Amazing. Simply Amazing.
New Creation from FC Post on Vimeo.
Found via: Tony Steward
Recently I was talking to a friend who hasn't gone to church regularly ... ever. There hasn't been a church in his life he's said "That's my church." This guy accepted Christ a few years ago but hasn't plugged in anyware. No, he doesn't live near me.
Anyway, my friend has gotten involved in a church so I asked him of his take on "church". He spoke about the quality of everything going on. Presentation is great and he shared that he's comfortable enough to continue attending. My friend had one point of puzzlement. He mentioned that the Pastor doesn't seem passionate. He said "He needs to get excited."
When asked for more detail he said...
"I sat there this Sunday thinking...YOU'VE been preparing seven days for this moment, I want YOU to be more excited about being here than ME. On top of that I want you to make me excited about what YOU have to say."
I can assure you that the tone of these words was in the attitude of a plea, not a criticism. This guy was saying "I'm excited about learning about Jesus... I want to learn how God can impact my family, make me a better person and change my world... but I feel like I'm more excited about learning than the Pastor is about teaching."
Another comment in the conversation was about energy in the room... he said "I just got out of bed and drug my family to the church service... I'm sitting down, the last thing I want is to stare at a guy sitting down in the same place for a half an hour talking in a monotone voice. It's not that I don't want to pay attention, it's just that watching the same spot that long makes me sleepy."
I couldn't help as my friend was talking to see multiple sermons fast forward in my mind thinking "Did I put people to sleep? Am I guilty of doing this? Are there people in the audience more excited about hearing the message than I have been about delivering it?"
While I'm certain I have been found guilty a time or two my friend assured me that the times he's visited I've been excited and full of energy.
I just want to remind you Pastor that people are thirsty. Men want to see that you (as their example) are fired up about Christ the way you want them to be. If you're speaking for God each week and you aren't passionate about it... what can you expect of the people listening to your sermons?
Get fired up!
A Day on the Farm!
Today our family joined some friends for a day at a Hunt Club Farm Virginia Beach. Cman had a great time and I got to see that I may have a country side buried DEEP DOWN in there somewhere. Growing up in Baltimore doesn't give you many opportunities to see the farm!
Check out some of the action below:
God's Plans Revealed In You
God is not silent.
"For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." - Romans 1:20
The world needs to know that God is not silent. He's revealed himself in so many ways. We often make things more complicated than they need to be. So many people who are fascinated with the concept of a God wonder why he's so quiet when in reality he's more visible than we often acknowledge. What many of our friends and neighbors need is a simple nudge to look at the creation of God in a new way. What's more readily available to observe than ourselves?
Often when we consider this verse in Romans 1, my mind jumps to thinking that "what has been made" are the stars, the mountains, the powerful ocean. I have to recalibrate myself quickly and remember... it's not just those things... it's all of creation. You and I need to keep in mind that in God's eyes we are the center of his handiwork. Everything was created for us to enjoy. So learning more and more about ourselves is also learning how God is speaking through our unique wiring.
Sometimes people think finding God's plan is akin to fairy dust. I think things are a little more straightforward. We don't have to "find" it so much as look at all of the signs he's already given. God has his fingerprints in your DNA... in my DNA. Learning who you are, what you're good at and not good at will help keep your frustration down and your thankfulness up.
I encourage you to take time in worship today studying the people, places and created things around to asking "God, please show me yourself in all of this." Also take some time to learn more about how you're uniquely created to not only perform certain tasks with excellence but more importantly to reflect God's glory in a specific way. The more you see how you bring glory to Him, the more you'll find peace in not trying to do the job as someone else.
God's plan and design is amazing. He's not silent. Far from it... He's ready to share more of His plan with you if you'll just pause and observe. Have fun worshipping today!
A Pastor who gets 'IT'
A few months ago I spoke with a local Pastor named Rob Edwards. Our conversation centered around his efforts to reach cross culturally to his community. Rob knows of my background in the inner city and my passion to bridge the gap between suburban and urban populations. As is the case with many American churches, Rob is Pastoring an older congregation in a neighborhood that doesn't resemble his congregation. In our discussion we touched upon various concerns and issues and ultimately Rob asked for my take on his situation.
Sensing that he had a genuine heart to do whatever he could to reach the community I suggested "Rob, you have to decide what the right thing to do is and then just do it dispite the critics. In 15 years your church may not be around to complain. So you can keep peace by doing nothing or you can push through critics by risking it all. Ask God how you can reach out to the community with love and when you get that answer, do it."
