Author: Allan (page 1 of 304)

Changed by the Gospel

Paul’s experience on the Road to Damascus changed him. Paul was dramatically converted that day. He went from arresting Christians and throwing them in jail and trying to stamp out the Jesus movement to preaching and teaching the very faith he was trying to destroy. It was radical. The scales on his eyes that made Paul blind to what God was doing in Jesus were removed. The veil that hid the salvation realities in Jesus was lifted. The truth of Christ was revealed to Paul and it changed everything.

Paul came to a brand new understanding of Jesus. It was revealed to Paul, as he writes in the opening lines of Romans, that Jesus is declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord! Paul understood that God is forgiving sinful people and fixing the broken world not by a hard core keeping of commands but in Christ Jesus by faith. To be grabbed by Jesus is to be dragged into a new eternal reality where our standards of success and our priorities and the ways we measure what’s valuable and important no longer apply. My education, my zip code, my bank account, my vacation plans, my entertainment options — all of that is garbage! Everything that mattered to Paul before he knew Christ is meaningless now that he’s living in the light of Christ.

“Whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ — the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith!”  ~Philippians 3:7-9

And Paul’s new understanding of Christ means he has a new view of the people of God.

Paul sees these rag-tag Jesus-followers as marginal people. They don’t have the religious chops, they’re not dedicated to the Law, they’re unworthy in dozens of ways. But on the Road to Damascus, Jesus says, “Paul, why are you persecuting me?” Jesus the Lord ties himself directly to these outsiders Paul’s trying to crush. Paul realizes that the people of God are people of faith, not people of a certain birthright or ethnicity or race. The days of using the Law to separate Jews and Gentiles are over. The community of God is no longer defined by race or color or sex or economic status or politics. As Paul says in Galatians, “We are all one in Christ Jesus!”

And you say, “Yes! Of course! We know all this!”

We don’t know it well enough. We don’t.

We still use Christian words and Christian phrases and Christian Scripture and Christian churches to elevate men over women and to separate black disciples from white disciples. We are still fighting to keep up the walls our Lord Jesus  died to tear down.

Paul saw things differently because he was changed by the Gospel.

“Through the Gospel, the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.” ~Ephesians 3:6

Our God is right now today continuing to convert and call. May we pay attention to it. May we be open to it. And we be completely committed to it so our lives and our churches can be an everlasting glory to God.

Peace,

Allan

Big Day for Big Daddy

Troy “Big Daddy” Cullum’s funeral was today at Central and I was triply blessed.

One, I was so honored to give the eulogy. Any time I’m asked to do a memorial service, it’s a tremendous privilege. It’s one of the great blessings in being a congregational minister. People invite you in to their most sacred moments — the births of babies, the deaths of loved ones, the victories and tragedies. We preachers stand in places most people never get to: those places where heaven and earth meet, those places where God’s presence is thick, those places where our Lord comes to be with his people.  It’s an honor and an affirmation. It’s holy.

Two, I was thrilled to re-connect with so many great people I went to school with at old Dallas Christian. “Big Daddy” had maintained close friendships with some of the best men and women ever turned out by DC and a bunch of them came up here for the service. Kyle Douthit, Todd Denton, Brian Crisp, Darla Dunn, Mike Shelton, Darby Doan, Clay Dillard, and Micah Goodspeed — oh, my word! Other than seeing Darla at a Great Cities Missions fundraiser one time about four years ago, I’m sure I haven’t seen any of these folks since 1985! What a great joy to talk about Coach T and Coach Richmond and Mrs. Sorrells and old friends, to make those re-connections with people who know the same people I know, who know the same stories I know. What a gift from God to realize that he has been involved with all of these people for the past 33 years. We’ve all been on different paths in different places, we’ve had different experiences and different ups and downs, but our Lord is faithful to carry us forward in the ways that are best. We are all characters in the same eternal narrative. It’s comforting. It’s warming. It’s good to be reminded that our God is at work in and through everybody for his great purposes.

And, three, I was so blessed to see our church come together in powerful ways to minister to the Cullums. Shane and Doug are there for Troy’s son, T. J. Mary and Sara and Jamie are there for Berkley. Mindy and Robin are there for Morgan. Huddle leaders and class teachers and Sticky Buddies and elders and Becky Nordyke’s gang of church ladies and our amazing church staff, all jumping in this week to love and encourage, to comfort and minister.

