Tag Archive: Church


Sometimes I think I’m demented.  Something is wrong between the ears.  Those who know me are laughing right now, I’m sure of it.  Because I was born the last of four, my uncles used to joke that I was dropped at birth.  It’s safe to say my brain does not work the same as others.  My family was full of analytical brainiacs with accounting or mathematical analysis dominating our lineage.  Then along comes John.  

I could do the accounting.  I aced Accounting I and II as an Education major.  It didn’t make the business majors happy.  The only problem…I couldn’t stand it.  I don’t see the world in those terms.  I see colors.  I see so much more than two numbers added together.  Without question, I always felt like something was wrong, and maybe, just maybe, I was switched at birth.

That can’t be the answer.  I look like my father’s mini me.  At the end of the day, I’m more of a circular reasoner than a logical thinker.  It’s sort of like my kayaking treks.  Some people paddle down the river.  Not me.  I try every crossbow, inlet and swamp entrance I can find.  It takes the boring out of the paddle.  

I don’t know what anyone calls my condition.  I’m not sure anyone cares.  However, I love the context of the Bible, not just the words we read.  I want to know what Jesus laughed at.  We don’t find him laughing in the Scriptures.  He was a man, and he cried.  He had to laugh.  

I want to know what Jesus did for fun.  Did he play any of the popular games of the day?  Did they play “I Spy with My Little Eyes?”  How about “Would You Rather?”  I chuckle when I imagine Jesus playing “Would You Rather.”  I can see it now.  Jesus would be wrapping up the game with, “Now for the last one.  Would you rather spend eternity in hell or in heaven?”  See, I told you in the very first line.  I have a demented mind.

I would love to know what made Jesus cry when he came upon Lazarus’ family after he died.  I would love to know what Jesus talked about after his resurrection on the road to Emmaus.  I want to get an idea of the tone of his voice, especially when he puts the low down in a sense, on the Pharisees with the 7 Woes.  Sometimes I think we make Jesus like a robot.  No way!  Doesn’t a part of you want to know what kind of personality he had?  

I’ve been around some who make Jesus out to be passive-aggressive. Jesus to them is a cool, calm cookie looking to strike at the optimum moment.  Then there are those who make him out to be a Type A get-it-done type. Nobody wants to cast him as a Type D, but, then again, we sure don’t have him happy.  Maybe he was all three personality types. Actually, they now say there are 16 different types.  Really, my mind is swimming now.  My sarcastic side wonders if Jesus had a God-complex.  Yup, I’m close to losing it.  

I read recently where the Sermon on the Mount in the Bible is actually more than likely the CliffsNotes edition.  Do they still have CliffsNotes? They were the boiled down edition of the novel we were supposed to read and then write a book report about.  Those bad boys saved my grade point average without question.  Back to the main point.  The Sermon on the Mount is the edited version.  I want the unedited version.  Maybe then we can stop taking guesses about what “pure in spirit” really means.  

The older I get and the more I look into the Bible, I see colors.  I see so much more than the Bible teachers told me.  It’s a story.  It’s an incredible story.  In many respects, it’s an unbelievable story.  But that is just it.  It’s so incredible, but it fits together.  See, incredible stories don’t hold water.  This one does.  Unbelievable stories don’t have connection.  This one does.  

It really is a simple story.  We are the ones who make it an incredible story.  It’s God and a special creation called man.  Man has a problem.  He thinks he knows better than the One who set him up in an incredible situation.  Let’s face it.  None of us used to walk naked with God.  So man decided he knew better.  Then it all went south.  Most of the Bible is about how man tries to make it right.  He only has one problem.  He can’t.  God keeps trying to show him and grace keeps flowing, but man is so warped with the god complex that, no matter how hard he tries, he fails.  God gives man an out.  His name is Jesus.  He is the Son of God who came to set the captives free, bind the broken-hearted and give sight to the blind.  Man now has hope.  It rests in the sacrifice of Jesus.  All a man or woman has to do is believe and follow Jesus.  That’s it.  The early believers called it “The Way.”  I love it.  So beautiful.  They didn’t call it the First Church of whatever.  No sir.  It was “The Way.”  That’s about it.  

The gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke and John tell us what Jesus said about “The Way.” It’s pretty simple.  It boils down to…”Man’s way or God’s way?”  Man’s way has its problems.  God’s way is full of incredible love, indescribable grace and unbelievable mercy.  Now you choose.  Only, choose wisely.  

 I warned you I don’t think or process like the average joe. 

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When in high school, I had a best friend.  If anyone asked me today the name of my best friend he will still be at the top of the list.  It’s not because we have done amazing things together.  It’s not because we talk every week.  In fact it’s been years since I’ve even seen him.  For some reason, we are brothers.  Yes, there are two other guys that are right up there, but there is just something that makes my high school brother one notch ahead.  

His parents moved to California my senior year and his junior year.  He decided not to move with them and instead moved in with us.  That was a magical year.  We did just about everything together.  It created a union that is beyond explanation.

