Why I Started A Church

In January of this year Heidi and I opened the doors of our hearts and home and started a church, House Church Tulsa.  I didn’t start the church because I love church so much that I wanted to have more of it.  I didn’t start a church because there are no other good churches in town.  I didn’t start a church because I want to spend my life at church, doing church activities, being around church people or planning church services.

I started a church because I have a church in me and it’s the only way I know to get it out!

I have a picture of a church in me that doesn’t look like anything I’ve seen before.  I have a vision of a church in me that I’m not totally sure how to build…I guess you could say, “I have a dream…” about a church that hasn’t existed yet on the earth, a church that would begin to find its expression in 2014 through a small group of people who dared to say, “Ok, we want to do it. Let’s get to work.”

And so the search for the right building materials, both human and non-human, got its start in our home this year and took a leap outside our home on Easter, April 20, 2014, to continue the search where we currently meet each Sunday at The Harwelden Mansion.

In my heart I have a picture of the people that love this church, and I’ll give you a glimpse of what they look, sound and think like; and I’ll let you how you can tell if they are part of this church: they look like people with hearts that beat out of their chests for a radical spiritual life; they look like people that don’t go to church; they sound like a harmony that no one thought the song needed; they sound like many rushing waters; they think critically and are bold to ask questions; they think. And you can tell they’re part of this church because they have received the limitless, amazing love of God through Christ Jesus and they don’t hesitate to pour it out in like manner on everyone who will take it.

Every Sunday morning at 10:30, and sometimes on Friday nights, the search continues.

I want to see you there, I want to see if you are one of them.

Glory in the Church

Glory looks like something for example, “the glory of a flower,” or, “the train that was restored to its former glory,” or, “his glory days as a high school basketball star.” When the word “glory” is used like this, we get a mental image of something magnificent, beautiful, awesome or great.  In the Bible the word “glory” is used to ascribe praise to God like, “Glory to God!” or to describe the “weighty” presence of God in an atmosphere or in a sanctuary or in a person.

In the picture attached to this blog, the branches of my Rose of Sharon are bowing low with the weight of the glory of the flowers! Or imagine a peach tree’s branches bowing low with the weight of the glory of fully ripened fruit!  Wow! What images of beauty and goodness! I can almost taste the sweet juicy fruit of a ripe peach as I type…

In Ephesians 3, Paul prays for the church (that’s all of us) like this:

“…I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His GLORY, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height – to know the love of Christ with passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.  Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works IN US, to Him GLORY in the CHURCH by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

Did you catch that? He said there’s a power working IN us, that there’s GLORY IN the church (that’s all of us).  There’s GLORY in you! There’s GLORY in me!  And, this wonderful passage above says that the glory is filling us and able to work in us to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or even think.

Glory looks like something.  When glory is manifested in us, and around us, it’s as plain to see as the fruit on the branches or the flowers on the tree, and it changes their disposition…it bows them low with the weight of the glory.

Selah.

The Lord Is My Shepherd

I took this picture one morning while in Virginia Beach for business one weekend.  The calm I experienced that morning on the beach cannot be adequately described with words.  I wanted to share this image with you, as well as a scripture to calm your heart this Monday afternoon.  No matter where you are or what you’re going through, you can whisper just one word to God and he will rush in on you, and your situation, with peace.  I know he will because it’s happened to me today.  Try reading this scripture aloud and see what happens to the atmosphere around you as you say each word with purpose.  You are loved.

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Forever.

Happy Easter

We are delighted to be outside in downtown Tulsa this morning at The Fur Shop, 3rd/Frankfurt, preparing for service at 10:30am.  Our hearts are reverent and there’s smiles on our faces for the joy of being a part of this day.  We look forward to seeing you this morning! Come let us adore HIM!

Easter Eve?

“Easter Eve” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as “New Year’s Eve” or “Christmas Eve” does it?  This day feels blank, void, dead and perhaps that’s the way it’s supposed to feel as we remember Jesus’ body in the tomb while his loved ones grieve; while perhaps his disciples feel duped; while those who trusted what he said simply go about their daily routine with a twinge of anger; perhaps a taste of bitterness; perhaps disbelief that he actually died.  Oh how we can relate! Oh the pain and anger of believing in something only to be devastatingly disappointed when the promises don’t appear to come true.  While we stay in the grey suspension of this day and hold the pain of dashed hopes, may we look forward to the rest of the story, and trust that He doesn’t leave us in our pain.  Join House Church Tulsa tomorrow morning at 10:30 outside at The Fur Shop at the corner of 3rd and Frankfurt, downtown Tulsa.  The service will be approximately one hour; there will be bagels, donuts, juice and coffee; LIVE music and a sermon.  See you there!

