It’s going to take more than that to clean up this mess

Yesterday we loaded up a U-Haul filled with Adam’s belongings and moved them from Pittsburgh to our home in Short Gap.  I discussed this in yesterday’s blog when I wrote about faith.

On one of my many trips up and down 44 steps (one way) I saw a guy set his material beverage cooler on the sidewalk in front of Adam’s apartment.  The guy had the cooler on the ground and was doing something on his phone.  Enter a woman pushing a baby in a stroller and walking a dog.  As they came down the sidewalk, her (male) dog sniffed his way to the guys cooler and proceeded to hike up his leg and pee on the guy’s cooler.  The woman jerked the leash of the dog, shouted the Lord’s Name in vain, and started apologizing to the guy.  She told him she normally had baby wipes, but didn’t have any with her at the moment.  Yea… if they only had baby wipes.

It was going to take more than baby wipes to clean that up.  It reminds me of how people sometimes think they can get their act together. Sometimes people think they need to get their lives straightened out before God will accept them or before they can come to church.  We have to realize that the mess that is our lives is way beyond our ability to clean up.  It is only when we realize that all of our tidying up will not take away the stench of sin that we can finally turn to God and turn the mess over to Him.  And He is faithful to forgive us our sin.  And He will begin a good work in us.  And while the sin is forgiven once and for all, we must keep going back to Him over and over to get things straightened out when we’ve made another mess of things.

And turning to Him is not failure.  Turning to Jesus is the only true Hope of getting the mess cleaned up.

*

*

*

Posted in Hard times | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When you don’t know where you’re going…

Our 24 year old son Adam is moving back in with us today and I could not be more proud of him.  Often what goes through our mind when we hear that is someone who is crawling back home defeated – someone who couldn’t make it in the ‘real world’.  He was only 17 when he moved to Pittsburgh to go to college at Carnegie Mellon University (and didn’t even turn 18 until he was into his second semester).  He graduated in four years and has been working the last three years at the Olive Garden in Monroeville, on the outskirts of Pittsburgh making it on his own.

He called us a few months ago and said that God wouldn’t leave him alone.  He said God was calling him to some form of work for Him – probably in some form of missions.  And it’s not like he’d been influenced by a church.  He had gone a few times, but he basically hadn’t even been going to church.  I think it probably began with a mission trip to Haiti last year in March and then he said when he attended my ordination in June last year he felt it in Wesley Chapel in Buckhannon, which is fitting since he spent a lot of time there as a teen at Summer Youth Celebration.

And now what?  He doesn’t know.  God has only told him the next step.  He believes God is leading him to move back with us and use our home as his home base from which to do God’s work.  God does that a lot.  Most of the time I think we’d freak out if He told us the entire plan.  Adam’s in good company.  The life of Abraham comes to mind from the Bible.

Genesis 12:4 tells us that after God called Abraham, he went “as the LORD had told him.”  Abraham did not know where he was going.  Hebrews 11:8 reminds us that “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going”.  God knew and that was all that mattered.  Abraham just went where God led him, not concerning himself with where it would end up.

How many of us would leave behind everything that is familiar to us and just go without knowing our destination?  I know a couple of people who have.  Abraham did.  And Adam is doing the same thing.  I’m proud of him.

*

*

*

Posted in Walking the Walk, Opportunity | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

If being a Christian is just about being nice then I’m not interested

One of the mainstays here at the church told me at the last board meeting (it was said publicly before the administrative board so it’s not something told to me in confidence) that he thought I was sent to this church to help him pray more.  And he definitely did not mean because my preaching convicts him to pray.  In context, I heard him say that my actions in the last year have had him praying more (probably for patience).  And while I’m not labeling him as such, I can definitely drive a typical, established, comfortable church person crazy.  I know that is true.  I certainly don’t purposely irritate people for no reason.  I believe I am doing the best I can in being obedient to Jesus.

