Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Stuff and Such, Meeting our Earthly Needs

Some have it easy, some do not. Some have a lot, some have little. I am in the process of raising support for preachers in Nigeria. They can live on $110 a month. That includes their family expenses, ministry expenses and even some for continuing education. Some of us spend that much on lunches in a month. Struggles and issues about the needs of this physical life are universal.

I have just been asked to assist in developing our benevolence ministry in the church. What a task. We know that, "the poor you have with you always." Matthew 26:11. But we also read, "But whoever has the world's goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. " 1 John 3:16-18

We have transients (maybe angels), single moms, unemployed dads, catastrophic events, and everything in between. We also have finite resources and an accountability of stewardship before the Lord. There is sometimes a resentment when people don't seem to want to help themselves and an embarrassment on the part of those who find it necessary to ask for help. It may be the most challenging part of ministry, especially in an area like North Myrtle Beach. You need the wisdom Solomon had when faced with two women fighting over the same child. You need the compassion that moved Jesus, the Samaritan, and Paul.

When it comes to helping those who need help, the Scriptures set the record straight in 2 Corinthians 8:13 - 15: "For this is not for the ease of others and for your affliction, but by way of equality — at this present time your abundance being a supply for their want, that their abundance also may become a supply for your want, that there may be equality ; as it is written, "He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little had no lack."

Jesus became poor to make us rich in him.

"Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully. Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; as it is written,
"He scattered abroad, he gave to the poor , His righteousness abides forever."
Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food, will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God. Because of the proof given by this ministry they will glorify God for your obedience to your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for the liberality of your contribution to them and to all, while they also, by prayer on your behalf, yearn for you because of the surpassing grace of God in you. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

Did you see that God gives us seed (stuff and such) for sowing, not for hoarding?

I wonder how much overflowing of thanksgiving, proof of ministry, and glory to God will take place if we ever get a handle on what it means to give out of our abundance to those in need so that God will be free to redistribute His stuff and such among His children.

More to come on this topic, I am sure.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Spinning Eggs, Flaming Onions and Good Friends

Last night a group of us from church went out to a Japanese restaurant in North Myrtle Beach. It was a great night. The food was good, nothing fancy, but the restaurant makes the dining-out "experience" the highlight of the evening.

An inch thick slice of onion taken apart ring by ring, stacked up like a volcano, filled with cooking oil and alcohol, and then set on fire! Flames were the big crowd pleasers, as eight of us sat around a large grill and were entertained by the chef who cooked up our food as part of his act.

You can fry an egg or you can roll the egg on the grill and announce that you are making an egg roll (Chinese joke in a Japanese restaurant). Then, you can toss the egg up in the air with the flat side of your spatula and on the third toss, as the egg is coming down, turn the spatula on its edge and slice the egg open as it hits the grill.

The food was good, but the way it was served up really got my attention and made the night. There is more than one way to cook an onion or fry an egg. The method was different but the chef was still serving up the same food.

The Word of God can be served up in many different ways too. It does not change the Word, but how it is presented can be attractive, attention getting, and effective. I'm looking forward to the new series Clay is doing at church. It's called the Ultimate Chef and it is all about serving up the Gospel to the world around us.

Great night! Good food, good friends, good object lesson.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Deep Stuff

Perry Noble had a good blog yesterday that came to mind again last evening as I met with my Community Group. It seems that mankind hasn't changed much. Some people are caught up in looking for "signs" while other people are intrigued with "knowledge" and mysteries. Some are so focused on what they consider "deeper" things that they overlook the deepest thing that God is doing. God is changing lives!

Paul, the apostle, reminded the Corinthian church that God's deeper stuff is seen in the lives of those who put their trust in Him. Check it out:

"Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs, and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks , Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." 1 Corinthians 1:20-25

I am witnessing the power of God in the lives of people at the Bible study I attend on Tuesdays and at the Community Group I attend on Thursday nights. I see God at work all around me and am discovering deep truths as I search the Scriptures each day.

Reading a chapter of Proverbs a day and then doing some cross referencing on some verses that jump out is deep stuff. But the truly deep stuff is the power of God and the wisdom of God seen in the people who have put their trust in Him."

