Where Does Real Courage Come From?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Summer Sale and Freebies





We Must Go
Reflections on Hebrews 13:12-14

 But I don’t want to.

Rather, sign me up for the days of revival. Those days when the Lord visits His church and everything comes alive.

The blind see. The lame walk. The lepers are cleansed. The deaf hear. The dead are raised up. The poor have the gospel preached to them. 1

And the Lord comes down.

Like He did in the days of Moses who went outside the camp. Breaking from the crowd. Breaking from the sin of their golden calf to seek the face of God. And the glory of God came down and the Lord visited His people.

Like He did in the days when He sent His Son to be with us and the people came from everywhere to behold His glory. To see His miracles. To touch His garment and feel the rush of eternal life coursing to every fiber of their being.

Like He did in the days of old when the Church was dead, formal, cold, devoid of the Spirit, and full of corruption, greed and evil practices. And the saints begged Him to come and fill His Church again with Pentecost fire.

And history records those moments when He did. He came down, like the great story of Aslan in Narnia, and everything came to life.

If this is what it means to follow Jesus Christ, sign me up. I’m in.

But don’t sign me up for other.

*       *       *

A man my age calls me and tells me to go with him.

I tell him I will because it’s the right thing to do. But I don’t want to. Of course, I don’t tell him that. I can’t. Because I know what he’s asking of me.

He’s hurting. Deep. There’s anguish in his soul. He’s done his best to handle it but he’s come to the end of his ability and he needs help.

“Will you go with me?”

I’ve been here before. I know this story. And every time I come here I remember my old bishop. He made me come here. He’d call me up and tell me a story of someone in need. In suffering. In pain. And that I was to go and be with them. In their heartache and grief. And not just for a moment.

“Will you go with me?”

Not a flyby. Zoom in. Put on a sad face. Stay a few minutes. Lay hands on the sick. Pray an incredible prayer of power, blessing and healing in Jesus’ name.

And zoom out.

He taught me to stay there. Not just stay there, but to go with them into their story. See the journey through to the end. Always.

“Will you go with me?”

And why, he’d ask? “Because that’s the story. That’s the whole story,” he’d answer. And on he’d go, telling me this is exactly what Jesus Christ meant when He commanded us to follow Him. “This is the road we go because this is the road He took. Never forget that. And never say you won’t go.”

So I went. At first because he told me to. And then because I knew it was the right thing to do. Never say no even though I always wanted to say different.

I don’t want to.

Sign me up for the other.

*       *       *

For the longest time, I thought they were two completely different roads. The road Moses took, outside the camp, which leads to glory, power and blessing.

And the dreaded other. The road the suffering take.

When I thought of Jesus, I only saw the Moses road. After all, He’s the One who leads us into the presence and glory of His Father. Both now and to come.

I didn’t understand it yet.

I didn’t understand that Jesus Christ brings both roads together. That because of Him, the road of suffering and the road to glory are one and the same. And He knew it when He broke from the crowd, forged a path out, turned to His disciples, like He does to us today, and told them to follow Him.

“Will you go with Me?”

He tells us it’s the only way to His glory. And if we wish to go with Him, certain things are required. We must deny ourselves and take up our cross. 2 At first I want to protest. “Come on, this is the road to His suffering. He’s on the way to the cross. It can’t be the road to the glory and blessing of God, right?”

“Will you go with Me?”

But I don’t want to. Not that road. “But that’s the story,” my bishop would say. “That’s the whole story.”

Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate. So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach.
Hebrews 13:12-13

We must go to Him. Outside the camp. Bearing His reproach.

“This is the road we go,” my bishop taught me, “because this is the road He took. Never forget that. And never say you won’t go.”

No flybys. Stay. Stay always. See the journey to the end. And why?

Because that’s where Jesus is. It’s where He always is.

“Will you go with me?”


1 Matthew 11:4-6
2 Mark 8:34

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Testimony by Barbara Johnson






__________________________________

I'm Out!


Reflections on Exodus 33:3-7


He said He’d be with us.

He said He’d dwell in our midst. 1

He said He’d never leave us. 2

But the golden calf story changed all that. Sin always does. It may be small in our eyes. But it’s big in His. Big-big. Serious big. Breaking, dividing, hurting, destroying the sacred bonds of love, trust, and compassion between us.

And He was suddenly out.

"Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in your midst, because you are an obstinate people, and I might destroy you on the way."
                                                                                                            Exodus 33:3

Our sin, His holiness – they don’t mix. People cringe at the thought He’d ever leave us. Worse, that He’d destroy us. We don’t see God that way. We don’t want God that way. We want the understanding God. The loving God.

The One who always stays. No matter what we do. Because sin just isn’t that big to us. That serious. That costly. We want the One who’d never say:

I’m out.

*       *       *

I remember her always. I tell her story nearly everywhere I go.

I found her after church at the coffee hour. Sitting by herself. Such a regal woman. Distinguished. In her mid to late eighties. I was the visiting preacher that day. I caught her eye and decided to go and sit with her.

“You know who I am, don’t you” she asked me, her British accent like the Queen of England. Her hand reaching out to touch my arm.

I told her I was sorry. I didn’t know her name.

She told me she was the widow of the mighty Anglican theologian Philip Edgecombe Hughes, whose commentaries on Hebrews and 2nd Corinthians are still among the very best.

“O dear lady,” I said, a bit startled, “what are you doing at this church?”

This crazy church.

They believe in the gospel of Jesus. They believe in the Bible. Their bishop did not. He laughed at the Bible. He publically called Jesus Christ a sinner. He demanded to come to the church and preach his twisted gospel among them.

But they wouldn’t let him. How could they?

So the bishop threatened to take their building. Their historic building. With a graveyard attached. He didn’t have to threaten twice.

They left. All the history. All the memories. All the Lord did among them for decades upon decades in that church building. They left it all.

Nomads.

Until they found a new church home. And Mrs. Hughes went with them. Yes, she did! She left that beautiful historic church building. And the graveyard.

And suddenly I understood. “What about your husband,” I asked, “isn’t he buried at the old church? Are you saying you left your husband behind?”

Mrs. Hughes had the brightest smile. She looked me straight in the eyes and said with profound, unforgettable wisdom: “Young man, I never promised to follow my husband’s bones. I promised to follow his faith!”

The picture stuck in my head. Her standing up in that old church. Walking down the aisle. Out the door. And with that beautiful British accent saying:

I’m out.

*       *       *

She died a few years later. She’d hoped her pastors would be allowed to go back to the old church and bury her next to her husband. But that request was denied and Mrs. Hughes had to be buried elsewhere.

The story is told that, at the request of the family, the late professor’s casket was exhumed and buried next to his wife’s.

Nomads. Both of them. Even in death. 3

Because it’s what we do. It’s what we have to do when sin is in the camp.

*       *       *

Moses didn’t stay.

He couldn’t stay. The calf was gone. The altar remained. But it was defiled. Like the people. Filled with sin. Big. Serious. Costly. Breaking. Corrupting sin.

He took the tent of meeting. He went outside the camp.

Outside where the unclean live. The lepers. Those who committed indecent acts of sin. 4 The destitute, the immoral. The condemned. 5

He went out to meet with the Lord. Because that’s where the Lord was. Outside with the lepers. Not inside the camp. Not at the center. Not with the people.

Outside.

Because He can’t stay in. He won’t stay in. Not when we allow sin to reign at the center of our life. Our church. Among our leaders. Among our bishops.

The Lord said it. Moses said it. Mrs. Hughes said it. Because it has to be said.

I’m out.



1 see Exodus 25:8; 29:42-46; Leviticus 26:11-12; Numbers 34:36. In Numbers 2:2, for example, the tent of meeting (upon which the cloud of glory rested- see Numbers 9:15ff) was at the center of the camp.
2 2 Deuteronomy 31:6-8
3 see my book, Never Silent, pp. 261, 359
4 Leviticus 13:45-46; Numbers 12:14-15
5 Hebrews 13:11-14


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Testimony from c2d Retreat

We just wrapped up a great retreat at Christ Church in Murrells Inlet, SC.  Look for the new DVD series coming out soon.  Thad and Erilynne taught about the Royal Call of being 'those who can for those who can't'.  The teaching is taken from the Parable of the Talents where the Master says: "Well done, good and faithful servant."


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Erilynne receives "The Ruth Award"

 ERILYNNE RECEIVES "THE RUTH AWARD"
@ The Bridgeport Rescue Mission Fund Raising Dinner on March 31, 2011 with 650 Women in Attendance. What a night of celebration and honor to the Lord Jesus!



