Friday, May 15, 2009

Flight and Faith - Part I

Recently, I traveled back to the East Coast for two conferences in a 10 day period. Here are some observations about airline travel and church.
  1. People I - all ages, races, and economical status fly on airlines. If I'm honest airlines model what heaven looks like in this regard more than churches. Question #1: Why are churches in this great country segregated (0r disproportionate racially) when there are great pastors leading them? I'm very passionate about loving the Lord and telling people about His love for them. I have to admit I'm very passionate about churches not reflecting Heaven in this regard and Christ followers appearing not to care about why churches are this way. I've been fortunate to attend and/or work on church staffs that have diversity. I'm currently on staff at The Church at South Las Vegas. This is an issue that needs to be addressed from a leadership position. I'm willing to offer solutions and not just point out a problem.
  2. People II - seat assignments. I would say I'm an outgoing person but something comes upon me when I'm on a plane. I noticed my first mechanism is to withdraw and avoid eye contact and "God-forbid" body contact. On a flight home I was assigned the last seat in the back of the plane (44A). I was told the flight was full, but 44B was still empty. I was home free with no one sitting next to I thought. Moments later I was face to face with the person sitting in 44B. His first words were, "I guess they're putting the big boys in the back." My next thoughts were, "OK ~I know I put on a few pounds lately, but who are you calling "big boy." I answered "yeah that's right." The flight home was cramped but I purposed to enjoy the flight and get to know my BBF (Big Boy Friend). We had a great conversation and it made the 4 and 1/2 hour flight enjoyable. Question #1: Why do we avoid new people in church or avoid developing new relationships? Let's slow down and make eye contact and say hello to people. It could make the difference in someone's day.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Alpha Male

We recently was blessed with a dog. He is a 3 year old miniature pinscher and the cutest thing in the world. We named him Jazz. I have to admit I wasn't crazy with the idea of getting a "lap dog." I always said, "if we get a family dog, I wanted it to be big enough to knock me down when it jumps on me." Well, it turns out the min pin breed may be small but these dogs don't back down from anything (I'll write how Jazz took on a full sized Boxer at the dog park in another blog). The breed is referred to as the "king of the toy dogs."

My wife and Jazz bonded immediately. She took him for walks and cuddled him and rubbed his little belly. Things were a little different for me and Jazz (maybe the dreadlocks scared him). The first day in the house I called him and he didn't come. I excused his behavior as him getting adjusted to his new family. The next day before church I called guessed it...he didn't come to me. I said, "this is going to stop." While at church that morning, someone commented that Jazz was establishing his dominance in the home. I said okay no more Mr. Nice Guy, whenever I call him, I'm going to expect him to come to me. I was delayed at church and my family beat me home to take the dog for a walk. I got a ride home and opened my front door. I was met at the front door by a growling, barking dog! What did I do? I looked at Jazz and said, "Are you forgetting whose house this is, I AM THE ALPHA MALE in this house let's go for a walk! Jazz discovered on the walk that I had all authority over him. We returned home after about a 20 minute walk. I must admit I didn't know the effectiveness of that walk other than it made me feel better. Two hours after the walk, Jazz ran around the coffee table and sprung up in my lap...what did I do...I cuddled him and rubbed his little belly. We've been best buds ever since.

God showed me through this experience how life (situations) tries to intimidate us by barking, growling and appearing bigger than what those situations are...I not saying these situations aren't real, relevant, or severe that we face day in and day out. I'm declaring we know the ALPHA MALE! The ONE whose name is above all names! The ONE who has ALL AUTHORITY and given us authority and courage to take those situations by the collar and say "are you forgetting whose house this is; let's go for a walk." Today, take depression, oppression, sickness, poverty, etc. for a walk and remind them..the Alpha Male (Jesus) lives big in you and you've been given the DNA of a prince and princess! You are VICTORIOUS IN CHRIST!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Conversation with an Officer Part II

"I loved being in Afghanistan with my troops because we concentrated on the war and all of the politicking, posturing, and elbowing for attention and positions when we are at home (peace-time) was non-existent." This was a paraphrased quote from an officer who recently returned from a 6 month tour overseas. This comment got me thinking about the body of Christ (Christians). How many times do we forget we are in a war but we live our lives like we're in peace time. We are worried about who gets the notoriety; who gets the prophetic word; who gets to hang out with the pastoral staff; who gets..., who gets..., who gets...!!! We forget we are in a battle and our adversary isn't people but a devil who wants to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10).

