Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Is It Time To Shift Gears?


Teresa and I love riding our tandem together. We have had some great moments riding through the countryside with our legs pumping in perfect rhythm. Almost every time that we pass someone out in their yard while on a ride they will shout out to me, "Hey, she's not pedaling!"  She is pedaling, of course, because I made sure of that! I bought her shoes that clip into her pedals! She doesn't have a choice! If I'm pedaling then she's pedaling! Pedaling is something that we have to do together on the tandem, but steering, braking, and shifting are another matter entirely. Teresa has tried steering from the rear before! It didn't turn out well! We almost ended up going on two different sides of a big wooden pole! That's not something that you want to try on a Tandem! Neither is arguing over who is in charge! Especially if you are several miles from home!

Tandem riders refer to the person seated up front as 'The Captain' and the person seated in the rear as 'The Stoker.' Teresa isn't very stoked about being called 'The Stoker' so I have taken up calling her 'The Rear Admiral.' She likes that! I captain the vessel, but she tells me where to go and determines just how fast that we're going to get there. If I try to go faster than she wants, she just eases up the pressure that she exerts on the pedals. A few times I have questioned her as to whether or not she is putting in any effort and she assures me that she is by saying, "OK buddy, you want to feel what it's like when I'm not helping, try this on for size!" Immediately I'm aware of her efforts and beg her to come to my aid!

So we both have pedals. We both have a seat. And, we both have a set of handle bars. But, only one of us has brake levers and gear shifters. Those are in the hands of 'The Captain' at the front of the bike. But a good captain let's the 'Rear Admiral' give the orders. Most times Teresa is calling for more speed than I can give her. There have been a few occasions where we have hit 45 mph going downhill. At those moments she either shouts out with a childlike 'weeee' or cries out for some brakes! It's hard to tell which is which with the wind blowing in my ears at 45 mph so I usually just ask her what she said when we get to the bottom of the hill! If it was 'brakes!' then I'm in trouble! But, for the most part, she doesn't ask me to hit the brakes very often. She has learned to trust me and I have learned what she is comfortable with.

When it comes to shifting gears there is a little bit more teamwork involved. Teresa doesn't like pedaling at a high cadence and often calls out to me to shift to a higher gear so that the spinning of our legs will slow down even though that will mean that we will need slightly more pressure on the pedals to maintain our speed. On several occasions she has called for a higher gear when there were no gears left to shift into. She likes to go fast she doesn't like to pedal fast! 

Shifting to higher gears is easy. I can do that without even letting her know that I'm going to shift ahead of time. Downshifting is another matter. Especially when pulling up a tough hill. Whenever we are straining to get up a hill we have to let one another know how we are feeling. That usually involves me telling her that I need to shift to a lower gear a second before I actually apply pressure to the shifter levers. This is necessary to relieve stress on the chain of the bike. We both ease off just slightly before the downward stroke of the pedal on our right foot and I make the shift occur. When we do this by signaling ahead of time what is about to take place everything goes smoothly. When we don't, we run the risk of the chain coming off. That has happened a couple of times going up a steep hill. Trust me; that isn't fun! Especially when you are clipped into the pedals and have almost no forward momentum. It can lead to a crash!

Are people around you trying to signal to you that you might need to shift gears? Are you listening to their voice? You may be comfortable with the cadence and the speed, but if those that you are linked together with in life aren't 'feeling it' in the same way that you are, there is a good chance that it won't end very well. Perhaps it's time to kick it into a higher gear. Or, maybe, it's time to ease up the pressure for a moment and downshift a gear or maybe even two.  There is plenty of time to get where you need to go and the journey will be much more enjoyable if you listen to those that are on the journey with you. Don't go it alone! Find a rhythm and a force that works best for those that are with you on the ride. If you do, then you will find yourself farther down the road than you ever dreamed possible, and you will have the joy of having brought others along for the ride.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

I Can't Keep Calm -- I'm Pentecostal!

