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Fifth Friday Feeding Frenzy

January 29, 2010 2 comments

This January is a cool month.

Because it has 5 Fridays in it.

No, I don’t get an extra paycheck (that would be a cool if it were so).  It’s because there is no one signed up to feed the kids at the Hope mission for the months that have a fifth Friday.   That gives my family an opportunity to serve twice in one month.  With hectic schedules, it’s not always easy and there are times that we are tired from running ragged all week and would be tempted to just stay home and rest, but then, we think of the kids.

No, they are not from a third world country.  No, they are not starving to death.

But, yes, they need to see the love of Jesus impact their community.  They need to see God’s people share their blessings with them because then they will be able to accept a message about a God that stepped out of heaven to show them the greatest love.

What we have does not truly belong to us.  God has blessed my family so that we can bless others.

What they don’t know is that they are a blessing in our lives.  It’s not about a “I-feel-good-because-I-did-good” blessing.

No… it’s a real blessing.

They have let us be a part of their lives for just a short time each week.  They have trusted us to prepare food and to feed them.  It’s a blessing for what they have done for us instead of what we had thought to do for them.

We connect and become a part of their community.

Yeah, tonight we will feed them but in turn we will be fed as well because we will each share with the other out of the abundance of what we have.

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Categories: Life Thoughts Tags: , , ,

Church Hunt Week 1

January 26, 2010 5 comments

I mentioned about a week ago that my family was going to begin a campaign to find a new church home and that we would try to capture our thoughts as we made this journey in a series of posts.  Read here to see where this started.

We had planned to visit a fellowship that was meeting in the sch0ol behind our house but instead chose to attend a small baptist church where we knew some of the people who attend there.  We will  attempt to make the Xenos fellowship this coming Sunday… so stay tuned if you were interested about that one.

So without further ado, here are our thoughts on the Full Armor Baptist Church.

We arrived at 9:30 am in order to take advantage of both Sunday School and Service.  We were greeted by the pastor as we entered the church and he immediately helped us with knowing where to go for each member in our family.  My wife and I attended the ‘under fifty’ class (it was that or the over 50 class), and my eldest daughter went to the older teen class while my youngest daughter went to a class of her peers.

My wife and I found our way to some metal folding chairs at the back table and were greeted by a few of the members of the class.  We were given copies of the Lifeway curriculum in King James translation that the class was studying through.  I leafed through the topic for the day and it was about Solomon’s research into the merits (or lack thereof) in gaining material possessions as recorded in Ecclesiastes. So the topic of the day was that stuff is bad if it comes before God.  It was about that time that I wondered what my children were studying.  Maybe they were sitting in circles discussing  dispensationalism as it applies to the study of eschatology while we talked about ‘stuff is bad’.  Ok.. so that was sarcasm.

Back to the lesson.  The material nor the teacher ever took time to set the context of the passages that were being studied – we were all captives of the moral of the story lecture that stuff-doesn’t-bring-happiness-God-does.

After the lesson completed, we gathered up our eldest daughter who proceeded to tear the molding off the doorway with her wheelchair while exiting the class, and headed to service.  Our youngest daughter remained in the younger people’s area for another lesson appropriate to her age.

There were probably 150 people gathered in the sanctuary by the time the service started.  My wife and I were both impressed by the announcements concerning the churches endeavors to help Haiti and their local community.  Music followed the announcements and we were all lead to sing from the hymnals located on the back of the pews in front of us.  The songs that we sang were:

  • The Old Rugged Cross
  • Send the Light
  • A song that I didn’t recognize (sang during the offering collection)
  • And the Anchor holds (a solo by the teacher who taught our class who was also the music leader and assistant pastor)

The pastor then took the pulpit and proceeded to preach from Luke concerning the action of Christ casting out the devil from the mute and then being falsely accused of doing so from Satan’s power.  His message was a spirited oration on how God is powerful and how we all need Him because He is bigger than anything in our lives.

There was an altar call where a third of the congregation went forward and prayed before the pastor even made the appeal.  Following the altar call there were two baptisms and we sang “I’ll fly away” as we were being dismissed.

So what did the family think?

Brianna (12):

“We need to go to this church, dad, I have friends here and they made me feel welcome.”  Her answer shows how important community is when it comes to being church.

