Putting on the orange shirts

We have 4 Samaritan’s Purse newbies with us this week in South Carolina.  Yesterday morning they sat through their 30 minute safety & information meeting, received their orange shirts, and set out into the world as part of Samaritan’s Purse.  All the orange shirt really mean is that the person wearing them has said  “yes” to serving Jesus through this organization and has been through the safety training video & presentation.  None of us have any special skills or special calling.  We learn things as we are serving.  We learn how to hang drywall or lay floors as we go.  On every deployment we learn new things & better ways to do some things we already knew how to do. 

People in the communities we are serving think we are something special.  Especially in the disaster response, they refer to us wearing the orange shirts as “your group” and “you all”.  I constantly find myself telling people that there’s nothing special about me.  The only difference between me and those those without the orange shirts is that I simply said yes and put on this orange shirt that makes me a part of this awesome team.  Everyone and anyone is welcome to receive an orange shirt and be part of Samaritan’s Purse as volunteers. They just have to say yes. And there is no cost to the wearer. SP trips are free (after you get there).

It’s a parable about being a Christian.  All it takes is to say yes to Jesus… Yes, I believe You are the Son of God…. Yes, I believe You died on the cross for my sins… Yes, I believe You rose from the dead…. Yes, I’m sorry and I want to be forgiven… And BOOM… You’re in!  You’ve not been vetted and found worthy.  The truth is, there’s nothing special about you.  You just said yes to the offer of salvation.  And then you begin to receive your training.  And while the world may see you as something you’re supposed to be and even someone you know you’re not, you know the truth.  Saying yes made you part of the team and you are being trained, learning as you go. 

  

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Does Jesus stand before you or do you stand before Him?

This is not butterflies and flowers today.  It’s just flat out theology.  So I promise to be brief if you promise to give it a shot. 

I read a little from Dietrich Bonhoeffer today.  I was struck when he said that modern society (and his “modern society” was 75 years ago) wants to bring Christianity before the modern age to judge Christianity.  We check to see if the New Testament is relevant and has anything for more sophisticated, enlightened people, such as ourselves.  And this seems to me to be one of the main reasons that Christianity in America is falling by the wayside. 

Bonhoeffer says the present age does not announce its claim/judgement before/upon Christ, but Christ always announces His claim/judgement before and upon the present age.   We do not judge Jesus or His Word.  He and His Word judge us.  Too many are too willing to compromise God’s Word to gain the approval of society.  The modern church acts as if our job is to make Jesus relevant to our generation so that His teachings agree with the world.  When we do that, it never brings people to Jesus.  It only distorts the truth of God’s message and changes God’s people so that they become more like the world.  (And in the off chance that someone does come to Jesus under false pretenses, have they really come to Jesus?) 

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is proclaimed to offer forgiveness through repentance and to give people in the society the opportunity to agree with Him…. or they can disagree and look down on God and His people, until the day of judgement when they realize they were wrong.

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Bearing witness to those who hate God – Why we love those who hate us

In her book The Helper (referring to the Holy Spirit), Catherine Marshall says that Jesus’ top priority for you and me as His followers is to witness to the world.  The problem for us is that the world is currently under the dominion of the enemy of God.  Just as God allows us free will to obey or not obey & to follow or not to follow Him, He has also given the enemy powers to disrupt.  While Jesus won the victory over death through His sacrifice on the cross, He has not yet disposed of the enemy.  Scripture tells us that day is certainly coming, but is not yet here.  It seems counter-productive for God to allow a power out there to fight against us.  However, I cannot expect to completely understand the ways of the Creator of the universe.  He has knowledge and information that I do not have.  It is what it is and He has assigned us the task, as His followers, of proclaiming His Name and offering the world His forgiveness and victory over death through His shed blood and His resurrection.  And we proclaim Him to a world full of people who already belong to the enemy.  The enemy is not pleased with our intrusion into his territory.

But God did not leave us helpless.  He sends Himself in the form of the Holy Spirit to take up residence within His people.  And when we receive Him, greater is the One who is within me (and you) than the enemy that is within the world.  But we must go into the world with our eyes wide open.  (“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. But beware of them…” ~ Matthew 10:16)

It is not easy.  The opponent does not just roll over.  He fights.  And I can personally attest that he fights dirty.  He will cause them to speak falsely about you.  He will have them stir up strife, even within the church. He will whispers lies to you causing you to doubt God’s love for you or your value to God.  But God says we need not fear them for they cannot defeat us.  Might the enemy overwhelm us at times?  Absolutely.  But defeat us?  No way.

