Thursday, October 27, 2011

An Open Back Door

Family and people who knew us never came to the front door of the farm house in which I grew up. One would have to park on the road or well onto the lawn ( I use that term loosely) to make their way to the front door. Everyone who was any one to our family would follow the drive 'round to the back of the house and knock on the back door, or in some cases just come on in. I don't recall ever locking the back door until I was about fourteen or fifteen and then you could  just raised the window next to the door and reach in to unlock it. I think the lock was used more to hold the door shut against the wind as much as anything.

I realize that front doors are considered more formal, proper, and mannerly but I have noticed that the front door to the world's heart and mind is being kept shut against the wind of the Spirit and His church, especially in the Western world. In a few cases I understand. The church has at times seemed in some eyes as arrogant, pushy, presumptive, or irrelevant. Although I believe those perceptions in many cases to be wrongly assigned the truth of the matter is that the front door to people's hearts and mind is shut tighter than ever. Bad press, competition from other religions and worldviews, poor exhibition and extremes from some churches, monastic mindsets without the monastery, lack of loving compassion by too many Christians,  and human spiritual devolvement have led to a closing of the minds and hearts of many.

The only proper response from the church is this: Rejoice! Rejoice!

Why rejoice? To paraphrase I Corinthians 16:9, "a great back door of opportunity has opened for us and one of the ways we know it is the opposition by the front door."  (italics mine, no one else would claim it anyway.)  So what do these back door opportunities look like in the world around us. I will spend a blog or two listing some of these entrances for the gospel to knock and be asked in to people's lives. These may morph into a sermon series next year or a book. LOL!LOL! Okay, okay, I might get a sermon of two out of these thoughts but I am serious in that the church has a great opportunity to share the gospel in word and deed in these areas. No ranking by the numbers by the way, it just fell out of my head that way.

Back Door Number 1: The Arts door. This is on my mind because of the beauty and depth that the string quintet added to our service Sunday but it has been in my heart for years. The church should support, revive, and maintain performing, visual, and literary art. The Arts  help display and express like none other the beauty, intricacies, rhythm, precision, passion, harmony, imagination, and creativity of God. These can be used mightily by the Spirit to touch the human soul. The Arts also provide a wonderful outreach to many who, because of their life's circumstances, can't get to the "arts district." The church can bring these to people through their support of the arts in many ways, starting with worship. A beautiful door it is.

Back Door Number 2: Human Connectedness. Yes, we are connected like never before and the hardware and software in coming years will make obsolete our iPhone and pads. Yet, for all our connectivity, isolation and loneliness has never been higher. Suicide, depression, anxiety disorders all show the truth of this isolation. The church can position itself to provide true connections between people. The church must think more about people than programs. Of all peoples, we should know about true connections and relationships. One on one, one on two, two on five we must relate as humans to one another. Have we forgotten how? Probably. Put the cell phone down, log off the computer, make the tea, and invite a human to sit down and talk with you. It will scare the daylights out of both of you. Good. Start easy with another Christian then move out. Adopt a block, attend a small\cluster group, make friends with convenience store clerk. No agenda, just be a friend, then watch what Jesus does. (Hint: what He does will probably be more to you than the other person)

Back Door Number Three: Civil Engineers. Through our youth and children's ministries the church can launch an army of  "civil" engineers to permeate society with gracious speech and conduct over the next generations.  We bemoan the lack of civility in our society, the church has the people and resources to address the issue. But we would do this because of a different motivation. We believe that human beings were made in the image of God and have intrinsic value. We believe that Christ died for all and all should be loved as He loved them. So we teach our parents in church to teach the children to speak and conduct themselves toward others as Christ would. Here is the church functioning as salt and light showing grace to all. Will we make society more respective and kind? I don't know but whatever society is doing isn't working. Also, can't we do some things because it is right and is one of the best ways to show respect to other human beings made in God's image? We may never hear a thank-you but our society can surely hear it from us, can't it? There are probably a hundred opportunities a day to practice civility and manners as we engage our society so let us teach and model these manners in Christ name and see if this door isn't held open to the church for other ministries as well.

I've got a few more doors for next week.

Come on in,

Thursday, October 20, 2011

State Fair Faith

Our State Fair is a Great State Fair, Don't Miss it, Don't even be late..."

Oops. For the eighteenth year in a row I'm going to miss our great state fair. I didn't intend to go this long without going, it even seems downright un-Texan to miss it so much. But you know how it goes, the kids get big enough to go on their own, we lived between three and seven hours drive from Dallas most of those eighteen years, work got in the way too... we just haven't made it.

