Tuesday, September 19, 2017

 

Jesus, a Rescue Dog, and the Cone of Shame



Lulu is our rescue dog.  We think she probably has some issues from her past that make her pretty insecure sometimes.  Not sure, but can dogs have abandonment issues?  Anyway, she got her tail cut, or bit, or torn somehow last week.  Tried to patch her up but she kept licking her tail.  Obsessively.  Over and over again.  So she got The Cone of Shame.  You know, the large cylinder designed to keep her from reaching her tail.  It had to embarrass her in front of the other dogs.

But oh my did the Vet underestimate Lulu's ability to get to her tail.  Would not leave it alone so ... yep, ended up having to amputate.  We tried to explain it was for her own good.  Tried to explain why she had to quit licking her tail.  But you know how dogs are.  Got another cone.  Got some medicine.  Tried it again.

And we have made real progress.  She is healing up after the surgery now.  Finally got her to let it heal.  She looks a little different but we think she may make it.

All of which reminds me of Jesus, addictions, healing, and grace.

Sometimes it is a new Christian.  Sometimes it is someone who became a Christian at a young age and the battle came when they got older.  Sin addictions.  Alcohol, drugs, sex, work, food, power, attention.  You know what they are.  Chances are you have had to battle some of these yourself.

They often do real damage.  And if not controlled and defeated, they can do permanent damage.

So you do radical spiritual surgery.  You rely on the Holy Spirit, you deepen your Christian connections, you practice confession.  You remove some people and activities from your life.  You manage consequences.  You repent and start in a new direction.

But sometimes you lick the wound.  You cannot stay away from the danger zone.  You try to quit but relapse.

So you surround your wounds with the cone.  Not physically, but spiritually.  You get people in place around you.  You realize you cannot make it on your own.  You commit to be restored by those who will speak truth into your life.  Those who will walk with you.  

But it is not a cone of shame.  It is a cone of love.  People who care.  Brothers and sisters who have been there.  A community of faith that is interested in releasing you from shame and guilt.  A church that is committed to healing you by the grace of God.

But you may look a little different.  You may have a scar or two.  But one day, you realize you are not licking your wounds.  You have survived.  You have been healed.

It works.  Just ask Lulu.  Even better, ask some of us.  Ask me.

God redeems and God heals.  

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

 

Thoughts on getting old...


So I had a birthday yesterday.  I am 66.  Old enough to retire according to Social Security.  So maybe I really am getting old.  So here are a few thoughts on getting old.

No way is God through with me.  I love what I do for a living.  And I do what I love and get paid for it.  I talk about Jesus and I help others learn to talk about Jesus.  I intend on doing that until the Lord comes... or I die... or I can't.  So maybe this year is it, but if it is then I am going out the way God wants.  I cannot imagine retiring.  If I did, I would still just talk about Jesus, so...

My body knows I am getting older.  I get more tired after long trips.  I still preach with a lot of energy, but sometimes I am more worn out than I used to be.  I suspect my body is wearing out more than I will acknowledge.  And it may be because of the mileage, not the years.

I look old.  Short, overweight, bald guys look old.  I looked 66 when I was 46.  And I may look 86 now but at least there is not much left that can change.

I don't act old.  It may be true that 66 is the perfect age for me.  Look 86, act 46, am 66.  It works.

I love Jesus more as I get older.  I never thought much about getting to 66.  Still don't.  But I do know that every day I love God more and more for what he has done for me.

I love family more every day.  I have been so blessed by all four of my parents.  Three are gone now -- my Dad and Marsha's folks, but my Mom is still going strong at 86.  And my kids make me so proud.  Julie, Joe Don and Jamie are faithful, strong, mature people.  And they are doing a great job with my five Grands:  Anna, Jake, Avery, Andrew, and Austin.  They are a delight and a treasure.  Not any people on earth I would rather hang out with than my fam.

And Marsha is beyond anyone I could have ever wanted to go thru life with.  Married up, outkicked my coverage.  I know I don't deserve her, but so glad I have her.

I am not naive.  I know time is much shorter.  I expect I am well into the 4th Quarter of life.  So I am even more intense about sharing Jesus if that is possible.  More focused on what is ahead of me than what is behind.  And I am OK if the Lord takes me home before I reach 67.  His life and his business anyway.

I am a happy 66 year old.  Life is good.  God is better.

So another year, and well... really who cares?

Age is just a number.  Jesus is life.  Now at 66... and forever.

Thanks God.

  

Thursday, September 07, 2017

 

A Great Church in Caribou, Maine

There are not a lot of churches in Northeast Maine.  Of any kind.  Sure not many churches of Christ.  In fact, the nearest church of Christ to the one in Caribou is a good hour away.  The Caribou church has about 20 members.  Over 25% of their church has to drive an hour to worship.  The church has white, black, and brown members.  One family drives in from Canada.

The church used to be about 150 members thirty or forty years ago.  Then the Air Base closed.  No more military families.  Lots of businesses closed too.  

