What My Dad Taught Me About Kindness

mem_000039
With Father’s Day coming up and with it being the first one that we’ll be celebrating without my dad, I wrote a blog earlier this week about what he taught me about humility. (Click HERE to read it).

Since that blog was so well received I thought I’d write another one. And just like the last one, while this blog will be a tribute to him, I am writing it in such a way to apply to your life and mine. Here goes…

In his letter to the Galatians, the Apostle Paul wrote: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. – Galatians 5:22-23

While we would love to bear all nine aspects of the fruit of the Spirit listed above, there are a few that we tend to demote in order of importance.

Like “kindness.”

We all want more “love” and “joy” and “patience” but “kindness” is most likely not at the top of your prayer list of things to ask God for.

And yet, here is what Paul wrote to the early church in Rome: Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? – Romans 2:4

I love that Scripture because it points out how we often get it wrong. When it comes to wanting people to repent and turn to Jesus, Christians often use fear or guilt or manipulation or the threat of God’s wrath and hell.

But this verse says God’s kindness is the key to everything. God’s kindness is intended to lead people to repentance.

In Jesus in the Mirror, fellow Vineyard pastors Tri Robinson & Jason Chatraw write, “God’s kindness is meant to lead us to repentance. It’s that important. When we’re kind, we’re reflecting the ingredient that draws us to God . . . Given the importance of kindness in reflecting God’s desire to draw people to Himself, it is essential that we take time to examine where we are with kindness in our own lives.”

So with that in mind, let me ask you some questions…

How do you tend to treat people who are there to serve you? Like when you go to a restaurant, how do you treat a waitress? If you go to Wal-Mart, how do you treat the cashier? Think about how you treat them and does the word “kind” describe your behavior?

Next question. How would you treat others if you were rushed to the emergency room due to shortness of breath and severe pain?

Next question. Let’s up the ante. How about if you were diagnosed with stage 4 cancer? Would you be “short” with those around you after getting that diagnosis and prognosis?

Would you feel like you earned a free pass to be less than “kind” toward your loved ones and anyone else that crossed your path?

As you all know unfortunately that series of questions is not hypothetical, but questions I began to ask myself over the last 2 months of my dad’s life as I saw him in action.

Because over and over and over again, my dad was kind to me, to my mom, to my brother, to our kids. And he was kind anyone else that crossed his path, from the ER doctors to his oncologist to the nurses to the orderlies.

One example of this still stands out in my mind. It was the day that dad went to the ER for the final time. By this point he knew he was very sick and intensive care was on the near horizon.

He had already been in the ER a half dozen times, and because of that he began to recognize the staff. And that’s something you hope never happens. Recognizing staff in the ER because you are there so often. But that’s what happened to us.

So a nurse came in the room, someone he recognized, someone who had worked on him in past trips to the ER.

And she was trying to poke him to draw blood. As she was struggling to find a vein, he said something to her along these lines: “I know you’ll get it. You always do.”

Kindness.

In Life on the Vine, Phillip Kenneson writes, “Because the Greek word for ‘Christ’ (christos) was so similar to the word for ‘kind’ (chrestos) apparently many people mistakenly (though perhaps fittingly) called Jesus’ early followers not ‘Christians’ but ‘the kind ones.’”

And that quote lead me to think this: We would be way more effective at reaching the world for Christ if we were simply more kind.

Kind to one another. Kind to other Christians who don’t believe every single thing point of doctrine that we do. For Protestants to be more kind to the Catholics. For Catholics to be more kind to the Protestants.

We would be way more effective at reaching the world for Christ if we were simply more kind. Kind to people of other faiths. Kind to people of no faith. Kind to our parents. Kind to our children. Kind to our spouses. Kind when we are sad. Kind when we are mad. Kind when we are angry.

After all… Because the Greek word for “Christ” (christos) was so similar to the word for “kind” (chrestos) apparently many people mistakenly though perhaps fittingly called Jesus’ early followers not “Christians” but “the kind ones.”

