I Need a Miracle

scottknowlton:

Do you need a miracle? I know the One who can provide it.  Hear about a miracle as you read my friend’s blog today:

Originally posted on What am I thinking:

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I can still remember the first day that my husband (still feels weird to say) and I first met. I can remember exactly where we were at, what car he was driving, what he was wearing, what I was wearing, and everything about that day. I honestly knew that he was going to be the one my world would stop for from that day on. Some friends and a few of my family were at the old Mason Elementary school playing basketball and planning on playing football later. I was sitting on the porch of one of the modular buildings there when Andy pulled in. He was driving his dad’s big blue old beaten up truck. I couldn’t help but notice him the minute he stepped out and shut the door. From that instant I was infatuated with him. To this day I honestly couldn’t tell you what it was…

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Throwing burning coals on their head – Behave like a Christian!

mcdonalds_logoI’ve been to seminary.  I’ve come to the conclusion that the seminary’s primary task is to show you how little you really know about the Bible and prove to you that you need to study it your entire life.  I want to teach you something awesome today that I just learned myself.

I read a Facebook post from a friend a few minutes ago who was being berated by a person behind her in the McDonald’s drive thru.  The person thought my friend cut in front of her.  So my friend pays the $19 to cover the angry person’s order and tells the cashier to tell the lady to have a great day.

And I was reminded of the Scripture that Paul quotes in Romans 12:20 from Proverbs 25:21-22 –

On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” 

I never understood the Scripture until I researched it today.  Paul is in the middle of a section of Romans where he’s telling them and us to “Behave like a Christian”.  He says “do not repay evil with evil”.  And he says when you are kind to someone who hates you or has not been kind to you, it will be like pouring burning coals on his head.  Taken out of context, that makes it sound like you’re being kind so that you can harm them or make them miserable.  After all, who would want burning coals poured on their head?

But Kenneth Samuel Wuest, who lived in the first half of the 1900’s, puts it into context for us:

“In Bible times an oriental needed to keep his hearth fire going all the time in order to insure fire for cooking and warmth. If it went out, he had to go to a neighbour for some live coals of fire. These he would carry on his head in a container, oriental fashion, back to his home. The person who would give him some live coals would be meeting his desperate need and showing him an outstanding kindness. If he would heap the container with coals, the man would be sure of getting some home still burning. The one injured would be returning kindness for injury.”

So this morning, according to the Bible, my friend poured some heaping hot coals on the person’s head in the McDonald’s drive thru.  How “cool” is that?  And in doing so, she behaved like a Christian.  In this case, she may have just put a fire out.

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2015 Baccalaureate Sermon

Thirty five years ago this year I graduated from high school. I also went to a Baccalaureate service. It was probably an old man, probably in his 50’s and I have no idea what he said. I couldn’t tell you then and I certainly couldn’t tell you now. I’m sure it was boring. And one day, if you’re blessed to live into your 40’s and 50’s, and if you’re blessed to have kids, and if they’re still doing Baccalaureate services in 20-30 years, you’ll remember that a few decades ago that you went to a Baccalaureate service when you graduated. So with it being acknowledged that you won’t remember a thing I say today, here we are. And I’m expected to say something, so we’d best get started so we can finish up and go get some refreshments. I don’t think they had refreshments at ours, but I can’t remember for sure. Anyhow, I’ll do my best not to be boring, but you’ll need to do your part and be of the attitude that there might be something worth hearing. So are you ready?

Our Scripture today is written by the Apostle Paul to a church he started in a town called Philippi. He started this church, the first church in Europe, and after he got it going he went somewhere else to start another church. And he didn’t start a church with the people you might think. He started this church with a wealthy business woman, a prison guard, and a demon possessed slave girl. He taught them what they needed to know and then Paul and his group left.

Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and all the other ways to communicate hadn’t been invented yet. So when Paul would meet someone from the area of Philippi he would always ask about his friends and the church. And Paul would have heard that the church had been going through some rough times. As the church grew, they had internal fighting and some people were trying to draw the people away from the Gospel. I can just hear people not letting the demon possessed slave girl forget who she used to be.

And Paul writes to them and says, “Here’s what I do. I forget the mistakes I’ve made in the past. I focus on the future that Jesus has for me and look forward to what is ahead.” You who used to be a demon possessed slave girl – no more. You are now a child of the King. You are precious. Jesus died for you. You are forgiven and His mercies are new every morning. Because of Jesus, the girl had a hope and a future. Nobody could hold her back. The past was behind her.

It makes me think of you all and your last few years here at Frankfort High School. It’s now behind you. I understand I’m speaking to a variety of young men and women who all have different experiences of high school. Whether you had a great experience, or you’re sort of indifferent about high school (as I was and am), or whether you had a tough four years and just can’t wait to get out of here, this part of your lives is over – whether you like it or not every one of you gets a fresh start. Whether you’re going to college, into the military, into the work force, or even if you don’t know what you’re going to do, you’re all going to be doing something different – something new. High school is now behind you. And most of you are going to go out in the world to find your purpose – to find that something that fulfils you.

