Category Archives: Guest Bloggers

POEM: “Expand” by Danny Evans

Our friend Danny Evans is writing poems each week for a series of sermons on the seven days of creation based on Steve Wiens’ book Beginnings: The First Seven Days of the Rest of Your Life (2016). Enjoy!

EXPAND

by Danny Evans

Now is your chance for expanse.
It’s time to broaden where you are going to the God who is all-knowing.
This shift and stretch in life may cause a bit of strife,
But if you have faith in the Son,
This situation will be won.
I know you might not want to let go of what you possess,
But you will not be oppressed.
Stretch yourself with God’s help, and you’ll be blessed.
God will take your hand,
So you can expand.

POEM: “Light” by Danny Evans

Our friend Danny Evans is writing poems each week for a series of sermons on the seven days of creation based on Steve Wiens’ book Beginnings: The First Seven Days of the Rest of Your Life (2016). Enjoy!

DAY ONE: LIGHT

by Danny Evans

The dark made all afraid,
But a spark came to its aid.
Before the light developed,
The dark kept all good things enveloped.
Despair filled the world
As it danced and twirled.
It thought it had all in hand
Until light came to visit the land.
Light made sure that dark would understand
That only his way would go as planned.
Joy came to visit all
As it locked out dark with a vast wall.

What Story are you part of? (Mike Fox)

I can only answer the question, “What am I to do?” if I can answer the prior question “Of what story or stories do I find myself a part?”

– Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue

My granddaughter loves to act out the stories she hears.  She is the heroine of a seemingly endless stream of mysteries, adventures, and tragedies.  She boldly invites any ‘innocent’ bystander into the story – sometimes as the victim, sometimes as the bad guy, and sometimes as the loyal sidekick.

Recently we watched “The Wizard of Oz” together.  For the next 2 weeks she was Dorothy.  My wife, my daughter, and I were the Tinman, the Cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow, the Wizard, and the Wicked Witch of the West depending on what the story required at any given moment. Continue reading What Story are you part of? (Mike Fox)

Just “Good Enough”? (by Daniel Henderson)

This post by Pastor Daniel Henderson struck a chord with me this week. I read it a couple days after confessing to my congregation a deep desire to lead them into the kind of discipleship that would lead to “abiding in Him”, connected to the vine, and really producing fruit. It seems like the main struggle for many Christians is not running away from God and into all manner of sin and rebellion, but rather resigning ourselves to a kind of faith that just scratches the surface of things but really never delivers on Jesus’ promise to give us “life to the full” (John 10:10).  Read below and let’s not settle for cheap, old wine! -JB

