Wilmore Funeral Home

I applaud the BooneOakley marketing company in Charlotte, NC for creating a fake funeral home for their provocative campaign. As more and more stubborn anti-vaxxers become passionate pro-ventilators, something other than science and common sense is needed. Clever marketing barely inside the parameters of good taste? Yes, please!

Peace,

Allan

Extravagant Worship

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy, and dearly loved…” ~Colossians 3:12

We’re not chosen because we’re good. We’re not holy because we act like it. We’re not dearly loved because we deserve it. It’s all because of God. Who we are as chosen, holy, and dearly loved is strictly and totally about God. Not us. God’s love for you is eternal, his commitment to you has no limits, and his grace toward you is undefeated. Blessing after blessing after unmerited blessing! And our response to all that divine love and blessing is worship. We pour our hearts and our lives out to our Father in worship because he loves us more infinitely and blesses us more abundantly than we could ever dream.

Some people talk about church like it’s a gym. We go to church to get stronger, to build up our spiritual muscles. But I don’t think it’s like the runners I see around my neighborhood at 6:30 in the morning. Those folks are out there early every morning with their grim, sweaty faces, just trudging up and down the streets, laboring, grunting, stumbling, struggling – I guess so they can live longer. That’s not worship! Worship is the young lady running to meet her fiance! It’s the kids dancing wildly and shrieking loudly when they find out we’re going to Disney World! That’s Sunday! We’re expressing our gratitude and love!

And, yes, it’s extravagant. It’s over the top. We dress up nice for church, we get to the building early so we can have the best seats. We put our best singers on microphone and they practice – it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve sung “O Worship the King,” the worship minister makes you practice! Some of the songs make you cry, some of them make you clap your hands and dance. Some of the readings make you shout “Amen!” Some of the prayers change the course of your week. We spend hours every week changing light bulbs and polishing the pews and setting up banners and planning the order. We’ve spent thousands and thousands of dollars in the sanctuary over the years and we’re going to spend more. Yes, there’s a lot of material, emotional, and spiritual extravagance in the worship center.

But, that’s love. Extravagant. People who are in love act extravagantly. They’re over the top. They sing songs and write poems and make mix tapes and videos. They buy new clothes and get new hairstyles. They cry and shout and dance. That’s the way love is – it’s excessive. Think about the twitterpated teenager. The dozen red roses – crazy expensive and what good does it do? Kissing in public – yuk! Get a room! What is all that? It’s loving excess.

If you ask people in love why they act that way, what good does it do, what does it accomplish, they’ll laugh at you. Those are the wrong questions. You’re on the wrong track. They’ll think you don’t know what it’s like to be in love. They’ll think you’ve never been in love. Or you’ve forgotten how.

The Bible says we love because we have been loved. And that is the source and the reason for the Church’s extravagant, excessive, over-the-top worship.

Peace,

Allan

Spiritual Formation by Church

I’m having some of those standard conversations with Cowboys fans today. The main theme today with the Star-gazers is that the team should be 2-0. They ought to be 2-0. They could very easily be 2-0. It’s simple to argue back that it’s just as likely that this team would be 0-2. In many ways, they ought to be 0-2. They could very easily be 0-2. That’s the way it is every week with an eventual 8-9 or 9-8 football team.

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There is no spiritual formation without the Church.

“Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues, put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” ~ Colossians 3:12-14

How? How do we do this? How do we put on these virtues, these Christ-like qualities, these fruits of the Holy Spirit? How do we add them to our lives and develop them as critical components of our nature?

“As members of one body… Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” ~ Colossians 3:15-16

This sounds like worship. This passage is about worship in and with the Church. It shapes us.

And I know becoming like Christ is a full-time, all-the-time, seven-days-a-week lifelong journey. I know. But our formation radiates from and is nourished by the worship of the Church, gathered together every Lord’s day around the Word and the table. There is no spiritual formation without the Church. Not because there’s anything magical or superstitious about the church building, but because the Church is the Body of Christ. We are the Body of Christ, given life and sustained by God’s Spirit and formed by our Christian practices together. Worshiping together every week makes us more like Jesus.

We have publicly welcomed 32 new members to the GCR Church here in Midland over the past two Sundays. I’m certain your church has added a few new members over the past several months. You don’t get to interview these new members. Nobody gets to vote. All these new men, women, and children – nobody asks you if it’s OK to make them members of your church. God chooses people and moves them in and requires us to love each other. Our worship forces us to sing other people’s songs, to listen to other people’s opinions, to pray over other people’s cares, to forgive other people’s wrongs, and to eat and drink a meal together every Sunday. And it shapes us. It clothes us with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness. And patience. You know it does.

So we are devoted to the Church’s worship. We’re committed to it. We don’t miss it or skip it. We don’t quit on it or give it a lesser priority in our lives. We know our worship together makes us more like Jesus.

Peace,

Allan

Knowledge of God

According to the Bible, Bible knowledge is not having a grasp of the facts. It’s not being able to recite the names of the apostles or Israel’s kings or knowing how many generations are in the various genealogies. That’s not it. Biblical knowledge, according to Scripture, is a very specific thing: knowing who God is, what God is doing, and how he is doing it in Christ Jesus. That’s knowledge.

