Author: Allan (page 1 of 320)

Get the Order Straight

March Madness begins today and there’s a scramble in the church offices as a few folks are making last-minute changes to their brackets. Vickie has scratched Syracuse because of their point guard’s suspension and Mary is still undecided on Kansas State. I’m going with Duke, Kentucky, Purdue, and Gonzaga in the Final Four with Duke beating Kentucky for the championship. Speaking of Kentucky, ACU’s coach, Joe Golding, is making headlines because of his pants. When ACU tips off tonight against John Calipari’s second-seeded squad, Golding will be wearing britches with a hole in the seat. You can get most of this aw-shucks-feel-good-underdog story by clicking here. How is it that Golding only gets a thousand dollar bonus for winning the Southland Conference title and making the NCAA dance? How is it that he won’t see that money until June? And why in the world does he only own one suit? I know it’s Abilene and I know it’s Church of Christ, but come on! Somebody plan a bake sale or something!

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“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” ~Philippians 2:3-4

This is what it looks like to prioritize the realities. This is how we live the Gospel together the way our God intends. You get the order straight. You always place others ahead of yourself. I always place others ahead of myself.

Not really. I’m not very good at this at all. For some really beautiful people I know, it seems natural. It seems really easy for them. But for me and, I would guess, most of us, this is not natural. We have to work at it. It’s difficult for us because we’ve all grown up being taught to assert our rights. That’s how we’re raised. Our culture has told us that our Creator has given all of us absolute rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And somehow we’ve bought into that. We come into church — all of us — believing that we deserve to be made happy, even at the expense of others. Where does that come from?

Not from our Lord.

“Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” ~Mark 10:43-45

The apostle Paul didn’t make this up. This is not Pauline theology in Philippians 2. He got this from Jesus.

So, thinking the same thing and having the same love and being united in spirit and purpose is not an intellectual thing. This isn’t something you accomplish in your brain or up in your feels. This is something you do. This is about concrete expressions and physical actions. You don’t just see everybody else at your church as more important than you, you treat them that way. You don’t just understand that everybody’s needs at your church are more important than your needs, you go out of your way to meet those needs.

Paul is not saying that all Christians in the church have to come to the same beliefs and opinions on everything. That’s impossible. He’s saying, for the sake of relationships and the mission, put the beliefs and opinions of others ahead of your own.

Peace,

Allan

Prioritize the Realities

“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.” ~Philippians 2:1-2

The four realities Paul describes in verse one lead us as a church family to pursue the four goals in verse two or, better said, to prioritize the blessings we all have in Christ. Place great emphasis, he says, on being like-minded, on having the same love, on being one in spirit, and one in purpose. This sounds like unity, and it is. But it’s so much more than that, it’s a lot bigger than just unity. Just unity is not the goal.

You can have unity in a group of thieves or murderers or in a group of Red Sox fans. Or in a church where nothing’s happening. A stagnant church that takes no risks, that never tries new things, that doesn’t reach beyond its own walls or outside its Sunday morning worship.

Yeah, but we’re united! We’re so together!

So, what? To what end?

This whole thing — all of it — is about relationships and mission. Some of you have been at your current church for more than 30 or 40 years. I’m guessing you’re there because of relationships and the church’s mission. Some of you have only been at your current church for a month or so. But I’m guessing you’re there for the same two reasons.

That doesn’t mean we all have to agree on every single thing. That’s impossible. I’ve said before that if we all had to agree on every single thing in order to belong to the same church, Carrie-Anne would be at a different church. And then she reminds me, “No, Allan, you would be at a different church!”

The Bible calls for unity in spirit, not unity in beliefs or practices or opinions. Unity is about your attitude, your motivation. What drives you? What are you thinking about? Unity doesn’t do anybody any good if our thinking is out of line with the Gospel. So, does our thinking serve the Gospel? Does our love reflect the Gospel? Does our unity declare the Gospel? When Scripture says I want you to think the same thing, that thing is Christ Jesus and his mission to save.

That’s why we think together and love each other and unite as one in spirit and purpose: to advance the Gospel. To tear down the walls. To make the paths straight. To speak and show love and mercy and forgiveness and grace and life! We live the Gospel. That’s always the goal.

Peace,

Allan

Recognize the Realities

The conversation before and after our staff Word and Prayer time this morning centered around the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, mainly on how much of a shot Abilene Christian University has against Kentucky. We wondered aloud about the spread. Somebody joked that there’s probably not a line on the game because it’s a Church of Christ school. I replied that ACU probably thinks they’re the only ones going to the tournament.

