True Prophesy

Bible, Preaching, Romans No Comments »

“We have different gifts according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.” ~Romans 12:6

According to what we know of Scripture and history, culture and context, prophesy has much more to do with  “forth-telling” than “fore-telling.” Real prophesy — way back then and right now today — means applying the message from God to the current situations of our times. And I think God’s Church today desperately needs a renewed emphasis on this kind of prophesy.

A resurgence of true prophesy would cause us to take firmer stands against the evils of the world. God’s people would speak out against injustice, violence, aggression, war, unfaithfulness, and crime. We wouldn’t allow lying or back-biting or gossip or pride or greed to corrupt our congregations. We would speak more and act more in ways that indict and convict, liberate and transform.

The key to prophesy, though, is to realize that it’s always been intended for the Church. Prophesy is first to God’s people, only secondarily for the rest of the world. Study Isaiah and Jesus, Amos and John, Habakkuk and Paul — that’s the way it works. Only when God’s people are changed by prophesy can they then offer the message to the surrounding community. As we truly learn to live as members of one another, our alternative lifestyle will ultimately challenge the culture around us. But only as we become a truly Christian community with a truly biblical lifestyle will that work.

The Church needs more prophets. We need more men and women proclaiming the powerful Word of God. Even when they don’t feel like it. Even when they know that Word is going to upset some in the faith community. Even when a situation seems to be a lost cause. We need more prophets exercising their God-given graces according to their faith. Then our God, who promises his Word will never return to him empty, will bless both us and this world as we preach and teach, trust and obey.

Peace,

Allan

God’s Not Done

1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Baptism, Galatians, Philippians, Romans No Comments »

So, you were baptized! Great news! Praise God! Hallelujah!

What happens between now and the time you’re saved?

Your salvation is a process, right? Lots of wonderful things happen at baptism: you confess that Jesus is Lord and you put all of your faith and trust in him to remove your sins; you commit to follow in Christ’s steps as a loyal disciple; you become one with Jesus as you die and are buried and are raised up with him in baptism; you receive the gift of God’s Holy Spirit living inside you; you’re initiated into the Lord’s Body, the Church of Jesus Christ. All that happens at baptism. Justification. Reconciliation. A righteous standing before God. Peace. Joy.

But that’s not the last step. In as many ways as you can imagine, baptism has never been the last step.

We are being saved.

Being saved means being changed into the image of Jesus. It means being shaped into his character, being formed into his nature. It means we spend our lives “working out our salvation” (Philippians 2:12), we are predestined by God to be conformed to the image of his Son (Romans 8:29), we are to bear the likeness of the Christ from heaven (1 Corinthians 15:49). Paul says he agonizes and prays “until Christ is formed in you” (Galatians 4:19). We are all

“being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

God is saving us by making us like Jesus. Being saved is becoming like Christ. Acting like Christ. Talking like Christ. Thinking and behaving like Christ. Sacrificing and serving like Christ. That’s our salvation. That’s God’s good purpose and what God is doing with us today.

And that takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight. It’s not an immediate thing.

None of us is done. Our salvation is not complete. None of us. There’s nobody alive God is finished with yet. Until the day you die or the day our Lord returns in glory — whichever comes first for you — until that last day, our God is working in you to give you more humility. He’s renewing your mind to make you more sacrificial for others. He’s transforming your attitude and your actions to better reflect the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

If we’re not careful, we can view our baptism as God’s completed work. We can think we’ve already arrived, that we’ve changed enough, that we’ve done enough, that we have nothing else to learn or do until we’re saved. We might think, “I’ve been baptized, so God’s done with me what he wanted to do.” Or, “I’ve been baptized, so God’s got me in his holy holding area until I die.” Or, “I’ve been baptized, so God’s put me in neutral here until I get to heaven.” It might be arrogance, it might be complacency, it might be ignorance — all three are killers!

You need to know that God is not done with you yet. You need to be aware that God is still working on you. I don’t care how long ago you were baptized or how many great things you’ve done in the name of Jesus, God still has things to teach you. He still has things to show you. He is still changing you and he is still very interested in seeing you grow and in using you for his good purposes.

Peace,

Allan

Putting Silly Girls on Notice

Central Church Family 2 Comments »

I don’t know yet who did it. I’m not certain. But I think I have a pretty good idea.

I thought maybe they were mushrooms at first. We’ve had an unusual amount of rain lately and it has been unseasonably cool. Are those mushrooms? No, those are marshmallows! Forty or fifty of those huge marshmallows in my lawn on little wooden stakes. Some of them had faces drawn on them with Sharpie. And they were facing the house. Creepy.

