Archive for May, 2012

Over time and through hundreds of conversations we came to recognize that change does not happen without conflict. As we reviewed the biblical patterns, every time-without exception-the people of God began to make adjustments to join God in his activity, conflict emerged. Blackaby and King (1990) call it “the crisis of belief.”

Jim Herrington;Mike Bonem;James H. Furr. Leading Congregational Change: A Practical Guide for the Transformational Journey (Jossey-Bass Leadership Network Series)

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.”

Matt. 5:9

I think that too often we equate peace strictly with the absence of conflict.  The church is supposed to be a peaceful place, right?  The people of God are supposed to be a shining example of peace in the world.  As the quote above indicates this is not the biblical standard.  With all change comes conflict and change is one of the hallmark qualities of our relationship with Christ.  We are all on a pathway of change from the moment we accept Christ into our hearts.  We are all changing, individually into the mind of Christ and corporately into the body of Christ.  Consider the words of the Prince of Peace:

Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

Matthew 10:34

“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

Hebrews 4:12

Much of Scripture is born out of conflict.  Jesus taught out of his conflict with the Pharisees and Sadducees.  Paul addresses points of conflict in almost every one of his epistles.  The Old Testament is replete with conflict as Israel moves in and out of proper relationship with God.  So where is the peace?

Peace is not in the absence of conflict (this does not exist on earth).  Peace is in the resolution of conflict.  The Bible is a story of conflict resolution.  Adam and Eve brought conflict between man and God.  Jesus brings resolution, the only resolution.  That resolution is  both a process here on earth as we follow Him and an instantaneous reality.  This resolution process is a process of change and as the quote above notes, change brings conflict.  It brings internal conflict as God moves us repeatedly out of our comfort zones.  It brings external conflict as he calls the Body of Christ in its many manifestations to greater maturity.  “Rather speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ…” Ephesians 4:15

But praise the Lord he doesn’t wait for us.  The resolution is also an instantaneous reality.  “But now in Christ you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.  For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility”  Ephesians 2:14-15

So here perhaps we find the crux of the matter.  Conflict is the result of change.  It can be healthy and in conflict we can have the peace promised by God.  Christ did not come to eliminate conflict.  Christ came to destroy hostility which extends not from change but from division.  When the dividing wall between man and God is destroyed, peace naturally occurs regardless of the level of conflict around us.  Romans 8:7 tells us that the sinful mind is hostile to God and the chapter goes on to tell us that the Holy Spirit by living in us transforms us from enemies of God into His children.  We become worthy to call him “Daddy”!  When we come to him as Daddy with our prayers, petitions, requests and thanksgiving then we are able to experience the peace of God which is already an eternal truth for His children.  William H. Willimon put it this way, “The issue becomes:  Which side are you on?  In doing so, we eliminate the human and personal side of a conflict, with all its modifying elements.”  (Leadership Handbook of Management & Administration)  When we abandon the godly purpose of the conflicts in our lives conflict moves into division (which side are you on?) and division moves into hostility.  This is ambrosia to Satan and the destroyer of churches.  More importantly it breaks the heart of God to see his people engaging in the very thing that Christ came  and destroyed.

So as the children of God we engage conflict and change with the guidance of Scripture and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit; knowing that our peace lies not in the shifting sands circumstance but on the solid rock of our God.  It is division, first between ourselves and God and then between each other that destroys our ability to grasp the peace that is already there.

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Joe is one of the homeless guys that frequent TLH for a meal and a place to sit for a few minutes.  He is perhaps one of the most difficult of the people in our community to deal with and he just might be the most honest.  From the title you might think that Joe has been hateful, rude or mean to me or even destructive to TLH.  This could not be further from the truth.  Joe is appreciative of the meals we provide and the moments of rest and relaxation that he experiences in his otherwise very mobile day.  He has always been mostly polite, at least by his own standards (on occasion his colorful language and energetic demeanor has worried my immediate neighbors that he is being less than kind).  Even when he arrives less than sober he has always been respectful to me and the property.  So then why is Joe so difficult for me?  Joe hates God.

He clearly believes in God.  On more than one occasion he has acknowledged my relationship with God asking me to present to Him the long list of wrongs that plague Joe’s life.  He blames God for everything negative that has ever happened to him and sees only a cruel being who refuses to intervene in any kind of positive way in his life.  While this type of external locus of control is not unusual in today’s society, I have not run into too many people who so squarely place their animosity on God.