We get so out of focused on our calling as Christians. Jesus left us with two basic commandments: to love Him with everything we have and to love people like ourselves. I personally don't like being badgered into believing someones opinion. I don't like being embarrassed publicly for not acting a certain way (neither do most of you reading this blog). We expect people to treat us with respect and if we don't get that treatment we get turned off by the person violating our "space." However, if you approach me with love & concern, I'm all ears because I sense you have my best interest in mind when confronting me with a problem. Why should we expect the people that haven't made a decision for Christ to listen to us Christians when they can measure our love for them in a "thimble." My question is: ARE WE REALLY CONCERNED THAT THESE PEOPLE WILL SPEND ETERNITY AWAY FROM THE LORD. My answer is yes and if yes, I must ask: WHAT WOULD JESUS DO. Jesus would love them with an everlasting love. He would meet their physical and spiritual needs. He would hang out with them and not be afraid of there questions, lifestyle, or appearance.

Our fight as Christians is to extend the Kingdom of God. His kingdom is filled with righteous, peace, and joy. The very essence of His kingdom is LOVE! Let's remove the peace time mentality from our lives and embrace the fact that we are in a battle for souls. God will give you strategies for reaching people who aren't in His Kingdom.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Conversation with an Officer Part I

I love the military! I'm a former military brat (my dad was in the Army for 21 years). A few things I love about the men and women who fight for the freedom I enjoy as an American are: their dedication to country and the citizens of this great country; their work ethic; their understanding and respect of authority; and their commitment to one another.

I asked a friend, who is an officer in the military, what makes soldiers committed to one another during wartime. He said, we try to develop relationships of trust during peace time (paraphrase). He goes out of his way to drop by the office of soldiers under his command, instead of them coming to see him and scheduling off duty activities to develop camaraderie between the team. These interactions are to genuinely strengthen the team.

I love this example of someone in charge taking the initiative to display reminds me how God didn't wait until we made the first move but He took the first step to show how committed He was to mankind by sending Jesus to reconcile us to Him (for God so loved the world that He gave His only Son John 3:16). He displayed what's expected of a leader.

You may be a president of a company, a pastor of a church, a married person, a parent, etc...what are you doing to build trust in the lives of the people you influence? What you invest in during peacetime, you'll reap when wartime comes. Today invest commitment and compassion in the ones that are around you.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Love Them Past The Poop

This was a phrase the Lord spoke to me several years ago when I first started in ministry. I was raised on the East Coast in VA and lived in the same area all of my life until I moved to Las Vegas two years ago. I miss family, friends, and the parks. I’ll include my family and friends in future blogs, but I want to talk about Newport News Park in this blog. I’m very fond of this park because of the many hours in prayer and reflection I spent talking to God. The day this phrase was dropped on me wasn’t like an ordinary trip. The drive into the park was ordinary…people walking their dogs on trails; moms and dads pushing their little ones on swings and watching their kids fly down slides with great laughter; people playing basketball and grilling their favorite meat (BBQ ribs are my favorite). However, the bridge was different on this particular day. I’ve walked across this bridge many times through the years. I’ve seen it rebuilt, restored, and repaired. I’ve seen it sanded, stained, and supported. I’ve also seen people fishing from it, birds taking a rest before continuing there journey and people making out on it (helloooo, get a room!). BUT this day was different. The bridge looked the same but the birds were different. Normally there would be 5-10 birds hanging out on the bridge and when you got close enough to them they would fly off and find a nearby tree to perch themselves on until you passed. On this certain day, there were about 30-50 seagulls hanging out on the bridge. The closer I got to them; they didn’t do what they normally would do when someone walked by them. They flew away and came back to the spot they left. I also noticed the weather stained bridge was covered with a grey matter…you guessed it BIRD POOP! So I asked the Lord, “What are you saying to me.” It’s always a good practice to ask Him this question when you haven’t got a clue about what’s going on.