We were separated for a long time.  We had committed to being in each others weddings.  He was in mine.  I found out via a card that he even was married.  I thought our friendship had come to an end.  That was until our paths crossed years later.  Every time our paths cross, something happens.  Just this week my phone rang.  It was him.  He left a message and asked me to call back.  He wanted to talk.  Without hesitation, I called.  I’m glad I did.

Bruce is a medical doctor.  He has been practicing for years.  No, let me rephrase that; he had been practicing for years.  He had an established practice in the Knoxville, Tennessee area.  He walked away from it all.  He no longer wanted to run a business.  He wanted to talk about Jesus.  

His wife was all in.  He is now a medical missionary taking medicine to the “least of these.”  We use those words, and yet they don’t come close to describing the poverty he walked into.  He packed his backpack with medicine and walks the streets of Guatemala, Mexico, and in the very near future, will walk in Beirut, Lebanon.  He isn’t worried about retiring.  He is no longer worried about making more money than he could possibly ever use.  He wants to talk about Jesus.  He said he loves using medicine to talk about Jesus.  The “least of these” will listen about Jesus.  He was tired of talking to people about Jesus who really didn’t think they needed Jesus.  

Amazing.  What makes a 58-year-old man with life set walk away to walk the impoverished streets caring for men, women and children with not only medical care but with the name of Jesus Christ as well?  

Sometimes when Jesus puts things together, it’s down right scary.  The past few weeks I’ve been mulling over Matthew 4:19 and 20.  It was Jesus calling his first disciples.  Here they were, adult successful fishermen.  In those days, if you left your family business, you were at great risk.  Your identity and success were based on your heritage.  Jesus called them to follow him to become fishers of men.  Say what?  Fishers of men!  

They followed, but I love verse 20.  It says they dropped their nets and followed Jesus.  My brother dropped his nets.  He answered the call we as believers are all called to.  It’s a three part harmony.  “Follow me,”  -Jesus called.  He defined the calling, telling them to be good guys and wait around till he comes again? Wrong!  He called them “fishers of men.”  The third part was not a command.  It was their response.  They dropped their nets.  

We can’t hold on to our nets and follow the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  It’s a false teaching of the modern age.  So, Bruce and I shared thoughts and stories for a few minutes.  Stories of the calling sometimes I find hard to find.  My personal calling was to reach people the church tends to miss.  I thank God the leadership of my church understands the calling.  Little did I know it would take me to prisons, half-way houses, and rooms full of addicts ,and more broken people than we like to admit.  

The only thing that gets in the way is the same thing that got in the way of my friend for so many years.  We were raised in an era where the gospel was more about being a convert, hold a moral code, and wait till one gets to heaven.  We somehow missed the same call at the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry that was similar to the first calling.  He said, “Go and make disciples.”  He did not say “converts.”  He said disciples.  Disciples follow.  Disciples fish for men.  Disciples drop nets.  

Jesus often leaves me speechless.  I needed Bruce’s phone call.  I needed to be reminded of my own calling.  It’s not who I am.  I can’t be a fisher of men on my own. I needed to drop some nets once again.  Those nets are tempting.  Even the disciples ran back to their nets after the resurrection.  It’s where Jesus found them once again.  Jesus has a way of finding us.  When that happens ,we have to drop the nets.  There really is not a choice.

 

It is hard to believe that I have had the privilege of writing a weekly article for the Bluffton Today for close to 8 years now.  It all started on a kayak trip.  The then editor of the paper was part of our kayak group called Lowcountry Unfiltered.  

One day I told him the spiritually-based articles were so heavily minded I didn’t find them any earthly good.  Little was I prepared for his response.  He said, “I agree; how about you write one weekly?”  Since my mouth often works faster than my brain, I told him I would.  It has been an interesting journey.  From time to time, I look back on some of the early articles and wonder how the Bluffton Today kept me on.  

Over time, I have been honored by various community members mentioning they read these articles every week.   I am often surprised.  I have learned a lot over those years about the readers.  They tend not to be church based.  They tend to have pain and suffering in their past that is hard to get over.  Often that pain and suffering hasve come from their church experience.  

When we are suffering and the wounds are fresh, I have learned that Sunday morning just doesn’t do it.  When I mention this to most weekly church goers, they seemed surprised.  A word that I heard today from a past church-goer is “real.”  Those suffering don’t find church to be “real.”  The issues that cause pain and suffering are minimized, and the idea that Christ followers are to have a happy life is wrong as wrong can be.  So they feel marginalized on any given Sunday morning.  

What happens over time is that nobody in the church reaches back out to them, and they don’t want to go back to the scene of the crime.  That is totally understandable.  The problem is we need the “church.”  We don’t need the expression, but, rather, we need an “authentic” church experience.  It can be hard to find our current expression in the Bible.  The suffering church struggles to find significance and its place.  

Something has to change.  

For the past 8 years, I have avoided using this column for self-promotion of my church or ministry.  There have been a few ministry ventures I have mentioned, such as Family Promise of Beaufort County and ACTion Mentoring at Hardeeville Elementary School,, as well as the Backpack Buddies sponsored by Crossroads Community Support Services.  These programs reach out to those in need and need as much print as possible.  However, today I’m going to talk about a new venture that I would like to invite readers to consider.

