Start Small

When I was in grade school, I had a babysitter that went to junior high who brought over her history textbook, presumably to do homework after I went to bed. But you and I both know the truth: She brought the book because her parents made her and then watched tv while eating all the good snacks after I was asleep.

I remember looking at that big book and thinking to myself, “I’ll never be smart enough to read books like that.”  Of course you don’t get from a grade school education to reading history textbooks overnight, you take it one step at a time. And a few years later, I turned into that same snack stealing babysitter who was assigned a big 900 page textbook that I never read. And just look at me now; an adult who mostly wants to read Calvin & Hobbes or Pearls before Swine above anything else. But that’s neither really here nor there, is it?

When I helped organize a group of people that would eventually adopt a school in 2013, all the school staff wanted was consistent classroom readers. They lamented the passing of  yet another year without readers for each of their classrooms. Fast forward a couple of years and we now do much more than simply read in classrooms. But we couldn’t be there without that small start.

I’m awfully good at running around in circles without ever making a coherent point, so here it is: Take it easy. If mentoring a student on an individual basis is intimidating to you, then don’t worry about it. Just pick your favorite book from growing up and find a group of kids to read to. Later this summer, when school starts back up, find a school near your home or work and ask if you can read to a classroom. You may find the spark to get more involved like I did and end up, as one trusted friend pointed out, “turn this into a small empire.”

But even if you only ever show up the one time and read to a classroom of kids, you have still done something great by making that first small step. You have left an indelible mark on a child’s life and affected lives positively in your community. That’s not a bad deal at all.

Advertisements

Christ Followers

It’s been said by several people, possibly even Gandhi, that people like Christ but not Christians. Meaning that if you were to read just the writings and teachings of Jesus, then you’d come to an expectation of how people within a church might behave that is completely different than what you would actually encounter.

What can I say? There’s no defending some of the dumb things we’ve done. We’re humans. If you ever looked at someone who attends church regularly and said, “They have it all figured out.” then you just need to look a little closer past the shiny veneer.

We’re all messed up. We yell at our kids and feel guilty about it later. We regularly lose our cool in traffic just like everyone else. We give in and feed our families fast food even though we know that it’s not the best meal for them. We use bad words and sometimes wish we had never learned any of them. Turns out you really can’t unlearn a bad word. We make poor financial choices, some of which cost us severely and for a very long time. Sometimes we actually do this as an entire church organization. We say things we don’t mean and we get confused about something we call “doctrine” that people who have PhD’s argue about.

We are flawed, we are broken and we are trying to get better. Even if it’s a very long term project that takes decades, we just want to follow every single word that Jesus spoke. Because we also like him too. We think he saved the world and we want to tell everyone about it.

So, please, give us a chance and visit us at the community church. And remember, if we offend you, it’s not Christ that did it, it’s all his hurt and broken followers just trying to do the best we can to follow him. We’d love if you would join us.

Sunday Night Devotional – Rahab

In the old testament, we learn the stories of many of God’s chosen people for the past 3000 years. In Joshua, we meet Rahab, a prostitute in the city of Jericho. In Joshua chapter 2, we see 2 spies enter the city of Jericho and Rahab welcomes them into her home. They receive shelter and protection from the king of Jericho in Rahab’s home and escape captivity.

Rahab has a brief conversation with the 2 spies but it would turn out to be the most important conversation she had, and likely ever would have, in her life. Her recorded words are brief and powerful:

“I know that the LORD has given this land to you and that  great fear has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear. … We have heard of your military victories in the desert and our hearts melted and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.” Joshua 2:9-11 (NIV,slightly paraphrased)

Rahab encounters a decision that we all will face in our lifetime. Will we acknowledge God and confess that he is LORD? Or will we ignore the facts and continue on with our lives?

Rahab faced this choice and confessed her belief in the almighty LORD. We know from reading the New Testament that Rahab actually played an extremely critical role in the birth of Jesus. Because of her offering of shelter and confession of the dominion of the LORD, she was spared the annihilation that everyone else in Jericho received. They all were conquered by the Israelite army and destroyed. Except for Rahab.

Rahab will later meet and marry an Israelite man named Salmon. (what a bold name by the way.) Together they had a son named Boaz, (an even better name!) who later appears in the Bible in the book of Ruth. Boaz and Ruth would then become the great grandparents of the future king of Israel, David. And many generations later, a little boy was born in a stable in Bethlehem and was named Jesus. All in the blood line of Rahab.

All because a prostitute in a foreign country acknowledged and confessed that the LORD is God.

I’m not here to argue semantics or theology or deities or Jewish history with anyone. I’m not a scholar. The point here, in case I’ve minced words, is that salvation is for EVERYONE. It doesn’t matter what you have done in the past, what mistakes you have made. You can be an unwanted prostitute from a doomed country and the salvation of the LORD is extended to you. The grace that we now have through Jesus Christ is available to everyone, even those that might be considered the scourge of society.

Wherever you are in your life, I hope that you feel loved by God. And know that when it feels like everyone hates you and you’re worthless, that it simply isn’t true. God loves you. And so do I.

Come As You Are

I am kind to everyone. I’m not threatened at all by people who don’t look and think like me. I am full of love for every living human being, regardless of race, gender, social status, or anything else that looks different than me. I love them all.

I am the most joyful person in the room. Nothing ever brings me down. I am always happy because I am always at peace. And I also have all the patience I need. I never get mad. After all, everyone deserves a second, or third, or 4,000th chance, don’t they? Because you see, I’m kind. I am so full of goodness, I am then able to see the good in everyone. My faith allows me to be gentle towards everyone and always in self control.

Now, before you completely hit the brakes and find somewhere else to hang out, let me acknowledge: I’m no monk. Of course I’m not. I have never been all of those things. But I want to be.

I am only sometimes some of them. In fact, in my past, I have been none of those things all of the time, for a long time. But by the grace of God, I can change. And you can too.

And that’s why I will be at church tomorrow. And I hope you will be too. Because the message that Jesus wants me, and you, to hear is to come just as you are. You don’t need a new past or a different set of relationships or financial circumstances. You just need to be present. All you need is you.

What I desire, and what God desires to do for me, through the Holy Spirit, is to make me all those things all the time. And he wants that for you too. Because in every community is a kid who doesn’t have a positive role model. That kid doesn’t even know it but he’s literally dying for someone to step into his or her life and teach them about kindness, gentleness, faith, self control, patience, happiness. And finding real joy in life through all of that.

We can make the world a better place one kid at a time.Together, with Christ, we can do it. But you have to be there. And you can come just as you are.