Thirty-Onederful Gallons

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Last night our annual 4 Amarillo week concluded with our traditional ice cream social here at Central. Thirty-one Central ice cream makers and servers lined up to treat our brothers and sisters from First Baptist, First Presbyterian, and Polk Street United Methodist Churches with their own brands of both traditional and not-so-traditional homemade ice cream flavors. Everything from Bob Patrick’s “Plain Vanilla” and Callie Borger’s “Strawberry” to Jimmy Cobb’s “Sextuple C” and Carrie-Anne’s “Toasted Coconut Cream” (best one).

As part of the fun, we had our four assistant pastors serve as ice cream judges. Kevin Deckard, Murray Gossett, Reed Redus, and our own Greg Dowell faced the difficult task with dogged determination, fearless resolve, and 31 plastic spoons. Here are the official results:

Most Creative – Big Red – Kristin McCarrell
Best Presentation – Strawberry Chocolate Chip – Lenda Burk
Most Dangerous – Butter Brickle – Leon Wood
Best Fruit Flavor – Blackberry – Matthew Blake
Best Mix – Banana Nut – Vickie Nelson
Best Classic Flavor – Strawberry Banana – Scottie Witt
Best Overall – Pecan Caramel Crunch – Connie Crawford

First Presbyterian’s Howard Griffin stole a bit from the CofC’s Max Lucado to illustrate just how much noise a bunch of Christian denominations make when they’re shouting their own names but how clearly the name of our Lord is proclaimed and heard when we shout his. Powerful. We watched a slide show that captured most of what our God is doing through our four churches this week at Habitat for Humanity and at the Bible Block Parties at Margaret Wills and San Jacinto Elementary schools. We passed out the T-shirts, ate a little more ice cream, and vowed to continue working and worshiping, serving and seeking our God together as one united group of disciples of Jesus.

It’s one of my favorite nights of the year — definitely in my top two. Thank you to all who made and served the ice cream. Thank you to everyone who’s contributing their own time and energy this week to the faithful efforts to share the love of Christ with the city of Amarillo. And may our Lord continue to work in us and through us — together! — to his eternal glory and praise.

Peace,

Allan

4 Amarillo & Heal the City

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We believe anytime our four downtown churches come together to worship or to serve — to do anything together! — it is an undeniable witness to our city that our God is bigger than our denominational walls and his Kingdom is here and it’s coming and we’re all in on it. Nights like last night here at Central are proof that God is moving powerfully in our city.

More than a thousand Christians from Central, First Baptist, First Presbyterian, and Polk Street United Methodist Church came together here to praise God, to celebrate our unity in the Spirit of Christ, and to be that testimony to Amarillo and beyond. The combined choir of more than a hundred gifted disciples gave beautiful voice to the spirit of grace and peace between our four congregations. Kim started us off with an energetic call to worship from Psalm 32, Burt gave us the expected one-liners, and Howie’s riveting Gospel narrative centering on the healing work of our Lord Jesus was as inspiring as it was clever. A wonderful, wonderful evening together. Only the Prince of Peace can create and sustain the kind of unity that exists between our four downtown churches. And we praise God for that.

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The leadership of our four churches announced last night a brand new partnership, as a group, with Heal the City Free Clinic. Beginning December 5, the churches of 4 Amarillo will have volunteers at Heal the City every Monday night to provide prayers and pastoral care to the patients.

First Presbyterian has the first Monday of every month, Central has the second Monday, Polk Street is taking the third, and First Baptist has the fourth Monday of each month. We will be there to pray with the patients, to listen, and to provide any spiritual care that’s needed.

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We’re all excited about the potential to join the Gospel work that’s being done at Heal the City. And we give this new partnership to our God for his purposes and to his eternal glory and praise.

Peace,

Allan

God On The Move

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Three of the local TV stations did stories last night about our annual 4 Amarillo week. You can access the Channel 4 story by clicking here, the Channel 7 story here, and the channel 10 story here.