I KNOW I SAY NO 
by Thad Barnum

Testimonies are born here. Where it hurts. Where people suffer. Where all we can do is cry out to God for help because there’s nowhere else to go.

Here. Stand here. Never leave here.

It’s where our Lord is.

Listen to the stories. They are all the same. Every one of them gets to Easter morning the same way. Through the Cross. We can’t avoid suffering. Not in this world. Eventually we’re going to find ourselves here. In need of a Savior. Because we’re lost. We’re scared. We need help. We need Him.

Here. He meets us here.

Even our children who grow up in Christian homes. They know the story. They say their prayers. They live the life. But eventually a day comes and they do what we all do. They enter the “valley of the shadow of death.” They know about evil. But suddenly they feel it. They feel the fear of it. The power of it.

The rod. The staff. The Shepherd. No longer just a story in the Bible.

It’s real. In a place called REAL. Where we find inside us the deepest cry the soul can ever cry: Are You Real? Really Real?

Testimonies are born here.

But not just testimonies. This is the exact place where discipleship happens. Where we grow up in Christ. Day by day. All our days. It’s here where we don’t play games. Where we keep our hearts open to Him. Our minds set on Him. Our wills given, in full surrender, to do what He’s calling us to do.

Discipleship.

I sat across the table sipping my coffee. The pastor and I went out for breakfast just to catch up. I was visiting his church and this gave us opportunity to enjoy each other’s company and talk openly about the stuff of our lives. Inevitably we stumbled into one of the most pressing theological issues of our day.

At some point, I shook my head and laughed a little. He asked why.

“Because it’s amazing to me,” I said, “what seminary did to us! We become doctors of the mind and not the soul. We forget that the truth of God’s Word is intended to move from the mind so as to touch the heart. To impact us. To bring us to the place where we meet Christ and He meets us.”

“It’s my biggest defense!” he crowed.

“What is?”

“My mind. I thank God for seminary. It taught me how to build a fortress around my heart so I never have to deal with it. Or, actually, with anybody else’s for that matter. It’s how I protect myself when I’m in the middle of people’s suffering. I pull out the right quote from the Bible. I tell the right story from Christian history. I give them the right answer.”

“Well done us,” I lamented, admiring his honest sarcasm.

“But it’s all too true,” he confessed. “It’s how I preach. It’s how I lead Bible classes. I find myself discipling Christians in just the same way. Building fortresses. Stockpiling right answers. Filling the mind with all kinds of great knowledge but never speaking to their hearts. Never entering into their pain.”

And with that, somehow, we were there. At that place.

He opened up.

For just a moment the fortress walls came down. His heart was a mess. And there was good reason for it. Things of the past were crushing him, controlling him, dictating every part of his life. And he knew it. He knew it was the cause of his physical and emotional issues. He knew it was affecting his wife, his kids, the church. But more, so much more, it distanced him from the Lord.

“It’s been this way for years,” he said.

“So why don’t you do something about it?” I asked.

“Don’t need to. I’m so good at what I do, no one really knows. Not really. Except my wife. And it’s easier this way. To be honest, I’m afraid of what would happen to me if I go there. I’m afraid I’ll lose my job. Afraid people will find me out. Afraid of what people will think of me.”

And then he paused. Like he knew he had no choice.

“But I’ll do it,” he promised.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean I’ll go there. I know I’ve been avoiding it. I know it’s what the Lord wants me to do. A couple of times in my life I’ve sought counsel from people I thought could help but it just didn’t work. So I stopped. I didn’t press it. But I should have. Especially me.”

“Why especially you?”

“Because I’m a pastor. My job, like you said, is to be a doctor of the soul and not just a doctor of the mind. But look at me! I pay no attention to my soul. I spend all my time avoiding the very thing I know I need to do and it’s killing me inside. It’s killing my relationship with the Lord. And I know it.”

“Can I help?” I asked.

”Yeah. Call me in a month. Call me in two. Ask me if I’ve started. I know I say yes to this today but I know myself well enough that tomorrow morning nothing will change. That’s my fear. So call me.”

“But why won’t things change?” I asked, puzzled.

“Because I know I say yes to the Lord today. Yes to you. Yes to my wife. But when it comes time to actually do it?”

He paused. He put his head down. He said it slow. He said it real.

“I know I say no.”

