Tuesday, January 16, 2018

 

Your speech and your posts betray you ...

OK.  Some of the things I hear and read really bother me.  And not just because I may disagree with what is being said.  Sometimes I am offended by posts and things I hear that I actually agree with.

I am tired of people saying things under the guise of Christian conviction when all they do is talk, write, or complain about it.  But there are some who put their money and time where their mouth is.  And they are worth listening to, but since some are wearing me out ...

Here are a few thoughts and observations about your speech and posts.

If you are going to rant and complain about abortion and people who support abortion, stop it.  Unless you are writing checks to orphanages, doing foster care, working in pregnancy centers that are willing to provide options.  Or helping Christians with unwanted pregnancies to accept and believe in God's grace and forgiveness.  Or helping with appropriate repentance, not just guilt and condemnation. 
So unless you have dirty diapers in your hand, or a baby on your lap, or tears running down your cheeks from healing a broken spirit ... maybe you ought not to be so vocal.

If you are going to rant about immigrants and aliens in our country, you better be heavily involved in your church's refugee ministry.  Better not be changing school districts or moving neighborhoods.  Our church had a significant ministry for Bhutanese refugees.  Some of you hauled furniture, taught them to cook and drive, found them jobs, taught them English, studying the Bible with them, baptized them and well, invested your life in them.  Other churches have similar ministries. 
Unless you have been in their homes, had them in yours, shared coffee and tea, shared meals and celebrations, struggled with them in tears of frustration and tears of joy, well... maybe you ought to stop your blasting out your "I'm certain I'm right" talk.

For those of you who are vocal about how to -- or not to -- do evangelism, maybe you ought to just listen to yourself.  If your talk about missions and service starts with "I got so much out of this project...", maybe you are doing it for yourself instead of the people you claim to want to help.  And yes, I know that you did get a lot out of it, but please God do not let that be the reason we help people.  If not careful, we end up just using them to make us feel better.  So unless you have lived in a hard place, had a conversation with a non-believer about Jesus, poured your life into helping someone know the message of Jesus ... maybe you just ought not to talk about it.

And for those who want to blast the church for not treating people well, or for "running off" someone... be very careful.  Unless you have been down in the much and mire of broken lives, unless you have cried with those broken by sin, unless you have gently opened God's word for guidance and instruction, unless you have been there in the middle of the night... maybe you ought to dial it down a notch.

But for all you who are doing it.  God bless you.  Speak up.  I'll listen.  Even if I don't always agree, you have my deepest respect. 

So maybe this is why most of my rants and talking/posting is about helping people get into the Kingdom and keeping them there.  Because there are a lot of things I am not doing.  So I better be careful too.  After all, I do try to look in the mirror after I write these things.

And feel free to call me on it when I get self-righteous and arrogant about things with I am not willing to do myself.  Not because you disagree.  But because I putting my mouth somewhere my life won't go.



Thursday, January 11, 2018

 

The story of a body lost and a soul saved...

Betsy grew up in and around church, but due to a number of disappointments and hurts had never decided to fully commit to following Jesus.  She was 24 when she was baptized and I met her at a Hope for Life campaign in Florence, SC this past October.  Betsy had a 42-year-old cousin, Heather, who was in the hospital with liver and kidney failure.  Many of her health problems were related to a series of bad choices with various addictive behaviors.  Heather’s Mom contacted Betsy and Betsy’s Mom to see if they would come talk to Heather about Jesus.
 
I had just told the story of Legion from Mark 5 at the campaign so Betsy decided to just tell Heather his story.  Heather wanted to know if it was a real story.  Betsy assured her that it was and that Jesus could deliver Heather also.  She told Heather where to read the story for herself and promised to pray for her.  Over the next several weeks Betsy and her Mom talked about Jesus and tried to water the seed they had planted.

Yesterday I got an email from Betsy that Heather’s addictions had finally won the battle over her body and she died on December 27.
The good news.  Heather was baptized into Christ December 12. 

