Supreme Ambition Ministries

To Know Christ and to Make Him Known – Philippians 3:10

SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE?

So You Think You Can Dance?

The Essence of Covenant Community

Living within a culture where divorce is commonplace and single-parent homes are more the norm, it is difficult for those of us in the Twenty-first century to grasp the importance of a covenant relationship as it relates to Christian growth and discipleship. So, what defines a Christian community? It is possible that in taking a look at the Biblical concept of marriage we may shed some light upon the concept of covenant discipleship?
Marriage, a Spiritual Template

The heart of God is all about relationships. For that reason He placed humans in families. Therefore, the Christian concept of marriage is a marvelous template for covenant relationship, as well as growth and training in Christian discipleship. The divine plan for marriage is for one man and one woman to continue in their intimate relationship for life. However, since the invention of television and the influx of the digital revolution, human senses are brainwashed, and placed on overload, when it comes to what one might expect from a marriage relationship. Hollywood promises emotional fireworks and explosions of passion at every turn. Not surprisingly, it delivers poorly. Tinseltown’s answer to our disappointment with its failed promises is merely to find another partner. According to divorcerate.org, “The divorce rate in America for first marriage, vs. second or third marriage is 50% of first marriages, 67% of second and 74% of third marriages end in divorce.” Apparently, the entertainment industry’s predictions do not get better with multiplicity of partners.
Marriage in a truly Christian environment cannot be improved upon as a template for teaching people how to live in community. Mankind was not made to live in isolation. We function better in a setting where we have the opportunity to make one another better. The author of proverbs says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17, ESV). How disappointing it is when companions bail out on one another at the least provocation. Doing this defrauds the couple and the family unit of the ability to observe how to live and behave in the midst of adversity. Therefore, society misses the opportunity to have crack troops, who have weathered the storms of life, and who can pass down to all observers their secrets to victorious living. Of course, this does not take into account the relationships that are abusive, or hopeless for one reason or another. In those situations, the choices are often limited, and making informed decisions is difficult at best. Under normal circumstances, however, it seems that the experience of marriage can be a catalyst not only for the home, but also for the community at large, and for the Church in particular. The dissolution of a marriage, on the other hand, affects both the couple and those attached to them either through birth, or through other significant relationships. Scars cover the lives of countless numbers of people because of failed marriages. The branches of this poisonous vine weave their way through generations and leave traces of their irritation on the souls of friend, foe, and fellow without discrimination. Perhaps the most tragic realization that the Church must recognize is that the failure of marriage today is virtually equal to that of the world. It appears that most people enter into a marriage relationship with the idea that the person they marry will make them happy.

Contrarily, if a couple considers its marriage vows as something more than a simple ceremony with some colorful words, their declaration may be one in which they recognize they have entered into a covenant, not only with one another, but also with God. If they have entered into this covenant soberly, and determine that the promises they make to one another before God are binding, then the chances of their marriage ending diminish greatly.

Similarly, the new birth is a marriage ceremony of sorts. The decision a candidate for discipleship makes to cease living independently, and to begin living in a covenant relationship is as serious as the choice of a life partner. If divorce adversely affects scores of people, what is the effect upon the Church and the culture of people entering into a covenant relationship with God and his people unadvisedly, or lightly? Furthermore, if divorce stifles the emotional maturity of growing children, what does the severing of bonds among God’s people do to young Christian disciples? The spiritual aptitude of any local expression of Christ will not rise above the devout intellect and practice of the least mature member of that Body.

Remember the words spoken by the Lord Jesus, “If any two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name there am I among them” (Matthew 18:19-20, ESV). The root word for ‘agree’ is sumphoneo (symphony), and signifies a harmonious blending of musical instruments. Is there a better place to observe the symphony of true Christianity than in the relationship of two believing, married partners, warts and all, who passionately love their Lord and one another? There is a marked difference between the love of a middle school couple and that of a more mature couple after several years of marriage. The Bible says, “If any two of you agree . . .?” That statement, alone, implies negotiation, submission, and self-denial. For many, it assumes someone got his way, and someone else did not get her way. Truly, this would be the result, were it not for the fact of the dance, or the symphony. In a vital covenant relationship, either marriage or church, the issue is not whether person “A” or “B” gets what he wants, but rather, to what extent does each surrender to the dance (will of God)? Is fulfillment in life accomplished by one’s ability to accumulate the most toys before he dies? Is one’s relationship in marriage successful because her partner makes her happy, or because she finds mutual fulfillment with her partner as they lay down their lives in service for one another, for others and for the glory of God?

C. S. Lewis wrote,
“The idea that ‘being in love’ is the only reason for remaining married really leaves no room for marriage as a contract or promise at all. If love is the whole thing, then the promise can add nothing; and if it adds nothing, then it should not be made.”