“We have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God… for he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” ~Colossians 1:9-14

Knowledge is understanding who God is and what God is doing and how he is doing it in Jesus. It’s knowing that salvation is available for all people in Jesus. It’s understanding that God is bringing all people and all things together in Jesus. That’s the kind of specific knowledge the Bible is talking about. We are told to pursue that knowledge, to gain that knowledge, to grow in that kind of knowledge, what the Bible calls “the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:2-3).

Having that knowledge will keep us from being sucked in to the world’s forms of knowledge and understanding. What the world is doing and how the world is doing it – the values and beliefs and practices of the world, how the world gets things done – those are powerful forces. They are opposing forces. And without the knowledge of God, we can wind up following a mushy K-LOVE kind of shallow sentimentality we can buy at Mardell or a pathway of power and success reinforced by the herds at political rallies and stockbroker meetings.

Christians may not know more than others, but we ought to know better.

Knowledge of God changes everything. Isaiah 11 says when the Kingdom is finally perfected, when God’s holy will has all been finally fulfilled, there will be righteousness and justice and peace for the whole world, because “the earth will be full of the knowledge of God.”

Peace,

Allan

Making Arrangements

“God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.”
~1 Corinthians 12:18

What a really wonderful day Sunday here at GCR Church. We were delighted to introduce eight new babies from six different families into our congregation and to lift them up to the Lord in prayer and blessing. We thanked God for these little bundles of his grace, we asked him to bless these babies richly with his love and protection and peace, and we asked God to equip the parents and give them strength and wisdom to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. And we charged our entire church with helping these families, with loving and raising these babies, and to support and encourage these new parents.

We also introduced eight people / families as brand new members at GCR – a total of 24 men, women, and children who are committing to everything God is doing in us and through us to his glory. These people are jumping in to the mission of this church – to be a Christ-centered family that loves like Jesus. They’re promising to worship and serve and live with us, together, to advance God’s Kingdom on this earth to his eternal praise. They’re bringing their gifts and their passions, their baggage and their personalies, their abilities and their joy! It was such a wild thing to introduce 24 brothers and sisters in Christ as new members during the same service – the congregation responded with a standing ovation!

We pledged publicly in that moment to belong to each other at GCR. We promised to love and support these new church members. We promised to encourage and challenge these new members and to always give them the benefit of the doubt. And we promised to roll up our sleeves and work hard together for everything God is wanting to do in Midland.

God is arranging the parts at GCR, every one of them, exactly as he wants them to be. He’s moving people to Midland from Dallas and Houston and from some of the smaller towns out here in West Texas to join us in what he’s doing with this church. He’s putting everything perfectly in place for his Kingdom plans.

And we don’t get to choose any of them. We don’t get to interview anybody, we don’t get a vote. God chooses the people and moves them in and smashes us together to achieve his purposes and to shape us more into his holy image. He puts us together in a place where we are forced to love each other, forced to sing each other’s songs, to listen to one another’s opinions, to pray over each other’s cares, to forgive one another’s wrongs, and to eat and drink a meal together every Sunday. It shapes us. It forms us. It blesses us with more energy and resources to better serve the people of our city in the name and manner of Jesus.

God is arranging the parts at GCR. He’s doing something big here, something significant; something that, by his grace, will impact this city and the whole world with his amazing love. And I feel so blessed by him to be one of those pieces he’s moving in and arranging. I feel so privileged to be right in the middle of whatever our Lord is cooking here in Midland, Texas.

This coming Sunday we’re introducing at least three or four more families as new members into our congregation. May we give God the glory and praise, may we pay close attention to these new folks and to what our Lord is wanting to do, and may his will be done in and through us at GCR, together, just as it is in heaven.

Peace,

Allan

Blue Sky Midland. Day One.

Yesterday was opening day for the newest Blue Sky location, right here off Loop 250 and Midkiff Road in Midland. So, yes, Carrie-Anne and I were there for lunch. She ordered her usual sliders and crispy fries and I went with the cheeseburger all the way and fried jalapeno rings and it tasted exactly right. Which is to say, it tasted just like heaven. Oh, my.

The buns baked fresh daily right there in the restaurant, the fresh beef trucked in daily from Amarillo, the just-right amount of batter on those fries and rings – it was perfect. It tasted exactly like eating at the original Blue Sky that opened up on I-40 and Western in Amarillo in 1975 and just like the second location on Coulter. Vintage signs. Local ads embedded in the table tops (Hello, DeLaura Gammage). Wide open dining room with plenty of space. And, good grief, those burgers. Indescribable.

I’ve not eaten at the newer Blue Skys in Lubbock or Abilene. I’ve been afraid that branching out too much might water down the Blue Sky product and the experience. But I have no worries now. Friday’s first meal at the Midland Blue Sky was outstanding in every way. As were the Oreo and peppermint shakes made with real Blue Bell ice cream and hand spun with love.

The new Midland Blue Sky is exactly halfway between our house and the GCR church building. Five minutes from home, five minutes from work. Everything about our move to West Texas has now fallen perfectly into place.

Peace,

Allan

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