The real deep stuff is seen in "Changing Lives that Change the World." Look around you. Do you see God at work in people? Is He at work in you? Check out 2 Corinthians 5:17. His work in people is exciting stuff! Get engaged in this and you will never feel "under-fed" again.

Just Thinking

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Proverbs 24:11,12

I was reading my daily Proverb chapter today and there it was again, the reminder that we are called to be lifeguards on a rescue mission against the forces of death.

"Deliver those who are being taken away to death. And those who are staggering to slaughter, O hold them back. If you say, 'See, we did not know this,' Does He not consider it who weighs the hearts? And does He not know it who keeps your soul?And will He not render to man according to his work?" Proverbs 24:11,12

These verses caused me to physically place myself between unborn children and the paid assassin at abortion clinics in the late 1990's. I remember the night, after preaching at a pro-life rally, when a lady came up to me and put a baby girl in my arms. She thanked me for sitting at the door of the abortion clinic and preventing her from killing her unborn daughter. A life snatched from the jaws of death.

These verses have come to mind when I hear Death Metal. The lyrics of these songs are gruesome, vulgar and wicked. They become pipers of destruction to young people suffering the pain of broken homes, uncertain futures and a schizophrenic culture.

If the Gospel is anything it is a call to life. "And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." Ephesians 2:1-7

My teenage son's friend just attempted suicide and shot himself through the temple. He survived but will now be blind. This week a friend at church asked my wife and me to pray for a young lady who just attempted suicide for the second time. It just impressed me again that we are not just winning people "to Christ" but the gospel is literally rescuing them from death.

Here is what Jesus said, "The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly. John 10:10

It's raining outside and kind of a gloomy morning. I hope this wasn't too heavy. It just jumped out there to awaken me again to the significance of God's plan for man and what we are up to.

Just Thinking.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Life on the Edge

Clay's thoughts on the "ragged edge" and faith are challenging. I started to write a comment to his blog, but "life on the edge" rings too many bells for me to limit it to a comment. It caused me to reflect on the concept. I have always been of the opinion that life on the edge is a great life. My daughter once said, "Hey, if you're not living on the edge, you're takin' up way too much room." Gee, I wonder where she learned that concept. I thought we should look at the benefits of life on the edge and the risks.

The benefits include:
  1. A much better view. You can stand back away from the edge and have people tell you what they see or you can go up to the edge and see for yourself.
  2. A breath-taking atmosphere. I've been to Niagara Falls very often and hear most of the "oooooo...'s" and "ahhhhhh's!" from edge of the canyon surrounding the falls. Most of the noise away from the edge is just about what shop or restaurant people want to go to next.
  3. A growth in confidence and peace. It seems that the longer you stay on the edge the less it bothers you.
  4. Something to tell others about. Living on the edge fills you with stories to tell those who want to know about the edge but haven't had opportunity or desire to go to the edge.

The risks:

  1. You cannot waffle while on the edge. Waffling while on the edge subjects you to a tremendous fall. Walk with Jesus.
  2. You cannot forget about where you are and become careless. Carelessness while on the edge subjects you to a tremendous fall. Read the Word.
  3. You will bother people while you are living on the edge. People who are afraid will continually urge you to move away from the edge or write you off completely as a foolish person. Be Gracious to People.

I wonder what the others in the boat thought when Peter stepped out on the edge and walked on water with Jesus. Jonah went out on the edge when he submitted himself to being thrown overboard because he had disobeyed God and his problem was causing a problem for everyone on the boat. Paul lived on edge and summed it up when he said:

"More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained it, or have already become perfect, but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained. Philippians 3:8-16

The edge isn't as "ragged" as rumor would have it. It is sometimes uncomfortable, but always inspiring. It is sometimes unpopular, but always rewarding. It is sometimes challenging, but always worth the risk.

Just Thinking. By the way, Clay's message was off the charts this morning!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Invading the Darkness

Yesterday I sensed the thrill and excitement that is often experienced in watching a good war movie when the good guys are strategically moving the troops that will eventually defeat the bad guys. The location was a warehouse in the middle of Longs, Little River and North Myrtle Beach.

