Wednesday, October 9, 2013
“Leadership takes many forms. A leader is one who influences others through the power of his or her person and gifting.” Bob Mitchell
I met Bob Mitchell, Former President of Young Life a couple of weeks ago. What a kind couple he, and his wife are. Through them I received a copy of his book, Letters To A Young Life Leader. I want to share a portion of the introduction to his book because it is powerful and pertinent in times like these. The words are for leaders of the organization, but whenever Bob says, Young Life, feel free to put any organization, or governmental structure you want.
" In the days of the steam locomotive this story was told. It seems that somewhere in the South a dog was being shipped by train. For a couple of days the dog sat in its crate on the station platform. Finally someone asked the station attendant about the dog and its destination. He answered, “We don’t know what we’re gonna do with that dog. He don’t know where it is he come from, and he don’t know where it is he’s a-goin’…and furthermore, he done chewed up his tag!”
It is important to know “where it is we come from and where it is we’re a-goin.” I know there are those who would say that “history,” or, from where it is that Young Life has come, is not important. Not wishing to dwell in the past, they would insist, “What is past is past! What is now is now!”. I understand this thinking and the desire to “move on,” and not attempting to recapture feelings of the good old days.
But we ignore our history to our peril! To “chew up the tag” of important lessons learned, the ways God has led, may mean that we will be less effective in our mission, and tragically, we may even repeat our mistakes. God forbid that we forget those leadings from him which are timeless and essential!"
Sunday, September 22, 2013
“What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.”
Matthew 18:12-14 (NKJV)
The sad truth is that America is filled with lost sheep that nobody bothered to pursue. At one time they were very active in church but then something happened. It’s hard to say what that “something” was, but when it happened, the lost sheep was hurt. When they walked away from the body, nobody pursued them. On their own and lost, their faith began to suffer until they accepted their position as another name on the inactive file at the church.
Why was the lost sheep not pursued? Church leadership can come up with any number of reasons; most of which place the blame on the lost sheep. Actually, in today’s “Seeker Friendly” churches, new fresh faces quickly replace the lost. Why seek the sheep when new lambs are born everyday. It’s true, but is it Biblical?
The mantra of the lost sheep is “I use to go to (fill in the blank)”. Amazingly the lost sheep’s problem is not with God. Their problem is with what they call the “Organized Church”. They were hurt and nobody pursued them, nobody checked, and so it felt like nobody cared.
The easy question for the church is, “Why don’t they just come back?” It’s a good question, but the answer is not all that simple. While the church has moved on without thought, the lost sheep has remained in the place where they were hurt. They are still waiting to be pursued, waiting for the church to act like Christ intended. Until that happens, the lost sheep will remain little more than a statistic on a Gallop pole of those who believe in God, but do not attend church.
“It is not the will of your Father who is in heaven
that one of these little ones should perish.”
I want to be a part of a church, which is committed to restoration. I want to be part of a church that can legitimately say, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” Matthew 11:18 (NKJV). Understandably restoring lost sheep is a challenge. Restoration is a slow process, and wounds may go deep, but the results are worth the investment. It may not be the largest church in the community. It may not have the most exciting programming. But it may well be the most rewarding. It is a certainly Biblical venture.
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
A deer was hanging out in our yard this morning. This part is not uncommon at all. This deer, however, would not leave. The dogs would chase her, and she would simply circle around and come back to the same area. Since this is very uncommon, I decided to investigate. In our area, the dear population are used to humans. This doe allowed me to walk right up to her, and she did not move. Using a gentle voice, I spoke to her, Was there was something she needed? I started to explore the area and what I found, genuinely surprised me. In a freshly cut area, in a small patch of shade was a newborn fawn. It was clean, but still very tired from the birthing experience. Looking around, I found no evidence of a birth having taken place on our property. The season for newborns had already passed, yet here was this creature.
My idea was to call animal services, which I did. Within a half hour, a Sheriff arrived and informed me that the deer looked dead to him, but he could do nothing since the deer was on private property. Disposal of the body was up to me.
Reaching out to pet the soft warm skin of this brand new baby, the fawn jerked and drew in a deep breath. Placing my arms around the helpless creature, I picked it up, held it, and worked to bring the baby back from the brink of death. I carried it to a grove of trees in hopes that mom, who watched my every move, would take over the care of her baby. Though deer eat our plants, and make messes on the grass, holding this newborn changed my attitude about them.
As I held this new, soon to be wild, animal in my arms, I thought about how carefully God handles us. We make messes of his creation, and tear up the flowers and trees to erect ugly concrete structures. We live sinful lives following after our own desires. Yet, when we are in a dangerous place, unable to save ourselves, our God gently lifts us up and takes us to a better place, "for you were dead, but now you have new life" (Romans 6:13). The Bible says, “As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God” (Psalm 42:1 NLT). Two hundred yards from where this tiny fawn now rests is a small lake. I am sure mother was trying to reach that place before giving birth. Soon, this little baby will long for the cool, fresh water. May I never forget my need for God.
