Further Up, Further In Weblog

Chronicling the Journey of the Homeyers

Intentionality September 27, 2007

Filed under: Discipleship — furtherupfurtherin @ 8:18 pm
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In college I was blessed to be involved in Baylor’s Baptist Student Ministries (BSM which used to be called BSU).  Clif Mouser was our BSM director and I was also blessed to become good friends with Clif over my years in the BSM and he truly was a mentor of mine as I “cut my teeth” so to speak in ministry.     

One of the greatest things I learned from Clif and that he drilled into my brain was intentionality in ministry.  Most of my ministry in the BSM centered around small group Bible studies and developing personal relationships centered on discipleship.  As I struggled to develop these relationships and reach out to students on campus, Clif would ask me and my fellow BSMers over and over again, “Are you being intentional?”  We got sick of the question but mostly we got sick of our answer to the question. 

We all wanted community to run deep in our small groups and in our ministry.  We all wanted to develop bonds that held us together to thickly and solidly.  We truly wanted to intimately be involved in the lives of each other and to uphold one another and support one another and serve one another.  We wanted to reach out to the world and extend the Kingdom of God with each other. 

As Clif continually made us realize though, all to often we weren’t doing what it took to truly develop relationships within our community of believers.  We weren’t being intentional in spending time with one another and in talking about what God is doing in each other’s lives.  We were expecting God to work relational miracles without much work on our own part when truly, our own participation in the process was the miracle God might have been waiting to happen.  Through our hesitancy, our fear, and our own languor, our ministry suffered and truly the furthering of the Kingdom of God was delayed in part. 

Church, we have a wonderful spirit about us.  You all as individuals and as a church have been incredibly intentional in making Kelley and I feel a part of the family of Fellowship Baptist Church.  You have sent us cards of encouragement, called us, stopped by the house, had us into your homes, and taken us out to dinner.  In those times we have dreamed of our Church together, we have talked about what God is doing in each other’s lives, we have communed soul to soul.  As a result of these intentional times I believe people are going to be saved and the Kingdom of God is going to be extended. 

My question is this:  Is that same intentionality of service, love, and acceptance on behalf of our church and our Kingdom being shown to all we are in contact with?  New members of our Church?  Those who are visiting our Church each week?  Those God has placed in our path that are in need? 

Through your loving, intentional efforts I have been ministered to.  I have seen your spirit.  I have heard your desire to spread that spirit through our area.   I have heard your dreams of what God is doing and will do in and through our body of believers.  I encourage you to be intentional in spreading this contagious spirit of love and service.  Invest time and energy in each other, sharing what God is doing in your lives.  Invest time and energy into our new members and in our visitors and incorporate them into the body as you have Kelley and I.  Invest time and energy in those God has placed in your path.  Your intentional investment may be the miracle they are waiting for. 


A Theology of Habit September 25, 2007

Filed under: Devotional — furtherupfurtherin @ 9:17 pm


Why is it that we in the Church, especially we in the Church who are young, are so opposed to the word, “habit,” as it applies to worship and service to God.  It seems to me that we often speak ill of habit where it exists within the Church.  When our worship style is too similar too often we deem it habitual and therefore in need of change.  As we mature in life and in the faith and don’t get the same emotional “tingly” responses as when we were younger we feel like worship or Bible study has become a habit and feel that something is wrong. 

            Now, don’t misunderstand the direction of this.  Anyone who knows me well knows how I feel churches in general and in specificity are in need of great changes.  I believe change and growth should be part of the culture of a church.  Churches should change and grow in order to meet the needs of their members, their community, and their world.   

But, there is merit to habit.  In our desire to be missional and in our tendency to want to change all that was and is and isn’t to come, we must not neglect the positive aspects of habits. 