Desperate people fighting their demons.  And losing.  Caring family who shared stories of Jesus.  

A body lost but a soul saved.  Because someone cared enough to share a Jesus story with someone.

It was hard and scary for Betsy to share with Heather.  But God gave her the courage.

Maybe you know a Heather in your life.  God will give you the courage to tell them a Jesus story.

Thanks God for what your son did for Legion.  Thanks for what your son did for Heather.  And thanks for giving Betsy the courage to connect them all to you.  Give us that same courage.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

 

My Grandson, Jake Gilbreth, is 12 today



So Jake turned 12 today.  As is my custom, here are a few of the reasons I love him and am so proud of him.

He is hilarious.  Funny, creative.  He is the classic make everyone laugh in class right before the teacher -- who is laughing -- has him put his name on the board. 

Loves animals.  His dogs and the cat.  Our dogs. 

He works hard.  Helps me move things, does our yard, helps his Mom do theirs.  Used to help a lot at Granny and Grandpa's.

Good athlete.  Never gets rattled.  Or if he does, he never shows it.  Played on his 11 year old Little League All-Star team that made it to the State Finals.

Smart.  Book smart, but already strong in people skills.

Good businessman.  Has his own business.  J G Soles.  I don't understand it but he works on sneakers.  Cleans and paints them.  Check out jgsoles on U-Tube. 

Loves his family.  Takes care of his Mom and his Sis.  Very responsible.

Loves God and Jesus.  Likes going with his Pops on preaching trips. 

So thanks God for blessing me with Jake.  I cannot wait to see what You do thru him and with him.  Protect him and bless him.  Help him to lead many others to know you.

Friday, January 05, 2018

 

Show up, Shut up, Pay up

Show up, shut up, pay up.  That is a pretty harsh way to characterize what some churches seem to want from their members.  But I know why it seems to be true.  Even scarier, no matter how much they may complain ... some members really seem to like it that way.

Show up.  We have to have people in the pews.  After all, that is the measure of success for most churches.  Growth is almost always tied to numbers.  Preachers get raises -- or get fired -- depending on the numbers.  Leaders get scared when the numbers decrease.  Listen to the fear in our voices when we say things like "... but if do (or don't do) _______, then this or that group is going to leave.  But here's the strange thing. 

But let's be honest.  Most numerical growth is not because we are growing the army of the Lord.  It is troop transfer.  Changing churches not out of conviction, but out of preference.  Some of us like church our way.  We'll show up.  Just don't ask us to do anything else.  Keep the focus on that one hour Sunday morning and don't really impact my life outside these walls.  For all of our talk about how the Sunday morning hour is not the most important hour, our practice would indicate it really is.  Pay someone to preach a sermon.  Build a building to meet for an hour. 

Shut up.  Maybe that is a little harsh, but most churches really do not have a variety of voices.  One man does most of the preaching.  The same Bible class teachers do most of the teaching.  And very little study is done outside of Sunday morning.  There are churches afraid to do small groups because you cannot be sure what is said or studied during them.  If your church is big enough, you may even have someone designated to develop material for your small group and/or your family study.  In some churches it is almost as if no one but the "professional" can  understand Scripture.   But at least we have not resorted to chaining the Bible to the pulpit like they did in the dark ages.  After all, they didn't trust the average person to really understand what God meant. 

And some of us actually prefer it that way.  Much easier for someone just to tell us what Scripture means than to actually learn it for ourselves.  Let the "Church" teach our kids.  And as a side benefit, we can blame the Church -- or the minister -- if our kids don't get it.  I don't have to worry if my neighbor wants to know more about Jesus.  I'll just call the professional.  Someone challenges my belief about something, call the preacher to find out what to say.  It takes a real commitment to learn Scripture and be able to use it in real life.  Better to leave it to the pros to explain.

