Category: Ministry (Page 1 of 30)

Kristin and Our Kids

We celebrated a wonderful milestone at GCR Church today by ordaining Kristin Rampton as our new full-time Children’s Minister. It’s a no-brainer: Kristin has been serving excellently as one of our children’s coordinators, she already loves our kids and loves our families, she’s already sold out for the vision and mission here at GCR, and she has the passion for it. And the energy. Kristin will engage our kids and their parents, she has the confidence of our shepherds and ministry team, and we are blessed by God to be able to make this official today.

Congratulations, Kristin! We promise today to love you and support you and Ryan and your sweet children. We will encourage you, serve with you, and be family to you. And we commit to the best of our abilities and by the grace of God to love you like Jesus.

Peace,

Allan

 

 

Pray for Kharkiv

I know you are aware of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the death and devastation unfolding on the streets and among the people of its cities. I know your heart is heavy. And I know you are in prayer. Me, too.

All war is sinful and tragic. All violence is decidedly against God’s will. The right thing to do today is to pray for God’s peace, to pray for the people on all sides of this unholy conflict, to ask God to intervene and stop the madness.

As you are doing that, would you please pray for some very specific people in Kharkiv whom Carrie-Anne and I love?

Back in 2010, my wife and I spent eleven days in Kharkiv, a fairly major eastern Ukrainian city about 20 miles from the Ukraine-Russia border. We were there to visit and encourage David and Olivia Nelson, a sweet missionary couple we were supporting from the Legacy Church. We love David and Olivia. We missed them terribly in Fort Worth and were very anxious to spend the time with them. What caught us off guard was how much and how quickly we grew to love the Ukrainians there.

I don’t know where any of these people are today. I don’t know anything about them or their families. But I am talking to our Lord about them today and I hope you will join me. I can’t get some of these people out of my head today. Or my heart.

I’m thinking about Andrei, a funny little guy who looks like Billy Crystal but who thinks and talks like he just stepped out of the Lincoln-Douglas debates. Super smart. Whoa. Andrei had only been baptized about seven months before we arrived and he was on fire for our Lord. He took off work one day to walk Carrie-Anne and me around Liberty Square and through some of the 500-year-old cathedrals. Andrei also drew blood when he beat my back with a ceremonial branch at a Ukrainian sauna. I think it was meant to honor me. Maybe.

I’m praying for Valerie and Julia. Valerie was my interpreter when I preached and taught during our time in Kharkiv. I remember having to wait on him while he came up with the Russian words for my American phrases like “wrapped around her finger” and “jump for joy.” He told me there is no Russian equivalent for “compels” as in “Christ’s love compels us.” A big red-headed dude who looked like he could suit up and play for your college alma mater right now. Very gentle and kind. He wanted to become a preacher. I have no idea if he did.

I’m thinking about Alexander, a dentist and oral surgeon. He told me in front of everybody that drinking diet soda was bad for my teeth. He spoke really good English except when he said the word “naked.” When we were reading Genesis 1 out loud he kept saying “nak’d,” just one syllable.

I’m praying for Yelena, David and Liv’s Russian language teacher. She taught Carrie-Anne and me the only Russian we know. We still say “lublu” sometimes, the Russian word for love. And Victoria, the elementary school teacher. Robert, the preacher at the Baptist church on the west side of town. Sergei, who once served hard time in a Ukrainian prison, preaching at a Christian church of about nine souls on the northeast side of Kharkiv.

I could write more about Vitali and Galina, Nikita, Masha, and Kevin.  I taught Kevin how to throw an American football with a spiral – I don’t think his real name was Kevin. I learned to tolerate chicken-flavored potato chips. I nearly threw up when David forced me to drink a glass of Kafir. We laughed when we learned the local beautification ordinance meant that everyone had to paint their houses and sheds the same color of gray. I could spend a whole post recounting our worship times together, listening to my Eastern European brothers and sisters sing “Nearer My God to Thee” and “Lamb of God” in Russian. About sharing the bread and the wine together at that tiny church building near Aptarski Lane and in the Nelsons’ living room.

We rode the subways where, today, people are huddling together and hiding from the tanks and the missiles. We hung out at the coffee shops that, today, are boarded up and abandoned. We shopped and laughed with the Nelsons’ neighbors at that massive downtown Kharkiv market that, today, is empty.

