This is all follow-up and clean-up—an effort to tie up a few loose ends before the weekend.
I was wrong Tuesday in declaring that Aaron and Jennifer didn’t turn in their “KK&C Top 20” because they were in Hawaii. They actually took the time to put their numbers and teams together and emailed them to me from their hotel before the deadline. It’s just that our email server here at the church blocked it from getting to me because it was coming from the Hawaii hotel’s server. I didn’t see their lists until yesterday.
There’s nothing really earth-shattering that would have impacted the order of the teams in this week poll. But I do want to pass on a little trash talk. Everybody’s picking on Ohio St. And Jennifer piles on with this as she lists the Buckeyes at #12: “Do we really even have to include them this week? Yippee for USC putting them in their spot!” And Aaron boldly predicts that USC could beat the St. Louis Rams. They both put Florida at #3, declaring that the Gators will “spank Tennessee this Saturday to solidify their place.”
About last night…
Every now and then, maybe once every couple of months, I get a weird vibe from the congregation here at Legacy while I’m preaching. It’s like they’re all staring at me, not with scowls, but with very serious looks on thier faces and with great intensity. And I’m never sure if everybody’s upset with what I’m saying or if they’re just really, really paying attention.
It happened last night in Oasis.
I’m preaching the Colossians 3:11 and Galatians 3:28 stuff I talked about in yesterday’s blog. In Christ, we all belong to each other. Just as Jesus lived and died to obliterate the differences that separate us, we too should be committed to breaking down the barriers of culture and language and socio-economic status that exist in our churches. And now, as we gear up for Give Away Day, is the perfect time to start thinking about and talking about these things. It’s time to be perfectly clear about how we understand the Gospel message.
Because the three-thousand people who visit us on Give Away Day and the people who are being brought to Christ by Manuel and our Spanish-speaking ministry are, in some ways, our enemies. They are enemies of our comfort zones, enemies of our decency and order, enemies of our property values, enemies of our traditions. And may God have mercy on us if we communicate to them in any way that you must be a white, working, middle-class, English-speaking American citizen in order to use our buildings or our classrooms or our worship center or our restrooms.
If we put any limits at all on anybody who’s different because they’re different—any limits—we are not of God. We are not acting like Jesus. If we exclude them from the table or shun them to another room, if we don’t give them full and complete access to all the physical blessings of this church family, we are, in essence, denying them access to the full and complete salvation from God. Because the Gospel of Jesus is that ALL barriers are annihilated. ALL the walls are destroyed. There are no differences. Christ is all and is in all.
And I’m looking at our church and wondering, “Are they all mad or are they just chewing on this?”
They’re just chewing on it. They’re taking it all in. I believe they’re listening and understanding and even agreeing. But at the same time they’re saying, “But that’s hard.”
Yes, it is. Christianity is a very difficult religion. Very difficult. As Neil Postman says, “Christianity is a demanding and serious religion. When it is delivered as easy and amusing, it is another kind of religion altogether.”
I’m leaving Sunday afternoon for the ACU Lectureships with the rest of the Four Horsemen. After Jason preaches in Diana, he’ll meet Kevin at Dan’s house in Forney and they’ll all pick me up here at about 3:00. And we’ll eat Jalapeno chips and Whoppers (Jason will eat Corn Nuts. Nasty.) and we’ll laugh and we’ll make fun of each other and play on each other’s personality quirks and bad habits. Man, are we going to laugh. We always do. Along with our February camping trip, this is our other annual time to be together for a few days and minister to each other and study and pray together and grow together in Christ and in each other. What a blessing these three godly men are to me. What a tremendous source of strength for me in my difficult walk with Christ Jesus and his people. My heart overflows with gratitude to our God who saw fit to bring together a Garland cop, an architect, a jewelry salesman, and a radio anchor seven years ago to dramatically change all of our lives. To eternally alter our lives. And the rest of my prayer is that our God will use us in huge, massive ways to impact our communities and this whole planet for his Kingdom.
I have to leave Abilene early—Tuesday after lunch—because I’m flying out of DFW Wednesday morning for Fresno, California to spend four days with the Woodward Park Church of Christ and my great friend Jim Gardner. I’m speaking five times in those four days, four times as part of their annual Spiritual Growth Workshop and then preaching at Woodward Park Sunday morning. And I’m excited about it on many fronts.
I’ve never been to California before. Never. I’m anxious to see the beautiful central California valley, even if I probably won’t make it out to the beach. I’m excited to experience the multi-cultural church family there at Woodward Park. Over a thousand members, like here at Legacy, but only about 600 English-speaking. Wonderful. I can’t wait. I’ll be preaching to a pretty huge crowd on Saturday night, probably the biggest ever for me personally. So, I’m looking forward to that. But mainly I’m thrilled to be spending a little time with Jim. As busy as he’s going to be, it will probably only be a little time. But it will be valuable. What a heart for preaching. What a spirit for evangelism. The more he can rub off on me, the better for us here at home. I miss Mandy and his precious daughters. I haven’t seen them since they left Marble Falls two years ago. And I’ll get to see Jimmy Mitchell again. Jim’s flying him in to lead our worship at the workshop.
It’ll be hectic every minute of every day between right now and next Sunday night, the 28th. Please ask our Father to bless me with safe travel and for his Word to be proclaimed powerfully through me and all the other speakers in Abilene and Fresno next week.