I don’t know what the final outcome will be for this tiny spotted creature. I hope the mother, who was confused by what was happening, will understand what I have done. For now, I must watch from a distance.
Wednesday, June 5, 2013
There is an amazing event that takes place every June in the Denver area. The barn swallows come out by the thousands. They divide up into smaller groups, with each group locating themselves around major intersections. At each intersection, the birds swoop and dive, barely missing cars, sometimes touching the ground, and sometimes actually touching cars as they fly by. What they do is pure artistry, like a ballet that takes place all day long.
What is the point of the invasion of the birds? Well, there is another phenomenon that takes place at the same time. The month of June brings a brown moth that is harder to see, but present nonetheless. They enter houses and irritate families when they swarm around lights and windows.
What do the two events have to do with each other? The answer is fascinating. Cars driving on the roads collide with the flying moths, sometimes on the windshield, and others in the grill area. When the vehicles approach the intersection, they slow, and eventually stop for the light. This allows the moths to fall off of the vehicle and on to the ground. When that happens the birds take advantage of the vehicle’s work and enjoy a great meal.
Birds know something that we should understand and apply to our own lives. They put themselves in the place of greatest opportunity. They swarm at the intersections with the most cars, because that is the place where the most bugs will be found.
Are you putting yourself in the place of greatest opportunity? Are you gravitating to the locationwhere you receive the most blessings? The Bible identifies that intersection as the place of prayer. God wants us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). It is like gathering at the biggest intersection knowing that all trials, needs, and decisions travel through that intersection. All blessings pass through the intersection of prayer. Are you in that place?
Sunday, May 5, 2013
When the day arrived, we settled into our seats and enjoyed every minute of the performance. At the conclusion of the play, everybody cheered with joyous applause as the cast took their bows. The play concluded with one more rendition of Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. As the song began, a little girl, of no more than three years, could hold herself back no longer. She pushed her way into the isle, where she sang and dance to the best of her ability. Though the cast was singing their swan song, hundreds of eyes were on this precious little girl who could not contain her joy.
As I watched this little girl, I forgot that I was at the theater, and my mind transitioned to my faith in Jesus. The Bible tells us that Jesus is a source of great joy. He produced boldness in the apostles, vibrancy in the church, and the conviction that a spoon full of grace made everything better. I thought about today’s perfectly choreographed church services, practiced and timed to the minute to insure that everything flows perfectly. But, God’s swan song should have us dancing in the isles with unbridled joy. Jesus Christ has died for our sin, freed us from bondage, and offered us life with him in the glory of a city paved with streets of gold. He has given us a new name, a new family, and a new purpose. He has made us heirs, and priests.
How can we be so casual about our faith when we have been given so much? Is it any wonder that Jesus took a child, like that little three year old girl, dancing in the isle, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).
If you took this passage seriously, what would change in your behavior, your witness, and your faith? If we were so filled with joy that we could not contain ourselves, how would our world change? The world will not be won through casual observances by restrained believers. But, it will be won through people who cannot be silenced, people who say, “one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see” (John 9:25). It was unbridled joy that caused the woman at the well to leave her pots, run back to her own city and proclaim, “Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?” Oh, how we need to be like that woman today.
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
For many years, I took students to Catalina Island for a week. The island, off the coast of California, has rich and amazing marine life. Many of the kids had never experienced a camping trip, bon fires, kayaking, snorkeling, or even being away from home.
One year, as we prepared for our first snorkel, a female student nervously informed me that she did not want to go with us. She gave me several excuses why she did not want to go, but none of her statements impressed me. I was determined that she was going with us.
She gave in to putting on a wetsuit, but the nervousness continued to rise. Finally the truth came out. “I can’t swim, and I am terrified of putting my face in the water. Please don’t make me go!” I assured her that I would be there with her. We could take a paddleboard, and I would not let go of her. “Please come with me. You need to experience this.”
The wetsuits kept us afloat. Without them both of us would likely have drowned. She held on so tight that it was difficult swimming for both of us. As we moved through the water, the student began to relax, but she maintained the resolve not to put her face in the water.
With constant reassurance, she finally agreed to place the glass portion of her mask into the water. When she did, my young student became giddy over the marine vegetation and the beautiful fish that were swimming just out of her grasp. Orange, blue, and silver fish captured her attention until the once fearful student’s head was completely submerged in the ocean waters. The beauty beneath the water was far better than the fear above the water. Discovery was more powerful than fear, so she let go of me, and began swimming around on her own. After a while, reality set in and my young student discovered that she was swimming in the ocean, with her head under water, all on her own. She received a precious reward by exchanging fear and apprehension for discovery and joy.
Evangelism is the process of helping people to move from fear to discovery. So many stand on the shore, waiting for someone to say, “Come with me. You will be safe. I promise that I will not let you go.” The fact is that people have no idea what lies just beneath the surface of faith because they refuse to put their face in the water. But once they are led into the waters of faith, a whole new world of discovery opens to them. They are blessed, and are blessed to watch fear melt away so that faith can take its place.