I rather enjoyed the Fair when I went. The exhibits, the "free" stuff, the new cars, the animals, the shows, and of course, the midway. You just can't beat all that fried food and sweets. Well, wait a minute. If a restaurant charged the same amount as those booths at the fair do and it tasted like most Fair food tastes we'd either send it back or never go to that restaurant again. An expensive lesson in developing a discriminating palate no doubt.

 In my elementary school days when our school drove everybody to Dallas for the Fair, I still hadn't learned the proper techniques and timing for eating junk and riding rides. It takes a couple of years but you figure it out.  An rather inexpensive lesson in human physiology really.
I wish everyone could experience the Fair, even getting snookered by a carny trying to win at an impossible game. I think I lost fifteen bucks which was lot then. Cheap lesson , in economics, really.

I remember being really fascinated by the "shows" at the fair featuring bearded women, strong men, Bonnie and Clyde's death car, the human slinky, Siamese twins, and the world's fattest twins. Where else could fifty cents get you in to see so much refined culture? Those shows grew tiring after a few years even though the boss might change the name or paint a different poster to raise interest.  Another fairly inexpensive lesson in advertising techniques and the brokenness of humanity. Most of the sideshows were of broken people being taken advantage of by broken people to be gawked at by broken kids with now empty wallets. Great lessons at the Fair, all in one place and at a fair price.

If you think about it, God could have made a killing at the Fair with the characters from Bible. You talk about a great state fair just imagine behind those curtains is Moses parting a huge tank of water and walking himself and a few people from the audience through it. Samson could have put all the other Fair strongmen out of business. Elijah could have taken any heavy object from the crowd and thrown it in a tank of water and made it float like he did the lost ax head. Paul could let rattlesnakes and cottonmouths bite him. Daniel would be a hit with his lion taming act. If Jesus shows up, well forget about it...walking on water, healings, raising the dead. Wow, what a show!

That's where we need to be careful, we enjoy the show and forget the lesson. If you consider the length of time that the Old Testament covers, the miracles, the "shows" are spread out pretty far. Abraham lived about 2200 BC as an educated guess. Moses, some believe started writing down the things that happened about 1450 BC from the oral traditions passed on to him and the things that God revealed to him. The point is that more than likely, you personally, if you lived in those times would never see the great things God did in history. He rescued, He saved Israel. He miraculously preserved His people moving salvation history toward the day of Jesus coming. You would hear about them and a few of you could read about them. The rest of the years and for the vast majority of the generations that lived in Old and New Testament times, you lived by faith.

God still does miracles but that's not the whole show, the lesson. The greatest miracle that still remains is that God through Christ redeems sinful men and calls them to walk with Him daily in a relationship of love and service. It is often not fancy, just put your head down and take one step after the other after the other after the other...We need to be careful to not just go down the midway of life looking for the next big show  that excites us spiritually but to walk in faithful obedience with the One who helps us exhibit His Presence, His Life, His Love to all who have been broken in a sinful world.

That's a pretty Fair deal.


Monday, October 10, 2011

Ironman Is Missing

He flew in from New Mexico with sister, mom and dad safely in tow. Dressed in maroon and gold, complete with mask, he soared around the living room, dining room, kitchen and halls. Our hearts soared with him. He was busy saving the world. But he was never too busy to stop, remove his mask, remind us of who he really was, just in case we forgot. He'd kiss his sister and fly off again in real adventures while the rest of us in the world toiled in its imaginary exsistence of imaginary importance.

When Ironman wasn't in suit and flying high, a little ironman went with him in his pocket. He went to the store, he went to play golf, he went to the zoo, he shot little darts at bad guys. When Ironman went to sleep, little ironman kept watch over the family while perched on the table, the counter, or the dresser or wherever he was left.

In the light speed at which such times move, Ironman went missing. Held prisoner by some evil power in some nook, cranny, or crease that no amount of searching could discover, he was left. Invisible for days because of the dark powers that held under the couch, he overcame the evil and appeared again to searching eyes and grasping hands.

But Ironman is missing.

He flew back to New Mexico with sister, mom and dad, and our hearts in tow. So little Ironman sits on the counter-- a pitiful sight-- awaiting reconciliation. Our hearts sit with him awaiting reunion. Our wait is lonely because

Ironman is Missing......................