Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Dam Church Theory

Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." ~John 7:37-38

We have been studying the book of John for a long time, and my life and view of Jesus has been radically changed as a result. One of those changes came about from this passage.

Jseus tells us that the Holy Spirit will equip us and lead to overflow living water (Jesus). The streams element of this really got me thinking about the functionality of church. Rivers (I'm using this interchangebly with streams) are these huge systems that carry water downstream to places that need it. Rivers always branch off into streams and tributaries. Over time rivers mold the land they flow through. Hello! The Grand Canyon was formed as the result of the river that runs through it. The objects in the river are also changed... River Stones are smooth and beautiful. Think of the whole life system that exists beneath the surface. Fish, snakes, turtles, plants ... the river maintains life. Water sustains, nourishes, shapes, refreshes, carries life. Rivers always empty into a much bigger significant body of water. They're always a part of something bigger than themselves. What an amazing picture.

Since the Church is not something you go to, and it's something that you are...and if Christ-followers are to have streams of living water flowing out from them...then our churches should be these celebrations of living water flowing. When I think of rivers I think of the big ones - the Nile, the Amazon, the Colorado, the Mississippi. I think of rapids and powerful rushes of water that are uncontrollable. In addition to receiving what's necessary from rivers, we receive joy from rivers. San Marcos and New Braunfels summers are filled with people floating the river. Why? Becasue the river is moving and riding it is fun.

Here's the problem. I think churches are much more like lakes than rivers. Instead of realizing that we have the ultimate source of life that a world desperately needs. Instead of praying that God would flow his living water out of us to the hopeless, helpless, and hurting. We've built dams. We've stopped the flow of the living water. Why? Because we like it. It makes us feel good. In the lakes we swim, we ski, we fish (that's a whole other blog - "fishing" where the fish are...), we lay out, we have a picnic, we spend the day. We think that church is about us. We think that living water is something that Jesus gave us to feel good. Jesus puts the Living Water of His Spirit in us so that we can be a part of letting it flow to others. Look at the little flow of water coming out of this dam. Now look at the river above the dam. We tend to manipulate, control, and rationalize how much water comes out. We open and close the valves at will - it's all up to us how much God we overflow to others. That's not the way Jesus intended for it to play out. When the river flows, it flows wherever it wants, it flows powerfully, and it brings life. Shouldn't the church be more influential because we've earned the respect of our communities with an outpouring of love. Shouldn't we be known for how much we give away and not for how fancy our facilities are? Shouldn't we be helping those who need help? Shouldn't we be out to do something about the fact that our world associates us with the "Christians" on TV. Maybe it's time to follow Christ.

Jesus broke all the rules of the religious. He caused division among the leaders. He brought life to those who didn't have a chance. Maybe when you look at your life, like I've recently done at mine, you find a lake where a river should be. It was never solely for our enjoyment. The irony is there's not greater joy than bringing life. I promise it's a lot more fun to trust God to overflow wherever He decides and not where we decide. Let's make a pact...let's get rid of the "Dam church" and let the river flow.

Thanks for putting up with my ranting ... I'm a little passionate about this one.

Oh No ...

This past week at church, God led me to share testimony about the journey we've been on the past year and a half. I won't go into all the details here as I went into great detail Sunday night. (The entire message is on-line at or

The jist of it is that we cannot experience the full glory of God in our lives until we are desperate for Him. In the past year, I've gotten glimpses of desperation. We've had to learn to trust God in ways that were at one time foreign. I would've told you that I was trusting God, but the reality is that I was trusting myself. In order for me to come to a place of actual trust in God and not in me, He had to walk me down a path that at times has been uncomfortable. We've had to trust God to make financial ends meet, for provision, for food, for a bed, for many other things that in a former time we could've provided for ourselves.

On a trip home from HEB Saturday night, I was having a moment with my Savior in the car feeling extra grateful for the provision of groceries in the back. I was remembering times of Ramen Noodles in the recent past. I was remembering our friend Norman's stories of the poor and hungry overseas. I was thinking about different experiences of hardships and how I've learned to trust Him more. I was strangely moved. I was humbled. I was thankful.

My trusty 3 year old was in the back recovering from the rejection of all the No's he'd just experienced at the store as he attempted to drive up the bill with additions of toys, candy, and chocolate. He loves the store. He loves to help bring in the groceries ... and drop them in the middle of the kitchen floor. He loves awaiting the opening of the bags and asking, "What you got for me?". So, as we're on our way home, and I'm having a solemn assembly in the front seat - I hear him begin to sing. This is something he's started to do more and more. Sadly his songs are usually "Little Einsteins" or "Thomas the Tank Engine" related, but this song was different. He began to sing one of my new favorite worship songs...

"Oh no, you never let go,
through the calm and through the storm.
Oh no, you never let go, in every
high and every low.
Oh no, you never let go,
Lord you never let go of me."

God spoke to me about my difficult season and the difficult seasons of people that I love. He reminded me of the truth of this song, and also that He never leaves us or forsakes us, and that He is the same yesterday, today and forever. For those of us who've walked through the valley of the shadow recently ... Immanuel ... God is with us. For those of you hungry for God, the difficult season may be coming and ... Immanuel ... God is with us. Thank You, Jesus.

PS - I could also spend a lot of time talking about how special it was for my son to lead me in worship. I don't even know how he knows that song. He's in KidsRock when we sing it, and I've only sung it around the house a few times when I was learning it. Amazing that God puts things in our hearts in order to use it to minister to others. Thanks, Jake ... I love you. Here is the song Jacob led me in ... "You Never Let Go" by Matt and Beth Redman.
Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
Your perfect love is casting out fear.
And even when I'm caught
in the middle of the storms of this life,
I won't turn back, I know You are near.