Rob has found part of his answer through a program I introduced on my blog called "Angel Food Ministries" which sells food at about half price. Angel Food is able to offer these amazing prices because of their national buying-power. Through churches they can distribute food quickly and effeciently. ANYONE can buy the food (there is no qualification) and the quality of the products is as good or better than what is in your refrigerator right now.
Rob just started to take orders at his church office for this month's delivery of food. He Twittered a few hours ago "robedwardslive: we've had nearly 300 phone calls today for Angel Food Ministry.@tallywilgis It's all YOUR fault, brother!"
While our conversation may have prompted a tug in Rob's heart I can only sit back in amazement at how he's sprung into action. It's guys like Rob that make me proud to be apart of this fraternity of Pastors today. Rob understands that its his job to make it hard to go to hell from Craddock!
Check out this article in our paper about Rob and Angel Food. Then head over to RobEdwardsLive.com and drop him a note telling him how proud you are to be his brother/sister in Christ. There are a lot of people being able to eat because of his faithfulness. My prayer and expectation is that many of those people will also hear the saving message of Jesus Christ through Rob and his love for his community!
Often times we read about missionaries who brought about major change in their lifetime. We also often read about missionaries who sacrificed it all never to see a fraction of the fruit their effort would bare. We hear about those who have gone before us and their lives painted pictures of epic proportions. We read their journals, their prayers and the stories of their faithfulness. We read these in the past tense.
There are other stories of scripture where people stepped out for the sake of the gospel and risked everything. They pressed forward using every ounce of their being to fulfill the yearning placed in their heart by their Creator. As a child longing to please his father we read of missionaries not wanting the spotlight and not complaining publicly when things didn't fall their way.
I love what Hebrews 11 says about those people of faith listed there... "...the world was not worthy of them."
For every 1 we read about in the bible or a book there are a hundred who's names are never known.
It is a rare thing in life to have the honor to actually meet someone whom you believe God would consider listing among the greats of Hebrews 11. I've been blessed to meet a few in my life. Tonight I spoke with one of them via Instant Message. This is what it's like to talk to someone whom I consider the 'Genuine Article Missionary'.
"I was leaving prayer meeting [and] police with guns drawn had someone on the ground, it's a gang WAR right now... people I love getting shot, stabbed...etc. I knew this would be hard, but this hard?"
These words were written by a Christian hero. These are the types of people whom I feel humbled to even know.
Not all of us are called to be in these situations moment by moment but after a dozen years of adult life in and around full-time Christian ministry... most of us fall woefully inadequate when it comes to doing everything we can for the glory of God. I place myself squarely in that category. I don't even believe it's intentional. I fear most of us have simply become consumed with good things... safe things... comfortable things... trivial things. Read the blogs, go to the conferences, buy the latest Christian merch... So much of it targets the same people discussing and debating the same topics. Our Heavenly Father looks down at us (most of us) and shakes his head.
Scripture is full of examples where it's the Father's pattern to seek out those who would follow Him with reckless abandon. Not ignorant abandon... but all-out God fearing abandon to the patterns of this world. Are we there? Are you there? Am I there?
I can't help but to think that while most of us (who have the vast majority of the resources in the Christian world at our fingertips) sit back down at our leather office chairs and begin to read blogs... there are people - our brothers and sisters- out there putting their lives at risk daily so that the message of Jesus can permeate a generation of people living in Satan's playground.
To my friend... I honor you. I pray your example awakens the rest of the Western Christian world. I pray it continues to awaken things in me I have not yet seen. I pray I'm always challenged to surrender more for His sake.
Thank you for your faithfulness. I see Jesus in you.
Okay God... Let's Do This!
This morning I got comfortable with the fact that I'm going to give God a run for His money in my life as it relates to Ephesians 3:20-21.
The streets have an expression recently popularized in hip-hop circles called "Get Rich or Die Trying". I think Christianity needs a dose of "Give Glory or Die Trying"
What do I mean "give God a run for His money"? Well what I mean is that God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. I'm now comfortable asking and imagining some pretty big things to take place. If God so chooses to work out Ephesians 3:20-21 you will see mountains move I assure you that. I know I've held back on the scope of what God has birthed in my heart but not any longer. I'm ready to speak up and step up. I'm ready to vocalize these things and petition God for them. These things are not for myself, they are for people. People for whom Jesus died. They are for lots and lots of those people.
How am I going to give God a run for His money? I'm going to step out. Step out in major ways. I'm ready to cast the vision that has been building in my life for just about as long as I have memories. I'm ready to place my life, my reputation, my family, my hopes and dreams... all of it out there for this "thing" that has been building for years.