The method people use in choosing a church today is typical of a society influenced by Post-modern thought. One chooses churches, marital partners, jobs, etc. according to how much pleasure one receives from the choice. Parents often choose a church according to the types and numbers of programs offered to them and their children. Of course, it is good for churches to offer options; however, if one’s experience in church is little more than a propositional one, the intimate connection with Christ and his community lessens. The Biblical ideal in marriage is for one to take his time in choosing his life’s companion. He must understand that his decision is for life, and that his commitment involves a covenant agreement. It should not be broken simply because he is not as happy as he had hoped. The bliss of marriage comes as two very different personalities share a common goal of allowing their marriage to be the dance of life that brings glory to God. They discover their mutual fulfillment as they ride the waves of frustration and experience the hills and valleys of joy and disappointment. Their individual experiences in the journey they share not only shape them into mature persons in Christ, but also mold their corporate existence as a family into a model for effective community living.

Even as Jesus found a ‘door of hope’ in the dark, gloom of a borrowed tomb, perhaps we, too, can find a window of opportunity in the difficult work of learning how to dance.  Remember when you were  twixt twelve and twenty and you went to that first dance?  Remember how insecure you felt about the dance.  As you and the object of your affection approached one another, then casually embraced one another, the awful thought struck you that you weren’t sure what to do next.  ”Who should lead?”  ”Who should follow?”  What if both wanted to lead . . . or follow?  Many people in all types of relationships make it no further in their communion than the approach.  Others ‘take the bull by the horns’ so to speak and take on a part of the dance that does not belong to them.  Sadly, all the observers see is two or more insecure people concerned more about how they look as participants than about the greater glory of the dance.  This, I fear, is a picture of our culture:  People who don’t know how to dance in their relationships.  The Bible offers us the best instructions for proper relationships but we’ll have to sacrifice to discover it.

This is a section of a soon to be published book, entitled, You Have Been Called: Revolutionary Discipleship Through the Covenant Family.   All rights reserved 2010.

June 22nd, 2012 Posted by | Christian Life, Church, Fellowship, Relationships, True Church LIfe | comments

HOW HE LOVES US!

 

haitian-mountains-saint-ard1.jpgJust wanted you to know that I returned from Haiti last Friday night safe and sound. Our journey was a wonderful one. It was so good to see dear friends, many of whom I had not seen for a couple of years. Our time of fellowship in song, testimony, prayer and from the Word was delightfully refreshing. Sitting on the third story of the Pastors’ retreat center at the Mission compound at night and seeing the glory of our solar system, is always an experience nearly beyond words. Truly, ‘ the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof’…porch-fellowship2.jpg

The words sung in the video clip above by Kim Walker became sort of a theme for me (and, I’m sure, others) as we trudged our way through one of the most spiritually dark places on earth. The cry of the song is “Oh, How He Loves Us”. As we moved from one place to another the Spirit of the Lord moved ahead of us. Each step we took and each loving word spoken was one more beam of light displacing the thick darkness. It seemed each time we coporately followed the pillar of cloud and fire of his will there were showers of His precious love flowing like a stream of living water.

As is His Way, our Lord was with us to lead, encourage, anoint and use us in ways beyond our fondest dreams. We had thedave-preaching-at-thomas1.jpg precious privilege of sharing the Gospel through the Christmas accounts in a dramatic way with one of us telling the account and most of the rest of our 24 pilgrims acting it out. We gave gifts to a few hundred children and many prayed to allow Christ to be the Lord of their lives. For most of the children the little package we gave them will be all they receive that whole year. The standard of living in Hait is so much below our poverty level that words cannot tell. Survival is the mode for so many. Six out of 10 Haitian children die before the age of 5 or 6, many because they cannot fight off a cold or the flu. To look into their eyes is to see the desire to hope but the inability to do so because they must be concerned about food for the day. As we prayed with a Haitian man a few years ago on top of a mountain…He cried out to the Lord for a day when he would be…“no more hungry”. However, in the midst of all the suffering are the sounds of children playing, churches holding services and singing with all their might, knowing that the Sovereign God has prepared a place for them and all of His children in a Kingdom which has no end.

 

