I’m Gonna Rub Your Fur the Wrong Way, George!

     I have always been a fan of Warner Brothers/Looney Tunes cartoon. Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Daffy Duck, Taz…the whole lot of them…very funny. (They just don’t make cartoons like that any more! But back in MY day…!) There was one (actually more than one) that featured  Hugo the Abominable Snowman. He is the large, hairy looking beast in the picture. In the episode, he wants a bunny rabbit as a pet…and he targets Bugs. Bugs convinces him (as only Bugs can) that Daffy is, in fact, the rabbit. The “climactic” scene comes when Hugo is holding Daffy, who’s shirt makes him look like a rabbit, and he says, “Oh, boy, a bunny rabbit! I will name him George and I will hug him and squeeze him…” Daffy replies, “I’m not a bunny rabbit…” Hugo goes on, “…and pat him and pet him and…” Daffy says, “You’re hurting me. Put me down, please.” Hugo continues, “…and rub him and caress him and…” Daffy shouts, “I ain’t no bunny rabbit!” Hugo looks at him and says, “I’m gonna rub your fur the wrong way, George!” 

     There are two things about that cartoon that stand out in my mind. #1 is that there is a marvelously subtle nod to Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” with the large, slow-witted character (Lennie in the book, Hugo here) talks to a smaller, smarter character named George. (Gotta love those hidden references in the “old school”  cartoons!) The 2nd thing that stands out is the love of “bunnies”. Of all things, I thought of this cartoon as I stood at my front door the other morning. I was waiting for my wife and son (we were leaving for work/school), And as I stood at the door, I saw a rabbit out in the front yard. I stood, stock still, for a good 5 minutes, just staring at this rabbit. He didn’t really do much of anything but sit there- his nose moved constantly, his eyes blinked occasionally, and other than that…he just sat there. And I…just stood there. He was unaware that I was there, and I was completely aware that he was there! 
     Watching the rabbit, I got strong sense of God’s creation. I mean, here was this little animal who lived…out there somewhere. He was genetically engineered to survive in the wild- find a place to live, find food, and keep from BEING food. He is fast, he is beautiful, and he is a marvel of God’s creation. The same is true of the squirrel. And the raccoon. And the deer. And the horse. And…and…and…! Have you taken the time to look at God’s creation? I mean REALLY taken the time? God’s creation is, to sum it up in one word…amazing. It is  beautiful, spectacular, divinely inspired. And yet we overlook it ALL THE TIME. We get SO caught up in the “busyness” of life that we don’t see the beauty, the splendor that is all around us.
     Here’s my suggestion for the day- take some time to actually SEE what is all around you. Notice God’s creation- the trees, the animals, the weather…everything. See it. Appreciate it. Thank God for it. Do this consistently for a week or 2 and it will become a habit. And what an AWESOME habit that would be! Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Growing Spiritual Redwoods: Vista Five: Following the Flow

         
Three pastors were having lunch together. One said, “I’ve been
having trouble with bats in the attic at church. I’ve tried everything- noise,
spray, cats- nothing seems to scare them away. The 2nd one said, “Me too. I’ve
got hundreds living in the belfry. I’ve even had the place fumigated, and they
won’t go away.” The 3rd one said, “I don’t have a problem. I got rid of
all of mine!” “How did you do that?” “I baptized them and made them members of
the church… Haven’t seen one since!”

    Today we continue our current Sunday sermon series Growing
Spiritual Redwoods
, based on the book by Bill Easum and Tom Bandy. The
series starts from the premise that “the way we’ve always done it” often
keeps churches from successfully ministering to the unchurched. We will try to
answer some of the questions that confront Christians in this era of rapid and
uncertain change- questions like “Are we committed to Jesus…or to a
particular doctrine?” “Do we see faith as an experience of Jesus…or as a
heritage to protect at all costs?” “Do we believe our purpose in ministry is to
make members…or disciples?” 
Last week we looked at the fluid
that flows…worship. Today we consider what happens next…what lies beyond the
flow?

    A girl lost her arm in an accident. She was so embarrassed
that she didn’t want to go anywhere. Finally, she agreed to try Sunday school.
Her mother called the teacher and asked that nothing be done to call attention
to the girl’s missing arm. The teacher agreed, but got sick and had a
substitute lead the class. At the end of class the students were acting out the
old ditty, “Here is the church, here is the steeple, open the doors and
see all the people.” The girl was about to cry when a boy in the class
suddenly dropped down beside her and put one hand against her good hand and
together they demonstrated what a real church is all about. We are the hands of
Christ. We are the feet of Christ. We are the only Bible the careless world
will read. We are the body of Christ, and each one of us is part of it.

    
Those
who fold bulletins, move tables, restock the pews, work in the nursery and mow
the grass are just as important as those who visit shut-ins and teach Sunday
School. We church folks are supposed to be united. But how can we be truly
united? We do it by checking our egos at the door. Every so often someone comes
to me to complain that the church isn’t meeting their needs. Now, I’m always
striving for more effective means of ministry, but I often suggest to those
folks that their concern is more secular than spiritual. Customers question the
effectiveness of retailers to meet their needs. But we are NOT customers in
God’s retail store. We’re all part of the heavenly choir, singing praise and glory
to God. We HAD an old life that said things like: look out for #1, get all you
can, don’t get mad, get even, win at all costs. But now we have a NEW life that
says things like: find yourself by losing yourself, give all you can, forgive
others as God has forgiven you.

    
The
Church isn’t about buildings, budgets and business. It’s not even about people,
programs and progress. Then what IS it about? Simple…Jesus Christ. When the
Church stops taking its cues from Christ, bad things happen.
C. S. Lewis said that the model many
of us have in our minds for the church is the same model we have for secular
organizations. That is, we think of the church as an organization that we join.
Then we do what members of an organization normally do- we come to meetings and
pay dues. Maybe, occasionally, we read the organization’s newsletter…if we
have time. But this is NOT Jesus’ model for the Church. Jesus’ intent is that
His people will be joined to His Church in the same way that parts of a
physical body are joined to that body. It’s a living relationship. The body
gives life to its members and they, in turn, are indispensable to the body. For
the person in whom Jesus lives, being actively involved in church isn’t simply
an option…it’s a necessity. Each of us is indispensable. We all have a place
in His family.

    
1Corinthians
12:12-20- Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts
form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so
as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all
given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but
of many. Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong
to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if
the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it
would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were
an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear,
where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the
body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one
part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

    
A family went to the movies. The son stopped by the snack bar to get
some popcorn. By the time he got into the theater the lights were dim. He
scanned the theater and couldn’t find his family. He paced up and down the
aisles looking for a familiar face. He finally stopped and said, “Doesn’t
anyone recognize me?” When visitors come into a church they’re looking for
family, companionship, connection. And often they stand neglected in the aisle,
the lobby, the parking lot. Deep in their hearts they’re crying out,
“Doesn’t anyone recognize me?” We owe it to them to offer genuine
love and concern.

    
The
Church is made up of children of the Kingdom. It’s not made up of employees of
a corporation. Paul had plenty of political, hierarchical, and civic
organizational models to use to describe the character and function of the
church. But he chose to use the analogy of a body- an organic unity in which
all facets and functions look out for the care and well-being of the whole.
When there’s a thorn in the foot, the whole body stoops to pluck it out. In the
Kingdom of God, winning isn’t the only thing. Jesus invites us to get
lost…lost in service, lost in wonder, love and praise. As God’s children, the
question is no longer whether we’re the losers or the winners. Instead, the
question is: “Are we a healthy part of the body of Christ?”

    
Just
because you have strengths in one area, doesn’t mean you have strengths in
others. Remember in 1994 when Michael Jordan decided he wanted to be a
professional baseball player? He put on the right uniform. He used the right
equipment. He even played right field. But watching Michael Jordan play
baseball was NOT like watching Michael Jordan play basketball. Fly balls hit
him in the chest. His swing was often behind a fast ball. He called umpires “referees.”
He ended up in the minor leagues. Each of us has strengths. Each of us has
places God can use us most effectively. The secret of a strong and vital church
is making certain that everyone uses the gift God’s given them. We often fail
to use God’s gifts because we’re shy, selfish or just plain lazy. But failing
to use our gifts disappoints God and denies others the opportunity to enjoy
God’s blessings with us. God’s will is that we use our gifts…regardless of
what they are.

    
When you’re a kid, there’s nothing better than being on the winning
team. Of course, when you’re a kid there’s nothing worse than being on the
losing team. Think of all those great, feel-good Disney-esque movies- they
don’t ever end with the hometown team losing the big championship game. No, the
whole point of these happily-ever-after stories is that the under-dog, scrubby,
gave-it-their-all losers are transformed into top-of-the-heap winners. But for
adults, winning and losing is rarely as clear-cut as it was when we were kids.
But we do have one event in our grown-up lives that still makes us feel like an
instant loser. Nobody wants to lose. Nobody wants to be known as a loser…not
even in church. We love to talk about winning souls for Jesus. And since Jesus
Christ is the head of the church, we see Him as the ultimate CEO, mapping out
successful corporate strategies and takeovers. We want to be winners. But
today’s gospel text reminds us of the force and focus of Jesus’ message and
mission. We need to leave our fantasy Jesus behind and get to know the real
Jesus- the One who came to bring good news to the poor, give sight to the blind
and set the captives free. The real Jesus came for the least and the lost, not
the best and the brightest. He came not for the cream of the crop…but for the
skimmed milk.

