What’s the ice bucket challenge?

Yesterday I mentioned Mark Driscoll in my blog.  Some people have no clue who he is.  I think they say that there are between 7 and 10 million of his sermons viewed and downloaded each year.  There are undoubtedly many people who read my blog and have never heard of him.  Francis Chan, David Platt, Craig Groeschel are other well known pastors that I listen to and are very popular – yet most of the people who have read my blog have no clue who these people are.

I remember when our sons were little and I was always amazed that there were adults who had no clue who the Power Rangers were.  Now I understand.  Now that our sons are 22 and 24, I don’t know the shows and games the little kids are watching/playing today.

As hard as it is for us who are online to comprehend, while you and I have seen hundreds of videos of people pouring water on themselves, there are people all around us who have not heard of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and have no clue what it is.

For each of us there is a whole world out there that we know nothing about, even if we have heard about it.  When Diane and I were in West Africa we met a fetish priest.  Wikipedia says: “The Priest or priestess (in the case of a female) performs rituals to consult and seek the favor from his gods in the shrine. The rituals are performed with money, liquor, animals, and in some places, human sex slaves.”

There are people all over the world who have no clue about Jesus.  They’re doing the best they can knowing there is some deity, some greater being, some greater power, and don’t know that His name is Jesus.  I will use today’s blog in my sermon Sunday.  I’m preaching about The Great Commission from Matthew 28.  This is The Great Commission:

“…go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

Let’s begin praying for people who have never heard the Good News of Jesus.  They’re out there.  And let’s pray for the people who God has sent, is sending, and will send to tell them.  And let’s pray that God would reveal to us our part in The Great Commission, whether it’s to go or to pray for and financially support others as God calls them to go.

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Who’s responsible for a growing church?

Pastor Mark Driscoll from Mars Hill Church in Seattle has recently come under intense scrutiny for his leadership style and alleged abusive tactics.  He and some others started what is now Mars Hill in 1996.  Today they report that they have 15,000 members.

Can you imagine how difficult it would be to remain humble and listen to others if you were the lead pastor of a church that goes from a few people to 15,000?  It would be way too easy to begin to think that you were responsible.  Yet in some ways the pastor is responsible along with a lot of other people.  (Don’t quit reading, give me a chance to explain as I unpack this).  In ways that defy logic, God does use people in the process of making disciples and building His church.  We look at the Bible and see stories about Peter and Paul and James and John and we revere those people.  And we tend to look at effective Christian leaders the same today.  I was bummed when we were at the Village Church in Flower Mound, TX in July and Matt Chandler’s sermon was on video.  He was supposed to be there in person, but needed some rest so they showed a video from him preaching the earlier worship.  I wanted to see Matt Chandler in person.  I was later convicted about feeling that way even though I still wish he’d been there in person.

I said two Sundays ago that Paul was responsible for (arguably) writing 13 books in the New Testament.  I said in the previous paragraph that pastors are responsible for making disciples and building Jesus’ church.  But let me tell you how I define the word responsible.  Paul was responsible for writing what God wanted him to write.  Paul was responsible for going where God wanted him to go to preach and to plant churches.  Pastor Matt Chandler was responsible to lead Highland Village First Baptist Church (which is now known as The Village Church) to where God could use them on a larger level than anyone could have ever imagined.  So are pastors and Christians responsible?  Absolutely.  But our responsibility ends with being obedient to and glorifying Jesus Christ.  God must get credit for the growth.  When the leaders start to believe that good results are because of them, that’s taking too much responsibility.

What has happened to Mark Driscoll is nothing new.  It’s nothing new that people think too much of a leader and nothing new that a leader thinks too much of himself and lets the people down.  And the people who go to church because of him, the people who go to The Village Church because of Matt Chandler, or anyone else who goes to a church (including Wesley Chapel) because of the pastor, must constantly be reminded that pastors are people, too.  A pastor is first and foremost a follower of Jesus going through his or her own sanctification.   (Sanctification is the slow process of becoming more like Jesus.)

