Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Funny Thing Happened One Sunday

This week’s confession from a highly caffeinated Christian comes brewed with controversial observations on laughter.

Where There Is Fire…

Rules are not funny to me but rules can keep you out of a world of hurt. If there is a rule, it is probably because something happened that somebody else doesn’t ever want to happen again. For example, we have “No Smoking” signs at the entrance of our church because Open Door Ministries tends to attract the “Marlboro man” to our services. Rather than run him off, we just want to keep him from firing one up during the announcements. You might think you don’t have to ask people to refrain from smoking at church but we have discovered signs are required in Johnson County.

Jesus, Wont You Light His Fire?

There is a good reason why we have one person in charge of calling the prayer chain instead of just handing out the long list of phone numbers for our church’s prayer warriors. We used to provide those phone numbers until one lady called through the entire church and asked us to pray for her husband’s apparent erectile dysfunction and asked that “the spirit would move” at around 10:00 pm on Friday. When her poor husband found out, he called through the same list insisting that there was no physical problem and that he would probably be asleep by 10:00 on Friday anyway. We don’t give out those numbers anymore.

Fire In The Sky.

When I was young, I used to let people in the crowd give testimonies but I quit handing the microphone over when one woman shocked the congregation in 1998. Her testimony was that she was in her back pasture when the “Mother Ship” landed not far from where she was standing. She wasn’t sure if they were angles or “fire aliens” but something came out and ran her back into the house. I don’t hand over the microphone anymore.

If you have church long enough, especially if you are an outreach church, your going to see things that you never thought would happen in a million years. Things that make you want to bust out laughing and make others want to run off crying.

Gun Fire

The first time I preached in Matomoros Mexico, Pastor Gene Izaguira told me the Mafioso had just warned him not to be preaching anymore to their drug runners because too many had been converted to Christ. When he refused, the bad guys told gene they would assassinate him behind his pulpit on that very night. Mind you, this was the first night I showed up down there to preach.

“So if somebody walks in and shoots you bro,” he said with his hand on my shoulder, “its nothing against you personally.”

That night an armed gunman was stopped at the door by the 2 new converts who had not yet learned the doctrine of self-control. Forrest Griffin would have been proud of their “ground and pound” technique. In the midst of the brutal beating, that young man decided to give his life to the Lord and is a big part of Gene’s church to this day. That was my first time down there and I’ve been back more than 60 times since. How can you not love a church like that?

Fire From Heaven

Just a few months ago, my band was playing at a motorcycle church in Chico, Texas. At the end of the service, a worn out practitioner came forward in his leather and long hair asking for prayer about his hearing. “I’m real scared and I need a miracle”, he said to the Pastor.

We laid hands on him and the Man of God broke out some olive oil and put it on both his ears. They whole prayer team rebuked the devil, shouted at Heaven and proclaimed a miracle healing as our band played upbeat worship as backup. After a good ten minutes of lively scripture quoting and charismatic breakthrough, the team got quiet and the Pastor asked him how his hearing was? The man, with a confused look and oil dripping off both ears stated, “perfect, I can hear perfectly”.

Just as praise began to bust out in the church, the man interrupted, “my ears are not the problem! It’s tomorrow’s court hearing I’m worried about.” I laughed so hard I had to leave the room.

A big part of having real victory in your life is being led by God to know what you should and should not take too seriously. If you are all wrapped up in yourself, you’re a gift everybody else could do without. I double-dog-dare you to ask the Lord to give you a heart that loves to laugh. After all, that’s His heart too.

“He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.”

Job 8:21

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Triumphant Navigation

On July 17, 1938, pilot Douglas Corrigan took off from Brooklyn's Floyd Bennett Field as family and friends watched. He only carried with him two chocolate bars, two boxes of fig bars, a quart of water, and a U.S. map with the route from New York to California marked out. His goal was to fly non-stop.

Corrigan took off in his modified Curtiss Robin equipped with a big V8 engine. It was a foggy morning. He flew into the haze and disappeared.

Twenty-eight hours latter he successfully landed but not in California, in Dublin, Ireland three thousand miles the opposite direction. He instantly became a national hero because it was a feat thought impossible at the time, but from that day forward he was known as Wrong Way Corrigan.

