Michael B Linton

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Another job!!

I got a job today teaching 8th grade science this next school year. This will allow more of our funding for Summerlake to got toward ministry and events and less toward feeding my family. Click here to go to Etta's blog and read about it.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Exciting News For Summerlake!

Go to the Summerlake website and read about the exciting news that God is leading us to.

Also, don't forget to read my new post below.

You can also read all about the results of our Church Planters' Assessment on Etta's blog.

Faith is ugly...grace is beautiful.

There is nothing pretty about trusting when things are not going according to our plan. It's not fun, it routinely hurts, and it can often be fraught with disappointment. That's faith for you: ugly.

I'm afraid we have a glamorous view of faith (thank you Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Jesse Duplantis, Joel Osteen, et al). We tend to think if we can verbalize it God will materialize it. I'm afraid it doesn't work that way. We may want healing or deliverance or wealth but it may not come the way we think it should. We may want the path that we know God has set before us to be smooth and non-threatening, but life isn't made up of such.

If we think otherwise, we must conclude that the Apostle Paul had no faith. Shipwrecked, beaten, left for dead, maligned, ridiculed, and ultimately, tradition tells us, beheaded at the behest of Nero. What a faithless idiot! All he had to do was name it and claim it and God would have made him a wealthy success with his own internationally famous ministry tour, a private boat, no health problems, and mass conversions at the mere sound of his voice. He just didn't know what he was doing. He should have consulted Benny or Jesse.

Or maybe, just maybe, Paul knew something we need to learn: that faith is ugly and grace is beautiful. There are no clear-cut answers to faith. Yes, some are healed by faith. Some find their paths smooth. Some have successful ministries. But some, with equal or stronger faith, don't. Are we to assume Jeremiah had no faith either? When was the last time we saw Benny weeping that no one was responding to his message? To hear him tell it, he never fails. And Benny hasn't gotten his own book in the Bible.

The point is, faith is not clear cut. We have faith that God will see us through. Paul had it. Jeremiah had it. But faith does not mean everything will be easy. Faith means that we hope in and trust something stronger than ourselves when it is obvious we can't do it on our own. Again, it's ugly because we don't know the end result; we just have faith.

But grace is beautiful. Grace tells us that, not only will God see us through, but that there are great things in store for us. Grace says that, though our strength will fail, we will be lifted up. Grace tells us that when faith doesn't get us what we think we need, grace is all we need. Paul was told, when faith did not make things easy, that God's grace is sufficient. Here, read it for yourself.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10 And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

Doesn't sound like a man concerned that he didn't get what he wanted, but that God gets what He wants. He wants our faith, ugly as it may be, because He knows the beauty of His grace. He knows that grace says when we are weak, we are strong in the power of Christ. When we can't, God can.

So, while we may be able to speak of the blessings of God and the deliverance from any variety of trials, the stronger testimony is the one that tells of all-sufficient grace; of not seeing the deliverance but seeing the power of God in the life determined to follow through the darkest valley. It's in the dark that the beauty of grace shines its brightest, and the power of an ugly faith-beaten and bruised and bloody-is fully felt.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

We are one in the bond of love...

In my Bible reading a couple of days ago, I read through Colossians. In case you're wondering, my Bible reading plan is a New Testament book per day. 27 books is less than 30 days, so I have a few extra days to cover the longer books. It's not an intensive study of each book; rather, I dwell a few minutes on passages that jump out at me. The goal is absorption through repetition. I also try to read 5 Psalms a day and 1 chapter in Proverbs. Three months of the year I read through the Old Testament, minus Psalms and Proverbs. Moving on... A passage in Colossians leapt out at me.
Colossians 3:14 Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.
Beyond what things? Well, the previous verses say...

Colossians 3:12-13 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.

So, if I read this correctly, we as Christians (the church) are to have compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, and be forgiving. But above all this, love is the perfect bond for the church.