The
emergence of spiritual redwoods signals a revolution in church organization. The
age of repeatable, predictable church bureaucracy has come to an end. It’s been
replaced by organic organizations that share the common features of the forest:

1.
Emerging organizations are designed to grow. Their purpose isn’t to repeat or
protect a religious heritage that was their original programming. Instead,
their purpose is to expand and thrive in any way that will enhance their life
with Jesus. They are oriented around a core vision of life to the fullest with
Jesus, and that core vision is the only benchmark for self-evaluation.

2.
Emerging organizations grow in the midst of sea of diversity. Their strategy
isn’t to clone themselves in as many places as possible. Instead, their
strategy is to empower whatever works, in order to overcome any obstacle
limiting their life with Jesus.

3.
Emerging organizations grow in constant, creative change. Their spiritual life
is not repeatable or predictable. Instead, their spiritual life is a constant
bubbling of innovation and change, the energy for which is entirely devoted to
enhancing their life with Jesus.

     The issue of control dominates the agenda
of the institutional churches that are slowly but surely disappearing in the
new era. That drive for control is fueled by the desire to preserve and protect
the great and glorious heritage of their institutions. These church
bureaucracies are machines. They may be of endless variety, they may be simple
or complex, they may be liberal or conservation, but they are machines nonetheless…and
their aim is control.

     Spiritual redwoods are NOT machines. They aren’t
foreign bodies intruding on culture with the intent of controlling it. They’re
organisms…living organisms, and they understand the health of the church and
the health of the community to be one and the same. Why? Because enhancing the
fullness of life with Jesus is all that matters.

     Now, you might be saying, “But I’m not a
spiritual redwood yet. I’m barely a spiritual sapling.” Or maybe you’re saying,
“I used to be a growing tree, but now I’m dried and withered, lying on the
forest floor.” Or maybe you’re saying, “The church is irrelevant; it died in 1970-
its roots are dried up and gone away.” If you’re saying these things…here’s
some hope for you. In January, a seed was planted in Israel…a 2,000 year old
seed. The seed, by all accounts, was dead.  The tree it came from, a date
palm from King Herod’s palace, had long been extinct. They planted a dead
seed…from an extinct tree…in a desert. They planted it in soil from its
native community and they nurtured it. Five months later, that 2,000 year old
date tree is 14 inches high, and has grown five leaves. Where there was death,
now there is life. That ancient tree is no longer extinct, but growing. And we
can grow too. God isn’t through with us yet. Jesus began his ministry by
announcing the birth of another world. Give thanks to God today and ask Him to
let a new world be born in you.

     Thanks for stopping by– I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Who’s Training Who?

          The other day the dog told me she needed to go out. And in case you’re thinking to yourself, “She TOLD you? Really? She TOLD you?” Yes…she told me! She has distinctly different  behavior, depending on what she wants/needs. “I’m hungry” is different from “I’m thirsty”, which is different from “I want to play” which is different from “I need to go outside”. She may not speak English…but she certainly communicates! And she told me she had to go outside. 

     So I walked down the stairs of our split level, put my shoes on, grabbed the leash and headed outside. I shut the door, stepped off the front porch…and realized I didn’t have the dog!  I had the LEASH…but not the dog! I retraced my steps…and found her dutifully sitting on the steps, exactly in the spot and posture she is supposed to be before she goes out. She had this look on her face that said, “Have you lost your mind? You took the LEASH out…and forgot ME?” Then she sort of shook her head, let me attach the leash, and went outside to do her business. 
     As I walked her around the yard, I thought about what had just happened. And then it dawned on me- who’s actually  training who here? I’m SO sure that I have trained her to sit on the steps and wait while I attach the leash before she can go out. BUT…she HAS taught me how to recognize when she has to go out…AND I WAS the one who came back in and got her! If I’m honest…the dog has trained me quite well!
     Our relationship with God is much the same. If we’re honest, we try really hard to train God. We come to Him in prayer and try to tell Him how things should be. “You really should do this and that!” Or “God, I want you to do this or that!” We don’t necessarily MEAN to approach the relationship that way…we just…DO! You do it. I do it. We ALL do it. But my experience is that it just doesn’t work. And it doesn’t work because, at the end of the day, when everything is said and done, it is God is large and in charge…not us! 
     So, why do we do it? We do it because we want control. We strive for control. We crave control. But, if we are honest with ourselves, we really have NO control. Not really. God is in control. God knows the way, the truth and the life. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. God wants to train us in the way we should go, so that we won’t turn from it. Did you hear that? He WANTS to train us! So here’s the $64 question…will you let Him?
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus! 

The Sirens Are Going Off!

     As we all know, tornadoes have been touching down EVERYWHERE…or at least it seems that way! The devastation in Joplin, MO is overwhelming. (Here is a link to a CNN video-  http://bit.ly/jPne2u.  The woman in the video is my 2nd cousin. her aunt, my 1st cousin, lost her life in the tragedy.) The devastation is overwhelming. And when it is so fresh in your mind, it has a far greater impact on how you respond to things. 

     Two nights ago, we were having our Wednesday night programming at church. It includes a meal, classes for adults and youth groups for kids Kindergarten-8th grade. The adult classes are done for the season, but the dinner and youth groups still happened. Dinner was over (I brought my grill and cooked SEVERAL hamburgers!) and we were cleaning up. There were about 12 kids in the basement with us and about another 15-20 on the 2nd floor. Our community is built on a flood plain and there aren’t a ton of basements in town. So when there is a threat of a tornado, my church is a common place for folks to come. Someone from the fire house (across the street) came over and told me there were 3 confirmed tornadoes on the ground west of us and headed our way. He asked if he could send community members over and told me that if I had anyone in the building, they should stay there and get in the basement. 
     We gathered all the kids into the basement, but didn’t give them much in the way of details…no sense in scaring them any further than necessary. Then…the sirens went off. And quite frankly, I have ignored those very same sirens before. “Oh, it’s JUST the tornado sirens…nothing’s going to happen!” But that was then…this is now. We herded the kids (and the adults from the community who dropped in) into the safest spots we could find in the basement. And we waited.
     The reaction from the kids was…interesting. There were kids who seems a bit stressed, but were handling it pretty well. There were a few kids who cried. And there were several kids who had been in the middle of decorating their own sugar cookies who were delighted to sit in an interior hallway and eat their cookies, oblivious to what was going on around them!
     In the end, the sirens stopped, the storm passed, and we dodged another bullet. Soon, everyone was acting as if nothing had happened. We laughed and talked and went home. But I noticed that the laughing and the talking had a bit of what I call “whistling in the graveyard” to it. We were fine…but not entirely unchanged. We were safe, but not entirely secure. And the bottom line is this- we are NEVER entirely secure in an earthly sense. We can do all that is possible, but we can’t guarantee anything. So from where does our help come? Our help comes in the name of the Lord, Who offers us peace and grace. Our help comes in the name of the Lord, in Whose presence is fullness of joy, in Whose hand is pleasure forever more!
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Life’s Short…Eat Dessert First!

        I am a big fan of the TV show MASH. I watched it regularly and with great anticipation when it was in “first run”. (It was in syndicated  reruns for what seemed like an eternity, but you just don’t see it on much any more.) I have many favorite memories from that show, but one of them revolves around a relatively minor character- Dr. Sidney Friedman, the psychiatrist. (By the way, in his 1st appearance on the show, intended to be a “one and done” sort of thing, the character’s name was Milton. When thy brought him back, they decided to change it to Sidney.) In this particular episode, he shows up at the camp at the onset of a particularly bad stretch. They are inundated with wounded and performing surgery for hours and hours. Toward the end of the episode, when everyone is near the breaking point, Sidney gets ready to leave. Sensing the massive amounts of stress in the room, he leaves them with these parting words, “Ladies and gentlemen, take my advice- pull down your pants and slide on the ice!”

