Conformers or Transformers

A lot of changes have been taking place in my life lately. No, I’m not having a mid-life crisis. (By the way, I think that a “mid-life crisis” can be avoided by staying in close fellowship with the Father.) These changes would more correctly be called transformation. In his letter to the church in Rome, Paul wrote that they should “be transformed” and that this transformation would take place as their minds were renewed.
Minds are renewed by repenting, turning away from old ways and patterns of thinking and beginning to think differently. And it is important that the new way of thinking lines up with the Gospel.
Paul warned the early church to be careful about what they believed. He showed concern about people twisting the revelation that He had received from Jesus himself. He mentioned that there were letters circulating that were supposedly from him, and because of that he tried to make sure people could recognize the letters that actually were. He also cautioned them strongly not to believe any other gospel that they might hear from any other source.
Sadly, in the church today, other gospels have been proclaimed and believed over time and the true gospel has been watered down to appeal to more people. Much of the Church I’ve known has “conformed to the patterns of the world”. Something that Paul warned the church in Rome not to do.
I believe that it’s time for a renewal of our minds. A transformation needs to be taking place in every child of God. And as that happens the Church, as a collective, will become what Jesus intended. Someone once said, “If we aren’t changing and becoming more like Jesus, we are becoming less like Him.” By nature, our new nature that is, all believers in Jesus are transformers. The thing is we are always transforming into something new, someone who is a little more like Jesus than we were before.

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Connections: Lost and Found

I can’t count the times that someone has called me on my cell while I’m sitting at my desk in front of my ancient laptop. (Which probably just shut down involuntarily) But every time it does happen, I cringe just a little. The reason I cringe is because if I’m actually going to engage in a meaningful conversation with the caller I’m either going to have to leave the comfort of my leather chair and walk to another, more signal prone, place in the building or ask them if I could please call them back from my desk line. My metal roofed and sided office is not cellular-connection friendly.
I know it shouldn’t be a big deal and it actually isn’t compared to being in the middle of an important call that unexpectedly loses connection. I think you know what I mean. “I’ve got three bars! It can’t be me!”, might be our first thought. Or the more gracious of us might say, “It’s probably mine. (Even though I have full bars!)” However it plays out, lost connections are usually a little awkward, whether they are on the cell phone call or an actual, interprersonal relationship.

Speaking of lost relationships… Let’s not.

I’d rather talk about found ones. I don’t how or when it actually started, but something has happened in me over the last year or so. For the past twenty years I’ve had basically two friends. My incredible wife, Marcy, (Who makes me feel like I’m God’s favorite person because He put us together) and Preston. Over those years Preston’s life and ministry has become much more demanding than it was when we began our friendship. (I even missed my chance to be his FB friend because he hit his max number before i realized I wasn’t) So the number of times we hang out, or even try to talk on the phone has significantly decreased. Even so, our friendship is solid. I have no question that he’s got my back.

Recently, though, God has started to give me nearly instant friendships. I’m not talking just about acquaintances that you try to stay connected with. I’ve met multiple people in the last couple of years with whom I’ve become quickly and deeply connected. I think I’m actually beginning, just beginning, to understand what fellowship really is. Jesus specifically described the kind of relationships He desires for us, his brothers and sisters to have with each other. John, the apostle, recorded Jesus’ prayer to His Father, “that they would be one, as you and I are one.” He expects us to have “fellowship”, an English word translated from the Greek word, koinonia. It means communion by intimate participation.

It’s a spirit to spirit thing. Something that only God, who is a Spirit can produce. And I think fellowship is what He’s given to us (Marcy and I) with some if our new friends, including the Bishops. A connection has been found. God found it and orchestrated it. At least I hope so. (I know so) Because we are going to be staying with them for a bit this summer.

God makes good connections. We’re going to try to to keep this one at full bars.

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Planners… We are not.

