Thursday, November 16, 2017

 

Stop talking about reaching the marginalized, unless...

It starts about this time of year and continues right thru New Year's.  Our churches will be filled with talk of reaching the marginalized in our society.  We will talk about how that is where Jesus would be.  We will say that is the church we want to be.  A place for the poor, the lonely, the unchurched, the broken.

And we will roll out a number of quick, not too messy ways to do that.  Pray.  Give out turkeys to the poor.  Maybe even throw a meal in for the homeless.  Buy a few presents.  Give away socks down at a shelter.  Make a New Year's resolution to go somewhere for a week and come back changed.  Which is really odd because you would think it is their lives we might want to change.  Not ours.

But here's the deal.

Most of us don't mean it.

Because if we really start reaching out, we have to actually get our hands dirty.  Talking to bitter, lonely people.  Eating with them, not just fixing a meal.  Not flying home with a promise to see them next year, but driving away while they watch and wonder what we really wanted.

And what if we do reach out?  What if a single Mom shows up with her teenagers.  They can be loud and disruptive.  Don't know how to behave in church because they haven't been to church much.  Are we going to want them in our homes for small group?  Who is going to pay for their trip to Six Flags?  You really want them in your kid's cabin at camp?

What if I give out my cell number and they call needing something? 

These people are needy.  Physical and emotional needs.  And above all, needy for Jesus. 

So do you tell them the story of Jesus?  What if they hear us talk about the Good Samaritan?  What if they become part of our church family?  What if they tell their friends?

I have heard a lot of sermons over the years at my church about reaching the marginalized.  And some people take it to heart.  They are giving their lives to others.  Serving, teaching, and trying desperately to live in community.

And some complain about how they disrupt class.  And how our kids (whatever that means) don't get enough attention anymore.  And how we ought to have special classes for them. 

I don't know about your church or your city, but where I live there are lots of needy people.  And we talk about us, and them, and Jesus.  And not much changes.

But rather than be frustrated, I really want to thank those in my church who have poured the love of Jesus into our Bhutanese friends and family.  And those who work with our women's ministry to single Moms.  Those who use time, money, and energy to be Jesus.

You can talk about it all day long because you are doing it.

But for those that think talking and doing a few "arm's length away" projects is the same as loving like Jesus...

Maybe we ought to shut-up   oops, I mean be quiet.  At least until we are ready to put our lives where we say our faith is.

God, there are people all over for whom life has been hard.  Help us to see them and to invest in them.  Help us bring them into your Kingdom.  Because you love them.  Because your son died for them.  And truth be told,  because they are us.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

 

How do you make the hard spiritual decisions...

Sometimes you have to make a decision.  And sometimes it is hard, especially when there are obvious spiritual consequences to what you decide.

You move to a new city and have to pick a church home.  How about deciding to change your church home?

Preachers who have to decide when it is time to move, or who have to decide when to listen to offers.

You get asked to be an elder.  You wonder when is the right time to resign as an elder.

What is the right major for the right job that will glorify God and make a Kingdom difference?  Relationship decisions.  Marriage.

What to do with aging parents. 

And on and on it goes.  Big decisions.  Small decisions with great consequences.

You start making them in your teens and -- trust me on this -- you are still making them when you are old.

So here are some things I have found very helpful in making hard spiritual decisions.

Pray lots.  Every day.  All day.  Ask God for wisdom.  Ask God for signs.  He will not get tired of you.  So ask lots.  After all, if you want to do what God wants... shouldn't you talk to him?

Read your Bible.  Read for specific issues and decisions.  What does God's Word say about preaching, or being an elder, or marriage, or work?  What does the Bible say about church?  If you want to know God's will, maybe you ought to read what he said. 

Ask spiritual people you trust.  I typically go to elders for advice.  Some are elders where I go to church.  Some are elders in other churches but I consider them a shepherd in my life.  Some are men that used to be elders.  Some should have been.  But they are people that have spiritual wisdom and insight.  People who know God's word.  People who love me.  Ask people you trust who have wrestled with the same kind of decision.  I really advise younger women to seek advice from older women (elder's wives are a good place to start).  After all, you are notthe first one to have to make hard decisions.  You are not that unique.  And you are not alone. 

I also remember that I really only have to answer to three people.  I have to look my wife in the eyes, I have to look at myself in the mirror, and someday I will look my God in the face.  It really helps to remember who I am trying to please. 

I have made a lot of hard spiritual decisions over the years.  Some worked out really well, others not quite like I thought.  Still making hard decisions.  Still using this blueprint to help me.

And I have given a lot of counsel and advice to people making hard decisions.  And this is how I help.  Pray lots, share lots of Scripture, try to share advice based on a lifetime of experience in following Jesus.

I actually think it works. 



Thursday, November 09, 2017

 

God at work in South Carolina

So a few weeks ago I was in Florence, South Carolina preaching in a Hope for Life event for churches in and around the Pee Dee region.  Here are a few of the things that really made me happy.

Lots of fellowship between congregations that don't always do things together.  I think they will now.  Didn't agree on everything but did come together on what was important for this event.  The good news that Jesus died for our sins and was raised.  That we are crucified with Jesus in baptism and raised to new life.  And that we have to tell our family and friends that good news.

Loved that there were lots of different ages, colors, and economic status in the same place.

Met several that had recently been baptized and were their with friends they had invited.

The last night almost 1/4 of our crowd were visitors.

Since I left I have heard stories that inspire me. 

