Monthly Archives: July 2015

Got a Minute?

An old story: Preacher walking on street muttering, “Two more on Sunday and one in the middle of the week.” I was preaching Sunday morning and evening and teaching Wed Bible study when I first heard that. Not many of us preach that kind of schedule today, but the next sermon, the next Sunday is relentlessly coming at us. I have that in mind as I try to get a fix on things.

On the weekend after the horrific killings in Charleston, Steven Furtick preached what I thought was an important message—he offered insight, if not revelation, on racism. Not many grabbed that message. It was not featured on any of the major TV networks. In the days after “Charleston,” I was compelled to attend an AME church to sit by their fire in solidarity and regret. I was hugged by every person in church. When I walked to the car I sensed that global healing did not happen as I had planned and hoped. (If not global, at least in those walls in such a way that CNN would have noted.) There is always a next Sunday to prepare.

There is another old story. It is about the preacher who preached the same sermon three weeks in a row before being called on it. He said, “I’m going to keep preaching it until we do it—get it done.” I felt that this Sunday morning in response to a heavy word through a preacher. I thought to myself that this is the earth-shaking message and we have one full week to do it because next Sunday is coming and there will be a new word, a new message, a new provoking. A new challenge that “will change your life completely.” Can you say, “Fast-paced, quickly moving and change at speeds not discernible by the human soul?”

God is doing magnificent things in the Ft. Wayne, Indiana region. Forty plus churches of several theological stripes are evangelizing and meeting for evening celebration and instruction. Over 200 gather for 7:00 a.m prayer. Our daughter and granddaughter and friends are sharing the Good News and praying for people. Yesterday morning about 225 people took to the streets and yesterday afternoon almost 300 went to pray for people and share their faith. Nothing aggressive or combative, just offering to pray with/for strangers. The official event moved from one week to three with 3000-4000 for evening celebration and up to 1000 people on the streets and in the public places sharing Good News. Tonight (Sunday evening) they have moved the event to the Coliseum to accommodate upwards to 10,000 people. What is happening is a revival and a county/state-wide spiritual awakening. We have watched some of the public services via live-streaming and listened to the exciting stories told by family, friends and the pastors. It has been a life-shaping event for portions of our family and faith connections.

When a pastor asked about our children the other evening, I explained where they lived and usual information. Because I thought he would be interested, I launched into news about what looks like a genuine spiritual breakthrough for which a church and friends have been praying for fifteen years. The pastor checked out—he kinda went away before he excused himself. He wasn’t intentionally being rude. No one he knows is being affected by the prayer meetings or street conversations or the reviving celebration events.

The spiritual awakening of 9/11 was done by 9/26. Unless you attend that AME church or live in Charleston or Ft. Wayne, your attention span is short. Your mind has a limited capacity for receiving and processing. Tomorrow you will be receiving 3000 new ads, commercials and messages asking for your attention, money, time and pleading for you to volunteer. Therefore, you will go into defense mode: “Nice—about your revival. Excuse me. I’ve got to take this call.”

The story and role of Wilberforce to end slavery in England stirs me. How long it took disturbs me: his entire adult lifetime. The song that came out of that awakening is Amazing Grace.

In my imagination, I can see my 17-year old granddaughter and her friends who march together in their high school band and lead the academic rolls, and I wonder how their life-sharing will be remembered by history. What song? What will be the lasting cultural change?

Gordon MacDonald said, “Moses’ real day job was to teach Israel (as God had taught Abraham)

  1. A new way of thinking,
  2. A unique way of living,
  3. A special brand of vital optimism.””

It took 40 years.

Got a minute?

©2015 D. Dean Benton http:www.bentonministries.com

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Acquisition at A Cost & Benefits

Donald Snyder was a non-tenured teacher at Colgate University and student-voted to be the best teacher in the literature department. But recessions are unkind to untenured teachers. When a man loses his profession, terrible things happen to him and Snyder experienced them. Several months into his unemployment, Snyder packed up his books—all of them—and his teaching notes and took them to the dump. He was the first one in line that morning.

“Whatcha got there?”

“An old life,” Snyder said.

The gatekeeper looked into the garbage bags and sent him to a smoldering bonfire where Snyder threw in one book at a time. An old life.

How does a person experience deep change? Is it even possible? Of course I believe it is or I wouldn’t bother. But how? What is the path? What strategies? With a pastor’s calling, I wonder how to involve people in the change process.

All of this is connected to Gordon MacDonald’s line—“I did not acquire….” Michael Hyatt used the phrase “Invisible barriers” the other day. Such barriers cut our motivation and instill self-limiting behavior and destructive decisions.