Bead Crumbs and the North Star
Some people have a knack for direction and some people are just naturally lost as a burp in a hurricane. The Brewer is one of those people that you could blind fold, turn me a round and I probably would be able to point out north once I quit being dizzy. I’ve heard its an inner ear thing but there are those of us that just have a really good sense of bearing. I’ve always been like that. It reminds me of what Brian Keith said to Charlton Heston in the 1980 movie, The Mountain Men. “No, I never get lost. Fearsome confused for weeks at a time, but I never get lost.”

It’s very embarrassing for a guy like me to get lost. I don’t know why but I’m always convinced I’ll get to the right place and I tend to get mad at the road if it doesn’t cooperate with me. If I do get lost, it’s usually because I am talking on the cell phone. I miss exits and outright drive to wrong cities if I stay on the phone long enough. I have been known to hang up the phone look at where I’m driving and say, “How did I end up here?” That’s scary.

GPS and On Star
The same type thing happened to Commander George P. Ryanway before I ever drove to Dallas. On November 23, 1877 the last of the great steam naval ships, the USS Huron left port and headed south towards Cuba. The Captain represented the brightest of his day and he had actually taught navigation at West Point. Because of his education he ignored warning after warning of approaching storms confident that his compass and his knowledge could weather any storm. But what he didn’t know was that there was a tiny 1-degree error in the ships compass and the further they headed south, the closer his ship would edge towards the reefs of the east coast. In fact, with within 24 hours the Huron would be sank just 200 yards off the coast of Virginia and 98 men would loose their lives to the waves and the current.

When the warning bells rang, the Captain saw the rocks of the reef directly ahead and there was no way they could stop in time. He commanded his men to brace themselves and his last recorded words were, “MY GOD, HOW DID WE GET HERE?”

The Bright and Morning Star
Ryanway was lost because what he trusted wasn’t true. I was lost because I was distracted and not paying attention. “Wrong way Corrigan” was lost because he was blind in the fog. Whatever the reason, this is not a good year for you to be lost. As a Christian, my prayer for you is that God would lead you, guide you and direct you into better places. I hope that through the Holy Spirit you could find clear definition, forward progression and head into a hopeful place with confidence.

I believe that if you’ve never really got what “the Jesus thing” is to those of us that call ourselves saved, you can personally seek Him and find Him for yourself. I also believe if you once had a walk with God and somehow fell out, Jesus wants you back. Out of all the things I have to struggle with, being lost is not one of them. It’s the most precious gift anyone has ever given me because it was my greatest need. Man, am I ever a guy in desperate need of a Savior and how grateful I am to have Him!

Matthew 18:14
In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Songs From the Road

Beating The Daily Grind

So when you take off, do you head for snow or sand? When you think “get-a-way,” are you thinking mountains or rivers? The Brewer doesn’t care just as long as I can get out of here from time to time. I grew up in Joshua back when we called it Joshuway and like that old Mac Davis song; I thought happiness was Joshua Texas in my rear view mirror.

Yet 30 odd years later, I’m still here and firmly planted. Glad to be here too. With all that said, about ever six weeks I get what the dictionary refers to as “stress from confinement or isolation: an emotional condition, marked by irritability, distress caused by prolonged isolation or confined living quarters.” You and I would just say cabin fever. Sometimes I call it “lets get-the-heck-out-of-dodgeotomy.” It’s the big cure all for the daily grind.

A Change of Scenery

The biggest perk for doing mission’s work throughout the world is actually going all over the world. The greatest thing to me about taking the show on the road is the actual road.

Yeah, we visit trash dumps, leprosy colonies and prisons but we are a long way from the normal boring routine of home responsibilities. It’s adventurous, fun and actually very therapeutic for the Brewer to hit the road as often as possible.

People have always sang songs about the road. There is something romantic about going somewhere else.

The Almond Brothers sang Midnight Rider and Ramblin man. Lynard Skynard sang They call me the Breeze. The Beach Boys sang I get around. Blackfoot did It’s a highway song. John Fogerty played The Old man down the Road. AC/DC said they were on the Highway to Hell and they can have that road, the Brewer aint going that way.

Truth be told, the road is something worth singing about.

Just recently I had a great talk with a non-Christian about what I feel like the difference between Christianity and religion is all about. When he told me he hated religion, I told him I did too. He said, “but you’re a Christian Pastor.” And I went into trying to define the difference between being a Kingdom of God kind of person and being religious.

As Ricky said to Lucy, “Let me splain.”

The Kingdom of Heaven as Jesus explained it is more about intimacy with God during the journey than the actual destination. The most important commandment in the Bible is not saving the world but actually loving God and loving the people around you.