So you say, "Michael, this is silly. Everyone knows that the most important thing in the church is love. Duh!" Not so fast, blog-reader. Everyone apparently does not know that. I know personally of a pastor who does not believe this. He routinely mocks and derides as weak churches that "just looooove everybody". The most important thing is truth, not love. And, please, don't misunderstand. This is not "speaking the truth in love", as Ephesians 4:15 commands us. Love is not even considered a part of the truth.Christians are to love: the saved and the lost. Without love, we have no "community" in the church. Without love, evangelism becomes a rote exercise, accomplished in order to win brownie points with God. We are never told to be truthful but not love the person with whom you are sharing the truth.

The result of truth without love is a church that, ultimately, can allow no one in, except for those who, living in the height of arrogance, think they have perfectly attained the truth. A church like that exists. Members are allowed to join based solely on the pastor's opinion of them. Approved activities are based on whether or not they attract so-called "undesirables". Does this sound like a church? No. It sounds like the Pharisees. The church should be after the undesirables, because that's who God desires. The church is not the place for those who have it all together, but that was the model for this particular church.

Now, I'm not talking about membership in the church, being a part of the body of Christ. That is based upon salvation and obedience, not the vote of a church or pastor. However, I am talking about allowing the people that need the gospel most to darken the doors of the church. In the church mentioned above, people were escorted out the door and told never to come back. Why? Because they were rude, loud, often drunk, labeled as trouble-makers or had some other characteristic deemed undesirable. Are there times that drastic measures need to be taken to ensure safety in the church? I think so. Were these people beyond the help of the gospel and our church? Only if you think you have all the answers and can perfectly discern the mind of God and the souls of men.

Is my point here to bash a church? No, it's for the reader to understand why I vehemently say that Summerlake will not be this way. We will have plenty of issues with trouble-makers, loud-mouths, and generally bad folks. But that's the lost for you, acting like sinners. But that's who we are after. If it offends the pious deacon that a hooker stumbles across our church in her work clothes, he can leave, not her. She doesn't know any better than to look in the church for hope in the middle of her worst-case scenario. The pious deacon definitely knows better, or least should know better, than to expect a sinner to behave like a Christian. We have to have the ability to reach people where they are. We also have to be willing to walk a long path to get them there. And it will take a lot of love, along with the truth, to do it.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Summerlake update

We have a couple of updates for Summerlake. The first one is that we went through our Church Planter's Assessment this past weekend. It was actually a great time. We met other couples who are planting churches and had a lot of fun throughout the process. Our assessor, who would have shared our results with us on Tuesday, had a grandmother who died on Monday. Pray for him and his family. Instead, we should find out our results today or tomorrow from another assessor.

The other update is that Kingwood First Baptist had a series of meetings this week that had support for Summerlake on their agenda. Pray for the results of those meetings and for the people of First Baptist as they look to support the vision God has given us.

God bless you.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Forgiveness reviewed

When Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive his brother, I wonder what he meant. Jesus said forgive him "70 times 7 times", really just a number with no limit. What I wonder is whether Peter meant repeated offenses, the same offense repeated, or keep on forgiving for a particular offense. I think he most likely meant the first two, but what intrigues me is the possibility of the third.

In a previous post, I wrote that I had forgiven those that had hurt and betrayed me. I believe that at the time of the writing, I had forgiven them. The problem with forgiving a hurt done to you is that the consequences of the hurt continually remind you of the hurt. With the reminders come new anger and a new round of unforgiveness. That, in turn, puts you in the position of needing to re-forgive the offender.

I think that is the true fight of forgiveness. It may take months or years of separation from the hurt to be able to leave it in the past. There are many times in the past that I have been hurt and have had to forgive, but enough time has passed that it is no longer a struggle to live in that forgiveness. It is much more difficult to live in that forgiveness when the wound is still fresh.

So, if you still find yourself struggling over forgiving past hurts, even when you thought you had forgiven the person/people, everyone understands. Peter understood. Jesus understands. And He let us know we must be in a constant state of forgiveness. There is no limit to how often we may find ourselves needing to re-forgive, and there is no limit to the number of times we are required to.

A quick PS: Our Church Planter Assessment is this Friday and Saturday. Your prayers for God's guidance would be greatly appreciated. Also, one of the churches that has agreed to pursue how to partner with Summerlake Church is meeting this Sunday to discuss it. Pray also for God's will in this partnership. Thanks.