He’s in a coma . . .

I wrote this blog two days after Otto Warmbier was returned home. Sadly he has passed away in the last 24 hours.

The tragic story of Otto Warmbier was in the news recently and it doesn’t look like a happy ending. Much of his story was buried by the shooting at the Repub636331232262094896-WarmbierFredAPlican Congressional baseball practice. His father stood and talked at a press conference and answered questions the day after Otto was returned home. As Fred Warmbier represented the family his voice only cracked once and that was when he identified the jacket he was wearing as the same one his son was last seen wearing in a North Korea propaganda video.

He was a vibrant and very much alive college student when he left home but since January of 2016 he has been held by this rouge and ugly nation. A few days ago he was flown home in a medical plane and the news was shared . . . he is in a coma.

I watched the three doctors from the University of Cincinnati explain that his chances of functioning again were very slim.

There are things that can happen in our life that literally turn everything we know upside down. There are moments that threaten to paralyze us and send us into a voluntary retreat. There are events that are life changing, traumatic, heartbreaking and even stifling to our lives and future. I am made to pause and think about the possible scenario that Otto may live with the rest of his life.  He is in what his doctors call “a state of unresponsive wakefulness.

When I heard this phrase I couldn’t quit thinking about it. It reminds me of what can happen to us if we allow traumatic circumstances or life issues to paralyze us from our future or even our today. Supposedly Otto will open his eyes but it is not connected to anything going on around him.

What is it like to be in an emotional coma? Because of things that have happened in your life you allow yourself to emotionally barely breathe or function. You shut down and if you are not careful you shut others out. You are awake but you dare not be responsive because to do so will make you vulnerable and you have learned that people can be cruel. People will judge you without knowing the whole story. People will take sides. I have yet to have anyone ask me point blank what happened? (I’ve told my story to a few people but most assume they know enough to judge.)  People will walk away from you and shun you. People will protest you by trying to hurt you economically if you are running a business. (I guess the logic is “We will show her or him just how much we disagree with their actions by pulling our business or friendship away.) People are flawed, even the ones that think they are not or can’t give themselves permission to be honest.

So . . . it is easy to want to drift into the solitude of an emotional coma. It is easy to want to narrow your friendships down to a precious few and run from the crowd. I don’t think it’s healthy. I don’t think it has to be or should be this way.

I hope that against the odds, Otto finds his way back to his family and out of his “state of unresponsive wakefulness.” And I hope for you and I, that we don’t allow ourselves or our story to keep us in an “emotional state of unresponsive wakefulness.” Allow yourself to be alive. Allow yourself to find joy. Allow yourself to accept the new. Allow yourself to laugh and even cry when it is healthy. If you need forgiveness from God, He offers it unconditionally and if He has forgiven you and He hasn’t walked away from you rise up out of the coma and let God fill your life with His goodness.

 

My daily prayer . . .

mind-of-god-heart-of-god1You pray differently when you’ve been broken. Psalm 40 says everything that needs to be said. It covers my past, present and future. Even after the brokenness heals you are forever changed and it changes your attitude about most things in life.  The Psalmist states his testimony in the first 4 verses and then the prayer begins. Woven into this prayer is the story of what it means to trust God with your life. He also proclaims his willingness in the past to proclaim God’s grace, mercy and justice in the “great assembly.”  For thirty years I proclaimed it faithfully. Life has changed and in many ways for the better but I still cry out daily to God for His tender mercies and to remind Him that I remain poor and needy and always want to be in God’s thoughts. (v. 17) With the Psalmist today I shout, “The Lord is great!”  (v.16) Thankful for my life and thankful for this prayer . . .

I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,
    and he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
    out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground
    and steadied me as I walked along.
He has given me a new song to sing,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what he has done and be amazed.
    They will put their trust in the Lord.

Oh, the joys of those who trust the Lord,
    who have no confidence in the proud
    or in those who worship idols.
O Lord my God, you have performed many wonders for us.
    Your plans for us are too numerous to list.
    You have no equal.
If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds,
    I would never come to the end of them.