Religion is all about going to Heaven. Christianity is supposed to be about loving God right now. Religion is about how you function. Christianity is supposed to be about relationship. Religion is all about escaping the earth. Christianity is supposed to be all about making a big impact and influencing the earth. Religion is all about trying to take the earth to heaven. Christianity is supposed to be all about bringing heaven to this earth.

I say “supposed to be” because we Christians have a very sorry history of being religious nuts that want to dominate and turn people into something more controllable. God doesn’t want religious nuts; He wants spiritual fruit.

The “Fruit of the Spirit” is all about letting God’s love come out of you right now. When it comes down to it, true Christianity (in my view) is about knowing God through Christ right now and seeing people the way God sees people, right now. This is something you progress in. So while it may be a road less traveled, it’s a faith more about the journey than the destination. The road really is something worth singing about.

I hope your journey through 2008 is one full of laughter and song. Keep the Lord ahead of you and sooner or later you will hear constant steps behind you. That’s just Goodness and Mercy following you, as you keep moving forward.

"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever!" Psalms 23:6

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

2008 - A Year of New Beginnings

On the 8th day of the 8th month in year of 88 I was listening to the radio while on my way to work. The announcer reported the high temperature of New York City at an uncanny 88 degrees. I don’t live in New York and the only reason it was reported in Texas was because of all the eights involved.

Now I’ve been a scriptural number thumper for sometime and I knew that God likes to preach sermons on new beginnings through the number eight. I wondered what new beginning was about to take place in the Big Apple.

At that same time a young go-getter and the third ranked man on the Department of Justice by the name of Rudolph Giuliani was getting ready to run for Mayor. He would later change Times Square from a sewer of porn and crime back to a tourist attraction

Things were about to change and that’s what new beginnings are all about.

A New Sheriff in Town.

When Jesus hit the scene 2000 years ago, He fulfilled and completed one covenant and opened a new one. To get an idea of how radical this new beginning is for us, you must first be able to wrap your head around the concept of how messed up we were under the old covenant. There was nothing wrong with the covenant; but under it we were a major malfunction.

You put people into any picture and it gets messed up quick. The book of Genesis sinks like a lead balloon from the first four words of the book into the last four words of the book. We go from “In the Beginning God”…to…”a coffin in Egypt.”

The book of Genesis takes a nose-dive from things “as good they can get” to things as bad as they can get. Now fill in the blank and guess who entered into that picture. You and I did! Mankind. Things were bad in Dodge City and we needed a new sheriff in town. Enter Jesus Christ, the King of Kings.

When Jesus appeared as promised, He didn’t come with just with a new beginning but as the new beginning that all of us needed. With Jesus, everybody gets another chance.

Pieces of Eight

Because the number eight represents new beginnings, the Holy Spirit has had the writers of the Bible pen down eight new things the Lord gives us through His new covenant.

A new song (Ps 96:1 Rev 5:5:9) A new name (Isaiah 65:2 Rev 2:17) A new Heart (Ezekiel 18:31) A new Spirit (Ezekiel 11:19) A new tongue (Mark 16:17 Acts 2:4) A new commandment (John 13:34) A new heaven and a new Earth (Rev 21:1 and Isaiah 66:22)

Since the number 8 is all about new beginnings, it’s no wonder that there were 8 people in the Ark when it rested on Ararat. King David was the 8th son of Jesse. Aaron and sons began their ministry on the 8th day. The word “born” appears 8 times in Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus. Elijah performed 8 miracles. Elisha performed 16 miracles (2x8). Jesus rose up on the eighth day or the first day of the week.

I think it’s also cool to note the title of Jesus as “Redeemer” shows up eight times in scripture.

There are 8 women prophets in the bible. (Miriam; Deborah; Huldah; Anna; and the 4 virgin daughters of Philip in Acts 21:8)

There are also 8 things worthy to think on in Philippians 4:8. If you want a new beginning in your mind, these are things you have to think on. (Things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of a good report, virtue and praise.)

Even the word eight appears exactly 80 times in scripture.

Eight is Enough

So the Biblical point of the number eight is that in it, is the promise of brand new beginnings. A time when things that should of happened finally do happen. A fresh start and a second chance. A hopeful time of promise or “renaissance” if you will. That’s what I believe 2008 to be for all of us. I double-dog-dare you to be hopeful with me.