The ex-Colgate prof was out of work and increasingly deeper into depression for a couple of years. He kept track of budget and savings to protect his family from poverty. The turning point for him was when he emptied their checking account to give to a poor family. He went to work the next day.

There is a way out of the “old life.”

Discovering & Developing the I’m Possible Life

  • Uncover the invisible barriers. Michael Hyatt suggested “I’m too old,” “I’m too young.”
  • Invest in something and/or someone.
  • Decide and write in detail—what you want, where you are right now and what will be required to get from here to there?

Here are some tools I see the Quest House using in the fall:

  1. Read and work through the first 50 pages of Restoring the Christian Soul by Leanne Payne. Her research and experience says self-rejection is the major cause of personal underachievement and is the number barrier to a healthy relationship with God.
  2. Read and process the first 30-40 pages of Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly.
  3. Jeff Goins’ new book The Art of Work—“A Proven Path to Discovering what you were meant to do.” So many of my mentors are pushing this book. It is an easy and helpful read.
  4. Think through the current edition of Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill.
  5. One chapter of Proverbs each day.

About an hour each day. We have to fight for our hearts. We have to fight for growth. The normal life will eat every ounce of energy and every second of time. There are no left-overs. This new life will require your willingness to fight for you—The I’m Possible! Life.

Gordon MacDonald says, “I doubt that we can ever learn the deep lessons of…character without a community around us.”

A few of us will read the books in this curriculum and move forward. Most of us, however, need one more element—a group with whom we talk about what we are reading—how the material affects us. How and where or deep change is taking place in us and where the absence is disappointing. That is why we value The Quest House—the Community You’ve Always Wanted.

Watch for Fall 2015 group schedule and online plans. May I answer questions?

©2015 D. Dean Benton http://www.bentonministries.com/ .

Not Acquired

Have any room in your head for a song to get stuck? When I was a country music DJ, I played this song to excess. Jessi Colter sang “I’m Not Lisa” into my brain again this morning. It is among the most haunting songs I’ve heard. The track borders on excellent and is perfect for the lyric.

Legend has it that Colter’s husband Waylon Jennings said “Lisa” at an awkward moment.

(Check out youtube—Jessi Colter—“I’m Not Lisa”) If you’ve got spare space in your head today.

A church sign this morning said, “Your name is on a Coke bottle, but is it in the book of life?” I wondered how many people who bothered to read the sign would have a clue what the “Book of Life” is. The asterisk leads to a footnote that says, “The day his journey began.”

As dominating as Jessi’s singing, Gordon MacDonald has captured my thinking today:

“…the hidden life of character is formed in two phases. The first comes in the first eight to nine years of life when we are most affected by the dominant community around us…. We develop habits and convictions that seem most compatible with the world in which we live. These become, for the most part, our default way of thinking and experiencing the reality around us.

“Then the second phase comes: generally a remedial one in which we spend the rest of our lives correcting or compensating for those things not learned or experienced or those things learned insufficiently.” (Mid-course Correction, Thomas Nelson, 2000) page 180

MacDonald says, “My wife learned as a child to finish things…. For reasons I do not fully understand, I did not acquire the finishing instinct.”

I had a vision some months ago about building a ministry on specific land north of town. I drove out there to see it was a marsh and a flood plain. I knew the authorities would never let me build anything there. It took a later dream to clarify the message. The vision was about people who had built their lives on flood plains, marshes and sand. The mission was to be a community where we could discover what we did not acquire—the deficiencies that send us into quicksand—where bits or large chunks of life contradict the name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. I can think of no greater discovery than when we see what we “did not acquire” and have opportunity to be re-parented at that very spot.

Jesus spent his quality time with the Twelve dealing with their deficiencies and told them at the end of each lesson: “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you” (Luke 8).

  • He Taught Them. Somewhere we have to learn that God-given name written in God’s book has a luster we haven’t seen. That can only be revealed in an enriching community.
  • He Modeled Life
  • He Rebuked Them. “A good rebuke remains perpetually active and corrects deficiencies of character over and over.” Jesus’ rebukes never included even the suggestion of “How could you be so stupid?”

My Name is….