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I would ask you to please be in prayer this week for our churches and for all the people who are being impacted by these work projects. Pray for the women who will live in these renovated apartments. Coming out of abuse and addiction, enrolled in skills and coping programs, these women desperately need the kind of fresh start and support these little town homes will give them. And pray for the families of the children who are being fed lunch and told about the love of Jesus at Wills and San Jacinto elementary schools. These kids and their folks are mostly living day to day, financially distressed, transient, the majority of them with little to no knowledge of our risen and reigning Lord Jesus.

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May God’s will be done in us and through us to his eternal glory and praise!

Peace,

Allan

Paint, Diapers, and Praise

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Our annual “4 Amarillo” week got off to a fantastic start last night as all four downtown congregations came together at Polk Street United Methodist Church to worship God and to bless a couple of our area ministry partners.
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I think it’s a blessing every time our four churches get together to worship, to work, to eat ice cream, to do anything. It’s a privilege, an honor. To lift up songs of praise together, to pray words of thanksgiving together, to listen to God’s Word together, to acknowledge that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ together — it’s beyond beautiful. And while I appreciate the value this partnership is to our churches, I still believe the greatest worth of our cooperation is in the powerful witness to our community. “4 Amarillo” proclaims to the whole city and anybody else who is paying attention that we serve a God who is bigger than our individual churches; we serve a risen and reigning King who overcomes all our institutional differences; we have much more in common together in Christ than any problems that could ever divide us. It’s an undeniable witness that we all truly believe Jesus came to this earth, died, and was raised again in order to break down all the barriers between men and women and God, and between all men and women. We believe it, and we practice it. Together. Whew! It’s so strong!

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For the whole month of June our four churches have been collecting diapers for CareNet’s new headquarters just down the street at 15th and Taylor. CareNet is a local organization that upholds the dignity of all human life, working tirelessly to protect all children of God, born and unborn. But they don’t do it with protests or petitions or public demonstrations or political campaigns. They do it with love and relationship and mercy and grace. It’s Gospel. And now they have purchased the old Planned Parenthood building here in downtown Amarillo and have remodeled it and moved in. So we collected several thousand diapers among our four churches — they distribute about two thousand per month — and walked across 15th street together last night to welcome CareNet to the neighborhood.

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For the rest of this week we’ve taken on the task of repairing and painting several of the apartments at Jackson and 12th that are being refurbished for use as transitional housing for the Downtown Women’s Center. Greg is coordinating volunteers from all four churches — cleaning, repairing floors and walls and ceilings, painting, replacing light fixtures and toilets. And at the same time, as every year, we’re running a couple of outdoor Vacation Bible Schools — we call them Bible Block Parties — at Margaret Wills and San Jacinto Elementary Schools.

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I praise God for the Christ-like culture in our four churches that allows us to run after our Lord’s vision for the unity of his people for the sake of the world. I have to continually remind our folks that the vast majority of our brothers and sisters in the Churches of Christ do not have the same opportunities. Fellowshipping and worshiping and serving with other Christians in other denominations isn’t even an option for most CofCers. I praise God that his Spirit has moved us in Amarillo to embrace one another in Christ. And I pray that his holy will be done in and through our churches for the sake of Amarillo and to his eternal glory.

Peace,

Allan

Maundy Means Commands

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JesusWashingFeetToday is Maundy Thursday, the day Christians all over the world remember the events of the night our Lord Jesus was betrayed by his disciples. Yeah, remember, it wasn’t just Judas who betrayed Jesus; he was just the only one who got paid. They all fled that night when things got hairy. They all abandoned Jesus (Well, the guys did. According to the Gospels, the women were the only ones who did not flee the scene. They stood by their man, as it were, through the trials, the suffering, the crucifixion, and the burial).

The word “Maundy” is from a Latin word that means “commands.” That word has been used by Christians to describe that last night for centuries because Jesus gave his followers several commands during that last meal:

“Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” ~John 13:14-15

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” ~John 13:34

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” ~John 15:12

Today is a day of solemn remembrance. Easter Sunday — I can’t wait for Easter, I love Easter, Resurrection! — is a day for exuberant celebration. But Maundy Thursday is for individual and corporate reflection. Inspection. Introspection. How have I betrayed my Lord? Am I keeping his commands? In what ways do I continually deny my Savior?

