Wednesday, November 6, 2013


Do you go to a church?  Where do you go to church?  What's happening at the church this week?  Were you "in church" last week?  We've all heard these odd questions expressed.  Odd?  Why are they odd?  Because, it illuminates a dangerous misconception of what the word 'church' actually means.

The preceding questions are always asked in the context of a 'church' being a physical building, which is a very human viewpoint. But, biblically, a church is a group of Christians who come together to learn, grow, play, serve, share the Word, and support each other through thick and thin.

Jesus proved that church, His body; can be anywhere, anytime.  In fact, He went out of His way NOT to use a building to house His ministry.  In fact, in Matthew He said He would destroy the existing stone temple and replace it with Himself (the body of Christ).  He had no home to call His own, no place to lay His head at night, no temple, no synagogue and no office.  That would have been too constraining for His ministry. His goal was never to coax people to any particular place for worship, teaching or to just hang out.  Maybe He thought that would be too inhibiting for all involved.  Who knows ~ after all, God's ways are not our ways.

Instead He chose to move around, and meet people where they lived, ate, worked and played.  He built relationships with them, on their terms, on their turf, in their homes and along the sandy roadways; which was often enemy territory.  Jesus lived and taught in the trenches.

I'm not saying we don't need worship centers.  What I am saying is words matter.  What we say and how we say it matters, and in the long run the words we use influence what we believe. Our culture has been lured into depersonalizing "the church" and turning it into a building.  The result is that people often abdicate their responsibility for "being the church" and dump it in the lap of the church building's pastor, staff or upper administrators who embrace having that power and authority.  We must guard against this insidious mindset.

The body of Christ, the church, is called upon to equip its' members for every good work and then to go out in the world ~ and be the church, not just stay in a building and do church.  The church is not a place anymore than a flock of birds is a nest.  The church is a people, the people of God, Christians who gather together as the Spirit leads, and where the Spirit leads. The church is a living, breathing, inspired body of believers, a living organism that comes together to worship, learn, grow, play, serve and share grace with the world wherever they are.  Anywhere, anytime Christians come together in His name for any reason... that IS church!

"... Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house." 1 Corinthians 16:19 (NIV)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


"Who is that man?" The disciples had been on the road with Jesus for three years.  They had been virtually homeless. Eating, sleeping, ministering and working side by side, they had become a tight band of brothers with Jesus. How could they not recognize Him?

It's hard to imagine, right? But, after Jesus' resurrection the disciples were confused, and needed time to process, regroup, and even grieve.  They needed a break doing something familiar and reassuring; so, as men will do, they went fishing.

Imagine their conversations as they fished. Hashing and rehashing everything that had happened over the past three years, checking their memories with each other to make sure they weren't crazy,  reminiscing about the first time they met Jesus. They had been fishing without luck then, too, when a solitary stranger on the shore called out to them. Were they wondering about what had possessed them to follow this stranger's command to 'try again' by throwing their nets off the wrong side of the boat, an action that defied all logic and safety? Remembering how their nets had been filled to overflowing.

Was it true?  Did all that really happen or are our memories playing tricks on us?  Was it all a lie?  They had seen Jesus crucified, dead and buried with their own eyes, now they were back fishing again, and their nets were empty.  It was like the last three years had never happened.

Then they saw another stranger on the shore, who addressed them as friends and instructed them to throw their nets out from the wrong side of the boat just as Jesus had, and when they did their nets were filled.  Their eyes had failed them. They had not recognized the person standing there as Jesus, but they recognized what the person did as Jesus; and they knew that His Spirit lives on!

On another occasion, after Jesus' resurrection, Cleopas and one of his friends dejectedly trudged down the road to Emmaus. Their conversation was probably similar to the one the fishermen had.  "Why oh why?" "What for?" "What now?" and "Poor me."  Then a stranger joined them.  As they walked, He taught them, reminding them of what the scriptures said about the Messiah from the time of Moses on. He even accepted their dinner invitation.  But, it was not until He took the bread, broke it and gave thanks, just as He had in the Upper Room, that they realized Jesus was with them. Their eyes had failed them. They had not recognized the man walking with them as Jesus; but they recognized what the person did as Jesus; and they knew that His Spirit lives on!