     I have been thinking about that quote a lot lately. My church lost a matriarch the week of Christmas. Then I lost my dad a month later. Then it was a former long-term member who moved away a few years ago. A few days ago, my cousin was killed when a tornado ripped through Joplin, MO. And yesterday I buried the adult daughter of that previously mentioned matriarch- a woman who had been the Office Administrator at the church. It’s been a tough few months. As a pastor, I performed four of those funerals (all but my cousin). As a human being, the grief has been tough to balance. It causes you to think of all sorts of things- what’s it all mean? Is it worth it? Why do people die? What’s the meaning of life? What next? And I have pondered all those questions. 
     But I have also pondered the advice Dr. Sidney Friedman gave the doctors and nurses at the beloved 4077th. I know…it’s just a TV show. Those people aren’t real. But the ADVICE is VERY real…and, at least for me…helpful. Am I going to REALLY pull down my pants and slide on the ice? Highly unlikely! But it does speak to the need to just “let loose” occasionally- do something out of the ordinary, odd, goofy, fun. For example, last night I was at a church function. I was standing and talking to a couple of folks and I had a sheet of paper in my hand. For no apparent reason and with no warning, I put the paper flat against my mouth and sucked in. The result was that the paper “stuck” to my face. While it was there, I waggled my eyebrows at the people I was talking to. Then I simply took the paper down, smiled, and continued with the conversation as if nothing had happened. One of them shook their head, chuckled and said, “I’ll bet you were a pistol in school!”
     Sometimes you just have to do something that proves you don’t take like too seriously. Life’s short- we only have so much time on this planet. Don’t be so afraid to die that you forget to live. Since probably none of us are going to pull down our pants and slide on the ice, I propose the next best thing- eat your dessert first! Fly in the face of convention every now and again. In other words…live. It will not only brighten YOUR day, you’ll have a positive impact on others as well! Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Bible: Short People

    (Today we continue our current Wednesday  devotional Bible Study, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Bible. Each Wednesday, we walk through another section of the Bible and see what it’s all about.) Singer/songwriter Randy Newman has a song called Short People. The lyrics include: “Short People got no reason to live. They got little hands and little eyes and they walk around tellin’ great big lies. They got little noses, tiny little teeth. They wear platform shoes on their nasty little feet. Well, I don’t want no Short People round here.” He then adds, “Short People are just the same as you and I. All men are brothers until the day they die. It’s a wonderful world!” Sounds great, huh? But then it’s right back to- “Short People got nobody to love. They got little baby legs, they stand so low. You got to pick ’em up just to say hello. They got grubby little fingers, dirty little minds. They’re gonna get you every time. Well, I don’t want no Short People ’round here.”

     Now, let me say a few things about the song. One, I am convinced that Mr. Newman’s tongue was FIRMLY planted in his cheek when he wrote it. Two, being BARELY 5’9″…on a good day (My acting resume said I was 5’10″…it lied!), I am what many would consider on the short side. And three, all sweeping generalizations are false! Seriously, stereotypes are sweeping, false, and harmful. here are some of the more overt ones. All Arabs are named Muhammed, wear turbans, drive taxis, and are terrorists and look alike. All Asians are named Chong, are short, speak poor English, have a high IQ, are great at math and look alike. All Hispanics are named Paco, are poor, illegal, eat tacos, speak no English and look alike. All Irish are named Seamus, have red hair, are alcoholic, Catholic, beat their wives and look alike. All Italians are named Tony, eat pasta, are great cooks, talk with their hands, are in the mafia and look alike. All French are named Rene’, are rude, pretentious, hate Americans, wear berets, eat cheese and look alike. All Americans are named Steve, are aggressive, shallow, wasteful, overweight, rude and look alike. 
    It seems to me that it’s easy to capitalize on someone’s shortcoming and weaknesses…but we all fail sometime. And casting stones doesn’t seem to be the answer. There are stereotypes everywhere- even in the Bible. For many the group we are looking at today would constitute the B team- that would be the 12 Minor prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi. The are often overlooked…but truly have a great deal to tell us today. In these books, idolatry prevails, immorality is rampant, and the prophets urge repentance and a return to God, Who will offer mercy and forgiveness, restoring the nation’s religious purity.
     Stereotypes are caricatures. Prominent features are exaggerated and non-prominent features are diminished or eliminated altogether. believe it or not, we have caricatures of God. he is the Shepherd, the Policeman, the Grandfather, the Managing Director, the Clockmaker, the Cruel Jokester. We see 2 extremes of God in the Bible-  in the Old Testament we see Him as all-wrathful, while in the New Testament we think of Him as all-loving. I wonder which caricature is more harmful- the wrathful one…or the kindly one? At least the wrathful one inspires something. But an impotent, sacchariny, safe God doesn’t necessarily drive us to our knees in prayer. It doesn’t really inspire awe. It doesn’t move us to shout from the rooftops. It doesn’t motivate us to sacrifice. So- we end up with “God in the Box.” When we need Him, we take him out, and when we don’t, we store Him until next time. But where does  that leave us? 
     In the Minor Prophets, we get to see some of the genuine characteristics of God. God is- good, eternal, gracious, righteous, merciful, just, holy, etc. But all of those other characteristics flow from 1 primary characteristic- love. It all starts with love. We simply can’t get a handle on the others until we get one on love. Only when we see God’s love can we see the true image of God. God’s love forever changes the lives of those who experience it. And there is never more evidence of that than in the books of the Minor Prophets. 
     The end of the Book of Malachi is also the end of the Old Testament. It’s the last thing we hear from God for hundreds of years…until the start of the New testament. Malachi says this- “But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall. Then you will trample down the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I do these things,” says the LORD Almighty. Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel. See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers.”
     What a great promise to end the Old Testament. The hearts
of families will be turned to each other. And when Jesus comes, He comes preaching about the family…the family of God. And w
hat is God? God is holy fire- and when it’s dark and cold…don’t we all want to be close to the fire? I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Missing Children

    I remember it like it was yesterday. We were at Wal-Mart, and a little boy went missing. The parents were frantic. We immediately began helping in the search. I ran to the front doors, intent on not letting anyone leave the building with a child until we were sure the boy had been reunited with his parents. Within about a minute, there were several people walking/jogging through the store calling the boy;s name. It was very frightening. Then, I saw a little boy by himself. As I started toward him, the dad came swooping in and scooped the kid up in his arms. He hugged him and kissed him, all the while saying his name…over and over again. It looked as if the kid was being hugged so tight breathing might be a problem!

     If you have a child, you know the fear and dread that accompanies even the THOUGHT of not being able to find them. I am fortunate that neither of my kids has ever been REALLY lost. But there have been a few instances where we weren’t sure for a few minutes. It’s a terrifying place to be. I can’t even imagine what it must be like to have your child truly and legitimately missing. It is every parent’s worst nightmare.
     Tomorrow is nation Missing Children Day. In 1983, President Ronald Regan proclaimed May 25 National Missing Children’s Day. Each administration since has honored this annual reminder to the nation to renew efforts to reunite missing children with their families and make child protection a national priority. National Missing Children’s Day is a reminder to all parents and guardians of the need for high-quality photographs of their children for use in case of an emergency, and for the need for everyone to pay close attention to the posters and photographs of missing children. 
     Here’s my request regarding National Missing Children Day…it’s pretty simple. Pray! Pray for any and all children who are missing. Pray for the families affected by it. Pray that the world could become a place where we don’t have to worry about someone taking our children. Just…pray. And if you have a child that you are responsible for- whether it’s your child, your grandchild, niece, nephew, neighbor kid…whatever- watch them. Be diligent. Don’t assume anything. We ALL know that guarantees nothing…but it helps. 
     Set aside some quiet time tomorrow…every day, for that matter…to pray for kids across the world who are missing. May God help guide them back home. Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Where, O Where Has My Little Rapture Gone?!

     Well…Saturday has come and gone. If you’re saying to yourself, “He’s finally lost his mind! Saturday comes and goes EVERY week!” I won’t necessarily argue the “lost his mind” part, but you should know that, yesterday specifically, Saturday was supposed to COME…but not GO…at least not in the normal way! Ah…the rapture! It was supposed to happen. I heard 6PM…but was that EDT, CDT, MDT, or PDT? Does the rapture really CARE about such things as time zones? 

     As always when there is a “prophesied” end of the world, some people engage fully, some laugh and ignore it, and many sort of hover in the middle- not really giving it any  credence…but also holding just a tiny bit of uncertainty over the possible end of life as we know it. We know the odds are astronomical that it WON’T happen, but what if…? 
     I will be honest right up front- I gave it also NO thought…from start to finish. In fact, about 5 minutes after the world was supposed to end, it hit me that it was…you know…5 minutes after the end of the world! And yet, nothing had happened. I had friends who seems a bit concerned about it. I had friends who actually planned their day around the possibility. What did YOU do that day? Did it concern you at all? Did it give you cause to pause…or was it simply a tempest in a teapot? (I have always LOVED that expression!) 
     I also noticed that many of my clergy brothers and sisters fell into 3 similar categories. Many of them seemed to basically ignore it. Some of them laughed at it and took some swipes at the people who did the  predicting. And some of them were concerned about the Christian response to these folks. I fell pretty squarely in the first category…ho hum. Why? Why would I not either take it seriously and tell people to repent or NOT take it seriously and ridicule those who did? Frankly, I didn’t see any benefit in either of those  outcomes.
     The bottom line is simple- the Bible is clear that we will know neither the day or the hour when the rapture will happen. Do I believe it WILL happen? Absolutely. Do I have any idea when? Absolutely…NOT! Can I do anything about the when, where, why or how? No way. Therefore, to stress over it is just counterproductive. I should live my life like it is happening tomorrow. But since I have no idea whether that’s true or not, I shouldn’t let it eat me alive. 
      So, should we cast stones at those who believed Saturday was it? No- not a terribly Christian response. Should we run around like Chicken Little, yelling that the sky is falling every time someone predicts the rapture? No. Should we fear the rapture? No…A. we can’t do anything about it happening, and B. it will ultimately be a great thing for believers. What then should we do? We should live. That’s it…live. Live like tomorrow is NOT going to come. Live like a sold-out believer. Live like everyone you meet is a beloved child of God… because they are. 
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Growing Spiritual Redwoods: Vista Four- The Fluid That Flows

         
A young couple came and talked to the pastor about joining the church.
The pastor asked the wife what church she was transferring from. “The 1st
United Methodist Church of Yucca Flats.” Came her answer. He then turned to the
husband and asked where he was transferring from.  After a short
hesitation, the man replied, “I am transferring from…the Municipal Golf
Course!”