***In light of the horrific nightclub shooting in Orlando, I am changing my sermon up a bit. The new title is “Does God Ordain The Bad Things That Happen?” It will still be part of our Building a Wall of Faith series but its application will be broader than originally planned. Here is a sneak preview: When an accident or tragedy happens or when someone gets sick or diagnosed with a disease… Do you get mad at the devil? Do you lament the fact that we live in a fallen world? Or have you found yourself saying (or thinking) something like this: “The Lord works in mysterious ways” or “Everything happens for a reason.” While those quotes make for good sound bytes on greeting cards, do they actually provide comfort for those grieving? And more importantly, do they line up with what the Bible teaches? Please join us on June 19th at 10:30am at The Eastside Vineyard Church. More info at tevchurch.org***

Posted in Uncategorized

What My Dad Taught Me About Humility

dad dan weddingFather’s Day is just a few days away. And this is going to be the first one we will be celebrating without my dad. He was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer last July and less than two months later we were at St. Lawrence cemetery.

So in honor of my dad, I thought I’d write a blog about one of the key character traits I saw in him throughout his life, one that especially bubbled to the surface during those final two months. And while this blog will be a tribute to him, I am writing it in such a way to apply to your life and mine. Here goes…

In Uprising Erwin McManus writes, “It seems hard for us to believe, but God is not impressed with talent nearly as much as He is with character. Perhaps no characteristic is more central to the heart of God than humility.”

As humans we tend to focus on talents and abilities. After all the TV show isn’t titled America’s Got CHARACTER, is it?🙂

So we focus on outward behaviors, while God looks on the inside. And McManus says: “Perhaps no characteristic is more central to the heart of God than humility.”

And that is one character trait that defined Dallas Kopp: humility.

Now before I go any further, let me define the term. Because when it comes to “humility”, we know it when we see it. We know when someone is being humble and when they aren’t. But it’s hard to define.

So here is my favorite definition of humility. It’s found in Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. By the way, Mere Christianity was one of the very first books I ever read when I started going back to church back in 1996, after the 5 year period of my life when I was an atheist and agnostic… a 5-year period of my life that gave my dad a lot of gray hair, where I would often come home about the time he got up to go to work.

But I digress…🙂

C.S. Lewis writes, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”

True humility is not thinking you are a piece of trash or acting like you can’t do anything. It’s not about throwing yourself under the bus. It is a way of thinking. It’s all about how much you think about YOU versus how much you think about and focus on OTHERS.

And that is exactly what the Bible says “…in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus…” – Philippians 2:3-5 (NIV)

Throughout his life and especially during his last two months, my dad did that over and over and over again.

Here is one example of a myriad I could share. Let me take you back to July 31, 2015. My dad, mom, and I had just met with his family doctor in Clinton Township and received the diagnosis: A golf-ball size tumor was growing in his pancreas. Stage 4. With a prognosis of 4-6 months to live if he chose to do nothing.

We were reeling.

His doctor pulled some strings and the next thing we knew we were driving across town to the oncologist’s office.

Let me press the pause button for a moment. I don’t mean to speak a curse over you, but if that was you, where would your thoughts be focused… on OTHERS or on YOURSELF?

As we arrived at the oncologist’s office and got admitted to a room, the nursing assistant came in to ask some general questions about my dad’s health. He quickly redirected the conversation asking her what her name was, where she went to school, and if she liked her job.

Mind you, he was minutes away from hearing about various cocktails of chemotherapy drugs and their scores of side effects. And yet he chose to make those moments not about himself, but about others.

Now you might be thinking that my dad was doing this as a defense mechanism. To take his mind off of his mortality. But I don’t agree. Because what I witnessed in the oncologist’s office that afternoon, I witnessed over and over again during his final two months…. and I witnessed it throughout his life before the diagnosis as well.

I saw true humility, where he didn’t think less of himself; he simply thought of himself less.

Now when it comes to humility, it’s easy to think that it’s something you have or something you don’t have. That some people are just naturally more humble — like my dad — while others are more prideful.

We tend to think that humility is like your height, we can’t make ourselves taller or shorter. Our height is our height and there is nothing we can do it about it.

So that’s what we tend to think. But what does the Bible teach when it comes to humility? Here is what the Apostle Peter wrote, “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” – 1 Peter 5:5 (NIV)

So Peter tells us to clothe ourselves with humility, implying that just like we choose what to clothe ourselves with on the outside, we can choose what to clothe ourselves with on the inside.

We can choose to clothe ourselves with humility. And we ought to. After all, when Peter wrote that verse originally in the Greek language, the words “clothe yourselves” is an imperative which means it’s not just a suggestion but a command.