This is where a small group of God's soldiers are rescuing people from the prison camp of poverty and disaster, built by the Enemy. The gates of hell have been invaded! Some prisoners are not ready or strong enough to leave the camp yet but they are being fed and clothed. They are being offered freedom in Christ and being pointed to the Door of salvation.

We just sent a squad from our church to assist in the battle. I had the privilege of introducing our squad leader to the post commander, who is also from our church. It was a joy to listen as the director of Helping Hands became encouraged and refreshed upon the arrival of fresh troops and provisions. I was amazed at what God is doing in this outpost.

On another front, six students were set free from sin and Satan's prison! The gates of hell are being invaded through Barefoot's student ministry and the darkness is being invaded with the Light. Praise the Lord.

Normandy Beach in France is a noted turning point in WWII. May history record North Myrtle Beach as a noted turning point in the spiritual war of the twenty-first century.

Gospelink, the mission I serve with, has received sufficient support to release 21 new national preachers into the mission field so far this month. This is over one new preacher fully supported each day. Last year each of our 950 preachers, on the average, led 200 people to Christ, planted 4 churches and reached into 15 new villages.

Sending these guys out is like sending 21 new Rambo's into the enemy's camp!

Just some encouraging news from the front.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Watching the Son Rise

I loved Clay's pictures yesterday as he caught the sun rising on the coast of North Myrtle Beach.

I love sunrise pictures. What a great wake up! Out of the darkness, the sun appears on the horizon as a reminder that "it ain't over yet". There is a new day and God is at work.

I was praying about missions at our church at the time and realized that as we look out from the beaches of our church we are looking at the mission field God has called us to work in. Our own beach is a great mission field. I will be working in it this afternoon as I place one of our members in a strategic ministry that will impact many lives in our area.

Each day when the sun rises it is a reminder that God is not finished with His work of redemption on planet Earth. Everyday the opportunity to reach the world rises with the sun. This image appeared in my mind as I looked at Clay's sunrise pictures. Each sunrise does not just mark the beginning of another day but it marks the beginning of a day that the Lord has made. It marks an opportunity to change the world.

As we look off the beach, we see the world at our doorstep and every time the sun rises over the horizon it reminds us that God loves the world and is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

This is the day which the LORD has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalms 118:24

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Growing Up

I've been working on mission stuff today. Trying to network with church planting pastors in Nigeria. These are great guys who are serving inspite of the economic, political and religious difficulties of serving in northern Nigeria.

I'm looking forward to connecting them to some of the churches in the Strand area. The opportunity to work with and support national preachers is a real blessing. It is also very convicting to understand how faithfully they serve under the most dire circumstances.

Yesterday, I met with the guys for our Tuesday noon Bible study in John. We looked at John 15 and saw that as we abide in Christ we will produce "fruit." Fruit can be people being redeemed in Christ (John 4:36), Christian characteristics (Galatians 5:22) or good works (Colossians 1:10). It all comes from abiding in Christ. Verse 5 says, "I am the vine, you are the branches, he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing."

Our dependence on Christ is for more than salvation, it is also it is for everything pertaining to our spiritual life. We depend on Christ for our character, for our good works and for the privilege of effectively sharing our faith.

The center of our life is Christ. He is the center of our worship. He is the center of our relationships with each other. He is the center of our growth. He is the center of our service. He is the center of our sharing. This is reflected in our Focus Five logo and is the reality of the Christian life. In our physical life, we grow up as we learn to do life on our own. In Christ, we grow up as we learn to abide in Him and do life in Him.

Check out John 15:1-10 and then rejoice in verse 11.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Like Popcorn in a Hot Pan

Some say that a church is bursting at the seams when the attendence goes up at the services. This is cool, but Barefoot is bursting at the seams in people's growing desire to participate in community outreach and mission opportunities. It is great to see a ministry meet an observed need rather than creating a needy ministry.

