The Creed & Christian Formation

Faith, Forgiveness, Legacy Church Family, Valerie No Comments »

SkiTrip2016A group of ten college kids (nine from OC, 1 from ACU) showed up at our house Friday night and left with Valerie for a weekend ski trip to Angel Fire. Four of the young men grew up at the Legacy Church of Christ and were in the youth group when we were there from 2006 – 2011. Colten Pace is standing on Valerie’s right in the picture. Behind Colten and Val is Dillon Byrnes, the son of David and Shanna. We were in small group with the precious Byrnes family for three year and still count them as great friends. Hudson Enger is behind Dillon’s left shoulder and Trevor Jones is standing behind Dillon’s right shoulder. It was so great to see them now in such a different context. They’re college kids now, out on their own, growing and learning and experiencing life together in new ways. And so full of God’s joy. The other six kids — I have no idea who they are. I know a couple of them are in Delta and at least one of them is a Bible major. Good enough!

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CrossElderLinkWe’re memorizing and reciting the ancient Apostles’ Creed as a church family here at Central because we believe it can help cultivate Christian formation. We believe God is in the business of changing us. He’s making us more and more into the image of his Son. That’s what God is doing in us. So church is more like school than a show. It’s more like boot camp than a country club. We’re all in and have committed to the difficult process of being changed. And we think the Apostles’ Creed will help facilitate that. To order your life around these timeless statements about God and Christ will shape a person.

If you believe that Jesus Christ will return to judge the living and the dead, that will have an impact on how you live. Think about that. He’s coming back to judge. What a great guard against sin. What a great tool for the counsel we give each other. What a great pause that gives us as we make decisions every day between right and wrong. It’ll affect the way we live.

If you believe in the forgiveness of sins, that’ll change the way you view yourself and it’ll affect how you act toward one another. We’ve all sinned this past week. All of us. In some way you haven’t loved the Lord. You said a mean thing to your spouse or a hurtful thing to your children. You’ve been dishonest with a co-worker or a friend. Maybe it’s a little sin you just can’t shake. Or maybe you’ve done something horribly out of character this week. We’ve all betrayed our Lord in some way this week. But if you believe in the forgiveness of sins, you don’t run away from the forgiver. You run to him. If we believe in the forgiveness of sins, then our church becomes a place of forgiveness and when you betray God you run to the church, not away from it.

And you will forgive others. Has anybody sinned against you this week? Has anybody lied to you or hurt you or let you down in some way this past week? Do you believe in the forgiveness of sins? It’ll change you.

Peace,

Allan

The Creed & Historical Community

Central Church Family, Ephesians, Faith, Legacy Church Family 1 Comment »

Barrett&OCI had a great day at Oklahoma Christian University yesterday, catching up with some really old friends and maintaining connections with some more recent ones. It’s fascinating to walk into Hardeman auditorium and see Sheldon Adkins as a respected university counselor and Jeff McMillon as a respected Bible professor. Randy Roper — pardon me, Doctor Randy Roper — my play-by-play partner for all those Eagles basketball games, is the dynamic preacher for the Edmond Church of Christ. I know my own life has changed in so many wonderful ways since we were terrorizing the faculty and administration at OC back in the ’80s. Our God has faithfully shaped me and used me in ways I never could have imagined back then. To know he has done and is doing the exact same surprisingly wondrous things in others is a true blessing to my heart. We picked up with our conversation and connection like we had never left off, getting the scoop on mutual friends, re-telling the crazy stories that nobody would believe unless they had been there, laughing at the same things we laughed about twenty-five years ago. But there was added joy in the knowledge that our God saved us from ourselves and is using us to his glory and praise.

It was great to see Dillon Byrnes and Chandler Trader from the youth group back at Legacy. It was a true blessing to have Barrett Packard from our youth group here at Central introduce me to the OC chapel crowd and pray with me before I spoke. And the lunch at Alfredo’s with Adair, Randy, Barrett, and Dillon was a blast: old Delta guys in their late 40s with a couple of current Delta guys in their early 20s. And Randy.