Verses like that that led Erwin McManus to write this: “We are never called in the Bible to pray for humility; instead we are commanded to be humble. There are some things God does and some things God requires. While humility is a divine attribute, it is placed squarely on our shoulders to choose this path.”

So with all of that being said, here is my challenge to you and to me: choose the path of humility.

In other words… You can choose how much any given conversation is about you. You can choose how much you think about yourself. You can choose how sorry you feel for yourself. You can choose how to treat those “below” you on the pecking order of life.

So choose the path of humility. In other words, do what Jesus did…over and over and over.

And see how God blesses you as a result, because the Bible says “God opposes the proud… but shows favor to the humble.” He gives grace to the humble. He takes delight in the humble.

May you and I choose the path of humility where we don’t think less of ourselves; but think of ourselves less.

***In light of the horrific nightclub shooting in Orlando, I am changing my sermon up a bit. The new title is “Does God Ordain The Bad Things That Happen?” It will still be part of our Building a Wall of Faith series but its application will be broader than originally planned. Here is a sneak preview: When an accident or tragedy happens or when someone gets sick or diagnosed with a disease… Do you get mad at the devil? Do you lament the fact that we live in a fallen world? Or have you found yourself saying (or thinking) something like this: “The Lord works in mysterious ways” or “Everything happens for a reason.” While those quotes make for good sound bytes on greeting cards, do they actually provide comfort for those grieving? And more importantly, do they line up with what the Bible teaches? Please join us on June 19th at 10:30am at The Eastside Vineyard Church. More info at tevchurch.org***

Posted in Uncategorized

What D-Day Teaches Us About the Devil and the Cross

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 4.26.27 PMIn honor of the 72nd anniversary of the
D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944, I tracked down a blog I wrote a few years ago and updated it a bit. May it offer insight on Satan and the power of the Cross…

Jesus triumphed over the devil on the Cross. And yet Satan is still wreaking havoc on planet earth. So how can Satan be defeated and yet still be stealing, killing, and destroying?

Here is an analogy to consider, and this is one of those analogies that is so good I wish I came up with it :) but it originated with theologian Oscar Cullman.

June 6, 1944 is known as D-Day. It’s the day that the Allies established a beachhead on the European mainland in Normandy, France. Looking back in history, war historians say at that point — when D-Day was successful — the Allies won the war. The moment they established a beachhead on the European mainland, they broke the back of the Germans.

So war historians say that the Allies won the war — in principle — on D-Day. On June 6, 1944.

But the Allies victory was not fully realized until VE-Day. VE stands for “Victory in Europe” and that took place 11 months later on May 8, 1945.

On D-Day, the defeat of Nazis was a foregone conclusion. On D-Day the war was over (in principle), but there was lots of fighting between D-Day and VE-Day. There was tons of bloodshed before the actual surrender of the Germans. In fact, some of the bloodiest battles of World War II occurred between D-Day and VE-Day. Germany was a defeated enemy, but they weren’t going down without a fight. The Germans fought fiercely, but fought a losing battle.

On D-Day the Germans were defeated but that defeat was not fully realized until VE-Day.

You and I are living in between God’s D-Day and His VE-Day, in-between the Resurrection and the Second Coming of Christ. When Jesus died on the Cross and then rose from the dead — that was God’s D-Day. And when the Second Coming of Christ happens — that will be God’s VE-Day.

So we are living in the time between the times, between God’s D-Day and VE-Day.

Because of D-Day, Satan is a defeated enemy. Speaking of what happened on Good Friday, Paul writes: God stripped the spiritual rulers and powers of their authority. With the cross, he won the victory and showed the world that they were powerless. (Colossians 2:15)

Because of God’s D-Day, Satan is a defeated enemy. Jesus won the victory. But just like the Germans, the devil is not raising the white flag of surrender.

One day in the future Satan will be completely destroyed: And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. (Revelation 20:10).

One day Satan will no longer be the ruler of our world. And yet as I write this blog, he is still ruling it. A verse I find absolutely fascinating is one the Apostle Paul wrote 20 years after the Cross and Empty Tomb: The devil who rules this world has blinded the minds of those who do not believe (2 Corinthians 4:4 NCV). Two decades after Jesus’ death and resurrection, Paul describes Satan as the one who is still ruling planet earth! (see also
1 John 5:19 and Ephesians 2:2).

In Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis wrote, “One of the things that surprised me when I first read the New Testament seriously was that it talked about a Dark Power in the universe – a mighty evil spirit who was . . . behind death and disease and sin . . . Christianity agrees . . . the universe is at war . . . and we are living in a part of the universe that is occupied by the rebel. Enemy-occupied territory – that is what this world is.”

One day Satan will be destroyed. God’s D-Day ensured this victory. But we are living between D-Day and VE-Day in the equivalent of war torn France during the height of World War II.

Satan is a defeated enemy. But he is not going down without a fight.

***We are launching a new series this Sunday titled “Building a Wall of Faith.” And in the kickoff sermon I will be addressing some things that put proverbial cracks in our wall of faith, namely a theology that God does NOT want to heal people. A classic argument against the belief regarding God’s will for healing is the Apostle Paul’s “thorn in the flesh.” We are going to dig deep into the Scriptures as there is much more going in in 2 Corinthians 12 than meets the eye! Please pray join us at The Eastside Vineyard Church on June 12, 2016 at 10:30am! More info at tevchurch.org***

 

Posted in Uncategorized

To Abide or Not to Abide. That is the Question.

Screen Shot 2016-06-04 at 6.33.49 AMIn my last blog (click HERE to read it) I shared how we want to make a difference. We want to make an impact. We want to attempt great things for God and expect that He’ll do great things through us in the process.

In biblical terms, we want to bear “fruit.” And then I shared the key first step Jesus gave us when it comes to bearing fruit: abiding in Him. This blog picks up where that one left off.

When I preached my sermon titled “Grape” Expectations back in May 2016, I gave a number of “abiding” action steps. But you can only share so much in a 40-minute sermon! So here is a review of some of the ways I shared in that sermon, plus a few Action Steps I wanted to share but didn’t because I ran out of time…

Abide in John 15
We often underestimate the power of simply picking up the Bible. So grab one and read the first 17 verses from John 15. But don’t just read that passage once. Read it again and again. Pray as you read it. Journal about it. Memorize some (or all of it!). Those words are a gift to us. After all, they contain some of the last things Jesus said before He went to the Cross.

Abide the Moravian way
When it comes to reading the Bible I like to say, “Have a plan and work the plan.” In other words don’t wake up each morning and play “Bible Roulette” by opening your Bible to a random page and reading it. Instead, follow a Bible reading plan.

For the past few years I have been following the Bible reading plan that we have at the Welcome Center at our church. It outlines how to read the Bible chronologically, so you read the Bible from cover to cover in 365 days in the order that the events happened in history. It’s a great plan but after repeating it for several years, I felt like I needed to try something new.

And that something new is called the Moravian Daily Text. It’s a Bible reading plan put out by the Moravian Church, a denomination that is about 500 years old that originates in the ancient country of Moravia which is now part of the Czech Republic.

They have a Bible reading plan where each day you read a portion of a Psalm, a portion from the Old Testament, and a portion of the New Testament. You simply follow their plan each day. Click HERE for the link that I use.

Abide a lot.
Many Christians have a daily “quiet time” where they read the Bible and pray for 15 to 30 minutes in the morning. While that is a great thing to do, why not take it to the next level this summer. What would it look like to give God 1 hour each day? 2 hours? In order to do that, you’ll need to radically rearrange your calendar. It won’t be easy. But it will be worth it.

To inspire you to do that, let me share a quotation from a book I recently read by Heidi Baker titled Birthing the Miraculous. Heidi is an incredibly driven person bearing incredible fruit for the Kingdom of God, including helping provide care for 10,000 orphans. So she is a super busy person. With that in mind, here is a quote:

I felt [God] told me, “I want more time with you. I am going to have to cut away the things in your schedule that are not important to Me.”

So in the midst of all of the things she was doing for God, God told her He didn’t want her to DO more FOR Him. He wanted her to BE more WITH Him.

And on that note, here is a question for you. If God said those words to you — “I want more time with you. I am going to have to cut away the things in your schedule that are not important to Me.” — what things can you imagine Him asking you to stop doing so that you’d have more time for abiding?

Spend some time this week praying about how you fill up your calendar. And see what things God might want you to cut down on or maybe even cut away altogether. So that you have more time to abide. To simply be with Jesus. To enjoy His presence. To rest in Him.