            My contingency is that we need more habit within the church.  There is the general knowledge that is easy enough to observe for yourself that habits are hard to form and easy to break.  If any aspect of worshipping and serving has become habitual; then praise God this instant, for that means that you have expended some good deal of time and energy worshipping and serving God.  If these things have truly become habitual then it means you have progressed to a point in the faith where service and worship are a natural outflow of your life!  Even if you may feel bored, even if you don’t feel the same visceral responses to worship and service, be encouraged, you are growing, you are maturing!  If anything your complacency with your habit of service and worship is a call to even greater service and worship!   

            So many are not in the habit of the most simple aspects of obedient faith, such as just attending Church, participating in the life of the body, reading the Bible, praying, reaching out to the lost and needy, etc.

            Sometimes it is the established habit of these spiritual and church disciplines that helps us persevere when we least feel like it.  If we do not have the good habits of showing up on Sunday mornings, serving in the body of Christ, doing devotionals, praying, serving the needs of others, then all too often when we feel tired, or sick, or get busy it is exactly these things that get lost in the shuffle.  Sunday football games, work, kids’ activities, community commitments, all get their allotted time, but these spiritual habits get left behind, to be pursued when things are less hectic or stressful or tiring.  Truly, too few followers of Christ have habits that reflect their belief. 

            We need more people who are in the habit of worship and service who are dependable and can be counted on to serve the church and the kingdom.  We need more followers of Christ who show up to Church every Sunday to worship and who habitually live life on mission and who habitually live out spiritual disciplines.  Over time, in the life of  the true believer, these habits lead not to boredom or dull, lifeless repetition but to a dynamic faith. 

           Maybe a differentiation needs to be made between lifeless habits and dynamic habits.  There are those within the church who go about lifeless habits.  They go to church and serve a little, but there is little life to their actions.  Real habits of faith lead to dynamic lives which truly affect the Kingdom of God. 

            May we be about the formation of dynamic habits.  Truly, life with Christ is habit forming.  Once you experience its incommunicable depth, you keep coming back.  May we be people who worship and serve in such quantity and quality that to worship and serve is habitual.

 Reflect today upon what is habitual in your life.  What does it reflect?  What spiritual and church habits are you passing to your family and friends? 


Indescribable September 19, 2007

Filed under: Devotional — furtherupfurtherin @ 5:19 pm

There are many things about a life spent following Christ that are hard to effectively communicate to one who doesn’t understand.  There is a truth and depth of experience for the Follower of Christ that metaphor, description, analogy, poetry, and prose simply can’t fully communicate. 

For instance, how do you describe God’s speaking to believers’?  We often claim God spoke to us, or that God led us, or that God is moving us.  How exactly does that work out?  For the modern mind (ok Seminarians, I understand we are in a post-modern world, but face facts, much of the population still operates in the modern mindset) how do you describe this? 

I’ve described it as a sense of peace or as an overwhelming sense of God’s presence and satisfaction.  I’ve told people, “That I just knew,” but I knew better.  I’ve failed to accurately articulate (or write) the dynamic experience of following God’s will and having God’s will revealed.   My personal thought is that we too often attempt to relegate what is a continual process of obedience, faithfulness, and relationship into a moment of time akin to Moses’ burning bush experience. 

Every once in a while though, inspiration comes and a collection of words communicates the deep and true. 

I was listening to the David Crowder Band this morning and in their song, “Here is the King” David Crowder sings these lyrics,

“And what was said to the rose
To make it unfold
Was said to me here in my chest”

 I don’t know how to accurately describe step by step how God speaks to me or to anyone else.  But I can say, the same beatific word that is spoken to the rose to make it unfold, that whispers to spring time to heal the ground, is also spoken to my soul.  And, for the follower of Christ, when that word is spoken, obedience comes as natural, beautiful, fragrant, and life giving as the unfolding of the rose or the emergence of spring. 

Listen for that word.  Allow your life in Christ to be unfolded like a rose and watch spring emerge all around you.