On Saturday nights at 6:30 p.m. starting May 4th Grace Coastal Church has supported me in sponsoring a service called “Come as You Are: Healing for the Broken-hearted.”  It is stripped of most elements of Sunday and focuses on an authentic experience based on Acts 2.  In Acts 2, we see the early church devoted to 4 elements.  They are:  the teachings of the Apostles on Jesus, Prayer, Fellowship, and Breaking Bread.  That’s what we are going to do.  

On Saturday nights, we want to BE the church, not just attend church.  We won’t leave Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  We want to be focused on Christ and Christ alone.  Who needs the gospel? I do, and so does everybody else.  There will be a lot of prayer.  Without question, prayer is a game changer.  So, let’s pray and let’s pray a lot.  The church is not about weekly attendance.  It’s about people.  As we gain traction, we anticipate having many participate and share their lives and their Jesus.  That’s fellowship.  After the 45 minute meeting time, our service does not end until we enjoy a simple meal together.  At that time, I will entertain a Q and A time for issues that come up during the service.  No use having a service and sending anyone home confused.  Let’s walk through this journey together.  

I don’t think of how we are going to make this work.  I’m not even sure what it means to have something “work” in ministry.  All I know is it’s Biblical.  It’s real.  I know many people who are hurt, struggling and broken and need a place to heal their broken hearts.  

If you are broken hearted and just can’t seem to find Christ on a typical Sunday morning, I invite you to Grace Coastal Church on Saturday nights at 6:30.  Talk to me when you come.  Wherever Jesus went, he touched and healed people.  Hearts need to be healed.  We don’t know if we are aiding healing unless we talk about it.  That had to be the end result of Acts 2.  Looking for an authentic expression?  So am I.  

I know without question a lot of readers are nursing broken hearts.  All I can offer is an opportunity to walk together looking for Jesus to provide his healing touch.  He said he came “to heal the broken-hearted and set the prisoners free.”  It’s time we did so as well. Let’s keep it simple.  Let’s look to Jesus.  He is our only hope for sure.  

A member of our church recently asked me to get rid of the squirrels that roam around on Sunday morning.  The look on my face must have given away my confusion, as he began to get a big grin on his face.  He told me they come out every Sunday when the preacher begins his sermon, and all he can do is follow the critters up and down the tree.  

It’s been that kind of week. Maybe it’s been that kind of month.   The squirrels are winning.  Often when there is a lot of confusion, it leaves us exhausted.  There is another effect as well that few of us acknowledge.  Confusion paralyzes.  It not only takes our attention away from important people and issues, it leaves us dead in our tracks.  We don’t live in a vacuum.  When two forces are working against each other, it’s like a tug-of-war; it doesn’t move anyone very far in either direction.  

It’s been that kind of season.  Recently I told a friend it will be the first year in over 25 years that I will not be playing fantasy baseball.  He was surprised.  I love baseball.  I love competition.  However, I have become disconnected from the game and don’t really know the teams or the players anymore.  Not only are there squirrels in my life, I feel I am slowly getting disconnected from the world around me.  Tug-of-wars and squirrels are paralyzing.  

It’s hard to tell what’s important in all the mess.  That is another one of those other issues of a world gone nuts.  I personally love our modern technology.  However, one thing it has done is put more squirrels in my life.  Most of those long tailed creatures do not improve my life at all.  They take a valuable commodity with them.  They take time.

Recently, I went to a seminar on stress.  I learned a lot from it.  The teacher talked about his stress issues.  He realized he needed to purposely take some things out of his life to lower his stress levels.  So, he has divorced himself from the news media.  He removed all news apps from his phone and does not watch the news at night.  He talked about how it allowed him time to get his priorities in better order.  He talked about being calmer.  His PTSD condition has improved greatly.  He eliminated the ever intake of information that is totally out of his control.  He not only lowered his stress levels.  He gained time back.  

You know what happens when we purposely eliminate useless elements of our lives that have sucked us dry?  We gain time.  That time allows us to get perspective back.  It allows us to see the squirrels that are running around gaining our attention and pulling us away from the important things like God, spouse, family, and our neighbors.  

I saw a report that volunteerism is decreasing across America.  Some of it could be the aging church population.  However, much has to do with the ever-increasing squeeze in our lives.  I don’t think I have met one couple under 50 lately that feels they have things under control.  Most are trying to survive the work climate that changed in the early 2000’s where, due to technology less people are expected to do more work.

I ran into a truck mechanic the other day whose boss has instituted a time management system that makes him accountable for every minute of his work day.  There is no time to take a bathroom break or simply pause to have a conversation with his fellow mechanics.  Got to make that buck!  If he misses his times too often he has to write a report explaining his failure to meet time demands and/or run the risk of losing his job.  He has become so task conscience he told me he feels he is on the verge of anxiety attacks.  He also talked about losing touch with his fellow employees in the shop.  The squeeze is on.  Did I mention they used to have 4 mechanics in their shop?  Now they are down to 2.  More work.  Less people.  Make the bucks for someone else.  Have no personal life.

