Monday, January 30, 2017

This Was A Wonderful Monday

     Mondays are not usually great days. I mean, only the sickest of optimists looks forward to Monday morning, right? And, for pastors, Mondays have special import. Mondays, you see, are the number one day that pastors resign. Why, you ask? Well, they were hoping Sunday would turn everything around and it didn't.
     Well, I wasn't planning on resigning today, but I really wasn't looking forward to this Monday. I won't bore you with all the details, but I had far more to do today that I could do. So, I backed out of an early morning prayer meeting with pastors and an evening denominational board meeting and focused on the mission. Praying for people, expressing God's love through acts of compassion, and sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That's what I've been preaching, and that's what I want to do.
     Now, my hope was simply to get everyone seen that I had to get seen, to do some good, and to make it home in one piece spiritually and emotionally. But, my goal was to live this day on mission. So, off I went, and God did not disappoint.
     I met an elder in a nursing home, inquired about his faith and family, and then got to hold a shallow dish while he vomited violently. The first round went all over him, I called for the nurse and grabbed a shallow bowl and held it for him as he continued to be sick. He was so embarrassed, but I was so glad to be there, holding that bowl, and reassuring him. 
     Next door a church member was taking are of his wife. I went in to encourage and pray, but he wanted to talk about the movie at church last night, how it impacted him, and how he had made the hallway outside his wife's room his mission field, loving and sharing the Gospel of Christ with all he could. It was 1 Timothy lived out. Caring for your own while caring for others and sharing the Gospel.
     I travelled to another town to see a hospice patient, share the faith, pray, and then make my way to Shreveport for hospital visits. I, and two other people, needed help navigating the maze of hallways to find the rooms and people we were looking for. That's when God led us to encounter a six and a half foot tower of joy. He worked at the hospital, led us to the right door, punched in the code and said, "The Lord bless you!" It was a joy to see him so filled with joy in a simple act of kindness.  I found the family, the were doing well, we prayed and gave God thanks and I made my way across town to another hospital where I was so blessed. I watched a father be the hands and feet of Christ as he cared for a very sick son, and then we all prayed together asking for divine healing and intervention.
     On my way home, I nearly ran over one of our elders, who had been working, but also taking care of a family member. Again, living life on mission. He was praying, caring, and sharing with his primary mission field - his family.
     I pulled up to the church just in time to welcome a group of at-risk kids who play basketball once a month with some Christian men who pray for them, show the love of Christ by playing ball with them, and share the Gospel and truth of God's Word with them. My job was to provide a gym and share my testimony. There were two law enforcement officers present. Both of them believers. Both of them doing this because they are living on mission, not because they get paid anything extra for doing it. Two guys from our church came and camped out with the kids as sponsors. One of the guys is out of work, and one is about half sick from the crud that everyone has, but they were there . . . caring . . . serving.
     I know the world is imploding, but the mission hasn't changed. I know things are crazy in America, but the Gospel is still the power of God that saves. I've spent so many Mondays sitting around playing "ain't it awful." Thank God I didn't have time today to do that. I didn't just get to be part of the mission today. I got to see the mission being lived out. Some think that only young people are willing to live life on mission, but I saw the very old, the old, middle aged, and millennials on mission today. I saw those who were willing living on mission.
     What did I learn today? Get out there! Open your eyes! I didn't get it all done today. There are people I wanted to see, books I needed to read, scripture I needed to study, and plans I needed to make . . . all of which didn't get done. But, this was no resignation Monday. I wonder what will happen tomorrow.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Life-Saving Station

These men were members of a rescue crew for the United States Life-Saving Service at the Vermillion Point Station on a strip of Lake Superior known as the Graveyard Of Ships. Crews like these eventually became the United States Coast Guard and their members have saved thousands of victims of shipwrecks through their many years of service.

Between 17 and 18 years ago, there was a great move of God at our church. In one year our church of 100 baptized over 60 people. Dozens more were changed and added to our church. So much had changed that we talked about changing the name of the church. One of the suggestions was "Safe Harbor Baptist Church," and another was "Life-Saving Station," because it seemed that God was rescuing so many shipwrecked lives. Well, it's obvious that we didn't change our name. How about our mission?

Churches are made of Christians - people born spiritually by faith in Jesus. They are spiritual beings inhabiting physical bodies in a fallen world. They have not arrived. They have begun. Spiritual growth must follow spiritual birth, and sometimes it doesn't. Christians and churches are quite capable of settling into a lifestyle that is far less than God's plan. They are capable of adopting only the parts of God's mission that suit their own lifestyle. So, it's necessary for Christians and churches to take stock of where they are and whether they are still on mission with God. That's what we're doing this month at our church. 

Here's a parable that has helped us begin the examination. Maybe it will help you and your church do the same. It was originally told by Dr. Theodore Wedel in the middle of the last century.  It's called the Life-Saving Station.

On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occur, there was once a crude little life¬saving station. The building was just a hut, and there was only one boat, but the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea, and with no thought for themselves went out day and night tirelessly searching for those who were lost. Some of those who were saved and various others in the surrounding area wanted to become associated with the station and gave of their time, money, and effort to support its work. New boats were bought and new crews trained. The little lifesaving station grew.

Some of the members of the lifesaving station were unhappy that the building was so crude and poorly equipped. They felt that a more comfortable place should be provided as the first refuge of those saved from the sea. They replaced the emergency cots with beds and put better furniture in the enlarged building.

Now the lifesaving station became a popular gathering place for its members, and they decorated it beautifully because they used it as a sort of club. Fewer members were now interested in going to sea on life-saving missions, so they hired lifeboat crews to do this work. The lifesaving motif still prevailed in the club’s decorations, and there was a liturgical lifeboat in the room where the club’s initiations were held. About this time a large ship wrecked off the coast, and the hired crews brought in boatloads of cold, wet, and half-drowned people. They were dirty and sick. The beautiful new club was in chaos. So the property committee immediately had a shower house built outside the club where victims of shipwrecks could be cleaned up before coming inside.

At the next meeting, there was a split among the club membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club’s lifesaving activities as being unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal social life of the club. Some members insisted upon life¬saving as their primary purpose and pointed out that they were still called a life¬saving station. But they were finally voted down and told that if they wanted to save the lives of all the various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in those waters, they could begin their own lifesaving station. So they did.

As the years went by, the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred in the old. It evolved into a club, and yet another lifesaving station was founded. History continued to repeat itself, and if you visit that seacoast today, you will find a number of exclusive clubs along that shore. Shipwrecks are frequent in those waters, but most of the people drown.