You take no delight in sacrifices or offerings.
    Now that you have made me listen, I finally understand[a]
    you don’t require burnt offerings or sin offerings.
Then I said, “Look, I have come.
    As is written about me in the Scriptures:
I take joy in doing your will, my God,
    for your instructions are written on my heart.”

I have told all your people about your justice.
    I have not been afraid to speak out,
    as you, O Lord, well know.
10 I have not kept the good news of your justice hidden in my heart;
    I have talked about your faithfulness and saving power.
I have told everyone in the great assembly
    of your unfailing love and faithfulness.

11 Lord, don’t hold back your tender mercies from me.
    Let your unfailing love and faithfulness always protect me.
12 For troubles surround me—
    too many to count!
My sins pile up so high
    I can’t see my way out.
They outnumber the hairs on my head.
    I have lost all courage.

13 Please, Lord, rescue me!
    Come quickly, Lord, and help me.
14 May those who try to destroy me
    be humiliated and put to shame.
May those who take delight in my trouble
    be turned back in disgrace.
15 Let them be horrified by their shame,
    for they said, “Aha! We’ve got him now!”

16 But may all who search for you
    be filled with joy and gladness in you.
May those who love your salvation
    repeatedly shout, “The Lord is great!”
17 As for me, since I am poor and needy,
    let the Lord keep me in his thoughts.
You are my helper and my savior.
    O my God, do not delay.

When God finds you . . .

I went to a local church today to support and hear some friends joining a local church choir in presenting some songs from Tim Sharp and Wes Ramsay’s Bluegrass Mass. The words chosen for the music were incredible, biblical and as theologically sound as anything written by J.S. Bach.  You can do your own research on that by searching for video of this “mass.”

Beyond the music which I expected to connect with I was in total surprise as I found out God had some things I needed to hear. I think it was during the children’s sermon when the explanation was given with amazing and simple eloquence as to why a child was being baptized and why a teenager was being confirmed. It was stirring and appealing in so many different ways.  It was stated clearly that the parents of the teen had taken her baptism and their vows seriously years before which led them to this moment of her confirmation. As I heard the questions asked of this young lady about her faith I allowed myself to answer those questions for myself. As the associate pastor gave the meditation I was struck by his words on this Pentecost Sunday. He remembered his time at camp as a child and the man who made the fire sometimes even from sticks. He then described the next morning when another counselor would go to the burn pile now gray with ashes and apparently cold from the long night hours. He would take a stick and start digging to find hot coals and he would blow on them. Within a few minutes the fire would flare up again and soon breakfast would be cooking. The point is that the fire can burn again. It may look like cold ashes in the morning but dig deep enough and you will find the fire.

IMG_1905As I sat and listened to this young man’s words I realized that God had a message for me and that I needed to take it on and let Him apply it to me. I was sitting on a folding chair literally right down the aisle and even that allowed these words to flow unrestricted into my heart and soul.

For the last two and a half years I have fought the battle to rise above the condemnation and judgement of others. I have not doubted God because of moments like this in which He has repeatedly found me and called me to continue to let Him work in my soul. But I have struggled.

Today I heard Him and I listened. I heard a close friend this week that called to check on me and pushed on me to forgive myself. I will share one other moment from today’s service.

During the offering the words to one of my favorite songs found me. My all time favorite hymn is Pass Me Not oh Gentle Savior and this song would be close to that in sentiment.  Mosie Lister wrote these words and they surely are my prayer most days:

Once I stood in the night with my head bowed low
In the darkness, as black as could be
And my heart felt alone
And I cried oh Lord
Don’t hide your face from meLike a king I may live in a palace so tall
With great riches to call my own
But I don’t know a thing
In this whole wide world
That’s worse then being alone

Chorus:

Hold my hand all the way
Every hour every day
From here to the great unknown
Take my hand
Let me stand where no one stands alone.

As I walked away today I thought of all of the people who have contacted me over the last two years and our stories that are all different and yet so much the same. Somewhere along the line we broke, we failed and we fell down in our spiritual walk. We have beaten ourselves with shame and the shunning of people we thought we were close to. We have repented over and over not because we didn’t find forgiveness through Christ but because the church too often doesn’t know what to do with broken people and so the wound lives on. I thought of you all today. I thought of us today.

