Sunday, August 31, 2008

In The Eye Of The Storm

I saw this new background and blogger template and really liked it. The storm coming down the plains onto this farm take me back to my deepest memories, growing up in a farming community in west central Texas. I loved the storms. We would watch them coming for miles. I loved their power, the beauty of the clouds, the lightening, and the rain.

Today we are preparing for a different storm. Gustav will apparently make its way right over us. We've been through this before. During Katrina, our church and home served as a shelter. During Rita, we sheltered people and were then victims of the storm itself. Officials are doing their best to keep evacuees away from us this time around because we will likely have damage and will lose power.

Life is full of storms. The drama of them is intriguing when viewed from a distance. That's why we love good movies, and TV, and books that are full of storms and their resolution. It's not that fun living through one personally, but it often happens. Viewing the storm from a distance does nothing real to our hearts. Passing through the storm with God is an incredble, life-changing experience. I'm not looking forward to this storm, but it is coming anyway. I am looking forward to what God will do while we are in the eye of this storm.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Transforming Power Of Servanthood

I was having a bad morning, then someone called and said, "Hey, the painting that needs to be done. I'd like to do it. Tell me what to do." I wasn't preoccupied with the painting, but the simple unselfish willingness to serve changed my morning. Two men are in the fellowship hall finishing out crown moulding. Another man is on the way to help. One lady took a couple of hours out of her day off to paint, and another is coming after lunch. She has to bring her two year old, but he'll ride his bicycle while she paints. The one phone call, where a servant just volunteered her time really changed my day. It changed my gaze, my focus, and my heart. It called me back to God, to remember how Good He is.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

If I Had My Druthers

"I came here because someone said you were a good church," she said, "that you helped people."

One time four friends brought their paralyzed friend to see Jesus. The crowd was so large that they could not get in to see Him. So they climbed up on the roof of the house, tore the roof off, and lowered their friend down on the bed he was on so that he could get near Jesus. The whole story starts with these words, "And again He (Jesus) entered Capernaum after some days, and it was heard that He was in the house.

I am amazed by the dedication and love of these four friends, but I am intrigued by this first verse in the story. People knew Jesus was in the house. They knew that healing was there. His reputation preceded Him and it announced His presence.

I am sure that there are many God-following churches in this area, but today I am glad that I pastor this one. We are small, about 125 worshippers on a Sunday morning. But, someone heard that they could find help here, and hope. I would rather pastor a church of 125 who demonstrate the love of God through serving others than a church of a thousand who come to be served. Of course, small is no guarantee of spirituality. How wonderful it would be if every church, both great and small, was known as a place of God's truth and God's love.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Lesson I Learned At The Garbage Dump About Righteousness

A freezer at the church went out the other day. The food had begun to spoil when it was found, so we loaded everything up on the trailer and headed to the dump. It had been awhile since I had been at the dump, and the smell was pretty strong. It smelled just like the bait we used to use to catch catfish; ripe and rancid. The hills were huge and I commented to my friend how different this was from Africa. There the garbage hills are small; sifted through, every possible usable and eatable item taken. I ran into someone later that afternoon who was ranting about another Christian brother's sin. The conversation soured my stomach like the smell of the dump. I wanted to remind the critical brother of his own failings, but I was too busy being reminded by God of my own. Too often we pile up our righteousness before God and other men, thinking it is impressive. It is not. It is ripe and rancid and unfit for His comsumption. "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away." (Isaiah 64:6)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Unnatural Birth

I've been reading and thinking about Hannah, her husband, and her son, Samuel. I love the drama that unfolds in their lives and how God's sovereignty is so personal in their lives. Comparing the unnatural, gracious birth of Samuel with the natural lives of the high priest's sons, Hophni and Phineas, has made me long for an even more unnatural life. Those two men were born into a high priest's family and assumed the mantel of the priesthood naturally, but they were corrupt and spiritually destitute. As aweful as they were, I still pity them. How horrible it is to live a natural life; whether it is religious or not. The Christian life is an unnatural one. It cannot be attained or lived naturally. It is a supernatural gift received and lived by faith. I am so glad to be born of the Spirit. I could have spent my life naturally, religiously, raised in church, working as a pastor, and never knowing the joy of Christ. But, by God's grace, I have been born again. Grace has forever marked me, changed me. It is the only explanation for the heart I now possess. As imperfect and incomplete as I am today, I can never go back to a religiously natural life. By the providence of God my life will never be the same.