The preacher works full-time at Walmart so he and his family can stay up there and do ministry.

But that church will not give up.  They will not close their doors.  They are determined not just to stay alive, but to grow.  And by grow, I mean real Kingdom growth.  New disciples.

And that is how I got involved with them.  Hope for Life agreed to help them in a campaign.  So I got to do a seminar on how to share the story of Jesus.  More than 1/2 of their church participated.  Because they want their friends, neighbors, and families to know Jesus.

I was there a couple of weeks ago to speak in an evangelistic event.  Averaged over 20 every night.  Lots of people they asked did not come.  But they asked.  And conversations about Jesus took place.

God must be getting ready to do something amazing there because Satan is on the attack.  That small group of disciples are dealing with serious health issues, bad family crisis, job struggles, spiritual battles, and well ... you get the idea.

But they have friends and neighbors checking out Jesus and his people.  One sweet lady came every night.  She has been coming to church with her kids.  She even brought a couple of neighborhood kids.  She told me she does not have a Jesus story or a spiritual journey.  Yet.  Life has been hard for her.  Is hard.  But this community of faith is there for her.  Sharing life.  Sharing Jesus.  I told her to be sure and let me know when she decides to follow Jesus.

They have some on-going conversations started.  They have a few people interested.  They are expecting visitors from the community to show up over the few weeks and months.

I like that church.  I am proud of that church.  Even better, God is proud of his people there in Caribou.

They are committed to continuing to sow seed and trust God to give the harvest.

I think he will.

I want to be like them.

So God bless my Caribou family.  Give the harvest they are working for.  Connect them with those seeking you.  Bless the conversations going on even now.  And bless those making decisions for and about you.  Grow your people in Maine. 

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

 

What I learned about making disciples from a fishing guide...



My family loves to fish so it was an exciting adventure when we chartered a boat with a guide to fish for speckled trout. There were 5 of us, plus the guide:  my son, Joe Don, and me along with my three grandsons (ages 11, 9, and 7).  The guide explained about how to fish for trout and told us what to expect.  He was very careful with the equipment and started by making the cast for every rod.  He would then fish each one and explain what he was doing and why.  He would show us how to hook the fish.  When he hooked one, he would hand the rod to one of the boys and they would reel it in. 
After a while, the guide let Joe Don start working the bait after the guide had made the cast.  Then eventually my son made the casts and worked the bait.  Then our guide worked with me and then the oldest grandson, Jake.  By the end of our charter, the guide was working with our seven-year-old, Austin, while Jake and I were fishing by ourselves, and my son was teaching his oldest son, Andrew, how to cast and fish.
Our guide explained the process, demonstrated the process, helped us to learn the process, and even let my son begin doing the same with his son. 
It got me to thinking about helping someone learn to follow Jesus. 
When you find someone interested in Jesus, you tell the Jesus story.  You talk about the most important things to know and the most important things to do.  But they are also watching you live as a Jesus follower.  They see how you make choices about life and about serving others.  
You answer their questions.  You walk with them as they start their faith journey.  You speak truth into their life and pray with -- and for -- them.  You will teach, demonstrate, and work together as they learn to live as a follower. 

You will watch them mature into faithful disciples.  Faithful disciples who will teach others to follow Jesus.
We heard how to fish, we watched how to fish, and someone was with us as we began to try it on our own.  And it worked.  We all caught a bunch of fish.
But I have to say my favorite part of the trip was watching my grandsons learn to fish.  And watching Joe Don teaching Andrew.  
Even better is watching them learn to be followers of Jesus.
And they will be even better at catching men than they are at catching fish.

And that makes me happy.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

 

How my friend Al became my brother

Al was a nurse who often gave end of life care to older people.  That was how he met one of my fellow elders, Guy.  Al gave care to Guy's father.  Guy periodically invited Al to church at Southern Hills but Al never took him up on it.

Then Al's eyesight started going and he had to give up nursing, then driving.  Guy would occasionally give Al a ride or help out with something.  Life was not turning out like Al had planned, or how he wanted.  It became increasingly difficult for Al to see well.

One day Al was walking to get gas so he could try and mow his yard.  One of our members, Tony, saw Al, gave him a ride to get gas, bought him a coke, and invited him to church.

A few days later, Al called a taxi to take him to an eye appointment.  He told the taxi driver he could not remember the address of Dr. Avila.  The driver, Chance, said he went to church with Dr. Avila at Southern Hills and he would get Al to his appointment.  Chance asked Al to church (and by the way, Chance has been a Christian only about three years).

And then Guy called and invited Al to church.  Al said he wasn't sure what was going on, but it sure seemed like God wanted him to check out Southern Hills.  He was telling his next door neighbor this story and the neighbor said he knew someone at Southern Hills.  He was an elder named Steve and his Dad had heard Steve preach at the neighbor's home town church.

So Al came with Guy.  Met a lot of people.  A lot of nice people who were very friendly.  He even got to meet elder Steve, who thanked him for coming and asked if he had any questions.  Al did in fact have some questions.  And that is how I met Al.

