1 12 2008

My wife and I are in an evangelism study group at church.  This week, as a class, our task was to, in 3 sentences or less, explain to someone what we believe.  In other words, when an unchurched person asks us what we believe, what is a short, concise response that will perhaps open the door to further witnessing.  Here is what we come up with.  I welcome your feedback.

“I believe that God loves us and created us for a relationship with Him which is a free gift available to all who chose to accept it.  We were all born sinners, but God sent His only son, Jesus, to pay the price.  He overcame death on the cross so that the relationship with Him can be restored forever”.


Jury Duty on earth

24 09 2008

Yesterday I participated in my civic duty as a Collin County resident in the state of Texas.  I had to show up to the local court house and wait to see if my name got called for one of the 2 jury panels needed for the day.  It wasn’t.  They took the first panel of 25 right away.  Then we all sat there while one woman worked with 8 or 9 different people to either postpone their service or cancel it altogether due to some affliction or another (I didn’t really understand the ones that were allowed to leave without rescheduling because the summons I received in the mail clearly spelled out every acceptable reason to get out of jury duty – all they had to do was mark the appropriate box, send it in and then just not show up).  Anyway, she finally got around to calling the second panel of potential jurors and then let everyone else go home.

So, what did I do while I sat there waiting?  I read a few pages in the book “Jesus for President” by Shane Claiborn and Chris Haw.

Consider the irony of these words that I read as I sat in a courtroom waiting to see if I would be selected on a jury to decide the fate of an accused criminal:

Some might read the popular phrase, “My kingdom is not of this world,” and mistakenly think that Jesus

meant, “My kingdom is not in this world.”  But Jesus was speaking more about essence than location.  In other words, he was talking about the “real world.”

Jesus said this while on trial for insurrection.  His kingdom had finally collided with the kingdoms of Herod and Pilate, and they wanted answers.  Since Jesus’ birth, he had been at odds with the establishment.  They wanted him dead ever since the rumors about the other King of the Jews.  Because of this Jesus had, for the most part, stayed on the fringes of public life, insisting that the kingdom he preached and represented be undetectable to the powers.  But now he had paraded into the center of power, flipped over its tables, and hosted a public and critical teach-in, creating the conditions for his arrest.  Now under government control he is questioned:

Are you the king of the Jews?”

“Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”

“Am I a Jew?”  Pilate replied.  “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me.  What is it you have done?”

Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.  If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders.  But now my kingdom is from a different place.”

“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king.  In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth.  Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

“What is truth?” retorted Pilate…

From then on Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jews kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar.  Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.”

When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out … “Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews…

“We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered.

John 18:33-38; 19:12-15.

…His Kingdom is not of this world because it refuses power, pledges a different allegiance, and lives love. In a world where truth had become smothered and rulers don’t even know what it is anymore, Jesus embodies a truth that will set us free – even Pilate.

That’s the kingdom I want to be a part of.  Reading those words while sitting in a Collin County courthouse just drove home the point.


5 08 2008

Last Sunday morning my wife and I got into the church service a little late.  We ended up sitting on the front row.  The last couple of Sundays, during the service, we have started having what is called a “Children’s Moment”.  All the kids are invited to come up to the front for a mini sermonette.  It’s just a 5 minute illustration used to help teach the kids a biblical lesson.  This week’s was about FEAR and was based on 2 Timothy 1:7

For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

So, the woman leading the “Children’s Moment” started asking the kids for examples of things they fear.  The kids’ responses were what you would expect – monsters, the dark, getting into trouble, etc.

Then for some reason still unknown to me, she points over to me and says “What is something you are fear?”  At first I assumed she was pointing to someone behind me.  She kept pointing in my direction and finally I kind of innocently mouthed the word, “Me?” to which she emphatically nodded her head.

