard others talk about it. However, the good thing about being an adult is the day after Christmas isn't such a horrible thing. It's actually sort of resfreshing. The hectic pace of my job before Christmas becomes more tolerable after the holiday.

Now I can sit back and count my blessings. I was able to spend time with my family during all the chaos and I can testify that they all still claim to love me despite my faults. The church is in better financial shape than it has been in years. My staff is working well together. We have a great new guy coming on board in two weeks to take over the middle school ministry. The Christmas program was a big success and the Christmas Eve service was the best ever. And above it all; the world did not end on December 21. I'm glad.

That might surprise some of you. Aren't we Christians supposed to want to go home? In some ways I do, but in other ways I want to hang around. There's just too many people who need to trust in Christ that God may allow me to have some small part in their salvation. I have a few wrongs I would like to correct. There are people I have pushed away that deserve better from me. I want time to meet my grandson and help him grow to love my Lord. There are so many sermons I could have preached better with more conviction. I want some time to grow in wisdom. I want to mentor more young preachers. I want to be carried away in the Spirit before I am carried away to the Spirit. I want time to become the person I know God designed me to be.

So on this day after Christmas I'm glad God chose not to abide by the Mayan calendar and stuck to His own. Thank's God for the extra time. Help me spend it wisely.     

Christmas Forgiveness

AS I have been studying for Sunday's message I have been hit with the truth that Christmas is all about mending broken relationships. The Old Testament is full of shadows of solutions for broken relationships, but none would suffice forever. Through rituals and sacrifices man was instructed to perform certain tasks that would attempt to restore failed relationships between fellow man and God. Some had to be repeated daily. Others weekly and year after year.

Finally, God sent His Son to fulfill the God's promise of restored relationship that was broken by sin. The shadow became light and was born among men. God offered forgiveness in His Son. It was man's responsibility to receive the gift. Some have, while many others have not. Forgiveness has two components. The one who needs forgiveness and the one who grants forgiveness. One is not necessarily dependent upon the other. Here's what I mean.

The one who is wronged is the one to grant forgiveness. That's exactly what God did in sending His Son.

The who has done the wrong must seek forgiveness. That is what we are supposed to do. With God we know "He is faithful and just to forgive..." (I John 1:9) With man, we are not responsible for the response to our request for forgiveness. Because man is not faithful or just, we may have to go on knowing we have done all we could do. 

Then the One who has been wronged grants forgiveness then He is releasesd from future obligations to seek a solution. 

If both parties do their part then the end result is total restoration of the relationship. God has done all He can do in sending His Son. How have you responded? That's what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown!

Hozho - The Way Of Beauty

Richard Twiss is Sioux Indian from South Dakota. At age 18 he participated in the forced takeover of the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office in Washington, D.C. He became consumed with hatred toward the white man for breaking over 700 treaties with Native Americans. Consumed with anger and hatred he fell into drug and alcohol addiction. During a stint in jail he gave his life to Christ. Christ has led him down another path since that day.

Twiss says that many Native Americans refer to North America as Turtle Island. They believe the Creator put them here long before the White Man appeared. Twiss also believes that the Creator led the White Man to Turtle Island so that they could walk together as brothers and sisters in Christ. Sadly, history tells another story.

After becoming a follower of Jesus Twiss was encouraged to join a specific denomination and become "Christian." He learned there were specific aspects of culture that were uniquely Christian. There was Christian music, Christian T-shirts, and even Christian haircuts. To become "Christian" in the eyes of the church meant to deny his culture of birth and become a "white" Christian. This was something Twiss was unwilling to do.  Instead he has chosen to follow Jesus in his native culture and in the process led many of them to find faith in Jesus as well. He practices native cultural music, drumming and ceremonies. He says following Christ is what the Navajo call "hozho." Translated into English hozho means "the  way of beauty."

I saw much of myself, and many I have met along the way, in Twiss's journey. So many of us did not grow up in the culture that we are now members of. For the early part of my life I grew up in a Pentecostal religious environment. This was a culture that did not embrace the traditional views of the group I would later come to lead as a church pastor. I believed Baptist needed to be saved and receive the Holy Spirit to get right with God. Then after my parent's divorce, I soon found myself in another culture. This one was antagonistic toward faith in God altogether. I became a part of the rebellious generation of the late 60's and 70's. My friends and I saw the church as a part of the establishment that existed only to suppress free speech and expression. We heard preachers protest our music, our dress code and our poltical views. It was during this era of my life Christ radically transformed my heart and my mind.

The only issue I had after my salvation experience was that I did not fit easily in any one of the pre-defined religious groups around me. I did not have much Bible education. I did not understand doctrine or Christian politics. I just wanted to serve God. In writing these words I am reminded of the number of people I have met at Dallas Bay who have made similar statements. Growing up Catholic, Lutheran,  or with no religious beliefs at all, they came to a place where they did not fit in anywhere. Only to discover DBBC where the emphasis is placed on being a part of the family of God and not just a denomination. Like me, they still enjoy their cultural heritage without sacrificing their walk with Christ. I have 60's and 70's music stations on my radio dial right next to contemporary Christian and gospel. I've found I can attend church and still dress like myself. I don't have to put on a suit and tie, unless I want to. I am free to sit reverently or shout amen at church. I look out over the congregation and see people worshipping God in many ways. I believe God led us down the paths of our lives for a reason. We walk this "hozho" together as we journey to our eternal home. I, for one, am glad to walk it with so many diverse and interesting people.