Let the fire of God burn in you on this Pentecost Sunday. The people in the upper room when the church was formed were flawed and broken but because of the grace of God it was with them that God started the church.  As I walked away today I was reminded of God’s love for me. I was encouraged to think that He might find something good in me and something that He might use for His honor and to help others. We are loved. God found me today when and where I least expected it. I am thankful.

(I’m going to publish the video of the song referenced above on my Facebook page since I can’t get it to load in this blog post.)

Pressing on . . .

 forgetting-the-past-pressing-on-philippians-3-13I am confronted and reminded often of my brokenness and especially the brokenness of the past. It may come in the form of a phone call I desire but never receive, a text with accusing non-forgiving words, a public encounter with people that once professed to care but who now turn away without speaking or even by the memory of things past. It may even be the change in vocation and the job I do on a daily basis.

I have wrestled the last two and a half years over how to process repentance, forgiveness and restoration. God clearly demonstrated in the Bible His love for those who repent and turn back to Him. Jesus also left us with a record of His mercy in the New Testament. While King David is the go-to seemingly that people like to point to I have searched for other examples. David’s story is incredible given the mess that was made and for him to still be recognized as “a man after God’s heart” is something I can relate to. No matter what may or may not have happened in my story, I am the same person with the same thoughts, desires, and even convictions as strange as that may sound. I don’t claim David’s status but I have never lost my desire for Him or to follow Him.

Most recently I have wrestled with what I am calling “ministry muscle memory.” I still think about church and what it could look like. I still engage the bible and see sermon’s that could be shared. I still pray and pursue God. I still care about others and especially “the least of these.” I have dreamed about buildings that would make a unique place to invite people to study God’s word and more importantly experience real relationships.

I have concluded that probably I need to let it go for now. Just because I can envision it, feel it and put it together in my head doesn’t necessarily mean that God is calling me to do it. So I will rest and wait and stay as close as I can to be able to hear Him  if He calls. I’ve had all the public ministry a person could wish for . . . I don’t need that . . . but to hear His call even to obscurity or to walk with someone through their brokenness may be the call that comes.

Recently  I’ve been thinking a lot about the disciple named Peter. He was impulsive, brash and hasty. He was not polished or tactful. He was a fisherman turned follower of Christ. He was zealous. He was committed. He was ready to be Jesus’ right hand man. He fell hard. He did what he said he would never do. He denied even knowing Jesus let alone following Him. Jesus knew it was going to happen just like He knows what you and I will do. I have often assured myself that the God that called me into ministry at 21 knew where I would be at 53. He still called me, used me and allowed me to be a part of some amazing things. When I found myself “on the outside looking in” at the church world it was fascinating to know that He was there with me the whole time. He was not shocked by anything. He was ready to forgive and restore.  Peter found this also and here is a reminder of his story. Yes, I know it’s an outline so  . . . preach it if you want. I’m preaching it to myself.

“Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And he went away, weeping bitterly” Matthew 26:5 NLT

“And Peter left the courtyard, weeping bitterly.”  Luke 22:62 NLT

A place of conviction: Peter knew as soon as he denied the Lord that he was guilty and had broken his relationship with God. Conviction is a gift that we should never run from. It is hard and it is painful but it is necessary to bring us back to Christ.  In the verses below there are two possible unintentional metaphors of what Peter did, “he went away” and “Peter left the courtyard.”  If you have ever failed or fallen especially publicly it is as though you “went away” or “left the church world.”  He went and wept bitterly at disappointment in himself and the fact that he had failed.

“Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee.” Mark 16:7 NLT

A place of separation: Even the angels in the tomb separated Peter from the other disciples when they instructed Mary to go and tell the others. The great thing about this is that they included him even though he was separated from them by his actions. Even when we are away God is still thinking of us and longing for us to return. The church may not give you this indication but God is where you must look for strength when you have failed or fallen. 

“Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his tunic (for he had stripped for work), jumped into the water, and headed to shore. The others stayed with the boat. . .”   John 21:7-8a NLT

Now come and have some breakfast!” Jesus said. None of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. John 21:12 NLT

A place of invitation: Peter jumped at the chance when he realized he could come face to face with the Lord. Yes, he failed but I don’t believe he ever stopped loving Jesus. I can testify that no matter how far you may drift away due to circumstances that nobody else may understand, you can still long for the Jesus that you have known and loved.  Jesus come bring some fish and have some breakfast, but the invitation of His presence is more than physical satisfaction. He came to invite Peter back into the fold. Back into relationship. And He does the same for us today. I love a Jesus that will fix you breakfast and then fix your soul.

After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” John 21:15 NLT

“Then feed my lambs,”

“Then take care of my sheep,”

“Then feed my sheep.

A place of restoration: Do you love Him?  That is the biggest question to answer. He didn’t belittle him for his particular failure. He didn’t accuse him of forsaking Him in His hour of need and death. He just said, “Do you love me?”  After affirming it three times Jesus restored Peter spiritually and even commissioned him to get back to work.

I rest in this. I will not worry or fret about my gifts or strengths being used or not used.  I have a job I am very thankful for and a family to care for, love and pray for. I am tasked with living my faith everyday. I am working hard to surrender my past, present and future. I am learning or at least longing to relax in knowledge  and presence of my loving Savior.  It’s a daily struggle but in the classic words spoken by Peter a long time ago:

“Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” John 21:15 NLT

I Stand with Jesus Christ . . .

Recently many people rallied to show support for science. Some even attached cute frames to their Facebook pictures. That’s loyalty.  It’s a fascinating topic to say the least especially in light of the Bible and believing it to be the word of God. History always repeats itself and the older denominations are, the more the academics feel the need for sophistication. The goal becomes not to look foolish to the world around them. Much of this angst is centered around science and the inability to prove certain biblical stories like the virgin birth of Jesus or His resurrection from the dead. Lesser issues would involve the biblical miracles of the Old Testament.

I once had a staff member that was going to preach about the story of Jesus feeding five thousand people from five loaves of bread and two fish. He was actually going to present alternative ways this could have happened for people that would struggle with the miracles. He learned this at a local Christian University. It’s God we’re dealing with and it’s His word and works. You don’t have to explain them through science you just have to exercise faith and believe.

Recently in my neighborhood and in the village of Granville, Ohio some signs have been showing up in people’s yards. At first read they seem harmless enough but let me give you my personal response to these statements.  It starts out with this statement:

“In this IMG_1144house we believe . . . “

When I read this opening line I thought of these words from Joshua 24:15:

But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.

Women’s rights are human rights. I’m not sure why this is here or what the issue is at least in North America but I thought about the way the bible addresses females and how the call is for beauty to be found in their spiritual life not all the things this world uses to manipulate and use women. In 1 Peter 3:3-4, we read these words:

Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.” 

Kindness is everything: Kindness is strongly suggested everywhere in the bible and is a “fruit of the Spirit.” In Colossians 3:12 we find this admonition:

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

Science is real.  Yes it is but what’s the point? Science is real and scientists are real but they are not alway right. What a superior group of people they would be if they were always right. Denominations get to this struggle around their 100th year. In earlier generations they are full of faith and fire and zealous for God and His word but then respect of the world becomes important and people resent looking foolish so they reach out to science to find credibility. It is not a new thing. I appreciate science and the hard work, study and research. What I don’t need is for you to explain the miracles of the bible. If God is God then however He does it is fine with me.  Seven day creation? Why not? Moses parting the Red Sea with God’s help? Delivering Daniel from the lion’s den? Of course, this is God! Jesus healing the blind, lame and mute? It takes faith to believe the bible and for that matter it takes faith to believe in much of the science world. Biblically I read these words:

“Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:26-29

Love is love. Not surprising at all that this is on the sign. What a different world we now live in than even just fifty years ago. The agenda of this segment of our society has been amazing to watch. Most notable is the intentional efforts to include their themes in every TV sitcom and or movie for the purposes of normalization. Generations of even “church kids” have now been infused with the notion that it really doesn’t matter to God. Love is love. Yes it is but not all love is right in God’s sight. This one is big and even writing about it is cause for fear in today’s society. Churches will someday lose their tax free status over this one and ministers will lose their ability to marry with the endorsement of the State, I believe. This topic should never be addressed without compassion and kindness but the Bible is God’s word and so I will stick with it. (By the way, “cut and pasting” in regard to biblical truth never works. Once you start that you can make the bible say whatever you desire.) 

