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.

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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.

The investment of time

Consider for a minute some special event that you recall growing up, while I share one of mine:

Until I was in grade school, my mother taught piano from home. I recall one afternoon that a man we knew from church came and dropped off his daughter for a lesson and invited me to go get an ice cream cone.

Now, quick sidebar here, this was the ’80’s and that was a completely acceptable thing for him to ask and for my mother to allow.

Being a red-blooded American, there is only one thing I love more than ice cream, and that’s puppies. So, of course, I accepted. It was an ice cream cone after all. Nothing weird happened. It was just a grown up being friends with a kid. So, why after all these years, do I recall so vividly all the details surrounding that day?

It’s because of how he made me feel. For a few moments, I was the only thing going on in this guy’s life. He could have done what every other parent did when they dropped a kid off for lessons and pay no attention to me whatsoever. But he didn’t. He spent time with me.

When considering the impact of mentoring in communities, it’s important to understand how it’s being measured. Because a frequent objection I hear is that people just don’t have the time to invest in a project like that. The truth is that whatever time you have is enough. You just need to be around.

Children, especially younger ones, have very little understanding of money. But they completely understand time. So, while they won’t object to you spending all your money on them, they would rather have your time. Consider it another way:  If you were to give them the most expensive gift they asked for but mailed it to them, they might appreciate it but they would likely not remember anything about it a week later;  However, if you had nothing to give them at all but showed up and just said, “Let’s hang out.”, I can assure you that would be the part they remembered. They would not remember the expensive toy at all, but they, like me and my delicious ice cream cone, would remember the time you spent with them, probably forever.

The point is that you don’t have to quit your job and spend 100 hours a week volunteering at the neighborhood school to make an impact. My recommendation is to give up your lunch once a week and go eat it with a kid at school who doesn’t have a dad. You don’t have to buy them a gift every week, you don’t even have to buy their lunch. You just have to make your own sandwich and show up and  invest a little time with them.

So, do you have that special recollection yet? Think for a minute how that made you feel. That time when you were the center of someone’s attention and they just wanted to be with you. You have the opportunity to pass that forward to someone in your neighborhood or apartment complex or community. Somewhere close to you there is a kid who is looking for someone who will spend a little bit of time with them. Go be that person.

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. 

Because He Lives

I’m just going to go ahead and lay this out there: I believe in the community church. I BELIEVE in the community church.

I know many of the reasons that people don’t like church. I understand why there are so many people who haven’t been to church in years and adamantly refuse to give the church even a moment of their time. I get it completely.

And still, I would ask anyone who reads this to reconsider. I honestly believe that inside every church in every community, no matter how big or how small, are compassionate people who genuinely care about you as a person. In every community, churches are feeding the poor, providing clothing and shelter for the homeless, hugging lonely and grieving widows, providing counseling for addicts, welcoming in strangers,  praying for people who are hurting, and doing everything we can to defend the orphan. The fatherless ones that we seek to mentor. We the Church are doing everything we can to repair the broken.

So, on the off chance that you somehow get the idea that we think we’re better than anyone else, here is a little secret: We’re all broken. Those of us smiling at you and telling you how great church is? Yeah, we are also broken. Actually, some of us are recovering addicts ourselves. Don’t let the smiles fool you, we get a lot of things wrong. Actually, let me just start with me. I’ve already copped to being a jerk. I get many things wrong and I consistently need to ask forgiveness for the same things over and over again.

But this isn’t about me. It’s about Him.

And for that very reason, tomorrow morning, I will get up and go to church with my family. Because Jesus lives. I go to church because I believe it is slowly making me a better person. I am becoming more like the person God wants me to be.

While I’m here to talk about mentoring and building communities, I can’t forget the real reason I am here, and that’s Jesus Christ. So, tomorrow morning, me and all the other broken people will gather together and worship the one who sweeps up all the broken pieces of our lives and puts it all back together. And that’s why I believe in the local church. Because in every community there are people who, like me, believe in kids and giving them a future. Jesus’ love for all enables us to do just that.

Thanks for reading,

WP