Nobody wanted this funeral today. Nobody was prepared for this. It’s awful.

And, yeah, it’s also kind of beautiful.

Troy’s sudden death Sunday morning leaves a heavy void that’s going to take a long time to heal. But he also leaves a lasting legacy for his family and friends — a brilliant and shining example of a life well-lived in Christ Jesus for the sake of others.

May God bless Troy’s family. May God receive his servant “Big Daddy” into his faithful arms. And may God bless all of us with the strength and faith and confidence that he is able to keep whatever we trust to him until that big day.

Peace,

Allan

More Than Enough Power

98.6 is your normal sitting body temperature. It is also our youngest daughter Carley’s four-year cumulative GPA at Canyon High School. Carley was recognized last week for the fourth straight year as a Superintendent’s Scholar, awarded to all students who finish a school year with at least a 95 grade point average. They gave her another cord to wear at this Friday’s graduation. That makes almost a dozen. Her posture will be out of whack and her neck will be super sore after Friday night.

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We’re in the beginning stages of a sermon series from Galatians in which we are stressing that the Good News of salvation from God is “Christ Alone” — nothing more, nothing less. And we made the argument last week that Christ Alone is about his power.

Our salvation from God in Christ is about the power and the authority to create and restore, his power to save, his power to move us from one state of being to another, to move us from this present evil age to the eternal age of salvation and life, from the control of the world and its structures to the merciful control of our good and faithful God.

Galatians shows us that we are moved by Christ out from under the control of the enemy into the loving control of God’s Spirit. We are rescued from slavery and moved by Christ into a state of freedom. It’s not about when one age ends and the other begins — they both exist at the same time. It’s about control. It’s about the power. Who’s running things for you and your world?

“Through the Law I died to the Law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (2:19-20)

“Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the Law, locked up until faith should be revealed… Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the Law.” (3:23-25)

“We were in slavery under the basic principles of the world. But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under Law, to redeem those under Law, that we might receive the full rights of sons… So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir… Now that you know God — or, rather, are known by God — how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? (4:3-5, 7, 9)

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free! Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (5:1)

“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation!” (6:14-15)

Maybe you feel trapped. Maybe you feel like a powerless pawn in a cosmic game of chess or chance that you don’t have any control over. It feels like something’s got you. Maybe it’s an external force, maybe it’s an internal compulsion — something’s got you. And you’re in a cycle. A bad cycle that just keeps repeating over and over, around and around. These patterns can only be broken when the ultimate authority and power steps in to pull you off that awful treadmill. Christ alone has that power. His death and resurrection pulls off the ultimate rescue and sets us free. So not only does Jesus deal with your past, but we’re all under a gracious control that empowers us for the present and the future.

“Christ Jesus gave himself for our sins” (1:4). Can you begin to comprehend the extraordinary radical thing that is?

Jesus has stepped in and taken our place. He has assumed our responsibility. He’s taken on our failures. We don’t have to languish in our guilt, we don’t have to suffer with remorse. Christ died for your sins and you don’t need to hang onto them anymore. Christ alone gives us the grace and the power to live in freedom and eternal life today!

Christ Alone — nothing more, nothing less. Nothing subtracted from that and nothing added to it. Christ Alone — to the glory of God the Father for ever and ever. Amen.

Peace,

Allan

More Than Enough Grace

Paul’s letter to the Christians in Galatia reminds us of the supreme authority of the Gospel of Grace. Grace is what led these Christians to Christ in the first place (“You were called by the grace of Christ” 1:6). The grace of Christ is what re-directed Paul’s own life and now has him preaching and teaching and planting churches and writing half the New Testament (“God called me by his grace” 1:15).

God’s grace is the good news of the Gospel and it means that God justifies us, not by the Law, but by his mercy and love. It also means it’s not restricted to Jews or other people who follow certain laws or customs. God’s salvation is given to anyone who receives it by faith.