The big squeeze is on.  I am concerned.  Eventually it all has to implode.  There are only so many hours in a day.  An individual can only pay attention to so much, and the much is increasing daily.  And we as church leaders wonder why younger generations come into the building (if you are lucky) and hope they can get out without feeling guilty about not volunteering.  

Keep everybody doing something.  Throw more squirrels out there.  Confuse the masses.  Get them either disconnected from the important things or so grossly over stimulated they have no idea what is important.  Paul, the apostle, talked about this when he warned us of the philosophies of the world.  One of the biggest false philosophies is that our worth and greatness are wrapped up in our business.  

It is that kind of season.  We as believers in Christ may have to be very conscious of this cultural phenomenon.  We may have to purpose to take a few steps backwards.  Jesus often said, “Peace, be still.”  Purposing to bring stillness and peace to our lives limits the squirrels, and it gives us a chance to wade through the confusion. 

The outfielder picked up the base hit as it rolled nicely along the turf.  He aligned himself for his throw to home plate.  The ball rocketed out of his hand as the baserunner rounded third and headed for home.  The throw landed short and skipped to the catcher, who waited anxiously for the throw.  The runner slid head first into home, reaching his hand forward.  The catcher made the catch and lunged to tag the speedy runner.  As the dust settled, the umpire screeched, “Safe,” signaling wildly with his arms.  

Don’t look now but spring training has begun for Major League Baseball.  Around the baseball diamonds in Florida and Arizona, players and umpires have begun preparing for the upcoming season.  All want to be “safe” when they touch home plate.  

I remember the days of youth ministry where “safe” had a different meaning.  When we held parent meetings over and over again, year after year, we would hear, “We want a place where our children will be safe.”  There is that word again.  I have to admit I can be a bit of a smart aleck.  My mind works overtime when I want to poke somebody.  Instead of referring to the baseball safe or the safe where we place our valuables, I would ask them politely what was their definition of “safe.”  Amazingly, this simple question often left them speechless.

This past week, a young church attender and I were having a stirring conversation about faith, the church, and his life.  He admitted he has not been a consistent church attender.  With a deadpan look, he said, “My church and my pastor are too safe.”  My mind went back to my youth days and wanted to poke him.  However, the look on his face oozed seriousness.  So, I asked the simple question once again, “What do you mean by safe?”  

Being a young guy, he did not want nor need church to be a safe place.  Safe means we don’t talk too much about sin, and we don’t challenge ourselves with Jesus either.  He needed the wild and crazy Jesus to challenge him out of his safe life.  My mind was working overtime by now.  I looked at him as we drove down the road (not recommended for safe driving) and asked, “When you open the Bible do you see a safe Jesus?”  “Heck no,” he replied.  “I see a very unsafe Jesus.”  

With one of those silly grins I can get I looked at him a little longer than before.  He grinned back as well.  I said the same thing to him I would tell teenagers parents, “Jesus isn’t safe!”  Jesus is far from it.  

Open the Bible sometime and look for a safe Jesus.  You won’t find one.  Jesus disrupts lives, and our default button demands comfort.  Jesus confronts the comfortable.  It was Tim Keller who defined the prodigal (recklessly spendthrift) as the Father (representing the Heavenly Father Jesus knew) not so much the wayward son.  The prodigal is far from safe.

Safe people want a Jesus who does not offend them.  I like to say a church is a place to call yourself a sinner, but the local bar is where you can tell someone what kind of sinner you are. Let’s not talk too much about sin.  Let’s just make it safe to be a sinner.

On the other hand let’s not be confronted too much with Jesus.  Let’s believe in Jesus so we won’t experience hell and be a “good” person is the usual trend.  Don’t challenge us too much with Jesus; we might just follow!  Following Jesus takes in all his teachings, which extend way beyond John 3:16.  

Jesus said, “Whoever will lose his life will find it.”  That doesn’t sound too safe to me.  He also said, “You can’t serve two masters, for you will love the one and hate the other.”  A safe Jesus lets us have our cake and eat it too.  Didn’t one of the first calls of Jesus implore the first disciples to “Follow me,” and they dropped their nets?  Those nets represent all sorts of things.  It was their life.  It was their family.  It was their sense of identity and success.  Dropping those nets to follow Jesus was dangerous!  

We as humans continue to look for the real deal.  Bono sang, “and I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.”  He marched in front of a generation who is looking for a faith that is authentic.  A faith that is authentic with its failings and authentic in its hope.  A Christian expression that tries to dress up the ugly bride is like trying to sell a car without an engine by repainting the exterior.  The gospel is dangerous, and at the same time priceless.  It calls one to drop their nets. At the same time it that our unquenchable thirst can be addressed by Jesus, whose blood forgives me of all my sinful and wayward ways.  

It’s a faith that isn’t afraid of our sin. It’s a faith that rests solely on Jesus.  It’s a faith that is far from safe.  “Drop those nets and follow me,” Jesus called.  It’s only then that one can be safe.  Safe from our own imaginations.  

