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The Pop-In Visit
While we may politely say, "Stop by anytime," many of us don't really mean it. In 25 years of ministry I've learned this the hard, and sometimes embarrassing way. I've been bitten by dogs who didn’t know I was coming, was once chased off the porch by an irritated Rhode Island Red rooster, and even scolded by a very direct toddler who exclaimed, "You ain't allowed in till dad gets his pants on." Thanks for the warning kid, but I can see dad through the window and I‘m already regretting this visit.
You know you should have called first when you get the "slide-out." This maneuver is usually preceded by the words, "I wasn't really planning on anyone today," or "the house is just a little messy right now." The door is slightly opened, allowing enough room for maybe a cardboard cutout of a human body to slide between it and the door jam. The door is then abruptly pulled shut behind the occupant and the entire duration of the conversation occurs on the porch despite the fact that it's 150 degrees in the shade.
A preacher was asked once by an elder, "Why don't you just stop I by and visit people more often?" "Because I got tired of feeling more like an IRS agent than a minister" He replied.
And I must admit, as the recipient of the occasional pop-in visit, I do understand your sometimes unwelcoming welcome. It's not that I dislike the visit itself, it's your timing. The house is clean and organized six days a week, but you come on the day dishes are in the sink, clothes are on the floor, and the cats decided the front sidewalk must in some way resemble a litter box. And no matter how clean and put-together I usually am, my guest will probably leave my house that day convinced this is how I always live.
There's definitely one pop-in visit you and I better be ready for. When I became a Christian, essentially, I told Jesus, "Stop by anytime." And when he does, there'll be no "slide-out" maneuver, no "can you wait a minute on the porch," or "now's not a good time." The house better be in order that day. And however my house appears on that day, it will be hard to convince Him that I haven't always been living like this! If your soul is in disarray, please take the time to get things cleaned up today.
Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. (Matthew 24:42-44)
Just Tell Me How It Is
Mike went to the doctor with pain in his back. After a comprehensive examination, the doc declared him free of serious disease or disorder. In fact, he suggested to Mike that much of the discomfort was probably of a psychological order and should he just stop worrying about it, the pain may eventually go away. Mike succumbed to cancer six months later. Some time following his passing, Mike's family confronted the doctor, who admitted to having suspected the disease all along. When asked why he did not take the appropriate steps, the doctor declared that Mike seemed like such a happy-go-lucky guy and he didn't want to bring him down or hurt his feelings in any way. He stated his hope that the problem would just work itself out on its own.
Then there is the case of Mike's mechanic. His widow took her car to the same man who had worked on Mike's cars for years. This time however the mechanic was dealing with what he perceived was an ignorant woman. The estimate he handed her was for two thousand dollars and accompanied a note declaring the urgency of all the repairs. A friend advised Mike's widow to get a second opinion from another mechanic. His estimate was for two hundred dollars. Furthermore, it was discovered that the first fellow was charging her to "replace" nearly new, perfectly functioning parts.
As part of a sermon once, I used Mike's doctor and mechanic as illustrations. I can still see the audiences response as I spoke of Mike's poor widow. Some faces went long, others showed anger, all were in awe that two supposed professionals could be so foolish. and untrustworthy. These stories, however, are not true. I made them up. They are parables. Mike and his widow are fictional. But your reaction to them has been most interesting.
Doctors who don't tell us the truth are irresponsible. We don't want them to be concerned with our feelings as much as we just want the truth about our bodies. Neither do we expect our mechanic to lie to us. If it doesn't need fixing, don't fix it. What do we want from the folks who inspect our bodies and our vehicles? Don't tell it better than it really is, and don't tell it worse — just tell it like it is.
Why then do we get frustrated with preachers who tell it like it is? If they are responsible for instructions regarding our souls, shouldn't we expect no less? We shouldn't tolerate preachers who insist on making everything sound better than it really is. Nor should we stand for those who blow everything out of proportion for drama's sake. From the pulpit we should expect to hear sin called for what it is -- destructive to the soul and to the church. With a stubborn, rebellious attitude, no amount of grace is able to cover it. But we should also expect to hear that sin is forgivable. With a truly repentant attitude, no wrong-doing is beyond the grace of Almighty God.