So then what do I do with this man?  What would I do with someone who hated my wife with a deep-seated passionate hatred?  This man literally hates the purpose of my entire life.  He hates the Spirit that indwells me and the savior to whom I owe everything.  It would perhaps be easier if my wife or myself or even my children were the object of his animosity.

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you:  Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.  He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?  Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others?  Do not even pagans do that?  Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  Matthew 5:43-48

I have often heard that last phrase pulled out of context and misused.  Jesus is specifically referring to love.  He is establishing a concept that John would later develop as a major theme of all his writings.  God is love.  The Greek word here for perfect is τελειος which carries the idea of completeness.  God’s love is complete, without gaps, without limitations and without exceptions and more importantly we are called to love in the same way.

So as Joe walked away and yelled @#$%% you God, even as my heart cringed and my pride bristled at this man’s arrogance  I was quietly corrected by the Holy Spirit, “Sam, forgive him, he does not know what he is doing.”  My pride deflated and my heart melted as the heart of God for this man flooded me.  “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Thank you Lord for continuing to teach me, for continuing to bear with me.  Give me your love for all the “Joe’s” out there.  Develop in me Your heart and Your perfection at Loving the Haters.

If you can, add Joe to your daily prayer list.  He has a hard life and maybe it needs to get harder before he can see the truth.  Pray that his heart is softened and that whether it is through TLH or another godly place he receives the truth that will penetrate the fog of deception that he is surrounded by.

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I was asked an interesting question today, “Do you feel safe?” It was in relation to the fact that we are urban missionaries and live in an area prone to crime but it really got me thinking.  I live in probably the worst neighborhood that I have ever lived in.  Yet I can honestly say that I feel safer than perhaps I ever have before.  When I look back at times in my life when I felt unsafe and insecure I see that it was really a matter of self-doubt.  It was when things were out of my control or beyond my control that I would feel unsafe.  The reality was that while I believed in God, I trusted in my own abilities.  Yet I understood the limitations of those abilities.  So then my feelings of personal safety were a function of my surroundings and how equipped I felt to handle them.

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, My God , in whom I trust.”  Surely hew will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.  He will cover you with his feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”

It is only when I move the trust and responsibility for my safety into the hands of  God that I can truly feel safe.  It is the feeling of safety that accompanied Daniel to the lion’s den in Babylon.  (Daniel 6)  But it is also the feeling of safety that shone on the face of Stephen as he was stoned to death on the outskirts of Jerusalem. (Acts 7) When our trust is truly in God then our feeling of safety is no longer dependent on our circumstances, skills or even our faithfulness.  As the Psalmist states “His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”

Just as our salvation is not based on anything that comes from us (Ephesians 2:8) so too is our safety, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)  It is our personal relationship with Jesus Christ which is the basis for our safety.  The writer of Hebrews beautifully expresses this relationship, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.  It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf.  He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 6:19-20)  He is a high priest who has been assailed in every way just as we are and held firm (Hebrews 4:15) in a way that is completely beyond the ability of our fallen nature.  So then it is by His intervention that we may “approach the throne of grace with confidence” (Hebrews 4:16) It is this confidence in  God’s faithfulness expressed in the person of Jesus Christ that is at the base of the safety that we enjoy as His children.

So, do YOU feel safe?

“What then shall we say in response to this?  If God is for us, who can be against us?… Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”  Romans 8:31, 35, 37

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“Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:”  2 Peter 1:1

Too often we get the idea that God provides different levels of faith to different people.  We look to leaders of the Christian world and ascribe to them some kind of special faith that is not available to us.  It would seem that people have not changed that much since the first century.  Simon Peter looked out at the people of the early church and saw the same divide, a divide that is spawned by the father of lies and limits the effectiveness of our walk with Christ.

This is the very topic that Peter addresses even as he faces impending execution.  Inspired by the Holy Spirit Peter tries to short-circuit the very half truth that flourishes even today:  That Peter had some kind of extra-ordinary faith that enabled him to live for Christ in a way that is inaccessible to you or I.  Peter saw the potential for Sainthood.  He saw the potential for people to excuse themselves from the riches and responsibilities of being a child of God because they believe that Peter was a man of uncommon faith.  The ESV translates this verse, “To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:”

Peter would have made a good modern pastor.  His message starts right from his address.  He has stated his thesis and he immediately jumps  into supporting it.

seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.”  2 Peter 1:3

Why is our faith of equal standing?  It is because our faith comes from God granted not by our own intellectual reasoning or emotional response but by HIS DIVINE POWER.  Faith does not come from the school that you attend, the church that you belong, the pastor that you listen to or even the blogs that your read.  Faith extends directly from God a free gift granted by His divine power.  “For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.” 2 Peter 1:4

