Missions Sunday

Central Church Family, Foreign Missions No Comments »

This Sunday is Missions Sunday here at Central. The goal is $275,000 to fund and expand our current and brand new foreign missions efforts for the sake of the world. Unlikely? Maybe. Improbable? Perhaps.

Good! That means it’s definitely going to happen!

If we’ve learned anything in our study of Jonah this month, it’s that our God’s strength is seen in our weakness. His power is revealed in our inadequacy. He does his greatest work when the odds are stacked against him.

Last year, our ambitious goal of $250,000 was blown out of the water when the Lord provided more than $353,000 on Missions Sunday. The same thing is going to happen this time. I’m assuming, if you’re part of the Central church, you want to be in on it.

As a church family we’ve studied and preached, fasted and prayed about it. We’ve done the math. We’ve read brochures and pamphlets, purchased cookies and bracelets, held garage sales, and given up gourmet coffee and golf. We’ve heard from Tony Morrow, Seth Bouchelle, Junior and Patricia Lira, Neely Borger, and Bret McCasland. We’ve seen a lot of pictures, watched a few videos, and learned a new song. We’ve been inspired by our missionaries and challenged by our elders.

Now it’s time to give.

I’m anticipating a wonderful morning together as we express and practice our commitment to spreading the good news and as our God reveals his glory to us in surprising and powerful ways. May our hearts be opened to God’s call, may our lives be transformed by his Spirit, and may Christ Jesus be eternally praised.

Peace,

Allan

Overturned

Jonah, Salvation No Comments »

“Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned!” ~Jonah 3:4

You’ve gotta have a sense of humor to read Jonah. There’s so much hyperbole and exaggeration, sarcasm and irony, embedded in almost every paragraph, I think you’ll miss the main points of the tale if you don’t break out into a huge smile and maybe even a giggle or two as you read it. It’s funny that Jonah’s message is that God is going to “overturn” Nineveh. Because that’s exactly what God does. He turns Nineveh completely upside down.

The people proclaim a fast before the king does. Declarations like that usually begin at the top and work their way down. But this one starts in the streets and then reaches the palace.

The king leaves his throne and takes off his royal robes. The throne is empty, it’s wide open now for the Lord to reign in Nineveh. The king is sitting in dust with the least of the common people. This is definitely an overturned king! And his proclamation demands that everyone call urgently on the God of Israel. These mighty Assyrians are now just like the sailors in the first part of the story — crying out to YHWH for their very lives.

In just two short verses, Nineveh has been overturned — not destroyed, but turned upside down in every way possible. It’s a supernatural event. Nobody saw this coming. It goes far beyond what anybody could perceive as normal. Come on, even the goats and cows are fasting and wearing sackcloth!

God does this in order to save the city. He turns it upside down in order to save it. And he’ll do the same for you. Or for your family. Or for your church. Or your town.

Our God will go to whatever lengths are necessary, he’ll do whatever it takes, he will not give up on saving his people. Even when we resist, he keeps on pursuing. Even when we rebel, he keeps on forgiving. Even when we run away, he keeps chasing. He used a violent storm and the weak witness of a runaway prophet to save the pagan sailors. He created and commanded the giant fish to rescue his rebellious servant. And he put five Hebrew words into the hearts of a wicked people and turned an entire nation upside down.

And he’s tracking you, too. He’s chasing you. You know it. You feel it.

What’s God doing right now to get your attention? How’s he working in your life to draw you to him? Is he sending the storms? Is he putting people in your path? Is he piercing your heart with an unforgettable phrase or a particularly haunting verse of Scripture? Is it just a feeling, maybe, that you can’t shake? Is it a person who cares deeply for you and hurts with God’s own compassion for you? How is God getting to you? You may as well start thinking about it, because he’s not going to stop.

Peace,

Allan

 

God Will Not Be Stopped

Ezekiel, Foreign Missions, Jonah, Luke, Salvation No Comments »

“I will search for the lost and bring back the strays.” ~Ezekiel 34:16

Our God will go to whatever lengths are necessary, he’ll do whatever it takes, he will not ever give up on saving his people. Even when we resist, he keeps pursuing. Even when we rebel, he keeps forgiving. Even when we run away, he keeps chasing.

“Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it?” ~Luke 15:4, 8

Our merciful Father used the power of a violent storm and the weak witness of a runaway prophet to save the pagan sailors in Jonah 1. He created and commanded the great fish to rescue his rebellious servant in Jonah 2. And in Jonah 3, our faithful God put five Hebrew words into the hearts of a wicked people and turned an entire nation upside down for him.

“‘I take no pleasure in the death of anyone,’ declares the Sovereign Lord. ‘Repent and live!’” ~Ezekiel 18:32

Our God is on a mission to save the world and he wants us to participate. Either way — whether we join him in that mission or not — our God will not be stopped. He’ll find the young professional in that tiny house in Bogota, Columbia; and he’ll send a group from Amarillo, Texas all the way down there to do it. He’ll save the impoverished orphan girls in Kenya; and he’ll use a bunch of ladies in a sewing room at Central to make it happen. God will save ten thousand people in India; and he’ll use a broken preacher on a TV show to do it. God will rescue the dying and lost in Brazil and Guatemala & Ukraine; and he’ll use your garage sale earnings and your Starbucks money to accomplish it. Our God is on the trail to save and he will not be stopped.

He’s tracking you, too. He’s chasing you. You feel it. You know it. He’s on to you and he won’t let go. Our God is that relentless hound of heaven that C. S. Lewis writes about.

May we adopt that same mindset. May we see the world as our Father sees the world. And may we allow nothing — absolutely nothing! — to get in our way of seeking and saving the lost.

Peace,

Allan

Praise from the Belly

Jonah, Salvation No Comments »

The most interesting thing about Jonah 2 is that the prophet gives thanks to God for his deliverance while he is still inside the fish! He praises God for his rescue even before he is on dry land!

“In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me!” ~Jonah 2:2

Jonah doesn’t even mention the small matter of his residency in the fish. Instead he demonstrates a complete trust in the mercy and compassion of God. He is grateful to be in the Lord’s keeping, even if it’s in the belly of a whale.

“You brought my life up from the pit, O Lord my God!” ~Jonah 2:6

Jonah gives thanks in spite of the uncertainty of still being in the sea. He gives praise knowing he did not deserve to be rescued. He’s grateful for safety in a most unlikely place. He’s thankful even in great discomfort. Jonah recognizes God’s salvation in spite of his unresolved questions and issues.

“Salvation comes from the Lord!” ~Jonah 2:9

I think we’re all living inside the belly of the fish. We have been rescued from drowning; we’ve been delivered from the bottom of the sea. But we’re still unsure as to how exactly we’re going to be ultimately saved. Jonah praises God, knowing full well that there are only two possibilities for escaping the fish alive — both of them extremely gross! His situation is not even close to being resolved. He knows he’s going to be OK because he’s in God’s gracious hands. He just doesn’t know yet how much it’s going to hurt.

It’s a belly of great expectation. And we’re all there. I’m going to come out of this OK; I’m just not sure how or when. Even in the darkness and stink of my present circumstance, I rejoice and praise the Lord that he has saved me and he will continue to deliver me all the way through to the end.

Peace,

Allan

I Worship the Lord

Evangelism, Jonah, Worship No Comments »

“I worship the Lord, the God of Heaven, who made the sea and the land.” ~Jonah 1:9

I imagine that when Jonah paid his fare and collected his ticket and boarded that ship to Tarshish, he never dreamed of talking to the boat’s crew about God. They would never listen. If he asked them to respond to his God, they would just say “no.” These kinds of people — these pagan sailors with their different gods and values, different cultures and beliefs and lifestyles — are not interested in the Lord.

But in the middle of that violent storm, as the wind and the waves grow increasingly stronger and the ship begins to break up, the sailors begin to fear for their lives. They’re drawing straws, casting lots, trying to figure out who or what is to blame for this great trouble. And Jonah, in the middle of the storm, in the middle of the turmoil and fear and noise and anxiety and panic — he answers their questions with a confession.

“I worship the Lord, the God of Heaven, who made the sea and the land.”

And that’s all it took.

Jonah confesses the Lord. The sailors reluctantly acted on Jonah’s instructions by throwing him overboard. And they begin calling on the name of the Lord. Praying to God. Begging God for forgiveness. And when the storm goes away and the seas grow calm, they greatly fear the Lord. They revere the Lord. They’re in awe. And they’re moved. They offer sacrifices to God and they make vows. They make commitments to him right there on the spot.