porch-fellowship.jpgOne of the most significant issues in Christianity is the privilege of corporate fellowship. It is a marvelous thing to not only observe, but also of which to be a part. One’s personal relationship with Christ is to be intimate with Him, but the greater part of that intimacy is to carry it into the corporate meeting. It is there that it is shared with the brothers and sisters and becomes pregnant and delivers more of the knowledge of Christ than can be obtained in isolation. Our worship experiences on ‘the porch’ were just that. How marvelous to experience this yourself but then to see a brother or sister awakening to more of Christ is to enhance Christ within oneself. Together, we took a journey into a ‘room’ of his kingdom and while there we saw things together, which are difficult, if not impossible to express. However, in an ‘earthy’ sort of way an attempt is made through the song above:“He loves us” which says, “earth meets heaven like a sloppy wet kiss and my heart turns violently in my chest. I don’t have time to maintain these regrets, when I think about the way that He loves us…” Yes, it is rather earthy. Maybe too earthy. However, for people who are not well versed in theology and don’t have the vocabulary yet to express the high things of God in a more ‘acceptable manner’, I say, ‘Go for it’! It doesn’t take long to run out of words when trying to express the passion God has for us and the passion we are to have for Him. God doesn’t cringe nearly as fast as some of us, who can express ourselves in a ‘better’ way. Rather, I think he may even smile. Will He take us on and grant us the ability to tell the story in a more acceptabel manner? Will we eventually articulate our experience with Christ in a better way? Maybe. I do hope that when we get to the place where we can say it better that we don’t lose the passion and experience of it. It’s one thing to read about a love story. It is entirely different matter to live it. As I review in my heart of hearts the journey I experienced just days ago, I am left with a deeper passion for my Lord and a deeper desire to fellowship with those who KNOW HIM AND WANT TO MAKE HIM KNOWN.


December 13th, 2007 Posted by | Church, Fellowship, Relationships, True Church LIfe | 2 comments

WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY AND…

As a young person living in the hills of West Virginia one of my favorite things to do on Sunday mornings was to read the comic section in the paper. Sunday’s comics were better than the daily strips. There were more of them and they were in color. Some of my favorites then are still my favorites.

One such comic was Pogo. pogo3.jpgPogo was a character created by Walt Kelly and, as many cartoons, became a satire on the social, political and moral blunders of the day. Perhaps the most famous quotation which comes from the strip deals with the pollution of the planet. Pogo Possum and Porky Pine are gingerly walking through the forrest one day. The forrest is littered with cans, broken glass, garbage and trash of all sorts. Porky Pine trys to put the best spin on things saying, “Ah, Pogo, the beauty of the forrest primeval gets me in the heart.” Pogo Possum responds…“It gets me in the feet Porky Pine.” Suddenly, the truth of Pogo’s words come crashing in upon Porky Pine and he says, “This stuff is hard to walk on.” It is at this point that Pogo’s innocense and honesty catapault him into the role of a philosopher and he quotes the immortal words of Commandore Oliver Hazzard Perry to General William Henry Harrison…except with just a little twist. “We have met the enemy and he is…us.” With that statement we leave our little friends in the Okefenokee Swamp to contemplate the new revelation that sometimes the greatest problem I have is…me.

Pogo’s contemplation gives opportunity for me to look at myself and my world and try to discern the problem. Most of my life has revolved around the Church. My earliest memories have something to do with Church or the relationships found therein. For about 40 of those years I have been preaching the gospel. During that time some of the most glorious times I have had in my life have been with brothers and sisters in the Church. However, during that same time frame, some of the most devastating times in my life have been with brothers and sisters in the Church. Interestingly, it has been during adversity that I have seen the most growth in my life. Let me correct that. It is usually after the adversity has passed that I see the growth, if there is any. When I’m going through it, I usually don’t see anything but the difficulty.

WHO IS THE ENEMY?

snidely-whiplash.jpg

Perhaps one of the most difficult things to discern in damaged relationships is who is at fault. After all, if there is a problem in my relationship with you, it must be you. Why? That’s obvious! It can’t be me… so it must be you. Who is the enemy anyway? Is it Snidely Whiplash? Is it the pastor, nursery director, or deacon? No? Then, perhaps it might be the parking lot attendant or someone on the custodial staff. Still haven’t found the culpret? How about your companion or the kids…Those kids! They are a sight, aren’t they? Not them either, huh? Come now. Surely you can locate this dispicable character. I mean, after all, it is that person who is causing you such pain. Try really hard, now. Oh yeah, it’s the devil, isn’t it? Well. Yes. He certainly is the one who is ultimately behind all the evil and lies in the world. But in my limited experience it seems as long as we can blame our misbehavior on, ‘the devil made me do it’, we will never get to the real problem in our life and that is…me. When Adam chose to eat of the forbidden tree he blamed Eve. When Eve was confronted with her fault, she pointed her finger at the serpent. In the Church we are experts at blaming others for things that may be mostly our fault. In the political arena the Republicans and Democrats blame one another. The liberal media blames the Religious Right. The Conservatives think they have all the answers. Truth be known, I need to sit with Pogo and Porky and view the ‘trash’ in my swamp. Before I can point my finger at anyone, I must first look at Me. Could I really be the greatest enemy in my own life. I am a broken man in the midst of broken people in a broken world. Yes, there are others who contribute to the mess I see. But, if I look long enough into the cesspool of iniquity I call my life, it won’t be long before I get the same revelation Pogo got…I have met the enemy and he is ME. Scoot over Pogo…I need to think about this for a while. Selah!

September 15th, 2007 Posted by | Discipleship, Relationships | 2 comments