Out of about 500 people or so, why on earth had she decided to single me out?  Did I look like I had fears to share?  Did I look like I belonged up there sitting with the children?  I have no idea why I was chosen, but I thought I better say something.  All of this went through my head in an instant, but it didn’t get me any closer to an appropriate response.  In a fraction of a second I tried to think of something to say.  Then, in a flash, I blurted out my response.

“I have a fear of being called on to respond in front of the entire church”.

I brought the house down with that one.

Is the church still reaching?

28 07 2008

Yesterday morning, in our Bible Fellowship class, we all answered one simple question:  “Why are you here?”  There were probably 8-9 couples in the room.  Each one answered.  There were several, including myself, that said we were there because we had grown up in that church, and it was a natural place for us to be.  Others had moved in to town from various places and came to that church because it was similar to what they had known in their other locations or because they happen to know someone there.

There was only one person that said they were there because someone from the church had invited them to come.

My question is…why aren’t there more people there as a result of a personal invitation?  Is it because we aren’t inviting? Is it because they are not accepting our invitations?  Or is it because they came and didn’t find what they needed?

I think, sadly, it’s a combination of all three.

The church needs to be a place where we are excited to invite others.  It needs to be a place with a lot to offer for all kinds of people.  A place that plugs people in the moment they walk in the door so that they are immediately caught up in the spirit of the people there.  Otherwise, what is the point?

So, why aren’t we inviting?  Why aren’t they accepting the invitations?  Why aren’t they finding what they need?

Something is broken.  What do you think it is?

Levi’s help

25 05 2008

At lunch we were quizzing our 4 year old on what his Bible verse was in Sunday School today.  It was John 15:12 where Jesus said:

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”

Levi\'s Help

After lunch, we had a great chance to live out that verse in front of our 4 year old.  We noticed a man straggling along the road side in the hot sun near the hospital today.  It was hard to tell what he needed, but it wasn’t hard to tell that he needed something.  He looked like he may have just been discharged from the hospital because he had a hospital bracelet around his wrist.  It was possible he was drunk or high or both.  He walked with a noticable limp and seemed to be drifting aimlessly.


We stopped and asked him if he needed anything.  He mumbled that he was fine.  I offered to get him some lunch and he agreed.  I was a little nervous about taking him the car with us, so I asked him where he was going to be for the next few minutes while I went to get him lunch.  He said he would be right there.  So, we ran to McDonald’s and got him a chicken sandwich, a coke, and a large ice water.  We took it back over to him, and by this time I had decided he was harmless (or more accurately, that it was worth the risk to help this man), so I asked him if I could give him a lift somewhere.  He said no.  I asked him what else he needed.  He said he was just waiting it out for 5 days until he got his next check.  I wished him well and we were on our way.

As we pulled away, our 4 year old said, “That was weird.”  My wife and I immediately used this situation as a lesson.  We told him there were countless people that had passed him by just today that could have stopped to help.   We told him that we did what we did because it was the right thing to do and because it is what Jesus would have done.  We told him that Jesus would have already known exactly what that man needed.  We don’t always have that luxury but we can pray and give it our best shot…which is exactly what we had done.  We told him that it may have felt a little weird, but each time we do it, it will feel less weird. And of course, we reminded him of his Bible verse today and showed him how we were living that verse out.

We decided going forward, we would continue to pray for the man.  Though we didn’t know his name, we decided to call him Levi because that was the word written on his shirt.  And we told our son that Jesus would know who we meant when we prayed for Levi.

Looking back now, I realize this is a situation where someone needed help and God placed just the right person in the just the right place at the just the right time to provide that help.

I just pray that we were able to help Levi as much as he helped us.  God knew that our son needed that lesson today and Levi was there to help deliver the message.  God knew that we needed that lesson today, too.

Homosexuals in Heaven

24 05 2008

General SuperintendantsHere’s a somewhat controversial question.  Will there be homosexuals in heaven?  I think many christians will be surprised when they get there to find the answer is yes.