     Today we continue our current Sunday
sermon series Growing Spiritual Redwoods, based on the book by Bill
Easum and Tom Bandy. The series starts from the premise that “the way we’ve
always done it” often keeps churches from successfully ministering to the
unchurched. We will try to answer some of the questions that confront
Christians in this era of rapid and uncertain change- questions like “Are we
committed to Jesus…or to a particular doctrine?” “Do we see faith as an
experience of Jesus…or as a heritage to protect at all costs?” “Do you
believe our purpose in ministry is to make members…or disciples?”

     There’s a fluid flows through the giant
redwood. It flows through the thickest portions of the trunk, the tangled
extended branches, the network of hidden roots, to the smallest twig and leaf.
It bubbles up to the surface of the bark and wets the wood to make the tree
flexible in the wind. If any branch breaks, the fluid gathers in the place of
fracture, to protect and heal. This fluid is everywhere in the redwood. It’s
the vehicle that transmits all the nutrition. Without it, the smallest bud
can’t grow and the large branch can’t survive. It’s the elixir of life. It’s,
of course, the tree sap. The sap holds all the diversity that is the giant redwood
together as a single organism. Worship is the sap of the spiritual redwood.
It’s omnipresent. It’s essential. It’s the living water that refreshes and
renewed. It’s the energetic, transforming connection with God that brings life
to every part of the body.

     The
one thing that God doesn’t have unless you give it to Him and won’t take unless
you offer it to Him…is your worship. Think about it- what do you give a God
who has everything? The only thing you can give God is your love and your
worship. The heart of worship is the worship of the heart. The way you can know
that you have truly experienced the love of God in your heart is when you want
to give Him that love back by offering Him your life.
Worship is the central
thing in the life of the spiritual redwood. Hear these words from Matthew
4:8-11
that tell about what we
should, and shouldn’t, worship– Again, the devil took him to a very high
mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All
this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus
said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your
God, and serve him only.’” Then the devil left him, and angels came and
attended him.

     Author Bill Easum was consulting with a local congregation. He
talked to a long-term member, whom he asked about worship. The man replied,
“You’re asking the wrong person.” Bill pressed him for an explanation, pointing
out that the man had been at the church for 50 years! The man replied, “Yeah,
but I haven’t heard a sermon in 20 years. If I get snoring too loud, my wife
punches me, and I go out and have coffee with the trustees. They don’t go to
worship, either.” Bill asked, “Then why do you even go to church? You could
sleep at home just as well.” The man looked at Bill like he had lost his mind
and said, “Son, it’s my duty to go to church. I have to set an example for my
children!”

     Habits can make you, or they can break you. Most of you have
heard of the 7 habits of highly effective people. There may be 7 habits for
highly effective people, but there is ONE habit of a highly effective
Christian…and that one habit is worship. Understand that worship IS, and
should be, more than a habit…but it SHOULD be a habit. It should be a holy habit.
It should be a healthy habit. Just as fish gotta swim and birds gotta fly, God
made us to worship.
Worship is about
coaching. It helps people give thanks for their walk with Jesus, the discovery
of mentors and guides, and their opportunity to find their way in daily living.
Worship is about cherishing. It helps people recognize that which is truly
important in daily living. Worship is about rejoicing. It gathers the healed,
the lost, and the accepted in a united expression of pure joy.

     The enemy is no longer ignorance, but addiction and idolatry. The
solution is no longer better education, but grace. The vehicle is no longer a
certified and knowledgeable preacher trained in denominational policy and
historical theology, but a safari guide who can lead you through the tangled
forests. Trite, well-worn phrases don’t help people through a difficult week.
Instead, they need a real reason to hope, some practical coaching in faith and
a confidence in ultimate love…just to live one day at a time. Spiritual
redwoods grow when worship aims at the heart rather than the mind. They grow
when worship builds harmony rather than agreement. They grow when worship
communicates joy rather than contentment…when celebrates covenants rather
than commitments. Uniformity is neither possible nor desirable for growing,
thriving spiritual redwoods. Worship is a crucial part of Christian living.
It’s the gateway into personal growth and transformation throughout the week,
and as such it becomes part of the transformation process. Worship is the
starting point.

     Worship must be communicated in the language, cultural forms, and
technology of the people you’re trying to reach. You can’t simply take a flower
that grows in the South and expect it to flourish in the north. Worship should
use the everyday language of the people. Keep it simple, straight, direct and
universally understandable. The use of dated resources, broken equipment,
castoff electronics, and any tool that can’t be easily networked proclaims a
religion that is also dated, limited, broken, castoff, and incompatible. In
worship, nothing is sacred except the gospel. Nothing should be valued more
than the transformational impact of God’s Word.

    
One style of worship service with a single, constant mission
purpose simply can’t address the needs of all people. There is no longer a
single public for which the Gospel must be proclaimed. Spiritual redwoods
customize worship experiences like entrepreneurs in a free market. Worship
should target people, not principles. Worship should target yearning, not learning.
Christian worship isn’t a spectator sport. It should involve all the senses,
draw people into an experience of faith, motivate mission outreach, and
encourage spiritual discipline throughout the week. Worship is about healing.
It helps people give thanks for their experience of the touch of God that
heals, comforts, and makes them whole.
Our
first obligation as Christians, above all else, is to worship God. The first
obligation of the Church is to worship God. Nothing can change your life like
truly worshipping God. In order to do that, we have to remember the 3 truths
about worship that can change your life:

1. Worship is not localized to a
particular place. Worship isn’t tied to where you are, but who you are…and
Who you know. Back in the day, if you wanted to worship you had to go to
Jerusalem and worship in the temple. But since Jesus came, there’s been a
radical change. In the Old Testament, God had a temple for his people. Now, God
has a people for His temple. Did you know that, 24/7/365, your body is a place
of worship. Your body is God’s house. Now that immediately raises the question:
“So I don’t have to go to church to worship God?” You can worship God
anywhere, but if your heart fosters a desire to worship God, then it also
fosters a desire to worship God with other people. The church is the place
where we come together to worship God corporately, but individually we should
worship God everywhere we go.

2. Worship is centralized to a
particular person. Did you know that God isn’t looking for witnesses or
workers? He’s looking for worshipers. And the reason is so simple. Once you
become a worshiper, you’ll also become a worker and a witness. God isn’t
looking for churchgoers or even church builders. He’s looking for worshipers;
people who’ll come and link their hearts to His heart.

3. Worship must be realized through
passion
. True
worship is spiritual worship, and spiritual worship is passionate worship. We
are both body and spirit, but true worship takes place in our spirit. Many
people worship God with their body. They’ve got the idea that if they just come
to church, just show up and sit in a pew, they’ve worshiped God. If you just
come to the right place, and do the right thing, at the right time, your
worship is complete.
Using
your voice to sing, your ears to hear, your eyes to see, your hands to clap-
those things are expressions of worship, but they are not the essence of
worship. The essence of worship is to worship God with our soul. The true
essence of worship is when our spirit connects with the Holy Spirit.

    
Worship is directing our attention
to God. I’m preaching right now, and I’m totally dependent upon one thing- you
giving me your attention. I can’t take your attention. I can’t force you to pay
attention. You have to give it to me. That’s the first part of worship –
directing your attention to God. worship takes focus, energy, attention. Why
does God wants your focus? Because He’s focused on you. God never takes His
eyes off of you. He wants you to do the same. He wants you to always have your
attention on Him. That’s extremely difficult to do because we live in a self
centered culture. In order to focus on God, we have to stop focusing on
ourselves. That’s easier said than done. But the only hope we have of making
that happen is to establish a daily quiet time with God. It may be just a few
minutes. It may be at the beginning of the day, the middle or the end, but it
needs to be a time where you stop everything else you’re doing and just spend
time with God. When you focus on yourself, the result will be worry,
insecurity, anxiety, guilt, fear, and discouragement. But when you focus on
God, who never changes and who can solve every problem you have, it brings
peace.

    
A paramedic was asked what his most unusual and challenging 911 call
was. He told a story about getting a call from a church on Sunday morning. A
frantic usher told how, during the sermon, an elderly man had passed out in a
pew and appeared to be dead. The usher could find no noticeable signs of life.
The interviewer said, “Well, what was so unusual and demanding about that
particular call?” The paramedic replied, “Well, when we showed up, we
searched for the one with no noticeable signs of life…we carried 37 people out
before we found the one they called about.”

Worship is both a thermometer and
the thermostat of the Christian life. If your heart is cold or lukewarm and you
show up that way to worship God, then your worship will be routine, dull,
boring. Instead of looking at your Bible, you’re looking at your watch. But if
your heart is on fire for God, time flies when you’re worshiping.