 A dear friend that I have tremendous respect and admiration for recently posted something on Facebook that struck a nerve and I can't help but vent a little bit at my keyboard. I find that to be safer than flying off half-cocked and responding in the wrong way.

His post said this, "I can't keep calm -- I'm Pentecostal!"

I, of course, know what he was attempting to convey. He's excited because the Holy Spirit has empowered him to proclaim God's Word to whosoever will listen and he can't keep it quiet because it would be like trying to "Keep fire shut up in one's bones!" If you knew my friend you would also know that he has a passion for all things in life. People that know me casually would not expect me to enjoy hanging around a guy like him, but I come away energized each time that I am around him. I love his passion and find it contagious. I also cherish the way that he challenges me and makes me think.

So I find myself banging away at my keyboard right now, not in response to him, but in response to the majority of people claiming to be Pentecostal that read a comment like "I can't keep calm -- I'm Pentecostal!" and come away nodding their heads and say, "That's right, these people that don't jump up and down and call themselves Pentecostal need to get with the program!"

I have grown weary of people judging one's commitment to Pentecostal theology based on how they respond physically to external stimuli generated from platform personnel at worship events. When I look at Pentecostal leaders like George Wood, Jim Bradford and Charles Crank, I observe men of God that seem quite "calm" during worship events. I think that their "Pentecostal Creds" are quite legit! Thankfully, I am certain that my friend does as well. Yet, I have participated in many worship events with Pentecostal brothers and sisters in which someone from the platform will rebuke those in the audience that aren't responding with the physical response that the leader deems appropriate. I have seen people rebuked for not jumping, dancing, shouting, or clapping with the same exuberance as the leader. Over and over again I have heard their Pentecostal credentials be questioned. Quite frankly, I'm tired of it.

Should we dance, shout, clap, and raise our hands in worship? Absolutely! But, that has nothing to do with Pentecost. Long before Pentecost or even the birth, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ the followers of YHWH were told that such physical manifestations were not only appropriate, but desirable in the worship experience. So Pentecost has nothing to do with it. We should be excited in worship because we're Christians, not merely because we are Pentecostal!

Admittedly, I'm not much of a dancer. It's never been a part of my cultural upbringing. After all, I think there is a "Position Paper" against dancing somewhere in the archives of my denomination. Oops, I mean "fellowship." And, I have to think that the Holy Spirit is a much better dance instructor than what I have seen Him be given credit for in worship services. So, I readily admit that I don't move my feet very much in worship, but I do shout praise unto the Lord, lift and clap my hands, look unto heaven from whence cometh my help, weep, and smile from ear to ear. I don't do these things because someone from the platform tells me to, however. Instead, I do them as an automatic response to what the Spirit of God is doing within me at the moment. Sometimes while others are shouting, I need to weep; or while they are laughing, I need to fall on my face and repent. At other times, I just need "to be still and know that He is God."

Being Pentecostal is not about how we worship among believers. Being Pentecostal is about the empowerment of the Spirit to testify of Christ outside of the walls of the Church. Pentecostal people are a missionary people! They cannot rest until the whole world knows! They can't remain silent while nearly everyone around them marches into an eternity without Christ! Their message is not "Watch me and worship like I do." Their message is "Listen to me! The Spirit has something to say!"

Sorry for the rant. "I can't keep calm -- I'm Pentecostal!"

Monday, October 20, 2014

"Self-Righteous" I don't think you know what that word means!

There is a line in "The Princess Bride" that I absolutely love. Actually there are many lines in "The Princess Bride" that I really love. "No more rhyming; I mean it! Anybody want a peanut?" "He's not really dead. He's just mostly dead." "But, what you don't realize is -- I'm not left handed!" I could go on and on and on so I had better stop now and get to the line that I was originally thinking about. There is a scene after the word "Inconceivable" has been uttered by his sidekick numerous times that Andrew the Giants character turns to his friend and says, "I don't think that you know what that word means!" That's exactly the way that I feel when people use the word "self-righteous".