Pay up.  You can't have a nice building unless someone is paying.  You can't do mission work unless someone is giving.  If your contribution is not sufficient, you might not even be able to hire a preacher.  But if the contribution gets good enough, you can hire someone to teach your kids, maybe even hire someone to make the praise time sound better.  You could even hire someone to keep the congregation informed about all the programs going on. 

And some church members like it that way.  I'll write a check for my part of the ministry.  Feed the hungry?  Write a check.  Want the world to know about Jesus?  Write a check.  Need someone to lead our church?  Write a check.  And if you don't like the way things are going ... stop writing the check.  That will change things.

Show up.  Shut up.  Pay up.  Yes, sometimes leaders seem to want that.  Easier to control.  Keeps everyone on message.  Clean, neat church.  Organize the programs.  Fund the programs.  Explain to everyone what to think and do. 

Show up.  Shut up.  Pay up.  Not a bad deal for members either.  Just hire someone to do the ministry.  When things go bad, blame the leaders.  Fire the preacher.  Get a better one.  It just takes showing up and paying up. 

So church leaders -- stop it.  Quit treating your members like second class citizens.  Be with them, not over them.  Equip them.  Inspire them.  Listen to them.  Encourage ministry.  Not ministry programs.  Ministry.  Stop sending.  Start going. 

And members.  Stop looking for easy church.  Quit thinking the only way to be active in serving Jesus is to organize and fund a ministry.  Stop looking for the professionals.  Jesus used some religious leaders who were very educated (Paul for example).  And he used fishermen (Peter). 

But I need these thoughts to be more than just a venting session for my opinions.

So...

Show up.  Not just in church to observe.  But show up and do life together.  Real community is not formed just in a worship service, but in doing life together.  Show up for your neighbors.  Be there in their lives.  Serve like Jesus.

Shut up and speak up.  Stop complaining (note to self here).  And start talking.  Get in a small group Bible study.  Read Scripture together as a family.  Speak truth (Scripture) into the lives of your people.  Tell the story of Jesus to your friends and neighbors.

Pay up.  Not just to a church budget.  Carry spare cash to give to those in need.  Buy a meal to share with someone hungry.  Pay your own way to go into the mission field.  Don't wait for a program or a budget.  Just be extravagant in sharing what God has given you.

That is the way I intend to show up.  And shut up to speak up.  And pay up. 

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

 

Jigsaw puzzles and Jesus

We only do one a year but we really enjoy working Jigsaw puzzles.  We did a 1000 piece one this year in a couple of days while we were iced in.  It was fun and except for a corner piece one of the dogs chewed up it went very well.

And as with most things in life, I was reminded about Jesus. 

So here is what I learned about Jesus from working with my wife on a jigsaw puzzle.

The picture matters.  You have a guide to show you where things go and how it will look when you are finished.  Jesus is the complete picture for how to live life.  He shows me how I will look when he is finished with me. 

And the Bible is a guide for how to put the pieces of my life together.  Stories, commands, precepts.  All the things in the Bible are there for a reason.  Learn from it and my life will make sense.

It takes time and patience to put a puzzle together.  It does not happen overnight.  Even when I stay up way too late working on it.  Making life work takes time and patience also.  There is a reason older women teach younger women.  There is a reason your spiritual leaders are elders.  And why parents lead the family.  God has had time to work on us. 

One piece at a time.  My life makes more sense when I take it one day at a time.  I do one thing for Jesus.  I make one right decision for him.  Say one prayer.  Read one chapter.  Do one thing for my neighbor.  Invite one person to church.  Don't give in to Satan now.  One thing at a time until the puzzle is finished.

The wrong piece in the wrong place never works out.  No matter how much I want it too or how much I try and force it to fit, it just doesn't work in the end.  There is a way my life works and Jesus helps me see that.  Doing it my way never works in the long run.  No matter how much I want it too.  Or how badly I want it too.  It only works if follow the way I was created to be.

It is better when we all work together.  Some are really good at matching shapes.  Others are good at seeing colors.  Some see the big picture.  Some are really good at finding the next piece that fits.  That's what gets puzzles put together.  It is how healthy churches work too.  We all have different gifts and talents.  It takes us all.  Together. 