I wear a wedding ring to show my
love for my wife. I wear a cross dangling from my ear to show my love for God. Worship
is demonstrating our love for God. You may be one of those people who aren’t
comfortable saying, “I love you”, but when it comes to God you need
to learn to get comfortable. Look at it this way-  God told you He loved
you first. He said it to you when He created you. He said it to you when He
sent Jesus to die for you. He said it to you today when He let you get out of
bed and come to church. God doesn’t want ritual. God doesn’t want religion. God
doesn’t want rules and regulations. God wants a relationship. He wants a
relationship filled with love. God wants your love. That ought to be the
primary goal of your life. The greatest way to demonstrate your love to God is
by giving your life to Him and by surrendering all that you have to Him.

    
One
Sunday night a little boy knelt down beside his mother and daddy to say his
evening prayers before he went to bed. Here’s what he said: “Dear God, we
had a great time in church today. I wish you had been there.” Worship
doesn’t stop with your quiet time. You should be in God’s house every
Sunday…but worship doesn’t stop on Sunday. Some of the greatest worship you
will ever offer to God comes at odd times the week. True worship is a
lifestyle.
It’s
not what you do that matters; it’s Who you do it for. You can be a plumber for
the glory of God. You can dig ditches for the glory of God. You can work in a
court room for the glory of God. You can serve in a hospital for the glory of
God.
If
you want to fulfill the purpose for which you were created, come to Jesus
today. Surrender your life to Him and say, “Lord, from this moment
on…here I am to worship.”

     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

The Multiplying of the Loaves and…the Meatballs!

     We recently had a potluck dinner at church. No big surprise. United Methodists and potlucks go together like bacon and eggs, Abbott and Costello,  mayonnaise and peanut butter. (Try it…BEFORE you brand me a lunatic!) It was actually a Wednesday night dinner (we have those regularly) hosted by our Middle School youth. On the day of the event, I asked our Director of Youth and Children’s Ministries if she had enough food. She said she was a bit concerned about the quantity of “main dishes”, so I volunteered to bring something. I had about ZERO extra time to devote to that project that day, so I stopped by the grocery store, got 3 bags of frozen meatballs and 2 bottles of Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ Sauce (only the BEST in the world!), dumped them in a crock pot and viola!…instant main dish!

     When the event began that night, I looked at the variety of things on the table, looked at the rather long line of people waiting to eat, and wondered the same thing I do every time we have one of these dinners- “Is there going to be enough food?” But, as I went through the line last (I try to wait until everyone else has been through), there was still more than enough food left. And as I scooped up a variety of tasty foods, I was reminded of a conversation my mother-in-law and I had once. They used to be Communion stewards at their church- responsible for preparing the bread and the wine/juice for Sunday worship. She often worried about whether they had prepared enough or not- she didn’t want to run out. But they ALWAYS had enough…they NEVER ran out. And that seems to be the way it goes with church dinners as well. No one leaves hungry.
     In the end, I think that says much LESS about the planning skills of the people involved and much MORE about God’s abundant nature. Just like God multiplied a boy’s lunch of fish and bread to feed thousands, He abundantly provides for all of His children. Can I PROVE that He multiplies meatballs to make sure there is enough to eat? No. But can you prove He DOESN’T? 
     God provides…end of story. The important distinction is that He provides for our NEEDS…and not  necessarily for our WANTS. Dying for that new car? Praying probably isn’t going to help. But have basic needs that aren’t being met? Pray to God, and He will provide. It won’t always be in the WAY you want or the TIMING you expect, but He will meet those needs. And the more you trust in that fact, the less you will worry about those things. And the less you worry, the more you will be able to focus on carrying out God’s will for your life daily!
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

You Can’t Get There From Here!

     I was recently driving back from a town about 60 minutes from where I live. I was really “pushing it” on time, so I was trying to hurry. As I got into another town that sits at about the midway point of that journey, I remembered a “shortcut” that would bypass much of the downtown congestion and bring me out on the other side of town, near where I needed to be to catch the interstate. I triumphantly turned right to take the shortcut…and within about 60 seconds realized there was road construction going on that was going to preclude me from taking my shortcut. But, undaunted, I turned and went down a few blocks, determined to get back on the shortcut route. DENIED! There was construction there as well! I tried another couple of blocks…construction! They were apparently working on EVERY intersection that road had! I ended up finding my way back on track, after “stumbling around” the back streets of the town. In the end, I estimated it took me about 5 minutes LONGER to do what I did than if I had just stayed on the main road in the beginning!

     Shortcuts are an interesting thing. We all know them, we all use them, and we all benefit from them. We also have all had the experience of a shortcut not only NOT being helpful but in fact being harmful. So is the moral of this story, “Don’t take ANY shortcuts- they’re bad?” Nope…not it. Shortcuts can be great things. But you have to weigh the pros and the cons. You have to give the whole things some thought before you do it. I see many people take what I would call “life shortcuts”, thinking that it will be a great thing, only to find out in the end, when it’s too late, that the results are devastating. 
     There are no real shortcuts to faith. Doing anything you feel like doing, even things you know to be wrong, simply because you know you can go and confess your sins to God any time you want is a shortcut…and a harmful one at that. The ability to confess your sins to God and be forgiven isn’t a cosmic “get out of jail free” card that allows you to do whatever you want. It is, instead, a magnificent and mysterious gift from God. He forgives us, despite what we have done. He loves us, despite who we are. But if we make no effort to learn from our mistakes, our “shortcuts” if you will, then we can never grow and strengthen our faith. We become static. And my experience is that when people become static, they don’t really stop moving…they simply stop moving FORWARD. Instead, they start to slide backwards. And that can be like a snowball rolling down a hill- we quickly pick up momentum in those circumstances. 
     Where are the shortcuts in your life? Are you willing to set them aside and “drive the main roads” (to quote that great theologian Glenn Campbell)? If you do…you will find a peace that you thought unattainable. And how cool is that?! Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and stop by again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Corn Field Scuba Diving

     There is a sign a few miles down the interstate from where I live that advertises a scuba diving school. It simply says, “Blah Blah Scuba Diving School, 555-1212”. (And NO, the place isn’t called Blah Blah and NO, that’s not their number!) I have always wanted to scuba dive- I think that would be awesome. In fact, when my oldest son was in college, I tried to live vicariously through him- scuba diving was one of the PE classes he could take. I told him I would pay the extra money if he would take it. Unfortunately, it never fit into his schedule AND was still open when he registered! Darn it!

     So, let me reiterate, I think scuba diving would be awesome. To be able to swim UNDER the water for an extended period of time without dying…that would be great! So I have NO issues with a scuba diving school. What strikes me as funny, every time I see that sign, is that this sign…is in the middle of a cornfield! In fact, for miles and miles in all directions of this sign, there is nothing BUT cornfields! Now, I don’t know about you, but when I think of scuba diving, I think of crystal clear blue waters and tropical fish and white sand beaches and warm tropical breezes. What I don’t think of is an endless sea of corn!
     I understand that one can scuba dive with an ocean. I am quite sure that the scuba diving school in question trains in a swimming pool somewhere, just like my son’s university did. And I am quite sure that said scuba diving school is a great place run by great people. So, if you happen to know the folks that run this school- I am NOT trying to say bad things about them. At all! It just…makes me laugh! A scuba diving school in Central Illinois. I would be like a mountain climbing school in…Central Illinois! Or a skydiving school that never got you off the ground. A white water rafting school in the desert. You get the idea!
     What it makes me think of is that, all too often, I fear we live our spiritual lives like taking scuba diving lessons in a cornfield…with no risk. There is NO fear of drowning in a cornfield. There’s also no fear of actually learning how to scuba dive, either. Likewise, there is no fear of getting hurt if you never reach out beyond your comfort zone. Likewise, there’s no fear of actually growing in your faith if you stay IN your comfort zone. Safety happens within our comfort zone- amazing things can happen OUT of our comfort zone! But if we are never willing to step out in faith, we can guarantee two things: 1. we will remain nice and safe, and 2. we will never have any hope of being the person God calls us to be. 
     What holds you back from stepping out in faith? What is it that keeps you from a more full relationship with God? What is it that has you scuba diving in a cornfield? Once you identify the things that hold you back, you can start addresses them. And once you start addressing them, you can begin to make forward progress. And once that starts…you won’t want it to stop! Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and stop by again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Bible: What a Wonderful World

     (Today, we continue our walk Wednesday walk through the entire Bible- Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Bible. We focus on some of the Old Testament prophets.) Nostradamus…hear the name, you instantly think, “Predictions”. He wrote quatrains. How about this one, which came to light when the World Trade Center towers came down? “In the year of the new century and nine months, From the sky will come a great King of Terror…The sky will burn at forty-five degrees. Fire approaches the great new city… In the city of york there will be a great collapse, 2 twin brothers torn apart by chaos while the fortress falls the great leader will succumb third big war will begin when the big city is burning.” Pretty amazing, huh? It would be even more amazing if it was actually one piece that Nostradamus wrote…but it’s not. 