And take it from an old man, the world does not offer you fulfillment, even though it pretends to. As difficult as high school may have been, high school was easy compared to the world. The world is tough. The world tries to sell you things you can’t afford and get you in debt. The world often leaves people homeless and addicted. The world leaves you always wanting more. The world tells you that there’s always something better out there and destroys marriages and wrecks homes. The world chews people up and spits them out. Take it from an old man, don’t look for validation and satisfaction from the world. And I hope you haven’t thought I was talking about myself when I said “take it from an old man”. You didn’t, right? No, I was talking about the Apostle Paul. He says that the world’s goal is to have us take our eyes off of knowing Jesus. Of first knowing Him and then knowing him better. Here in Philippians, Paul says that His goal should be your goal – To know Christ, to be like Christ, and to be all that Christ has in store for you. And that will satisfy your soul.

And do you know how this old man believes you accomplish that? And in this case when I say this old man I mean me, but I think the Apostle Paul would agree. I want to let you in on the secret of finding contentment in life and in growing to be more like Jesus. It’s living a life of service. It’s living a life not to get as much as you can for yourself, but to give as much as you can. And there’s nothing wrong with earning a good living. John Wesley, who inadvertently founded the Methodist Church, famously said, “Earn all you can. Save all you can. Give all you can.”

A little over a month ago, a group of 17 of us, most all from our church, went to Haiti. We walked around villages and hillsides giving out beans and rice to people who literally had no food. Gage Shaffer gave away a pair of shoes to a kid who received the gift of a lifetime. A kid who upon receiving the gift, just sat down in the middle of the field and was as happy as I have ever seen anyone in my entire life. Others of us left our shoes and clothes. We gave the kids soccer balls, frisbees, and ball caps. We held their hands and looked in their eyes. And we gave them some hope and love.

And they gave us a feeling that the world can’t give. A feeling like, at least in that moment, we made a difference. A feeling like we did the right thing. A feeling that a drug or alcohol or a new truck nor anything else can give you. And that feeling, that fulfilment, it stays with you forever. If you could see Missy Clark right now, I guarantee you she’s got tears in her eyes. I wanted to read you a letter I wrote to the mission team on my blog, but I knew I could never make it through the letter. A life of service is a life well spent. It’s what we were created for. And it’s the key to a fulfilling life. And you don’t have to go to Haiti.

Before Christmas this past year, someone from our church gave me several thousand dollars to go to Martins and Sav-A-Lot down town to buy $50 gift cards and give out to people – and tell them that we wanted to give these cards to them so they would know Jesus cares about them. People laughed, cried, shouted, and hugged us. It was unbelievable. It was a day I’ll never forget. And you don’t have to give away thousands of dollars in gift cards.

There’s an old adage, “The world is made up of givers and takers. Takers eat well. Givers sleep well.”  You simply begin by looking for ways you can give of yourself. And you will sleep better at night.  And you still won’t go hungry.

And truth be known, it’s what the church was intended to do. Yet because the church has bought in to our culture, the church has gotten away from practicing a life of service. And what we’re left with is a bunch of unfulfilled and selfish church people filling a bunch of churches that are not about the work of Jesus – not about giving, but taking – or at the very least, protecting.

I pray that Jesus raises up a generation of servants and I pray that generation is yours. Can you imagine how that would change the world? And who doesn’t want to change the world?

So I encourage you to go out and do well in college. Or take pride in serving in the military. Or enter the workforce and work hard. But remember that you will not find your fulfilment in those things. You can only find fulfilment in Jesus. And you will find Jesus when you serve others.

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My first rebuke from Facebook for a Christian post?

notapproved notapprovedaYour friends didn’t see my blog yesterday.  I wanted them to.  Two times before I have spent $40 to “sponsor” my blog on our church Facebook page.  That means friends of people who like our church FB page have it come up in their timeline.  Once before I had 500 people read it in one day when I paid to have “friends of page followers” see it.  I wondered what happened yesterday.  I had two people who fell under the ‘friends of page followers’ who clicked “like” and then nothing.  It was an average day number wise.  Then this morning I found out that my ad was not approved.  No reason.  Just not approved.

It ran for just a little while and then was literally pulled from Facebook.  Keep in mind, they didn’t pull the original post.  They just said it didn’t fit their advertising guidelines and would not advertise it.  I am shocked.  It’s not even one of my more offensive posts!  And so it begins.

I hope you might read yesterday’s blog, you’ll find it here.  Tell me why you think they pulled the ad.

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For God’s sake, let’s live like we have the Holy Spirit within us

I wish I could remember where I heard this certain sermon, but I can’t.  The preacher was talking about a family he knew. It was a mom, dad, daughter, and son.  The daughter was dating a guy who the parents didn’t approve of. He had been in all kinds of trouble. The dad talked to this preacher and wanted to know why she was dating the boy when she knew better. The dad wanted to forbid her from dating him and the preacher said that wouldn’t work. The preacher said he knew why. He said it was because she was bored and found the boy exciting. The preacher told the guy that they needed to offer something more exciting than the boy.