Abide “on the go.”
While it would be great to give God 1 or even 2 hours a day, we can’t “be still” all day long. In the midst of jobs, chores, marriage, parenting, and trips to Home Depot🙂 we need to learn to abide “on the go.” This isn’t a new concept. In fact a monk named Brother Lawrence was the pioneer of “practicing the presence of God” where he focused on God as he worked in the kitchen at his monastery. While it would take an entire blog to share how to do that, let me point you to a couple great resources: Practicing His Presence and Present Perfect.

Abide for a day
I’m not asking you to take a Sabbath Day every week from now until the Second Coming. I’m inviting you to just take ONE Sabbath sometime over the next month. Take a hard look at your calendar and pick a day that will be your Sabbath.

And I bet right now you are thinking, “I’d love to take a day off, but I can’t. I have too much to do.” And if that is what you are thinking, that is exactly why you need a Sabbath!

I want to let you in on a secret you already know to be true: you’ll never be done at work… on e-mail… with projects at home. You could always do more. And God knew that. So that’s why He gave us the gift of a day off. A Sabbath Day. To rest. To recharge. To pause.

So those are a handful of ways you can put the words of Jesus in John 15 into practice. Try one. Try a handful. And see which ones connect you best to the Vine that is Jesus. May you and I not just bear fruit, but MUCH fruit, in our lives. But before we simply roll up our sleeves and start doing things for God, may we take the first critical step. May we abide in Jesus.

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” – John 15:4-5 (NKJV)

 

Posted in Uncategorized

“Grape” Expectations

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 8.28.22 PMI love quotable quotes and one that makes my Top 10 list is by missionary William Carey. He said, “Expect great things FROM God. Attempt great things FOR God.”

We all want to to do that, don’t we? We don’t just want to exist on earth for 80 years and then die and go to heaven. We want to make a difference. We want to make an impact. We want to attempt great things for God and expect that He’ll do great things through us in the process.

In biblical terms, we want to bear “fruit.”

And that’s what Jesus wants for us as well. Less than 24 hours before the crucifixion, He said to His closest followers: “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (John 15:8).

So the question is, how do we actually do what Jesus said? How do we not just bear fruit, but MUCH fruit?

Answering that question is trickier than it sounds. It would be tempting to think that all you need to do is read the commands in the Bible, and — to borrow a phrase from Nike — Just Do It!

After all, the Bible commands us to do things like feed the poor, share your faith, pray for people, love your neighbor… the list goes on. And all of those things are examples of fruit that God wants us to produce, right? So should we roll up our sleeves and Just Do It?

Nope.

In fact, before we do any of those commands, before we bear any fruit in our lives, we need to do something else first. Something critical. Something that might not be obvious. Something that might even feel like a waste of time.

You see, a handful of verses before Jesus explained how He wants us to bear fruit, He explained the first critical (and often neglected) step:

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” – John 15:4-5 (NKJV)

Jesus tells His disciples the key to bearing much fruit in their lives is this: abiding in Him. And He doesn’t just say it one time. He says it over and over and over again. In fact, the word “abide” appears 10 times within 6 verses of John 15.

And since Jesus is a Master Teacher, He didn’t repeat Himself because He had A.D.D. or because He forgot where He was in His sermon notes and accidentally said the same thing a few times.🙂

Jesus said the word “abide” 10 times because He wanted to make sure His original disciples got the point — and He wanted to make sure readers of that text 2,000 years later got the point as well. The point? To abide in Jesus is a big, big deal.

Now I realize the word “abide” is not one you probably use a lot in your everyday conversations. So here is a helpful definition I came across in great little book by Bruce Wilkinson called Secrets of the Vine:

To “abide” means to remain, to stay closely connected, to settle in for the long term. With this picture Jesus is showing the disciples how an ongoing, vital connection with Him will directly determine the amount of His supernatural power at work in their lives.

So that’s what it means to abide in Jesus. But a key question remains… just how do you do that?

Since this blog is getting long I’ll save those thoughts until next time. But between now and then here are a couple Action Steps for you:

  • In May 2016 I preached a sermon on this very topic. So if you liked what you read so far, please click HERE to watch and/or listen to it.
  • In addition, why not add Secrets of the Vine to your summer reading list. In fact, you won’t need all summer to read it from cover to cover. Just a few hours. That book is an example the cliche: good things come in small packages.