Words have meaning and I think that one of the biggest problems that we have in communicating in our age is that we rarely know what the words that we are using mean anymore. Many times I find myself asking people, "What do you mean exactly when you use the word ____________?" Often, I find that the way they define the word and the way that I define it have very little in common. "Self-righteous" is one of those words. The word comes from the Bible when Jesus deals with the "self-righteous" Pharisees and teachers of the law. It means that they thought that they had the power within themselves to become right in the eyes of God. That if they just did all of the right things, followed all of the right rules, ate all of the right foods, and avoided all of the wrong places and people that they could somehow become what God desired them to become. The problem with such teaching is that human beings are completely powerless to make themselves right with God. That is why Jesus had to come as a sacrifice. His death took care of the payment for our sins. This was something that we were powerless to accomplish on our own.

Unfortunately, the word "self-righteous" has come to be acquainted with anyone that points out the sin in the world around them. If someone calls adultery sin that doesn't make them "self-righteous". It doesn't even make them judgmental. Why not? Simple, the Bible has already declared that judgment as fact. The Bible has done the judging already! The individual is merely point out what the Bible has already proclaimed. I rarely, if ever, encounter a "self-righteous" Christian. The very fact that someone is a born again Christian means that they have declared themselves to be a hopeless sinner in need of a savior that is completely beyond themselves. They have recognized that they cannot make themselves righteous.

What I find is that most of the people that I hear throwing around the term "self-righteous" are in fact "self-righteous." We live in a society that sees no need for a savior. They are not like the Pharisees who thought that they just need to do certain things in order to attain God's favor. On the contrary, they feel that they already have the favor of God and have no need to change anything at all about their lives because after all, "God loves me just the way that I am!" He made me this way so there is no need to change what He has made "Self-righteous" means "religious" in the minds of most people today. "Self-righteous" means church-goer in the minds of most people today.

The reality is that "self-righteous" means, "I don't need Jesus. I don't need the Church. I don't need to read the Bible. I don't need to pray. I don't need to change. I don't need to give. I don't need to be committed to the needs of others. I'm o.k. just the way that I am." We need to start confronting "self-righteousness" in our world with the same force that Jesus confronted it in His day. We don't do that by attacking the Church. We do that by addressing sin and the need of a savior!

Monday, October 6, 2014

A Response To The Names Of God

At The Pastors' Prayer Summit that I attended last week we were given an assignment to review the names of God in the Old Testament and to reflect on their significance. Below are the names of God and the my response to them:

Yahweh Tsidkenu -- I Am Your Righteousness
Yahweh M'Kaddesh -- I Am Your Sanctification
Yahweh Shalom -- I Am Your Peace
Yahweh Shammah -- I Am There
Yahweh Rophe -- I Am Your Healer
Yahweh Jireh -- I Am Your Provision
Yahweh Nissi -- I Am Your Banner
Yahweh Rohi -- I Am Your Shepherd

Lord, if you are all of these things for me, then there is only one thing left for me to say,
"I am a welfare recipient!"
It makes no sense to work for any of these things -- God has provided for all of them.
However, if I don't work, I will dry up.
I will have no fruit in my life.
I will be miserable.
I will be so much less than what His generous welfare has provided for me to become.
If I lay around and do nothing, I will become sick and of no use to your kingdom.
I will become a drain rather than a fountain.

God, thank you for offering me all of the assistance of your Kingdom.
You have offered it willingly.
You have offered it with the hope that I will accept it.
You have offered it, not to keep me in emotional, psychological, and  physical poverty, but to lift me out of it so that I can tell others how to sign up.

Keep me from feeling shame for accepting these benefits!
They are meant for my welfare so that I can be used to help the welfare of the Kingdom.
Thank you.
You never kick your kids off of your assistance!
You never even cut it back!
The payments just keep getting bigger!
I've served you in ministry for 30 years now.
You have always provided.
I don't need you to provide less now -- I need you to provide more than ever!
Not because I have squandered your benefits, but because I have used them up!
I have advanced in your kingdom and find myself facing greater enemies, and greater needs!
There is no hope of getting off of your welfare program.
Help me to realize that is a good thing, and not a sign of failure!
I'm not supposed to be self-sufficient!
I'm not supposed to pull myself up by my own bootstraps!