The enemy’s days are numbered, as are the days of his helpers.  And here is the twist (there’s always a twist): our job is to try to bear witness to the enemy’s helpers in this world!!!!  I pray nearly every day for the people who hate me most.  How awesome is it when God takes His (and our) biggest adversaries and makes them witnesses for Himself?  That is why we do not respond with hate when we are hated.  That is why we respond with love.  Our goal is not to drive away the enemy’s representatives, but see them converted.  To see them moved from the dark to the light.

But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!
 ~ Matthew 5:44

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A place prepared for you

spcharlestonI know a brother in Christ who is trying to decide what God would have him do next, what God would even have him do today.  I want the brother to join us in Andrews, SC next week, but I cannot tell you for sure that God wants him to.  This morning when he sent word to me that he was waiting for God to tell him what to do next, I sort of envied him.  I already knew what God would have me do next.  God would have me put the ham in the crock pots.  And I did it.  And after the ham went on, God had me doing personal devotions, including praying for guidance for that brother in Christ.

Now God has me working on my blog.  And I expect He will have me preparing scalloped potatoes and vegetables this afternoon for dinner.  And this evening at 5:30, God will likely have me saying grace for the food that 50-70 people will be coming to the church to share company over.  At 6:15, in all likelihood, God will have me present a 30 minute devotion and at 7:00 I predict He will have me participating in a prayer walk at the local high school & middle school.  And He will have me laying my head down tonight believing I did my best today to follow Him.  And it’s a reminder that following Him is sometimes living a completely typical day, doing what we always do.  For you with youngsters, I’m with you.  Sometimes I envy others who seem to be doing more exciting things for Jesus, yet I must be content with the plans He has for me in this season of life, even as I hunger and thirst for more of Him.  Every season is temporary, yet necessary to prepare you for the next.

In my devotion time this morning, I was led to John 14:2.  Jesus says, “I go to prepare a place for you.”  Thomas says, where is it?  We we don’t know where you’re going and we don’t know the way.  And Jesus says “I am the way”.  And in my Bible, next to that Scripture I wrote, “Prepared places for prepared hearts.”  While Jesus was talking about heaven, I also believe He was talking about today.  He has been preparing my heart and your heart for the place we are today.

Last night I told Diane we could never have imagined 30 years ago when we said our wedding vows that we would be spending the evening of our 30th wedding anniversary on a hill in Short Gap, WV, a place we’d never heard of, taking part in a prayer walk for the local schools.  Yet 30 years ago, the Spirit of God was already waiting for us on that hill.  He had a prepared place for our prepared hearts.  So whatever God’s plans for you and for me today, however exciting or mundane, unknown or predictable, we carry out our tasks believing He has been waiting for us to get here and is with us.  And we know and believe with all our hearts that His purposes for us today are preparing our hearts for the places He has prepared for us in the future.

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Happy Anniversary

Today is our 30th wedding anniversary.  30 years ago today (the same day Elvis died, though not the same year) we were married in the Sistersville First United Methodist Church.  The many choices we have made as we have traveled our long and winding road have led us to celebrate our 30th anniversary in Short Gap.

There have been times we would never have chosen to go through if we could have avoided them.  There were decisions we would have made differently looking back.  Yet somehow, in ways that neither of us can understand, the God who is Himself outside of the constraints of time, has used this time, these 30 years to:

  • mold us into who we are
  • lead us to where we are
  • prepare us for what is to come

He is able to work with our imperfect ways and through our imperfect choices, past, present, and future.  And He is able to accomplish His good and perfect plan in us in spite of us.  And there’s no doubt in my mind that He has us where He wants us.  I thank Him for saving Diane and me and for giving us each other.  And I thank Him that no matter where the road leads us from here, that He is our guide as we traverse the remainder of this life’s path.

To tell you our story is to tell you of hope that wouldn’t let go, of love that never gave up, of grace that is greater than all our sin.  To tell you our story is to tell of Him.