I'm going to give God a run for His money because I'm petitioning him to do some pretty audacious things... some things only God can do even if everyone I know got behind it... only God could make it happen. So I'm stepping up to the plate and saying "Alright God... I'm ready. Let's go."
I'll be rolling out more over the next few weeks, months and yes... years.
So pray for me. Pray for people who will join me. Some of them I know and many whom I've never met. Pray for the people who will have to move on our behalf. Pray for my family and pray for wisdom. Pray for mentors, advisers and partners who will be crazy enough to get involved. Pray for humility and pray for strength in the storms. It's about to get crazy and I know I'm about to have a pretty big target from the one who doesn't want any of this to happen.
Stay tuned. A lot of us are about to give God a run for His money...
How about you? What is birthed in your heart for your life that you'd held back on? Where are you cutting God short by being shy and quiet about the vision of your life? Are you guilty of showing off a small God because you present a small vision? Have you exchanged conviction for comfort? Confidence for convenience? Where could you use to give God a run for the money by living out your God-given dreams and visions for a preferred future?
Look. I don't care where you live... the death rate is 100%. Unfortunately although all of us will die... very few actually LIVE. EVEN FEWER live in a way that understands the fullness of the Christian life. Go ahead... give God a run for His money. See if he doesn't show you that every moment can be lived with your heart beating fast because your chasing HIS DREAM for your life.
How To Not Get Ripped Off
Growing up in a major city puts a person in contact with all types of people. You see thousands of people in any given day. You see these people in cars, in lines at stores, in fast food restaurants, in schools and in the neighborhood. When you live in a highly populated area you cannot help but to be in close quarters with LOTS of people. One of the things that occurs to a person living in and amongst LOTS of people is that you begin to develop a sixth sense about people and their behaviors.
Malcom Gladwell would call this a "blink" moment. In an instant you are able to discern if the person you're dealing with is a threat or a friend, if they are sincere or lying, if they are hurting or lazy... on and on. Just because you develop this skill doesn't mean it works 100% but honestly more times than not I've found that my initial sense of a person holds true no matter how long they talk.
Tonight I had another incident where I was glad I listened to my gut and followed my blink moment.
I'm in Baltimore City tonight for a quick trip and as I was standing outside of the motel reserved on my behalf a woman pulled up in a compact car. She started right into a story about how she was distraught and her friend isn't answering the phone and she's pregnant and she lives in Virginia and her car is near empty... She says "I just need some money to fill up my gas tank. Will you please help me. You can look at my gas gauge, I'm not lying I need help."
I happened to be on the phone and I told my friend "I don't know about this. I don't know if I should help her but I may anyway." I told the woman that I wasn't going to give her money but if she wanted to follow me over to a gas station I would pay for her gas with my debit card. She nodded and I told her I would finish my call and be right with her. As I turned away to finish my call she sped out of the parking lot and drove away.
This woman wasn't in need. I had that suspicion. I wanted to test my suspicion. My suspicion was right.
I wish I could tell you that I was shocked by this encounter. I wish I could tell you that this was the first time. The reality is that I couldn't put a number on the amount of times I've replayed this scenario in my lifetime.
Here are a few tips for how not to get ripped off:
1. If the person starts out with a story that would make Steven King squirm... it's probably not true. This woman told me so many problems that "Dear Abby" would need to print an Sunday Edition paper giving her advice on how to get help. Con Artists are professional liars. They've honed their craft. The problem is that in an effort to quickly gain your trust they pile on problem upon problem. Yes some people are pregnant in another state abandoned by a friend and in need of gas... but not many.
2. Keep a safe distance. This motel chain was set back off of the road and the parking lot was relatively empty. Although she was in a car and appeared to be smaller than me I remained about 5 feet back from the car. For all I know she could have a weapon. I have a habit of helping people in need but in this case I used caution.
3. Don't give out cash. It's very very rare that I will help anyone by handing them cash. In the city as a kid I had to walk past pan handlers on a regular basis whenever I visited the Inner Harbor. Unfortunately I often watched them come back to their bench with a bottle wrapped in a paper bag. It wasn't Pepto Bismol they were drinking. You may think that you're helping a person by giving them that $5 they need but you may be poisoning them. Also by opening your wallet you are advertising how much more money you have for people to steal. If you decide to help, go buy the food or in my case tonight, offer to buy the person's gas. She sped away tonight because I wasn't an easy target. I saw my sister later tonight and told her the story and she laughed and said "She's a bad criminal... she should have let you buy her gas anyway." My sister is street-smart too!
