Moving Away From the Tomb

Ephesians, Ministry, Resurrection, Romans, Salvation No Comments »

I’m struck by the fact that nobody saw Jesus at the empty tomb. Clearly our risen Lord didn’t hang around the cemetery once the Spirit resurrected him back to life. It seems he got out of there as fast as he could. Yet, here are the women, looking for their living Lord among the graves. The angels ask, almost incredulously, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”

Good question.

Sometimes good faithful Christians can be stuck. We’re dead. Or, at least, we act like we’re dead. Some of us have followed Jesus to Jerusalem. We’ve endured suffering and pain in his name. We’ve carried the cross. Most of us have died on the cross of Christ and, even though we’ve been baptized for the forgiveness of our sins and received the gift of God’s Spirit inside us, we’ve never really been resurrected. Some of us don’t live like we’ve been given the gift of eternal life by the almighty author of life. We live like we’re still dead. We’re still knocking around in the dirt and dark of the grave. And we’re surprised when we have a hard time seeing Jesus. We’re surprised when there’s no experience of Jesus.

The resurrection is not just about heaven someday — it’s about a full life today!

But some of us are still buried in a tomb. We don’t sing. We don’t work. We don’t explore or experiment. We don’t accept challenges or tackle new tasks. We don’t grow. We don’t laugh. Singing and working and exploring and growing and laughing are what you do when you’re alive! If you’re grumpy all the time, you’re not living the resurrection life. If you’re negative all the time, you’re dead.

What are you thinking? God’s going to fix my attitude when I get to heaven?

“Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ!” ~Ephesians 2:4

“Just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life!” ~Romans 6:4

“If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” ~Romans 8:11

The death and resurrection of Jesus is not just about my sin and Jesus taking my punishment and now everything’s great. We’ve been given eternal life. We share in Christ’s resurrection so we can be holy, royal image-bearers, so we can be ambassadors for Jesus and partners in his Gospel.

But I want to play it safe. Better safe than sorry. I don’t want to take any risks. I don’t want to go out on a limb. I don’t want to change or grow.

Man, you’re living in the dark and cold of the grave! And that’s not really living. Follow Jesus away from the grave and into the warmth and light of his resurrection life!

Once the disciples moved away from the grave, they most certainly did not play anything safe. There was no hiding or sleeping. No stagnation or status quo. They started preaching and teaching. They sold their possessions to give to the poor. They violated city ordinances to proclaim the good news. They took mission trips on broken down boats and prayers. They sang praises in prison chains. They turned the world upside down for the Kingdom of God! That’s resurrection living!

It’s like a wonderfully talented musician on the verge of his own worldwide concert tour. He plays beautifully. He’s awesome. He’ll inspire thousands. But he’s caught up in a terrible crime and is thrown in jail. But, then, by some miracle, the governor declares a general amnesty and the great musician is released! His response is not just, “Whew! Thank goodness I don’t have to go to jail!” It’s, “Now I can play like I was born to play! I can perform like I was created to perform!”

Christians sometimes are too preoccupied with not going to jail.

Listen. If you’re in Christ, YOU’RE NOT GOING TO JAIL! So now you can really live!

This is good news, not good advice. This is the Gospel.




Central Church Family, Ministry No Comments »

Central Church of Christ was named Outstanding School Partner at last night’s Amarillo School District Partners in Education Banquet at the downtown civic center. Of the 26 nominees — churches, rotary clubs, foundations, etc., — Central was recognized as tops for our on-going partnership with Bivins Elementary.

Our children’s minister, Mary McNeill, accepted the award along with Connie Crawford and our daughter, Whitney. Those three are very familiar faces in the hallways of Bivins as they deliver Snack Pak 4 Kids every Thursday. I was more or less forced to join them on the stage last night for the picture. But I made it clear to everyone that these ladies do all the work; I just sit back and applaud.

I’m very proud of Central for what we do with Bivins. Seventy-three percent of the students there are classified as economically disadvantaged. A lot of these kids are in foster homes, domestic violence shelters, and other temporary living conditions. Our church has stepped in every year with thanksgiving dinners, an annual school supplies drive, and summer painting projects. But now our Ignite Initiative is providing Bivins with more than $20,000 worth of equipment and supplies for their music and P.E. departments, desks for special needs students, and updates for their computer lab. Central volunteers are starting to serve next week as crossing guards, lunchroom and playground buddies, and Bivins Bucks store cashiers.

We believe that our God in Christ Jesus is redeeming this whole world. He is actively restoring everything back to its Garden of Eden perfection. And we are honored to partner with our Lord in providing these 550 students and their families with the necessities they need to level the playing field as they make their way in this world. To serve this nearby school in the name and manner of Jesus is our great privilege. To lean into his glorious future and reclaim this part of our city for his glory is a blessing. To be recognized by A.I.S.D. is pretty cool, too.



Ignite for Bivins Elementary

Central Church Family, Ministry No Comments »

Four weeks now into our Ignite Initiative here at Central and I am so proud of and so grateful for our church’s great generosity and faith in what our God is doing in us and through us for his Kingdom. The early response has been almost overwhelming — the Lord has blessed us with a ton of money up front! And that has allowed us to start immediately with our top priority ministry partnerships.