Speaking at chapel at OC is nerve-wracking. I dread it. Tough room. Tough crowd. Impossibly high demands. I get the sense that 95% of the kids in the room don’t want to be there. I feel like none of them are listening (I know, I used to be one of those kids). Yesterday, though, seemed different from the other times I’ve spoken there. It seemed like they were paying attention yesterday, actually listening to the words of encouragement from the end of Romans 8 regarding God’s unconditional love for each of us. I wonder sometimes if the entire OC faculty and board of directors has to meet and vote first before I’m invited back to speak at chapel. I wonder if they call Terry Johnson or Richard Mock first, just to be sure they haven’t missed some kind of lifetime ban I’m under for some infraction committed in 1988. Regardless, I’m always grateful for the opportunity. And always blessed.

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“There is one body and one Spirit — just as you were called to one hope when you were called — one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” ~Ephesians 4:4-6

CommunityJesusChurchWe’re in the beginning stages of exploring together the Apostles’ Creed here at Central. We just introduced it to our congregation last Sunday and we’re jumping into the first line together this Sunday, returning to each of the different lines in order once a month through the end of the year. I’ve received much encouragement this week since that introductory sermon in the form of emails and texts and even pictures. Some of you have placed the creed on your refrigerators, some of your children are drawing and painting the lines of the creed and hanging them up in their rooms, lots of you are wondering why you’ve never heard of the Apostles’ Creed before. Your excitement and energy about this is giving me much energy and excitement. Thank you.

In the last post here I wrote about using the Apostles’ Creed as a way to maintain theological balance. Today, let me suggest that memorizing and saying the creed together also reminds us that we belong to the historical community of all disciples of Jesus for all time. We are a part of the one body. We belong to the one called people. We confess the one faith and we are all children of the one God.

When we stand up and say this creed together, it connects us to all the Christians who stood up and said this creed together. Through the ages. The group of fifteen Christians in Asia Minor who gathered at the river and said the Apostles’ Creed as their neighbor was baptized in 265 AD. The two dozen Christians in Ephesus who said the creed together around the Lord’s Meal in one of their homes on a Sunday night in 310 AD. The hundreds of Christians in Rome who said the creed together in a brand new church building in 526 AD. The Christians in the European cathedrals in the 14th century. The Christians in the mission fields in the 19th century. All the Christians around the world who say the creed together every Sunday today. We are part of a people — think about how big this is! — thousand and thousands and hundreds of millions of people for the past 1,800 years all over the world who confess the basis beliefs of the Christian faith with these same words. It’s huge. It’s beautiful. It connects us to the people who’ve gone before us even now as the faith has been passed on to us and it’s our turn to run the race and boldly proclaim the truth about our God and his holy Son.

You say the pledge of allegiance or you sing the U.S. national anthem and it connects you to a people that were founded 240 years ago. We say the Apostles’ Creed and it joins us to an eternal people who were founded and shaped by the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Peace,

Allan

One More Year

2 Corinthians, Death, Legacy Church Family, Luke, Repentance, Romans No Comments »

“Leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit, fine! If not, then cut it down.” ~Luke 13:8-9

FigTreeCoupleThere is a time limit. The Master is not calling for the indefinite existence of a bad tree. It’s got one more year. The health of the vineyard is too important, the Master’s expectation for fruit is too strong to leave in place an unproductive, non-responsive tree taking up good ground. It’s got one more year. One more season. One more chance. And then, if it doesn’t respond to the patience and care of the Master? Then, cut it down.

There’s an urgency in this parable that we shouldn’t miss. The tree is going to be held accountable. And it’s only got a short time left to respond to the farmer’s patience. Something’s got to change. The coming judgment is real.

“We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” ~2 Corinthians 5:10

The holiness and righteousness of God demands justice and judgment. Romans says we will all stand before God’s judgment; every knee will bow and every tongue will confess; each of us will give an account of our lives to God. There is a judgment coming. God is going to judge the world. And it’s one of the best kept secrets in the Bible.

