Friday, September 01, 2006

Taking People to Jesus

Everywhere I preach for the first time I share the story of my daughter Stephanie being healed of arthritis when she was ten. She is sixteen now, with a driver's license, and is a walking miracle. The same doctor who said she will be on medication the rest of her life is the same doctor that said she has no sign of arthritis in her body. It's a long story, but it was a dark season for me and my wife Esther. We were pastoring a church and in the middle of a building program.

One day, I was golfing with some pastor friends of mine. We were on the tenth tee box when I decided to call home and check on Stephanie. Esther explained that my daughter was having a "flare" that day. I knew what that meant. Stephanie had what is known as polyarticular juvenile rheumatoid arthritis which affects five or more joints. It can attack any joint at any time or every joint at the same time. That day was an "every joint" day.

Have you ever reached the point where you could handle no more information, where you feel like the weight of the world overwhelms you? It was that moment for me. I had prayed all the prayers I knew to pray. I had done all I could think of to do. Now, all I could do is sit down and weep. At that moment, my friends came over to me, sat down with me, put their hands on my shoulders, and took me to Jesus. Just like the paraplegic man in the New Testament where his friends tied ropes to his bed, carried him to the roof, cut a hole above the head of Jesus, and lowered this man down - that's what my friends did for me.

It was at this moment I understood a passage in scripture that I preached many times before, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6,7). Isn't that incredible? I can't explain it, but I knew the peace of God was all around me. It was like I was standing in an ocean of peace. Peace is like that, you do not know how it works, but you know it when it shows up.

Simply put, isn't that what the body of Christ does? We take people to Jesus. We understand that in ourselves we have nothing to offer, but Jesus has the answer - he IS the answer. Jesus doesn't give us the same peace that the world has to offer: that's a wish or a hope. Jesus offers us His peace. And he can do that because he is the Prince of Peace.

Hey – it’s what we do.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Pastors of His Presence

In Exodus 33 we see a relentless pleading by Moses for God's presence. He cries out to God, "If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth"(vs. 15-16)?

The distinguishing mark of a church should be the manifest presence of God in the midst of His people! The only way the world can distinguish us from themselves is when God's presence is manifested among us. What is it that church planters and missionaries bring to a community? It is not flashy programs, although they are important. But as good as we are, we can’t compete with the billions of dollars spent by the entertainment industry, the community leagues, and activities. It is not simply more information about God – we are far educated beyond the level of our obedience. It is not mere inspiration – people are inspired by watching athletes like Lance Armstrong or skaters in the Olympics. No, what we have to offer that is unique – and only the Body of Christ can do this – is the presence of the Holy One of Israel.

There is no other organization or governmental program that can take people into the presence of God. It is our responsibility.I believe what people expect from us is not simply friendship – although that is significant. They don’t even expect us to be the best philosopher – they get that as a freshman in college. They expect us to be men and women of God – people that represent Christ.

Visiting the sick in the hospitals is always a humbling experience for me. It is in this setting that I become very much aware of inadequate explanations. The words I had to offer are sometimes pitiful and helpless. But that is not why people wanted me there in the first place – they wanted someone that would represent the presence of the comforter.People in our pews, chairs, seats, whatever,,...need the one who speaks, to have come from the Holy place. It’s the Spirit of God that draws people to Jesus – not slick presentations.

We are men and women of God first. Lord, do not let me go anywhere without Your presence.

May I nurture the presence of God in my life and the people I serve.


Friday, February 24, 2006

Loving and Leading

 It's what pastors do.

We LOVE God and we LOVE people. We believe God is working in our lives and we offer ourselves to His service. We also believe that God is working in the world to bring people into a relationship with Him. It's a simple formula really - nothing more...nothing less.

We LEAD. We serve God by leading. We are not talking about authoritarianism, nor are we referring to coercion or manipulation. We lead from the motivation of love. We lead people to Christ and gently through the process of personal growth and maturity. We help people find and fulfill their "God Design."

It's what we do.