Category: Ministry (page 1 of 27)

“In the World, Not Of the World”

The man comes up to Jesus and he’s covered with leprosy. He falls with his face to the ground and says, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” And Jesus say, “If I’m willing?!? Of course, I’m willing!!! That’s why I’m here! Be clean!!” And he healed him immediately.

A widow is wailing over the death of her only Son. Jesus says to her, “Don’t cry.” He raises the young man from the dead and gives him back to his mother. All the crowd is filled with awe and they praise God saying, “God has come to help his people!”

Everywhere our Lord goes, everywhere he is, he shines the light of love and forgiveness, he brings the Kingdom of grace and hope. In a culture of hate and violence and lies, Jesus is love and mercy and truth. He brings it. He lives it. People are blessed and the world is changed.

And then on that last night, around the table with his followers, our Lord Jesus prays. He prays for all people “that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). He tells the Father “they know I came from you, they believe you sent me” (John 17:8). He tells God “everybody knows you sent me” (John 17:25). And he prays for his disciples:

“My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” ~John 17:15-18

Then Jesus is arrested and crucified. Out of his deep love for us and his commitment to our forgiveness and righteousness and peace, he gives his life. On the third day, God’s Holy Spirit brings our Lord out of the grave. That evening the risen and reigning Jesus eats dinner with his followers and says:

“As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” ~John 20:21

When Jesus says we’re not of this world, that’s not a final destination or a future goal — it’s a starting point. By our baptisms and the indwelling Holy Spirit, we are members of the family of God, we are citizens of the heavenly Kingdom, like Jesus. And, like Jesus, being not of this world is so we can be sent into this world.

I’ve heard it said all my life — you and I have probably both said this many times: “We’re in this world but we’re not of this world.” The way we say it implies that being in the world is a temporary accident we have to endure or, at worst, a really bad circumstance we must fight. We’ve paraphrased Jesus’ words into an isolationists slogan. We make it sound like we’re above everything and we need to take care of ourselves first and be separate from the world.

No, we’ve got it backwards!

Jesus says we’re not of this world precisely so we can be sent into the world. In the world is intentional, it’s the very core of God’s eternal plans. The Church is not a community of cautious isolation, we’re a group committed to courageous transformation! We don’t run from the world or rail against the world; we are racing into the world with the amazing story of God’s love that has captured our hearts and commissioned our lives! God gathers us together in his Church so we can better be on point for his mission in the world!



Baptism Fruit

We’ve got seven months to learn how to pronounce Tagovailoa.
Jalen Hurts and the Alabama kicker have six months to pick out a dorm room at Texas Tech.


John the Baptist is preparing the way for the Lord. He’s getting all the people ready to meet the coming Messiah. He’s baptizing in the desert, people are repenting, and their sins are being forgiven. John the Baptist is doing what needs to be done so people can see the Lord.

“Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.
Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth.
And all mankind will see God’s salvation.”
~Luke 3:4-6

Our job as a church full of Christians is to make it easier for people to see God’s salvation. We are in the business of preparing the way, making it easier for people to see and experience what God is doing. And these are the questions we need to be asking: How do we level the mountains? How do we straighten out the crooked roads? What can we do to smooth out the rough places? How do we make it easier for more men and women to see and experience God’s salvation?

Well, John the Baptist tells us:

“Produce fruit in keeping with repentance!” ~Luke 3:8

You’re repenting of your sins, John says. You’re being baptized for the forgiveness of your sins. Now make sure your lives reflect that. Make sure you’re consistent with that.

“What should we do then?” the crowd asked.
John answered, “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.”
Tax collectors also came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”
“Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.
Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”
He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely — be content with your pay.”
~Luke 3:10-14

Share your possessions with others. Pursue economic justice for others. Treat others fairly.

Being baptized means you’re all in. Your sins are forgiven, you’re cleansed; but that’s not all. You’re commissioned, you’re charged with ministry, with living your life in such a way that others can see and experience the salvation works of God. The same thing happened when Jesus was baptized. He didn’t need forgiveness; this was the commissioning point of his ministry. His ministry was launched in the waters of baptism.

“When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized, too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; I am well pleased!'” ~Luke 3:21-22

God anoints his Son with his Holy Spirit. He’s consecrating Jesus, ordaining him for ministry. God makes a public declaration of his relationship to his Son and at that point, verse 23, Jesus begins his ministry. He is full of the Holy Spirit (4:1), led by the Holy Spirit (4:1), and empowered by the Holy Spirit (4:14).

Through the rest of the Gospel we watch as our Lord Jesus shines God’s salvation light into darkness. Jesus lays his hands on the crippled woman and heals her. He eats dinner at the Pharisee’s house. He interacts with and serves the Samaritan lepers. He stays with Zacchaeus and calls him a son. Jesus looks at the sinful woman at Simon’s house and says, “Your sins are forgiven.” He says “Let the little children come to me with all their sticky hands and runny noses.” He holds them, touches them, blesses them.

Everywhere our Lord goes, everywhere he is, he shines the light of love and forgiveness. He brings the Kingdom of grace and hope. In a culture of hate and violence and lies, our Lord Jesus is love and mercy and truth. He brings it. He lives it. And people are blessed and the world is changed.

And on that last night, around the table with his closest followers, he looks us in the eye and says, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit — fruit that will last” (John 15:16).

By our baptisms and by the indwelling Holy Spirit, we are to go into our communities and do the same things Jesus did in order that more men and women might see God’s salvation. All of us are called to seek and save, to heal and forgive, to love and reconcile — to bear baptism fruit.



Harvey Buckets Locked and Loaded

Please see the previous post regarding the Hurricane Bucket Challenge. Central Church of Christ is the official drop-off location for the city of Amarillo and the entire Texas Panhandle. C-A and I have completed our buckets and will have them at Central first thing in the morning.