We don’t talk about it. Judgment sounds harsh or cruel. The idea of God’s divine judgment clashes with what works in our culture — even our church culture. We barely acknowledge it anymore. The only time we speak about God’s judgment is when we’re making fun of people who talk about God’s judgment. We don’t preach God’s judgment. I don’t. Not very much.

But this parable…

This tree’s got one year. That’s it. And then it’s over.

There’s a story about Satan meeting with his demons in hell, working on their strategies against us humans. The first demon said, “I’ll go tell people there’s no heaven.” The second demon said, “I’ll tell people there’s no hell.” The third demon said, “I’ll tell people there’s no hurry.” Satan said, “Yes! That’s the plan!”

No hurry? That tree’s got one year. That’s it. If it bears fruit next year, fine. If not, then cut it down.

There’s an urgency in Jesus’ story. But we don’t feel that urgency. We appreciate the manure of God’s great patience and his merciful restraint. But we don’t even think about that coming judgment. In this country, in this century, as our sense of self grows larger and larger and our sense of God becomes smaller and smaller, we fear God so little we don’t understand the seriousness of our sin. And we sense the seriousness of our sin so little, we very seldom fear God. That’s a bad place to be.

“Do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance, and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance? But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.” ~Romans 2:5-6

He gave the tree one more year. One more season. If it bears fruit, fine. If not, cut it down.

There’s an urgency here. It’s later than we think. One of the elders at the Legacy church, Kent Robinson, says every single day, “It’s later now than it’s ever been before!” He’s right. And the time to act is right now, during this season of God’s patience, during this time when God is holding back the ax and spreading the manure of his grace and forgiveness. Now is the time to respond, not tomorrow. Now is the time of God’s favor. Now is the day of salvation. God’s mercy is being extended now. The opportunity for a fruitful life is now.

I don’t know how much time we’ve got. I don’t know. Apparently, even Jesus isn’t sure. But that day’s coming for each of us. That tree’s got one more year. You might have longer. Maybe.

Peace,

Allan

Ordained by the Community of Christ

4 Amarillo, Allan's Journey, Central Church Family, Legacy Church Family, Marble Falls, Preaching No Comments »

Larry Lemmons of channel 7, the ABC affiliate here in Amarillo, produced a nice piece on the “4 Amarillo” churches that aired on Christmas night. You can view the three minute video by clicking here.

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Worshiping with the Legacy church last Sunday got me to thinking all this week about my ordination as a proclaimer of God’s Word. Yeah, I believe with all my heart that our God has been preparing me my whole life to preach the gospel. Yes, I went to seminary and studied Greek. And, of course, I do feel ordained by the Lord to do what I’m doing. But I don’t think those things alone give anyone the right to preach. I’m beginning to understand more and more that the community of faith must ordain its preacher in order for the relationship between proclaimer and listener, preacher and congregation, to work.

So, who ordained me? The elders hired me and prayed over me. But how does a preacher really become ordained to minister with a particular church family? It has become clear to me this week, especially since seeing all those wonderful people at Legacy and visiting with all those dear friends. It’s both a one time event and a lifetime progression. It’s both formal and relational.

At Legacy, Tom ordained me when he asked me to baptize his daughter Sarah. She was the first person I baptized at Legacy. I asked him why he wanted me to do it and he replied, “She needs to be baptized by the preacher; and you’re our preacher.” A similar thing happened with Brooklyn, who greeted me this past Sunday with happy tears in her eyes. Don ordained me when, after a particularly tough sermon in which I challenged a couple of long-held practices of ours, he told me, “Allan, you are my friend, you’re my brother, and you’re my preacher!” Louise ordained me from her wheelchair when she promised me, “I pray for you every single morning.” And I believed her. Jim and Elvera ordained me when they asked me to marry them. This widow and widower had more than 90 years of marriage experience between them when they asked me to preside over their wedding. Dan ordained me when he walked in to my office one day and asked if I could help him with some specific spiritual questions he had. He’s older than me, been a Christian much longer than me, but he said he needed my wisdom. Paul and Jean ordained me when their son was killed in that car accident. Alene ordained me when she asked me to do Bob’s funeral.