I remember hearing many years ago that “to be satisfied with yourself is a sure sign that your forward progress is about to stop.”  We all need a sense of holy dissatisfaction about our current status, our influence for Christ, and our potential in serving His mission.
In Luke 5:37-39, Jesus addresses the Pharisees who questioned why Jesus did not conform to the man-made religious standards of the day.  He responded, “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined.  But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved.  And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better.'” I like the translation of the New American Standard here: “The old is good enough ” (v. 39).
Stuck in “Good Enough”
It is so easy to get stuck in the “good enough” rut.  When we simply go along with the way things have always been, accepting what others have always said, and doing what we have always done, we’ve likely lost our true forward progress.  It is time to take a fresh look at the radical life of Jesus, the extreme needs of the world around us, and the potential of the Spirit within us and pray for a deliverance from the “good enough” mentality.
The work of the Gospel is the new wine Jesus speaks of.  The word of the Gospel is living, active, dynamic, and relevant to every generation.  Yet, the old wineskins of mindless routines and long-standing traditions can inhibit and waste the work of the new wine.
Why We Settle for “Good Enough”
We all tend to be creatures of habit.  We can also be plagued by fear, laziness, and selfishness to the degree that we are not open to the new adventure of His calling on our lives, whether it is the daily call to live fully for Him or a new chapter that He is opening before us.  It is easy to cling to the familiar, comfortable, and functional rather than surrender to the Spirit’s prompting to embrace the biblical, the effective, and the best choices of an adventuring and influential faith.
Paul wrote to his disciple Timothy, who had settled into a “good enough” mentality, no longer driven by the fire of a clear calling and the sufficiency of the spiritual gifts God had placed in him.  Paul told his son in the faith, “Stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.  For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:6-7).  Literally, Paul commands Timothy to “fan into flame” the smoldering coals of his spiritual passion and to reject the fear that was keeping him in the gray twilight of “good enough.”  Like Timothy, we must affirm the power of God that is able to energize us for unprecedented, supernatural impact.  We must surrender to His love that compels us to get past ourselves and give our lives away to others in sustained, sacrificial service.  We must submit to the sound mind (or discipline) of the Holy Spirit to keep us clear-headed and resolute to finish our race with perseverance and passion.
Moving Beyond “Good Enough”
When I see the things Jesus did to prepare His very inadequate disciples to become the catalysts for world transformation, I think of five words: Look, Pray, Receive, Go, and Finish.  These ideas can move us beyond  a “good enough” lifestyle.
  • Look – The disciples, like so many of us, tended to go through the routines of their day without seeing the kingdom opportunities available to them.  For example, in John 4 they were busy taking care of lunch and fixating on superficial issues while Jesus reached into the heart of a Samaritan woman at a well, then called her entire village to encounter His truth.  In this moment He turned to His disciples with the challenge, “Lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!” (John 4:35-36).  When we fail to see the needs around us with spiritual eyes and kingdom vision, we are happy with a “good enough” lifestyle.
  • Pray – In Matthew 9:36-38 Jesus saw the crowds like sheep without a shepherd – scattered and weary.  From His heart of compassion, He challenged His disciples to pray that the Lord of the harvest would send forth laborers into the harvest.  This is similar to the 10 days His followers spent in an upper room before the Day of Pentecost, praying prior to the great spiritual harvest.  Prayer is a key to preparing our hearts and aligning our wills to His in order to step through the open doors of opportunity.
  • Receive – Before Jesus sent His disciples out on short-term assignments, or to launch the church in Acts 2, He gave them His power to move out of their comfort zones into the battle zones of high-impact ministry. Today, He calls us to abide in Him (John 15:4-8) to receive the sufficiency of His life in us so that He may accomplish His work through us.
  • Go – When “good enough” no longer attracts our hearts, we must then go into uncharted territory to share the Good News of His life and message.  Back in Matthew 9 & 10 we see Jesus sending the disciples out, after they prayed and received His provision.  His final commission compels us to keep going into all the world (Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:18-20), which is a calling we must obey every day, right where we are.
  • Finish – Jesus calls us to the “uttermost parts of the earth,” signifying the magnitude and scope of our calling.  As long as you are breathing, your mission is not complete.  “Good enough” isn’t.  As Paul said, “But one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).
New Day, New Wine, New Wineskins
Every day of our lives, we must reject the “good enough” attitude.  With each new day, we enjoy the new wine of His presence and purpose.  We must willingly adopt new wineskins to deliver the Good News to the world around us.  As we look, pray, receive, go, and finish we will live a life to His glory and someday receive the reward He has prepared for those who keep pressing on as long as they have breath.

Continue reading Just “Good Enough”? (by Daniel Henderson)

The Parable of the Butterfly (Mike Fox)

There was a young man who did his best to follow all of the laws of Moses.  But he knew that it was impossible to do everything the law commanded and lived in fear of God’s punishment.

Then one day a new rabbi came to his village.  This rabbi preached a message unlike any he had ever heard.  He did not bring more rules to follow or talk about the punishment of a sinful life.  Instead he talked about the message of Jesus who summarized the entire law with 2 simple rules – “Love God”and “Love others”.

The man was baptized and began to follow the rabbi wherever he went.  The man loved listening to the rabbi, but it was the rabbi’s ability to heal the sick that really excited him.

One day he approached his teacher and asked, “Master, how can I learn to heal people like you?”

The rabbi answered him saying, “A caterpillar spends its day crawling around in the dirt and eating leaves.  Then, one day, the caterpillar falls asleep.  It sleeps for many weeks.  When it wakes it notices that something happened while it slept and it is not happy.  Its many legs have been replaced by just 6.  It wonders how it is supposed to walk now.  It has 2 enormous, brightly coloured wings on its back.  It wonders how it is supposed to hide from all of its enemies now.  After complaining about the unfairness of it all, it comes to the conclusion that it is just needs to learn to live with the changes.  Should the caterpillar-now-a-butterfly live the second half of its life as it did the first – crawling in the dirt and eating leaves?” Continue reading The Parable of the Butterfly (Mike Fox)

Blistered Feet & Bloody Hands (by Mike Fox)

Enjoy this challenge from my friend Mike Fox whose writings have been featured here in the past. -JB

100 years ago there was no television, no internet.  News traveled slowly.  Because of this a drought in Africa, a tsunami in SE Asia, or an epidemic in India might go unnoticed by most Americans.  It was the needs within your own community that grabbed your attention.  If you heard about a serious illness, a death, or a barn burning down, it likely happened to someone you knew and it could have literally been your next door neighbor.  Your response might have been to bring food, offer comfort, or help rebuild their barn.