©2015 D. Dean Benton Writer, Wonderer. http://www.bentonministries.com/

Mark Me as Present

“The Lord did for Sarah what he had promised.” (Genesis 21:1)

It was the year that Abraham turned 100. How many years had Abram and Sarai been together? There is no way we can project that couple into this age of marriage enrichment and Focus on the Family. Abraham may have been a man of faith, but he needed to attend a Gary Smalley marriage seminar. Remember, that Yahweh spoke to Abram, but did not reveal Himself to Sarah. How did the couple converse about that? There was that episode when Sarah suggested her husband have a child with the hired help. I know it was the custom of the day, but it didn’t turn out well for anyone. Then the trip into Egypt when Abram deceived Pharoah and later Abimilech by saying, “She’s my sister—sure you can put her in the harem.” That couple went through a lot and in most of it Sarah didn’t get to vote. It was her son that Abraham took to the mountain to sacrifice. What did Abram say to Isaac’s mother, “Oh. Going? Well, we’re going fishing for a couple of days.”

A friend was at a weekend conference for Millennials. One of her observations of the young teens: “…their absence in all things in the present because they’re always on their devices.”

That is not problem for one generation. I wonder if Abram and Sarai enjoyed sexual intimacy or if the act was goal-oriented wrapped around the pregnancy test. “Someday, when….”

Absence in all things in the present.

“Just wait. When we….” Get the new house. Retire. When we pay off the credit card debt. Get through the Christmas season. Go on vacation. Get past Mom’s illness. Plus exactly 11,003 other things. Some students suggest that Abraham and Sarah were alienated in their older years—no I’m mean when they were really old! Not in the child-bearing years when they were about 100.

Goal-oriented people, visionaries and driven people must pay attention or they are absent to all things but the goal, dream, what needs to be done in the next five minutes to stay on schedule and on track.

A lady told us she was filing for divorce. I asked her what she expected her husband’s reaction would be. She said—“Shocked! He doesn’t have a clue.” He had been “absent in all things present” for years.

Being present means:

  1. Look into people’s eyes
  2. Put down mobile devices
  3. Listen and repeat what you have heard
  4. Touch the person as they talk—(if appropriate)
  5. You can figure something out

Husbands who intentionally say goodbye to their wives as they leave the house, have a prayer with them and/or kiss:

  1. Miss less work due to illness
  2. Have fewer accidents on way to work and on the job
  3. Make 20% more money
  4. Live 5 years longer than those who rush out of the house each day neglecting the “benediction.”

BE PRESENT

©2015 D. Dean Benton   http://www.bentonministries.com/ Twitter: @DeanBenton.

Writer, Wonderer, Working on Present

Should I Bring My Swim Suit?

There are two periods in my life when it feels I began to come of age. One was when I bought a First Edition copy of a book about John and Abigail Adams. We were in St. Petersburg, Florida. I sat in the warm evening reading and feeling as if I had entered a new world. The second launch was when I began to read and write about Abraham, the Old Testament patriarch and Father of faith.

“The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you” (Genesis 12:1).

Gordon MacDonald, in his Mid-Course Correction (Thomas Nelson, ©2000), explains how crazy this call is and how large the faith step for Abram was.

“In the world of Abram’s birth, nothing purposely changes.”

“If nothing changes, then there is no such thing as hope, no such thing as personal growth, no such thing as the expectation that tomorrow might offer more than today.” (page 63)

“…somewhere along the way, Abram heard a Voice (a sound from heaven that went to his soul and thrived there) saying, ‘Leave!’”

“In Abram’s world, no one ever left! No one thought of leaving. No one dared to leave.” (page 65) “The command to leave spoken by the Voice had to break the power of a thousand cultural stays.”

It is Abraham the traveler that captures my imagination. Gordon MacDonald’s writing has stirred my faith and beaten back the encroaching desert.

The man who first used the word “Millennials” has studied and written much about generations. He uses an interesting phrase to describe one element about Millennials: “Risk aversion.”

Risk aversion. Let that phrase wander around your mind.

Last week a 14-story high Ferris wheel type ride shut down mid-ride because the computer detected a problem leaving riders stranded for three hours.

“Hey, Dean, want to ride?”

“No, thank you.”

Risk aversion!

God says to Abram, “You pack, say goodbye to everyone and everything you know and get moving. I will show you the place I’m sending you.”

“When?”

“Can’t tell you. This is a ‘on a need to know basis.’”

“Voice! Whatever your name is, I need to know. NOW!”

“All you need now is to leave.”

Leaving is more difficult for some than others.

We sold, gave away, stored everything we owned. If it didn’t fit on the bus or serve a practical purpose—gone. We were off to be full time Gospel Singers, evangelists and seminar leaders. The Benton Von Troupe. Doug was in the fourth or fifth grade. As we were plotting the first tour he asked, “What are we going to do on a night off? Just drive around?” A little more information would have been helpful for him. To have had a little more information would have been better for me.

If God had shown Abram a map, he couldn’t have understood. He knew the road to Haran, but as far as he knew, the edge of the world was located on the edge of the city limits.

“I will show you.”