He told his disciples that night around the table to remain in his love, to obey his commands. At a meal together, he asked them to obey his commands just as he had obeyed the commands of the Father. And then he says it: My command is that you love each other as I have loved you. You’re my friends, he says, if you do what I command (John 15:9-14).

Are we obeying his primary command to love each other? Are we showing Christ Jesus’ sacrificial, servant-hearted, selfless love to other followers? Or do we betray our Lord and disobey his command by judging other disciples and withdrawing from other followers? Are we loving and serving all Christians as Jesus commanded, as he prayed to our Father on that dark night we would, or do we only love and serve Christians who think and behave exactly like we do? Do we reject Jesus’ command by criticizing other churches, even condemning them, because we have different understandings or different practices?

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Here at Central, we’re trying to love all Christians in Amarillo the way Jesus showed us during that last meal on that Thursday night. We’re trying to be sacrificial. We’re trying to be servants. We’re trying to come closer together with other Christians. We’re trying to erase the man-made lines of distinction and focus on the many, many things we all have in common in our Lord Jesus. No judgments. No criticisms. More grace. More forgiveness. More service. More love. We’re not perfect at this yet; nobody’s arrived. But we’re trying.

Tonight, our church family joins with our brothers and sisters at First Baptist, First Presbyterian, and Polk Street Methodist for a time of worship and communion with each other and with our risen and coming Lord. We’re going to reflect together. We’re going to inspect our lives together. We’re going to eat and drink together. And we’re going to commit to the Maundy Thursday spirit of paying attention to Jesus’ commands. And obeying them.

Peace,

Allan

Repent and Believe the Gospel

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AshWednesdayThis post is mainly for all of us Church of Christ lifers. We know “separate and apart,” we know Acts 2:38, we know “the church is not the building, it’s the people,” we know 728B. We’ve got the stamp on our heels. Three songs and a prayer. “Guide, guard, and direct us.” We know who we are.

And we’re uncomfortable with liturgy.

It’s nothing to be ashamed of. We come by it naturally. Our movement has traditionally and, largely, uncritically rejected almost all forms of Christian liturgy as symbols of religious excess and tools for clerical abuse. As non-scriptural innovations. As rote formulas and meaningless ritual. Most of us can’t help the way a memorized creed or a written prayer makes us feel. We were raised to believe it wasn’t real, it didn’t come from the heart, unless you made it up on the spot.

Let me invite you to participate in an Ash Wednesday service somewhere today.

Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent, the season of repentance and prayer and fasting before Easter. In the early decades of Christianity, this 40-day period was observed by candidates for baptism, which was typically reserved for Easter Sunday. In the third and fourth centuries, people who were separated from the Church because of their sin observed a season of Lent as they were restored to fellowship. Then, over time, the Church recognized that it would be good for all Christians to enter a time of repentance and prayer and fasting. All Christians need to be reminded that repentance is a daily exercise, not a one time event. All Christians need the assurance of the forgiveness and salvation that is promised in the Good News, that was accomplished in the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus.

So, I would encourage you to find an Ash Wednesday service somewhere today and go.

It might be a brand new thing for you. It might be a little strange. It might be really beautiful. You might learn something, you might see something, you might hear something or experience something that might really bless you and increase your faith.

The ashes on your forehead are a physical reminder of the Gospel: God created us out of his great love, we have sinned and fallen short of his glory, we are in desperate need of forgiveness and salvation, he forgives us and restores us through Christ Jesus our Lord. The ashes remind us that we are human — we are made of dust and to dust we will return — and that we need God. They also serve as a symbol of sorrow for sin and repentance. And they acknowledge that the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ Jesus surpasses in glory the burnt offerings made by the priests. That’s why when the pastor puts the ashes on your forehead he says, “Repent and believe the Gospel.”

Go find an Ash Wednesday service. Go with a group of people so you can process it together afterward. Ask God to speak to you during that service, to reveal himself to you, to grow your faith in him, and to strengthen the bond you have with all disciples of Christ throughout all Christian denominations. As you leave the assembly in silence, be resolved to remain in the Word, to continually self-reflect, and to be in constant prayer.

Nothing will be off the cuff. It will all be carefully scripted. And maybe, just maybe, by God’s grace and the power of his Spirit, it might be exactly what you need.

Peace,

Allan