Jonah confessed the Lord to these pagan sailors. The sailors saw the great power of God. They experienced the merciful salvation of God. And their lives were changed.

This part of the story tells me that the world we live in is not closed to our faithful witness. Even if it’s a weak witness.

Hey, this world is in a crisis. This world is desperate. It’s hopeless. It’s grasping at straws, rolling the dice, shaking the magic 8-ball, grasping for truth, dying for something solid to believe in, anxious for something stable to hold on to. And so many people we run in to are wide open to the truth of our God. If we’ll just confess it in front of them.

The sailors were not looking for this witness. They weren’t looking for Jonah’s statement of faith. They weren’t looking for the Creator of Heaven and Earth. They didn’t know what they were looking for. But through Jonah’s witness — as weak as it was — they encountered our God and experienced his salvation. They acknowledged their helplessness in rowing against the storm on their own. They believed in God and his Word and they acted on it. And they worshiped him in reverence and in awe.

Your witness may be weak. But your God is strong. Your testimony may not be much more than “I worship the Lord.” But your God is ready to use that testimony to change the lives of the people around you.

Peace,

Allan

Central has 750 Ministers

1 Peter, Central Church Family, Jesus, Luke, Mark, Matthew, Ministry, Revelation No Comments »

We swore in almost 750 men, women, and children yesterday as ministers at the Central Church of Christ. Borrowing from the Gospel accounts of the feeding of the multitudes in which the disciples asked Jesus for a way to solve the problem and Jesus responded by telling his followers, “You give them something to eat,” we declared that everybody in our Lord’s Kingdom is a Christian minister. We are all priests, saved and sanctified by God to serve as powerful mediators between him and humanity.

As priests, we reflect the holiness of God. We are holy because God is holy. And that holiness will not be compromised or conditioned. We are set apart. We are ordained by God for his purposes and to his eternal praise.

As priests, we offer spiritual sacrifices to God. We give our bodies to God. We give our money to God. We submit our very lives to God so that everything we do and say and think is offered to him.

We intercede like priests. We grab our brothers and sisters and we take them to God in prayer. We bring them into God’s presence and intercede for their healing and forgiveness and blessings and peace.

And, as priests, we represent God before others. We bless people. We take what God has given us and we, in turn, give it to others. We graciously share his love and mercy, his comfort and forgiveness, to everyone we meet with his power and authority as his holy priests.

A lot of us, though, are paralyzed. We’re stuck. We see things that need to be done, but we wait on somebody else to do them. We know something’s wrong, but we count on somebody else to fix it. We hear that somebody’s hurting, but we wonder if it’s any of our business. We’re especially susceptible to this in a big church. We recognize a hole that needs to be plugged or a problem that needs to be solved or a brother who needs a visit, and we don’t do anything. And then we wonder why it didn’t get done.

We are all powerful priests in God’s sight. Nobody in God’s Church has more power or authority or more permission than anyone else. We’re all the same. We have different gifts, certainly. But we’re all called to serve. Nobody’s exempt. We’re all authorized to pray and teach. We’re all authorized to comfort and minister, to encourage and bless. We all have the same permission.

To drive the point home, we passed out 750 little sheriff’s badge stickers at the conclusion of our lesson, pinned them on one another, and we swore everybody in as ministers in God’s Church. We all stood and raised our right hands and recited these vows together out loud:

“I do solemnly swear as a faithful member of God’s royal priesthood to act like a priest. I promise to henceforth and forever more regard myself as a minister in God’s Church. I promise to honor and respect and love and cherish my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. I promise to encourage and not tear down, to bless and not curse, to submit and to serve in compassion and kindness until Christ Jesus returns. As a minister and a priest in God’s Kingdom, this is my pledge as surely as the Lord shall live. Amen.”

With those gold stars pinned to our chests, we all looked like we belonged in a saloon scene in a corny old western movie. But when the words began coming out of our mouths, and the weight of our promises began to take hold, the worship center was transformed into a sacred place where we acknowledged the wisdom and power of our God who would dare to partner with us in his work of redeeming the world.

Peace,

Allan