I was interested to read in a blog that I have started following called Emergent Nazarenes about a new letter to pastors put out by the General Superintendants in the Church of the Nazarene on the topic of Homosexuality.  I read the post and then went on to read the entire pamphlet for myself.  I have to say I am pleasantly surprised at some of what I read.

You can read the pamphlet yourself here, but some of the quotes are as follows:

“The Bible does not homosexual orientation. What the Bible does talk about are homosexual acts.  We need to be clear about this, and to not say more than the Bible says.  One of the problems in the destructive debates that are taking place is lack of clarity on this very point.”

“What we do know from walking with people in a fallen world is that homosexuality is real, it tends to begin early, and it is rarely a choice.”

“Sexual orientation is not usually a willful choice.  (Can the heterosexual point to a time they chose their sexual orientation?)”

“Americans tend to be greedy as an influence of our consumer society.  We didn’t wake up one morning and decide to be greedy.  We were born into a greedy world and this sticky sin stuck to us.  …homosexuality is a sin because it reflects the fallenness of our world.  Like greed, it is something we are called to respond to by grace according to the character of God.  The person who is homosexually oriented does not need a church that condemns their orientation, but rather a church that calls for a response that is in keeping with the character of God.”

Our refusing to come alongside in the complexity of the journey too often results in two wrong responses.  The first is to naively believe that homosexuality is a simple matter to be fixed by one serious trip to the altar…The second wrong response is to simply cave in to the belief that homosexuality is irreversible, homosexual behavior is natural, ‘just who I am’, and therefore we offer no help at all”.

“The reoriented or celibate single homosexual will be invited to full participation in the life and ministry of the church, leading ministries, serving on boards, and singing in choirs.”

This is just a sampling of the contents of the letter, but I thought it showed the general theme.  I was pretty happy with the tone of the letter.  I think a lot of Christians might be surprised to hear some of what was said.  I know I was.  I was happy to hear them acknowledge that homosexuality is most-likely not a choice.  I don’t believe I have ever heard that inside the walls of a Nazarene church before.  I was glad to read that they make a distinction between homosexual orientation (most likely not a choice) and homosexual behavior (a choice).  And, I think the comparison to greed (in this country especially) is very valid.  It creates an equality for a behavior that carries with it a huge stigma with a behavior that has become extremely commonplace in many christians’ lives.  Finally, I appreciate the statement that homosexuals should be included completely in all areas of ministry in the church.  Not only should they be let in the doors, but they should be allowed, perhaps even expected, to participate in all areas of ministry.

I am pretty happy with the stance the general superintendants in the Church of the Nazarene took with this issue.  So, what do you think?  Will there will be homosexuals in heaven?

Books of the Bible

18 05 2008

My wife and I teach the kindergarten Sunday School class at our church.  This is our third year of teaching them the Books of the Bible.  We give the kids each a CD with the new testament and old testament books set to catchy little tunes.  Then, each week, the kids come to class where they participate in various activities that reinforce the kids’ pronunciation and chronology of the books.  My wife is really good at coming up with fresh new ideas for the activities so the kids never get bored with the same material week after week.

We offer to buy the kids their very own little boy’s or little girl’s bible if they can successfully recite all the books to us.  We have had quite a high percentage of the kids earn themselves a bible over the past 3 years.  And, we don’t just give them away for effort…they have to recite them in order and with accurate pronunciation.  It’s amazing what kids can learn.  In all honesty, I have been teaching them for 3 years and I still struggle with the order of several in the Old testament.  I always make sure that my wife is the one to listen as they recite!

This morning my wife asked one little girl about her week.  She said that she and her dad had babysat a little baby girl over the weekend.  My wife prodded about the level of responsibility that the girl had for this.  She didn’t change the diapers, she didn’t feed the infant, she didn’t even really hold her.  When asked what she was responsible for, she responded, “I sang the books of the Bible to her to help her fall asleep!”.

Those are the moments that make a Sunday School teacher’s day!  Kudos to my wife for being so passionate about instilling this knowledge in these children’s minds and hearts!