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God has better plans

rainbowsmallLast night we were having our first prayer walk between our local high school and middle school (we’re meeting every night this week).  The prayer walk was scheduled for 7:00.  At 6:15, the skies opened up letting loose a strong, steady rain. I had been praying that the rain would hold off until after the prayer walk.  As He always does, God had better plans.  The rain quit by 6:35 and as it got closer and closer to 7:00, the temperatures dropped from 96 degrees to the upper 70’s.  God painted the sky with shades of orange, tan, blue, gray, and yellow.  And then, at 7:05, just as the 30 of us were about to bow and open in a group prayer, I spotted a piece of a rainbow.  I pointed it out to the group and said, “That’s a good sign.”

rainbowprayerwalk We prayed, and dispersed at our own pace for individual prayer.  Some who could not walk any distance leaned on their own cars and prayed, some walked on the track and prayed, some walked short distances and prayed, some prayed as they walked to the middle school and back.  And the glory of the Lord shone around us.  The rainbow grew bigger and brighter, and the skies came alive with even  more color.

And I thought about my prayer.  I’m glad God did not listen to me and hold back the rain.  He knew what He was going to do.  He had better plans.  And it was going to require the rain.

rainbowpanorama

 

 

 

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The reason the church can’t condone homosexual behavior

Angy Calvert made a public post on Facebook, which means it is openly shared with the world, just a my blog is.   It is also her personal view, just as my blog is my personal view.  She addressed the situation of a United Methodist Pastor being placed on an involuntary leave for admitting she was a “practicing homosexual”, which is seen as “incompatible with Christian teaching” by the UMC.  You can read that story here. But Angy Calvert’s well thought out and Biblical explanation expresses my thoughts and I believe, the teachings of the Bible.  Here are Angy Calvert’s words:

I feel led to speak because I’ve been there. I’ve lived the life, I’ve felt the feelings and I’ve had the attractions…I’ve been prey to this deception and mindset so this is coming from first hand knowledge and sincere love and understanding.

Her (the pastor’s) statement was this: “Even as I agree to this resolution, I assert that it is not just and furthers the harm inflicted, not just on me, but on all LGBTQ persons in the church. Again we are told, ‘you aren’t equal; you aren’t good enough; you aren’t of enough sacred worth to serve as an ordained leader in your church.'”

To her I say:

I’m here to tell you it’s not about your worth where God’s concerned because we’re all equally worthless. It’s about your willingness to submit your life and your sin to Him so he can change it… by HIS power you can be freed from this and any other sin that keeps you from being in good standing and fellowship with him, so we are ALL without excuse if we choose to continue in rebellion instead of submitting to him…there is no “poor, pitiful me for having this sin I never asked for”, there is only “God is offering to cleanse me of it, but I’m still rebelling.”

Playing on peoples own vulnerability and emotions by asserting that your feelings are hurt because they made you feel that “you aren’t equal” and “you aren’t good enough or worth enough” because of your sexual preference in effort to get them to accept your immoral behavior as blessed by God is a scheme of Satan….
This is emotional manipulation and it is absolutely infiltrating the world and the churches.
The enemy wants you to concentrate on what you feel instead of what God’s truth actually is..
he wants you to “follow your heart”, but God says ” The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
Jeremiah 17:9
In other words, DON’T follow your heart, feelings or emotions! They will lead you astray and away from God’s Truth!

These days it’s all about inclusion in the church and making people feel like they’re right when they’re terribly wrong in the name of “love and tolerance”, but what does God say about this?

“But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother (calls him/herself Christian) if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”
1 Corinthians 5:11, 13

He doesn’t say accept and tolerate these people in the church so that their feelings aren’t hurt and they feel they have worth, He says “get them out of there!” A few bad apples can spoil the whole bunch…however, it is the goal of the church to restore anyone who repents and turns from the offending behavior, whatever it may be, and wishes to return to fellowship…

He also warns the churches of these things in the book of Revelation:

“But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the [deep things of Satan], to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden.”
Revelation 2:20-22, 24

Notice he is speaking against those who tolerate the teaching and behavior (if your not teaching against it you’re agreeing with it) …The people in the church who commit adultery with her, meaning going along with what she does and teaches, will be thrown into great tribulation…

“But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth.”
Revelation 2:14, 16

Furthermore, even if churches do disregard what God says and include and accept every vile thing into fellowship, will it save anyone? Of course not, only Jesus can save so what’s the point of getting churches to tolerate?

So I’m telling the Church right now, DON’T FALL FOR THIS!

Remember, This is coming from the perspective of someone who used to be a lesbian!

I do realize that there are other sinful behaviors within the church that we need to concentrate on equally, not just homosexuality, but that’s what this article was about so if you want to hash out some of the others I’ll be glad to do so on a different post…

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