The lady who went to visit a friend in ICU and told her where she had been.  Got a chance to tell the story of Legion and Jesus.  The friend made her show where it was in the Bible so she could read it for herself.  Even asked her to pray with her. 

The homeless man who came every night.  He was first invited by a policeman he met when he was sleeping in a car.  The Christian cop fed him, listened to his story, and invited him to come.  And he did. 

Loved seeing the preachers of the participating congregations leading the effort.  Inviting their friends, setting up studies, preaching good news sermons. 

I don't know what all is going to happen over the next few weeks and months.  But I know this...

God is using his people to tell the good news of his son.  And he will give the harvest.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

 

I will not be afraid and other things I still believe...

Another Sunday and another church shooting.  And here are my thoughts and the things I am committed to be and do.

I will not be afraid.

I will be in church Sunday with my family.

I will welcome the stranger.

When I preach, I will not have a Bible in one hand and a gun in the other.

I will die for my faith.  I will not kill for my faith.

I will die for my flock.  I will not kill for my flock.

It will happen again.

This world is not my home.

I will not fear the one who can destroy the body.

I will do battle with the one who can destroy souls.

I will be courageous to tell others the good news of Jesus.

When I die, I want to die with the name of Jesus on my lips.

I will live forever.

I want my kids and my grands to live courageously.

Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.  Joshua 1:9




Thursday, November 02, 2017

 

Margot, Church Moms, and a New Sister


Margo had gone thru a rough time in her life.  Her marriage had broken up, she was a single Mom with three kids, and well ... she needed help.

She was working at Abilene Christian University and connected with some people there who really cared for her.  They listened, offered advice, became her friends.  Some of them asked her to church.  She She came and even brought her new boyfriend with her.  And that is how I met her.

It was her church Moms that introduced us.  It was a group of older ladies who became her Abilene Moms.  They really took her under their wing:  relationship advice, spiritual counsel.  I visited with James, her boyfriend.  Over time I got to ask if they wanted to sit down with Marsha and I and talk about Jesus.

We started meeting regularly and telling Jesus stories.  They decided to get married ... and then decided not to ... and then decided to again.  The whole time, her church Moms were walking right beside her.  Doing life together.

I did their wedding.  The church Moms helped her put it together, organized the reception, and help her hand thru the whole process.

We kept talking about Jesus.  But she just couldn't decide to buy into Jesus.  She was falling in love with him but just needed to be sure.  She worried about knowing enough, she worried about staying faithful enough.

Then one day she decided.  She had been praying, studying, thinking it thru.  She wanted to do it on the ACU campus at Jacob's Dream right before the Homecoming Game.  Her real Mom came up from Austin to see it.  I was just getting in from a week long preaching trip and had my son's family in for Homecoming.  Margo was worried I might be too tired or Marsha and I might be too busy.

Not a chance.  And now she is my sister.

Because a bunch of church Moms decided to serve, love, pray, and do life with someone who was looking for something better.

And she found Him.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

 

Pulling a Tooth and Jesus

It was a two year process with a hurting tooth.  It was a hairline crack and a little piece would chip off.  My Dentist, David Hilliard, would smooth it out and I would wait for the next episode.  Sometimes the gum would abscess. Painful.  We did a root canal.  It helped for a while.  Then the crown on that tooth cracked.  Evidently my tooth has had a hard life.

It was on the visit to try and repair the broken crown that David gave me the bad news. The tooth was not going to survive.  I could keep dealing with pain and frustration, but it would never really get better.  Or I let him pull it.  He explained that I would then get a permanent bridge.  It would look like a tooth and function just like my tooth had. 

So we did.  And David was right.  Pain gone.  I could actually chew on that side of my mouth without worrying.  We are in the process of putting in the bridge.

And I thought about sin, addictions, and Jesus.

Maybe you have been there with that sin that just will not go away.  Maybe you have let a hard life keep you in pain and frustration.  You do better for a while but then you slip back into the same old patterns.  You try harder.  You take some significant steps but it does not go away. 

Until someone speaks truth into your life.  It is time for radical surgery.  Do whatever it takes to get the sin out of your life.  It may mean breaking off unhealthy relationships or changing some unhealthy patterns.  Maybe it means changing jobs.  Or in my case -- a career. 

Surrendering to God and trusting him to heal you.  Listening to spiritual advisers.  Seeing that life can be different and better.  Closer to what God intended your life to be.

Like pulling a tooth.  Healing.  And getting a new "tooth".  Better life.

So thanks God for letting my tooth remind me of your power to heal and restore.  Thanks for pulling out the sin in my life.  And healing me.  Help us speak truth into the lives around us that are broken and hurting, even in our church family.  Heal us thru Jesus.  Use radical surgery when needed.  

     

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

 

Followers Making Followers



So the new book is out. 

Some of you may have read my other book:  Can I Tell You a Story?  This is sort of a prequel to that one. 

It is a look at the Great Commission and talks about what it means to be a follower of Jesus who makes other followers. 

Go, teach, and baptize.  It is all about following Jesus.

Live forgiven so others know the Jesus life really works.  Authenticity.

Serve with purpose so our message has credibility.

Speak boldly so others know the good news of Jesus.

Today is a day of good news.  It is wrong to keep it to ourselves.

Well, that's it in a nutshell.  But if you want to know more ...

Order from 21st Century or Hope for Life.

Or let me know.

$11.99 plus tax and shipping.



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