6 “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’  7 ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, Mark 10:6-7 NIV
24 So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies. 25 They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen.26 That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. 27 And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved. Romans 1:24-27 NLT 
BLACK LIVES MATTER  Well I just deleted an entire paragraph on this one.
As a Christ follower I believe that we are all equal and that every life matters on this entire planet. We, the church have a long way to go on this one. It is true we were very quiet during the civil rights struggle and for that American churches should be ashamed. We should be compassionate about the marginalized and the those that are oppressed. We should also work daily to dispel the myths that have been created among all ethnicities that lead us to fear and stay divided. We should love all men and women regardless of color. Why?
“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
All people matter to God and the gospel of peace will change the world one life at a time when lived out the way Jesus instructed us. “Red and yellow black and white they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”
No human is illegal. This one makes no sense. If law matters and it does. If keeping the peace matters and it does then sometimes humans will be illegal. There are laws and especially immigration laws and when you break them it makes you illegal. To totally ignore the law and just let anyone into a Country is just silly and wrapped up in emotion and not sound reasoning. Contrary to the hype people can still legally get into our land of opportunity.
So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free. John 8:36
Water is Life  . . . and we should do all we can to provide clean water everywhere in the world.
I am reminded of these words when I see this phrase on the sign:
“Jesus replied, Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again.14 But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” John 4:13 
Maybe this post is just for me but these signs are everywhere and I have no where else to respond. It’s distressing when you have no voice or say so here is my little attempt to respond. Sorry it’s not all that inspiring but I feel better. What I have learned from my twenty something friends and even a few in their thirties and forties is that I’m not supposed to voice my opinion let alone have one. Too late. Hitting send and bracing myself.

“Don’t You care . . . ?”

worship-642-e1340052320903All of us have experienced a storm in our lives at one time or the other. Not just a little rain but an all out trees down, roofs blown off, loss of electricity for days kind of storm. I am not talking about weather but using this metaphor for the seasons that sometimes come into our lives.

They are threatening. They are terrifying. They may involve someone dying or leaving. It is that  moment when you and I realize that we control nothing. We are at the mercy of the situation. Often during these moments both the religious and the non-religious turn to God. We want Him to work on our behalf. We want a positive outcome and usually we want it now.

It is fascinating to listen to our language sometimes or what we say about God. A staff member at a church I lead, who’s father had survived a serious medical procedure, stood up and announced to the congregation that everything had turn out good but then proceeded to say, “God was faithful.” It was innocent enough for a son to be happy his dad was going to be okay but the truth is if his dad had died during the procedure God would still be faithful. I doubt that he would have used that language because we rarely think that way.

Lazarus’s sisters Mary and Martha accosted Jesus when He showed up after their brothers death. “If you had only been here!” they cried. God is everywhere. He stands beside you and in you during the worst days and the best.

Jesus was with His disciples one day on the Sea of Galilee. As they traveled, Jesus fell asleep and they were besieged with a horrific storm. They were afraid for their lives. Remember some of them were fishermen and yet this storm had them reeling. Jesus stayed asleep until they finally shook Him awake and confronted Him with these words, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

How many times have we been at this place in our lives for one reason or the other? The storm is raging so to speak and we cry out in desperation to Jesus. We may beg and plead and even feel angry. We quickly go to, “If you loved us you wouldn’t let this happen.” Depending on how it turns out often our faith increases or decreases. Somehow we have to come to believe that God is alway faithful and alway good. He always has our best interest in mind and sometimes through the trials we grow spiritually in way unimaginable during peaceful times. We long for peace and calm but it is in the storms of life that we learn to trust and have faith no matter what happens.

It’s interesting in this story that before they woke Jesus they were afraid but when He stands up in the boat and commands the storm to be quiet and be still and it happens the bible says, “They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey Him!””