Peter tells us where the magnificent promises, the source of salvation come from.  They extend right out of the glory and excellence of God.  It is all right there for us.  The question then is what do we do about it.  Like the parable of the sower there are many reactions to the glory and excellence of God and to His great promise of salvation.  Some just don’t accept it.  They harden their hearts and the seed of life dies on rocky ground.  Some accept it but the cares of the world grow up as weeds in a garden choke out a beautiful flower the beautiful promise and gift of God fades and disappears from the heart and mind.  Peter anticipates the question to come.  What then do i do?  How can I be the rich soil that bears fruit?  Peter I don’t feel my faith. How can I possibly be like you?

Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.”  2 Peter 1:5-7

This phrasing may seem awkward in English but in the Greek it flows and builds emphasis veritably exploding on the concluding subject: love.  Perhaps not the structural monument that Paul constructed in Ephesians 1:3-14 which concluded with, “…the praise of His glory” ; but still the emphasis is clear and the conclusion of it all is love.  Yet the steps are just as important.  Too often we want to pursue love without putting in the diligence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness and kindness.  Then we sit and cry in our coffee (for those of us who drink way too much coffee) because things are not coming together the way that we thought they should.

“For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.”  2 Peter 2:8-9

This is not about salvation.  Peter is speaking to the redeemed.  This is about faith and the fact that we have it within our grasp to live as Peter lived totally sold out for Jesus.  God supplies us all thetools and even the energy and commitment to be fruitful, looking only to Jesus Christ. So let’s sum it up with a little bow to homiletics:

Peter’s 8 Steps to Experiencing True Faith

1.  Be Diligent

2.  Be Virtuous (ESV)

3.  Be Knowledgeable  (of Jesus Christ)

4.  Be  Self-Controlled

5.  Be Steadfast (ESV)

6.  Be Godly

7.  Be Kind

8.  Be Love

It is not easy.  That is where diligence come’s in.  Peter climbed the 8 steps from Gethsemane to the prison’s and shares his journey with us, a journey of uncommon faith available to all.


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Another great blog from my favorite blogger!

Learning To Fly


So, I have been thinking a lot about faith lately – Faith is confidence in what we hope for and the assurance about what we do not see (Heb 11:1).  That’s what the Word of God says faith is. I gotta just be open and honest (I know, how else would I be)…. this verse has thrown me for loops, along with so many others in scripture.  With so many of my pregnancies I have stood on what I would call faith – I believed with all my heart Jesus could heal – I believed with all my heart He could breathe life into each of those sweet babies to have live here on earth….. yet each of the 7 pregnancies since March 9th 2006 have ended the same – death – “O ye of little faith” “Your faith has made you well” — God I don’t understand! I have…

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“1. To invest officially (as by the laying on of hands) with ministerial or priestly authority.”  (Merriam Webster online)

Ordination is so much more than I ever though it would be.  As our ordination approaches God has been speaking to me, driving me to explore this idea of an official investiture in ministerial authority and responsibility.  The priests of the Old Testament were ordained to serve before God.  Leviticus 16:32  talks of the hereditary nature of the Old Testament priesthood yet still he had to be anointed and ordained.

The New Testament is perhaps  less explicit yet we cannot but envision ordination in Acts 13 when the elders of the Church of Antioch laid hands on Paul and Barnabas investing them with the authority of the nascent church to carry the gospel message to new lands.  I love the next verse, “The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit…”  Ordination then is not a symbol of The Lewis House but it is a call to the Holy Spirit by our peers, friends and colleagues.  It is a call for Him to send us on our way empowered by spiritual gifts which as Paul expressed to Timothy, we must fan into flame in the performance of the ministry that He has for us.

For Allana and I it is an acceptance of the responsibilities that are inextricably attached to the empowerment and authority that is represented by our ordination.  I would venture to say that if the past year has been our “engagement” to full-time ministry in service of the Gospel that the ordination is the marriage ceremony.  We commit ourselves to His service and recognize His call on our lives.  We trust that he will bring to completion the work that he has begun in us.

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This video clip is of Allana and I sharing about the ministry that God has called us to.  We are so thankful for Pastor Nate Elarton and the people of Compelled Church  ;For the opportunity to share our heart for The Lewis House and the Five Points neighborhood of Toledo and for their tremendous generosity!

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