That was almost twelve years ago. I don’t know where any of these good people are today – if they are still living in Kharkiv, if they are safe, if they are scared, if they are okay. I am praying for them and their families today and for all the people of that great city where I witnessed first hand our God saving people and advancing his Kingdom.

You might be connected to Ukraine through Our House and the Gospel work done for so many years in Donetsk by Tony and Shanna Morrow. I know the Morrows came back to Abilene a few months ago. I found out today that Bill Hayes got out three weeks ago. But I don’t know anything about the community of teenage orphans they established there.

Maybe you’re connected to the people of Ukraine by Eastern European Missions. Maybe you’ve sent Russian and Ukraine language Bibles there.

Pray for the people of Ukraine today. Pray for our Christian brothers and sisters over there, six thousand miles away from Texas, and in so much danger and peril. Pray that the war would end, that all hostilities would cease, that all pain and death and demonstrations of power and force would disappear from that whole region. Pray that God’s will would be done in Ukraine and Moscow just as it is in heaven.

Do not put your trust in politicians or their positions, in armies or their weapons, in generals and secretaries or their strategies and plans. Put your trust and offer your prayers to the One Sovereign who alone can stop the senseless violence against innocent people.

“God is the King of all the earth;
sing to him a psalm of praise.
God reigns over the nations;
God is seated on his holy throne.’
~Psalm 47

Peace. Seriously. Peace.

Allan

No More Muttering

 

“The Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.'” ~Luke 15:2

“All the people saw this and began to mutter, ‘He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.'” ~Luke 19:7

The religious people are pictured in the Gospels as continually muttering. When they see Jesus eating with tax collectors and “sinners,” when they observe him welcoming and socializing with “those people,” they mutter and grumble and complain. They gripe under their breath. Because a religious person would never say these kinds of things out loud.

These are the people we’re welcoming now? These are the people we’re supposed to eat with now? Those people won’t give. Those people don’t even speak English. Their kids are too rowdy. They’re going to mess things up. He just got out of prison. She has HIV. He cusses. She smokes. We have to protect our kids. We need to be careful here. Maybe those people should just go to another church where they’ll be more comfortable.

Hey, these are the very people Jesus came for! These are the very ones Jesus left his glory at the right hand of the Father to die for!

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we don’t ever dare to look down on, to distance from, to make fun of, or to ignore any person created by God, in the image of God, loved by God, and died for by Jesus. Ever! Just like our Lord, we look for them. We go out of our way to welcome them, to love them, to accept them, to come along side them in relationship – all of them. We stop our muttering and we join our God in his salvation mission.

We look. We search. We seek and we save. We’re climbing every hill, we’re turning over every rock, we’re going into the cloudy days and the darkest nights to welcome the outcast, to bring in the marginalized, to help the helpless, to defend the defenseless, and to protect the oppressed.

“I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak.” ~Ezekiel 34:16

Peace,

Allan

From Death to Life

“I AM the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will never die.” ~John 11:25-26

There’s a scene about a third of the way through the Temple of Doom movie in which Indiana Jones and his little sidekick, Short Round, are trapped in a room inside an evil castle. Short Round accidentally trips a lever and the walls start closing in. The four walls are coming in and the ceiling is coming down and long, pointed, metal spikes are coming up out of the floor and down from the ceiling. Indy and his little buddy are going to be crushed to death! The walls are coming closer and Indiana Jones is freaking out. He’s yelling at Kate Capshaw on the other side of the wall: Pull that lever! Stick your hand in there and pull that lever! But there are bugs and snakes in the wall and she just can’t do it. The spikes are coming down and the desperation builds and they zoom the camera in tight on Indiana Jones’ face. One spike comes up against his face. Another spike comes down and presses his hat against his temple. And he looks directly into the camera and says, “We. Are. Going. To. Die.”

No, you’re not. We know you’re not. Indiana Jones will never die.

He’s lowered into a pit of boiling lava, he’s walking on the outside of an airplane at 30,000 feet, he’s captured by Nazis, he’s strapped to a rotting suspension bridge a mile above a canyon floor, he’s brainwashed by murderous witch doctors – but he never dies. He keeps rescuing the children and saving the village and restoring the sacred stones and he always gets the girl and he never loses his hat.

Indiana Jones can live that way, recklessly doing what few will dare to do, because he knows he’ll never die. Why? Because he has an arrangement with George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. They’ve already determined that Indiana Jones will never die.

