Monday, May 18, 2015

CELEBRATING THE ORDINARY!

I heard a phrase one time that intrigued me to no end. The phrase is "celebrate the ordinary." It was used to show how ordinary things can be turned into an adventure rather than waiting for only "extraordinary things" to happen. Who experiences many "extraordinary things"anyway?  Much of daily living is lived in experiencing mundane often boring things that are more routine than exciting.

What "celebrating the ordinary" does is it keeps us appreciating what we have and are presently experiencing rather than always hoping something will happen that is exciting. It keeps us from wondering what we're missing out on in life. We're not missing out on anything. That's the point. Life is fun and appreciated where we are and with what is happening.

It is very similar to the old idea of "stop and smell the roses." Some people live their life without ever really enjoying their life at all. They may even miss seeing what they have and waste their time longing for what they think other people have or are afraid they have missed out on. What a waste of time and energy and of life itself.

Mary and I HAVE had extraordinary times together. We've pastored large, exciting churches as well as small ones some of which were just as thrilling. We've traveled in ministry to more places than either of us can count. We've gone to meetings sponsored by the multi-billion dollar Corporation for which she once worked. We've traveled to places like Hawaii, Israel, London, Egypt, and last year Greece, not to mention trips on our motorcycle to Colorado, Bear Tooth pass in Montana, Yellowstone and Jackson Hole Wyoming. Those trips can ONLY be described as extraordinary when you're on a motorcycle. Add to that the REALLY extraordinary events we've shared like the birth/marriages of children and grandchildren and who's to doubt that some really great things have been experienced by the two of us.

But, generally our days are presently made up of the ordinary and it is the celebration of those times that make life far more exciting. This is true especially now as age begins to dictate the slowing down of extraordinary times/events. In fact, the older one gets the more likely it is that attending funerals and going to doctors become more common place than do weddings and births or travel and sight-seeing.

This is when having learned to "celebrate the ordinary " comes into play. But I do think it takes learning this early in life rather than later on. You don't magically wake up one day doing it. It takes a commitment, time, and it takes a lot of practice when you're young and starting on your journey.

I could give a myriad of personal and present examples by telling about things like our noon dip in the pool. About 11:00 am we eat a good lunch sitting in our recliners, watching a couple of good hour shows recorded in the past few days. Then we adjourn to the pool and walk 20 times around, 10 with her leading and 10 with me leading. Then we float, we sun, we read, and finally go inside to the computers.

I could tell of our forgetting things as we get older but celebrate it by jokingly saying "There she goes," meaning she's losing it or "There he goes," depending on which one forgot something. This, instead of dreading getting older or getting upset that we are. We just are! And we are forgetful! "Celebrate it" is our motto. And we do.

I could even tell you about the moment we get in bed every night and Mary snuggles in close to my back. There is a small thing she says that makes me laugh every time. I will leave unshared what she says since it is personal and of a nature that would draw a censure from some I'm sure. But what do they know!! They just need to get a life, I'm thinking!    ;)

We started learning this "celebrating life" concept several years ago when we would take trips and Mary would navigate while I drove. We'd REALLY get upset and even fight if given wrong instructions or if we made wrong turns or whatever. One day we decided we would travel with a new philosophy. it was simply this! "There are no mistakes, only different ways of going and doing things we hadn't planned on. So we'll celebrate the unplanned." [Mistakes]

You ought to try it sometime. It will revolutionize any trip you take together. 

It carried over into other things for us and most little things, even ordinary things, have become an adventure. We've truly found that "Celebrating the ordinary" can be a great thing.

Try it sometime. But you have to be able and willing to laugh a lot. Especially at yourself!

Paul B.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

WHAT DOES THE IDEAL LOCAL CHURCH LOOK LIKE?

I've borrowed this from one of my very favorite pastors. I thought it worth a wide audience, including the few who may read my blog. Enjoy!

Twenty Characteristics of the Ideal Church


(1). The ideal church is full of people who believe the ministries of the church are important, but refuse to place church ministries on par with the kingdom of God, because...

(2). The ideal church believes Christ's reign in the hearts of His people is far more important than any and all church ministries. 

(3). The ideal church has caring shepherds who empower gifted people to serve in the kingdom rather than church professionals who manipulate guilty people to give to the church.

(4). The ideal church resists the urge to spiritualize those things associated with the church because of the knowledge that Christ is King over the totality of life, which means...

(5). The ideal church believes the worship center is no more important than the workplace, the Sunday morning (or evening) corporate worship time is no more important than Tuesday morning (or evening) family time, and the ideal church knows that God is as pleased with His people away from the church meetings as He is with them in the church meetings.