The spread is 22 points. I’m taking ACU and the points. George is taking Kentucky.

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From the very moment each of us is born, we all demand that other people meet our personal needs. We cry until Mom feeds us or changes our diaper. We misbehave until Dad drops what he’s doing and gives us his full attention. As we get older, we demand the same privileges or better privileges than our siblings when we’re forced to share a bedroom or the backseat of the car. And when we grow up, we fight for the better position at work, we negotiate for the bigger house, we argue about driving the nicest car, and we desire to take the most luxurious vacation. We lie and cheat and steal to win an elected office, to gain a financial advantage, and to get our kids into the most prestigious university. We all spend a great deal of our lives asserting our rights and declaring our demands, sometimes even at the expense of others. And what starts out as a natural survival instinct turns into a steady expression of our fallen sinful nature. We put our desires ahead of the needs of others.

That happens a lot even in church. Maybe you already know that.

“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” ~Philippians 2:1-4

Is this even possible?

Absolutely! Yes, we can all do this! All of us! Because we recognize the realities. There is nothing in this world or in the next more certain than the realities we all share in Christ. The Scriptures don’t guess at this, they don’t present this as ‘maybe’ or ‘possibly.’ This is hard-core fact. This is the unquestionable reality for everybody in your church.

We are united with Christ. We are one with the holy Son of God. We are continuously encouraged because we belong to God’s family in Christ, with Christ. We cannot be separated from him — from Jesus — or from our unity with everybody who is also in Christ. We’re not alone, we’re together right now with the eternal Messiah and everybody who calls him Lord.

We have comfort from his love. We know we are loved by God in Christ. And we know nothing can separate us from that love — not death or life, not angels or demons, not the present or the future, not any powers, not height or depth, or anything else in all creation can ever separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. He loves you. He loves me. He loves everybody in your church unconditionally. That’s the reality. It’s real.

We have fellowship with the Holy Spirit. The original Greek word here in koinonia. Communion with the Spirit; sharing, community, participation; fellowship with God’s Spirit. God lives inside each one of us by his Spirit. Don’t ask me how; I have no idea. But it’s real. He lives in us. And that bonds us to each other. We see each other as indwelled by the same Spirit of God who indwells me. And that common sharing in the Spirit holds us together. We are all baptized by the one Spirit into one body and we’re all given the same Spirit to drink.

And we all have tenderness and compassion, these natural human emotions of affection and sympathy. If you have any tenderness and compassion, Paul writes, any kindness and goodness, if you’re not a jerk. If you’re breathing, he says, if you’re feeling anything at all, if you have a heartbeat, a pulse, if you’re human…

Paul points us to the solid realities. He doesn’t give us shallow advice or superficial instructions. No, he opens our eyes to the right-now realities or who we are together in Christ. He points us to the heavenly truth that by God’s will and God’s Word and God’s work, we are one. We¬† are together. As Christians, this is the air we breathe, the water we swim in. This is the lens through which we look at our church family as a whole and how we see each other individually. We recognize together these realities as God’s holy will for us and make them our priority.

Peace,

Allan

Be Not Angry

“Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be.”

~Thomas a Kempis, 1427

Wicked Windsday

Yes, according to national weather officials, Amarillo is the windiest city in the United States — we’re all used to it. But yesterday was beyond ridiculous. From about 9:00 yesterday morning until almost 9:00 last night, we all endured sustained wind speeds of 50-70 miles per hour with frequent gusts of over 75 to 80. The Amarillo airport recorded a gust of 81 miles per hour early yesterday afternoon which prompted the evacuation of the traffic control tower and the cancellation of all flights into and out of our city. Eighteen-wheelers were flipping over on both I-40 and I-27, major highways were blocked, trains were de-railing, trees were breaking in half, street signs and billboards were snapping in two, power lines were going down, roofs were being ripped off, there were whitecaps in our toilets¬† — it was absolutely surreal. Watch these local news stories below for the video of the trucks and trains flipping over and the widespread damage in Amarillo.

Click here and here and here and here.

Fences are down and shingles are gone in our southwest Amarillo neighborhood. But we didn’t sustain any personal damage at our place — just a bunch of limbs, none of them too big. The only broken thing I can see from our house is the street sign at the corner, bent over at the ground and lying in the street.

Straight line winds. Not a tornado or hurricane. Straight winds. For twelve solid hours.

When it finally stopped, everybody fell down.

Peace,

Allan

Typical 24 Hours

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