     When we think of prophecy, we automatically think of prediction. But in reality, TRUE prophecy is NOT prediction, but merely a reporting of God’s promise. A prophecy tells us not how the world IS…but how it’s GOING to be. In 1977, Art Garfunkel, along with Paul Simon and James Taylor recorded a Sam Cooke song called What a Wonderful World. In it, we hear- “Don’t know much about geography, don’t know much trigonometry. Don’t know much about algebra, don’t know what a slide rule is for. But I do know 1 and 1 is 2, and if this one could be with you, what a wonderful world this would be.” It WOULD be…it COULD be…but it ISN’T…not yet. 
     In the Old testament, there are Major Prophets…and there are Minor Prophets. (Does anyone actually aspire to be a Minor Prophet? “Jimmy, what do you want to be when you grow up?” “I have low expectations, so I want to be a Minor Prophet!”) There are 5 Major Prophets…the starting 5 if you will, the ones who run the floor most of the game. They are:
     Isaiah, who focuses on the fact that the root of the trouble people are in is a result of idolatry (worshiping things other than God) and apostasy (renouncing one’s religion). His message is 2-fold: judgment on one hand…and comfort, hope and restoration on the other. Israel and Judah perish, but a remnant will survive, and that remnant will come to the realization that God loves them and is faithful.
     Jeremiah, who focuses on the fact that the people are in captivity. They are suffering, but there is hope of a final overthrow of their enemies. The emphasis is on personal religion. Jeremiah warns of false prophets and he urges the people to turn from their wicked ways and submit to Babylonian authority and judgment.
     Lamentations of Jeremiah, 5 poems of sorrow designed to help the people express their sorrow. This book is an appendix to the Book of Jeremiah. It’s about the fall of Jerusalem, the destruction of the temple and the people being taken off into captivity. Jeremiah makes a confession of sin on behalf of the people and their leaders, and urges the people to submit to the will of God.
     Ezekiel, written in exile, this book offers both warning and comfort. There are 2 sections: one denounces the sins of Jerusalem while the other focuses on the future hope of restoration to future a Kingdom which will last forever, God’s people will never again be cast out.
     Daniel, which deals with the events which occurred while in captivity. There are 2 parts- Daniel’s faith, and the greatness of God. There are also 4 visions of Daniel, which are interpretations in which he prophecies on the destiny of 2 opposing powers: the kingdom of men and the Kingdom of God.
     There is a great deal of prophecy about Jesus in the Old testament. Probability statistics say that the probability of 8 prophecies being fulfilled is 1 in 1017…that would be 1 in 100 quadrillion. The probability of 48 prophecies being fulfilled is 1 in 10157. (the estimated number of electrons in the universe is 1079!) Jesus fulfilled over 400 Old testament prophecies! And He did not fulfill them by accident or happenstance!
     Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner once did a comedy sketch called “The 2000-Year Old Man”. In it, Reiner (the reporter) asks Brooks (the 2,000 year old man) some questions. “Did you always believe in God?” “No. We used to believe in a guy who lived in the village named Phil. We worshiped him.” “You worshiped a guy named Phil? Why?” “He was big and mean- he’d break you in 2 with his bare hands!” “When did you start worshiping God?” “One day, there was a big thunderstorm, and lightning hit Phil…dead. We realized there was something bigger than Phil!’” Some folks come face to face w/God’s righteousness and holiness…and they reject it. They can’t deal with a god who is bigger than them. They want to be in charge of their own lives. It’s much safer to worship an idol that you’re comfortable with- you can see it, smell it, touch it. Falling into the hands of the living God can be a fearful thing- He has the power to destroy anything, nothing can stand against His power. But He cares for you, He knows you’re frail and weak…and He loves you regardless! God IS bigger than we are. How big is He? Always a little bigger than we need! 
     Imagine how great things could be if we put out whole trust in God’s grace. Imagine how marvelous life would be if we lived according to God’s plan and not our own. What a wonderful world that would be! Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!


Enter Through the Narrow…Urinal?

     If you have read this blog for any length of time OR if you’ve KNOWN me personally for any length of time…you know am a bit…left of center. That’s NOT a political ideology of which I speak, but is instead a reference to the fact that I don’t seem to…think…the way that most people do! Call it “dark at the top of the stairs”, or “not the sharpest tool in the shed” or “2 burritos shy of a combo platter”…it’s all the same. I truly march to the beat of a different drummer. And while I have learned to embrace, even appreciate, that fact, I KNOW that it causes some people a modicum of stress! Sorry…it’s just who I am!

     And with that firmly in mind, I would like to spend today talking about…ready?… urinals! Yep…you read that right…urinals! 
     I was away from home recently, driving, at I needed to…let us say “use the facilities”. So I stopped at the friendly neighborhood McDonald’s and used theirs. Now, this must have been the 2nd McDonald’s ever built. I say 2nd because I’ve seen pictures of the 1st one and this ain’t it!) I was old. It was in relative disrepair (by McDonald’s standards, at least). It was unattractive. It was small. Other than the fact that the roof was rotting, it was in fact the size of place that really caught my attention. There was probably only seating for about 40 people in there. But I hadn’t even begun to comprehend the idea of small until I visited “the little pastor’s room”. Unlike most McDonald’s, it was designed for one person at a time- complete with a lock on the door. (You just don’t see that at Mickey D’s any more!) But that wasn’t the worst of it. When I stepped up to the urinal, the walls on either side were SO narrow that I simply wedged in, stopping a good 2 feet of my intended destination! After a momentary pause as I tried to fathom this strange and sudden revelation, I turned a bit sideways…and continued with the task at hand!
     Now, I have unusually broad shoulders (I would brag about it, but it’s all genetics- I had NOTHING to do with it!), but this would have been narrow for a 10-year old boy! (I have one of those at home and therefore have a rough idea of his shoulder width!) I wondered who designed this building. Perhaps it was designed for some strange, yet-undiscovered tribe of folks who are unusually…narrow! (It’s the only solution I can think of!)
     At this point, you are probably wondering, “OK, preacher, you stretch it a bit thin sometimes, but what in the WORLD does a narrow urinal have to do with faith? Funny you should ask! In the Gospels, Matthew 713-14 to be specific, it says- “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” And, because of my…odd…brain, that Scripture came to mind as I stood in the McDonald’s men’s room that day. Think about what Jesus says here. The WIDE gate is broad (and therefore easy to navigate), but it leads to destruction. In other words, the easy way (which is the one we tend to choose often) is seldom the best way. The narrow way (the one we tend to avoid) is certainly much more difficult to navigate and takes greater perseverance to travel, is the way that leads…to life. And knowing how Jesus tended to say things, I think what He meant by “life” was “life abundantly”! 
     I don’t know about you, but I WANT abundant life. I guess the question is- what am I willing to do/give up to have abundant life? Am I willing to travel the narrow path? Am I willing to work harder, sacrifice more, be more persistent in my choices and my behavior? If so, Jesus says,  LIFE waits along that path. And based on what I see on a daily basis, there are an awful lot of folks out there who are existing, but don’t seem to be truly living.  So, I bet you’ll never quit look at a McDonald’s bathroom in quite the same way again! 
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

But I’m SURE I’m Right!

     About a week ago, I had to drive to another town in the general area…one I have never been to before…to officiate at a graveside service. It was a bit over an hour away. The family asked me if I needed directions to the cemetery. I assured them I would be fine. I would just enter it into the GPS on my phone, and…away we go! Or so I thought!

      I got to the start page on the old GPS, chose the “place” option, and entered the name of the cemetery, the name of the town and the name of the state…then hit “enter”. It searched for a moment, then gave me 2 options. 1 made absolutely NO sense and the other one was the place I was trying to find…no brainer. So I chose option 2, of course, and took off. 
     98% of the trip went well- one might say perfectly. I got into the town where the cemetery was located and as I drove down Main St. and the nice lady in the GPS said, “Go .9 miles and your destination is on your left.” Cool- just a bit longer. Then, she said, “Go.4 miles and your destination is on your left.” Awesome…almost there! Then the moment of truth came, “Your destination is on your left.” So, I look to the left…and see a long, low building that is obviously some kind of light industry. Perfectly nice building. I’m sure it’s a great little business. But there was NO cemetery. I mean, I’ve seen a cemetery or two in my day (not trying to brag…just sayin’!), and I am quite certain I would have recognized the presence of one had it been there! I drove past the spot, trying to decide to do…and my GPS said, “You have passed your destination. New route. Make a legal u-turn and…” 
     It was really quite funny. The GPS was wrong, just flat-out wrong, and yet it continued to insist that it was right. So I pulled into the parking lot of the town hall (seemed like a good place to get directions) and went in. I found a woman who worked there are asked her where the cemetery was. “Go north and…” “Maam, wait. Left or right? I don’t know where north is from here.” “NORTH! Go north to 3rd Street and turn east.” Maam, again, left or right?” “NORTH! EAST!” (Wildly pointing the whole time!) I was clearly getting nowhere with her, so I thanked her and left. I drove to 3rd Street, took a wild stab, and turned right. (Ironically, I turned right because she pointed a certain way when she said “north”, and then she said “turn east”, which would have been, passed on her wild gesticulating, a right turn. She was wrong!) I immediately feared I had turned the wrong way, so I stopped a woman coming out of the Post Office, asked her, got directions, and within 3 minutes of that conversation I was parking the car and walking toward the grave site. 
      We are so often so sure that we’re right. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, we doggedly cling to the notion that we couldn’t possibly be wrong. But guess what…we ALL make mistakes. We all get it wrong sometimes. And my experience is that, when we refuse to admit that we messed up, we just make it harder and harder on ourselves to try and maintain that “perfect” persona. And yet, when we admit that we are NOT (gasp!) perfect, we are freed from trying to BE perfect. We are freed to simply be what God has called us to be…imperfect, flawed, and yet LOVED children of His. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and find someone’s house…NORTH? SOUTH? LEFT? RIGHT? GPS…here I come!
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Growing Spiritual Redwoods: Vista Three- Beneath, Behind and Beyond

     Love is an interesting thing. It’s a
many-splendored thing. Air Supply is all out of it. The Eagles give the best of
theirs. Elton John wonders if you can feel it tonight. Elvis can’t help fallin’
in it with you. Patsy Cline is crazy for it. Diana Ross and Lionel Ritchie have
endless amounts of it. Barbara Streisand thinks it’s as soft as an easy chair. Olivia
Newton John honestly does it. Stevie Wonder just called to say it. Andy
Williams writes love letters about it in the sand. And J. Geils thinks it stinks.
There’s no in between for love…it’s either awesome or horrible…no middle
ground. It is a singularly polarizing thing. But in the end, love is just a
word…until someone comes along and gives it meaning.

