Monday, February 26, 2007

"But... they're not like us!" pt 1

Pastor Greg's sermon, part one of two from Sunday evening... paraphrased from my notes:

Acts 1:8 "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

That's His command. But, how do we reach the world with an unchanging gospel? The truth can't change, it must remain the same as it has always been. Therefore it is our methods that must warp. This is going to take us out of our comfort zones.

As a corporate church we are engaging our world to meet people where they are at with the gospel; programs like AWANA and Upward and Angel Tree. But on an individual level each one of us must be willing to go and be a witness in our world where we exist. I can witness to my neighbors, but I can't witness to yours, nor to those you work with, nor to your relatives. God has strategically placed you where you are in your spheres because He will use you.

Now some say that it's too hard to imagine sharing the gospel in those spheres. They say things like:

--"I'm retired." Well, are you a hermit? Can you go to where sinners hang out?

--"I don't have the gift of evangelism." You know sometimes I feel the same way. On Friday night I was just finishing up paperwork when Annette came in and asked if I could do something about a homeless man in the lobby who was making the parents nervous. It felt very inconvenient to me, but I thought if this was God's opportunity, I was going to redeem the time, amen? So out in the lobby there were tons of kids running around and their parents were there, stand-offish from the corner where the homeless man was. He wasn't doing anything at all; he was just sitting there. Now, I am not ready to throw caution to the wind, and I'm not saying that we shouldn't be careless about the many homeless people who spend time inside our walls. But it just makes me wonder, why were they standing so far apart from him, pretending like he's not there? Was he really a threat to their children, or did these Christian parents feel their comfort threatened? So I went over and sat and introduced myself. Come to find out someone had already helped him get something to eat, and he was just coming in to get out of the cold. He said he had family all over the map from one end of the country to another. Found out he came from a catholic background. I shared with him in just a minute a clear presentation of the gospel message, and he said he wasn't sure he could believe it. But at least I know that after we were done chatting, he would walk away having had it explained to him.

Was it my responsibility to have him saved? No. Was it my responsibility to share the gospel? Yes.

--"I'm done. It's time for someone else to take over." It's never over till it's over. Until your last sucking breath you can share the gospel, like my grandfather who shared Jesus with all his caretakers in a nursing home.

--"I have trouble turning on my computer, much less relating to culture today." So many of us think it is not as important to share the gospel to a group of people we don't know anything about. But you can learn! Go and try. Take a class, go and be there, and start. You'll find that as long as you show up to the place where they are, God will handle the rest of the details.

Lost people do stir the heart of God. It is our privilege to lead someone to Christ. It is His command to do so, and if we're not doing it then we are disobeying Him. It requires that we actually go into the world. Not stay in our comfy tread of what we do at church. "But Pastor Greg," you might say, "I don't have any connections with lost people." Then you need to change your spheres of where you spend your time... I'm not kidding.

I was talking this week with a woman from our church in the parking lot, and she asked me, "If Jesus came to our church, where would He sit?"

Where would Jesus sit, if he came in our sanctuary? I'll tell you where He would sit. He'd sit all the way back there, under the overhang, where it's a little darker, a little less noticeable. Or He'd be sitting up in the balcony. Is there anyone here who knows why He'd be in the back?? Every week these rows are always filled with our homeless population from downtown Salem. They come here for different reasons, yes, but that's where they go. Have we gone to be where they are?

Sharing the gospel requires that we actually go into the world. It requires courage, committment, and humility to love people. About humility: at the same time God is using us to share the gospel with others, it is always true that He is working at the same exact moment to show us the mistakes we're making in the way we act and think. There's an old phrase, and I shared it with the homeless man last Friday night, I said to John, "John, I don't know everything, I'm just one beggar showing another beggar where to get bread."

It could mean consequences.

Other Christians might withdraw from you, or they might stand off with fear or even turn and gossip. People you share Jesus with might take advantage of you. It might mean the consequence is that for you, you might feel like you really don't get along with them, or even don't like them. It might mean that you'll have to give up your normal routein, your normal way of thinking, your normal agenda of how you prefer to share the gospel with others.

Are you willing to get ripped out of your comfort zone to meet someone where they are at?

We have to look for ways to adapt to get into the culture to cause a salvation influence. If we do it'll mean a reward for eternity.

Next Sunday night I will finish up this idea by explaining "The Samaritan Factor" out of John 4. It'll be a discussion on how to move through evangelism.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Family Time

Even now three weeks out from delivery, everything seems quiet. I don't do much of anything because of pain and so this inability is the conductor of my day.

The girls delight my days and nights by what they are doing. Grace lost her first front top tooth and now when she talks I don't even recognize her with the "th" where her "s" sounds should be. Her grin is so wonderful, I love to find a reason to make her smile. She loves to lose control and scream at the top of her pitch-potential, just like... a little girl. She learned in a couple hours flat how to tie her shoes, and loves to practice all day long.