It is amazing to watch the Focus Five process produce Christ followers who are motivated to serve and share. It was not by design, but we have almost kept missions hidden. I have been traveling heavily this summer and have not been in position to "build" the mission ministry. We have continued with our mission support but have not advanced. What is happening now is like watching popcorn pop. People have been popping up asking about missions and the opportunity to get involved. I have been praying about how the Lord would have us become engaged in a local community outreach and today a person passionately requested to take the lead. Another man approached me about getting involved in missions.

When environments are created where people can WORSHIP, CONNECT, GROW and SERVE, they want to take the next step into the Fifth Dimension, SHARING. When God gets into a person's life, it is like steam in a kernel of popcorn. The believer is destined to burst forth in service and reveal the miraculous work of God that is taking place in his or her heart. It is great to help coordinate what God is doing.

"And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith." Galatians 6:9-10

Pop, pop, pop, pop! Loving what God is doing!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Dead or Alive

I'm still dwelling on Christ's promise that was central to our men's bible study yesterday. Yesterday, the fact that Christians will never be left as orphans hit me hard. Today, the truth that we are alive because Christ is alive has intrigued me.

Some see people as lost or saved. It is true that you are either one or the other. It is also true that we are either alive or dead, spiritually. We can either see or we are blind, spiritually.

Christ said there was a time coming when the world will see Him no more but we will see Him, because He lives, we live. John 14:19

Check out these verses:

Ephesians 2:1-7 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live , but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.

1 John 5:11-12 And the witness is this, that God has given us eternal life , and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life ; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life .

Praise the Lord for life! It's exciting to see the dead made alive and the blind seeing Christ. I was talking to a guy yesterday who is experiencing new life in Christ and seeing things he has never seen before. How great is that!!

Garage project is progressing. I'm considering a garage party when I get finished.

Enjoy the Life Christ has given you.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

No Orphans Here

I had a great time at men's bible study at the church today. We have a great group of guys who are all looking to grow in Christ. We are in John 14 and the intimacy of Christ's time with His disciples was amplified to me. He began His discourse with "Let not your heart be troubled" and in verse 27 He says again, "Let not your heart be trouble, nor let it be fearful."

In between these words of comfort comes this great promise:

"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will behold Me no more; but you will behold Me; because I live, you shall live also." John 14:18-20

What a great truth! Praise the Lord! And then after this time of encouragement He says, "Arise, let us go from here." 14:31b This promise is a basis for service not sitting.

Christ wants us to have confidence and peace as we serve Him because He is with us. In 14:21 He says He is disclosing Himself to us. Check out Matthew 28:18-20. Again, the promise that Christ is with us as we serve Him.

Great section of Scripture! It really came alive today. The garage project continues. Getting organized is not as easy as one would think, but it is worth the effort.

Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Putting It All Together

Well, after building the grill (see previous blog), I decided it was time to organize the garage. So. . . . off to Home Depot to buy "cabinets in a box" and begin the assembly process again. I feel like I have been working in a factory for the past several days. Eight feet of cabinets topped with a workbench top and a large upright, two-door closet should hold all the clutter that is presently being stored in the same boxes we packed over a year ago.

I can't wait to get it all organized! Organizing my garage will:

1. Make a ton of room in the garage.
2. Make room for my Total Gym which means I can start to work on some of my physical needs.
3. Allow me to find and organize all my tools. Yahoo!
4. Make me feel wonderful.

I am also sensing the need to do some organizing in my life. It seems to get pretty cluttered over time. My garage has made me think of what I need to do to get my life organized. I need to have cabinets like: spiritual life, family, church, recreation and miscellaneous life stuff. Some stuff is still in boxes since resigning my old ministry and moving here. I am still operating from a tentative outlook and it is time to unpack and get to work.

Organizing my life will:
1. Make a lot more available time. (clutter causes waste)
2. Make room for the spiritual exercises I need to help me grow.
3. Allow me to use more of the spiritual gifts God has given me.
4. Make me feel blessed.

We had a great day at church with a very relevant challenge to stop trying to do life alone and to connect with others. Clay hit a home run! Check it out on the Barefoot link.