I count it a privilege to preach the Gospel.  I know I am responsible for doing the part God has assigned to me to the best of my ability.  And I know when I do my part, God will do His part.  And I pray that as He continues to bless our efforts here at Wesley Chapel, and continues to grow churches here and throughout the world, that I and we will continue to impact our communities for Him, see people saved by Him, and believe His promise that He builds His church and the gates of hell cannot stand against it, as we, His servants responsibly and imperfectly do our part.

For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings? What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building. ~ 1 Corinthians 3:4-9

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There’s a party over here…. IN CHURCH?

Yesterday’s 11:00 worship was my favorite worship in the 14 months since I came to Short Gap.  While I loved all three worship services yesterday, the 11:00 worship was awesome because it ended with Chris Tomlin’s song, “God’s Great Dance Floor” and the congregation standing and clapping (mostly in rhythm) and some adults and kids dancing at the front of (and even a couple in the aisles of) the church.  It was an unusually wild ending to church and I loved it.

And there was a point.  We heard about ‘music and dancing’ that occurred when the prodigal son came home in Luke 15.  The music and dancing was a reminder of the joy of the father when his child realizes the errors of his or her ways and turns from those ways.  It was a reminder of the rejoicing that takes place in heaven when one who was lost is found when they come to Jesus.  It was a reminder to me of the rejoicing in heaven and on earth when Diane’s sister Kathy became a Believer and called on the Lord days before she went to be with Him.  It was in a word: spectacular.

It’s my opinion that most of the time we make being a follower of Jesus boring.  We make church boring.  I remember doing a sermon about Jesus changing the water into wine at the wedding in Cana and I said, “When Jesus showed up the wine got better and the party lasted longer.”  I came to that conclusion because if he hadn’t changed the water to wine they would have been out of wine effectively ending the wedding party (that probably lasted a week!)

I remember when I was the pastor at Mason on the occasions when I would have Miss Ruth bring the kids back in to the sanctuary (from children’s church) toward the end of church for some reason.  She would always tell me that many of the kids complained when they had to leave children’s church and come back into the sanctuary.  I doubt there was any complaining yesterday from the kids who came back in.  One parent said that on the way home their child said that she wanted to go back to church and do it again.  If a child wants to come back to church and do it again, we did something right yesterday in worship.  And truth be told, I wanted to do it again and continue the worship, too.

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Ice Bucket Challenge Mulligan – Pray for ALS

I know a blog post was controversial or might not be taken well when my wife doesn’t click “like” on Facebook.  She didn’t click like yesterday.  As a matter of fact, with nearly 150 people reading it, very few clicked like.  I’m OK with that.  I don’t write to win a popularity contest.  But sometimes I wish I had written something else, something differently, or something more.  Sometimes I keep going, even when I should just quit digging.  With that being said, I want to expound on yesterday’s blog.

I have some dear friends who are waist deep in working and raising money to reduce the number of abortions that occur in the United States.   They would like you to take one of their baby bottles and fill it with change.  Some of you are really into the humane society.  Some of your are all about ‘fair trade’.  One young friend is really into women’s/girls self perception of their own bodies.  I have a friend called to minister to the homeless.  Others have a heart to support efforts to free those in the sex slave industry.  There was a short time when I put a red X on my hand to raise awareness about that.  I blogged about some of my cool friends and you can read it by clicking here.  I love Ronald McDonald Houses, Samaritan’s Purse, Compassion International, cancer research, World Vision, and Nothing But Nets, among lots of others.  I support ALS research.  I mean who wouldn’t want to see a cure for it?  I saw a couple of ads on TV yesterday asking people to donate to Alzheimer’s research.  That’s another good one.

None of us can do everything, but all of us can do something.  And we can all pray.  Why not make a list like I did today and spend a few minutes praying for them.  And thank God for those who feel called to lend their support to each one.