Paul asked the Galatians (4:16), "Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?"
New Teen Room
The teen room is up and running. It was breath taking for the youth as they entered their room of Praise and Bible Study to God. The youth are very thankful for their new room and and a special thanks goes out to all those who helped make this project a reality. May God use this room and may the hearts of God's youth always be open to making right choices and honoring the direction of our Heavenly Father. Thanks again to all the workers for their love and compassion to help the Youth Ministry grow. It takes many parts to make up the body, but one thing is for sure, God is always the head and we will always follow his direction.
Are You Feeling Really Inconvenienced By Your Christian Responsibilities?
Consider the lives of the Apostles!
John was exiled to the isle of Patmos for years.
Matthew was killed with a sword in Ethiopia.
James, the son of Zebedee, was beheaded.
James survived being thrown from the top of the temple,
but was then beat to death with a club.
Philip was hanged against a pillar.
Bartholomew was skinned alive in front of an audience.
Andrew was hanged on a cross in Archaia.
Thomas died after having a spear run through him.
Thaddeus was shot to death with arrows.
Simon the Zealot was hanged on a cross.
Peter was crucified upside down.
Matthias survived a stoning, but was finished off by being beheaded.
Paul spent most of his final days either in prisons or under house
arrest before finally being beheaded.
Big Day For Joy Bus Ministry
Today (04/06/14) is the first Sunday to run the new buses on their routes. It's been 35 years of bringing souls under the sound of the Gospel. The buses have air conditioning and teaching aids of DVD monitors. Thank you God for being so good to this family.
When one is hovered over a cat's litter box carefully scooping out its contents, one begins to wonder who really is the head of the household -- who really is the superior being here? Especially when the cat is sitting next to the box monitoring the process! To clean up after a cat, or several cats, year after year, day after day, one really must love cats, or really love the one who loves the cats. It is often a disgusting job and always a humble one. I must confess a time or two wondering, "Does this stupid cat even know what I'm doing for it‘?" It's sounds I corny, I know, but it truly does require love to lower oneself in doing this job.
Whether it's cleaning up after a cat, or a person, or any other less-than-pleasant task, we have all found ourselves at one point or another in life doing something that we felt was really I beneath us. You've heard or uttered the exclamations, "I shouldn't have to be doing this," "I don't get paid enough to do this," or "I didn't work this hard in life to end up doing this."
From time to time, in the quiet moments of the days, I think about who Jesus really is. I think about where He came from, and what he did here on earth. I wonder if He ever thought, "I shouldn't have to do this, this is really beneath me. I am God. Do these stupid people even know what I am doing for them?" Thankfully, He never thought such! Thankfully, He did not view the task as being beneath Him! As good as He was, as good as He is, He's never been too good to clean up my mess. He lowered himself (Hebrews 2:9) to remove my sin, and help me to clean up my life.
Why would he lower himself so? Love. He loves me and He loves the One who loves me. Compared to the majesty, the wisdom, the power, the glory of Jesus Christ, I'm not much more than a dumb, speechless, clueless cat. I've never been his equal, nor will I ever be, but He lowered himself for me. He came to that which was beneath Him, so that we might be raised up someday with Him. Thank you, Jesus!
"Just Iron What They Can See"
The frustrated college freshman stood over the makeshift ironing board in the center of his dorm room and awkwardly attempted to press out the wrinkles from his new white dress shirt. His suite-mate entered the room and, sensing his obvious lack of home economics skills, offered a suggestion. "Are you planning on wearing a suitcoat?" he asked. After getting confirmation, he said, "Then just iron what they can see."
He then took over the task, arranging the shirt so as to accommodate ironing only a few inches on either side of the button row. "Don't mess with the sleeves or the back," he instructed, 'just keep your coat on and no one will know what the rest of it looks like." At the time, it made sense. It worked.
Now thirty years removed from that first ironing experience, that one time college freshman has been tempted to employ the same method, and would but for two facts. He doesn't like wearing suit coats and his wife, a home economics major, could never abide it!