I’m turning 60 years old this year.  I’m not sure how I got this old.  Just yesterday I was 45.  It seems like yesterday we moved to South Carolina.  Fourteen years later and it seems like yesterday the moving van pulled up.  It took some time.  Baltimore is no longer home.  Bluffton is home.  It helps when the grandkids live right around the corner. Such transitions take time.  I don’t know where the last 14 years have gone.  

Since I can now live in Sun City (I don’t), and I’m entering my sixties, I decided to write to the older generations.  Just today I got a chance to talk to a 21 year old.  He was so young.  My kids are in their late 30’s.  Having a chance to engage a kid was energizing for sure.  In many aspects his life is drastically different than my world.  He doesn’t know life without a cell phone.  I remember days we worried about the influence of television.  He doesn’t even watch it.  He watches his cell phone.  

Recently, I was in a meeting with two different generations.  One of the older men sat and listened for the entire hour.  He didn’t say a word.  As we left, one of the young guys referred to his silence.  He replied, “I’m listening and learning.”  What was he learning?  He was learning about the conflicts and challenges the young guys face.  He was learning there was a lot he did not know.  So he listened.

More and more, especially in the church, the older generation (Baby Boomers) are becoming detached from the technologically infused younger generations.  The detachment means the kids don’t call.  It means if the Boomers don’t engage the Internet, more than likely they won’t be in communication with their grandkids.  Last week I Face-Timed my mother who lives in West Virginia.  She found it amazing to see her youngest son some 650 miles away.  For the first time in a long time, she didn’t ask when we were going to stop by.  The technology might be scary for us old guys, but it’s quite amazing.  

We like to blame the younger generations for the detachment.  It’s not their fault.  It’s nobody’s fault.  Let’s be truthful.  It’s hard enough to maintain the relationships right in from of us much less keeping the long distance ones going.  Some of the detachment is distance.  We blame them for not staying in contact.  They blame us for moving away.  Meanwhile, we refuse to learn the new technology that can connect us with them on the other side of the world.  

On top of distance, there are the cultural influences that separate us.  I still hear the Boomers complaining about no prayer in school.  I hate to say it, but that bus left the station a long time ago, and it’s not coming back.  Today, my grandkids have to figure out transgenders, as well as the broken family unit.  Often they have to do so on their own.  

Meanwhile, our generation complains that the younger generation is selfish and egocentric.  We must be honest.  We are just as bad, if not worse.  When the Bible talks about thinking about others more than ourselves and we don’t apply it to our children and grandchildren, we are the selfish and narcissistic ones.  When we demand they respond to us when we played our part in the failed relationship, we violate the basics of Jesus’ words about loving our neighbor, which means laying down our life for their sake of our neighbor.  We fail to understand that our kids are Biblically defined as our neighbor.  We don’t know them.  It’s long over due to stop blaming anybody and start listening. Listening to learn and to know.

We are studying the Psalms on Sunday during the education hour.  I have been reminded that Psalms say a lot about generational relationships.  It doesn’t surprise me that our generation only knows Bible passages that point fingers at our kids.  Psalms 71 says we have a responsibility to proclaim the power of God and his marvelous deeds to the next generation.  Somehow, we replaced God.  We declare our deeds – we think we are the greatest generation.  No wonder they quit listening.  

 In Psalm 78 Asaph asks God to have their children set their hope in God and not be like their fathers who are a stubborn and rebellious generation whose heart was not faithful to God.  Faithfulness is not defined by church attendance.  It’s defined by loving God and loving others.  Anybody notice that Jesus loved others by listening first and responding second?

Psalm 145 repeats Psalm 71.  Instead of talking about us and pointing fingers at them we are to declare the work of our Lord. What is the work of the Lord?  He loved us.  With that love he moves us to love others not just ourselves.  

Maybe we exasperated our children (Ephesians 5).  There is only one act of love to redeem our relationships with our kids.  Ask for forgiveness.  By laying our lives down we will then be considered the greatest generation.  

This past week I traveled to Wake Forest, NC for training.  Honestly, I hate driving long distances.  It bores me to tears.  I used to like it.  Things change.  Anyway, as I drove up and down the road my mind began to race.  When it races anything is possible.  

I became transfixed on the idea that my trip resembles society.  Here I was driving past towns, through cities with all sorts of people around me.  I had a general idea where I was at all times.  There were places that stood out.  How can anyone miss South of The Border?  The billboards are so silly yet so funny.  I wonder how many of us have stopped just to check it out.  I bet it’s more than most want to admit.  

Driving up and down the road is no different than living in my neighborhood and even going to church.  We all whiz through our daily lives passing people on the left and on the right.  When we slow down a little bit, people pass us without looking back.  We know where we are.  We stop and look at things, especially those that get our attention ,just like South of the Border.  However, we seldom have the time to talk with anybody.  If we can’t talk with anyone, we don’t have the chance to know them.  They don’t get to know me either.