4. Get clarity of the situation. A person in need will have no problem explaining to you what their problem is. A person trying to rip you off is having to remember a lie. A person in need will gladly answer all of your questions to get help. A person trying to rip you off will get frustrated by each question. The person in need has a lot of time because their problem is worthy of what it takes to be solved. A thief views that time as a wasted opportunity. The longer you take to reach into your pocket means more time they could be spending ripping off other people. The thief is frustrated with your questions while the person in need understands your desire for clarity. Don't feel pressured to buy someones story.
5. Feel the freedom to say no. If you are hesitant and you don't feel compelled by God to give, don't. There have been times in my life I have said "Sorry, man" and walked away only to observe that person's reaction and decide to come back to give them a few bucks because I saw their reaction. Sometimes as a last resort if you're on the fence is to say "no" and observe their reaction. People truly in need will usually respect you. People trying to rip you off will typically make a comment under their breath or drive off as in my case today.
Well meaning Christians have a hard time practicing street smarts. Some Christians are so afraid of everyone that they unintentionally come off as ignorant jerks while other Christians are so loving they are always broke because they get ripped off. You have to get with God and discern for yourself if you are to meet a perceived need. I'm just encouraging you to have discernment about situations where your heart says "help" and your brain says "be cautious".
For a point of clarification I'm not trying to tell everyone to be hard-nosed. If you were to hang with me in the city for very long you'd see me talking to drunks knowing full-well that they were lying to my face. In most cases I'll take time and treat them with complete attention. In other cases I'll soak in the environment and say "We should keep walking." It just takes time to get a sense for an area, a time of day, an attitude of who is around you. We all should want to help but we're not called to get ripped off either.
To sum up my advice I point you to a sentiment found in Matthew 10:16
"Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves."
What do you think? Do you have difficulty in helping people? Do you struggle with what to do? Do you think we should give away money without questioning the motives of people?
A Baptism Like No Other
1 Corinthians 3
Observations from a Parking Lot
The other day I observed a phenomenon that has always left me bewildered. As I got out of my car in a relatively empty parking lot I noticed a woman and her son pull into the Handicap parking space.
Why was this a memorable event in my life? The handicapped spaces weren't the best spaces available at that moment. At that moment there was a vast majority of the front section wide open. There may have been 15 cars at this grocery store parking lot at the time.
It led me to ask "Why would she do that?" I thought it may be habit but then I thought of a more likely reason. It's special. She has a handicap decal so she's ENTITLED to that spot.
On most days the tag hanging from her mirror would entitle this lady to a beneficial position but on this day the entitlement actually was a step back.
My thoughts immediately turned to my own life and the question: Am I allowing areas where I'm entitled to actually interfere with better things God would have for me?
I once knew a Pastor who on a very regular basis would talk from the pulpit about how the thanked God every time he got an "up front" parking spot. He would often ask his children to pray for an up front parking space as they entered a mall or grocery store parking lot. For nearly two years I heard story after story of a perceived "victory" and "thank God for up front parking spots". Ridiculous.
I often thought and have since heard other Pastors communicate the truth that instead of getting upset with a long walk from your car to the store it may be better to thank God that you have the ability to walk long distances. (A.D.D. Moment: Have you ever found it ironic that people spend 5 minutes finding a close spot at a mall where they then proceed to walk 13 miles in search of a 'deal'?)
Jesus taught this principle in this way:
While you may feel that life has given you a free pass to sit in a place of honor it may turn out to be less than best for you. I'm reminded to keep my sights on the big picture in life and to remain aware that God's best for me may not always be to claim some position of entitlement.
Another example of where what appears best isn't always that way is when considering "optimum times". Nelson Searcy reminded us in his coaching network last week of this principle as a time-saving measure. (A.D.D. Moment: I'm enjoying the network, you should check it out.) I promise you've noticed this principle in action.
Have you ever been stuck at the DMV during a time that was most convenient for yourself? Did you ever decide to grab lunch right around noon and find yourself in drive-thru hell? In Virginia we have annual car inspections. Do you know when most people get their cars inspected? The last possible day. Their perceived "benefit" by waiting until the last moment actually costs them more frustration than if they would go at a time when others aren't there.
Doing an activity when it's most convenient for you may actually turn out to be the least convenient option. Offering deference to others however will usually actually benefit yourself more than you realize. (A.D.D. Moment: The Pastor I mentioned certainly could have used the walking.)