Good Friday

Good Friday is similar to Black Friday in that the name suggests something on the surface that it is not, until we look a little closer.  Black Friday sounds ominous and bad, but actually it’s the day when retailers’ accounting books go from red to black because of so many sales, which is a good thing for them.   Good Friday sounds great on the surface, but actually it’s the day when we are compelled to look at the crucified Jesus suspended on a cross suffering a gruesome death bearing the weight of the sins of the world for all time, for all people…which is actually a good thing for us.  Join us as we reverence the awesome work of Jesus for us and for everyone today.  We look forward to celebrating the rest of the story with you this Sunday, outside at The Fur Shop at the corner of 3rd/Frankfurt in downtown Tulsa.  Service begins at 10:30.  See you there!

Holy Thursday

We reverence this week and reflect on the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus.   Yes, Easter is a man-made holiday in which people choose to celebrate, or not celebrate, in different ways.  We are not interested in whether or not it’s about The Easter Bunny, colored egg hunts, ham, or if it has roots in paganism (we love Easter egg hunts!).  We choose to celebrate this holiday because of the risen Christ and how he impacts our lives, today. May this Holy Thursday be a day of reflection on Christ and how his life is still speaking to us today.  God bless you on this Holy Thursday, and everyday, and join us if you are so inclined for the outdoor Easter church service at The Fur Shop concert venue at 3rd/Frankfurt downtown Tulsa.  See you there!

Homily From Rev. JoAnn Huber

Rev. JoAnn Huber is a dear mentor and loving minister from whom I glean spiritual and physical nourishment.  It’s my honor to share her homily from last Sunday which she delivered at The Forest of Peace.

Fifth Sunday of Lent, April 6, 2014, Written and Delivered by JoAnn Huber

Well, here we are the 5th Sunday. Today’s scriptures invite us to look more deeply – at ourselves, at God’s Word, at the modeling we receive from Jesus.”  From Ezekiel we hear God’s voice saying “I will open your graves and have you rise from them. Then you shall know that I am the Lord.” Important to recall that Ezekiel was preaching to a people in exile in Babylon. It was the grave of exile he was speaking of. Many were grumbling. The old wanted to leave for the “promised land”. The young wanted to stay put, as many had become prosperous and comfortable living in exile. God’s plan was to teach the people in long exile through struggles, mistakes and suffering. Nations, like people, cannot reach maturity without passing through the death of pride and their own ambitions.  Seems to me we are often much like that ourselves. So easy when we are comfortable to lose sight of what is important, to become blinded to what good may await us. It is also easy to get sidetracked by the seeming normalcy of injustice when we are comfortable. This section of Ezekiel is preceded by the bit about raising dry bones. It invites us to look at what we may have buried – placed into exile inside ourselves that we may avoid, or indeed, even refuse to look at.  Look we must, and look deeply if we are to have new life. God does not want us to remain in exile – stay dead inside.

In our Gospel Lazarus is raised from the dead and we go woo hoo! What a sight that must have been! Yet the point of the story is not the raising of Lazarus. It is about Jesus and what Jesus calls us to as well. This is the last of seven signs in  Sunday of Lent with next week being Palm/Passion John’s gospel. “Signs” were to be testimony to the presence of God in Jesus. (John did not call them miracles.) Shortly after this Jesus will be tried and put to death.  Jesus was told his friend was ill and delayed going to him

for two days. He arrives to find Lazarus dead and Martha and Mary grieving.  Mary and Martha – two sides of a single coin – one the worker, one the contemplative – each showing us how to live and love. Jesus hears Martha say she has come to believe he is the Christ, she then goes to get Mary who comes and kneels at Jesus feet. They deeply know him so you might think he would rejoice, yet, Jesus wept. For me this begs the question why did Jesus weep? The Word also says he became increasingly upset. How come? Some of the Jews in this reading say he wept because he loved Lazarus so much. Perhaps, yet, I wonder??

Jesus had been traveling and teaching for almost 3 years. He had offered many signs/miracles to reveal who he was and yet very few could see.  Perhaps he wept from frustration/sadness over that lack of vision. Many had yet to learn to see with their hearts and not just their eyes.  The raising of Lazarus convinced many to follow Jesus and put his life in fresh danger – this raising put Lazarus life in danger as well, as the chief priests made a plot to kill him as he, too, was turning people to Jesus. Perhaps Jesus wept because he knew what was soon coming for him. Mary and Martha “got” Jesus. They had looked deeply – saw with their Hearts – and so had new priorities. They believed. They didn’t need proof, though they did want their brother back and can you blame them?  As unmarried women in a culture that gave them little or no standing – indeed under the law they were children – ones with no rights. Yet they saw something bigger in Jesus and had responded to the call to new life.  Perhaps even, through Martha’s words of acknowledgement of Him as the Christ, and Mary’s willingness to sit at his feet they called Jesus – called him forth and supported him into the final stage of his ministry – the one leading to the cross. Could they have so deeply taken in his words that he must die? Indeed in less than a week Jesus would be back in Bethany sharing a meal. Martha would be serving and Mary would be washing his feet with expensive perfumed oil usually reserved for burial.