Just about every person I have counseled, including many teenagers, somewhere along the line talks about being lonely.  Some have more friends than anyone can count.  Some are involved in everything under the sun.  They run from one event to the other with little chance to catch their breath.  Surrounded by a great crowd, they declare loneliness.  How is this possible?  It’s very possible.  Being known and knowing someone is not a priority to anyone.  Yet it’s something that is a necessity for a healthy and intuitive life.  Left on our own is not a good place to be.  We grow when we engage others.  The biggest thing we grow in is grace and love.  They are attributes that need personal engagement.  

I can understand why hurt and discouraged people leave the church scene.  I don’t believe it is good, but I get it.  What good is time spent attending if the people are no different than those driving to the next event up I-95?  We see them.  We might even follow them for a while like I followed a driver for about 75 miles.  We were driving in tandem, following the same tract and going the same speed.  We acknowledged each other with a nod of the head and a slight wave at times.  But he got off an exit where I was not headed, and our relationship ended.  All we had was a nod and a wave.  

At church we are often in a hurry to get somewhere and only get a nod and a handshake.  I heard of a gentleman who was trying out a church his friend attended.  He liked the church and reported that it really was a nice place.  However, for 6 weeks he stood in the narthex or vestibule (hallway for non-church goers) and shook all sorts of hands.  In those 6 weeks nobody invited him to their house, out to lunch, or even to invite him to grab a donut and cup of coffee in the fellowship hall.  Like he said, “the church was friendly but not too warm.”  They were in a hurry to get to the next thing on the schedule.  Off the exit they went.

Jesus was constantly on the road.  He walked roads and crossed seas in boats.  As I look into the gospels, I see Jesus stopping to engage people.  Many were people that most avoided.  They were outcasts in their society.  Unclean and untouchable.  But Jesus stopped to engage them.  He asked them questions.  He touched their lives.  He knew their names, and he knew their story, and he still stopped.  

In today’s world I’m convinced more than ever the Children of God must purpose to stop and touch those God puts in their path.  Leave living like your home is in the fast lane of I-16 headed to Atlanta.  Those in our culture are done with the church that invites them in and leaves them to fend for themselves.  They’re also done with people who say they love, only to be abandoned.  

Too late in life I get it that the gospel is for the ones I used to avoid in life.  I get it now that the idea of Jesus to make me bigger and better is a false gospel.  John the Baptist had it right when he declared, “He must increase and I must decrease.”  It’s not our nature unless we stop and look to the one who laid his life down to engage us with his love.  

When we sinned, the first recorded words of God to man are found in the first book of the Bible, Genesis.  God asked a very interesting question.  He asked, “Where are you?”  That question is very applicable today.  Where are we?  We tend to be either head down, forward ho, or we have our heads up, looking to touch those in need with the love and grace of Jesus.  The person who needs our touch is probably right in front of us. 

He was on his knee declaring his love for her.  “I would do anything for you,” he declared.  Of course his plea was followed up with “I love you.  You know I do.”  He knew the words.  He knew her weak point.  She was caving and he knew it.

Of course his words were all lies.  He would not do anything.  He didn’t love her.  He loved himself.  He was lying to her.  Not only was he lying with his spoken words, he was lying by omission as well.  Only later when more information sneaked out behind the curtain of manipulation and deception would she realize its often not the words one says that are important.  It’s the words they don’t say.  

Our world is full of lies.  We often wonder what has happened to the younger generations.  What happened?  Just about every aspect of life lied to them.  Moms and Dads said their family was built on love, only to have it all crumble when one of them declares they want a divorce.  The politicians lie constantly, and we reelect the liars over and over again.  They declare what they are going to do and stand for, only to compromise when money, ego, and reputation stand in the way.  Education not only has failed; it has lied as well.  “Get a college degree,” they claim, only to find out four years later their major was obsolete.  

Recently, I have run into 3 college graduates, all whom I encouraged to get a college degree.  They were working low paying jobs, hating life, and wondering where they went wrong.  A college degree did nothing for them. The market was saturated within their field.  All they are told is “Good luck.”  

Parents have lied.  The government lied.  The schools lied.  The only thing left is the church.  With sadness in my heart, I must admit, “We lied too.”  

Right now I’m reading a book titled, Ten Dumb Things Smart Christians Believe by Larry Osborne.  He did an excellent job explaining the 10 points.  He was right.  We believe things we were taught to be true.  Open the Bible.  Study it (just don’t read it). It won’t take extremely long to find the 10 points.  Basically, we lied to sell a happy Jesus to a culture that doesn’t want a Jesus who says things that are tough to swallow at times.  We also put man in the center of our circle instead of Jesus.  When we do that, it is easy to manipulate the meaning of certain Scripture to be what we want it to be instead of becoming the people God wants us to be.  It doesn’t take much.  