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Lent Transaction

And the preacher said, Lay your Isaac down!

Easier said than done.

Or as some say, Been there. Done that. Because most of us know the story. We do everything we’re supposed to do. We go through the step by step program. And just when we think we’re free. The idol of our heart smashed – finally!

It’s back.

So we do it again. And again. Until there is this massive disconnect between what we’re being told and what’s real. Eventually, we learn to tune it out.

But the fact is, it’s true. Idols sneak into our hearts. Good ones. Bad ones. Outrageously fun ones. Cunning, sly, wickedly deceiving ones we don’t know, or don’t admit we know, until something tries to take it from us. We react and the strength of our reaction tells us all we need to know.

We’ve got idols.

Good ones with people we love. Bad ones with addictions that once we controlled but now control us. Fun ones with things we do, places we go, social circles we travel in, that fill us with an intoxicating pleasure we can’t imagine living without. Deceiving ones, the worst of which is in the mirror. Somehow, somewhere along the way, we actually believe our own press.

We’ve got idols.

We don’t tend to do anything about it. Not until we have to. Not until someone loves us enough to tell us. Or maybe one day we wake up and realize that something other than God is god of us. And we can’t go on like that.

Lay your Isaac down!

And we try. And try. And try again. To take our hands off the ones we love and give them to the Lord. To push our addictions away. To enforce self-control in areas of excessive pleasure. To see ourselves rightly before God.

And it works. For a while. Maybe during Lent.

It’s here, right here, where the Church has been so utterly powerless. The gospel we preach, devoid of anything supernatural and miraculous. As if, somehow, by enforcing certain disciplines for us to do we will overcome the tyranny of the gods that plague our lives and we will be free.

Simple: Just do it. Know what your Isaac is. Then lay it down.

Of course, this is not what happened to Abraham in the actual story. He didn’t wake up one morning and think to himself he had a problem with Isaac. That his love for his son had become greater than his love for the Lord.

God did that.

He stepped in. He spoke to Abraham. He did the work of convicting. He put his finger on Abraham’s heart and demanded three things. His son Isaac. Full and uncompromised obedience. And finally, most importantly, worship.

What can Abraham do? He can obey.

What can’t he do? He can’t take the idol from his heart. None of us can.

This is the greatest deception possible. And most of us fall for it. We believe we have the power and ability first, to identify, and second, to dethrone the gods that take up first place in our hearts. It’s a lie. We can’t.

This is the work of God alone.

And He makes it strikingly clear as to HOW it’s done through this story. He called Abraham to Mount Moriah to worship Him. This must always be our starting point. We come before God. We put our eyes, our hearts, our full attention on Him. We praise Him. We give Him thanks.

We bind the idol. We lay it on the altar. We take the knife and do what we need to do to offer it to the Lord. But that’s it. All we can do now is to raise our hands. Surrender our hearts. Focus body, mind and soul upon the Lord.

And then wait. Wait for Him to make the transaction.

Wait for His power to do the work. To set us free. Real power flooding our soul. Forgiving our sin. Removing the idol. And replacing it with the one and only thing our hearts were perfectly designed for.

Him!

It’s what He does.

He calls us to come, worship, and lay our idols down. He provides the perfect sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins. And then He does what we need most.

Sometimes it happens in a moment. Sometimes it’s a process and happens over time. Either way, the Lord does what we can never do. He changes the heart. He puts things in order. Everything in its proper place.

Where the idol ceases to be the idol. And the Lord takes His rightful place in our hearts. First, always first.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said it perfectly:

“The tables are completely turned, Abraham receives Isaac back, but henceforth he will have his son in quite a new way – Abraham comes down from the mountain with Isaac just as he went up, but the whole situation has changed. Christ has stepped between father and son…Outwardly the picture is unchanged, but the old is passed away, and behold all things are new.” 1

What a powerful image – Abraham and Isaac coming down the mountain with Christ standing between them! Everything forever changed.

This gives us everything we need to know. We come before the Lord. We let Him, by His Holy Spirit, do the work of revealing the idols in our hearts. Then we do our disciplines. We obey Him. We come before Him in worship. We bind our idols. We lay them down. And as we worship, we wait.

For Him to do the supernatural miraculous.


1 Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, Simon & Schuster, New York, NY, 1995 edition. p. 99

John 15:1-11, the Vine and the branches. "Is He everything to you?