     Today we continue our current Sunday
sermon series Growing Spiritual Redwoods, based on the book by Bill
Easum and Tom Bandy. The series starts from the premise that “the way we’ve
always done it” often keeps churches from successfully ministering to the
unchurched. We will try to answer some of the questions that confront
Christians in this era of rapid and uncertain change- questions like “Are we
committed to Jesus…or to a particular doctrine?” “Do we see faith as an
experience of Jesus…or as a heritage to protect at all costs?” “Do you
believe our purpose in ministry is to make members…or disciples?”

     Love is important. A man was stuck on the
interstate when his cell phone battery died. To make matters worse…it was his
anniversary. He wanted to let his wife know he would be late for dinner. So he
scribbled a note on a piece of paper asking other motorists to call her. When
he finally got home, his wife gave him a big kiss and said, “You must really
love me…72 people called and told me so!” But sadly, all too often love is
the exception and not the rule. For Christians, love is to be the rule and NOT
the exception. It’s true in the Old Testament AND the New Testament!
     Deuteronomy 6:5- Love God, your
God, with your whole heart: love him with all that’s in you, love him with all
you’ve got!

     Luke 10:27- 27He said, “That
you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and
intelligence- and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself.”

     Love is an interesting thing. You
meet someone, you think you love them…and then it doesn’t work out. So you move
on…and you meet someone else. You realize that the last time wasn’t really love…but
this one is. And then…it doesn’t work out. Then you meet someone else. And this
cycle continues until…you meet THE one. And at that moment…you suddenly realize
what love is. It doesn’t negate the feelings you had before…just puts them in
context.
In the book, Bill Easum talks about doing a consultation at a local church.
During a time of conversation, the resident pastor looked at Bill with a
puzzled expression and said, “During the seminar you mentioned several
times the need for people to have a personal relationship with Jesus. What on
earth did you mean by that?” Many people struggle with the notion of a
personal relationship with Jesus…of loving Jesus.
Preposition- a word that indicates the temporal, spatial or logical
relationship of its object to the rest of the sentence. Many teachers describe prepositions
as “what a squirrel can be in relation to a tree.” You know- about, above, across,
after, against, among, around, before, behind, below, beneath, beside, between,
beyond, despite, from, in, like, near, next, of, off, on, opposite, outside, over,
past, through, toward, under, until, upon, with, without. There are MANY more,
but the three we’re going to focus on today are beneath, behind and beyond.
     Beneath, behind, and beyond the forest
lies a deeper mystery. It’s the power and meaning of life. It’s that which is
holy. Churches aspiring to grow into spiritual redwoods participate in
conversation with the community. They are tuned to human culture and natural
environment. Spiritual talk goes on all around us and yet all too often churches
are tuned to the wrong frequency. While we’re listening to the wrong signals, a
continuous and diverse cultural conversation about faith is happening in which
the Church isn’t necessarily participating. In order for us to find the right
frequency, we need to adjust our sets by making three crucial distinctions. The
1st distinction is that people don’t want to talk about religion; they want to
talk about spirituality. The 2nd distinction is that people don’t want to
listen to professional experts; they want to learn from spiritual travelers.
The 3rd distinction is that people don’t want to talk about divine
abstractions; they want to talk about Jesus. Even our terminology makes the
conversation difficult. I heard a church leader say, “When I speak of Christ,
people’s eyes glaze over and they fidget uncomfortably. But when I talk about
the love of Jesus, they pay attention.” The term Christ carries an
enormous weight and the use of such terms requires a greater theological
knowledge than many people possess and a deeper commitment to Church tradition
than many people want. Such terms have become, for many, relics of an approach
to Christianity whose time has passed.

     The world of the 21st century is a
complex, ambiguous world, in which addiction is the number one health issue and
victimization is a universal experience. In such surroundings, the transforming
love of Jesus excites people’s interest, attracts widespread attention.
Churches that help people develop a relationship with Jesus become havens of
clarity and safety in the middle of a tangled forest. The churches that emerge
as spiritual redwoods emphasize a relationship with Jesus as the fundamental
issue of faith and purposeful living. These churches clearly articulate their
answer to the key question for ministry in the 21st Century- “what is it
about our experience with Jesus that the community can’t live without?”
Notice that the question is, “What is it about our experience…?”
Not our dogma…or our doctrine…or our historical knowledge…or our opinion.
But what is it about our heartfelt, practical, daily experience of Jesus that
continually and radically changes, modifies, improves, and redirects the course
of our daily living? Jesus is more than an historical figure or a wise teacher,
more than a moral example or a miracle worker. Jesus is the transforming love
of God. He is the fullness of God in purposeful connection with all
creatures….great and small. Churches that strive to be spiritual redwoods are
centered on the love of Jesus.
     Spiritual redwoods stand taller than
any other tree, but their visibility is less about the numbers of their
adherents, and more about the magnitude of their ministries. They support an
enormous umbrella of intertwined branches, which shelter a huge diversity of
life. They’re resistant to crisis from beyond and disease from within. They put
down strong, extensive root systems that intertwine with those of other
redwoods. They draw nutrition from unexpected sources, and reach out into
unlikely places. They regenerate in abundance. Not only do seeds initiate new
life across the forest floor, but they sprout vigorously even from the stumps
of fallen trees. The forest is in constant conversation. The birds call, the
insects hum, the branches crackle, and leaves rustle in the wind. Altogether,
they communicate each changing nuance of the environment. Everything is in
relation. Everything is in process. The same is true the redwood. They can’t
survive without participating in a constant conversation with the forest. They
can’t grow in isolation from the forest, nor can they grow in confrontation
with the forest. They can only grow in conversation with the forest. They can
only grow when they are heading in the same direction as the forest. And the
most important step to finding the right direction is to fall in love with
Jesus.

     As the gap between Church and society
widens, tradition doctrinal images of Jesus are disappearing. Often, the real,
authentic, and vibrant conversations about the fullness of Jesus are happening not
inside the church, but beyond. And it’s happening all the time, everywhere- in
restaurants, sports arenas, city parks, neighborhood parties, school
playgrounds- basically anywhere the public gathers. Churches who persistently
argue theology and doctrine are being pushed to the margins of religious life. As
the spiritual yearnings of the public change, and as people become increasingly
alienated from institutional religious agendas, churches often become
increasingly minor voices in the larger cultural conversation about Jesus.
Churches talk about Jesus…IF the context of the conversation is doctrinal
agenda, and then they spend much of their time trying to persuade others to
accept the institutional agenda of the church. When that happens, we aren’t
really even in a conversation at all. Our purpose becomes edifying and
correcting instead of listening and learning. The unchurched public has less
and less patience with the theological and ideological agendas of the Church. But
churches who make the effort to sit in on the spiritual conversations going on around
them with a collectively open mind are becoming the spiritual redwoods of this
emerging Christian era.
     Here are 3 realities about a relationship
with Jesus: 1st- a relationship with Jesus is ultimately experiential. 2nd- a
relationship with Jesus invokes humility and compassion. 3rd- a relationship
with Jesus needs to be built on a foundation of love. Spiritual redwoods are
always sharing, always listening, always learning. They’re always seeking new
ways to engage with Jesus, Who’s already working in surprising ways, with
extraordinarily diverse people, and gaining unexpected results.
     In the classic American story The
Red Badge of Courage, a young soldier named Henry runs from the battle. He is
both overwhelmed by his own inadequacy and obsessed with his self-righteous
pretensions. He wonders through the forest, searching for safety and peace.
Then Henry meets a tattered man, who dresses his wounds and guides him home.
Obstacles seem to vanish before this man. His words are consoling and kind.
When Henry’s finally led safely back to camp, he realizes that he never once
actually looked the tattered man in the face- he doesn’t know what his rescuer
looks like, let alone where he came from or where he went. He doesn’t even know
his name. Henry’s like many in the tangled forest of the 21st century. They’re
surrounded by hidden dangers and when they find their way to the safety and
peace of the spiritual redwood, they often remember some tattered companion who
walked with them on their way…Jesus. And like Henry’s experience with the
tattered man, it’s unimportant what He looks like- all that matters is what
He’s done.

