Preparing to Ring Bells

If you’ve been reading this blog any amount of time you know that my thinking has been greatly influenced of late by a CD by Casting Crowns. The CD is Lifesong. This past week’s message was based on the song While You Were Sleeping. Several in our congregation said the song sent chills up their spine as I sang it. If you are interested in reading the sermon, click here. When it comes to Jesus’ return, we often look to Matthew 24. I suggested that we need to look the next chapter, because that is part of the continuing narrative. Jesus tells three parables about what the Christian should be doing to prepare for the last times. In the first story of the ten bridesmaids, he tell us that we should watch and pray and be prepared for His return. In the second story of the boss who goes away and leaves his affairs in the hands of his employees, we are told that we should occupy the time. In other words, we should be doing all we can to fulfill the Great Commission. In the third and final story, we hear about the sheep and the goats. In this story, Jesus separates the believers by what and what they didn’t do in helping those who were the least. One of the things that we have decided to do as a congregation this year is help ring bells for Salvation Army. My brother and sister-in-law are in their second year of training in this organization. Even here in our own community, Salvation Army is doing a ton of good. I am proud to be counted among one of their supporters. As I look around at organizations, they really seemed to have balanced what James says in 1:27. “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” So many times it seems churches do one or the other, but God has called us to do both and time is running out.

The Race


As it says in the title, we live in a place (Martinsville, VA) where NASCAR visits twice a year. Our sleepy little city triples in size for the weekend. This past weekend our city hosted both the Craftsman Truck series and the Nextel Cup series. If you’re a NASCAR fan, you already know that. It was interesting as I went to pickup the kids in the van this morning. Our usual 45 minute round trip was a bit longer, because we couldn’t take the usual route because of the race traffic. My family had a great time yesterday visiting all car exhibitions around town. The race teams bring the cars to various places and let the fans view them. I had to work yesterday, but they were excited to tell me all about it when I got home. By tomorrow afternoon, it will be difficult to tell there even was a race here.

What amazes me about the NASCAR fans in general is that they will go to great lengths to let you know who their favorite driver is. Many of the cars on the street advertised “their driver.” It’s amazing to me to see the money spent on what is basically entertainment. If only we as believers would be as quick to go to the same lengths to tell people about Jesus. Think about it!

The Obedience of One

Wow! Today at Preston Wesleyan we were ministered to by the Holy Spirit. Our service was literally transformed by His presence. I began the service by sitting at the piano and singing the song, “Does Anybody Hear Her?” by Casting Crowns. This is part of a series that we have been doing titled Lifelong Lessons. As I sang the song, the sanctuary became quiet as the congregation reflected on the words. Our theme was evangelism and the songs that we sang reflected that. Our worship set included “Since I Have Been Redeemed,” “Days of Elijah,” “Go Light Your World,” and Rescue the Pershing.” I love to try to theme the songs to the message when possible. Everything was going along as planned (following the bulletin) when we came to our prayer time. As is our custom of late, I opened the service for praises and prayer requests. Several got up and gave prayer requests and praises. What happened next was cool. Before we began to pray, one of our leaders stepped up to the altar. I was checked in my spirit and invited anyone else who would like to come to the altar to come as well. I was not prepared for the response. It was so cool. At that point the Holy Spirit overwhelmed the room and flooded us with what we needed. What would have happened if that one person would not have responded to the Spirit’s call to go to the altar? So much for a well planned service. The Holy Spirit had other plans. As I followed the Spirit’s leading from there, it was neat to watch the service unfold from there. I did get a chance to preach and we went into overtime. We looked at how many around us, just outside of our church are lost. We need to be Christ’s ambassadors. Christ is counting on us to take His gospel to a dying world. We finished with a wonderful paraphrase of St. Patrick’s Breastplate.

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me:
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

What a wonderful thought that Christ is the only thing that people would see when they see us. It’s my prayer for myself and the prayer for the congregation of Preston Wesleyan Church. It is my prayer for you as well.