I'm supposed to be your dependent!
I'm supposed to expect you to reach down into the waves and pull me up!

I'm drowning dad!
I need your help!
These waves are too big for me!
I'm in way over my head!

I'll try not to fight you.
I'll try to relax.
I'll try to breath.

Please hurry.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Why Do I Run?

I've really been dragged through the ringer for the last several years.
I call it "The Lost Decade!"
The last two have had some really rough times and the last few months have been absolutely horrible!

I run to keep on going.
Running has saved my life.
Running has also probably helped me to spare the lives of others.
I thank God for running.

I take my frustration and my disappointment out on the asphalt and the trails.

I run for several reasons.
It keeps me disciplined.
It keeps me sane.
It keeps me focused on the harvest.

Running keeps me going.
Running is when I listen to Him the best.
No music.
Just breathing.
Just pounding.
Just heart beating.
Just listening.
Just praying.

"1,2,3 Pour out your Spirit!"
"1,2,3 Bless this county!"
"1,2,3 Pour out your Spirit!"
"1,2,3 Bless this campus!"
"1,2,3 Pour out your Spirit!"
"1,2,3 Give me wisdom!"
"1,2,3 Heal my friend!"
"Until the day breaks and the shadows flee away!"

During my run today I told the Lord,
"I'm not out here running in order to fill my Church you know!"
"I'm out here running in order to empty hell!"

His response:
"I know that!" "So does the enemy!"
"And, you expected that to come without a price?"
"You expect that to be easy?"
"You expected that you would just waltz in and free the captives?

"Will you run while I fill other churches even if I choose to empty yours?"
"Will you pray for souls if I send them to other pastors?"
"Will you be out here running if you have to, "Make bricks without straw!"?

"I won't pretend to like it, but YES!"
"What can I keep?" (Convicted the moment I said it!)

"Can I keep my family?" "Please."
"Can I keep my joy?" "Actually, can I get it back?" "I've lost it along the way!"
"The closest that I get to really experiencing it is in these moments when I run."
"I'll keep running and keep praying, but I need my joy back!"
"I want to keep my family."

In a moment of utter frustration at the end of 7.14 miles turned off my watch and I said,
"Is this the way you treat your sons?"
(Then I saw my Savior on the cross)
ANSWER: "Yes!" "This is exactly how I treat them!" (Ouch!)

I gave an honest answer: "Sometimes I don't even like you, but I will serve you. I trust you and I love you. But, I won't pretend to like what you allow me and those that I love to go through. I don't understand you. But I will serve you. I have watched people lose those that they hold most dear. I have watched godly men and women suffer tremendously while you seem to do nothing. Yet, I am on top of the roof right now taking off tiles and lowering my friends before you because I still believe. I honestly don't know why I do, but I do. I believe! It makes no sense whatsoever for me to believe, but I do."

"You've done the hard stuff! You've forgiven Bill Parks and Darla Taylor of their sin! You have erased their debt! You have paid their ransom and guaranteed them heaven! Why won't you do the easy thing and heal him of cancer and her of MS?"

"I just don't understand you."
"I love you; I still trust you; I will not let go of you, but I do not understand you."

It was dark by then and I turned into my driveway and looked up at the stars.
I felt like Job in the final chapters of the book that bears his name.
I felt small.
Lucky to be alive.
I scrambled to take off more tiles.
I lowered Bill, Darla, and the 30,000 plus lost souls of my county down to Him hoping for a miracle.
Don't know if it will ever happen.
But, I'll die on this roof taking off tiles and lowering people down because I just don't know what else to do.

I keep on running because I want to empty hell.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Milkweed Seeds

If you want God to speak into your life then put down the phone, close your laptop, and walk outside until you find a place where the only thing that you can see and hear is that which He has made and nothing which man has made. He reveals Himself through that which He has made. "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities -- his eternal power and divine nature -- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse" -- Romans 1:20.