And a bunch of little plastic green army men stationed on the walkway leading up to our front porch. Advancing. Guns pointed at the house. A few of the men had made it as far as the flower box on the front porch itself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And a bunch of little glow-in-the-dark stars on the mailbox.

Addie? Brooke? Grace-Anne? Courtnie?

You and your partners in crime are now officially on notice. So are a couple of adults who are old enough to know better. Hannah? Aleisha? At the very least, you two are wanted for questioning. But you silly little teenagers, be aware. I know where you live, I know what cars you drive, and I know where you’re going to be tonight.

Thank you. That is all for now.

Mr. Stanglin

Anticipating the Unexplainable

4 Amarillo, Colossians, Philippians No Comments »

I’ve been having lunch at least once a month with the other three downtown pastors for more than two years. We’ve become really good friends and partners in the Gospel. It’s been a year since the leadership groups from all four churches met at Polk Street Methodist to pray together about what God might do with us. Eleven months ago we collaborated for the first time by collecting and packing and delivering school supplies to four downtown area elementary schools. It was eight months ago when we all gathered at First Baptist for that historic combined worship assembly. I was so honored to preach that night. I was privileged to preach the Maundy Thursday service at First Presbyterian three months ago. I was blessed to preach both services at Polk Street on a Sunday morning in April. Burt and Howard have both preached at Central in the past year. We worked together every day this past week. The “4 Amarillo” churches refurbished a house and ran two Bible school block parties and volunteered at a food bank. Together. We ate ice-cream together Wednesday night.

We’re so much more connected now than we’ve ever been. Ever. We know each other now. There’s a familiarity, a trust. The fear all seems to be gone. I think we’re comfortable with this now.

Yet, as I walked into First Baptist last night to join the Presbyterians, the Methodists, the Baptists, and the Church of Christ-ers for a worship assembly to celebrate this first “4 Amarillo” week of service projects, I was almost overcome with a sense of the unexplainable. I was awed all over again by the fact that four standard-bearing churches in this city from four very distinct denominations were in the same room worshiping God together. Together.

I was reminded that not everybody gets to do this. And I was reminded that this is a very special and very powerful work of God.

It is our God who is doing these things in Amarillo. It’s not you. It’s not me. It’s not us. It is God who has brought us here. It’s not good timing, it’s not careful planning, it’s not marketing or location or good luck. It is God who works in us to will and to act according to his good purpose.

God is the power behind his Church. And it doesn’t matter if we believe it or not. It doesn’t matter if we acknowledge it or not. It’s the truth. We are instruments, willingly being used and used up by the Creator of Heaven and Earth to his glory for ever and ever.

Scripture is plain. The glorious riches of the mystery is “Christ in you.” Just like the apostle who wrote those words to the disciples in Colosse, we proclaim, we admonish, we teach, we labor, we struggle with all of his energy which so powerfully works within us.

The power of the Church is not in its activities or programs or talented people or leadership or money or numbers. And we’ve got more than our share of all those wonderful things. The power of the Church is God’s Holy Spirit living and moving inside us. And because of that reality, because of that fact, that living presence of God in us, we are learning to expect the impossible. More than we ever ask or imagine. It happens all the time around here. The unreal has become commonplace. The unexplainable is now anticipated.

I was humbled by the opportunity to speak for about five minutes at last night’s assembly. I was overwhelmed by the chance to be the one to introduce Ray Chavez, the gracious owner of the house on South Buchanan Street, to the overflow crowd of enthusiastic disciples who cheered him and showered him with the love of our Lord.

I’m having lunch with the other three preachers this Thursday, our regular monthly lunch at the Burger Bar on Polk Street. We’ll eat together and laugh, we’ll reflect on the week together and pray. And it will be a joy. It always is.

God, please help me to remember that not everybody gets to do this. God, thank you for making the unreal so commonplace around here. And, please, don’t ever let me take it for granted.

Peace,

Allan

4 Amarillo Pics and Links

4 Amarillo 3 Comments »

The four downtown churches got together here at Central last night to celebrate what our God is doing through our “4 Amarillo” coalition with a homemade ice cream social. And, wow, what an event! We CofC’ers do pretty well when it comes to food. We may not be social drinkers, but we are certainly social eaters. We had a great relaxed evening of eating and sharing and laughing together, renewing old community bonds and forming new friendships determined not by our differences, but based on what we have in common: Christ Jesus our Lord. And ice cream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today is the last day for the Block Party / Bible schools at the Wills and San Jacinto school parks. But the work on the Chavez house is expected to go through tomorrow and probably in to Saturday. What fun it is to see men and women and children of all ages and from all denominational backgrounds scraping and painting, sanding and sawing, pulling down dead trees and laying new floor together. Together.