A few pieces look a little bedraggled because they were rescued out of the dog's mouth.  And one didn't make it.  Kinda like life.  Not always complete or always pretty.  But you can see what it is.  It is still beautiful.  Sometimes we are little beaten up and spit out too.  But we are important to the puzzle.  And sometimes a piece ends up missing and the puzzle isn't quite what it could be. It wasn't a roaring lion like Satan.  More of a friendly Retriever with a long tail but it did remind me to be on guard.  But I don't want to be the missing piece.  You don't either.

It was just a puzzle.  But we did it together and it was fun.  And it helped me remember some things about Jesus and life.

Maybe we ought to do one more often.



Thursday, December 28, 2017

 

The four reasons I am going to listen more this year...

OK.  Let me just get this out of the way.  I am a talker.  I am verbal and I am not shy. But those qualities also make it harder for me to be a good listener. 

So one of my resolutions is to be a better listener this year.  After all, James 1:19 says to be quick to listen, so it is a spiritual discipline. 

I have recently been in four conversations that helped me see why I am a better disciple of Jesus when I really listen.

I occasionally stopped talking long enough to listen to everyone talking around our table at Christmas.  Listening to my Mom and to Marsha.  Hearing my kids and grandkids.  Love expressed.  Joy, faith, encouragement.  I was literally watching one generation lead the next generation to deeper, richer faith in Jesus.  It was a moment of great inspiration and conviction about what God is doing in the lives of my family.

I spent four hours in conversation (yes I spoke a lot but I also listened intently) with our small group talking about what it means to be church.  Six people with great love and passion about living out our faith.  We have done life together for a long time so they all  have great credibility with me.  Every one of them said something that made me understand more about what it is to live as church.  Lots of things said about Jesus, family, faith, love, church, and what that looks like.  I learned. 

I sat at lunch with a close friend and listened as he talked about life with his wife who suffers from Alzhiemers.  I don't think he will ever know how much my faith grows by hearing him.  And yes, he asks and listens to the things going on in my life.  But I hear so much love, faith, and real life from him.  I need his voice in my life.

And I had a short conversation with a couple facing a serious diagnosis of fast growing cancer.  I heard their words of confidence and faith.  I went over to encourage them and I left thinking about how glad I am that this world is not my home and that God has something better than here waiting for me.  I am stronger because of their faith. 

It is really hard for a talker to be a good listener.  But this year I am going to try harder. 

Maybe if I really listen I can even do better when I do speak or give spiritual counsel. 

But most of all, when I really listen, I become a better follower of Jesus. 

So thanks to my friends and family who spoke into my life these past few days. 

I heard, and you blessed me.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

 

How to celebrate Christmas this year

Here are a few ways to celebrate Christmas this year.

Talk about Jesus.  Tell your family what he means to you.  Get them to share what he has done for them this past year.

Do something to serve your neighbors. 

Eat together.  Have people over.  Go out to eat.  Party lots.  The Bible has lots to say about the fellowship of eating together.

Worship with your family and your people.  Go to a Christmas Eve service.  Have home church.  Do something that draws your family together around the manger that becomes a cross.

Celebrate a baptism.  Call a new convert and tell them that celebrating the birth of Jesus reminded you to celebrate their new birth. 

Tell the people you have been talking to about Jesus that this is a good time to be born again. 

Give gifts. 

Give something that matters to someone less fortunate than yourself.  Share a meal with them.  Take them shopping.  Be there.

Give your time.  Talk, really talk, to the people that matter.

Find the lonely person and include them.  The college kid stuck at school.  The single parent who doesn't have the kids.  The old people whose kids aren't coming in.

Tell the story of Jesus.  Even better if you tell it to someone who doesn't know it.

I love Christmas.  Love, family, food, giving, and Jesus.  I wish I could do Christmas all the time.

And I do.  I'm a Christian. We do this stuff all the time.

Thanks God.

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