Category: Ministry (page 1 of 29)

Helpful in His Spirit

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all people. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope — the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” ~Titus 2:11-14

While we wait for the coming of Christ, we are to help others in the name and the manner of the One who came here to help us. During this Advent Season, we notice in the birth of Jesus that our God does not separate himself from the pain of the world. God through Christ enters the pain of others. He takes your pain into himself, he becomes your sin for you and takes it to the cross where he annihilates it forever. He dwells with us today in the middle of our suffering by his Holy Spirit. God has come to help his people. And as a people belonging to God, we join him in helping others. We are helpful in his spirit, in his name and manner, eager to do what is good.

We look to Jesus and we do God’s work for others the way he does it. In humility. No arrogance. No lording it over anybody. No beating anybody over the head with a stick. Or a Bible. Or a doctrine or tradition. Humility and service and love.

Look at the first coming of Jesus. God’s way is to join people where they are, level with them in their contexts, serve their needs, honor their humanity, become one with them, become one of them, even to the point of risking terrible loss. God could have very easily come to this earth to dominate us, to force us, to overpower us, and push us to where he wants us to go, even for our own good. But he didn’t. He came to us in humility and grace. To help.

And helping others is not something we do to get salvation, it is our salvation. We are being saved, we are being taught and shaped; it’s a long process. We do keep our eyes on that final glorious destination, but never at the expense of the journey. You know, Jesus talked all the  time about the Kingdom of Heaven, but all his teachings had to do with living right here, right now, in the present age, with people.

“You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” ~ 2 Corinthians 8:9

Jesus says whenever you feed someone who’s hungry, you’re feeding me; whenever you give a drink to a thirsty person, you’re giving that drink to me; whenever you invite in a refugee or clothe the needy or visit somebody in prison, you’re helping me. That’s not just a metaphor. That doesn’t mean, “Oh, Jesus’ heart is with those kinds of people.” It means Jesus is those kinds of people!

When God came to earth and put on our flesh and blood, he chose to become homeless. He decided to identify with the jobless, the poor and needy, the hungry. That’s our Lord. And when you decide to follow Jesus, when you pray for God’s Spirit to transform you more into his holy image, you’re deciding to help the people without power, the people without beauty, the people without money and wealth. That’s how you help in his spirit.

The same grace of God that has appeared to all people in Christ Jesus and saves us is the same grace of God that trains us how to live in the present age while we wait for his second appearing. His gracious help for us turns into our help for others.

Peace,

Allan

Benediction

Go forth now as God’s servant. Remember God’s presence often and draw strength from the knowledge that the One who calls and sends also sustains. Amen.

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

Mission From God

Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi made a movie in 1980 about Jake and Elwood Blues. The Blues Brothers are on a “mission from God” to save the orphanage where they were raised. “Mission from God” is the catchphrase throughout the movie. The cops won’t catch us because we’re on a mission from God. The rednecks won’t hurt us because we’re on a mission from God. The lady with the rocket launcher won’t kill us because we’re on a mission from God. We can’t be stopped, we can’t be slowed down, nothing’s going to get in our way, because we’re on a mission from God.

At one of the dramatic points in the movie — yes, there are a couple of dramatic moments in The Blues Brothers — both men get into the car at the same time, they close their doors, and there’s an effective pause. A stillness. Then Aykroyd, in his deadpan, matter of fact way, assesses the situation.

“It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark… and we’re wearing sunglasses.”

To which Belushi points to the road ahead and replies, “Hit it!”

We know our God is on a mission. His mission is not to save an orphanage, although, that is part of it. God’s mission is to save the whole world. The Bible says God is bringing all things in heaven and on earth together in Christ. In Jesus, God is restoring all of creation, he is reconciling all things, he’s tearing down all the walls and destroying all the barriers to bring all people and all things together in Christ. That’s what God is doing. That’s his mission.

And he has no interest in doing it by himself. He calls us to join him.

God tells Abraham he’s going to bless all the peoples of the world, but he’s going to do it through him. He tells Moses, “I have come down to rescue my people, but I’m sending you to the Pharaoh to bring them out.” He tells Joshua, “I am giving this land to my children, but you’re going to lead them in and do the fighting.”

When God shows us in person exactly what he’s doing and how he wants it done, he comes here in the flesh and blood of Jesus. He wants us to see him in action, up close. He wants us to understand. And what we see and understand is Jesus recruiting apostles and disciples to join him in bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to earth.

Jesus heals the sick because there is no disease in heaven. He feeds the poor because there’s no hunger in heaven. Jesus raises the dead because there aren’t any cemeteries in heaven. He turns the other cheek because there is no violence in heaven. He eats dinner with everybody because there is no discrimination in heaven. Heaven on earth. That’s the mission.

Jesus then sends his disciples out with the timeless charge: I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do the same things I’ve been doing! Go! Go do it! I am with you always! And, remember, you didn’t choose me; I chose you! You are the light of the world! You are the city on a hill! Your good deeds bring praise to our Father in heaven!

Every one of us is on a mission from God. None of us is exempt. The Bible calls us ambassadors for Christ. It says we’ve all been given God’s ministry of reconciliation. Jesus says, on that last day, the King will judge us according to who’s on the mission and who’s not.

The people living in darkness need to know there’s another way. And God calls you and me to communicate it. To live it. In a world driven by division and hate, we demonstrate unity and love. In a world built on violence and maintained by punishment, we embody peace and forgiveness. In a world that thrives on judgment, we are a people of grace. In a world that teaches us to take and to look out for number one, children of God and followers of Christ live to give and to consider the needs of others more important than our own. In a broken and fallen world where the evidence of the brokenness surrounds us, we don’t go out and pick a fight; we go out and live the Gospel! We join our God on his mission.

The most dangerous thing we can do is play it safe. We can’t do that when we’re on a mission from God. Today and every day we sail out into the storm trusting our God who said, “I am giving you this land!” We trust our Lord Jesus who said, “I am with you always!” And we trust the Holy Spirit who is already out there, way ahead of us, preparing the good works in advance for us to do.

Nothing can harm us, nothing can stop us, nothing can slow us down, because we’re on a mission from God.

It’s 1,052 miles to Chicago (which has absolutely nothing to do with this part), we’ve got a full tank of Holy Spirit power, a heart for the people God puts in our path, it’s a dark world… and we’re saved by God and called by him to be light.

Hit it!

Peace,

Allan

#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

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