(6). The ideal church has a budget that arises out a desire to advance the kingdom. Church leaders will refrain from threatening members who don't give to the church because there is a great trust that the Holy Spirit will always stir His people to give in order to adequately meet the needs of Christ's kingdom. If the church budget falls short, then a re-evaluation of whether or not kingdom work is actually being done in the church will take place.

(7). The ideal church has paid staff who see themselves as people who serve instead of professionals who are served.

(8). The ideal church will constantly ask the question, "Why are we doing what we are doing?"

(9). The ideal church will have worship services that are designed for worshippers to encounter God through singing to Him, learning of Him, resting in Him, and being empowered by Him. As a result, the ideal church will have members who learn by experience that corporate worship is nothing more than the overflow of one's personal worship, because...

(10). The ideal church understands the importance of reality over perception. People in an ideal church are more concerned with who they are rather than how they are perceived, and as a result...

(11). The ideal church is transparent in all its transactions, sincere in all its statements, and real in all its relationships. 

(12). The ideal church is not afraid to change because change occurs for the purpose of the church being a better instrument to reach people for the kingdom. 

(13). The ideal church will fellowship around the very limited essentials of the faith (the Person of Christ and salvation by grace through faith), and grant members freedom to hold and teach diverse views on secondary and tertiery doctrines. 

(14). The ideal church is characterized by love for people--all kinds of people--and that love is seen in its emphasis on missions, mercy ministries, and the care and support of members in need.

(15). The ideal church has a well-written constitution that is kept up-to-date and followed closely in all business matters, but the church is known by those in the community for its grace and freedom. 

(16). The ideal church will rejoice when other churches grow, and will hurt when other churches hurt, because the ideal church realizes that all believers, regardless of the church to which they belong, compose the kingdom of God and we are one family with Christ as our Head.

(17). The ideal church will have servants who lead others not because of their gender, socio-economic status, or race, but because the servant/leaders have been gifted and empowered by God to serve, anointed by the Spirit in their service, and have given evidence to the church of their love for people.

(18). The ideal church understands that sin is more about one's nature than it is one's actions; authority is more about one's gifted service than it is one's titular status, and truth is more about Christ in one's life than it is words in one's mind.

(19). The ideal church cares more about building relationships and seeing lives transformed than the number of people who are baptized; in other words, baptisms are not a number to be dutifully obtained except as an identification of lives truly changed. 

(20). The ideal church doesn't desire to be like all other churches, but allows the Spirit of God to create a unique and effective personality that reflects who He is in the lives of His people in that local church. Cookie cutters may be good for baking, but they make for lousy churches.

Paul B.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

FAITH AND OBEDIENCE

Paul reminded the Roman Christians that they had been set free from being a slave to sin and now they were to, "obey from the heart that form of teaching which was delivered you. " [Romans 6:16-17]  We need to understand that there is absolutely no conflict in the New Testament between faith and obedience. There is a genuine conflict between living by faith and living by the Law, as there is between Grace and Law, but none whatsoever between faith and obedience in the life of a believer.

In fact, were one to attempt to separate faith and obedience one would effectively destroy both. There is no real biblical faith without obedience and no real biblical obedience except it flow from the reservoir of genuine faith.

The biblical message of Christ and His Cross work is to be understood two ways. There are those things declared to be accomplished and you can bank on them being true. [Generally written in the Indicative mood] Then there are those things commanded that are to be obeyed in light of His accomplishments. [Written in the Imperative mood.] The only thing we do with the accomplished things is believe them. [Rest in their genuineness] It is impossible to obey a fact declared accomplished. It isn't even addressed to our will but to our mind or understanding.

Likewise, a command is not to be believed but obeyed. It is not addressed to our mind or understanding but to our will. We can certainly trust it is a wise thing commanded and is best for our lives, but it is to be obeyed.

The Christian life is to be lived with this duality in mind always. As we believe who He is and what He has accomplished on our behalf, we are to then obey what He commands in every realm of life whether it be marriage, family, work, ministry or whatever a day may bring. Christianity is not a thing of religious activities to be performed, but a way of life. As we choose to obey what He commands, trusting who He is and what He's done to be real, we will find the power and authority for the living of life. Troubles, trials, good times alike, will come and go, but life will be meaningful and abundant BECAUSE He is alive in and through us.


Study the New Testament to know the ways of God and obey the will of God as you see it trusting that the ways you've learned are true. This is obedience flowing from that reservoir of faith in His accomplishments which was mentioned earlier. Do this as a way of life and a "well done" will be heard for your living of life in this, the year of our Lord, 2015.