It is one thing to confront the power of mother nature but in this story they are confronted with a picture of the God that loves beyond our imaginations and yet possesses power over everything. This is the God we surrender our lives to. And you know what? You have to believe that He both loves and is in control. Nature just happens and you may die from it in a hurricane, a tsunami, or a tornado but when confronted by our circumstances in light of the God we serve we must trust His love for us and know that when the terrible happens He still loves us and is faithful.

This is much easier to write then live out. I lost one of my most loyal and faithful friends this past week and as I write this a friend from college that I talked to by phone often is hanging on between life and death after a tragic car accident. I am watching the update posts by his family and seeing the pictures of his small congregation now congregating in the waiting room of the critical care unit at the hospital. I can’t imagine what his two children and wife must be feeling inside. Hundreds of Facebook friends have prayer chains going and churches today are praying around the country for this much loved individual. They are praying for rescue and healing. People are grieving.

Through it all I keep reminding myself that God doesn’t cause car wrecks or babies to die but in His Sovereignty He will use our storms and circumstances to cause us to look to Him and to think about Him. Seeing God can be terrifying but in the end we trust Him and we believe that He is good.  Oh how He loves us. Oh how He loves you today.  You may not feel Him or know it but He loves you and knows exactly where you are. His will will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

In the words of the ancient hymn, How Firm a Foundation the author reminds us how much God cares:

“When through the deep waters I call you to go,
the rivers of sorrow shall not overflow,
for I will be with you in trouble to bless,
and sanctify to you your deepest distress.

4 “When through fiery trials your pathway shall lie,
my grace all-sufficient shall be your supply;
the flame shall not hurt you; I only design
your dross to consume and your gold to refine.

5 “The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
that soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no, never, no never forsake!”

Outsider thoughts. . .

Today will be the annual district gathering of an organization I used to “belong” to. I chose to go on my own the day after resigning the church and resign my credentials knowing that I needed to walk away.

This is the day that people will gather and the comparison game will begin.  The district will provide a slick little booklet with every pastor’s picture and stats.  It was one of the most awkward and painful days for me every year.

Funny that I might say that because the church I lead was “at the top” yeIMG_1350.JPGar after year. Our numerical stats were great and never declining. Our ministry income steadily increased every year. My pain was for the men and women that never won in the numbers game.

As unfair and as unimportant as it is, denominations still continue to use the two stats of “nickes and noses” to assess the effectiveness of the local church and pastors. Many times in my thirty years of ministry the connections made with people, families and situations were not something that could be reported. Thankfully God kept track of such things.

Let me tell you one such story.  He was an old man that sat on his porch every day behind the first church I pastored. I waved at him often and sometimes had brief conversations. One day he stuck a shotgun in his mouth and pulled the trigger. I heard about it and made the trip to Louisville KY to see him.  He was in the Critical Care Unit and of course never spoke again. He lived for another year or so in a nursing facility. Somewhere during that next year and during one of my visits, he came to know Christ as His Savior. He never spoke but his face told the story of transformation. I preached his funeral and shared his testimony. It is still one of the highlights of my ministry years. Guess what? No part of that story could be reported and none of it applied to the numbers assessment. He never came to church and he never gave an offering. The church I lead averaged about 45 in attendance. Nobody celebrated that. Ever. Thankfully God judges by a different standard and He remembers things that matter.

To those of you sitting there today feeling like a loser please know that God knows what you have done over this last year. It’s not about attendance and offerings but about faithfulness and availability. You’ve been faithful to your calling. Be encouraged. Be strong. Don’t let this day defeat you or discourage you. I am praying for you today.

And to my former “colleagues” in ministry  . . . your silence has been deafening. I’m sorry I let you down but I am thankful for the grace of God that I never knew existed. You won’t get it so don’t try to understand. If you ever fall or fail just know that even if others walk away Jesus never does. He knows your name. He hears your call. He will take care of you in ways you can’t even imagine. At some point God’s grace surpasses the grief of failure and the missing of people you thought you knew and had a relationship with.

Filled with thankfulness today . . . for many reasons. Go enjoy your lunch which is often the highlight of the day at district assembly if you are honest.