And I will fear no ev - il,
For my God is wi - th me.
And if my God is wi - th me,
Whom then shall I fear?
Whom then shall I fear?

O no, You never let go,
Through the calm and through the storm
O no, You never let go,
In every high and every low
O no, You never let go
Lord, You never let go of me.

Verse 2:
And I can see a light
that is coming for the heart that holds on
A glorious light beyond all compare.
And there will be an end
to these troubles, But until that day comes,
We'll live to know You here on the earth.

Yes, I can see a light that is coming
for the heart that holds on,
And there will be an end to these troubles,
but until that day comes,
Still I will praise You,
still I will praise You.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The nicest thing anyone has ever said to me...

So, it was a pretty typcial valentine's day - meetings by morning and lunch, checking in on an elementary school by afternoon, a little computer work to finish off the work day before getting ready for our Valentine's (check out for a great history of Valentine's Day) rendevouz. My first stop was the annual trip to the Connelly Car Wash. The Durango had grown quite gritty in recent months inside and out due to countless happy meals spilled in the back seat by Jacob, my wife's obsession with using the passenger door pocket as a really big trash can, and my inability to take empty bottles and coffee cups into the house or closest garbage receptacle. So, the car was dirty.

I waited my turn, threw some stuff away, and talked to the guy about the car wash I wanted. I decided to splurge for the wheel and tire treatment (I can't express to you the joy I receive from Armour All). I then took my ticket inside the car wash waiting room which could easily have been confused with an indoor flea market. I looked around at all the junk and paid for my car wash while anxiously awaiting my turn to follow my car down the car wash through the 4 big glass windows in the flea market. Once it appeared to be safely through, I went outside to wait. This is where it happened.

I was sitting on a bench talking on the cell phone... waiting. There were 4 cars being dried. Mine was one, a beat-up Chevy Malibu was another, and two - count them - two Corvettes. One was a mid 90's model, and one was a new C6 as pictured above, but black. As I ended my phone call, I was noticing how our car looked pretty good for an almost four year old family SUV. Mid-thought, a snappingly dressed gentleman in his mid 50's, who also happened to be the owner of the 90's model corvette, approached me cautiously and respectfully and inquired of me, "Is that your C6?" Immediately, I was taken back. I was filled with a sense of pride and accomplishment. I stood a little taller, lifted my head a little higher, stuck my neck out a little bit and replied, "No, unfortunately No." I didn't appreciate the magnitude of what had happened until later. A member of the Corvette family accepted me and welcomed me as one his own. To him, for a moment, I looked the part of the owner of one of the coolest cars to ever touch the road. As a former motorhead who used drag racing as my drug in high school, it was the nicest thing that anyone has ever said to me.

Immediately following, I found out they lost two of my hubcaps in the carwash somewhere in the "trough". I didn't care.

From there, I went to pick up flowers (which we later found out we were both allergic to), went home to pick up my beautiful valentine, dropped the kid and picked up Brian & Christy, and went on to a wonderful dinner and murder mystery experience. It was a great day!

In case you're waiting for the spiritual parallel or what God taught me through this experience ... sorry, this moment was strictly for my ego and pride. Thank you, Jesus.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

I love the Church

Over the course of my ministry career I think that perhaps I have been the biggest critic of the Church. This is ironic for a number of reasons. First of all I have surrendered my life to serving this thing called Church and a couple of times a month I get a paycheck from that very Church. The very thing I've given my life to has caused me as much frustration as joy over the years - not necessarily the churches I've served in, but the bigger picture of the Church.

When people outside of church think about pastors or church people they think of bad TV shows hosted by old ladies with huge blue hair, way too much makeup, and lots of tears. Or maybe they remember televangelists having affairs. Or maybe they think of places where little boys are molested. Or maybe they think of the people responsible for bombing abortion clinics. Maybe they even remember boycotting Disney or forcing wives to submit. Or there's the issue of whether or not we hate people who are gay. I don't remember the last time the church got national run for anything good. Locally, churches get some decent press every once in a while, but as a whole it's been very disappointing what we're known for. It seems we're known more for what we don't do than what we do. The tension I've felt in this area over the years is much.

However, a little over a year ago, God allowed us to start a new church called River Stone. Since that time we've deconstructed every thing we learned about church. We questioned everything, studied scripture intently, prayed a lot, and decided a lot of things that we didn't want to be. The problem with deconstruction is that when you're done you're not left with anything. If you want to be a part of growing a church, at some point you've got to begin construction of what God has called you to be. I think that we've stumbled on to what God has called us to be.

God wants us to be pro-Church. Not pro River Stone, but pro Church. I was honored to be able to lead worship at a sister church in our town this week. I stopped to think during the message how we had another worship team leading at another partner church in our community. Here we are serving two churches we're not even a part of. During the message of the church I was serving, I began thinking about how different our churches were. A year ago, I would've thought that our way of doing church was better or more "right." Thank you Jesus that I've been humbled to the point of seeing the value in any type of church that desires to be who God has created them to be who preach the Gospel of Jesus unapologetically. This church, though different, was much the same. Preaching the Word, worshiping through song with a band, offering programs for people to plug into for spiritual growth ... maybe we're not so different after all.

A major point of revelation was, "I love the Church". It hit me like a ton of bricks. I don't just love my church, but I love the big C Church. The bride of Christ is something worthy of investing my life in, and now that I'm pro-Church, not just my church, it is an honor to partner, invest, and serve the other churches in our community or your community or our global community.

Thank you, Jesus for the Church. May you bring Your kingdom to earth through your bride. May we love, honor, and cherish her everyday, may we pour our lives into her, may we experience Your love for her and walk empowered in that love. I love the Church. Amen.