We are called to be that stranger!  We are called to reach out to those in despair. We may not look like Jesus on the outside; but His Spirit lives on in us!

"But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative - that is the Holy Spirit- He will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you." John 14:26 NLT

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


It is impossible to get the right answer if you ask the wrong question. Recently a survey was sent out by a mainline denomination in an attempt to determine how they were doing overall, and in four targeted areas of ministry. The questions were about determining ministry and program priorities for the denomination, local churches and their members.

This modus operandi of having ministry programs determined by the upper echelon of an organization, with the expectation of support from it's the members, can tend to usurp the Lordship of Christ in the church. It can also place an unsupportable burden on the shoulders of clergy and other administrators by expecting them to promote support for these programs.

Ministry goals and opportunities that trickle down from administration to individual members encourage individuals to allow the work of the denomination to become a substitute for a personal relationship with Christ. This often takes the place of personal involvement in God’s work, as well, since sometimes it's easier to just send a check!

The problem, which was identified in 1932, was that some denominational churches were becoming powerful philanthropic organization, but were waning as houses of faith.  Not once in the Bible did God speak to or through an organization. Though the Pharisees liked to claim that honor.  No, He spoke to individuals. And when He did, it was a one on one, faith required, life changing experience.

The people He spoke to always knew exactly what God was calling them to do, and in the New Testament, it was up to the churches, the Body of Christ, to support the God given assignments people received.  This Biblical model of ministry exudes the power of God flowing through individuals and gives Him the glory.

Christ calls the church to equip His people, not to set their priorities for them.  That's His job.  So, in my opinion, instead of  "Are we focused on the right priorities?" the question should have been, "Are we focused on preparing people spiritually, so they are ready when God calls?"

"So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip His people for works of service..." Ephesians 4:11-12

Friday, October 18, 2013


This was the pay-off!  It always was. The tumultuous years of hard work and heartbreak melted away as I watched our guests walk back up the hill to their cars.

A few days before they had trickled in one car at a time.  Some had nervously checked out the unfamiliar, rustic setting, not sure what to expect next. For many this was their first retreat, and for most it was the first time since attending camp as children that they had stayed in a communal bunkhouse, much less bedded down on a real bunk bed. The first night always requires a little bit of an adjustment!

Young and not so young, they had come for different reasons, but with a common goal. They shared the innate sense that there is more to life than meets the eye. Each in their own way was searching for significance in the eternal sense.

Hope, answered prayers, a new life, healing, grace, peace... the list of needs for the human heart is endless and impossible for mere humans to meet.  No spouse, BFF, child, sibling, parent, or pastor can meet our every need.  Our hope is only in the Lord and that is what people come here seeking. And He is here to meet them, every weekend, just as he promised so many years ago. He meets them and meets their needs as He alone can do

Twenty, thirty, forty, sometimes seventy or eighty people are here on any given weekend. When the time comes for them head home, and I watch all that positive energy surge up the hill on it's way back out into the world - I am incredibly blessed.  It's like Cross Roads Retreat is a giant pump, focusing a languid river of lives on eternal purposes, and then pumping all that positive energy back out into the world - weekend after weekend after weekend.

My human nature causes me to want to know what works the Holy Spirit has done in their lives.  I crave to know what if anything has changed about them and how those changes might affect their families, jobs, churches or communities.  It is a normal human desire to want to have absolute proof of the fruits of our labors.  But, I will never know, because that is not God's plan.  He has only called me to nurture seeds already planted.  The harvest is not mine.  It is His.  Our ways are not His ways.