On a missions trip, we became engaged with some Muslims.  Nobody pulled out a gun.  We had very meaningful interactions.  I was actually asked to convert to Islam.  The reasoning; “We believe in the same God,” the learned man declared.  “Instead of us becoming a Christian, you become a Muslim,” made sense to him.  As we debated his statement, one thing became clear.  He knew the Bible better than 95% of Christians I know.  Of course, if basically all we do is have a 5 minute devotional and attend on Sunday mornings for the preachers sermon, we are not going to “know” the Bible.  Truthfully, I’m not sure many can catch when a preacher drifts off of Biblical truth at any given time.  It’s easy to sway the unlearned.  Just ask the politicians; they are experts.  

A friend once said in a group meeting he feared that he has been lied to as a believer.  I didn’t have the heart to declare he probably has been.  The lie I bought hook, line and sinker was the idea that if I believe in Jesus, everything comes out o.k.  I’ve heard it preached.  I’ve been taught it.  Just obey and watch your life get better.  Tow the line, and, how does that one song go, …”everything will be o.k.”  Not true at all.  

Some days I wonder what has made me stay in the faith.  Why don’t I get out of church work and go back in the business world?  For some reason I can’t.  

Belief in Jesus is not about what I get.  It’s not about having hell insurance.  It’s not about quoting misapplied and out of context Bible verses to give me or anyone else hope.  Belief in Jesus as the Son of God is based on it being true.  That is the bottom line.  

It is the issue that was common through out the gospels.  Everyone loved the good and cool things Jesus did and said.  Till he declared, “I and the Father are one.”  They ran for the hills and crucified him.  Little did they know he would rise again.  Is this true?  If it isn’t ,anyone declaring Christ has been lied to once again.

Is it true?  Only you can answer that one.  If it is true, it’s a life changer.  Literally.  A friend of mine who never read the Bible was given one in college.  He was encouraged to read the book of John.  He did.  His roommate asked him what he thought.  He replied, “If this is true, I’m screwed.”  Well, he wasn’t, as he determined under careful analysis that indeed the declarations and work of Jesus were true.  Hold on to that one.  It’s all we need.  Don’t worry about changing your life; it will.  Jesus declared it, and it is true.  Now read the Bible with Jesus as your lens, not man.  It makes a lot of sense that way.

Last week I introduced the concept of being a healing Christian, ministry and church. Since my buddy Dwayne informed me he wanted to “heal” in 2019, “healing” has been coming up over and over again.

Remember, I’m not talking about physical healing.  It is more of a healing that comes from the inside out.  With that in mind, Jesus didn’t separate the body, mind and soul.  He actually kept the three together since they are so vitally linked together.  Let’s face it.  If the body hurts, our mind and soul will hurt.   If our mind is constantly depressed or preoccupied, our body and soul will suffer.  If our soul is sour what makes us think the other two won’t be?  Jesus kept the three together since we are such a delicate creation.  

We do not believe in Jesus to get an easy life.  If that were sound theology, then the poor apostles were given a bum deal.  They all died a horrible death except for John.  Even with John, it is believed he was placed in boiling water and later exiled to the island of Patmos.  At that time there were no resorts on the island.  It was a hard life.  

Paul, the apostle, in Second Corinthians says we suffer so we can minister to fellow sufferers.  Our world says we should not have to suffer.  They are wrong.  This world is suffering.  I have yet to meet anyone who has not had to suffer real pain in this life.  There is the pain of broken bones and surgery.  The pain that sears the soul is broken relationships, betrayal, abandonment and lies.  Best friends can be the worst friends.  Family pain is brutal.  Our bones will heal.  Our bodies will mend.  But our minds and souls hurt for a lifetime.

Recently, I came across a lady who though no fault of her own experienced the death of a child.  While functional, she could not get the feelings of guilt and failure out of her heart.  She will probably die a broken person.  Now here is where we have to take a hard look.  What is faith in Christ at this point?

Some will say the broken lady does not have enough faith.  Some might say she has a false impression of who Jesus really is.  Others might say she never had faith.  I talked to her.  Without question she believed and believes in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. So, what is the problem?  Does she not pray enough?  No, she prays daily.  Does she not read the Bible?  Nope, she does.  Did she quit on the church?  Every Sunday she is there.  So, what’s the problem?  She is a human being, just like you and me.

Sunday is not a day to put on a front like we have it all together.  Quite the opposite.  It should be a place where broken people can come and find their hope and healing in Jesus.  It is a healing that takes a lifetime.  

This gets us down to what it means to be a soul healer.  First and foremost we must embrace the human condition.  It has been a long time since I have come across anyone that doesn’t have a sense that we are broken.  I once had an on going conversation with a psychology teacher.  In the middle, he asked if I was a Christian.  Of course I responded in the affirmative.  I asked him how he figured it out.  He replied, “You know something is broken, and we have not come up with the solution.”  I asked him if he could give an answer to the human sin issue.  He replied, “No, and all our science fails to answer it as well.”  Of course it does.  What’s broke is broke.  

I don’t have to point out brokenness when someone comes for counsel as a believer or a non-believer.  Moral goodness is relative.  When brought under the microscope of God’s holiness, we are in big trouble.  We know it.  Our own arrogance doesn’t want to acknowledge it especially in this critical culture.  