Today with instanaeous communication we know about the needs around the world.  We can donate money to any cause and any disaster with the simple push of a button.  When the needs are less immediate, we finance missionaries to evangelize, engineers to build wells, teachers to help educate, and doctors to treat disease.

It is a little ironic that in today’s world we know more about what is happening on the other side of the world than we do in our own neighborhood.  We hire people we may not know, to minister to people we have never met, and pay with money we have never seen except as an entry in our bank account.

With this in mind, reread this excerpt from the familiar story of the Good Samaritan and pay close attention to verse 34:

33 “But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him” (Luke 10:33-34). 

Notice what it does not say…It does not say the Samaritan hired someone to do the dirty work.  It says the Samaritan goes to him; gets his hands bloody and bandages his wounds; adds blisters to his feet by walking instead of riding; opens his pocketbook pays for the care of the beaten man.

I certainly don’t want to minimize the needs of the international community, but there is something to be said for getting to know our neighbors and neighborhoods and getting our hands dirty to solve the problems you find.  It is in these face-to-face encounters that both the helped and the helper are changed.

The Demise or Evangelicalization of the American Church?

Respected leader Bob Buford highlights diverse perspective on recent reports proclaiming the decline of Christianity

Here’s the article from Exponential entitled Is It “The Big Drop”? Or Is the U.S. Church Becoming More Evangelical than Ever?

I expect most of us have been seeing the media barrage reporting on the drop in the number of Christians in the United States. About a week ago in its May 12, 2015 issue,  The New York Times ran a piece with the headline “Big Drop in Share of Americans Calling Themselves Christian.” 

In the first two paragraphs of this very well-written and comprehensive piece, reporter/editor David Leonhardt writes:

“The Christian share of adults in the United States has declined sharply since 2007, affecting nearly all major Christian traditions and denominations, and crossing age, race and region, according to an extensive survey by the Pew Research Center.

“Seventy-one percent of American adults were Christian in 2014, the lowest estimate from any sizable survey to date, and a decline of 5 million adults and 8 percentage points since a similar Pew survey in 2007.”

This shift is happening nationwide, Leonhardt observes, not just the typically spiritually desolate Northwest and Northeast. He quotes Alan Cooperman, the director of religion research at the Pew Research Center and the lead editor of the report: “The decline is taking place in every region of the country, including the Bible Belt.”

However, Cooperman points out that attrition was most substantial among mainline Protestants and Roman Catholics, who have declined in absolute numbers and as a share of the population since 2007 … “Not all religions or even Christian traditions declined so markedly,” he said. “The number of evangelical Protestants dipped only slightly as a share of the population, by 1 percentage point, and actually increased in raw numbers.

Maybe the news isn’t so doomsday after all.

Two days later after the New York Times piece appeared, The Washington Post ran a guest editorial by LifeWay Research Executive Director Ed Stetzer. In his article, Stetzer offered a contrasting perspective on the recent report’s findings. Here’s an excerpt from his piece:

“In 2013, South Carolina evangelical megachurch NewSpring Church baptized more than 6,500 people while worship attendance grew by nearly 10,000 more than the year before. The same year the entire Episcopal Church in the United States produced only around 12,000 adult confirmations with an attendance drop of more than 27,400 from the previous year.

“The stark figures of one church compared to an entire denomination suggest noteworthy trends and scope of the changing church in America. Continue reading The Demise or Evangelicalization of the American Church?

A New Year’s Poem

“Actions into Place” by Danny Evans
This new year leave the fear behind that is normally in your mind.
It’s time start anew. Let this ring true.
Let those thoughts go, for this is your opportunity to bless others and grow.
Make amends to all. Break down that wall, but remember, this is all your call.
No one but you can put these actions into place, but Jesus will help you with His grace.
So, hold out your hand, for He will make sure this year goes as planned.