Lauren (17):

“No one talked to me.”

There weren’t many kids her age in the class and I know her being in a wheelchair creates a barrier that many kids shy away from.  She did talk at length with an adult that knew her after service and she said that was ‘unexpected’.

Heather (the wife):

“I liked that they were concerned about impacting the world and I agreed with several things that pastor covered today.  But this isn’t our church.”

I was glad that she was engaged enough to look for things she enjoyed or agreed with while struggling with the new experience.

Final Thoughts:

  • Size (appeared to be less than 300 people)
  • Denomination (King Jimmy Baptist)
  • Worship Style (Loud and proud from the hymnal)
  • Sermon style (Emotional oration leaning slightly toward badgering; the text may not have been as important as where the messenger wanted to go with it)
  • Teaching (Basic Literature – Topical)
  • Small group structure (Did not see evidence for small groups)
  • Activities centered on families with children (unknown beyond what was offered as part of service and an announcement about an upcoming Music Concert)
  • Missiology (Concerned about the community through works based on faith)
  • Statement of faith (Fundamental Baptist; did hear the word backslidden used in conjunction with hypocrite so don’t know if eternal salvation is believed in both thought an practice)

Please let me be clear that this is by no means a comprehensive view of this church.  We do not know the people, the teacher, or the pastor and have been exposed to them on just this one occasion.  These are just our first impressions with what we experienced.

I was reminded on more than one occasion during our visit of the small churches that I visited or attended as a child back in the 70’s and 80’s.

Come back next week for our next installment.

Categories: Church Hunt Tags: , ,

Are you an Ichabod?

January 22, 2010 Leave a comment

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  So the picture above is going to save me a lot of time trying to find the right keys to hit.

Let me include this definition:

Ichabod  =  The glory has departed.

If you are really interested in something to think about, watch the following clip:

Elimilech’s Costly Compromise

January 20, 2010 4 comments

I just had this thought over lunch and needed to jot it down.  I was reading more about Chemosh, the god the Moabites worshiped, in a MacArthur commentary and he mentions that the people of Moab worshiped Chemosh through child sacrifice.  It made me think about the fact that neither Orpah or Ruth had children while they were in Moab.  And so I asked myself this question, ‘why?  Here are the thoughts that I went through while turning this question over in my head:

  • Maybe they had children but had sacrificed them to Chemosh (ugh.. I hope not and I don’t believe this was the case)
  • Maybe God had closed their wombs through infertility or miscarriage so that when Elimilech and his sons died there would be no recourse for Ruth, Orpah, and Naomi besides His providence (I like this line of thinking)
  • Maybe the young couples chose not to conceive while in Moab so that they would not have to fear the Chemosh requirement of child sacrifice (I like this one too – I will explain)

Here are my thoughts on why I like that third option.  I don’t believe Elimilech was completely rebellious towards God.  I believe that he and Naomi continued to educate and raise their children in the Jewish context and this can be surmised by Ruth’s knowledge of their God and His names (she uses both Jehovah and Elohim in context with her conversation with Naomi on the road back to Bethlehem).  Furthermore, I believe that Elimilech’s goal was to eventually return to Bethlehem once things improved there.  He had land there and family there and we know that when they departed from Bethlehem that they had only prepared for a short stay in Moab.  Unfortunately for him, the good news of God’s providence returning does not come to Moab until after his death and the death of his sons.

I think that the Elimilech family may have lived a life in Moab of waiting for the right time to return.  And that would have included asking the sons and their wives to wait to bear children until they returned home. All along, they were ignoring God’s direction because they were waiting on their own timing.  They were trying to stand on both sides of the fence.

How many of us are guilty of doing just that?

  • God, I will do that when this or that is taken care of
  • God, this can’t be your will because that path looks hard

What about the other part of that thought, you know, the one where we are only doing part of God’s will?

  • God, I am doing this much right now, don’t ask me to do that as well
  • Look, God, aren’t we doing this part really well?  I mean, that’s all you really want, right?  That I do the best with what I have? That I am sincere?

How many of us are living in Moab with full intention of someday going to Bethlehem when things are just right?