Sadly, some of us members of the Lord's church seem to be "ironing only what they can see." There's a lot of wrinkles in our souls. There's things that go on behind closed doors, far from the "Church of Christ" sign that are very un-Christlike. But we make sure that we keep our church clothes, our Sunday appearance pressed nice and smooth. What they can see is the spiritual front. They can hear me singing spiritual songs and using spiritual words in prayer, but when I get home and take off that "church coat", worldliness and dysfunction make up most of me.
Here's the obvious problem — God can see the whole shirt, coat or no coat.
Jesus once said in response to the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, "There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs." Luke 12:2-3
If I want to cover the sinful wrinkles in my soul, the way to do it is not by acting phony in a church building for an hour a week, but by repenting and accepting forgiveness through the blood of Jesus Christ, and living for him wherever I am.
24 Hours Before the Cross: A Timeline
We are studying 24 Hours Before the Cross: A Timeline. This includes events up to and including the crucifixion. Join us for the study on Sunday and Wednesday evenings.
Matthew 26-27; Mark 14-15
Luke 22-23; John 13-19
Gauging Your Gauge
The fence-tester indicated that the electric fence was without juice. It has a a small metal clip which the user clips onto the fence wire inserting a thin grounding rod into the earth. No lights are supposed to mean no electricity. I returned to the place where the fence wire left the charger, and in an effort to tweak the whole setup grasped the wire just above the charger. The tingling that ran from my fingers through my chest and down to my feet indicated immediately I had placed too much trust in the device. Further testing of the tester proved it was not working properly.
As I shared that account with a friend, he was reminded of a much less amusing situation. His story goes thusly...
Frank was using a large compressor to fill a smaller pressurized air tank as his father, who was standing nearby, had instructed him. the gauge attached to the tank read 0 pounds, when in fact the tank probably already had close to 80 pounds in it. The gauge was faulty. It looked to Frank that the tank could hold much more air, so he kept forcing, Frank was killed instantly when a small brass fitting blew free from the tank and struck him, like a bullet, in the temple.
It's something we just don't give much though to as we live day to day life - the fact that much of what we do depends upon accurate testers, gauges and scales. We have faith in them. They prevent us from getting shocked, cheated, or even killed.
What kind of tester are you using to gauge your life, and are you sure it's accurate? Should it be broken, you are either in trouble now or you will be. With what scales are you weighing your life? Your bank account, maybe? Or, the number of "Likes" your Facebook page is getting? Or, the words of some famous self-help guru? These are all testers which can give very inaccurate readings!
Consider if you will Proverbs 16:11 -
Honest scales and balances are from the Lord; all the weights in the bag are of his making.
God's scales are faultless. Their readings are spot on. He did not purchase the weights for his scales from some unknown source, but rather he made them himself.
The only truly accurate measuring device for my life is God's word. it tells me who I truly am, and in what condition my family actually stands. it sheds light on a messed-up life and shines the light toward a good one.
Learning From A Dead Dog
Consider the following story as told by Cleon Lyles:
A lady invited several friends to a mushroom steak dinner. When the maid opened the can of mushrooms, she discovered slight scum on top. Since the guests were expected at any moment, the lady suggested, "Just give the dog a little and if he eats it, it's probably alright." The dog liked it and even begged for more, so the maid poured the mushrooms all over the steak. After the main course, the maid came into the parlor with her face ashen white. She leaned over the lady to whisper into her ear the news that she had found the dog dead. The maid then nervously went back into the kitchen. the lady called the doctor and asked him to bring his stomach pump, which all of the horrified guests were subjected to.
Some time later as many guests were leaving in disgust, the lady found the maid and asked, "Where is the dog now?' The maid answered, "He's still lying out by the front steps, Mam. That's where he fell after the car hit him."
I've done it. You've done it. We probably should take the appropriate steps to keep from doing it again. We have all over-reacted to a situation before we had all of the facts, only to end up embarrassed and sometimes even with one less friend. I'm reminded of the words of a Pharisee named Nicodemus in John 7:51, "Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?" Even the irrationally judgmental Pharisees understood that God's law demanded a proper investigation of the facts before a judgment could, or should be made.
Life in the Lord's church is not life on a television sit-com! Misunderstandings based on rash assumptions aren't always funny and they can never simply be written out of the script. I must think before I react. Preventing sour feelings is always easier than healing them!