I’m Working on Myself Right Now

“I can’t do what you’re doing.  I’m just working on myself right now.”  I commend my friend’s humility in admitting she has some areas in her life that she needs to work on.  Not everyone is humble enough to say that.

She was responding to the change she’s seen in our family’s life and lifestyle these last several months.  Moving to a lower income neighborhood, reducing our living space by half, leaving our long time church home, living like a missionary even though we don’t live in a foreign country.  Did she come to the conclusion that I have less ‘issues’ that need worked on based on our current ministry?  I beg to differ!  I have a lot of sin issues that I am still battling.

One of the rather ironic things about ministry is this:  as we pour out ourselves for others-we often benefit as much or even more than the person we are ministering to. I’ve seen it over and over again in Biblical counseling situations and in our first months of church planting.  As I am bringing Scripture and Biblical help to others; I am reminded of those same truths and, with the Spirit’s help, applying these things to my own life as well.  As we serve others, God works on our own hearts.

My friend believes she has things she needs to work on.  I get it.  I have them too.  My question is-are you sure the best way to work on them is to withdraw yourself from ministry?  Maybe your growth in sanctification has slowed because of your withdrawal?  Perhaps pouring yourself into service to another would propel you through the slump?  A chance to see and be encouraged by our faithful God’s work in another person and in yourself may not be the only piece in the puzzle but it could be an overlooked piece.

Not Called!

‘Not called!’ did you say?

‘Not heard the call,’ I think you should say.

Put your ear down to the Bible, and hear Him bid you go and pull sinners out of the fire of sin. Put your ear down to the burdened, agonized heart of humanity, and listen to its pitiful wail for help. Go stand by the gates of hell, and hear the damned entreat you to go to their father’s house and bid their brothers and sisters and servants and masters not to come there. Then look Christ in the face — whose mercy you have professed to obey — and tell Him whether you will join heart and soul and body and circumstances in the march to publish His mercy to the world.
― William Booth

A Word from Francis Chan and I’m Sorry

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Disclaimer:  You probably should listen to at least the first 20 minutes of this message to fully understand what I am getting at.

Years ago, when I heard that Francis Chan left the church that he had started and pastored for 16 years, it didn’t make sense to me and I sinfully judged him for it.

Today, when I listen to  messages like this one, I completely resonate with him and am thankful for the courage God has given him to speak out.  It’s not an easy road to stand up and question ‘the way things have always been done’.  You’ve likely noticed that if you’ve ever had the courage to try.

I know my husband and I tried a few times.  It didn’t ever seem to go so well, either because we weren’t so good at communicating or the person we were talking to wasn’t so good at receiving-more than likely a combination of the two.  The most common response?  A charge of idealism.  “Oh, the church will never be like that–you’re too idealistic!”

You know what?  I am ok with idealism when it comes to the church.  Do we Christians make that statement in a pejorative way in any other area of life?  Do we say things like-
“Well, I know the Bible says I should be faithful to my spouse, but that’s too idealistic.  That would be really hard, so let’s not aim for that”?  NO!  We don’t say those things.  The only area that I can think of the accusation of idealism being tossed out (at least in my hearing) is when it concerns what the church should look like in practice.  I read the book of Acts and other places in the New Testament and see a church that, for the most part, doesn’t look like the church in the US.  We make all sorts of excuses for why that’s the case.  Even in extremely Biblical and conservative churches.  Why is that?  Why have we given up and given over?  “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot.  Would that you were either cold or hot!  So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”  Revelation 3:15-16  Do these verses scare you?  They put the fear of God in me!

I love the Church! Yet,  I yearn for a modern church that throws off the worldliness that has crept inside.  One that returns to its first love.  May it be so, Lord.  Send your Spirit to renew and revive.

And to Francis Chan, if you should so happen to read this the next time you Google your name and read all the way through to page 300,011-please forgive me for sinfully judging you.  I was wrong.  I didn’t know the whole story of what God’s been doing in your heart.  I understand now.  May God bless your ministry.

It’s Gonna Feel Like You’re Settling

No Ladies Bible Study.  No Youth Group.  No Sunday School.  Maybe even no nursery?  You may have just set foot inside a brand new church plant.

If you’ve been used to a larger church with all of the typical American church programs, you will probably feel like you are settling.  It might not feel like a ‘real’ church.  You might feel disturbingly ‘un-busy’ when you’re not at the church building 3-4 times a week.

I’m here to say that it’s ok.  I’ve been there and felt those things.  I’ve had to fight those feelings and I continue to fight them on occasion.  I’m here to tell you that you don’t need those programs to grow as a Christian.  Can God use them?  Yes.  But do you NEED them?  No.

