Friday, May 25, 2012

God's Dominoes

If you've spent any amount of time in ministry- any amount at all, in any ministry at all- you've probably asked yourself these questions.

Am I making an impact?

Does what I'm saying or doing matter?

Are lives being changed?  Does my being here make any difference?

I confess that I ask myself these questions all the time.  It's so easy to think your efforts are worthless when you see blank expressions.  It's so tempting to think you're ineffectual when it looks like people aren't worshiping as you think they should.  It's seems obvious sometimes to think that you're not getting through when you see people continue down the same destructive paths that you just finished preaching or teaching about.

Am I making an impact?

And then sometimes, though you might want mass transformation, God allows you to see one.  One person transformed.  One person publicly showing their love for Christ.  One person hearing what you said and vowing, in tears, to change.

Someone once famously said that they didn't know what art was, but they knew it when they saw it.  What is it in our minds or hearts that keeps us from knowing the fruit of our ministry even when we do indeed see it??

Yesterday, for no known reason, I was reminded of the story of Edward Kimball.  Kimball was just a man, hardly to be mentioned among names like D.L. Moody or Billy Graham.  Yet, that is exactly where the complete canvass of history puts him.

Kimball served humbly as a Sunday School teacher at the Congregational Church of Mt. Vernon in Boston, MA.  Among the students in his class was a rambunctious teenager whose initial application for church membership was turned down, even after he accepted Christ.  Referring to this student, Kimball wrote,

"I can truly say, and in saying it I magnify the infinite grace of God as bestowed upon him, that I have seen few persons whose minds were spiritually darker than was his when he came into my Sunday School class; and I think that the committee of the Mount Vernon Church seldom met an applicant for membership more unlikely ever to become a Christian of clear and decided views of Gospel truth, still less to fill any extended sphere of public usefulness."

This rambunctious teenager was D. L. Moody, whose amazing work as an evangelist led him to England, among other places.  While in England, Moody preached at a small chapel pastored by Dr. F. B. Meyer, a brilliant man who did not focus on Jesus.  After hearing Moody preach, Meyer was convicted by the Holy Spirit and changed his entire approach the gospel, affecting all those who heard him.  One of those who heard the "new" Meyer was a man named J. Wilbur Chapman.

In time, J. Wilbur Chapman influenced the famous evangelist Billy Sunday; then Billy Sunday influenced a man named Mordecai Ham. 

And one day, at a tent revival near Charlotte, NC, Mordecai Ham preached the gospel to another rambunctious teenager- this one named Billy Graham. That day Billy Graham gave his life to God and began a relationship with the Lord that has sent him around the world, leading millions to Jesus Christ. 

One website I looked at called this "spiritual dominoes."

I like that.  If you were to focus a camera on the first domino in a long procession such as the one below, it would seem so insignificant.  However, when viewed in full, we are awed by the artistry of a well done domino display.

I wonder if that's what it will be like in heaven.  Will we be allowed a glimpse of what our impact truly was?

Friday, May 11, 2012

An Encouraging Word. No, I Really Mean It!

Today, a non-political post. And today, a word of encouragement for all my pastor friends.

We actually can be happy even when every last church member isn't what we think they should be.

If you're like me, you frequently miss the "doers" while you focus on the "non-doers."  You fret and worry and pray over those who aren't as faithful as you'd like, or don't serve like you want, or otherwise don't live up to your standards.

But you know what?  The Apostle John didn't think that way.

In 2 John 4, the apostle writes,

I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father (emphasis added).

What a liberating verse!  To think that this apostle, one of Jesus' inner three, the one whom tradition holds survived being burned in oil before being exiled to the Greek isle of Patmos could write to a church leader that he rejoiced greatly that some in the church were obedient simply stuns me.

It stuns me because I'm not sure I know any pastors who consistently think this way.

Not to whine or brag, but the bible says that pastors will be held accountable for their flocks.  I take that warning very seriously, as do the others I know.  And because you can't really do this without caring for people, it pains you when you see God's children living lives of unfaithfulness.

John knew the warning, and in John's letters (OK maybe not so much in Revelation) you see his love for people ooze from the seams.

Yet, he could report that knowing that some people lived according to God's word made him rejoice.  And not just rejoice, but rejoice GREATLY.

Lord, help me see those around me who love You and keep Your commandments, even before I see those who don't.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The New Face of American Christianity

"[Michelle and I] we are both practicing Christians and obviously this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others but, you know, when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the Golden Rule, you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated." ~ President Barack Obama, May 9, 2012

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?"~ Jesus Christ, Luke 6:46, 1st century

I am admittedly sickened this morning.

I am sickened by the President's use of God's Word to promote what God repeatedly condemns.  I am sickened by the President once again playing fast and loose with specific instructions, commands, and principles that seem to be clear in the Bible.

It saddens me when a man who calls himself a Christian can so blatantly and defiantly choose to ignore God's Word to further his own agenda, be it political or simply self-satisfaction.

This "Christian" man has repeatedly chosen so called "pro-choice" judges, justices, cabinet members, and czars, all in the name of "compassion." Where exactly the compassion is in not only allowing but funding a mother to kill her unborn child, I have no idea.

This "Christian" man has repeatedly tried to use Jesus as an example in his crusade to redistribute wealth by force.  Yes, Jesus said much about providing for the poor.  But nowhere is it implied that government should be the arbiter on how these efforts should be funded, and nowhere does Jesus say that government should forcibly take money from some to give to another for the sake of "fairness."

This "Christian" man seldom attends church, ostensibly because of the hassle of the security needs, his busy schedule, and his desire not to disrupt things for other church goers.  These concerns are apparently insignificant though when there is a round of golf to be played, or a fundraiser to attend.

Now, this "Christian" man, in an effort to appease a portion of his political base, has publicly announced his support for same sex marriage, even somehow managing to credit Jesus with the idea!

Egypt.  Babylon.  Persian.  Greece.  Rome. Spain.  England.  All world powers who fell for many reasons.  Yet the United States continues to pretend it will never happen to us.

We have long since given up the moral high ground financially as we continue to be a credit driven society and government.

We now seem hell-bent (good word choice!) on giving up any moral high ground we may have ever had.

God help us.

Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, "Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us." He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, "As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill." ~ Psalms 2:1-6