Monday, March 30, 2015

IT CAN'T BE SAID BETTER THAN THIS!

[This is from Wade Burleson's blog and is exceptional.]


What You Believe Does Dictate How You Behave: Old Covenant Theology vs. New Covenant Theology





I've often said the greatest - and most overlooked - evangelical theologians of the past two millenniums were early 18th century English Baptists who penned the First London Confession of Faith. It's not my purpose in this blog post to go into all the details as to why this is so, suffice to say I am follower of Jesus Christ affiliated with a Baptist Church because of my agreement with these preeminent theologians. In short, they (and I) believe the New Testament to be the apex of God's self-revelation because in them is revealed how "the righteousness of God is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe" (Romans 3:22).

My wife and I recently enjoyed some fellowship with a woman in her seventies. She was raised Dutch Reformed and is now active in the Presbyterian Church of America. She is a delightful lady, one with whom we enjoyed visiting. However, through the course of our conversation there arose a stark and pointed difference between what she believes as a Presbyterian and what we believe as Baptists. She is a "Law person," and emphasized over and over that "God blesses obedience."

Of course, nobody would disagree with this statement. God does bless obedience. The question is "Whose obedience?" Our Presbyterian friend seemed to be emphasizing her and her husband's personal obedience. My wife and I only emphasize Christ's obedience (i.e. "His fulfillment of the Law"), and God's blessings freely given to us because of our faith in Christ.

This is the fundamental difference between Old Covenant Christians and New Covenant Christians.

Baptists historically have been New Covenant Christians. The early 18th century Baptists were uninterested inturning sinners into Mosaic Law-keepers and solely concerned with turning sinners into Christ believers. When Jesus Christ told us He came to fulfill the Law and the prophets, He meant it (Matthew 5:17). He fulfilled the Law with His life, death and resurrection, and then He abolished it and became a new Law Giver for His people. He said:

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:34-35).

Some might wonder about the practical differences between an Old Covenant believer as compared to the New Covenant believer. One of the best illustrations of the differences between the behavior of Old Covenant Christians when compared to the behavior of New Covenant Christians is given by my friend Jon Zens.

Jon points out that the Puritans (Old Covenant Christians) came over to the New World and found themselves facing the Native Americans (Indians). Old Covenant typology dominated their behavior toward the Indians. The Puritans saw their exodus from England paralleling Israel's exodus from Egypt in the Old Testament. The Puritans viewed their crossing of the Atlantic as a parallel to Israel's crossing of the Red Sea. The Puritans believed that their arrival in the New World paralleled Israel's arrival and entrance into the land of Canaan. The Puritans hoped that the New World would indeed be a land "flowing with milk and honey."

But now came the mistake the Puritans made because of their emphasis on the Old Covenant.

The Puritans believed that the Native Americans they met in the New World paralleled Israel meeting the heathen nations in the land of Canaan. How should they respond? Old Covenant typology pointed to casting out the Native peoples by force, precisely as Israel cast out the heathen nations in Canaan. However, New Covenant theology commands believers in Christ to love their enemies. Should the Puritans follow the Law of Christ by loving and evangelizing the Indians, or should the Puritans follow the example of Old Covenant Israel and kill the native dwellers? According to Zens, the Puritans behaved in a manner consistent with their Old Covenant beliefs. Over time they removed or exterminated the Indians, claiming the New World for God.

Now, back to the Presbyterian lady we met. Her husband was not a believer. She had been married to him for over fifty years, but it had been "exceedingly difficult." She so desperately wanted her husband to be 'obedient' to God's Laws (worshipping on the Sabbath, tithing on their income, etc...) because "God blesses our obedience." I was worn out listening to her.

I would suggest that what her husband needed was a wife who was so full of Christ, so appreciative of the perfect righteousness that has been given to her because of her faith in Jesus, that she loves her husband exactly the way Christ loves her. It seems to me that if the New Covenant was the foundation of her theology and philosophy of living, then she would set aside any emphasis on her husband's performance--or lack thereof -- and simply love him without expectations or conditions.

Obviously, this post has simplified some very complex issues, but my goal is not so much to convince anyone of this truth as much as it is to encourage the beginning of a journey toward truth. It's an axiom that if there is maladjustment in one's behavior toward people, it's usually because of a problem in one's beliefs about God.

We need more New Covenant theology preaching in our churches so that our behavior as believers toward others will match our beliefs of God's behavior toward us in Christ - as taught in the apex of God's self-revelation, otherwise known as the New Testament.