The Rumor Mill September 18, 2007

Filed under: Etc. — furtherupfurtherin @ 8:34 pm

Let’s face it, we are all involved in and enticed by the never-ending rumor mills that church out fodder for sordid discussion in all corners of our world.  Unfortunately, some of the most effective and hurtful of these mills all-too-often, exists within our Churches. 

If you have been a victim of the rumor mill (haven’t we all to some degree at some point), if you are disturbed by the rumor mill, if you want some good instruction on how to shut the rumor mill down, I would encourage you to visit kevintessa.wordpress.com. 

Kevin and Tessa are dear friends and cousins of mine.  In the past few days Tessa has written, what I believe, are a few very poignant and well-written posts on shutting down the rumor mill.  If this stirs you at all, I encourage you to read it. 

Visit the site kevintessa.wordpress.com or click on the Fishbowl link on just to the right of this post.


Your Call

Filed under: Uncategorized — furtherupfurtherin @ 8:25 pm

This week the Baptist Standard ran a good article on emphasizing calling in our churches entitled, “Hearing the Call.”  Here is the link http://www.baptiststandard.com/postnuke/index.php?module=htmlpages&func=display&pid=6817


The article focuses on hearing God’s vocational call into ministry.  Although few will be called and fewer still will follow the call into vocational ministry, God is calling all of us to serve the Kingdom of God in some way.  Sometimes this call lasts a lifetime, most of the time our call is for a time or for a season of life and will subsequently change over time.  Pray about God’s call on your life for this season of your life.  Take time this week to consider this and reflect upon this.  If you have felt God’s calling then reflect upon your faithfulness to that calling.  If you have not felt God’s calling or are unclear on that call (as most of us are most of the time) then spend time in silence, reflection, and meditation, considering your call.  May we be about the work of the work of God this week!


Further Up, Further In


Jesus Dolls September 14, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — furtherupfurtherin @ 8:53 pm


Friends, I found this article on the San Antonion Express Webpage rather interesting and before I discuss my reaction I’d like to hear your reactions to it.  I’ll give you a preview of my reaction:  Disturbing on several levels.  More to come.  I am genuinely interested in your reaction and response.


Secrets of the Jesus dolls, the Jesus people and Wal-Mart

American popular culture’s two favorite whipping boys — Wal-Mart and Christianity — have joined forces. The world’s largest retailer, on a trial basis, is stocking shelves in a few hundred stores (including a half-dozen or so in SA) with Bible-themed toys.

Made by Valencia, Ca.-based One2Believe, the toys include a foot-tall, talking Jesus who recites Scripture; battling Samson and Goliath action figures; and dolls whose accessories include “a Bible lesson (based on Proverbs 31:20), two cookie-cutters, a cookie recipe.”

If you don’t see a problem with that, good for you. I don’t either.

If you have trouble with this — concerned that the forces of Christianity are trying to capture impressionable minds and steer them in a certain direction — then you need to get a grip. Also, you’re right. That’s exactly what they’re trying to do.

Religion in America:

I am not a Biblical scholar, but I go to church. To me, church is a soothing place. In fact, I feel so soothed that I sometimes doze off. My favorite part of the Bible is that part where it goes “In the beginning, something, something, something God.” It’s near the front. You know what I’m talking about.

I’m the perfect example of blind faith; I believe, but I don’t have a shred of fact to support my beliefs. And while I desperately need to know why Orange Julius is so devilishly delicious, I don’t need any proof of anything to make faith work for me. It just does.

Faith is deeply personal, and most people don’t like to talk about their personal lives like that, much less hear about someone else’s. (I’m excluding 50 million MySpace losers from this, of course.)

That’s the problem with any mention of religion &mdash there are people who want to talk about it non-stop, and then there are the rest of us.

These religious hobbyists are the folks who wear Jesus on their sleeve and yak about religion 24/7. They don’t make things easier for anyone because they won’t shut up about it. (We get it. You go to church and you like it. Good for you.)