Have some foresight in your daily life to delay gratification and practice the principle of honoring others before yourself. You'll find that in the long run the principle actually brings you a life that is filled with less stress and strife and ultimately the honor you receive will be pure and not forced. It's a much sweeter 'position' to hold.
There are approximately 60 more days of this Presidential campaign. In the Christian world I've noticed a trend toward a collective sigh of relief. Now that both conventions are complete I thought I'd share a few thoughts I have about today's poltical/religious climate. The views below are more of an observation than a critique.
There is a disconnect between Christians and the political process that I haven't seen in my lifetime. I was born in '78 and that year was effectively the birth of the Moral Majority which receives credit for organizing the would-be "religious right'. I can tell you that the entire political landscape is trying to adapt to this new norm. We've seen Democrats and Republicans trying to court the religious vote to varying degrees. McCain's pick of Gov. Palin was in no small way an effort to get the religious base fired up. The McCain campaign also floated the idea of a pro-choice VP a few weeks back only to see that balloon get blown out of the sky. The Obama campaign has also played up faith much more than I've seen any Democrat in my lifetime. Unfortunately for Obama, the Wright controversy made touting his 20+ year history in his church almost unspeakable.
Christians are less monolithic about the issues which concern them. Christians in this election cycle are no longer simply holding to the areas of "family values" with abortion and gay marriage being the rallying cries. Now many Christians are equally concerned about the economy, environment and social justice issues like Darfur, homelessness and poverty.
By and large there is no leadership for the "Christian Right" like there once was. With the passing of Dr. Falwell and Dr. D James Kennedy among others, there is at present somewhat of a leadership vacuum when it comes to conservative Christians and the political process. There wasn't a deep 'bench' behind those guys. While Christians have always been concerned about a multiplicity of issues, they previously had leadership who asked them to prioritize their list of concerns. Ultimately "life" ended up being number one followed by the rest. Today Christians have a bigger picture of "life" to include not only the unborn but also the downtrodden. Also there is a philisophical difference in how Christians desire to use government to enact their Christian principles. Conservatives are still by and large concerned with life and the family but they want less government and more personal responsibility. Progressives would agrue that we should have in place a government that is charitable to the orphan, poor and widow. Both want to utilize the government to 'do good' but their philosophical (not religious) views form the prizim upon which they see those views being enacted. More or less government doesn't mean more or less Jesus.
Younger Pastors have a distaste and distrust for the political process. Reactionary or not, young Pastors are frustrated with being pigeon-holed when they attempt to share their faith with people who aren't Christians. People who do not know Christ have come to believe that Jesus is symbolic with a particular party (usually republican). Interestingly enough however there are also young African American Pastors who are concerned with the political involvement coming from their side of the fence (usually democrat). The concern is that while scripture teaches believers to care for their own, many have substituted the government as being the main provider of these services.
Political machines are having a difficult time understanding this new dynamic. The reality is that Churches remain a very unique institution in America. There aren't many places where a hundred or more people are gathered together every week in order to hear a message. Political parties are trying to figure out how to handle this new wave of Christian leaders. The old way of having one or two key figures point the way for the rest of Christianity no longer works. There is no longer a "Christian Herd" mentality.
In spite of all of this change I believe this is simply a time of transition and the dust hasn't settled for the next 20 years. It's a fact of life that both Pastors and Politicians share a common constituency, the American people. So long as Pastors are searching after souls and Politicians are seeking out supporters they will collide in the realm of public discourse. I happen to see a lot of common ground that can be found if partisanship can give way to achieving results for a better populous. I happen to believe that there are entrenched interests on both fronts that will give way to some reasonable conversation.
Ideally if Christians are praying for the "Kingdom to come to earth as it is in Heaven" and Politicians truly want "the best for the American people", there can be many places where agreement can be found if that is the end which we seek. If however we are beholden to the idolatry of party affiliation we will continue to have problems and the very unity Christ said his people would have would become eroded by the world's best form of government. Let's also be cautious. We cannot blame politics for being the main problem. The political process is amoral. It's a mirror.
Let's face it, Christians identify themselves with a lot of labels apart from the label of Christ. Look at the sign in front of your church building. It's a vestige of the sinful nature. Division. How we behave in our public discourse simply shows the world that we like division among our ranks. That division doesn't represent Christ and it doesn't show the world that we love one another which is how Jesus said people would know we were His.
No matter who you cheer for in November, one thing is clear after two weeks of political conventions, we can all agree that we live in an imperfect but amazing country. I'm going to be excited in January to see an African American or a woman walk into the White House as either President or Vice President of the United States. That's progress we can all cheer for.