Repost: Engaging Our World

I was going through some old posts I had saved on my computer. These were written almost 10 years ago on a different site when I was serving another Church in a distant city. I kept some of them on my computer and read through them occasionally to get inspiration or a laugh. This one caught my attention, and I thought I would repost it as it was written. I hope you enjoy

————————–

I had an interesting experience last week while donating plasma. A lady at the plasma center who was also donating sat down next to me reading a book called “Growing an Engaged Church.” I have never read it. My initial guess is that it might be about how the church as a group can engage people at a deeper level. I went to Amazon, and it says that we need to stop “doing Church and become the Church.” I judged the younger looking lady to be a college student. From the look of the underlines in her book, she was reading it for a class – probably a class on practical ministry.

If that is the case, I find it very interested how the rest of the morning played out. She sat and read her book without ever looking up to see the people around her. There was Kyle who came into work at 8:00 am for a full day. He estimates he helps over 50 people a day with their donations. Or there was the nice lady that helped me when the donation was complete. Her name was Barb. She had been in that day since 5:30 am and was feeling exhausted. She is working two jobs to make ends meet and worked 16 hours the day before. She wore a huge button that was a picture of her and her husband on their wedding day. She knew people who lived in my little community of Epworth and wondered if I knew them too. We had a nice chat while she unhooked my machine.

Meanwhile, the lady with the book never looked up. She did eventually talk on her cell phone to someone. Then as she was about to leave she began talking to a young man directly across from her. They apparently know each other from college. After a short conversation with him, she slipped out quietly. Probably no one but myself noticed she was there … or gone.

The nice lady and I finished our conversation 5 minutes after I put my coat on to leave. She asked nicely if I will be back in a couple of days. I responded in the affirmative, and she said “Well, I will see you in a few days” with a smile.

The reality is simple. We don’t need more books about becoming “engaged” with people in the community. We need more individuals who care about other people.

Advertisements

A Time to Serve

When are you going to serve the Lord?

Two conversations.

The first one was with a younger woman. I spoke with her about getting involved at the Church and serving the Lord in some capacity each week. She replied with a statement of eager anticipation, “Oh, I would love to help.” Unfortunately, it was followed by a list of reasons that would not allow her time to help us. She said that her job demanded much from her and her kids were always busy. She talked about spending time with her husband and their need for recreation. She was busy all the time right now. She did add one disclaimer. One day her kids would be grown, and her job would be more secure. There would come a day when she and her husband’s life would calm down, and they would feel less stress. One day, when she is older, she would gladly be a part of the work of the Lord at our Church.

The second conversation was with a much older woman. In Church circles, we call them “Senior Saints.” Those wonderful older people who are now in their retirement years and enjoying the last leg of their journey on earth. She spoke of being lonely now that her husband was gone. She longed for a connection with the people of the Church in deep and meaningful ways. My wife explained to her that she could be a real blessing to the ministry of our Church. She could serve with other older ladies to make an impact on the next generation. She could connect with other people as they stood side by side fighting the good fight. Her response was a quiet, “I have done my time. It is time for the younger ladies to step up and do something.”

Do you see the problem?

There seem to be several people who claim to follow Jesus that believe serving Jesus is someone else’s job.

Sure, we want our church to have nurseries and children’s programs. We want our Church to have small groups and Sunday School classes. We want fellowship dinners and special events. The only catch is that we do not want to help make them happen.

The Church moves forward in a community when people stop saying “one day” I will serve. It will make a greater impact on the lives our neighbors when we stop saying it is no longer my time. We will change the world for Christ when we step up and say “Today, I will serve the Lord.”

When are you going to serve the Lord? How about today?

Following Jesus is a Series of Decisions

Numerous times I have heard Christians talk about other people “making a decision to follow Jesus.” They are usually talking about a big public decision that came with a confession of faith and in our Church, it also included baptism. Christians celebrate these as huge markers in our journey of faith. I do it too. Each year I am excited about the baptisms that happen in our Church. I am encouraged by each and every person who takes a big step for the world to see.

Through my years as a Church leader, I am getting less excited about that one time someone made that one big decision. Lately, I am more excited about the ongoing decisions people make to following Jesus.

-I am excited for the child who decided to come to Church as a teenager even when their parents say it is “up to them.”
-I am encouraged when a teenager makes the decision to pursue a life of faith above all else including sports, school, work and a social life.
-I am impressed by any college student who attends Church and tries to remain faithful to God when all their friends are walking away.
-I am overjoyed when a recent college graduate connects with a body of believers and commits to growing in their faith.
-I am thrilled when newlyweds decide to build their marriage on Christian principles and patterns.
-I am moved by new parents who bring their children to Church and start their family on a journey of faith together.
-I am touched as parents of a young family make Church and faith a priority over all the “big shiny things” that plead for their children’s attention.
-I am wowed by parents of teens who believe that faith is the single most important thing for their kids over the thousand activities that compete for their time.
-I am amazed at newly empty nest couples who commit to ministry over recreation and self-centeredness.
-I am honored to watch senior citizens continue to serve, grow and love when they could sit back and rest on the accomplishments of the past.

I picture faith like a journey with God. Frequently there are exit ramps on this road with bright lights and exciting attractions, but faith just keeps moving forward with God. With every new phase of life comes a new decision to follow Jesus. One time public decisions are wonderful steps on this adventure, but they are meaningless if you quit somewhere down the road.

The journey of faith is filled with numerous decisions to follow Jesus. I hope and pray that you continue to choose to follow him day after day and season after season.

Learning from Difficult People

As adults, most of us have learned that there are difficult people everywhere. We see them at our jobs, in our families and even when we are on vacation. They are self-centered, lack social graces, say uncaring things, and frequently they hurt us in some emotional way.

Most of us have encountered difficult people everywhere we go. We have come to accept it. We often expect it when we are placed in certain situations. The one thing many of us did not expect was to find those people in Church. We went to Church with the idea that everyone would be friendly, kind and overflow with love.

Then it happened. Someone crossed the line. They said something of which I did not approve. Their attitude seemed to be angry and mean. They demonstrated unchristian behavior.

Unfortunately, it happens. The people who come to Church are not perfect. In fact, many of them are a total mess, and that is why they came to Church. Mistakes will be made, confrontations will happen, and people will generally rub each other the wrong way at times.

I hate it that this happens. And if it happened to you, I am sorry. It has happened to me, and it hurt, in fact, it still hurts. Through the years, I have noticed that God frequently allows these people in my life to mold me. Quite often, I am shaped more by the difficult people than by anyone else.

Difficult people …

1. Teach me to be kind. There are times I have vowed to never treat another person the way I am being treated. I want my life to exude kindness rather than anger.

2. Teach me to forgive. It is easy to forgive nice people when they fall short. It is much harder to forgive the angry people who shout “Crucify.”

3. Teach me to love people different from myself. Many times, the difficulty I have with other people is not about theology but rather methodology. I need to accept that people will handle things different than I do, and that does not make them a bad person.

4. Teach me about the Love of God. Luke 6:35 says that God is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. God loves everyone no matter what they have done. We are called to that kind of love.

5. Teach me to love my enemy. Biblical love is not emotional. Biblically love is an action. Jesus teaches us to act in a loving way toward people who we consider an enemy. It takes real faith to do something kind for someone who has hurt me, and yet that is what Jesus is calling us to do.

6. Teach me to be careful of assumptions. Many times, I have thought someone was a jerk until I heard their story. I have encountered people who were abused as children, cheated on as adults, suffering from pain, and a hundred other issues. The person you feel is full of anger might just be full of hurt themselves. They are crying out for attention and have no idea how to get it.

7. Teach me to exercise grace to others. I want people to be kind to me when I fail. I want them to offer me grace in my weakest moments. Just as Jesus offers me that grace, I am called to turn and offer that to other people. The real test of my heart may be how I deal with difficult people more than anyone else.

When we are hurt and feel the pain of connecting with other people we have two options. We can allow God to use these encounters to make us better people. The other option is for them to make us bitter people. There is this strange dynamic where Christian people get hurt emotionally and then turn around to be just as hard and calloused as the people who hurt them. The other option is to let go of the pain and learn to work through our issues. I believe when we try to deal with difficult people, the end result is that all of us will grow and become better people.

My Favorite Non-Traditional Bible Passages

There are some Bible passages that are favorites among believers. Some of those include John 3:16, Matthew 16:16, Psalm 23, Isaiah 53 and Matthew 28:18-20. For many believers, there are passages of scripture that we hold dear to our hearts and have since our early days in their faith.

While most of us could agree on some timeless verses, there are some that you might not immediately know that have become favorites of mine. (all passages are from the New International Version)

1. Jonah 3:1 “Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time.” Jonah had failed God, and yet God gave him a second chance. This is the story of my life of faith. God comes to me over and over again after I have failed him and gives me one chance after another.

2. Psalm 34:18 “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Our God never leaves us in our hurts, rather he draws close to offer us comfort and peace.

3. Proverbs 24:16 “For though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity. I love the picture of a righteous man not being perfect but instead being persistent. Falling down is not the problem, staying down is.

4. Jonah 4:2 “He prayed to the Lord, ‘O Lord, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.’” There are several variations of this verse throughout the Bible. God is frequently described as gracious, compassionate and slow to anger. He expects us to live a life worthy of his name, but gives us grace when we fall short.

5. 1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Other translations say, “Cast your cares on him …” The main idea is that whatever is bothering you or whatever is keeping you up at night and causing you to “stress out.” Those things can be given over to God, and he will handle them because he cares for you personally.

I don’t know if you have heard any of these passages before. They are usually not the ones that get repeated in Christian circles, but they continue to remind me of the grace and mercy of God.

What passages would you add to my list?