The dad went home and started scouring the internet.  He finally found something he felt God leading them to do.  So he called a family meeting.  He proceeded to tell the family that God had given them a mission.  They were going to help an organization build an orphanage in an impoverished country.  And by help, he meant that the family was going to raise all the money and when it was finished they were going to go and see it.  The mom thought the dad had lost his mind.   How much would it cost?  $150,000 the dad replied.

While the mom was freaking out, the kids were yelling and screaming with excitement.  The teenage daughter said she could get her church youth group involved doing fundraisers, the younger son said he could begin by making posters.  The family was going to be responsible for building an orphanage.  And they did.  And when it was done, they went there and took toys to the kids.  The boyfriend didn’t go.  As a matter of fact, he was out of the picture very soon after the “we’re building an orphanage” announcement was made.  God used the undesirable boyfriend to help the preacher encourage the dad to find the project that God wanted them to do.  God works in mysterious ways.

IMG_3462I think the American church is dying because of boredom.  I’m convinced that if we would be the church that God calls us to be that the American church would be thriving.  If you had a church with 10 people who believed they were called to change the world and began living like it, how long do you think they would have 10 people? It would see Biblical growth. We are called to be a church of action, a church unafraid of failing and unafraid of succeeding.  A church that does more outside the church walls than inside of them.  Potlucks are not cutting edge evangelism.  If you’re going to do a Bible Study, do it at the local laundromat.  For God’s sake, let’s live like we have the Holy Spirit within us.  And if we do, not only will we be revived personally, but our churches will be as well.

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Help is so near

grillYesterday the local volunteer Fire Department/E-Squad put on a motorcycle ride to help with a $1,000 scholarship for a local high school student.  There were probably 15 of them working it at a local bar Uncle Joe’s Woodpile (who donated the food!)  After the ride there was food that was included in the cost of the ride.  Things were going very smoothly when one person yelled, “Call 911″.  It was not a joke.  Someone had collapsed.  Some of the paramedics and EMT’s ran out to the ambulance (yes, it was on site) and grabbed a life pack, others of them ran to the unconscious person.  And we were all thinking “Call 911?  911 is already here!”  Help was already on the scene.  As it turns out, the “patient” was just overheated and passed out.  The patient was OK.

The person was calling out for help not realizing help was already there.  It makes me think of how often we go through the trials and storms in life and don’t understand that God is already there.  He is never far away.  He is here today and in ways that our limited minds cannot comprehend, is already in tomorrow.  He is here with me as I type this blog post and is also at the same time in Haiti with my friends as they worship Him this morning.  He was with the people in Africa as they worshipped Him 7 hours ago when it was morning there.

What a comfort to know that the Creator of the earth and of each of us did not simply set the world in motion and create us and forget about us. He is always near. He is with you right now.  You can talk to Him and you don’t even have to yell.

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Would you buy a car from this guy?

justinhondaA great, trustworthy couple who goes to the Short Gap Church is selling a car.  It’s a 2004 Honda with 190,000 miles.  When they bought it it had a bad transmission so he had it rebuilt. The transmission was rebuilt with a full kit and torque converter. While he had the engine out he replaced some maintenance items like the timing belt, tensioner, water pump, air conditioning line, motor mounts, basically anything not right he says he made right.  He’s asking $4,200.

Different people would look at their ad for the car and see the most important fact is that it’s a Honda.  They run forever.  Some would like the fact that the timing belt has been replaced with that many miles on it.  Some might consider buying it because of the price.

I know nothing about the car that’s for sale, yet I would suggest that you buy it if you need a reliable car for a young person or if you are on a fixed income.  And it’s not just because it’s a Honda.  It’s not just because it has many new parts.  It’s because of the people selling it.  And it’s not just because they rarely miss church.  It’s because I do not believe they would see it if they knew something was wrong with it.  And if anything was, they would tell you.  You can trust them.

And while some might not like the comparison, I see similarities in the church.  We’ve got the best “product” (Jesus), but sometimes we appear so self-serving and inhospitable that people aren’t interested because we lack compassion or lack trustworthiness or we don’t show grace.  They aren’t interested in trying out Jesus because the church has no credibility.

In my two years here in Short Gap, my main focus has been to show everyone in the area that the church is credible.

  • That we take seriously the command to love our neighbors.
  • That we take seriously the command to take the Good News to the rest of the world.
  • That we take seriously the command to help those who find themselves in need.
  • That we take seriously the command to show mercy and forgiveness.
  • That we take seriously the command to show kindness.

There are people in our church and every church who want the same thing – for the church to be the “lighthouse of the storms of the world”.  But there are others in our church and in every church who are the very ones that have given the church the bad reputation it has across the country.  And that’s difficult to overcome.  Many of those people are in power in lots of churches.

What we must all remember is that church is not a game.  It’s not a charitable civic club.  The church is “Jesus on earth”.  You and I are Jesus on earth.  Your hands are His hands.  Your feet are His feet.  Your voice is His voice.  And we need to start acting like it.  When people see you, they judge Him.   When we don’t love our neighbors, don’t open Jesus’ social hall and community room to strangers, when we don’t show kindness, nobody’s going to “buy” it when we tell them about how awesome Jesus is.

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