The Lord revealed something powerful to me yesterday while sitting in a place where I could only see and hear what He had made. Now I am without excuse. I can't wallow in my self-pity and despair because He revealed Himself to me though that which He has made. There were dozens of seeds, Milkweed I think, floating through the air while suspended from their God-made parasails. They were on a journey to a destination that was completely beyond their control. I noticed that many of them would get about as low to the ground as one could get without completely "bottoming out" and then in an instant they would be lifted up by an unseen wind and in a matter of less than 3 seconds be soaring higher than the highest trees around them and would in another second be so high that they were completely out of sight. There were even a few that I saw picked up after they were completely on the ground and looked like they couldn't be dislodged.

God used this incident to remind me that I am not in control of His unforeseen wind. He controls the way that the wind of His Spirit blows. He is the one that provides the force, the timing, and the direction. He knows how low that I can go and when to lift me up again. That wind of His Spirit can come suddenly as it did on the day of Pentecost and create a lift that no one could ever have imagined. My job is to make sure that I resist the urge to cling to this earth and that I remain open to Him picking me up and carrying me away whenever He desires. I long for His breath to lift me up. I long to soar on the heights. I long for Him to carry me away in His presence. And, I am grateful that as long as I do not cling to this world, and what it has to offer, that at any moment the wind of His Spirit can lift me to that place where I can soar like an eagle.

I am thankful for what God revealed to me as I sat in the presence of His creation searching for answers. He never fails to provide them. Milkweed seeds. Who would have thought . . .

Monday, April 28, 2014

On Being A Grandpa

I have been a grandpa for a total of 10 days now so I thought this would be an appropriate time to share my wealth of knowledge on the subject. Here are 10 important observations from a loving grandpa -- one for each day of Phoebe Fasoldt's young life:

  1. Grandchildren should be born much closer to grandma and grandpa's house than eight hundred miles. Eight miles would be a much more appropriate distance.
  2. It is well worth the 31-hour round trip to spend 48 hours with your new granddaughter even if her eyes are closed for 47.5 hours.
  3. There is nothing quite like falling asleep with a newborn sleeping on your chest.
  4. Waking up to a crying granddaughter at 2:30 in the morning realizing that your daughter is now going to have to nurse her, change her, and hold her for the next hour or so makes you wonder where in the world she is going to get all of the energy.
  5. Selling all of your worldly possessions in order to afford to spend more time with your granddaughter would be a very good trade-off.
  6. You can never take enough pictures of your sleeping granddaughter.
  7. Your children know far more about raising children than you do because they have Googled questions that you never even thought to ask when they were born.
  8. When you have a 15 hour one-way trip to see you granddaughter then you have a right to keep her up playing patty-cake as long as you want.
  9. Having three daughters and a granddaughter means that you need to buy a truck with a tool box attached to the bed and that you must reserve at least 8 hours of every trip for a project of some kind.
  10. Having your granddaughter clutch both of your pinky fingers in her hands is -- TOTALLY AWESOME!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Reflections After Running for 105 Consecutive Days

Some reflections after my first 100 day Run Streak:

Running was never my thing. Quite frankly I couldn't see the point. As far as I was concerned running was something that the coach punished you with for not performing like you should on the basketball court. I'm a Hoosier. We do basketball in Indiana -- not running! During my freshman year of high school the cross-country coach called me up to the front of the study hall room and ask me to join the cross country team. I looked at him like he had lost his mind and walked back to my seat being both thankful that I had been asked and grateful that I had the courage to say "No way!" Thankfully the high school cross country coach was not the last person to encourage me to buy a pair of running shoes!

