Saturday, February 24, 2007

People With Two Umbrellas

A young man from the Philippines had just arrived in his dorm room. It had been a long four day trip to get there. He was glad the journey was over, but now he was very homesick. The school was Ivy League and his father and family were so terribly proud that he was there.

At first he was excited about being there, but now that he was there he wasn’t so sure. He set down on a chair in the room with his bags lying on the floor all around him and tears began to well up in his eyes as he began to think of how lonely he was, how overwhelmed he felt, and how unsure he was of his future there.

About that time there was a knock on the door. The young Philippine student wiped his eyes and opened the door to discover a young energetic young man. The young man introduced himself as a fellow student in his second year. He had noticed the young Philippine student arrive and he wanted to come and meet him and hear where he was from.

The two students sat down and the Philippine student told his new acquaintance all about his family and homeland, but began to sputter a little as his emotions began to show.

The second year student realized he was having a hard time and so he said, “listen, I can imagine you feel a little overwhelmed right now, but I want you to know you have a friend in me. I am going to make your stay here so great you are never going to want to go back home.”

As he got up to go, he asked the Philippine student if he planned to attend church tomorrow. The Philippine student said that he was a lapsed Catholic, but had intended on going to church tomorrow. The energetic student immediately pulled out a sheet of paper and began drawing him a map. “It’s a long way from here, but this will help you get there. You need to give yourself about an hour travel time to make it.”

The two friends shook hands and one went to see other friends and the other began to unpack.

The next morning when the Philippine student woke up, he looked out the window and saw rain pouring out of the sky. He laid there in his warm bed and told himself he would go next week.

Just as he was about to fall back asleep he heard a knock at the door. To his surprise, when he opened the door he found his new friend smiling back at him. He was soaking wet, but he had two umbrellas in his hands. “I’ve come to walk you to church,” he said.

Embarrassed by his lack of discipline, the Philippine student got himself dressed quickly and the two friends set out to go to church. About five minutes into the miserable soaking walk, the Philippine student asked his friend if he attended church anywhere and if it was closer. He explained that he did and that it was only about two minutes from there.

The Philippine student asked if they could just go to his church instead and they did. It was a church like the young Philippine student had never seen. The people stood and sang joyfully, the speaker spoke from the Bible, and the young Philippine student felt strangely warmed by a Presence he had never felt before.

He kept attending that church and in time came to make a confession in Christ and was baptized. He later returned home as a pastor and he spent his life sharing the love his American friend had shown him and preaching the Bible that taught him about Christ.

Are you the kind of Christian who takes two umbrellas to help someone get to church? The Lord is looking for servants who will love lost people as much as he does and get out of their comfort zone the way He did and help people follow Christ.

Who are you helping "Get to God" this Sunday?
Investing and Inviting = I-squared.
It's a way of life.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Die to Live & Live to Die

John 12:24-24 “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 25The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

Why do we worry? Why are we anxious? Why do we rob our eyes of sleep and destroy the lining of our stomach with stress-induced ulcers? Isn’t it because we don’t trust God? Isn’t it because we believe that somehow we will not be taken care of? Isn’t it because we feel that we deserve more and so we make decisions that put us in financial debt and in danger of losing all that God has given to us?

It seems that a day does not go by that I don’t talk with someone who is trying to overcome their life challenge with earthly temporal answers. It is as if God does not exist. So many people live their lives thinking there is a God, but feeling that there isn’t one.

In our reading today from Job 23 we find Job concerned not so much with what God is doing, but with what God is not doing. Job can’t seem to find God and doesn’t know where to find Him. Job is terrified by the seeming absence of God. And so are many of the people I talk with everyday.

Of course the reality of it is that God is there. God is here. God is everywhere. He is omni-present.

The question then does not fall on God, but on us. The question is not “where is God?” The real question is “where are we?” Where are we in our faith? Where are we in our hope? Where are we in our devotion to God?

