Thursday, July 25, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: "Why Do We Go To Church?"

A few months ago, several friends and I were having lunch when the topic of Sunday church service came up.  I listened intently as one friend voiced their desire for two Sunday services so they could conveniently go early, or late, while another voiced their desire for just one service where everyone came together at the same time.  One wanted a hand-raising, contemporary service with a band while the other demanded a traditional, formal service with the organ.... and both insisted their needs must be met if they were going to attend that church.

It reminded me of a sermon I heard several years ago by Francis Chan, a then-pastor of a church in California called Cornerstone Community Church.  He founded this church with 30 people in the early 90's and within just a few years, it had grown to over 6,000.  As the church grew in one of the wealthiest cities in America, Simi Valley, the need for more space grew as well.  The building committee met, discussed what kind of structure they desired, and then listened in shock as Francis suggested they build a simple, inexpensive open-air pavilion, complete with folding chairs, homeless people and highway noise, instead of a brick-and-mortar megachurch building.  It wasn't exactly the comfortable, picture-perfect structure the building committee had desired or had in mind.

Over time, Francis eventually left the Simi Valley church he founded, largely because "church" to this congregation had become more about enjoying the proper temperature in the sanctuary and sitting in comfortable cushioned seats....than studying the Bible.  He chose, instead, to pack up his family of seven and move to Asia and preach to underground churches who were more interested in hearing the Word of God spoken instead of being "comfy".

"One of the worst things that can happen is for life to be easy and comfortable"
Francis Chan

So it got me thinking, as our own church is preparing to go through a few changes.  What would happen if we took away the cool music and the cushioned pews?  What if the screens were gone and we, heaven-forbid, actually had to look up the scriptures in our Bibles?   What if there were no sound system or the stage was no longer decorated?  What if the air conditioning was off and the comforts were removed? 

Would God's Word still be enough for His people in our church to come together?  Just wondering.....

Sunday, July 21, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: "Courage To Fight Through The Darkness"

I just finished a local Women's Bible Study this week titled, "The Struggle Is Real".  Can you see my head nodding up and down in a majorly affirmative way?  Oh man, the struggle REALLY is REAL, friends.  Just ask the person sitting next to you; I'm sure they can give you an earful of struggle from their own life library. 

But this study reminded me a bit of the story of Jacob and how he and God wrestled (literally) and he came out of the boxing match both blessed and broken.   He came out with a limp that will be with him for the rest of his life....but the limp is a reminder of the blessing he learned.  He also had a scar from this fight that every time he looked at reminded him of the struggle...and the blessing that came from it as well.

Ever feel like you are one big scar?  I do.  Everywhere you look...every step you take, you see or feel the battle wound, yet ironically, you are stronger having fought through this battle and because of these wounds.  And that's the blessing.....when we can actually "see" and "feel" the scar tissue from the wounds we have received by being a participant in this life...and rejoice.  I think Matthew probably says it better than I can:

"You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope.
With less of you, there is more of God and His rule. 

You're blessed when you feel you've lost what is most dear to you.
Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you."

Matthew 5:3 MSG

If we can bravely stop running and instead, fight through the darkness and not give up until we can see the Light, we may walk out of the darkness with wounds and a limp, but we will discover God's power and presence is there waiting for us.

Have the courage to fight through the darkness, my friend......

Sunday, July 14, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: "To See God In The Face We Face"

This week, we found ourselves serving the sweet children of Mt. Vernon once again through Lunches of Love.  It's something this unique little town of 3000 do each year for the last half of summer.  For several hours each day, we slow down our lives to look in the hungry faces of the children in this place we call home.  Their stomachs get nourished....their curiosity gets challenged...and their hearts are taught what crazy awesome love Jesus has for them....even if they don't know Him personally. 

Monday through Friday, you will find the Rotary, the Methodists, the Catholics, the Baptists and many many more, bending down and loaning their hands and feet and time, to a child who needs them.  It's the coolest thing I've ever been a part of....and in many ways, it reminds me of the story in Luke 10 about the Parable of the Good Samaritan.  Take a read...

"A Jewish man was traveling to Jericho when he was attacked by bandits....and left for dead.  
By chance, a priest came along...he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by.  
Then a Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side."  
Luke 10:30-32

But here's the difference: In Mt. Vernon, they stop and render aide and don't pass the one in need by.

"Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him...and soothed his wounds."

It's so easy to start and end our day overwhelmed with Life....with the pressures of work and home and TV shows that need to be watched.  We claim we can barely find the time to do what we need to do for us, much less for the stranger down the street.  But I dare you...NO...I double-dog dare see God in the faces you face this week.  I bet you'll see them at the grocery store, at Dairy Queen,...and yes, maybe even next door.

"Now which of these would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?" Jesus asked.  
They replied, "The one who showed him mercy."  
Then Jesus said, "Yes, now go and do the same."

Sunday, July 7, 2019


One of my favorite authors once said, "The road ahead would seem obvious if you knew how much road ahead there was."

Unfortunately, no one tells you how much time you have to dance on this earth.  No one tells you if you have enough time to laugh till you hiccup or take a road trip up Pikes Peak or write that best seller.  If you knew how much time you had to live, you'd know how to live, right?

About 12 years ago, Chuck and I were given a peephole into our future.  We discovered that although he was walking fine at the time, he wouldn't always be walking fine.  His Multiple Sclerosis was marching forward in his tall body and we had a limited amount of weeks, days or years before his legs would soon fail him.  It was time to start living life outside of routine.  We were given a gift....a tiny view of the future...and what we did with it was up to us.

We let go of our tight grip on "Can we afford this?" and purchased a motorcycle trike.  We then wanted to take our trike trips to the highest mountains and furthermost oceans, so we added a motorhome to pull our trike to our growing expenses.  We hit the road and we figured out how to live without knowing when we'd die. 

Because we wanted to live first.

Have you ever wondered why God doesn't tell us the length of our years ahead of time?  Why that death date is a mystery until the day it knocks on our door?  I have.  But we discovered there was freedom in not knowing what was around the next corner.  What magical things were waiting for us as we closed our eyes and placed our fingers on random spots on the map as our next destination, simple things like listening to him breathe as he slept, and focused less on when that next hospital stay would be.  And I could see God smiling and nodding His head in affirmation....because He knew we finally understood one of the greatest gifts He gave us in this life here on earth.

To live.

"Your life is only a blink long -
and then you wake up to the forever that your life chose."