Categories: Commentary Tags: , , ,

The Jalopy Way to Understand the Bible

January 20, 2010 Leave a comment

Do you remember the first time you looked under the hood of a car?  You may have to go way back in your memory banks to pull up those first images and how your responded to the sight of all the ‘stuff’ you saw under the hood.  Maybe you still respond the same way today when it becomes necessary to pop the latch to see what is going on.

I would guess that for each of us, that first glimpse was one of confusion and wonder.  So many wires and strange shaped objects.  We wondered what was that do-hickey for and where did that snaky, black thing go after it went under that what-cha-ma-callit and over to the whozit with all the dirty stuff on it.  We couldn’t use technical terms because we had no knowledge of what it was we were looking at or what its function was.  In essence, it was a great mystery to us.  There were some of us who wanted to put our hands on the different things we saw in order to try to figure things out while there others of us were just as happy to close the hood and forget what it was we had looked at.

My father owned ‘fixer-uppers’ most of the years that I spent at home growing up.  I can remember him taking parts out of them, working on them, and then putting parts back in so that the machine could roar back to life.  There were times that the vehicle being repaired was the only vehicle we owned so it was imperative to make the fixes in a timely manner if anyone was going to get a ride to the supermarket or to work.  Being a boy and easily bored, I didn’t always sit with my dad while he was making a repair but there were times that I did.  It was during those times that some of the mystery was explained and the understanding of mechanics was passed on from one generation to the next. I can remember him drawing a picture on a piece of paper that described how an internal combustion engine generated motion through lots of tiny explosions that pushed opposing pistons up and down within the engine block.  That motion was then passed onto to the transmission through gears which caused the axle to rotate which in turn created forward motion of the vehicle.

He would point to a part and name it, “That is the alternator and it generates electricity so the battery won’t be used up by the lights while we are driving.  And that’s the radiator – water passes through it and is cooled by the air before it reenters the engine block to keep the engine from overheating.”

It was through his training that I learned to work on my own vehicles.  I am no great mechanic but I am not afraid to tackle many of the things that people pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to have someone else do for them.  One thing that was interesting about the discovery process was that each thing I learned about how a car worked lead to greater ability to understand how other parts of the car worked.   There was a transient quality to the education gained.

I think we need to get back to this type of education when it comes to the study of the bible.  Many of us open its covers and we have the same reaction to it as we did the first time we looked under the hood of a car.  We knew that there was something there that made the car go but we didn’t have any understanding of what it was.  And that correlates well to the bible because many of us know that there is something in there that makes the church go but we have no understanding of how it works.

We need to stop just telling our kids about the stories in the bible and show them how to understand it.  That may mean we will need to take some time to understand how to go about it ourselves.  We have had a hands-off approach to biblical learning for too long.  Yes it is more convenient to have someone else work on your car but there is a price that has to be paid.  What price do we pay when we farm out our responsibilities to train our children to the Sunday School class?  I am not saying that Sunday School classes are not beneficial for your children, what I am saying is that they need more than that to grasp how to study the bible for themselves.

They need someone to come along, open up the hood, and start explaining how the pieces and parts work together.

Jim-N-Caspar Central Ohio Style

January 19, 2010 8 comments

Our lives are made of many chapters.  Some are longer than others and some are celebrated where others leave us no desire to return for a review.  My family has turned the page to a new chapter in our collective lives and it is with some unknown expectations that we take the next steps.  The chapter that we are closing has been a welcome one.  In it we experienced a lot of beauty with friends and family created in a church community and while we don’t close the chapter on those friends and family, we understand that the backdrop for this new chapter is different.  And different is foreign.

I don’t know about you, but when I have visited foreign lands I have tried to look for what I can appreciate about that place.  I want to soak in all the experiences so that I can detail them later to friends who are interested in those aspects of my life.

And, so, with this new chapter, I want to do something that brings part of that mentality to the process.  I am going to ask my family to assist me with creating a blog series about the churches that we will be visiting in the coming weeks.  This idea comes from a book titled, “Jim and Caspar go to church” in which the authors visit churches and examine the components that make up each experience.  My wife, Heather, and my daughters, Lauren(17) and Brianna (12), will be asked questions about their experiences while we are about our visits.  As for myself, I will create a matrix of questions to try to answer concerning each church, like:

  • Size
  • Denomination
  • Worship Style
  • Sermon style (exegetical vs topical; edification vs evangelistic and so on)
  • Small group structure
  • Activities centered on families with children
  • Missiology
  • Statement of faith

And so on.  Now, I hope to remove a lot of chaff by visiting websites if the church has one and looking to see if their faith statements are in line with some key theological points before visiting.  I will be giving this post series more thought as we approach our first visit this Sunday.  Our plans at this time are to visit a Xenos fellowship that meets in the school building located behind our house.