God always provides for His people. He cares for them and guides them for His name’s sake. God has put His name on us and our lives are a reflection on Him. The problem is we want God to care for us and guide us for OUR name’s sake. We want God to do things our way for our glory.

Until we stop looking to make our own way in life and start looking to God to show us the way, we will live frustrated lives. Luke 9:23-24 “Then he said to them all: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.’” Jesus said that we are to die to ourselves. He said that we are to lose our life. What does this mean? It means what baptism pictures (Romans 6:4). We are dead and buried in Christ and we now live in a new life under the authority of and in the blessing of Christ.

Unless we die to ourselves and trust Christ completely releasing all the outcomes of our life into His hands, we will continue to live miserably. We will try and get by with new relationships, new materialistic things, and fleeting physical pleasures, all the while creating stress and frustration in our hearts, minds, and souls.

We must let go and let God be Lord of our lives, if we want to truly live.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Our Job God’s Job & Salvation

This morning as I did my reading for “Walk in the Word” I was struck by the passage in 1st Corinthians 3. Here Paul lays out the responsibility of humanity and the sovereignty of God that brings about the salvation of all who believe.

1 Corinthians 3:6-9 “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.”

Paul said he planted the seed. What that means is that he was the one who first presented the Gospel and put it in the people’s hearts and minds. He did this through what he said and the way he lived. He reminded the Corinthians saying, “I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2). Paul focused his whole being on sharing the love of God revealed in the cross of Jesus Christ.

Then Appollos came and watered it. What a beautiful picture of community and commitment. In Christ both men did their work and each man’s work complimented the other’s. Unfortunately, it can work the other way too. A person can work hard for weeks, months, or even years to share the love of Christ only to have another believer destroy that work. Instead of watering the seed of the Gospel they poison it with their sin. Apollos watered the seed of the Gospel Paul had planted in the people.

But it was God that made it grow. A farmer can only plant seed and water the field. He cannot make the crops grow. That is beyond his ability. All he can do is put the field in a position to produce a crop. All we can do as believers is share the Gospel and encourage its growth with grace and mercy. “All we can do” makes it sound like that isn’t a lot. It takes all of our effort and focused prayer to get the seed of the Gospel presented into a person’s life and then all of our discipline to water it. But it is God who makes it grow. It is Jesus that saves through God’s divine determination, Christ’s own atoning sacrifice, and the Holy Spirit’s prompting and conviction.

We all have an important job to do. We all must share the Gospel so that it gets into people’s hearts and minds. We must live Gospel oriented lives and water the seed of the Gospel. We must pray and ask God to give life and bring conviction. We must work and trust God that He is will in the right season bring growth into a harvest of revival.

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Monday, February 12, 2007

An "I-Squared" Education

Yesterday was our first I-squared Sunday. For those who don’t know "I-squared" stands for INVEST and INVITE. As followers of Christ, we are commanded to reach out to our world with God’s love and help people get to God through faith in Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:19-20). At Living Hope we do this by INVESTING time, prayer, and truth in the people around us and then INVITING those friends and family members to attend worship or become followers Christ.

I had the opportunity to talk with several members about how their I-squared adventures went. I found out that in the process of INVESTING and INVITING several important lessons were learned.

One, we learned that by being intentional about INVESTING and INVITING we had conversations with people we would have never had before. To a person, the people I talked to said that they got to know people better in the process of INVESTING in them. Some found out that the people they work with, buy stuff from, or see at the gym were already Christians and active in another local church. This gave them the opportunity to fellowship and give honor to Christ. They also found out that many people who were not Christians were interested and open to attending worship and talking about Spiritual matters.

Two, we learned that I-squared is a way of life not a program. Many of us had people who could not attend this past Sunday because they were out of town or had other responsibilities to take care of. They were, however, available on another Sunday. This means that every Sunday can and should be an I-squared Sunday.