“Our Savior Jesus Christ has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality.” ~ 2 Timothy 1:10

Jesus Christ is the Lord of Life, the eternal author of life, the giver of all life. He came that we may have life and have it to the full. In his death and resurrection, a new age has dawned for those of us who believe. Death has nothing on you. Neither does sin. We are living right now in the new era of his resurrection. God’s Holy Spirit lives inside us. That exact same Spirit who brought Lazarus out of the grave and rolled the stone away on that third day and sat on it – that same Spirit lives inside you!

You’ve got the resurrection inside you! You’re dangerous! You’re invincible! You can’t be stopped!

And the call is still on. It’s still on.

So we don’t cower, we don’t hesitate, we don’t slow down or back off or ever walk away. Our attitude is: You can kill me, but you can’t hurt me! We know how the story ends and that impacts how we play our part.

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection!” ~ Philippians 3:10

So we love unconditionally and we forgive unflinchingly. We heal the sick and we feed the poor and we stand with the marginalized and the oppressed. We give and we serve uncompromisingly. We protect and provide for the widow, the orphan, and the stranger in the gate. We fight racism no matter the cost. We tear down walls no matter the opposition. And we deny ourselves and take up our crosses and unashamedly follow the one who laid down his life for the whole world!

No matter what chaos and confusion is out there, no matter what uncertainty surrounds you, sin and death do not have the final word. They do not have the final say. Our risen and reigning Lord Jesus is the author of life and he always writes the last line. And it’s good to have an arrangement with the writer.

Peace,

Allan

Lining Up

Jesus invited people to follow him, to walk with him along the way. He ate with people he wasn’t supposed to eat with. He hugged people he wasn’t supposed to touch. He forgave people who were unforgivable. And they saw God.

People would experience God in us if our priorities and God’s priorities were the same.

Peace,

Allan

Show People God

“Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.” ~Luke 11:52

The teachers of the law were guilty of prioritizing the letter of the law over the spirit of the law. They knew God’s law front and back, they had it memorized – book, chapter, verse. They could tell you exactly what you could and couldn’t do and what you could wear, what you could say, what you could eat, and who you could be with as you were doing it. Or not doing it. They were strictly enforcing the rules on others and felt no obligation to obey those same rules themselves. They would require certain things of others, but exempt themselves. They acted this way to improve their own position and increase their own power. There’s no love of God, no justice for neighbor.

Jesus says you are keeping people from knowing God. You’re blocking people from knowing who God is and what God is doing in the world. You yourselves don’t know God and the way you keep your thumb on people in the name of religion keeps anybody around you from ever experiencing God.

Jesus came here to reveal to the world who God is and what God is doing. If you want to understand God, you look at Jesus. He said it himself: “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” And we join him in that work. We, too, are called to reveal God to others. But these teachers of the law are doing just the opposite. They’re so concerned about keeping the letter of the law, they’re so consumed with following every tiny detail and making sure others are following it exactly the way they interpret it, they miss God. They turn the commands into their God, they make the Bible their God, and they beat everybody over the head with it.

This could also be a problem for us if we’re not careful. Sometimes we are capable of fostering an environment in our churches, our Bible classes, and our small groups – sometimes you can create this culture just around yourself – so that everybody has to believe everything and practice everything the same way we do. Or the same way you do. We can demand uniform compliance with the way we do things. Or the way I do things. People can walk into our settings and just feel like they’re being watched.

Just like the religious leaders were checking to make sure Jesus washed his hands exactly like they think he should, we can make it our goal to catch people. We catch people doing something wrong so we can wag our fingers in their faces or tell on them behind their backs. We can suffocate the people around us. If we’re not careful, we can straight up condemn people. How in the world are these people going to experience the love and grace and forgiveness of God if we’re acting like this in his name? That’s not him! But we make people think it is.

“Is this the kind of fast I have chosen? Is that what you call a fast? 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?” ~Isaiah 58:5-7

Our Lord and the Scriptures tell us again and again that it’s not about the fasting or the sacrifices or the details of our worship. It’s not making sure the people around you know the law, it’s making sure the people around you know the Lord.

Show them God. Bring them into the presence of God. Show them his mercy and love. Express to them his grace and forgiveness. Extend to them his joy and acceptance.

Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek, forgive without limits, walk the extra mile, give up your coat, and love your enemies. Why? Because, he says, that’s the way of our Father in heaven. Live like this because that’s how God is. Join Jesus in his revelation. Show people God.

Peace,

Allan

« Older posts