If there are questions that you would like me to try to answer about any of the upcoming visits that we plan on making, please leave them here and I will do my best to include them in my matrix for evaluation.

Please understand that our chief concern is to find where the Holy Spirit would have us go.  The blessings and gifts that God has been gracious to give our family are meant to edify His church and we are looking to follow His will in this process.   To those friends that we now count as family among our previous church home, we still look forward to many fellowships in the future.  You are forever a part of our lives… and who knows how God will lead?

Elimilech Generation

January 19, 2010 5 comments

In my recent studies of Ruth, I have been overwhelmed by the number of life-impacting lessons that God recorded for our benefit.  In its beautiful ‘love’ story between Ruth and Boaz, we find so much richness to guide our lives today.

Take for example, the lesson we are given by a man named Elimilech.  It is worth mentioning that his family lived in the little town of Bethlehem.  We should also mention that there was a famine in the land and that this famine appeared to be localized to the lands inhabited by God’s chosen people.  A final note before we begin concerns the time that this story takes place.  We know from verse 1 of the book that this occurs in the day of the judges and if we turn one page back to the final verse of the book of judges we can get a glimpse of why this is important:

In those days [there was] no king in Israel: every man did [that which was] right in his own eyes.

Elimlech, whose name means ‘my God is king’, has a wife, Naomi (my delight), and two sons, Mahlon(sick) and Chilion(wasting away).  Interesting names for a group of people living in a town which has a name meaning ‘bread basket’ that is under a famine.

Just 50 miles away is a town by the name of Moab which is experiencing prosperity.  They have food.  Sounds like a good place to take a couple of kids named sick and wasting away since food is scarce in the bread basket.  But Elimilech is part of the chosen people and God has declared that His people should not seek the prosperity of Moab because of how the Moabites had treated the Israelites following their exodus from Egypt.

If you are Elimilech, what do you do?  It’s your responsibility to take care of your family – a responsibility that God has placed on you.  Do you wait for God to show up and bless you or do you take a pragmatic approach to the issue?

Maybe you start to rationalize the situation and start to compromise like Elimilech.  He decides to take his family for a short visit, a sojourn according to the bible, to Moab.  I mean, who can fault him, right?  Which of us wouldn’t be tempted to take a step into the forbidden if it meant sparing our families from pain and hurt?

But you see, there are two issues with that way of thinking.

  • A little compromise leads to bigger compromise and, ultimately, we will not escape that which we had hoped to avoid
  • Pragmatism discounts God’s willingness to show up in our need, thus robbing us of a blessing to see His miraculous providence

In Elimilech’s case, he takes the short journey to Moab and then slips into a bigger compromise by living there.  Eventually, that compromise leads to bigger issues because his children marry Moabites which is also against God’s commands.  In the end, the prosperity that he sought for his family came to naught for he ends up dying as do both his children before they can leave heirs to his lineage.  His wife and daughers-in-law are left in a desperate situation.

Because he took his own way out of the situation in Bethlehem, we never get to see how God would have shown up in Elimilech’s life.  He forfeited the ability to see God at work because he chose his own way.

God doesn’t want us to go out ahead of Him especially in areas that He has given clear instruction.  He is not in the business of honoring our pragmatism.  Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes that the end of the matter is this: Fear God and Keep His Commandments.  Christ, himself, has declared that we should love God with all of our being.  Both of those statements are built on the idea that we honor Him which is due our complete obedience.

I wonder if we don’t live in a time that reflects that verse from Judges – ‘every man did [that which was] right in his own eyes’. And are we experiencing a spiritual famine in our ‘Bethlehem’?

If we answer ‘yes’ to both of those questions, we better be careful not to be a generation of Elimilechs searching for our own way out of the situation. Sometimes we are called to wait upon the Lord  – He has a way of showing up beyond our own abilities.

Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up {with} wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary. ~ Isaiah 40:31