I do know for sure that God did not call me to be a pastor so I could sail along with the status quo and oversee stagnant and dying churches.  He called me like He called Peter and Paul – to be a bold and radical follower of Jesus, whatever the cost.  I want to be a Christian whose heart is on fire for Jesus, who has no fear, and who speaks the truth of the Gospel no matter the consequence.*  I did not say yes to the ministry and to Christianity just to be a nice person.  Our UMC bishop whispered in my ear, “…make a difference wherever you go.”  I have been called to turn the world upside down.  And if you are a follower of Jesus, you have been called to this as well.

Michael Yaconelli says in his book Dangerous Wonder, “I want to be dangerous to a dull and boring religion.  I want a faith that is dangerous…”

And apparently God can use that to lead some people to pray more.

*

*

*

*Michael Yaconelli Dangerous Wonder

Posted in Opportunity, Walking the Walk | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

A $30,000 car and a $25 offering

Sunday at 9:30 church we spent a good deal of time discussing Francis Chan’s sermon Lukewarm and Loving It.  You can watch it here.  One person said what they heard in the sermon was that you could only get to heaven if you sold everything and gave it to the poor.  A couple of others who heard the sermon said they didn’t get that from it.  They heard Chan say that you mustn’t make money and possessions your idols, seeing them as more important than Jesus.

I said I believe the Bible teaches that what is required depends on the individual.  Jesus did tell the rich young ruler to sell everything he owned and give it to the poor and then to come follow Him.  Jesus knew that He couldn’t compete with the rich young rulers possessions for the rich young rulers affection.  Some people can have possessions and even wealth and still love Jesus more than their things.  Zacchaeus was able to hold on to some of his possessions because he didn’t value them more than Jesus.  And let me be clear, Jesus doesn’t need your money.  He desires your affection.  And Satan will use money (and credit cards… ouch!) to divert our affection from Jesus to our possessions.

I said if there are people driving to church in a Cadillac and putting $25 in the offering plate, that may be a sign that they love their possessions more than Jesus.  And Chan’s sermon said that it is so hard for them to get to heaven.  They would be better off selling everything they have and giving it away.  And don’t get mad at Francis or mad at me.  (As a matter of fact, if I preached this and someone got upset – that’s a pretty sure sign!)  We’re just telling you what Jesus said:

“I’ll say it again–it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!” ~ Matthew 19:24

*

*

*

 

Posted in Obstacles | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

I don’t go to church because of church people

I listened to a sermon from pastor Perry Noble last week.  He’s the pastor of the largest Southern Baptist church in the country.  In the sermon he said something that I’ll never forget.  He said that occasionally people will tell him that they don’t go to church because a ‘church person’ had been mean to them.  (I think it’s safe to say that the ‘church people are hypocrites’ defense is also used to avoid going to church.)

He said something like this to the person: “You want to compare stories on how church people have been mean?  You tell me your stories and I’ll tell you mine.”  What Noble was implying is that church people have been mean to him.  I know what he’s talking about.  I tend to not turn lights on when I’m in the church.  I am using the natural light coming through the window in my office right now.  One time I was in my office in Mason sitting at my desk with no lights on and I heard someone talking about me right outside my office door.  While I can’t remember who it was or what they said (honestly, I can’t), I do remember that it was not complimentary.  It was mean.  And I never said anything to them and tried not to hold a grudge.

I can also tell you that church people have also been unbelievably kind to me.  Church people paid for Diane, Adam, and Me to go on a mission trip to Haiti.  They helped Diane pay for her trip to Africa with me for my required seminary trip by helping us to raise money.  Church people helped us go to Oklahoma.  Church people have loaned us vehicles, fixed our vehicles, and paid for and built Diane flower boxes for her windows.

What everyone must remember is that a.) not all church people are followers of Jesus, b.) even followers of Jesus still make mistakes and are not perfect, and c.) some church people are well intentioned but also misdirected.