“Should I pack my swim suit?”

Remember, The Voice did not speak to Sarai, Lot, Eliazar or Abram’s dad. Abram had no one to whom he could say, “Hey, can I run something past you? I’m not sure if I’m hearing this right. Based on what you’ve heard, what do you think?” I don’t know that Abram talked to anyone about The Voice or why he was packing and scheduling a farm auction.

In the early days of studying Abram, we had “left” and were nomads. One phrase from the Abraham epoch dominated my thinking: “Abram traveled in stages.” He would travel toward that place that was not on any of his maps, then God would show up to speak and Abram would build an altar not to just commemorate the encounter, but to establish a refreshing place for the days or years when the Voice was silent.

If I can make it to the next altar.

Mandatory for the walk of faith—The Voice and altars:  Build one or visit one today. Remember when God was close, spoke special words and what He called you to seemed so crazy, but with His presence–do-able!

©2015 D. Dean Benton—http://www.bentonministries.com/

Writer, Wonderer, Meanderer

Busy weaving a large hand basket

I’m not out of the blog business. I have eleven long blogs in the queue ready to assault the world. The atmosphere has been filled with Jenner, SCOTUS, Confederate Flag. While the media has been refighting the Civil War, another war in the Middle East is going on unnoticed. While the battle over a historical battle flag consumes attention, the black flag has advanced in the distraction.

There is a feeling of death in the air. Feelings of hopelessness, betrayal, treason, permeate. It feels to me as if the Constitution has been trashed and betrayed by those who are given responsible to maintain it. Since I have no new ideas, solutions or strategies I decided not to post. In the meantime, I’ve been weaving a large hand basket–it sure feels like the USA, Western culture and the world I see is going to hell and will need one.

A couple in our town tried to steal a 2002 Toyota Camry. One would question the wisdom of risking years in prison for a 2002 Toyota. Any story that follows the words “bungled theft” is not going to end well. Let me quote directly:

“While trying to steal the vehicle, the couple caused extensive damage to it while trying to start it without a key, using a sledge hammer and screw driver.”

I’m not an expert on hotwiring a car, but I’m quite sure that a sledge hammer for sure and maybe a screwdriver, would not be the tool of choice.

Our society and culture is a mess. Perhaps you saw the news report of the naked bicycle ride in California. That is wrong on so many levels. A pack of people riding bicycles naked. Hot. Leather, banana seats, in public. And these people vote!

I’ve given all of this a lot of thought, some screaming at the TV and passionate discussion. Insanity is in vogue, legalized and celebrated as the next evolutionary step. One thing is absolute: we can’t solve the problems facing the faith community or the nation with a sledge hammer and/or a screwdriver.

What tools? Sarcasm comes easy. So does cynicism, but they are not tools God will use. I had a dream the other night that woke me. I was hearing God call me to start a church for LGBT or whatever the initials are today. I knew the dream was not from God or if so, He would have to do some work in my heart. I do not love them and without that element nothing works in God’s Kingdom. Let me clarify that:

  1. I love individuals who are attracted to the same sex. I don’t know enough of the whole tribe to say I love “them” like some of my friends “love” the Ethiopians or single people.
  2. I do have a friend who is married to a person of the same sex. That friend says they have known from an early age about being “different.” I do not relate to that feeling or attraction. Authenticity is a requirement for pastoring. The crowd would know I was phoning it in from my world and not their world.
  3. I don’t know how this is going to play out. I know God loves the rainbow-oriented people and is “not willing that any should perish.” Ten years ago, I was standing in my daughter’s kitchen watching one of the best produced church-type programs I had ever seen. The singing was strongly evangelical and well done. The preaching was strongly biblical and direct to the heart. The event is dated in my mind because it was a Gay church with a distinct market. I don’t know how this is going to work, but God will not leave Himself without a witness. If Jonah learned that lesson, perhaps I should listen.

Did you read the article about the discovery that Neanderthals and humans were busy mating as recently as 40,000 years ago? The scientific community concluded that Neanderthals did not become extinct, they blended in. They blended in! How will we recognize one? (It is truly possible that Genesis speaks of this mating.) Back to my question—how will we recognize a Neanderthal?

I do not want to be derisively identified as Neanderthal because I am attached to a sledge hammer and cold heart and rigid mind. I haven’t gotten this figured out—I don’t know how God is going to work in this historical period. I think I’ll pray for a spiritual awakening. SCOTUS tried, but was working beyond their paygrade. They cannot solve the basic elements we hunger for and need. Jesus can. My task is to fit into the spiritual awakening that may be birthing.

©2015 D. Dean Benton—writer, wonderer, confused, searching