In the late 1980s my wife and I accepted assignment as missionaries to the west African nation of Guinea-Bissau. Before we could purchase our tickets we were required to spend a year and half raising the necessary funds that would sustain our first four years overseas. During this fundraising venture we would visit various churches and speak to them about our passion for Africa. During one of these visits the Pastor of the church (Don Gifford) kept talking about his new found passion for running and told me that I needed to start running too. I dismissed him about as fast as I had dismissed my high school cross country coach. That all changed, however, when we got to Africa. There were no basketball courts and in Guinea-Bissau even soccer balls were hard to come by. If you were going to stay fit in Guinea-Bissau running was your only option!

Between our first term in Africa and our second my wife gave birth to twin daughters. This was definitely going to be a challenge to my new found love for running. The solution? A twin jogging stroller! The girls and I logged tons of miles together in Senegal and along the beach front on the Cape Verde Island of Sao Vicente. Nobody had ever seen anything like it before! The stroller acted like a kite on the island of Sao Vicente when the wind was at your back, but when you turned around to head back home the kite felt more like parachute attached to your back as I struggled to take every step into the wind. The girls are now fifteen; and they still have fond memories of running and laughing with their dad off the coast of Africa.

If you were to look in my closet right now you would find at least six pairs of running shoes and not a single pair of basketball shoes! My passion for the court has been overtaken by my passion for running where there are no 'out-of-bounds' lines. When you run there is nothing that tells you that you can go here and no farther. The only lines that you cannot cross are the ones that you allow to creep into your mind. My biggest barrier is not distance, but time. I wish that I had more time to run the trails and the roads all alone. My best thinking and most intimate times of prayer happen on those long slow runs when there is no rush to get back to the house.

I'm thankful for people like Don Gifford, Jim Grams, Tad Finch, John Backes, and Michael Scott that have been an encouragement to both get me started and to keep me going along the way. It is my hope to be an encouragement to others in the same way that these men have been a blessing to me.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Disciples vs. Friends

There seems to be a general confusion among Christians concerning discipleship. Christians everywhere claim to want more discipleship, but do they? Do they even know what that means. It is the mandate of the church -- "Go and make disciples . . ." -- so surely we know what that means, right?

Does the average Christian in the United States of America truly want to be discipled; or do they just want to have a spiritual leader to hang out with at their convenience, answer all their questions, and meet all of their emotional needs? It seems that we have lost track of what the word 'disciple' means. To be a 'disciple' does not mean to be a 'friend.' A 'disciple' is a 'student'. Students are taught by 'teachers', not 'friends'.

We have allowed the culture to redefine what it means to be a 'friend' and a 'follower' as well. It seems that in this Facebook and Twitter crazed age that we live in, everyone is desperate to be 'liked', 'friended', and 'followed'.  One can even pay money in order to generate more 'friends' and 'followers'! We definitely don't want to 'follow' more people on Twitter than we have 'following' us -- that would make us look really lame! And, it must be made very clear, that when we 'follow' someone on Twitter that doesn't mean that we follow their lead and take their guidance! We don't click a button that says, "I choose this person as my leader!" No, we click on a button that says 'follow'. So what does it mean when we 'follow' someone in the Twitter age? It merely means that we want to peak over their shoulder, rob their quotes to use as our own, and feel free to disagree with them on anything that we want to even if they are an expert in their field and we know next to nothing about the subject at hand.

When Jesus said, "Come follow me . . ." He in no way indicated that it was something that was to be done at the convenience of His followers ("foxes have holes, birds of the air have nests . . . Let the dead bury the dead . . . Go sell everything that you have . . ." Etc.). Being a follower of Jesus was about denying self and taking up a cross. It went beyond paying tithes and attending synagogue and demanded everything! Following Jesus is about cross-bearing. Following Jesus is about becoming a servant. Following Jesus is about placing everyBODY else first and everyTHING else last.
Those that followed Jesus called Him "Rabbi" which means "teacher". His followers were called "disciples". They did not "friend" Jesus, nor did they choose Him to be their teacher! He found them! He chose them! They followed! He led!