 "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow." 1 Corinthians 3:6-7 NIV

Monday, October 7, 2013

Power In Weakness

Some say that sharing my "shameless" story in Stand at the Cross Roads was brazen, and showed an incredible lack of pride and modesty.  Critics came out of the woodwork.  Christian publishers told me that my story was too controversial and even promoted divorce. Poor parent, egotistical, driven, selfish, disrespectful, delusional, were just a few of the epithets directed my way.  Even more positive feedback has come from countless imperfect people, like me, who have found hope within it's pages. Those are the people Stand at the Cross Roads was written for.

Yes, the world admires and celebrates strength. A strong person is identified as a leader, a person who "handles" life as it comes, can be counted on in a pinch, whose endeavors prosper, and who with great acumen determine and accomplish lofty goals. Strong people are powerful, respected members of society. They are relied upon by many.

Why then did I "air my dirty laundry" in public. Why in the world would I seem to boast about my failures? Was I looking for sympathy or understanding?  To do so is certainly not the prescribed pathway for attaining any degree of respect or honor in our society. Flaws are to be hidden at best.

The answer is in the words of Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul, '...for MY power is made perfect in weakness.'  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong." in 2 Corinthians 12: 8-9."

If we rely only on our own power, we limit ourselves. If we rely on other people, or human planning, we cripple ourselves. If we rely on "common" sense we get "common" results. But, tap into the power of the Holy Spirit and feel His energy pulse through your veins, and you will soar to unimaginable heights and accomplish unimaginable things. Throughout the Bible and still today He chooses to use the most improbable, imperfect people to do His work, because His power is made clearly visible through our weaknesses. No His ways are not our ways.

Stand at the Cross Roads isn't about weaknesses it is all about God's power.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Plucking Grass Burrs!

One of my friends expressed concern about the line in the 23rd Psalm that says, “He makes me lie down in green pastures”.  She said, “You know, I’m always afraid the field is going to be full of grass burrs.”  Well, let me assure you, the green pastures are always full of grass burrs.  Yes, God will provide for our every need.  The gifts are there waiting for us, but, it is up to us to overcome the painful grass burrs that prevent us from receiving and being the full blessing He wants for us.  It requires us to grit our teeth and pluck out all the pesky grass burrs that are causing us to limp through life.  

We all want to make things easy for ourselves, and those around us.  That's our human-ness and it's not always good.  It's not that God wants to watch us suffer, but, He is God, and He knows that it is in struggling that we become strong, like the caterpillar that struggles to free itself from the prison of it's own chrysalis. It is through the struggle that it becomes a beautiful butterfly, ready to ride the wind from flower to flower. The butterfly's fanciful flight ensures the circle of life, the new flowers feed many other species. God uses the gorgeous fruit of the butterfly's painful writhing to send ripples out into the world.

Without the struggle and transformation, the caterpillar would just remain a worm and no one would be helped. God has much bigger plans to use us than He does for the poor worm.  But to use us He cannot leave us in our useless weakness. His ways are not our ways. Rejoice in the struggle!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


Eternal life doesn't  start when we die. Isn't that an amazing thought? As Christians, the life you are living today, right now, IS your eternal life.  Do you think that's a good thing, or were you hoping for something magic to happen to change you - later?  We all look forward to an eternal life free of the evils of this world, and that promise is real - as Christians we claim it, look forward to it and we will experience it when our earthly bodies give out. That's a given.

But, our personality, our spirit, who we are, will not magically change. We take ourselves, whoever that is, with us into that glorious future. Are you the person you want to be, are you the person God intended you to be or are you waiting for God to click His fingers and change you, or are you waiting to "do the work" later? 

God is all about character development, about change, about getting people ready to join Him and experience the joy, hope and freedom of living the God-filled life waiting for them in His Kingdom.  What are you waiting for? The Holy Spirit is available now, the Holy Spirit is the agent of the change you are craving, the agent standing by ready, willing and able to begin your make-over, so that you can have everything He wants for you now.   Matt. 7:7 says, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."..... and that means NOW!  Remember, God's ways are not our ways. You are living your eternal life now!