Why don’t you join us?



Hurricane Bucket Challenge

Central Church of Christ is the Hurricane Bucket Challenge drop-off site for the city of Amarillo and the entire Texas Panhandle. Churches of Christ all over the Southwest are cooperating with the Grace Crossing Community Church of Christ in Conroe, Texas to provide cleaning tools and supplies to help the thousands of displaced families in the Houston area get back into their homes.

To participate, fill a five-gallon bucket with the items on this list and bring the bucket to Central Church of Christ (1401 S. Monroe, Amarillo) any day beginning this Sunday September 3. We’ll collect the buckets and make sure they all get to the hurricane response staging site at Grace Crossing.

I don’t know yet if we’re going to load up a U-Haul and drive it down to Houston once a week for the next couple of months or if we’re going to need to rent a huge semi-tractor-trailer — I have no idea how many of these buckets are going to come in. I know the good families at Bivins Elementary are going to want to participate and some of our high school students at Central are already planning to get their schools involved.

All the details are on our church website here. You can view the Hurricane Bucket Challenge video here (my soul dies a little bit every time I see Doug Peters wearing an Astros cap). And you can share this information on Facebook or other social media by clicking here. If you’re reading this from outside the Panhandle, check the list of churches close to your area.

We’re getting our buckets today, one for each member of our family, and filling them up and bringing them to church tomorrow. Why don’t you do the same? And spread the word.

What a joy to share our resources with those in need! May our gifts bring glory to God and point to his Son, our Lord Jesus! And may God’s will be done in Houston just as it is in heaven!



Burritos, Bounce Houses, and a Band

When you’re moving your church’s traditional back-to-school picnic from your building on a Sunday morning to the campus of the nearest elementary school, when you’re inviting that school’s 550-students and their families, and when you’re doing this to communicate to your city that God’s Church is a community partner with them for the sake of good things, how do you guarantee that you’re going to get a crowd? Free burritos, bounce houses, and a live band.

Putting the school’s principal and the church’s preacher in a dunking booth didn’t hurt.

Central’s first “The End of Summer’s No Bummer” bash at Bivins Elementary last Wednesday evening was a roaring success by anybody’s measure. We gave away 450 burritos, ate and jumped and dunked and danced with a ton of people from our nearby community, and shared a whole lot of good will together in the name of our Lord. Principal Benny Barazza has given us almost unlimited access to his school, his students, and their families, and we’re doing our best to use these opportunities to share the generous love of Christ.

Today’s Amarillo Globe-News features a front-page, above-the-fold story about the Bivins event and all the local ministry projects sparked by Central’s “Ignite Initiative” (click here to read the AGN story). Our church has given away $125,000 over the past five months to five different non-profit organizations, we’ve supplied those same organizations with volunteers and summer interns, and we’re beside ourselves with anticipation over what God’s going to keep doing with these new mission partnerships. Lauren Koski’s story in today’s paper captured all of that with great pictures and interviews with Mary McNeill, our children’s minister, Benny Barazza at Bivins, Valerie Gooch, the executive director at Panhandle Adult Rebuilding Center, and Tyler Lovett, our summer intern at The PARC.

More and more, “missions” at Central is starting to mean both foreign and local ministry, it’s about both what God is doing overseas and what he’s doing across the street. And our community is taking notice. Christ’s Church is here to make an eternal difference in the lives of men, women, and children in our city. We’re here to serve others in the name and manner of Jesus.



Joy in the Lord

You don’t necessarily have to turn on the evening news. In fact, do people even turn on the evening news anymore? All you have to do is not have your head buried in the sand to know that there is a great deal of anxiety and worry in our society. The state of things right now can very easily drag you down and steal your joy. How is it that the Bible commands children of God and disciples of Christ Jesus to always rejoice?

Well, where are your eyes? What are you looking at? What or who are you listening to?

As followers of Jesus, we are very well aware of all the things God is doing in us and through us. We can always rejoice in the knowledge and experience of God working among us. And that’s always constant. That never changes. God is always at work. We see the evidence of his great work, we sense the working out of his redemption and reconciliation plans, we feel his hand at work in us and through us, saving and changing lives all around us. The Lord is always at work among us and that is always reason to rejoice.

I see it in the Central teenagers who stop by my office on the way to Chick-Fil-A for a free promotional sandwich. Ellie and Justin are pouring into those kids the same grace that God has shown them and the kids are eating it up. I see it in the 30 men from Canadian Church of Christ with whom I had the great honor of hanging out with in Angel Fire this weekend. God is on the move with these men — moving in them and through them — and they are on fire for God’s mission in this world. I hear it when Valerie, our middle daughter, calls me from Arlington to tell me she’s changing her major from childhood education to youth ministry. God’s Spirit is changing Valerie forcefully and beautifully into a dedicated servant of the Gospel. I sense it when Carley, our youngest daughter, shows up in all the pictures from the Sao Paulo mission trip — painting, laughing, serving children, worshiping, leading. She’s finding her gifts and settling into her place in the Kingdom.














I see it when my brothers and sisters at Central join forces to do good deeds for people in downtown Amarillo. We’re making gift bags for the staff and clients at CareNet and Gratitude House. We’re cleaning the carpets and painting the doors at PARC. We’re painting the storage shed and spreading new wood chips on the playground at Elwood Park. We’re giving away 200 books and reading the children at Bivins Elementary. We’re treating the ladies at Martha’s Home to a dinner out at a nice restaurant.


Our God is working in and through everything that’s going on around us. That knowledge and that experience gives us a stable and deep-rooted joy — an inner joy — that enables us to not only cope with disappointments, but to see things as they really are. In any and all circumstances God is always at work among his people. And that is always reason to rejoice.



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