This is the very heart of Christianity, but the churches in Galatia had completely misunderstood it. They’re working their Christianity from the wrong end. They’re so worried about what they need to do to make sure they’re in God’s family and what they need to do to fulfill God’s Law. The answer is at the other end: What God has done in Christ and how he does it — by grace.

Grace is not a thing God gives — it’s not a thing at all. It’s not a noun, it’s more like an adjective. Grace describes the way God gives himself to us. It describes the relationship God establishes with us.

“When the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons… You are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.” ~Galatians 4:4-7

We can’t compromise with any other way of dealing with the Law or gaining membership into God’s family. There’s no middle ground where God does his part and we do our part to be rescued.

Do Gentiles have to become Jews in order to be saved? Or course not! No! The very nature of grace eliminates anybody’s special categories.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” ~Galatians 3:28

All of us together have the grace of Christ alone in common. And that’ more than enough.

Peace,

Allan

The Present Evil Age

It has been brought to my attention that my suggested name for the new AA baseball team in town, “The Amarillo Dusters,” has already been used by a now defunct arena league football team that played in our city from 2005-2009. The team went 26-54 during those five seasons and never had a winning record. There’s no way our new baseball ownership will choose a name used here not that long ago by a lousy arena football team. Sigh…

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“Jesus Christ gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age.” ~Galatians 1:3-4

People in the United States in 2018 still need to be rescued from the present evil age. Yes, we are still living in the present evil age. And it’s especially hard for us to see it because, for us, this current age doesn’t seem so bad.

I’ve got both hot and cold running water in my house. I have central air-conditioning and heating. I have cable television in four rooms on HDTVs with DVRs — unparalleled clarity in picture and sound. I’ve got a microfiber reclining couch. And I’m always either eating, just finished eating, or about to start eating.

Most of the time, for me, for all of us, this present age seems pretty sweet. What’s so evil about it?

Well, for starters, all the TVs and computers and iPhones mean that we are more aware than we’ve ever been before of just how broken this world is. It’s evil. Vulgarity and violence, racism and sexism, lying and lust — and that’s all coming from the good guys! There’s untold poverty and disease and death, weather disasters, wars and threats of more wars. In the end, ultimately, there is no place in this world where you can find a firm foundation for your hopes and dreams.

I don’t know what’s going to take you down, but something will. Something will wreck your hopes and dreams. A tornado, flood, or fire. Heart disease, cancer, or Alzheimer’s. Adultery or divorce. The death of someone you can’t imagine living without. You can’t escape the disappointment. You’re either dealing with it right now or you’ve already experienced it or it’s coming.

There is no fixing what’s wrong with this present age. The world is broken and we know it. We’re broken. And all the ways we try to fix ourselves and this world are also broken.

We can argue about the things we see that ought to be changed. We can fuss about whose party and which leader should be in charge of those changes. We can spend our whole lives rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic and, yeah, maybe we’ll succeed in making life a little more tolerable for our fellow passengers. But we know deep down inside that we cannot stop this ship from sinking. It’s going down. And we all need rescue.

There is only one solution for this fallen world. There’s only one thing that can fix what’s gone wrong with creation.

“Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.” ~Galatians 6:15

The answer to what’s wrong with the world is a whole new world, a brand new reality where the only law is “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Christ Jesus died and God raised him from the grave to make that new world a reality. Jesus does that. Jesus rescues. Jesus saves.

Peace,

Allan

Rock and Roll Never Forgets

Forty years ago this summer the Texxas World Music Festival, more commonly known as the Texxas Jam, brought together eleven bands — Van Halen, Aerosmith, Ted Nugent, Heart, Journey, and Eddie Money among them — to perform in the first of what became the largest and longest running outdoor concert series in world history. The Texxas Jam ran for eleven years at the historic Cotton Bowl and I was there on the 120-degree floor of that stadium with over 100,000 people for the final four.

The Texxas Jam is where I learned to love rock and roll concerts. It’s where I first saw The Motor City Madman swing from a cable onto the stage wearing nothing but a loin cloth and totally command the stadium for over an hour. It’s where I saw Bon Jovi perform at 11:00 in the morning when their only hit was “Runaway.” I was there when Deep Purple did “Smoke on the Water” and Boston played every cut from their “Third Stage” album in order. I saw Sammy Hagar completely lose his voice and Van Halen’s bass player Michael Anthony step up and sing Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll.” I saw Eddie play “Eruption.” Live. Twice. The Scorpions, Night Ranger, and Loverboy. Bachman Turner Overdrive, Whitesnake, and Poison.