Many that claim to want to be discipled today have no interest whatsoever in allowing someone else to lead them. As soon as the leader demands that they get rid of some junk and do some hard things they are ready to declare the leader inept and move on to someone else. We seem to think that Jesus chose fishing buddies. He didn't! Jesus told the guys that were fishing to "drop their nets!" He told them to drop their livelihood! Their hobby! Their social network! Their culture! And, follow Him! Their old life was over! He was no more interested in hanging out with guys that looked back on the old way of life with nostalgia than God was interested in Lot's family looking back at Sodom, or hiring a plowman that kept looking over his shoulder to see where he had been rather than where he was going.

Jesus mode of discipleship was a lot like Mr. Miagi on Karate Kid! The disciples didn't get it just like Daniel Sun didn't get waxing cars, painting fences, and sanding floors. The disciples didn't get the stories of Jesus, praying for an hour, or Jesus insistence on going through Samaria. Contrary to what some misdirected 'spiritual leaders' are saying today; Jesus wasn't interested in helping people feel comfortable around Him. Quite the contrary! When Jesus encountered people He dispensed with introductions and pleasantries altogether and went straight to their issues! The woman caught in adultery was told to "sin no more!" Matthew and Zacheus made things right with the people that they were ripping off. The woman at the well was told to fetch her husband; and the rich young ruler went away from His encounter with the Almighty Son of God dejected because Jesus didn't meet his emotional need for acceptance into the inner circle. "Who does this guy think he is telling me to that I have to sell everything first in order to hang out together?"

Jesus doesn't tell us to wax cars, paint fences and sand floors. He tells us to give until it hurts, fast until demons flee, and pray until we can't keep our eyes open any longer!

It's doubtful that any Christian would argue that Jesus wasn't the best teacher that ever lived, but if we would measure His success the way that modern day church growth consultants would look at things, then He was obviously a total failure! After all, when Jesus was at His very best only His mother, a few other ladies and John were on the scene. Even 'the rock', Peter, had denied being a student of the incarcerated Rabbi!

If being discipled means hanging out with a spiritual leader while he prays in agony over the plan of God until we become so bored that we fall asleep; we're not interested. If being a disciple means behaving like the church at Berea and pouring over the scripture to make sure that we properly understand it; we've got too much on our plate to commit to that kind of study. If being a disciple means listening to sermons that go into lunch time or that are so long that kids fall asleep and fall out of windows; we've got to leave early because we've got friends coming over to watch the game.
If being a disciple is giving one penny more than a tithe of our total income then we walk away mad.

No, we don't want to be discipled. We want to be 'friended.' We want to be 'followed'. We want to set the agenda, determine the workload, and set the guidelines. We don't want a teacher. We want control. We want 'likes.' We want validated. We want a pill to make the pain go away!

When most people say that they want to be discipled what they are really saying is that they want to be affirmed. They want a medal placed around their neck, the diploma put in their hand, the pin placed on their lapel, or their name listed in the paper. What they don't want is to do the hard work that it takes to earn it. They want to lose the weight without burning the calories; cross the finish line of a marathon without running the 26.2 miles; or play the piano without taking lessons.

Jesus is looking for students that will humble themselves and obey. He is looking for men and women that will participate in three-year Bible studies, attend prayer meetings, give beyond the Bible's minimum standard of the tithe, raise their hands in worship, commit to times of extended fasting, humble themselves by kneeling at an altar, and deny themselves the pleasures of life that the world tells them that they have 'earned.'

How about you? Do you want to be a disciple? Are you sure?
If you do then The StoreHouse is your kind of place.

You won't always enjoy it, but you will grow deeper, higher, and farther in the things of God than you ever thought possible. We won't be hanging many medals around your neck. We'll leave that to the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords! He's the gift giver, not us! He knows the gifts that you lack and the ones that His church needs. We'd prefer to leave the giving of awards in His capable and loving hands. After all, He's the Savior, Healer, and Baptizer in the Holy Spirit, not us.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

What Happened Last Night

If you have a moment I would like to fill you in on just a small part of what happened at The StoreHouse last night.