This week we are spending a little more than $20,000 to purchase some much needed equipment and supplies for Bivins Elementary School. We are providing twenty desks for special needs students, replacing worn out or missing equipment for the Music and P.E. departments, upgrading the school’s computer lab, and creating a “Maker Space” for interactive learning.

In addition, we’re looking for a few volunteers to commit to spending one or two hours per week at Bivins from now through the end of the school year in May. If you can help kids cross the street, open up a juice box, or supervise a game of freeze-tag, we need you.

That volunteer component is really the most important part of what we’re doing with Ignite. It’s much easier to write checks than to commit the time and energy necessary to do incarnational ministry — we need both. All five of these local ministry organizations are telling us they need people to be a Gospel presence for the people they’re serving. They need our members to be part of the fabric of their support. The kids at Bivins, those ladies at Martha’s home and Gratitude House, the families at CareNet, and the men and women at The PARC — most of them have never experienced the love and encouragement and support that you and I probably take for granted. That’s what they need the most.

This is exciting! Bivins Elementary is giving us access to their kids and families we’ve never had before. It may be unprecedented for a school to give a church this kind of leeway. It might be illegal! How fun is this?!?

If you want more details on what we’re doing together with Bivins Elementary, click here.

The idea is to change lives in the name and manner of Jesus, to make a deep and significant impact on the families all around us, to change the trajectory of generations of men and women in our city. If they think buying a glockenspiel will positively impact the children at Bivins, then we’re going to buy four! Two large and two small glockenspiels! Done!



Godly Fasting

Fasting, Isaiah, Ministry 3 Comments »

Fasting is not the purely personal thing you might think it is. Fasting is never between just you and God.

Today is Ash Wednesday, the traditional kickoff of forty days of prayer and fasting leading to Easter Sunday. This is the day to confess, the day to throw off the sins that hinder, the day to begin fasting in order to tune yourself to God. A lot of people give up red meat for the Lent season, some sacrifice their iPhones or their TVs, others fast from caffeine or cursing or Little Debbie snack cakes.

That’s good. Fasting and praying to pay better attention to the voice of our Father during this holy season is commendable. I highly recommend it.

But while you’re giving up these physical and tasty delights, why not consider giving up what our Lord gave up.

Instead of just thinking about it, why not begin living it?

Christ Jesus gave up the glory he shared with the Father to redeem us. He gave up all power, all dominion, all wealth, to come to earth to rescue us. Jesus gave up all his rights, he gave up his own honor, he sacrificed his own security and health, to restore us. He gave up his very life.

How about while refraining from chocolate over the next few weeks, you also give up your right to be offended? Since you’re giving up red meat for a season, how about you also try to keep from saying anything bad about anybody else? No caffeine? Sure! How about no asserting your own way for a while? How about sacrificing your demand for fairness for yourself and seek justice for somebody else? How about considering the needs of others more important than your own?

How about making your Ash Wednesday / Lent fast about something more than just you and your self-improvement? It’s not just about you and it’s not just about you and God. Fasting and praying should always result in Christian ministry to others. It should always lead toward meeting the needs of other people.

“Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter,
when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.”
~Isaiah 58:5-9

Fasting doesn’t do anybody any good unless it leads to doing somebody some real, physical, tangible good in the name of our Lord Jesus who gave up everything to do lasting, eternal, salvation good for us all.



Our Tools Are Weak

Central Church Family, Luke, Ministry No Comments »

At Central, we’re doing whatever it takes to join God’s pursuit of the people in Amarillo. “Ignite” is funding the vision and sparking the mission. The pledge cards keep trickling in and the total is up to $7.93-million and growing. Last Sunday’s “Launch” witnessed our Lord provide more than $1.53-million in checks and cash. The momentum is building. The church is focused. This is exciting stuff! We’re committed to it because our understanding is that when we do participate in God’s pursuit, God will increase the harvest.

When Jesus sends his disciples out to proclaim the Good News, he gives them a parting prayer request: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Luke 10:2).

This is Jesus’ prayer request: ask God for more workers. We need more workers for the harvest. Not for plowing or sowing, not for preparing soil or weeding or watering or waiting. Workers are needed for the harvest. The time is right now and, apparently, the harvest is huge. Who’s going to get in on it? We are! We’re determined to.

And our tools are weak.

The tools we use are not very impressive by the world’s standards. We’re not using power or politics or threat or force. Our tools for the harvest are love and mercy, compassion and forgiveness. God’s heroes in the Bible used terribly weak weapons: a torch and a jar, a sling and a rock, a morning walk and a trumpet.

We’ve got a church building and some small groups. We’ve got a sack of groceries and a paint brush. A bag of diapers and a prayer.

Remember, Jesus healed ten lepers, not a hundred. He fed five thousand hungry people, not every starving person in the world. Our Lord mostly ministered to the people in the tiny villages around his home town. And that’s what we’re trying to do at Central.




The Least of These

Church, Lectureships, Ministry No Comments »

From this week at ACU Summit:

“The homeless and addicted do not primarily need what the Church can bring them (although they may); rather, the Church needs what the homeless and addicted bring her. They bring the brokenness of their humanity, crushed by the structures of society, as the very sacrament of God’s presence.” ~Andrew Root