The concerts are legendary. Heat strokes and fire hoses. Surprise appearances by Nugent and Hagar. The Eagles protesting weather conditions and the rough accommodations for an hour before finally taking the stage. Blown amps and stolen guitars. Fifteen hours of wall-to-wall rock and roll from some of the biggest bands in music history. There was nothing like it before and nothing like it since.

So, I was immediately interested when a chat box popped up on the sidebar of my KZEW – Vokal screen a few weeks ago advertising a 40th anniversary Texxas Jam Tribute concert at the Texas Music Museum in Irving. It was being billed as a two-day event with Texxas Jam memorabilia, documentaries, guitar contests, and several tribute bands playing the actual sets from those famous concerts. I contacted my brother Keith in Austin and we quickly decided we would buy our tickets and meet in Dallas to experience the event together.

Then the venue changed to the Longhorn Ballroom in downtown Dallas. It went from a two-day event to a one-day deal. The Heart tribute band cancelled. I contacted the promoter by email and he assured me everything was good. Their website promised “more surprises,” which gave me a great deal of pause, but the tickets were purchased, the plans had been made, and we pressed on.

We showed up Saturday at just after 12:00 noon. There were only eight or nine cars in the parking lot. And it was way too quiet. And weird. No documentaries. No memorabilia. No crowd. Keith and I felt like we had crashed a Vokal staff party. We were the only ones there who weren’t working for the show or related to members of the bands. The MC came over to us and introduced himself personally — we stood out that much! The MC was never certain of the lineup. He read fun facts about the Longhorn Ballroom from a page he printed off the internet. They thanked sponsors and touted the food truck and jewelry booth like we were at a small town arts and crafts fair. And nobody showed up.

Seven guys participated in the Eddie Van Halen guitar-playing contest which was basically a showcase of seven different ways to get into and out of “Eruption.” At one point one of the contestants flicked his guitar pick at us in the audience and it was so quiet in there we heard the pick hit the wood floor! It bounced within about 24-inches of my feet and nobody made a move.  That pick just laid there on the floor for almost a minute before somebody to my right mercifully walked over to retrieve it. After they announced the winner, with all seven contestants still standing on the stage, the MC said “Hopefully we’ll do this again next year and it’ll be better.” Seriously.

During the Joan Jett tribute concert the band dropped the instruments and mics for the audience to sing the chorus to “I Love Rock and Roll!” and it was dead silence. It was incredible! The first words the MC said after the Joan Jett show were, “Now back to the tamales,” referencing the food truck he was talking about before the set.

We were took. Big time. I feel like a huge sucker. The promoter tried to make up to us  by giving us free replica concert posters from the inaugural ’78 Jam. I took one and, yeah, it’s hanging up in my garage right now.

I made the drive and spent the time and money because I wanted to see the documentaries and the memorabilia. I wanted to be reminded of some of those really fun and free and wild moments from my youth, I guess. I wanted to watch the interviews and hear the stories and see the history. The last thing I would have ever done is drive more than six-hours one way to listen to some cover bands. Give me a break.

But the bands were actually really good, especially the Van Halen and Whitesnake tribute bands, VHX and Sinners and Saints. I actually enjoyed it much more than I thought I would — it was quite a surprise. Their music was crisp and clean and to-the-note exactly like the studio sound of the records. The lead singers have worked a long time to perfect the look, the voice, the mannerisms, and the stage quirks of David Lee Roth and David Coverdale. If you squinted your eyes and let your imagination go just a bit, these guys looked and sounded just like the bands I saw in my youth. And, as Keith mentioned a couple of times, where else are you going to hear these great songs performed live like this? Van Halen will never sing “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” with that same lineup from ’78 – ’85. Whitesnake is not doing “Here I Go Again” with Coverdale. This is it.

And it worked. For a brief moment, as insanely lame as most of it was, it worked to remind us why we love electric guitars and a driving beat. It was not a totally wasted day.

Peace,

Allan

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