Author: Allan (page 1 of 337)

#sentbycentral

How do you make every member of your church understand that all Christians are missionaries? How do you adequately communicate, so that it sticks, that all children of God are called to join his salvation mission? Yesterday at Central, we distributed $15,000 among every one of our members and guests in the worship assembly and asked them to use the money to bless somebody this week in the name and manner of Jesus.

The $15,000 came from our foreign and local missions committees — $7,500 from each — and was split up and stuffed into the envelopes on Thursday. Forty-five of the envelopes contained one-hundred dollar bills, forty contained fifty-dollar bills, and the rest ranged from $40 down to $10. And when the time came toward the end of the sermon yesterday, the shuffled envelopes were handed out to every one of the surprised congregants with a charge to use this money to further the salvation mission of our God.

I don’t know what’s going to happen this week in Amarillo. But the pictures are already being posted and the stories are already being shared on social media with the hashtag #sentbycentral

Families are having important missions conversations. Some of our small groups are combining their money to make a significant Gospel impact in someone else’s life. I don’t know what I’m going to do with the ten dollars I received, but if I believe what I told our church yesterday, that money has been provided by God and I am a missionary equipped and sent by Central to proclaim the Good News.

The truth is there are men and women and young folks in our church who know people I’ll never meet. The circles our people run in contain circumstances I’ll never know about. Every child of God is uniquely equipped to minister to somebody the bigger church just isn’t. Or can’t.

Not everybody can spend two weeks in Kenya every summer. Not all of us can volunteer at HopeChoice or Bivins Elementary every week. Maybe there’s no way you could go to Brazil or teach a class at The PARC or join a medical mission to Guatemala. So you don’t feel like a missionary. You don’t see yourself on mission.

The Bible calls us ambassadors for Christ. It says we’ve all been given God’s ministry of reconciliation. Jesus says on the last day the King will judge all of us according to who’s on mission and who’s not.

I hope that yesterday we equipped our people and inspired them to see themselves as missionaries. I pray that, as a result, hundreds of people in Amarillo and beyond will be blessed by our God this week to experience his love and grace through his children at Central.

Peace,

Allan

Just Say the Word

A Roman centurion approaches Jesus in Matthew 8 and asks him to heal his servant back home. “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof,” he says to Jesus, “but just say the word, and my servant will be healed.” Jesus observed that this soldier had great faith.

This Roman officer recognizes the power of Jesus. He calls Jesus “Lord” twice. This commander of men addresses Jesus as Lord when he was sworn to reserve that title for Caesar. You can’t serve two masters; there can only be one Lord. And this military officer says it’s Jesus. He recognizes Jesus as the superior and sovereign King, the true One, the only One, who can heal his servant. He recognizes Jesus’ power over nature and the elements, his power over demons and sickness and death. He knows Jesus’ power: Just say the word.

Here’s a commander of a hundred men in the Roman army. He’s stationed at a garrison just east of Capernaum. This officer has total control over the men in his company. He tells them when to come and when to go. They don’t use the restroom without his permission. Not only that, he controls all the Jews in this land they’re governing. With just a word, this centurion can order any Tom, Dick, or Larry on the street to march a mile or dig a ditch or carry a cross for a condemned criminal. This guy understands power. And he says to Jesus, “Just say the word.”

“Lord, just as easily as I tell Private Ted to clean his shield or mop the floor or drop and give me twenty, that easy, just say the word and my servant will be healed. I know that whatever you say happens. You just say the word and the forces that have paralyzed my servant will let him go. I have the authority to issue commands. My authority to make things happen comes from a higher power, from a general, from Caesar himself. But you, Jesus, you receive your power and authority from Almighty God in heaven!”

This commander’s faith is not great because he has confidence that Jesus can heal. His faith is great because he knows Jesus’ power comes¬† from God and Jesus has the authority from God to issue commands on God’s behalf.

Psalm 107 says, “God sends forth his word and heals.”

This army officer has picked up on the fact that Jesus is God’s Word, sent by God to heal.

Jesus tells this commander, “Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.” And the Gospel says his servant was healed at that very hour.

This is the beautiful reality in Jesus as the Son of God. The reality is he is almighty, he is all powerful, and he alone has the authority and power to heal and forgive and provide and protect. That’s the reality. And he willingly went to the cross to make that reality ultimately true for anything and everything that’s going on in your life today.

Just say the word, Jesus.

And he did. In the garden.¬† “Not my will, Father, but yours be done.”

And he said it on the cross. “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Jesus would rather die for you than live without you. And he trusted himself to God, he put his own great faith in God, so the doors to the Kingdom of Heaven can be opened for you and for all who believe.

“It is finished!”

Now, there’s a word.

Peace,

Allan

 

Bucket List Opportunity

I have room for eight to ten more folks on our sightseeing trip to Israel May 28 – June 7 this year. This summer’s tour will be my fourth to lead and my fifth trip overall to the Holy Lands. If it’s on your bucket list, I’d encourage you to jump in with us.

We spend all of the ten-day tour in Israel, which allows us to visit all the sites literally from Dan to Beersheba at a leisurely and low-stress pace; we’ll take in once-in-a-lifetime experiences such as wading through the 2,700-year-old Hezekiah’s Tunnel, sharing a picnic on the banks of the Jordan River, floating on the Dead Sea, sailing on the Sea of Galilee, and praying in the Garden of Gethsemane; we’ll spend our evenings together in worship and reflection, processing what we’ve experienced that day and preparing for the next day’s agenda; and our tour is limited to 30-people, allowing us to enjoy guided tours and restaurants together and giving us more room to spread out on the air-conditioned bus.

Every paragraph of Holy Scripture contains geography, landscape, architecture, people, food, customs, dress, animals, agriculture, and rituals that serve to communicate the history and fact of God and his activity in our world. As we explore first-hand the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of Israel on our trip, the story of our God’s faithful love will expand and deepen to penetrate your heart and soul like no other experience can. You’ll never read the Bible in the same way again.

 

 

 

 

 

Click here 2020Brochure to download the brochure with all the information and details. And holler at me if you have any questions.

Shalom!

Allan

Sheer Mercy

I waited tables at a Red Lobster one summer when I was in college. This was back in the 1980s when the restaurant offered an all-you-can-eat popcorn shrimp dinner on Tuesdays. One Tuesday evening a man sat down in my section and placed four five-dollar bills on the edge of the table. He said to me, “I want the all-you-can-eat popcorn shrimp with double fries and an iced tea. This twenty dollars is your tip. Every time I have to ask for more shrimp or more tea, I’m putting one of these five-dollar bills back in my pocket.”

I was both shocked and thrilled by this man’s great generosity and my great opportunity. I thought, “This doesn’t happen in real life! This only happens in the movies! This guy must have won the lottery or something!”

Over the next hour or so, I made sure this man’s glass was never below half-full and that he never had to wait in between bits of popcorn shrimp. I got that twenty dollars. And I felt like I earned it. We had an arrangement. I met my end of the bargain and he met his.

Grace is not like that at all. Mercy is not an arrangement that obligates two parties. And that’s what makes it so hard to receive.

God’s mercy doesn’t fit our paradigm. It’s not how we operate. We function according to merit. Our world and all its systems are based on merit. We work for what we get and we mostly get what we deserve. In school, we get good grades or bad grades and, most of the time, it reflects what we’ve put in. We get promotions and pay raises for the work we do. If we make an investment or render a service, we expect to get paid.

To receive mercy is to accept that you are powerless. It’s to place yourself in debt. It’s to understand that you are incapable of taking care of yourself or of saving yourself. It’s to admit that you are broken, you’re helpless, you’re unable and weak. And we are not very good at that at all.

It might seem like a little thing, but we have changed the word in the ancient hymn, “Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed?” I’m not sure when it happened, but the line in the newer hymnals reads, “Would he devote that sacred head for such a one as I?” Why?

Because I’m not a worm! I’m not unworthy! I’m not weak or incapable or hopeless!

That’s what makes it so hard to receive mercy. But if you can humble yourself to receive the mercy of God, if you can see your hands as empty and yourself as having nothing to offer, it’ll change everything.

That same summer at Red Lobster, a young couple sat down in my section on a Friday night. The place was packed, I was running like crazy between my four tables, and I messed things up with this couple very early in our relationship. I got their salad dressings wrong and the guy had to flag me down for some more tea. They had to wait forever for their food. I was so busy with my other tables, I let their dinner sit in the pickup window too long. And when I delivered their plates, I could tell I was not going to get a tip.

So, I quit on them.

I dropped off the check and didn’t talk to them again. It was already decided, I didn’t have a chance. So, I didn’t refill their drinks, I didn’t check back with them, I completely ignored them the rest of the meal, and I was relieved when they finally got up and left. And they left me a twenty-dollar tip.

It felt different than the way it did with the popcorn shrimp guy. It changed me. I didn’t deserve this tip, I didn’t do anything to earn it. I had no idea why they did that for me. It didn’t make sense. It didn’t fit the framework. It was sheer mercy. And it transformed me. For the rest of that summer, I saw people differently. I treated people differently. I saw myself and my responsibilities as a waiter differently. Mercy will do that.

God’s mercy is a free gift. It’s free for you with all your baggage and all your mess. It’s free for you and all your powerlessness and helplessness. That’s what makes it so transforming. You can’t earn it. Salvation is an entirely unmerited gift, so it blesses you with the freedom and the power to change. The problem comes when we try to earn it, when we want to feel like we’ve done enough. We try to get ourselves over the minimum number of good deeds required by God to be worth of his love and grace, but it doesn’t work that way.

Against all odds and against all circumstances, God in Christ takes care of all your needs. In shocking and thrilling fashion, Jesus becomes your sin and carries it to the cross. We’ve got so much guilt, we’ve got so much shame. All of us. We’ve got regrets. And our sin, my goodness — none of us has a chance. Except for the sheer mercy of Jesus. At the cross, Jesus settles all your business, he pays all your debts, he heals your disease, and he finishes your work. Just humble yourself to receive it.

Trust him with everything. Give him your doubts. Give him your fears. Admit all that up front: “Lord, I’m a mess!” It’s OK. Our God is big enough and strong enough to handle whatever you can throw at him. And he will receive you and accept you, not for anything you’re done or might probably do in the future, but because of what Jesus has done and promises to do for you forever.

Peace,

Allan

About Last Night

Contrary to what it feels like today in Amarillo and the entire panhandle, Texas Tech DID NOT win the Super Bowl last night. That was a professional football team from Kansas City, Missouri.

Patrick Mahomes played his worst game as an NFL quarterback last night and still won the Super Bowl and was named the game’s MVP. That doesn’t give the rest of the AFC much hope for the next ten years.

Peace,

Allan

Something New March 1-2

The four downtown Amarillo churches are bringing together four remarkable preachers for the first “4Amarillo Preachers Conference for Everybody” March 1-2. We’re calling the conference “Easter’s Coming. So What?” And it’s open to all preachers, all church leaders, all church members, and anyone eager to reawaken within themselves and their congregations the deep urgency and immense joy in the Resurrection of Jesus.

This is a free two-day event for everyone. Four of the best communicators in our fellowships are joining us for worship, to preach their favorite Easter sermons, and to share their own insights and experiences in proclaiming the Good News.

On Sunday morning March 1, each of the four preachers will preach at his or her host congregation in downtown Amarillo. Chris Seidman, the lead minister at The Branch Church in Dallas, will be preaching with us at Central. The world-famous Joel Gregory will be at First Baptist, Alyce McKenzie will preach at Polk Street United Methodist, and Ron Scates will be at First Presbyterian.

Then Sunday evening all four of our churches will gather at First Baptist for an hour of ecumenical worship with our combined choirs and all four speakers in a panel discussion answering the “So what?” of Easter. What does the truth of Easter mean to a broken world? Why should our city, this country, the world give a flip about the resurrection of Jesus? How does the resurrection make a hill of beans of difference to anybody? Everyone’s invited for the inspiring music, the ecumenical fellowship, and the important conversation.

Then, Monday, for the main event at Polk Street, each of our four preachers will have one hour to preach their all-time best or favorite Easter sermon and then to say anything they want to say about preaching: exegesis, hermeneutics, study, presentation, prayer, formatting a sermon, helpful hints, how not to preach, why preaching is important, personal stories, encouragement, whatever. It’ll start at 8:30 Monday morning, March 2, and we’ll have everybody out of there by 2:00pm. Breakfast and lunch are provided for everyone who attends.

Please click here to check the schedule, to see the speakers and sermon topics, links to the four churches, and to register. It’s free, but we’d like to get a ballpark number on a head-count so we know how much food to prepare. If you know someone who would like to attend, please forward this blog post or the link to him or her and help us spread the word.

If you have any questions or suggestions, I’d love to hear from you.

May our God be praised by the bold and unceasing proclamation of the Good News. And may our Christian unity point the world to our powerful and loving Savior Jesus Christ.

Peace,

Allan

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