Monday, September 29, 2008

A favorite time at Central!

Yesterday services were really good.

I especially liked our Connecting Service at 6PM. If you haven't checked it out-- plan on it. We meet in the Student Center-- with everyone-- and the goal from start to finish is Connecting-- with God and each other. I think that is happening. It's becoming one of my favorite times at Central.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

My Day at the Nazarene Publishing House

I was asked to speak at the Nazarene Publish House chapel service this week. It was fun to be back at the ol’ Pub House. Twenty one years ago during my seminary days, I was an NPH employee: A sanitation engineer and building cleanliness expert (a janitor). Some of the people, who were in the chapel service, were my fellow employees back in the day.

I confessed to those fine folks of eating some of their candies off their desks while cleaning, after they had gone home for the day. I admitted to playing Wiffle ball past my break time. And I even confessed to my only foray with tobacco.

Here’s that story: One of the tasks of the janitorial crew was to clean the Nazarene Bookstore, which at the time was located by the Headquarters building (a few miles from the Pub House). It was always a treat to be chosen to clean the book store—it was akin to a field trip because you got to leave the premises, get out in the fresh air, take the Publishing House van, and usually there was time for a little detour for a Wendy’s Frosty.

One time we were going over to the Bookstore, and as it happened the previous night my co-worker’s wife had given birth to their firstborn child (why he was working and not at the hospital with his wife and new baby I do not know). Anyway, to celebrate this fact, he brought cigars for everyone. Not bubble gum cigars, mind you— cigar cigars. Real cigars.

I had never smoked a cigar before. I had never smoked anything before. I had been taught many lessons on the dangers and evils of the tobacco leaf—in one Vacation Bible school we even learned this cheer:

Do we use it? No. NO. NO.
Big Green Worms upon it grow.

I think big green worms are occasionally on a variety of good for you foods like tomatoes and corn too, but I guess big green worms are especially gross on the T-O-B-A-C-C-O. Still, I ignored the warnings, and on the way to the bookstore— falling to a peer pressure I had not experienced since Jr. High, my co-worker and I lit those babies up like we were some Wall Street Fat Cats. We were puffing away, puffing away, puffing away, when it dawned on us— “We are in the Publishing House Van! You are not supposed to SMOKE in the NAZARENE Publishing House van!” We tossed those half smoked cancer sticks out the window faster than you could say, “Bud Lunn is watching you.” (Bud was the long time manager of the Publishing House, and rumors were that he had been given special abilities to know everything that happened within the confines of NPH). Although it was the middle of winter, we rolled down the van windows and desperately tried to air out the cheap cigar fumes. We were convinced the next day would be our last day as employees of the Nazarene Publishing House.

But our secret was never discovered, and until Tuesday morning’s chapel service, no one at the Publishing House ever knew that my one and only time of lighting it up like a Marlboro Man was in the Nazarene Publishing House Van.

Thankfully, the NPH employees were gracious and kind and forgiving (and Bud Lunn is now in heaven and can’t fire me even if he wanted). We had a wonderful chapel service. As they say, confession is good for the soul.

In a much more serious look at confession-- last Sunday, we began our new sermon series, “The Elephant in the Church,” and our focus was on the Fake Elephant of hypocrisy. Rather than being frauds and phonies, we stated that the path to authenticity was confession. Our key verse for the morning was James 5:16: Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. (The Message)

At the end of the service, rather than a traditional altar call, we provided confessional cards to everyone in the sanctuary and asked people to confess attitudes and/or behaviors that were less than pleasing to God. We called on people to admit to those things that we keeping them from having the “mind of Christ.”
The response was overwhelming.

Approximately 250 people moved forward and dropped their confessional card into one of two boxes. One box was labeled “JUNK” (I promised that no one would read those cards), and the other box was labeled “SHARED JUNK” where the confessions would be read. In the SHARED JUNK box there were 195 cards. WOW… 195!

This week I have read and prayed over all 195 cards from the SHARED JUNK box. Some people confessed to selfishness, anger, worry or greed. Others confessed fears and various sins. Nineteen confessed to an addiction to pornography.

If you were one of the 250 people who stepped out from your seat and dropped a card in the JUNK or SHARED JUNK box or if you are simply reading this e-mail and are reflecting on your own “junk.” Then hear this: GOD’S GRACE IS BIGGER THAN ANY SIN or problem or worry or fear. Confession is the first step to freedom. In fact the Bible says: If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. (1 John 1:9-10. NLT).

You need not be gripped in the debilitating grasp of sin, God’s grace is greater! He is able to cleanse all that junk and all the guilt and give you the mind of Christ!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Turning Central into a House of Prayer

The Church Board Meeting was last night-- and we spent most of the time in prayer. One of the most important aspects of leadership is knowing the absolute necessity of leading from one's knees.

We split up and prayed for the ministries of Central. We prayed in the classrooms and in the meeting places. We prayed for the children, students, everyone else. We prayed for the finances and the mission pledges. Then we all gathered in the sanctuary and prayed around the altars. If Central is going to be the great church that God calls us to be-- it will be as we renew our efforts to be a house of prayer." The Board is leading the way!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Global Outreach Report

I loved our Global Outreach Sunday.

Rev. Simon Pierre was fantastic. He is a humble and great man of God. His story of God’s grace in the midst of chaos during the worst of times in Rwanda was truly inspiring. It causes me to want to do so much more for Christ than what I am doing.
And in the Sunday @ Six Service, we were given plenty of options for making a difference. Work and Witness, Child Sponsorship, and serving in our Carlyle Apartments after school program, Kansas City Rescue Mission, in our Spanish or Arabic Services were some of the options given.