So Guy, Al, and I would meet every week for coffee and talk about life.  And tell Jesus stories, and ask and answer questions.  And pray about things.

One day a long time friend of Al's, Bruce, came over to check on him.  Al told him he had been talking with Steve about following Jesus and being baptized.  But Al wasn't real sure what he wanted to do.  Bruce told him he was teaching a class out at Hamby chruch of Christ on the book of Acts and maybe he would like to come hear.  So Al did.

A couple of weeks later, Al told Guy and me that Bruce was saying the same things we had been talking about.  I told him of course -- same book, same stories.

So a couple of weeks ago, Guy and Bruce baptized Al into Christ.

Because Al was honest and seeking God's will for a life turned upside down.  Because some Christians lived out their faith by serving their neighbor and by speaking a word for Jesus.  Because some brothers shared the good news of Jesus.  Because God still connects seekers and believers.

Al told me the other day I would not believe all the good things happening to him since he was baptized.  I told him that actually I really would.

So God thanks for Al.  Thanks for Guy, and Tony, and Chance, and Gabe, and Leon, and Bill, and Bruce, and Cody, and well ... more people than I even know.  But you know them.  And used them.  And your Kingdom grew.  So bless and protect Al.  In Jesus.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

 

God, Giving, Glory, and Natural Disasters

It happens every time a natural disaster strikes.  People want to know how they can help.  As Christians, that is our nature.  We want to love our neighbor as our self, and we want to serve others.

Let me say first that helping in a time of disaster is much more than money.  If you can give of your time and muscles, or if you can open your home, then do so.  Pray.  Prayer is not something you do if you cannot help in any other way, it is what you do before, during, and after all other help.

But having said that, financial contributions can be invaluable in times of disaster.  There are any number of organizations that use contributions to provide needed supplies during these times.  Many of these organizations are even faith based.  I appreciate all they do.

But personally, I am giving to local churches, or to groups that partner with local churches.

And here is why.  Because God gets the glory.  Other organizations do relief in their name and they get the glory.  Churches do relief in the name of Jesus.  So God gets the glory.

Local churches help their own.  They are part of my household of faith.  We are told Scripture to help all people, but especially those in our spiritual family.  What a great testimony for our world to see us taking care of own.  To hear someone say that their church is helping them.  There is an attraction there that may lead people to see about being part of a community like that.

And when churches help outsiders in the name of Jesus, there is a door opened to share the good news of Jesus.

I want God to get the glory when I use his money to help others in crisis.

I want there to be doors of opportunity opened to share Jesus.

So to help those in Houston devastated by Hurricane Harvey, I am sending my help to the West Houston Church of Christ.  17100 West Road.  Houston, TX 77095.

Why West Houston?  Well, there are lots of churches helping people in and around Houston, but I know this church.  I did some preaching for them a couple of years ago.  I know their elders, some of their staff, and many of their members.  They will use this for God's glory and to grow the Kingdom.

So find your local church connection, or an organization that works thru local churches, and give to them.

So God gets the glory and the Kingdom will grow.

It is who we are and why we are here.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

 

Three things I know about our country and our world ... and Jesus

OK.  Let me start by getting the obvious out of the way first.  Racism bad.  Violence not the answer.  Hatred will not win.

Nope, don't really feel better.  So I want more than words. I want to do something.

So here is what the tragedy in Charlottesville reminds me.

Because I am a Jesus follower.

We are living in a fallen world.  There is hatred.  There is violence.  There is racism.  There is greed and immorality.  There is evil.  This is not the world God made.  We messed it up when we chose to listen to Satan.  Sin is everywhere.  So I am not surprised at what happened in Virginia or what will happen all over the world today.

Jesus is the answer.  When people follow Jesus transformation happens.  We get better.  We change into people more like Jesus.  So hate turns to love, violence turns to peace, and racism turns to brotherhood.  So where I am, it is different.  Where my family is, it is different.  Where Christians are, it is different.

So if you want to change things, make more disciples.  Tell the story of Jesus.  When you make a follower, this world changes.  There is another oasis of love, peace, and brotherhood.

You and I cannot change this world.  Not really.  Not by being nicer.  Not by expressing outrage.

But Jesus can.  He has changed me.  He has changed you.  He has changed people all over this world.
So be a disciple maker.

That changes this world.

Jesus is coming back.  And he will make it right.  Evil does not triumph.  And hate does not win.

Our world needs to know that good news.  Jesus died for the haters, the abusers, and the racists.

And if they hear of him, and if they believe him, they change.

Jesus followers love God with all we have and we love our neighbors like we do ourselves.

Jesus followers do not use the weapons of the world (violence, fear, evil).  We use the power of the Lord God Almighty.

And Jesus followers destroy racism.  The same blood of Jesus was shed for everyone.  We shared the same baptism.  And we have the same Holy Spirit.  We will live together forever.

Because we believe.

And that will change the world.

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