I’m not anti-program.  I’ve participated in many and benefitted from them to varying degrees.  It’s just that I’ve found that I don’t need them like I thought I did and my kids don’t either.  At first, I thought I was harming my children by being part of a church that did not have a youth group or age appropriate Sunday school classes.  We’d had those things for 10 years and they were built into my psyche as a brand new Christian teenager way back when.  Then, as we spent time at a relatively new church plant with very few programs, I heard things from my kids.  Things like “Mom, I realized that I was really more excited to go to church to see my friends in Youth Group than to worship God.”  I saw adults praying with my children–purposely seeking them out to do so and befriending them.  My kids and I saw that programs can be really nice–but not having them is ok too-actually even better than ok.  When people show sacrificial love and kindness without a program to prompt them, even to a person they don’t share a natural affinity with–the Gospel is put on display in a big way.  People notice.  Jesus notices.  The Gospel is made attractive.  It’s completely different from the world.  The world loves to be around people just like them–have you ever noticed that?  The church should be different than the world.  It should be the one place on earth where we love to hang out with people that aren’t like us-just because we have Jesus in common.

So, most days, I don’t feel like I’m settling anymore.  There are still some nagging doubts that Satan jabs me with here and there but I’m pretty much over it.  I’m over believing that I NEED to have church programs that match mine and my families affinities.  I believe I’m the better for it.  Jesus is more than enough.  He doesn’t need programs to accomplish His work.

Begin to Begin

“Lord help me to begin to begin.”  George Whitfield

I read this quote today in JI Packer’s now classic book, “Knowing God”.  I did a little research on the internet in order to get some context on the quote.  The only tidbit of information that I found is that Whitefield said this after preaching the Gospel for 30 years (source).  I wonder if he prayed this prayer every day for 30 years?

It’s been just over a month since we moved into our mission field in Carrollton.  God has answered prayers and opened doors.  Just about every morning I wake up prayerful and hopeful that God will bless our work and ministry.  On those confident days, I’d like to be praying Whitefield’s prayer “Lord help me to begin to begin”.

I’m not naive enough to think that days of discouragement aren’t coming.  I know they are likely just around the corner.  Indeed, discouraging times have already sprung up here and there but thankfully have lasted hours rather than days.  In the midst of disappointment, I hope I can be found praying Whitefield’s prayer “Lord help me to begin to begin”.

Every day a new day.  Keep pressing on.  No matter the seeming successes, no matter the seeming failures.  “Lord help me to begin to begin.”

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”  Galatians 6:9

 

Affluence and Ministry Success?

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“We often see successful ministry as ministry among the affluent and successful.  The models we admire are suburban models, and events are designed for university students, professionals, and white collar families.  The ministers of affluent, suburban churches dominate our conference platforms, and their patterns of church life are presented as the norm.  There is little biblical reflection on poverty, because such churches are not working among the poor.  Under-resourced churches struggling in marginalized areas are undervalued and their work among the poor viewed with suspicion.”

Tim Chester “Good News to the Poor”

Church Bells, Kroger, Vogelsberg Bakery and More…

It hasn’t been quite a month yet since we moved to Carrollton but here’s my list of the good, bad and ugly.

Things I like:

  • Church Bells that ring on the hour, every hour.  I just love hearing the church bells chime and I’m thankful that our home is close enough to the square to hear them.  It’s a bit nostalgic for me as it reminds me of my grandparents’ home.  They had a clock with the same chime and I always admired it as a child.  The most important thing it reminds me of though is to pray- to pray especially for the city and my neighbors.
  • Diversity.  I love the diversity of our neighborhood.  Old and young and in between.  Different races, different cultures, different backgrounds.  I long to see greater diversity in local churches.
  • Kroger Marketplace- ok, this one might seem a little weird BUT Carrollton has the coolest Kroger!  I’ve been told it’s the third largest in Georgia and it has all sorts of non-grocery store like stuff you wouldn’t find in a regular old grocery store.
  • Vogelsberg Bakery-those of you  who’ve been know what I am talking about-need I say more?  Alright, I will: fried pies, cookies, donuts, creme horns.  Crazy good!
  • No HOA!   I love not living in a covenant community. I definitely DO NOT miss having an HOA! I don’t care that I can see my neighbors discarded toilet out my back window or that my neighbors across the street leave their trash cans out all week.

Things I dislike:

  • Palmetto Bugs (aka roaches, but in the south we have to make bugs sound pretty!) which are much more prevalent in this house than our last house.  Ewww!  HATE those things!
  • Higher Poverty Rate:  The poverty rate in Carroll County is 20.2% versus the county (Coweta) we moved from which, according to my research, is at 12.7%.  Really though, this is a big reason why we wanted to move to this area.  It’s a sad statistic but we also see the absolute need for the Gospel to shine forth amongst the needy here.  We look forward to meeting and befriending the people behind the statistic.

Just a few little tidbits of information since moving.  I thought I’d share for anyone who has an interest in reading them.