Lizzy has finally graduated from her "repeat-after-me" prayers at bedtime, to now praying all by herself. Each night she prays a prayer that goes something like this, in her sweet high-pitched baby but booger-congested voice:

"Dear Heavenly Father, thank-you for today, thank-you for helping me go on the toilet, and I call mommy and I say, "Mommy, I have to go poo-poo!" and I get spankings, and when I go pee pee I get my chocolate candies back and my dress back and my clip-clops back. Thank-you for Jesus for dying on the cross, thank-you for mommy, thank-you for daddy, thank-you for sister, thank-you for baby brother, help Grammy to feel better, in Jesus name I pray, aaaamen."

Elijah loves to move when he eats, which always is five minutes after I do. He is a peaceful little one. He loves to sleep-in more than when he was younger. It used to be that when I rolled from one side to the other he'd become awake, but now he's so used to our routein that he doesn't mind my readjustments. Occasionally, after the morning has come and I've been walking around for awhile without any of his movement, I sit down and try to wake him up. (Babies at this gestation need to be moving every day... every hour, and if they don't then you ought to rush to the hospital.) So I rub my hands over his little cage. And if that doesn't work, I find a corner of his body that is protruding out and give it love pats. Last resort: to shake the whole thing and start telling him it's time to wake up.

I'm feeling a little sorry that I don't do anything anymore. Something as little as giving the girls a bath is enough to guarantee that by nightfall, the pressure pushing outward from my pelvic cavity busts all my joints enough to make even standing, precarious. Thinking of grocery shopping, especially with the girls, intimidates me. Thank goodness I have a compassionate husband, who wants to do my normal things like these after a long day at work.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

God answers prayer. I'm paying close attention.

I get embarassed thinking about my previous posts. The things I said were real, and had been real for such a long time. Now they're getting better since I said them out loud. It must be because I confessed them... confess your sins one to another, so that you can pray. Somehow, both people I know well and those I don't know at all, have come out of the woodwork to pray for me and think of my condition. There was a lady last night in my bible study who made a care-package for me. Inside was a small text of the series "chicken soup," some home-made blank cards with pretty flower designs on the front, a few home-made valentine cookies, and a note:

To Michelle-

Hope that these days where activities are limited become a real blessing!
May your heart become quiet and serene as you wait for this baby.


As I accepted this, before I had read the note, I told her that I have had a pleasant week where I could hear the LORD telling me to stop, and to seize the vast amount of time, just listening to and holding my girls. But that's not all I could have mentioned that has changed with me, only one part. If I had to express it, it would probably be something very similar to the desire she had for me in her note....


God answers prayer. I'm paying close attention.

The last, and most difficult point of my struggle has finally been won over conceived now within the bounds of hope. I was so scared for so long to let God in. It's only when I remembered that God could change me in a way that wouldn't be disappointing... but rather so very kind and slow and gentle that I would love Him so much the more than ever before... could I relax and trust and hope again. I told God that I'll be looking for his ever-gentle aide, whatever that might be, to convince me and bring me to be the kind of person He commands.

Someone once said that everyone expects God to be the bogey-man, up in heaven, looking down with criticality. Yeah... I did. Yeah... that's not fair.

I am still not a good person. But it makes me want to pray, and I do so much more now, because I am worried about what my day will be like without it. I pray in the morning very simple things, like "LORD, keep me from temptation for today." The days that I pray, work out in a fulfilling way. God answers prayer. I'm paying close attention. It's the beginning of the reality of the relationship I had said a year back that I was dreading the approach of.

Nothing to dread. It comes clothed in my success.

Friday, February 09, 2007


I see the merit in both stances even though I still see the evangelical/fundamentalist interpretation having a better leg.

Monday, February 05, 2007


What had been is gone.

Finally, I am able to look at babies, and remember why they are so delightful.

Whatever I had was so difficult. I'd commit to listen to Christian music, but it would make me sad. I'd watch home movies of our family and I felt disassociated like those days of innocence were gone. I couldn't see my future with this baby or with anything in my current path of circumstances.

But now, I look out the kitchen window at the clouds, and my posture straightens. Once again the world is full of hope. I see it as one big fat ball of ministry. I used to always think this way about life. I forgot how excited I always was.

I watched Liz when she was a baby, and I was shocked that I forgot about all the cute things, the babble and the amazing growth and everything -- I had kept no memory of it -- how did that happen to me?

I'm just beginning now to imagine the bundle of joy that will soon be mine. Wow, it's like I've awaken.

I don't know why I'm better. All I think is, thank you God, and please, please don't leave me now, old self. Stay.

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