Caught a 17-inch flounder yesterday while spending a day at the beach with the family. Certainly going to put some of that time in my family cabinet.

Trying to put it all together.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Some Assembly Required

We bought a barbecue grill last night and brought it home in a very heavy, large box. After years of battle with the gas-jet-spiders and adding special woods and briquettes to the gas burner to give it that "charcoal" flavor, we decided to return to the old charcoal grill. Since it is near the end of the cookout season and floor space is being used for Christmas stuff, they did not have one assembled at the store. We had to go by the picture, description and our imagination.

This morning my first job was to assemble the grill. (My daughter's boy friend and two of his buddies from Liberty University are with us for a long weekend.) I had plenty to do today so I didn't have time to waste on the grill. I decided that I would assemble it with the instructions this time. (Generally, I refer to the instructions only when the sub-assemblies I built, because it was obvious how they went together, did not fit together. This always means taking something apart and reversing the sides or bolts.)

Step by step I followed the instructions. Soon our new grill began to take form. Odd, unknown pieces became obvious important components as the construction advanced. The ash pan was coated with some sort of sticky substance that made it difficult to peel off the plastic bag. I assume this will make it work better. (I trust the instructions.)

I even installed the only high tech part of this primitive firebox, the temperature gage. The instructions had me install it last. The author knew the climatic emotion of snapping the retaining ring to the backside of the gage as a final step in the construction would bring a surge of pride to any man.

In the end it reminded me that following God's instructions in His Word makes a lot more sense than waiting until things don't fit together before turning to the instructions to see what we did wrong. In life, some things look odd or out of place, and some stuff is sticky and messy, but if we trust the Author of the instructions, the result will be wonderful.

Check it out in Romans 8:18-32

Just Thinking

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Trips and Things!

I just returned from a long trip (too long) that included speaking in five churches, an alumni banquet, a book signing and various networking encounters. Everything went fine and God's hand was evident in many situations. Although I did have to replace tires in York, Pennsylvania, I encountered no car issues or other problems that often occur on trips of this length.

I spent my travel time in silence (I love silence.) or listening to old cassette leadership tapes (Our car doesn't have a CD player.) and interacting with the confident voice of my Verizon phone GPS. I enjoyed the mountains of northwestern North Carolina, the farms and smells of my native Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and the fall colors and beauty of upstate New York.

Two things made the trip worth the cost and the expended energy: First, it was a joy and privilege to direct people to the Scriptures and see how God ministered to their circumstances, calmed their troubled hearts and blessed them. This took place in churches, in living rooms, in offices, in restaurants and anywhere I encountered people for more than a five minute period. Secondly, I was blessed as people rehearsed salvation experiences. At Arrowhead Christian Bookstore in Johnson City, New York while I was doing a book signing event (Actually, when I look at the sales report, it was more like a "talk to the author event" than a book signing.), a man came over and shared how his 29 year-old son had yielded his life to Christ the week before. With eyes full of tears and a crack in his voice he rehearsed a lifetime of prayer and love for his son who had now become his spiritual brother.

I noticed a pattern on my trip. Where God's Word was often referenced in conversation and there was a visible burden for the lost, the culture of the church was warm and vibrant. Where talk revolved around the church and issues, the culture was stiff and stagnant. (Just an observation.)

It was soooooo. . . good to get back to my church. I attended a men's Bible study yesterday and found it hard to leave. I can't wait until Thursday night's community group meeting and then Sunday morning (I'll soak in both services to replenish what I have been missing.) I know Clay will be "juiced" with a challenge from God's Word and a hunger to see people take their next step toward Christ.

The demons of hell must be trembling to know that we have literally etched God's promises and our purpose in granite. (You have to see our new entrance!) Satan, we are here to stay and your gates will not be able to withstand the expansion of the church that Christ is building in North Myrtle Beach.

Speaking of trips, this one we call "life" certainly has its costs and expends a lot of energy. Like my recent trip, there are several things that make it worthwhile: the encouragement of God's Word and His people, and the experience of seeing "those who were once dead in trespasses and sins being made alive in Christ Jesus." Ephesians 2:1-10

Enjoy the trip!