Weeding the Flower Beds

Tonight, I have a couple related thoughts, both related to evangelism

Thought One

Over the past week, I have been working at getting rid of the weeds in the flower beds of the parsonage. In addition, I have been fixing the edging bricks. This past week, one of the local tree cutting services gave us some wood chips, so I covered the freshly weeded beds with wood chips. It’s amazing how different the front of the house looks now. I still need to trim the rosebushes. They are all over the place. One is a beautiful dark crimson rose the other one has a beautiful coral color to it. As I was weeding, i was amazed at the strength of the root system of the weeds. The weeds go down into the soil, but they also crawl across the soil and put new roots down. If you don’t get the roots, they will just come back again. I’m hoping the tree chip covering will help keep the weeds that I didn’t get all the way down, but probably not!

Sin is alot like these weeds. It doesn’t take much to get it’s foot hold, spreads easily, and to get rid of it can be difficult. But, isn’t that our job as Christ’s church? Just like pulling the weeds, pulling sin out of people’s lives can be messy and dirty. After I got cleaning up the flowerbeds, I had to go take a shower to clean up myself. We can get involved and over our heads quickly, when we start messing with the weeds. We also have this assurance, without Christ’s help, we will get tangled up in the weeds that should come as no surprise. But with the power of Christ in us, we can be Christ’s ambassadors, taking the message to others and being His hands and feet. We can urge others to be reconciled to God.

Thought Two

I’ve been letting this week’s sermon stir around in my head for the last few days. This week’s sermon is titled “Does Anybody Hear Her?” Again, it is from the Casting Crowns’ Lifesong CD. (Did I tell you that this CD has influenced my thinking lately?) Verse two goes like this;

She is yearning
For shelter and affection that she never found at home
She is searching
For a hero to ride in
To ride in and save the day
And in walks her prince charming and he knows just what to say
Momentary lapse of reason and she gives herself away

Does anybody hear her?
Can anybody see
Or does anybody even know she’s going down today
Under the shadow of our steeple
With all the lost and lonely people
Searching for the hope that’s tucked away in you and me
Does anybody hear her
Can anybody see?

As I sit here tonight, this could describe any of our students who attend Mosaic. I think about the students who show up on Wednesday evening. I think about the love that we need to show them. About the love that they don’t get at home. I know several have responded how much it breaks their heart to send our students home at the end of the night. As a pastor that is cool; to see godly compassion for those who need it so desperately.

Jesus commanded his disciples to “Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them…Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you…”

Our job as a church is to go out and make disciples, immersing them in God, the Father; Jesus, the Son; and the Holy Spirit, and to teach them the things that Jesus taught us. Paul asked the question in Romans, “But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?”

Like I said this song has been rattling around in my brain for a few days now. I often wonder how many, within the shadow of our church, could really use what we have? This relates to last week’s sermon, how many are trapped by a “slick talker” rather than a genuine follower of Christ? We need to be real and share the gospel with those who really need it. We can’t be fake. People can see that from a mile away. My heart aches for those in our community. I know many in our church have that same heart ache. I am glad for that. How do we reach them? We are working together to do this. Mosaic Student Ministries is one way that we are reaching the students of Henry County for Christ. If we can help students avoid the trap that is described in the song and share the love of Jesus with them we’re on our way.

Vacation Bible School Here We Come

Tonight, I spent some time over at the church with others who were getting ready for Vacation Bible School. We are trying something this year that I’ve never done before and that is an all day event. We have excellent leadership for this program and I’m looking forward to the results.

My two daughers and several of the teens from our church are helping with skits and other activities. They have done a great job at memorizing lines for the skits.

Be praying for us as we have a chance to present the Good News to children in the community. Also for Sunday morning when we hold our closing program and I present the gospel to those who attend. God is working and it is amazing to be on His team and working for Him.

SPAM

Mark Wilson got me thinking about SPAM a few weeks ago. No, not the processed food or emails, but about what the letters mean. Here, take a look:

Small Places Are Magnificent
Small-town Pastors Are Mighty
Small-town Pastors Are Mobilized
Small-town Partnerships Are Missional
Small Place As Mission

God has been teaching me that He can use us right where we are. The Good News needs to be told and people in rural/small towns need the good news just as much as large towns/cities/urban areas. I have been praying for the community around our church. I know our church is excited about the things God has planned for us in the future. Small Places are Marvelous! Thanks, Mark!