Stay tuned for next blog…

Posted in Uncategorized

The Major Christian Holiday We Don’t Celebrate

Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 11.01.13 AMThe month of May has a ton of holidays in it. Mother’s Day and Memorial Day are the ones that quickly come to mind. And then there is Cinco De Mayo and even Star Wars Day (where fans love to say “May the Fourth Be With You!”). There are even crazy holidays like International Tuba Day (May 6), Frog Jumping Day (May 13), and Tap Dance Day (May 25). Yes, those are real holidays!

While the first two holidays I mentioned really matter, the rest of those holidays can fly right by on most of our calendars with no negative repercussions. Yet, there is one more holiday in May that could easily fly by as well, but shouldn’t: the day of Pentecost (May 15).

When I grew up going to church I always thought there were just “The Big 3” when it came to Christian holidays: Christmas, Good Friday, and Easter. Those 3 days take front and center on our calendars. And they should. We can’t imagine treating December 25th like any other day, then waking up on December 26th and thinking, “Wasn’t Christmas around this time of year?”

But that is exactly what happens when it comes to Pentecost. Pentecost has become the forgotten holiday on the Christian calendar, when in reality it ought to make The Big 3 into The Big 4.

When it comes to Christmas, Good Friday, and Easter I have heard various pastors and Christian authors argue about which of those events associated with the life of Jesus is the most important. And I have heard arguments about how each one trumps the other two.

To me, that is like trying to argue which side of a triangle is the most important.🙂

When it comes to a triangle you need all 3 sides in order for the shape to be a triangle. And when it comes to our spiritual journey, all of those events of Jesus’ life are “must haves”: His birth AND His death AND His resurrection… AND His ascension.

After all, when Jesus rose from the dead He didn’t keep walking the earth for the rest of His existence. He rose from the dead and then 40 days later He ascended to Heaven.

You might wonder, what’s the big deal about that? Here is the answer, straight from the mouth of Jesus: “But now I am going away to the one who sent me . . . in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you” (John 16:5,7 NLT).

The “Advocate” is another name for the Holy Spirit. Jesus was saying He needed to leave earth and ascend to Heaven SO THAT the Holy Spirit would come. In fact, Jesus said it was better that He left earth instead of sticking around.

Think about that for a moment.

According to our Lord and Savior, if you had two options — EITHER an “in the flesh” Jesus remaining on earth for the past 2,000 years OR sending the Holy Spirit — Jesus chooses option B.

So the fact that the Holy Spirit was going to come was a big, big deal. And the way God sovereignly orchestrated things was to have the Holy Spirit come to earth on one particular day: Pentecost.

The day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2 is the day everything changed. It’s the day the Holy Spirit came in power. It’s the day the Holy Spirit filled every believer. In fact, it’s considered the birthday of the church!

So I have a crazy dream. I pray that the day of Pentecost would be viewed by Christians at The Eastside Vineyard and by Christians across the country as being as big of a deal as Christmas, Good Friday, and Easter.

That it would be a “can’t miss” day to go to church. That it would be a day where we reflect on the role the Holy Sprit has in our lives. That it would be a day when we read our Bibles and see what happened back in the days of the early church and we passionately pray that those things would happen again in our day.

***Praying for Pentecost.” That’s the title of my sermon this Sunday. Please join us at The Eastside Vineyard Church as we celebrate this “forgotten holiday” on the Christian calendar. May 15th. 10:30am. More info at tevchurch.org***

Posted in Uncategorized

Prophets, Plot Twists, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

20160411_100722 (2)This blog is going to take you on a journey, with a few plot twists along the way. It has to do with a command in the Bible that we often ignore, a spiritual gift we under-define, and the surprising identity of the greatest American prophet. So here goes…

There is a command in the New Testament that I have ignored for most of my adult Christian life. Paul writes: “. . . eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially prophecy” (1 Corinthians 14:1). Even though this is a command inspired by the Holy Spirit, it is one I never pressed into, besides praying every once in a while for God to release this gift and other spiritual gifts in my life.

Besides praying here and there, I didn’t do anything else except reading a single book on the spiritual gift of prophecy, but that several years ago.