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Why I skipped the Ice Bucket Challenge

Today is a risky blog.  I don’t want to make this sound like I’m looking down on anyone.  If you did the ice bucket challenge and/or donated money to the ALS, I applaud you for doing something for a cause.  I want to begin by saying that I’m happy that the ALS has gained all the attention and money.  There has been 42 million dollars given to date.  According to this article from NBC News there are 12,000 people in the US affected with the dreaded disease.  The article also quotes researcher Dr. Jonathan Serody of the University of North Carolina:

“If a million people would donate $100 a year for 30 to 40 years, you might get a breakthrough for ALS. These flash-in-the pan things that will go away after a few months will not help ALS in the long run. Researchers need dependable money.” That means year-in-and-year-out support, so researchers can plan their careers and rely on being able to see experiments all the way through. A single $100 donation does little to support that, Serody says.

And again, if this sounds as if I’m trying to make the argument that you should not have donated to the ALS – I’m really not.  The problem is when you do this and think your job is done.  I read another article that says that the key problem is “funding cannibalism”.  The ALS donations don’t appear out of a vacuum.  Because people on average are limited in how much they’re willing to donate to good causes, if someone donates $100 to the ALS Association, he or she will likely donate less to other charities or even local school fundraisers, etc.

In March of last year I blogged about getting 42 people to donate $1 a day for a year ($30 a month) so a friend could buy property in Haiti to build a girls’ home.  I think I had 4 people respond.  You can read it here.  There are many worthwhile organizations and charities.

I know it would have cost me nothing to dump ice water on my head.  And after jumping into the 34 degree Ohio River three years in a row in February to raise money for MS, a little ice water in August wouldn’t have been so bad.  Yet, I also don’t believe it would have made any real difference.  I feel it would have only been an attempt to try to make myself look good in others’ eyes.  And the point of this blog is not to defend myself or make me look good.  I may participate in the next internet craze and you might not (aren’t you sure there will be copycats?)

The point of this longer than usual blog is to give us a chance to reflect, and examine ourselves and see if giving is a lifestyle or an anomaly for us individually.  As followers of Jesus, the Bible teaches that our giving should be part of our nature and should bring glory to Jesus and help to proclaim His Name.  If you are led to dump ice water over your head and give money toward ALS, I praise Jesus.  Just don’t let it end there.

(P.S. – Up for other ways to make a difference?  Here are a couple:  Sponsor a child for $38 a month through Compassion International.  Buy chickens for women in Mozambique through Samaritan’s Purse.)

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Ready to live and ready to die

I watched the Emory University press conference and heard Ebola survivor Dr. Kent Brantly thank people for saving his life.  He said God used many different people and means to accomplish his healing.  He definitely gave God the glory.  And I know his family and Samaritan’s Purse would have given God the glory if the results had not been good.

We tend to glorify God more for physical healing than when the healing doesn’t come.  Sometimes we even feel like we have to defend God when it looks like He messed up and let someone die.

What we must remember is that we are all going to die sooner or later.  This life is only temporary for each of us.  Some are destined to live long lives and others seemingly not long enough.  Dr. Brantly appears to have some more time left on earth.  And I thank God for that.  More importantly, however, is the fact that Dr. Brantly was ready to face God if his time had come.  He said in his statement that he prayed that God would help him remain faithful if he was healed or if healing was not to be.

Dr. Brantly was ready to live and he was ready to die, even though his preference was to live.  He was ready to die because he knows his Savior.  I can tell you it is a blessing to get to that place.  It’s a peace that comes from knowing Jesus.

The difficult part is often for those who remain.  I pray for you who miss your loved ones who have already passed from this life.  I pray that God will help you to remain faithful to Him and to make you ready to live the remainder of this life for His glory and to honor the memory of your loved ones.

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Feeling Worthless

Last night Adam and I dropped Matt off at the Baltimore-Washington airport so Matt could fly back to Providence.  On the drive back to Short Gap I told Adam I felt like I had not been earning my pay from the church.  It’s been nearly two weeks now since Diane’s sister died.  Leading up to and since then quite a bit of my time and energy has been focused on our family. The church has been very understanding.

There is an enemy (satan) who whispers lies to us. He makes us believe that our worth is based on our performance. He whispers to us that we are worthless. We must remember that he is a liar and deceiver. God does not share that opinion of us. God loves us and His love for us has nothing to do with our performance. We must remember God’s unconditional love when satan would tell us otherwise.

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