Third, we learned that people are hungry for God and the Gospel and tired of cold religion and self-righteous hypocrites who care more about being right than being loving. Our world is filled with opinionated people who are defined by their social group. Our world is in need of a savior who will give them hope so they can love and be loved by the God who made them. The world needs the body of Christ to be there for them and guide them to a personal relationship with God through faith in Christ. They don't need to be alienated and ostracized.

I hope that as we continue to INVEST and INVITE people that God will continue to do a work in us and through us.

What about you? Have you been INVESTING and INVITING? How did it go?

Friday, February 9, 2007

Return To Sender

This morning I was listening to a great sermon by Craig Groeschel pastor of Life Church ( entitled "God Wants You Happy." It's a part of his sermon series "Urban Myths." He is an amazing communicator and very edgy so if you take a listen be warned. This guys is a major risk taker, but I appreciate what he has to say.

In the message he talks about the importance of financial stewardship, but he didn't talk about giving to God. He spoke of the tithe in a wonderful way. He said that believers don't give to God we return our tithe and offerings to God. Do you see the difference? We don't give to God we return to God what is His.

This tells us a number of things about money and our lives.

One, it tells us that what we have is not our own. All that we have in life is a gift from God. We don't own any of it. We are using it right now and responsible for it right now, but we are going to leave this life with as much stuff in our hands as we entered it with. That means our tithes are not us giving God our stuff. Our tithes and offering are giving back to God what was already His.

Second, we have no reason to be proud of our tithes and offerings because we are not doing anything except giving to God what is His. It would be different if the money was ours, but it's not. It's God's and we are giving back to Him what is rightly His. He doesn't want all of it. He wants us to live and be wise with the other 90%, but He wants the first 10%.

Third, if we are not returning to God His tithe we are stealing from God. After all, it is His. Malachi teaches this truth in 3:8-10:
"Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. "But you ask, 'How do we rob you?' "In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.

If you are not a Christian, please know that you don't need to give God money. You need to give God your life so He can take responsibility for you. He will take responsibility for your sin so you don’t have to. He will take responsibility for your future so you don’t have to. He will take responsibility for your needs so you don't have to. He wants you to live free in His love and under His authority.

If you are a Christian, please know that all that you are has been bought by the blood of Christ. You are His. All of you and all that you have is His. He has commanded you to return the first 10% of your income, which His. Don't rob God. If you are returning what is His, don't be proud. You are only giving to Him what is already His. It's not from you. It's through you.

Friday, February 2, 2007

So Happy Together

This morning I went to the church property with my two children, Mackeznie (10) and Jackson (7). We took our sleds, but were disappointed when we discoverd that there just wasn't enough good snow to sled. So we had a snow ball fight and checked out the frozen pond.
Then it began to happen. It's what always seems to happen. Friends started showing up. Before we knew it we were all laughing and screaming and having the time of our lives.

Pastor Richard Carwile ( hooked up a rope to his truck. All the kids sat on their sleds and he pulled them all over the property. Even the adutls got in the fun, but Pastor Jeff Carlisle was the best.

We all gave up after a couple of hours, when our noses were red, our bellies were growling, and our toes were turning blue.
Once again I was reminded of the joy of Christian community. Sure you can have fun with just yourself or your family. But oh the joy, when you have several other friends and their ideas for fun and their laughter joined with yours.

One of the best ways to get Christian community in your life is by being in a small group. Not only will you get a better handle on how to read and understand God's Word, but you will meet new people and make friendships for life.

Those friendships are great during the good times, but they are vital in the hard times. The people you learn to do life with will be the ones who stand by you when your life goes through a storm. In this fallen cursed world everybody goes through a storm sometime. Friends make it bearable and help you keep your head above water.

If you are not yet in a small group, why don't you get connected in one this week. You can go by the information area at church for more information, to the church website, or contact Pastor Richard and either he or elder Robert Duvall will get you started in the blessed life of small group.

For those of you in a small group, what blessings have you received by being connected with a faithful circle of friends?