They’re yapping, and it makes a lot of us hinky, but there’s nothing we can do about it. We can’t object by saying “Hey, stop with the Jesus stuff, will ya?” for fear of giving the impression that we’re anti-religion. And anti-religion people won’t object because they don’t want to be burned alive at the stake.

Add it all up and it creates a climate in America where religion is a touchy subject. That’s why there was a flurry of news stories over the summer that Wal-Mart, a corporation of Biblical proportions, announced it will carry the One2Believe toy line.

Why? There are never stories when Wal-Mart decides to carry “Chain Smoking Barbie” or “The Bratz Extra-Slutty Collection.”

Assume that Wal-Mart feels there is money to be made on this deal, or the company wouldn’t give One2Believe its corporate blessing.

Selling toys to sell Jesus

“We want our toys to be an alternative to toys that are more readily available in the market,” said One2Believe’s Josh Livingston, “and we want to promote values that build up children, rather than tear them down.”

“We’re trying to reach children at an age when they’re impressionable,” he continued, “and putting out a product that engages kids in Bible stories.” Poring through the Bible is daunting for smaller kids, so this creates an opportunity to teach those values through a hands-on, imagination-driven method.

For the company, the slogan “The Battle for the Toy Box” has several meanings.

It’s the first time a major retailer has flirted with the idea of selling faith-themed toys. It’s also a pass-fail test for this niche. If they sell, it’ll open the market for other similar toys from other manufacturers.

Typically, these toys are sold at smaller, independently owned Christian stores, so this opens up the company’s products to millions of potential customers. They will go head-to-head with the over-hyped, heavily marketed, possibly toxic toys of major manufacturers.

“We’re not saying there aren’t good toys out there,” Livingston said. “But we’re just trying to offer an alternative.”


The Agony of Preaching

Filed under: Uncategorized — furtherupfurtherin @ 4:22 pm

I am in the middle of preparing my Sermon for Sunday.  Friday’s always come too quickly in some ways.  I still have not learned discipline to the extent that I faithfully work on my sermons as I should throughout the week.  Meetings, phone calls, visitation, hospital visits, blogging, email, and all sorts of things seem to steal little bits of my time until I find myself on Friday morning with lots of unorganized thoughts and research, but no sermon…yet. 

 I have come to love the process of preparing sermons.  It can be miserable, convicting, gut-wrenching, and terribly difficult.  The hard part seems to be, for me, the patience of simply listening and desiring every so desperately to be spoken to by God and by the text.   This becomes hard when there are pending meetings, the phone is ringing, emails keep coming, and people keep stopping by the office.  All of these are wonderful and good and necessary, but they are enemies of reflection and contemplation. 

The beautiful part of the preparation is when you are stuck.  Maybe your heart sings what it wants to proclaim but your wordy translation doesn’t do it justice.  Maybe you just can’t think of what words to write next or what point needs to be made and can’t translate the song in your heart.  And you sit and you struggle and you become frustrated and suddenly…your brain patterns change, the Holy Spirit graciously stirs, and somehow the words come.  In these moments, truly, one feels the weight of the responsibility and also the airy grace of the call to preach and proclaim God’s word. 

 So this morning I look at my notes and my research and my brainstormed thoughts, and my heart sings the underlying truth that resides in Luke 15:1-10 and I struggle to translate its song.  Agonizingly I attempt to piece together the puzzle of God’s message.  I work in hope and anticipation of that moment this afternoon when God might powerfully speak and the song becomes clear and the pieces fit. 

 I guess much of our lives are like this.  Much of God’s movement in our lives parallels this.  I daresay we all love God much more than we actually obey.  I daresay we all want to do God’s will far more often than we actually do.  I daresay we all have this song playing in our heart and are struggling with translating it.  Our families, our careers, our friends, our hobbies and countless other good things all combine to cloud our vision.   Here’s looking with anticipation and hope for all of us for those moments when the song becomes clear and we translate it well.