There’s something about planning that bugs me. I know that if you’re going to accomplish anything you’ve got to do some planning, but sometimes I think we can plan ourselves right out of the joy of adventure and “surprise!” Some surprises don’t go well. Like when you drive 45 minutes to the shore without checking the weather (planning) and the closer you get the darker the sky gets, and then, surprise!, the temperature drops and those dark skies open up and and you can’t even get to Kohr Bros. for an icecream. Or when you plan a date with your wife at her favorite restaurant (that you rarely take her to) and, surprise!, it’s closed on Mondays. But I’ve got to say that even though those kind of things happen to us, we like our somewhat unplanned (adventurous) life. Some surprises are extremely welcomed blessings, like when I found out that after seven years with three beautiful baby girls, I was going to get another one. I couldn’t have planned my family any better than God did.
I bet some of you (planners) are thinking, “How do you get anything accomplished if you don’t plan?” It’s not that I don’t plan at all, I just don’t plan it all. Some things, of course must have a plan, a schedule, a course of action. But could it be that we over plan, in general? Jesus told His disciples that they shouldn’t worry about tomorrow. His half-brother James wrote that we shouldn’t brag about what we are going to do tomorrow because we don’t even know for sure if we will be alive tomorrow. Now this might sound a little negative, but I think the point is that if we know a God that actually has prepared some important things for us to do… and He knows us too… and speaks our language… and if we focus more on listening than planning… we could actually get more of those things done.
So, we’re headed to England. And we actually tried planning a few things (not one of our strong points as you now know). Some of the plans we made have already had to be changed due to some unforeseen circumstances. “Surprise!” And now, we are on an adventure! I can’t wait to discover God’s plan for our time in England. His plans are always better anyway.

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In the beginning… I sat next to an English bloke.

Aside

One month from today the McAnney family will board an Airbus Industries A330 Jet on Aer Lingus and begin an adventure to Bexhill, England. Marcy, our four amazing daughters and I will be leaving the USA all together for the first time full of great expectations for what God is going to accomplish in us and through us.
You might wonder how this adventure began? I believe God had it in His mind long before we could conceive it. In October of last year I sat next to a “fine bloke” from England during the first night of Voice of the Apostles. Dave Bishop had come to the states for the conference, doing what most people at that particular conference were doing… Seeking God for more. It was no accident that we sat next to each other. And it was also no accident that Dave gave me a “word” he felt The Lord was giving him for me. We do that sort of thing at VOA. His word had to do with having not missed the marks that God was laying out for me to hit. Very encouraging. Then he said that I would have to give him a word too. Here’s where the Holy Spirit started messing with me. I didn’t have one! Now what? This guy had put the pressure on me to speak a word from God to him. Is that right? I believe it was, and I also believe its part of the reason we are headed to England to serve for a month this summer. Now just because I didn’t have a word doesn’t mean God didn’t have one for Dave. King David wrote that God’s thoughts about him were more numerous than the grains of sand on the earth. Now I live near the Jersey shore and there’s a lot of sand there. And I happen to know that it’s not the only place there is sand on the earth… Ever hear of the Sahara Desert? So if God thinks about us that much I figure he could share at least one of those thoughts with me that would encourage my new friend. So I asked Him… Nothing… Again… Nothing. Then I remembered a way that would help me hear God, some might call it a trick. I asked God if there was an animal that he thought of when He thought of Dave. I figured that would be easy enough. Maybe God would say He’s a mighty lion conquering His enemies on every side. (He was quite a lot larger than me.) So I waited… The Holy Spirit whispered, “He’s a bear.”
“Oh that’s nice.”, I thought, “What does that mean?”
“Tell him he’s a teddy bear.”
“Really!?, Are you sure?” So I did. And the Holy Spirit helped me to expound on why he was a teddy bear, how people felt comfort when he was with them… And it was something He needed to know from The Lord. And that was also the beginning of something that God had orchestrated to bring our two families together. We spent the next couple of days hanging out. He met Marcy and our girls, who had come with us to the conference. and before we went our separate ways he had invited us to come visit him and his family in England. I’m not sure if he thought we would actually take him up on it. So, one month from today we will begin what we believe is a new season for the McAnney family. Here we go.

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