Why did Jesus weep?? For what do I weep?

During Lent each of us is called to look deeply into our own tombs. Many tombs stand open if we will only look. Tombs of loss, disappointment, devastation, wars.  Lazurus personifies the person, and perhaps nation, wounded by sin who is in the process of dying unless Christ calls forth new life. Are we not all in the process of dying one way or another?! We are each called to new life. Called to conversion from where we are to something new. Conversion to what?  Conversion from one religion or another is often how we look at that word and we even have folks joining the Catholic church at Easter, many of whom are said to convert.  Again, conversion to what?

In whatever religious form it takes, Jesus invites us to convert to lives of justice/compassion/courage and faithfulness – ultimately we are to convert to love – over and over again. Jesus went against or broke rules in many directions as he lived/modeled a life lived in love. Risky business this. Yet, have courage – go visit. What hurts, sadness, mistake are you hanging onto? What twinges have you left unaddressed? Go there, look into the tomb – look deeply! Do not be afraid.

God raises God’s people many times – and sometimes even daily!!

Ezekial 37:12-14 Psalm 130: 1-8 Romans 8: 8-11 John 11:3-7, 17, 20-27, 33-45

 

Containers

I grew up near San Francisco and one of my favorite things to do on a Saturday afternoon was find a cool eatery on the bay, order clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl, and watch the huge container vessels come in and out of the ports. I was fascinated to watch them with their container stacked deep and high, full of goods from countries around the world. I would imagine the crew on the vessel and all the places they traveled and what exciting things they must have seen.

Containers. Hundreds upon hundreds and thousands of containers full of man-made goods to be sold for profit primarily to build big business, and most likely made by the hands of poor people in sweat shops around the world, are transported over our oceans every day. I digress.

Containers. Vessels. Drums. Barrels. Casks. Kegs. Kettles. Tanks. Vats. Basins. Jugs. Pots. Buckets. Tubs. Spirits.

Why did I end that sentence with the word, “Spirits”? That word doesn’t seem to go with the all the different types of containers I listed there, or does it?

Colossians 2:3 tells us that In Christ are hidden, or stored, all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. ALL. ALL the wisdom and ALL the knowledge about EVERYTHING is stored In Christ. To the believer, this is really great news because we have believed In Him which means we have received his Spirit, 1 Corinthians 2:16.

ALL that Christ has, which is everything, has been deposited into our inner being by the Holy Spirit. Our spirit is a Godly container, made from Godly material, and by faith is full of ALL the wisdom and ALL the knowledge of God, Ephesians 3:19.

Great news! It is in our best interest to open the container and pull out all that God has put in there for us to use. How do we do that? Proverbs 20:5 says that we can draw from the deep well that is within us by using our mouth, 1 Corinthians 2:7, 13.

YOUR mouth is the ladle of your spirit. Your words that are spoken by revelation of the Holy Spirit literally pull out of your spirit the things God has put in there for your use.

Ask God about it tonight. Ask God to show you how to pull all the goods from your spirit by words spoken in faith.

 

Higher And Higher

Jude 20 in the Amplified translation of the Bible declares, “…You, beloved, build yourselves up [founded] on your most holy faith, [make progress, rise like an edifice higher and higher], praying in the Holy Spirit; Guard and keep yourselves in the love of God…”

This is one of my favorite things to do in God, pray in the Holy Spirit! The Holy Spirit knows the mind of God and searches and reveals the limitless things of God. With the Holy Spirit as my guide, I can pray and the scripture says I will be made to rise like an edifice higher and higher. Hallelujah!

You can imagine how valuable this gift is as we live our lives?! When we can’t ‘see’ how things are going to work out, we can pray! When we don’t feel ‘big’ enough, we can pray! When we don’t think we’re smart enough, we can pray! When we feel weighed down by the ‘yuck’ of it all, we can pray! When we can be lifted UP and UP and UP until we see the situation from a brand new level.

Isn’t that wonderful?! We are not meant to live our lives subject to natural limitations and dirt-level vantage points. We are designed to be lifted UP and to see our lives from a high place in God.

Praying in the Holy Spirit is a glorious gift that shoots us UP and allows us to see our life from a whole new level.

Ask God to show you new things today, ask him to take you UP, and to experience your life from a brand new vantage point.