While it seems like a hopeless condition there is healing.  It isn’t healing that takes away the pain or the memory.  Not at all.  Actually pain is a great reminder of the need.  That’s the problem with great prosperity.  We can insulate ourselves from brokenness to some extent.  It causes us to avoid the truth.  Once realized, the healing is the ability to get up the next day and find a new normal.  

Jesus never promised the same old, same old.  No, the gospel says there is a new beginning.  We take with us the scars and yet-to-be-fixed brokenness and find a new normal based on the hope and the truth that God allowed us to suffer to bring healing to someone else.  In the meantime, we can get out of bed the next morning since we are in the hands of the Lord Jesus who gave us the example of suffering to bring healing.

How do we get out of bed?  Dependent upon grace that God has already granted us and the grace we turn around and give to fellow sufferers.  A healing church allows God to do what God does instead of rescuing the hurting and becoming their little “s” savior.  To do that involves truly walking in the Spirit.  Love the unlovable.  Have joy in the rain and the sun.  Be peace among the chaos.   Exercise patience. Practice meekness to conquer the self-serving pride.  Be kind.  A gentle touch heals a bitter wound.  Encourage self-control for the hurting,  as they tend to hurt others in their suffering.    

To heal we rest on God’s path and timing.  In the meantime, let’s walk together.  My name’s John.  What’s yours?  I have a story and I would love to hear yours. 

We sat across from each other discussing various facts and philosophies of life.  We meet weekly, sharing ideas and thoughts with great freedom.  As we sat there I asked what I thought was a simple question.  “What is your dream?”  He surprised me with his answer, and then he knocked me out with his question.  He asked me, “Are you living your dream?”

I wanted to lie.  But I resisted.  “Honestly,” I began, “No I am not living my dream and my dream is closely connected to my calling.”  I began to tell him my story that I would like to share with you.

I didn’t go into ministry till I was close to 40 years old.  I do not consider what I do a job.  In fact, I have had a lot of heated discussions with fellow ministers over the topic.  We are called.  Money should be the last question not the first one.  Once a minister looks at his position as a job, he loses the calling.  I believe the calling to be serious and important.  

I spent my first few years in youth ministry.  For some reason, I was either attracted to the “least of these” (Matthew 25) or they were attracted to me.  Since I spent my first career in education and business, I think I do not approach ministry like the professional pastor.  Anyway, the attraction to the troubled, non-church kids created problems.

The church I was at actually started an alternative Sunday school class and youth group for the church kids.  They didn’t like their kids hanging out with gang members, those with bad reputations, drop-outs, and others that tend not to be welcome in the local church.  It’s kind of funny if you think about it.  If we understand the Christian faith, it is the Christian who should be impacting the world instead of the world impacting the church.  Amazingly, we believe that, but practicing it is a different story.

Let’s just say the conflict caused constant friction.  One elder told me he liked me but not the kids I attracted.  I asked him if he knew any of the kids he was talking about.  He replied, “No, I don’t.”  With my blood boiling, I probably said some things I should not have.  I regret that.  Grace for the wayward is grace for the Pharisee.  I learned that over the years.  I think.

Anyway, it reached a point I decided I wanted to reach people the church tends to miss.  We tend to miss modern day lepers.  It isn’t necessarily the fault of the Christian.  Lepers struggle to find comfort in the church as well.  It’s not about blaming anyone.  It’s about taking steps to touch the lives of those who seldom get touched by the redeemed.

In this short version, let’s just say it is with this desire I ended up in South Carolina instead of sitting comfortably in Maryland.  God provided a way and eventually a church that wanted to reach the unreachable as well.  The stories are incredible.  I wish I had the room to tell a few.  They include federal inmates, adulterers, single parents, the homeless, addicts, the mentally ill and more.  Their stories are not mine.  I have no right to tell them.  All I can say is I’m the lucky one, if there is such a thing in the Christian faith.  I get to see God at work in places most people don’t even get to see.  I get to see love, grace, and mercy win the day.  

Now, this is where the dream can disappear.  Let’s be honest.  The situation in Maryland is the battle all churches face along the line.  Instead of givers we become takers.  The needs, often assumed instead of real, move outreach into in-reach.  Often it’s hard to see.  We wake up one day and realize we spend most of our ministry time inside the church walls and very little outside.

Lives cease to change and we somehow role into making the parishioners happy instead of challenging them to forfeit themselves for the sake of others.  When we focus inwardly, our contact with those whom we tend to miss diminishes greatly.  And we wonder why church growth ceases and we lose our voice in the community.  

I’m there right now.  So my answer about living my dream is honest.  I spend most of my time with fellow Christians who struggle to admit their sin, brokenness and pain and have less and less contact with the truly broken and hurting.  Church people hide their issues. The only difference I can see between a Christian and a non-believer is God’s grace of which I am the most unworthy but the most fortunate.

  It is nobody’s fault but my own.  The prophet Jeremiah never got off point as he ministered to a people that wanted compromise and feel good ministry.  He held the line.  He rested in the promises of God instead of the desires of the people.  I have to make some changes.  Not because I have to.  It’s my calling.  Anybody want to join me?