Finally, what the ‘church person has been mean to me’  or ‘church people are hypocrites” crowd must realize is if the church was full of perfect people, how in the world would anyone from the world ever approach the church doors?  It’s precisely because the church has plenty of mean people, hurting people, hypocrites, and the like (including the pastors), that everyone else is welcome.  You drink too much?  You gossip?  You smoke marijuana?  You cuss?  You sleep with people you aren’t married to?  You judge people?  Y’all come in.  You’ll fit right in.  I guarantee you that yesterday in church we had different people who we could plug into one of each of those categories.

And our hope is that as we gather together as the church, that we are changed.  We hope that as time passes and we keep going to church and reading the Bible and trying to live for Jesus, that we can say, “I’m not who I should be, but thanks to Jesus I’m not who I once was.”  That’s the church I’ve been sent here to lead.  Don’t stay away because of any of us.  Thank the Lord that your imperfect self will fit right in.  It’s not the righteous who need a Savior.

*

*

*

Posted in Obstacles, Opportunity | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

I think you should do it this way

Have you ever said “I think you should do it this way”?  Sometimes we have a reason for wanting things done a certain way.  When I put the food out for a Wednesday night dinner, sometimes it does make a difference what order the food is in.  You want the mashed potatoes before the gravy as people are going down the row of food.  If you put the gravy out and then the green beans and then the mashed potatoes, that would make it fairly difficult to put gravy on top of your potatoes.  Other times we just want things done a certain way because that’s how we are.  Sometimes it makes no difference, but we prefer it our own way.  I’m sure I”m guilty of that with the dinners.  If we had grilled chicken, scalloped potatoes, and corn, I would have the order – meat, potato, vegetable.  In this case it would really make no difference.

I find myself doing the same thing with God on more important issues.

  • God, I think it would be best if you would…
  • God, I can’t understand why you (or why you won’t)…
  • God, I would rather…
  • God, I think you should…

And then sometimes I remember who I am and who He is.  I’m the one who might be right half the time – He’s the One who is never wrong.  I’m the one who has a history of some pretty bad decisions, He’s the One who has a history of never making a bad decision.  I’m the one who has no idea what today holds.  He’s the One who made today and nothing is going to surprise Him.

If I were to give myself some advice, it would be that I should trust Him more and question Him less.  And wouldn’t it be nice if it were that easy.

*

*

*

Posted in Hard times | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Growing

A year ago when we moved to Short Gap I had to leave many plants behind – especially from my office.  When we got here we found a spider plant at Lowe’s for $5.00.  The thing has gone crazy.  It probably has 100 babies on it right now.  I have 5 pots planted from it and 5 more ready to be potted.  I need to get many more of the babies cut off of the main plant and get them in water.

DSCN1038I have a picture from October of last year of a pot I had just started.  Here it is on the left.  It’s the smaller plant of the two in this picture.  It’s now nine months later and the plant has grown quite a bit.  I started two of them at the same time.  I didn’t think the other one was ever going to grow.  It stayed the same size for a long time.  But the other one finally started taking off as well.  They have both seen pretty tremendous growth.  What will eventually happen is that they will start putting out their own baby spider plants.  It would be really neat to raise a couple of hundred of them and give them out in church as an illustration.

20140712-092319-33799174.jpgHere’s the same plant today that was in the picture above.  This is a picture of what the Christian life is supposed to be like.  When we decide to follow Jesus, we should be continually growing and changing.  It’s not that we all become pastors and start churches or go to seminary, but we should be growing.  We should become more Biblically literate by reading our Bibles.  We should begin to realize that church isn’t about us, but about Jesus and about introducing the lost to Jesus.  We should become faithful in church attendance because it helps us grow.  We should grow to become cheerful givers.  We should grow to be able to forgive.

No matter who we are or where we are in our walk with Jesus, we can grow.  Maybe next summer I’ll post another picture of the same spider plant and we can compare its growth to our own.

*

*

*

Posted in Opportunity, Walking the Walk | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment