Author: Allan (page 1 of 340)

Carriers of Hope

Social distancing. Flattening the curve. Sheltering in place. We’re physically keeping our distance from others right now to avoid spreading infection. We don’t know if we ourselves are carrying the coronavirus or not. We don’t know who among us is a carrier of this dangerous disease and we don’t want to find out by catching it ourselves.

Are you a carrier? What are you carrying?

Colossians 1 says that God has made the glorious riches of the mystery; this is his holy will for Jews and Gentiles; this is the thing he wants for all people; this is what God has been working on for everybody: “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” The image of God in you, the likeness of Christ in you is about hope. That’s what’s inside you. That’s what you’re carrying. Hope.

And right now I believe the very best thing we can share with those around us is our Christian hope.

Now, “hope” is a funny word. When we say “hope”  in our ordinary English language, we don’t mean something that’s certain. We usually mean it like a wish. We want something to happen, but it might or might not.

“I’m going to the store and I hope they have toilet paper.” They probably won’t.
“I hope it’s going to be a nice spring.” It might.
“I hope the Cowboys win the Super Bowl this year.” That’s just delusional.

Hope in the Bible is not wishful thinking. Christian hope is when God has promised that something is going to happen and you put your trust in that promise. Christian hope is a confidence, a certainty, that it will come to pass because Almighty God promised it’s going to come to pass.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade — kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power.” ~1 Peter 1:3-5

You have been born into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus. You have that hope inside you. And God gives hope to people through you. People place their hope in God after an experience with you. You are a carrier! When you walk into a room, the others around you sense that you’re carrying something, not because you’re coughing or sneezing or because your eyes are red, but because you are kind and gentle and compassionate and forgiving and full of grace.

Our steadfast hope is anchored in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. We are holy carriers of that blessed hope. And that hope compels us to live courageously and to act boldly and for the sake of others, in the face of whatever comes our way.

Peace,

Allan

Church Innovation

We’re doing what we can around here to make sure the mission continues. God is not quarantined. The Gospel is not sheltering in place. Yes, we’re having to adjust. We’re doing things we never thought we’d be doing. Nobody taught me about live stream and Zoom and podcasts at seminary. I never took a course on infectious diseases. But our God is still very much at work in Amarillo, Texas and in and through Central Church of Christ.

“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!” ~John 16:33

Peace,

Allan

Stress Eating

The girls are home from school, Carrie-Anne’s making cookies and enchiladas, we’re playing games and watching movies…

And I’m eating.

It’s communal, it’s recreational, it’s familial, and it’s also related to stress. I’m an anxious eater. And now that the City of Amarillo has today issued a two weeks shelter-in-place order, I’m in trouble. The city’s motto during this virus crisis is “All in Amarillo!” Mine is more like “Supersize for Safety!”

Peace,

Allan

Virus Peace

In the John 9 story of Jesus and the healing of the man born blind, he tells his disciples he is doing the work of the Father. Then he says, “I am the light of the world.” I think in the middle of this virus crisis, we and our churches should let the words and the work of Jesus reassure our peace.

“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!” ~John 16:33

Jesus goes to the town of Sychar and meets a very lonely woman at a well and creates community. He goes to the town of Tiberias and sails with his disciples into the middle of the sea in the middle of a storm and he reveals who he is and turns their great fear into deep faith. He goes to the Gerasenes and finds a man who’s being tormented inside and out and Jesus drives away the man’s demons and makes him completely whole. He goes to the town of Nain and raises the widow’s son, turning her devastation and grief into exhilaration and joy. Jesus goes to the town of Jericho and comes across a rejected and ostracized tax collector in a tree and calls him a beloved son of Abraham. He goes to the town of Capernaum and turns a sinful, paralyzed man lying on his cot into a totally forgiven man leaping and dancing and celebrating in the streets. Jesus goes to the town of Bethany and gave new life to his friend who had been dead in a dark tomb for four days.

Time and time again, constantly, our Lord Jesus walks into anxious circumstances and encounters stressed out, burned out, and broken-down people and he restores order. He creates calm. He provides peace. Over and over, Jesus reveals his identity as the Son of God, he proves his presence with a word and a touch, and he restores your plight and reassures your peace. He says, “I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full.”

I don’t know exactly where your anxiety is with this Coronavirus. Physically. Emotionally. Spiritually. I don’t know where you are. Some of you have told me. I’ve heard some things over the past couple of weeks:

“I’ve got my dad in home hospice – how am I supposed to handle this?”
“I’m a server in a restaurant and for the first time in my life I don’t have a job.”
“I have a job but my kids are out of school and I don’t know what to do.”
“My 401k is in a free fall, I’ve lost nearly 40% of my retirement – I’m nervous.”
“I’ve got heart disease and my daughter has asthma – I’m worried.”

Here’s the best thing I can say. And I believe this with everything in me. God is good. And he is near. God is good and compassionate and loving and kind. And he loves you. And he is with you. His Son, Jesus our Lord, came into this world to suffer with you. He doesn’t bless you from above, he doesn’t save you from afar. He came here to experience everything you experience with you. He is familiar with suffering. He was born in the middle of the night, he was crucified on a day the sun disappeared, and he was raised to eternal life in the dark of the beginning of a brand new age. For you.

He creates peace in your anxiety. He turns your fear into faith. He provides forgiveness for your sins. And he brings life out of death.

He is in your town. And he’s got a handle on this virus.

Peace,

Allan

Virus Purpose

“As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me.” ~John 9:4

We have a tremendous opportunity to point to our Lord Jesus in the ways we behave during this virus crisis. Our perspective is reframed by Christ. We don’t complain or criticize, we don’t point fingers and blame. Like our Lord, we share and sacrifice and serve for the sake of others. There is such an opportunity right now to really stand out as generous and kind.

Whether you go to Wal-Mart eight times a day or once a week, you could knock three or four doors on your street before you go. Ask your neighbors, “Can I get anything for you? I’m going to the store, what do you need?” Maybe you could give toilet paper away on your street. There’s a Seinfeld episode about not being able to spare a square. Maybe you can start a trend by sharing a square, sharing a whole bunch of squares!

The point is: When this thing is over, do we want to be known as greedy hoarders or as generous sharers? At the end of this crisis, we don’t want people to remember that the Christians were the ones buying up all the toilet paper and hamburger meat. We want people to think, “You know, I may not agree with their position on abortion or divorce or whatever, I may not fully understand everything they do on Sundays and why they do it, but those Christians are so kind. They’re so generous. They kept checking up on me. They shared valuable resources with me. They really care about others.”

That’s what brings glory to God. That’s what displays our God’s work in the world.

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We dropped another podcast here at Central yesterday afternoon: a 15-minute conversation with one of our home-school moms, Danna Lagan. She provides helpful tips and encouragement for everyone who became home-school parents for the first time this week. With our schools shut down across the country,  many folks are now stuck at home with the kids and trying to help them with their online learning. An increasing number of grandparents who are raising their grandchildren are now trying to figure out how to help a grandchild with 6th grade math! Danna addresses these things, as well as schedules, power struggles, and outside resources on this podcast. You can access it by clicking here.

Peace,

Allan

Virus Priorities

“As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me.” ~John 9:4

When the grocery store shelves are empty, when your work hours have been cut in half, when the banquet has been canceled, and you don’t even want to look at your 401k — when the news is always breaking, always urgent, and always bad — it’s easy to think only of yourself. It’s tempting to concentrate on your safety, your security, your possessions, and your lifestyle. But Jesus resets your priorities.

Jesus walks into Jerusalem and gives this blind man his sight and brings glory to God. Jesus repairs what is messed up and points to God’s work in the world. Fixing what is broken, making right what has gone wrong — that brings glory to God. Notice how this man’s healing, his circumstance, becomes a display for God’s work. The man publicly testifies that Jesus is from God. He confesses his faith: “Lord, I believe.” The Pharisees accuse and criticize this man. “Give glory to God!” they say. And the healed man responds, “I am! Look what Jesus did for me! I was blind, but now I see!”

Our elders at Central made the decision nine days ago: No matter what happens with this virus, our priority is to love our neighbors, to protect the vulnerable and those at risk, and to minister to the marginalized. That’s the Christian thing to do. That what our Lord Jesus does and that’s what brings glory to God.

Not meeting together as a church right now is a way to love our neighbors. Even if you’re in your 20s and you run a half-marathon twice a month, even if you’re young and completely healthy and you think the national and state response is a bit overblown, not meeting for a while is a faithful attempt during this uncertain time to love neighbors you don’t know and protect vulnerable people you may never meet.

It’s like getting a flu shot. You don’t get a flu shot just for you. You get the shot so you won’t get the flu and pass it on to somebody who might not be able to handle it. If you get the flu, it may only knock you out for a couple of days; but you could then pass it on to somebody it might kill. So you get your flu shot because you love those vulnerable people. You do whatever you can to keep from getting it and spreading it to others.

That’s what we’re doing as a church right now. We are joining our community in trying to flatten the curve. We want to work together so that the peak of the infections will be smaller and more spread out. I’m not sure it’s ultimately going to keep people from getting the disease. But it might slow it down long enough to save more lives.

So we’re not meeting as a group right now. Our Sticky Buddy event for this Sunday night has been canceled (that was a no-brainer; it was at the bowling alley, probably not the most sanitary place in Amarillo). The Evening of Chocolate for tonight has been postponed (there’s a whole bunch of chocolate in this building somewhere; I just haven’t been able to find it). But that doesn’t mean we are not still the Church.

Church is not a building we use once a week on Sunday mornings. Our gatherings are suspended, but our ministries are not. We’re still providing dinner at Martha’s Home and studying and praying and encouraging our sisters there. Loaves and Fishes looks a lot different, but we are still handing out a bunch of groceries on Thursdays. The procedures for Snack Pack for Kids has been modified, but we’re still getting food to the students at Bivins Elementary. Our Sunday morning prayer breakfast was tweaked, but everybody who showed up got a free meal. Our Care Central process is not the same, but we’re still paying water bills and getting state I.D.s and giving out gas cards and praying for everybody who walks through the doors.

We made the decision last Monday. The rule of thumb for us is if it protects the vulnerable, if it comforts the grieving, if it ministers to the marginalized, we’re going to keep doing it. Absolutely. “We must do the work of him who sent me.”

Peace,

Allan

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