Of course, when we’re washing paintbrushes together, the Methodists use a lot less water than I think they should. The Presbyterians feel like they’re predestined to spend all of their time in the kitchen — they don’t have a choice. The Baptists keep trying to organize us into small classes. And the Church of Christers have a tendency to think we’re the only ones there. But it’s working. It’s working because Jesus Christ is Lord and he is very interested in his disciples showing the same love and grace to one another as he shows to us. It’s working because we all realize we’re part of something so much bigger than our four individual congregations or our four distinct denominations. We’re all a part of the eternal Kingdom of God. And when we work and worship our God together, the world sits up and takes notice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In case you missed it, here’s a link to the story KAMR-TV did at the Chavez house yesterday.

And here’s a link to yesterday’s Globe News story about Central’s Gifted 2 Go.

All four churches are gathering at First Baptist Sunday night in another combined worship assembly. We’re planning to praise our God together in song and prayer, to share a bunch of stories from the block parties and the food bank and the house project, and to celebrate the privilege it is to partner with our God in redeeming all of creation back to himself. We’re hoping Ray and Gloria Chavez can be there. If you live in Amarillo, I’m hoping you’ll be there to witness and experience what it’s like when God’s people put the needs of others ahead of their own. And I’m praying that our God continues to bless us with his spirit of unity and cooperation among all the Christians in our city.

Peace,

Allan

Church: No Whining Zone

Church, Deuteronomy, Leadership, Philippians 1 Comment »

“Do all things without complaining or arguing.” ~Philippians 2:14

The Greek word in the original text is panta: all things, everything, total, complete, whole, every kind of, all of it, the whole enchilada. No matter how you translate it, there’s not one part of your life as a disciple of Christ that is not implicated here. Most of us, I think, are pretty good at doing most things without complaining or arguing. Most of us. But all things? Everything?

Just so you’re fully prepared for what is about to follow, here’s the whole text:

“Do all things without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life.” ~Philippians 2:14-16

Paul takes complaining and arguing very seriously. According to the apostle, God’s purpose for you, what God is working in you, what transforms you into blameless and pure children of God, what allows you to shine like stars as a powerful witness to the difference he makes in the lives of his children, which is God’s whole plan for you — all of that begins with “Do all things without complaining or arguing.”

When you’re complaining or arguing, your Christian witness is hindered, if not completely destroyed. You have no credibility with the world.

You claim to be a child of the sovereign Creator of heaven and earth, you claim to be a subject of the eternal Lord who has defeated sin and death and Satan and reigns right now today at the right hand of God, you claim to be a citizen of heaven, a citizen of the Kingdom that cannot be shaken, you claim to belong to a God who promises to always protect and provide, but when you complain and argue you’re telling the world you don’t believe a word of it. Your behavior contradicts your belief. You live like those things don’t really matter, like they have no impact on your life. And it wrecks your testimony. Why would anyone think that your belief and your faith work for all the massive eternal questions, why would they suppose your allegiance to Christ and his Kingdom provides all the answers to sin and suffering and death, if it won’t even work at the Whataburger drive-thru or in line at the post office?

Sometimes I think we actually reward this godless behavior in the Church.

Church positions should never be formed and church decisions should never be made based on who’s going to complain. Church policy can’t be based on complaining or arguing because complaining and arguing have no place in the lives of God’s people, much less a prominent place in an important decision-making process. When we allow the complainers to dictate the direction — or non-direction — of the congregation, we’re honoring and rewarding the outright disobedience of one of God’s direct commands. It’s like finding a dozen people in the church who are suffering personal bankruptcy or presiding over failed businesses to chair the church’s finance committee and set the annual budgets. It’s the same as allowing six or seven guys who are currently cheating on their wives to teach the young marrieds class.

Why do we honor the complainers?

In Deuteronomy 32, the grumblers and complainers were punished by God. They were declared by God to not be his children anymore because of their complaining. Yet, so many of our church leaders honor the complainers by bowing to their grumblings when it comes to charting the direction of the congregation.

I would gently suggest that we all — panta all — pledge from this moment forward to take complaining and arguing as seriously as the apostle Paul does. Vow to stop doing it. Church leaders, promise to stop rewarding it.

Peace,

Allan