I think ordination is both positional and relational — it must be both. Tom didn’t really know me when he asked me to baptize Sarah, but he trusted it was the right thing to do because I was the preacher. Louise didn’t really know me at the time, but she vowed to pray for me every day. Don and I had disagreed about several things during my first couple of years at Legacy, but when he called me his preacher, it was a sign of love and respect that had taken some time. Brooklyn’s ordination of me was in relationship. So was Jim and Elvera’s. Paul and Jean’s was through a shared experience of tragedy. Alene’s affirmation and trust was forged in hours of prayer together.

It’s both. I think the congregation has to say — collectively and individually — this is my preacher, given to us by God, and we’re going to support him and love him and trust him because he’s been placed here with us by Christ. In the same way, the preacher must make the same commitments: these are my people, my church family, given to me by God, and I’m going to support and love and trust these people because Christ has brought us together for his purposes. It’s both formal and relational.

It’s been very helpful to me this week to recognize the many ways I’ve been ordained. Here at Central, Eldrena anointed me with oil one hour before I preached my first sermon here. John Todd and Kami ordained me by bringing us dinner and providing a microwave for our apartment the first night we spent in Amarillo. Lanny ordained me by asking me to perform Judy’s funeral. Nick and Sara ordained me by asking me to do their wedding. Jim and Becky ordained me through some tough conversation and prayer in their kitchen. Wesley ordained me by reflecting on our sermons with emails and cards. Every week I’m ordained by these faithful Christians at Central in living rooms and hospital wards, at lunch and in my study, through phone calls and emails.

And I could keep going. All the dozens of people throughout my childhood and teenage years who told me how wonderful my prayer or my sermonette or my devo talk or my communion meditation or my song leading was, even when it really wasn’t very good at all. The Room 208 class in Mesquite. Kevin’s pushing me to leave radio and pursue preaching and putting his money where his mouth was. Jason and Dan encouraging me through that stressful transition. Donna Steward asking me to baptize her gardener, my first. Lee Ann Clark asking me to do her mother’s funeral, my first. God himself ordaining me by thrusting me into pastoral situations whether I was ready or not: praying over an unconscious Berrilyn Daniel at that WinterFest, moving David Griffin out of that horrible situation in south Marble Falls.

Play with the semantics all you want: God ordains and the congregation affirms, the elders ordain and the church family confirms, whatever. But I know now that it’s both a one time event and a lifetime progression. It’s both formal and relational. And a preacher in God’s Church couldn’t do the job with it being any other way.

Peace,

Allan

A Preacher’s Honor

Allan's Journey, Legacy Church Family, Preaching 2 Comments »

Preachers are a blessed bunch of people. We don’t deserve our blessings, we don’t earn them, we don’t seek them. But the blessings from our God and his people fall on us and overwhelm us quite regularly. We are honored above most other groups of people. And we would do well to be more aware of those blessings and honors, to recognize them and appreciate them when they arrive.

The people in our churches honor us by sharing their lives with us. They give us glimpses into their hearts that other people never see. They allow us to look into their very souls, they open up their emotions to us, they come clean with us about their struggles and doubts, and they share with us their greatest joys.

And, why?

God only knows.

I was so incredibly honored this past Sunday to perform the marriage ceremony for Landon Brightwell and Taylor Bates, two precious kids from the Legacy youth group. Honored. My first real exposure to Landon was the day his dad dragged him into my office and asked me to talk to him for an hour about some trouble he was getting in to. Landon and I were both very uncomfortable. He mainly listened and fidgeted in his chair while I tried to inspire him with stories from the gospels and hypothetical situations involving his uncertain future if he didn’t shape up. I was terribly ineffective that afternoon. But his dad trusted me with his son. His dad thought I could help and he trusted what I might say.