Sometime just after 5:00 p.m. the people began to trickle into the building. When they came in they were immediately greeted by the smell of a fantastic meal emanating from the HeBrews Café. That meal did not arrive in a refrigerated semi-trailer to be popped into the microwave and warmed up. It happened because loving people realize the importance of Christian fellowship and use the gifts that God has given them to prepare a fellowship meal for their brothers and sisters in Christ. Among, and along with, those coming to enjoy a meal together was a group of people arriving an hour before service. They come early every week so that they can climb aboard The StoreHouse fleet of vans and shuttle buses that go out into the streets of Greencastle. They give up their time in order to bring children and young people to a place where they can hear a message of hope. Without those dedicated people NONE of those 80 – 100 souls would have heard that message!

It takes a lot of dedicated people to do what we do at The StoreHouse on Wednesday nights. Some cook meals, some drive vans and buses, some ride along with the drivers in order to keep order, still others come to help teach and to assist in the various ministries and classes that take place all over the building. They do this week in and week out without fail. I am truly thankful for each and every obedient servant of God that makes all of this possible. My thankfulness is not because we pull off getting so many kids into the building. I am thankful because of the victories that take place in both small and great ways every week.

Please allow me to tell you about some victories that I saw last night in youth ministry. The first victory is that over 40 Middle School and High School students who have parents that never take them to Church showed up at THEIR CHURCH last night. They never miss!! They are always here!! If you would ask them if they go to church they would say, “Yeah, I go to church at The StoreHouse every week!” We had somewhere between 48 and 54 young people in service last night! Eighty percent of them come from unchurched families! We would have had about 60 kids here, but we were missing some of the kids from families that attend The StoreHouse on Sundays. What do we do to keep them coming back every week? Well, this week’s message was based on Colossians and was very similar to the one preached on Sunday. As a matter of fact every week the message is similar to the one preached on Sunday. We are preaching through the Bible on Wednesday nights! We preach God’s Word and they keep coming back!

Does it work? Well, when the altar call was given there was somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 young people at the altar. Only two of them have parents that take them to Church! Yeah, it works! Why does it work? Because of faith, hope, and love! Don’t give up the faith! There is hope! Keep loving on these hurting kids! Keep serving! Keep giving! Keep praying! Keep believing! Keep the faith!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Lord's Prayer

Before Jesus utters "The Lord's Prayer" He says, concerning the pagans, "Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him." He then goes on to say, "This, then, is how you should pray . . ." -- Matthew 6:8-9

It would seem that Jesus is saying that we don't need to ask what we think that we need to ask for. The problem is not with God not knowing what we need. The problem is with us not knowing what we truly need. We need to ask for what He wants us to ask for. The Lord's Prayer doesn't change Him -- it changes us.

The Lord's Prayer lets us know what the real need is!

My Interpretation of The Lord's Prayer:

Dad, Wow, I can't believe that I can call you that!
Thanks for adopting me!
As your new son/daughter; please help me to always bring honor to your name.

You already know what I need.
You provided that for me today, just like you have every other day.
I don't even have to ask!
It's always there!
It's always enough!

I'm not here to talk about anything else that I think that I need.
You already know about all of that without me even asking!
I'm here to find out what you need from me.
How can you use me to advance your kingdom? I'm here to receive Your Majesty's orders.

Forgive me for all the times that I have failed your eternal cause; and help me to do the same for those have failed my feeble one.
I am amazed at how good you are at forgiving me for so much and at how horrible I am at forgiving others for so little!
Help me to be more like you!

Concerning my provisions; please don't give me so little that I will be easily tempted to despair, jealousy,  and greed.
And, please don't give me so much that I become sidetracked from what is important.
Restrain me from living beyond your daily provision.
Make me deaf to Satan's call for more!

Your kingdom is the one that matters -- not mine!
Your kingdom is the everlasting one -- not mine!
Help me to remember that.

For the sake of your name, help me to build your Kingdom instead of hindering it!
Make it so, my Father, my Lord, and my King!

Please, make it so!