     Do you know how the lobster is able to
grow bigger when its shell’s so hard? In order to get bigger, they have to
periodically shed their exterior shell…the one that protects them, keeps them
safe. When its body begins to feel cramped inside the shell, a lobster
instinctively looks for a safe spot to hide while its old shell comes off and it
begins to form the new shell. But no matter where the lobster goes for this
shedding process, it’s vulnerable. It can get tossed against a coral reef…or
eaten. The bottom line is this- a lobster has to risk its life in order to
grow. If they refused to be vulnerable, they’ll never grow. Once a shell is
hardened, it no longer offers any room for new growth. Is your shell too tight?
Are you tired of doing the same thing over and over and expecting different
results? Are you feeling stifled?

     I can’t tell you what to do.  I can’t
predict what this church will do. But I CAN tell you that to grow into a
towering spiritual redwood, you need to continually transform every part of
your life. You need to spend time developing your relationship with God through
prayer and worship. And since God has called us all of us into ministry in our
communities, we need to be willing to get out of the church building and into
the community. Love God…love neighbor. Because the whole purpose of the church
is to grow spiritual redwoods.  The church should look like a thriving
redwood forest. Your shell keeps you safe…but it won’t let you grow. And it
won’t let other people in. Will you shed your shell, despite the dangers, and
prepare yourself for new and better adventures? Do you dare to shift your
vision a bit more toward Jesus? Do you dare imagine what might be possible if
you turn away from the world and turned toward Jesus? You are one step away
from an explosion of energy that can totally transform your life. Will you take
that one step?
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed Sunday! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

I’m Just a Jump Ropin’ Fool! (Insert Your Joke Here!)

     I have mentioned that my church started what we call The Breakfast Club. It meets at 5AM every weekday morning and 7AM every Saturday. And although I have been going regularly since it began, I have NOT been served breakfast ONCE! It is, in fact, an exercise group. We have been doing Biggest Loser workout videos (and how appropriate is THAT title when it comes to me and working out?!) and spend 45 minutes to an hour every day on it. I have going, over the past few weeks, for wishing I would die to only fearing I will…so I seem to be making progress!

     One thing we do that makes me laugh every time is jump roping. So far, basically every workout we have done has included a jump roping element. OK- that seems logical. It’s good cardio, it engages pretty much the entire body, I get that. But those aren’t the things that make me laugh. What makes me laugh is that we (and all the folks on the videos) do it…without a jump rope. And we don’t just jump rope…we do tricks! Especially the one where you cross your arms in front of you while you are jumping rope. And it just makes me laugh to see all of us- those in the room and those on the screen- so seriously working on jumping rope…with no rope.
     I’ll be honest- I play a MEAN air guitar. Put on a good classic rock song that has a shredding guitar solo…and then just stand back and watch me work! I can air guitar with the best of them! I’m also pretty darn good at lip syncing to a song while using a hair brush as a microphone…although I have to borrow a hair brush. (Think about it…you’ll LAUGH on the way to work!) And now I can add to my resume’ Air Jump Roper. That’s right…Air Rope Jumper. All modesty aside, I am AWESOME at air jump rope. I have even added a few tricks of my own! I’m even thinking of quitting this who ministry thing and going professional- competing on the national Air Jump Rope tour. (Coming soon to a city near YOU!) 
     Now, you laugh (and well you should!), but I fear many of us approach life that way. We are only “good” at the things that don’t really take much commitment or effort…the things we can do without any practice. We all know LOTS of people who have God-given talents that have long since atrophied from lack of use. But if we’re honest, we also have God-given talents that are in danger of atrophy if we don’t put them to use. 
     What are the things in which you have some natural ability? What could you be doing for God that you AREN’T doing now simply because you haven’t committed to it? Rather than continue to NOT do it and instead beat yourself up about not doing it, why not step out in faith and actually commit to improving yourself in those areas of inherent giftedness? Why not do what God is calling you to do? Why not take a page from the Army playbook and Be All That You Can Be? If you do- an amazing thing happens. You become an even greater blessing to others than you already are…AND it makes you feel good…all at the same time! Win…win! (Or should I say…winning?!”) 
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

A Big ‘Ol Snake Hole!

     Several years ago, I was in North Carolina on a  Mission Trip. We were out in the mountains/foothills of southern North Carolina to be exact. I had been paired with an adult from another group and 5 youth from other groups for the week. Most days, we went out for a one-day project, but mid-week, we were sent to a house in the middle of NOWHERE to tear off their rotting, collapsing porch and build them a new one. I asked where the plans were for the design of the new porch. The response? “There are no plans- just a pile of lumber. Build something nice!” Alrighty then! So we went there and tore the old porch off. That was the easy part! Then we started building the new porch. That was the hard part! About halfway through the building of the new porch, the matriarch of the family, who sat out in the shade and kept us company while we worked, said to me, “You are a GOOD carpenter!” To which I replied, “Even a sparrow appears as an eagle when there are no other birds!” 

     One thing that struck me about the project was that when we tore off the old porch, the ground underneath was riddled with holes. I asked what those holes were and was told they were snake holes. Now, I am SO much like Indiana Jones (at least in this department! OK…ONLY in this department!)n because I do NOT like snakes. Hate snakes. Am deathly afraid of snakes. If I were Superman, Lex Luthor would only need to show up with snakes and he would rule the world! They ARE my Kryptonite. And now I have to climb down into the supporting structure of this porch and work? OH…MY…GOODNESS! But I didn’t want to be TOO big of a wuss…so I did it. And the entire time I watched over my shoulder for some big ‘ol snake to come slithering out of one of those holes. I would have broken the sound barrier getting out! But…it never happened. Spent two days there, stomping around those holes, and never once saw a snake. All that worry, all that fear…for what? 
     It seems to me that, for many people, fear of the unknown is a crippling thing. We create scenarios in our minds about what MIGHT happen, and then we extrapolate it out into something that incapacitates us. And then, nothing happens. So we spent all that time worrying about things that never happened, and that approach robbed us of ANY hope of actually enjoying life. Now, am I saying that NOTHING we worry about EVER happens? No, of course not. Bad things certainly happen. What I AM saying is that, statistically, VERY little of what we worry about actually comes to pass. So if MOST of it isn’t even going to happen, why do we let the mere possibility of it cripple us? In the Gospel of Matthew 6:27-29, Jesus says, “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are.” 
     Worrying is counterproductive. It is an act that ONLY harms, never helps. So why do it? My challenge to you is this- find the 2 things you are MOST worried about, right now…and give them to God. Pass them right over to Him. Tell Him that you don’t want them and ask Him to take them off your plate for you. 2 things will happen: 1. He WILL do it, and 2. you will feel SO much better with that weight off your shoulders. To quote the Alka-Seltzer commercial of yesteryear, “Try it! You’ll like it!” Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

A Church On the Move…Literally!

     In my home town, there is a college. It actually began as a “women’s preparatory school”, a term you just don’t hear anymore. My mom worked for the college for years. When I was about 10 years old, the “preparatory school” decided it was time to shut thins down, so they sold their beautiful campus to a group that turned it into a community college. As I said, the campus was/is beautiful, with very historic, old buildings, lots of huge trees, ponds, landscaping…just a pretty place to visit. 

     Across the street from the campus was an old historic church (the one in the picture). Like the college, it has existed for many, many years and was a beautiful old building. Several years after the college was sold and became a community college, it was decided that the church building needed to NOT be across the street but actually ON campus. So they hired a company to move it across the street. That’s right…move it across the street!
     They decided to move it on a Sunday (I guess to try and avoid the heavier traffic of a weekday), and it was happening during what was the Sunday School hour for the the church I was attending (not pastoring), which was right down the road. So we took the kids out and walked up to see this historic thing happen. And we were not disappointed! As we watched in rapt attention, this rather large, rather old church literally drove across the street! The had to take power lines down for a time as it happened, and they took the steeple off the building, but we got to watch this building migrate across the street! My oldest son was fairly young at the time,  but he still talks about seeing that happen. It was, for us, a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing. 
     As I watched that church move across the street, it got me to thinking about how churches move. Granted, most churches DON’T move in the manner this one did…but that doesn’t mean that churches don’t move…or at least should move! Some churches LITERALLY move, selling their church existing church property and moving to a new site. Other churches move without ever changing their address. They continue to grow and thrive, change and adapt- responding to, and anticipating, the needs of their community. Those kinds of churches, ones that continue to move, are the churches that will most likely still be thriving 100 years from now. The churches that DON’T do those things, and sadly there are a great many across the country, are in danger of becoming a footnote in the historical documents of the community in which they exist. 
     Moving, growing, changing, adapting- those things are absolutely essential to the long-term health and viability of a church…and of individual Christians. When we ignore those things, we become inward-focused and we atrophy. But when we focus on this things, we reach out in new ways, staying fresh, staying active, staying relevant. And I don’t know about you, but as a Christian, I strive to be relevant! Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!