I am so glad to be part of a mission focused church. Yesterday’s totals for our Global Outreach giving were as follows:

Pledged for World Evangelism and Work and Witness: $35,828.
Cash given for WEF and W&W mission trips: $234.
Cash given for Rev. Simon Pierre’s church in Rwanda: $1,330

It’s a start but we have a long way to go!

The Elephant in the Church

This Sunday begins my new Sermon Series: The Elephant in the Church. I am excited and nervous about this one. There will be some hot potatoes that we will address in the coming weeks, so will you pray? Pray for me. Pray for my preparation. Pray that I will be true to Scripture and true to what we need to hear from the Lord. Pray that God will work in awesome ways!

And INVITE! I think this will be a great series to ivite friends as we address some common opinions that non-believers have about the church and Christ followers.

See you Sunday!

Welcome to the neighborhood

Our frineds who work at Nazarene Headquarters (forever now called the Global Ministry Center) are moving into their new digs today. Happy New Office Day! I think Central is the closest church to the GMC. Welcome to the neighborhood!

Friday, September 12, 2008

We Can Do More

According to the “Where I’ve Been” feature on Facebook, I have been to 17% of the world. Don’t be too impressed—I think that statistic is a tad bit misleading. For instance, it gives me credit for being in the whole country of Russia (including Siberia) when in fact I’ve only been to Moscow and Volgograd. I haven’t been to 17% of Russia, much less 17% of the world.

I certainly have never been in 151 world areas. What’s so big about 151 world areas? That is the number of countries where we have missionary efforts and people worshipping and doing the work of the Lord. I’ve never been to Papua New Guinea, but we have a hospital there. I’ve never been to Nairobi, Kenya but we have a university there. I couldn’t find East Timor on a map, but (you guessed it) we have missionaries there.

Aren’t you glad to be a part of a church that oozes missions? We are part of a church that takes serious Jesus’ call to “make disciples in the nations” (including East Timor). We are part of a church that says we want everybody—people across the street and people across the world to hear the best news of all—Jesus loves them! We are united with a community of believers from every inhabitable continent on the planet (I think that means in Antarctica there’s only penguins. No Nazarenes. But we are everywhere else), and I’m glad (glad about being missions coo-coo, and not so worried about our lack of penguin evangelism in Antarctica)!

I’m glad for a few reasons.

I’m glad we are mission-obsessed because Jesus said to be.

I’m glad we are mission-focused because there are millions (no billions) of people living on this planet that need Jesus. If you haven’t checked on the date—today is the infamous anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attacks. The memory of that awful day tells me again and again how desperate our world needs Jesus, and how incredibly necessary it is for the world to know the Prince of Peace.

I’m glad we are Mission crazy because I’ve been to 17% of the world (yea, right!)--- well, I’ve been to enough places to know that there are millions (no billions) who need to experience not only the love of Christ in their hearts, but need Christ followers like you and me who have been blessed beyond measure to share Christ’s love through acts of compassion. I’m glad our church sponsors children around the world so they can receive education and their basic needs. I’m glad for the hospitals and clinics that we sponsor. I’m glad for the hundreds of dedicated “good Samaritan” points where thousands of volunteers serve the needy (like our own Lord’s Food Pantry, for instance!).

I’m glad we are mission-passionate because I want my boys to be mission-passionate too. I want them to be about something bigger, way bigger than themselves—and making more and better disciples around the globe certainly qualifies as something way bigger than themselves!

I’m glad that this weekend is our Global Outreach Weekend. It’s all about missions! Our special guest, Rev. Simon Pierre from Rwanda, will share his powerful story of God’s grace and God’s empowerment which allowed him to shine the light of Christ during one of the darkest times in our world’s history (the genocide in Rwanda in the 1990’s). YOU WILL NOT WANT TO MISS THIS POWERFUL SUNDAY! Bring any friends who are interested in knowing how God can work in even the most awful times!

To prepare for the weekend with Rev. Pierre, I watched Hotel Rwanda (it had been a while since I saw it)—I was struck how Paul Rusesabagina, the hotel manager who saved 1268 lives at the Milles Collines Hotel, when being thanked for his efforts at the end of the movie said, “I could have done more.” It was eerily similar to Oskar Schindler at the end of Schindler’s List saying the same thing. He could have helped more people. He could have given more. He could have done more. It made me think about us. We aren’t living through a holocaust or genocide, but we do live in a world where billions don’t know Christ. And I wonder, will we be saying those same words, “I could have done more” at the end of our lives? We have been blessed. Even with economic down-turns and high gas and grocery prices, we have all been blessed. So… what are we doing to reach our world for Jesus? Could we give more? Could we pray more? Could we care more? Could we do more?

Last year people from Central gave nearly $300,000 to missions (in one form or another), that’s a lot of money, but we could do more! Last year, we pledged $85,000 toward the World Evangelism Fund (WEF pays missionary salaries, trains national workers, supports hospitals and clinics and so much more in the 151 countries) and mission trip supplies—but guess what? We could do more!

It is my prayer that this weekend we not only pledge money, but we pledge our lives to making a difference, to being a light, to becoming even more mission-obsessed than ever before. It is my prayer that Central church learns that as we give of ourselves and really focus on the lost in our world (down the street or around the globe) that God will bless in an even greater measure!

Our goal for the WEF and Mission trip supplies is $100,000, we can do it—in fact, we can do more!!!