So last year I decided to change that by taking some active steps to do what the Apostle Paul commanded. I enrolled in an online program through Global Awakening called Christian Prophetic Certification Program (CPCP).

During one of the video lectures Randy Clark asked the students to name which contemporary “prophet” they thought had the most impact on America.

Students began to share well-known people who have numerous books in the “prophecy” section at the local Family Christian bookstore. Randy asked why each person picked the name they did and they provided their reasons.

Randy then asked if there was anyone else that came to mind… which contemporary “prophet” had the most impact on America? Here’s where the “plot twist” comes into play! Someone shouted out “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”

The temperature in the classroom seemed to change as the person gave that answer. Because everyone seemed to realize that out of all of the people who were named, Dr. King was the correct answer.

Why? Because of what a “prophet” is in the fullest biblical sense. When I say the word “prophet” or “prophetic” I bet you are thinking of someone whom God has gifted to see future events (like John in the book of Revelation) or have supernatural visions. And while that is a part of the spiritual gift of prophecy, there is more. Much more.

Simply defined, a “prophet” is someone whom God chooses to speak through. And when you read the Bible from cover to cover you’ll realize God is greatly concerned with justice and the proper treatment of the poor and those who need help.

In fact, when you read the books grouped together as the “Prophets” in the Old Testament — books like Isaiah, Micah, Amos, Ezekiel, and more — these prophets of God regularly address issues surrounding care for the poor, injustice, inequality, etc. For example…

Your rulers are rebels, partners with thieves; they all love bribes and chase after gifts. They do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow’s case does not come before them. (Isaiah 1:23)

You levy a straw tax on the poor and impose a tax on their grain. (Amos 5:11)

The people of the land practice extortion and commit robbery; they oppress the poor and needy and mistreat the foreigner, denying them justice. (Ezekiel 22:29)

So when you think of a “prophet” in these terms, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. fits perfectly.

As the video lecture continued, Randy Clark asked a question that convicted me. He asked for a show of hands to see how many students ever read or watched the entire “I Have a Dream” speech in its entirety (and not just the 45 second sound byte at the end)? A few hands went up. Then he asked how many students read Letters from a Birmingham Jail. Once again a small number of students raised their hands.

If I was in the classroom that day, my hand would have remained down for both questions.

And that saddened me. After all, in the last 100 years what human being has made a greater impact across our country than Dr. King? What person has God spoken more powerfully through than Dr. King?

And yet I knew practically nothing about his life and his life’s work, beyond a few sound bytes I’ve watched on YouTube. And this isn’t ancient history either. These events took place in my parent’s generation and the effects of his life continue to present day.

After watching that video lecture I decided to let my conviction turn to action. Side note: we use the word “conviction” way too much. I hear people say they were convicted about “this” or “that” but then they take no action as a result. Maybe what they are feeling is guilt. Maybe it’s an emotional response. But it’s not conviction. Conviction should always lead to change.

So instead of just feeling bad about my ignorance of Dr. King and then allowing the distractions of li20160411_100841fe to lead me to do nothing, I went on amazon.com and began search the various works on the life of Dr. King. At first I was tempted to read just the 20-page manuscript of Letters or the 5-page manuscript of I Have a Dream.

But I realized going either those routes would be a cop out. So I ended up purchasing The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. (edited by Clayborne Carson). It’s about 400 pages from cover to cover and took me a number of hours to read, but they were some of the best hours I have spent reading any book in recent memory.

So that’s my story. What about yours? Here are some questions for reflection:

  • What would it look like for YOU to take Paul’s command in 1 Corinthians 14:1 seriously?
  • How often do you read the “Prophets” in the Old Testament, books like Isaiah, Micah, Amos, and Ezekiel?
  • How much do you know about the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.?
  • Do you tend to judge people by the color of their skin or by the content of their character?
  • Instead of just reflecting on these questions, what actions might you take?

But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream! – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. quoting Amos 5:24

***”When God Gets Out of the Box” is my  sermon title this Sunday. The truth is we all put God in a box. Not literally of course, but in how we tend to fit God into our beliefs and our theology… instead of the other way around. But God is so much bigger than we think! He is so much greater! He wants out of your box! He wants to stretch your theology and your thinking. Please join us as we dig deep into this topic! April 24. 10:30am. More info at tevchurch.org***

Posted in Uncategorized