This is what He said:

Henry, the bridge represents Jesus. He came and laid His life down to fill the chasm between man and God. He is the way we get to God (there is no other way by which man can be saved). The seagulls represent people. They will make a lot of noise, use the bridge as a prop and ultimately leave a present in the form of grey matter when they fly away. The Lord challenged me to be more like Jesus in my life and be a bridge that leads them to Him. He said people will come in your life and people will go, people will also leave grey matter on your life, but you’re role is the same role Jesus had, YOU MUST LOVE THEM PAST THE POOP!

Where are you in your relationship with people? Do they irritate, frustrate, anger, offend you or rub you the wrong way? I have great news for you! You have the opportunity to be more like Christ and love them past their poop. It’s liberating and forming us more into the image of the One who was the ultimate example in what to do with the human race turns your world grey. So, go out and love people today!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Trader Joe(ker)

I recently visited a local Trader Joe to do a little shopping with my wife…if you’ve never been shopping there, I highly recommended it! We got the routine items on this trip like most trips (eggs, milk, avocados, etc.). The most important item we got that inspired this blog was sweet potatoes. That’s right ya’ll you may be able to take the brotha out of the south but you can’t take the south out of the brotha!

This is where the Trader Joe cashier enters the story. She politely rings up all our items and gets to the sweet potatoes. She asks “have you ever had these for dessert.” I respond, “yes sweet potato pie.” She looks really stunned at my response so I said, “what type of dessert do you make with them.”…here’s where it gets good…She replies, “First you bake them in the oven on 350 degrees for 50 minutes until the skin falls off of them. Once that happens, you take them out and sprinkle cinnamon and honey on them and they are so good. By this time, Rachel and I both are standing there looking at her stunned. So, with a nice southern smile we say, “okay, thanks and have a nice day.”

After placing the groceries in the trunk, we began to discuss our encounter with the cashier. Rachel asks if she knew she was talking to a black man…I know African American is politically correct. I said yeah! I then began to explain how I eat my sweet potato with brown sugar and butter for dinner not dessert. Then I started telling Rachel how we eat sweet potato casserole (a family recipe passed down from my Dad’s mom that Rachel makes better than my grandma and mom) for dinner. After having that conversation with Rachel, it got me thinking about what my race knows. We know a lot of things but the concrete things we know are: how to fry chicken so good you want to slap somebody, cook collard greens until the melt in your mouth, certainly do something amazing with sweet potatoes, and we know OJ did it!!! The last comment is supposed to make you laugh out loud…

You are probably asking what spiritual truths can I pull out of this story. I see myself a lot of times like the cashier and God like a shopper. I think I have the latest greatest revelation about how my life is to turn out and when God throws His plan for me upon the “conveyer belt of life”, I ask Him, “hey do you know what to do with that plan.” He responds “YES, I’ll mold you into the image of Christ” and I give Him a stunned look and proceed to tell Him how to best use me (I’m squirming as I write this part). He simply looks and says ok because He is the perfect gentlemen and won’t force His will upon you nor me. He’ll walk away with that plan and simply mutter…doesn’t he realize I created all things including Him and My plans are to give Him a hope and future (Jeremiah 29:11).

Today, where are you with the Lord. Are you making your own plans? Are you resisting His plan for your life? If your answer is yes, there’s good news: STOP with your plans, and acknowledge His plan for your life. If you’ve never asked Him into your heart simply say, Jesus I confess with my mouth and believe in my heart you died for me, rose again, and live at the right hand of the Father. He is crazy about you and me (Him dying on the cross proves it) and desires for our dreams to be fulfilled. Remember, trust in the Lord with all you heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).