 

 

 

 

 

Over the next three years I watched as our Lord began to speak to Landon and his friends and to work in them and through them in astounding ways. These three guys began showing up to the Tuesday men’s Bible study, blessing the old men in the group, asking all the right questions, speaking deeply from their hearts. They began taking regular shifts during Legacy Morning Prayers, blessing our elders and ministers, being blessed by Quincy, growing in their faith in God and in their trust in his Church and in one another. They pranked my house, put live goldfish in the bed of my truck, planted apple trees on my front porch, and put living room furniture in my front yard. And they prayed with me before I left for Amarillo.

I’ve only seen Landon maybe once or twice since we left; I haven’t talked to Taylor at all. And when he called me over the summer to ask me if I’d marry them, it completely blew me away. Why? Why do want me to do your wedding?

“Because you’re our preacher.”

I’m not sure a preacher can hear any more encouraging and affirming and honoring words than those. It’s humbling and it’s flattering. But above all, I believe it’s an honor.

To be able to share this most important day with Landon and Taylor, to be right in the middle of this foundational day with them and their sweet families, was such a blessed honor for me. And I know it has very little, if anything, to do with my sermons or my teachings or the things I believe. It has nothing at all to do with any special talents or abilities. It’s only because I just happened to be their preacher when they were growing up. I was their preacher.

Carrie-Anne and I worshiped with the Legacy church family Sunday for the first time since we left a little over three years ago. And we were honored from the moment we walked in until the moment we drove off to lunch with the Byrnes and Cindy Pope. We were hugged and kissed, appreciated and encouraged. Lots of people expressed how much they miss us. A few pointed out some things we started at Legacy that are still continuing today and are very much a part of the church’s DNA. Several thanked me for something I had done or said in the past. Three people asked me to pray for someone in their family.

Whoa.

What an honor. Because I’m a preacher.

Preachers don’t deserve the trust people put in us. We’re not worthy of receiving the parts of their lives others choose to share with us. All of it is a gracious gift from our God.

Lord, please help us recognize and appreciate those honors as the gifts to us they are, to more fully understand the position you’ve placed us in and how you’re working through us for your purposes and glory.

Invitation to Possession

Central Church Family, Holy Spirit, Legacy Church Family, Texas Rangers No Comments »

I see movie trailers all the time teasing the next big demon-possession flick: based on a true story. Movies about demon-possession: based on historical events. Books about demon-possession. Newspaper and magazine articles about demon-possession.

You ever heard of an angel possession?

Why is it always the demons?

See, the Spirit of God is not interested in a violent takeover. Of anything. God’s Spirit will never enter your heart or your head or your body and cause you to do things against your will. That’s not how our God operates. God’s way is through invitation.

“Come and see.” “Come and eat.” “Come follow me.”

Gracious invitation.

“Give me your burdens.” “Cast your cares on me.”

Gentle, loving invitation.

The ways we act with each other and with the world will reflect our views of God. Our thoughts and deeds will communicate our understanding of our Savior. A kind invitation will always go a lot farther than an aggressive assault. And it’s much more in line with Christ-likeness and godly behavior.
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This past Sunday may have been Mother’s Day at your church. Here at Central it was Delta Day!

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 Yu Darvish finished one out away from a no-hitter at the temple Friday night and there were ten of us in the seats down the third base line to witness it together. It was probably a little weird for Brock since his dad and Greg Dowell and Spruce and Hub-Daddy were all there. It probably felt like we had made the trip for an intervention. But we just had an absolute blast. Greg ate for the cycle. Danny kept threatening to take off his shirt. I won $13 dollars from the rest of the guys on Martin’s homer in the 5th. Lanny tried to double-down on the Dot Race. I think Hub was actually rooting against the little kid running the stolen base promotion. And Andy was oblivious to all of it because he kept his eyes laser focused on the field the whole night.

It was so good to get caught up with Byrnes and the Drakes. And, yes, Darvish is impressive. Wow. I’ve been to countless hundreds of baseball games in my life. Still never seen a no-hitter.

On a side note, wouldn’t the Rangers be really, really good if Darvish could pitch every night?

Peace,

Allan