What Do We Deserve?

This is a true story.

A minister of God didn’t have anyone to work with, so he asked God to make him available to whatever would be his will. He checked want ads, because he needed some money, and he saw there was a bus driving job made available to him. So he worked as a bus driver in south Chicago. If you know anything about Chicago, it is not south Chicago you want to drive a bus in, but that’s where they had the need. He found out later it was because nobody else would stay on the job. So he drove it.

Before a week passed, some thugs got on the bus and didn’t pay, they sat in the back, sneered and jeered and mocked him. The next day the same thing happened. The third day it happened again. After it went on for about a week, he decided he didn’t have to put up with that. So he decided to call an officer inside the bus and make them pay. He saw one down about a block away and after he got on he told the officer that the fellows back there haven’t paid for several days, would you at least make them pay today? And he did, but unfortunately the officer got off the bus. When the door was closed, the bus driver drove a little further and turned a corner, and that was the last thing he remembered. They knocked a couple of teeth out and stole his money, and when he woke up the bus was empty.

He sat there in confusion and disillusionment wondering, “What kind of ministry is this, Lord? I told you I was available and this was the job you opened up?” And he went home, turned the bus in, took the rest of the day off. He stared at the ceiling as he was nursing his wounds, and he thought, “I’m not gonna let them get away with that.” So, through an interesting chain of events, they rounded up, with the help of some officers, the very guys and took them to court. All four of them.

The of the hearing he stood before the court, and the judge listened carefully, an decided the fellows were guilty. And they didn’t have any money to buy their way out, so they had to spend some time in jail. Suddenly the minister realized, “Here’s my chance.” He said, “Your honor, may I speak for a moment?” The judge allowed it and the minister said, “I’d like for you to tally up all of the time these fellows together would be spending in jail, and I’d like to go in their behalf.” And the judge responded, “Well, that’s highly irregular, it has never been done before.” And the minister responded, “Oh yes it has, about 2,000 years ago.” And then in about 4 minutes he gave them the gospel.

Three of the young men came to know Christ right away and one of them later, after the minister was incarcerated. That fellow was having a ministry with those four guys who heard the message that somebody else wanted to pay the price for their sin. A living testimony for what Christ did for us.

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Events That Changed Everything

My church will begin a new adventure in September. It is called Events That Changed Everything. It is the story in the Bible; God and humanity, sin and salvation, loss and hope, joy and eternity.

We live in a society of sound bytes. And Christians have a tendency to study the Bible in a similar manner. Taking a verse, or a passage and missing the big picture. The Bible has context. It presents a story and history and each Bible study sound byte fits in and knowing how it fits helps with understanding and meaning and depth of meaning.

Here’s the goals we have for Events:

Events That Changed Everything will help the Bible unfold before you through the progression of Bible events and characters arranged chronologically.

Beginning with creation, everyone who participates will discover a new and deeper understanding and appreciation of the Bible with each sermon, each Bible lesson, and your own Bible reading.

You will:

  •  Understand the basic story line in the Bible
  •  Realize how you can be a part of God’s ongoing story
  •  Understand how God’s story has the power to change lives
  •  Increase Biblical understanding and knowledge and build an appetite for the Bible
  •  De-mystify Bible study
  •  And introduce Bible study resources and ongoing Bible study opportunities

Sunday, September 4th we will begin our journey in the Bible’s story with the Creation.

Share in our adventure as we experience the Bible as a whole and share these things with you here.

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Don’t Stop the Music; Dana Key

I have been a huge Dana Key fan. In fact, I still listen to D&K and Dana’s solo projects regularly. June 6, 2010, Dana died from a ruptured blood clot at the age of 56. He was a sold-out man of God. He possessed incredible musical skills and a true heart for God. I found this blog post on the blog “The Word of Todd.” He was impressed and inspired by Dana Key’s ministry through D&K. Read the following link. I agree 100% with Todd.

http://toddsword.blogspot.com/2010/07/dont-stop-music.html

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Sorry I haven’t posted for a while

I must apologize. I haven’t posted much for the past several weeks. Life does get busy, but the busy I have been experiencing has little to do with busy holidays,  like so many of us experience. My congregation has been going through a very difficult time. One of our people who is a very contentious man has devastated our church. We have gone from 45 to 10 in a matter of months and have been concentrating on healing, restoration, and renewal.

My heart hasn’t been in too much but care and concern for my congregation.

As we recover from this period I will share our progress.

I would ask you to pray for us as we have been hurt and as we rely on God even more. This is a trial and I know God allows this to trust our faith and we are determined to be faithful to him.

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My Testimony

I was privileged to be born to parents that are Christian, good and faithful Christians.  A man and woman who put Christ first and instilled in me the sense that God loved me, wanted me, and that I needed that.  The church that we were a part of was a Bible believing church.  The preacher, the elders, the deacons and the women who were Sunday school teachers taught the Bible and at whatever level of understanding I was capable of.

When I was 9 ½ years old, I began to wonder to myself what I needed to do to be saved.  I was sensing God’s call to me from what I had been taught and heard and saw from all those Christians and so I asked my Dad the night of December 31st, 1966, “What do I need to do to be saved?”  He was studying for his Sunday school lesson and he slid everything to the side of the table except his Bible and he turned it toward me and opened it to the passages that would answer my question.  Later, when I was in bed, I made a commitment to Christ and the next morning at church, I went forward confessed Christ and presented myself to be immersed for the forgiveness of my sins, to be saved.

My life has always involved the church.  I’ve assembled with believers nearly every Sunday of my life.  I have shared in classes and Bible studies of many kinds, heard and given loads of sermons, been involved in evangelistic efforts through the church and on a personal level as well as attended and helped with camps, conventions, and conferences.  I’m even a Bible college graduate and church minister/pastor.

My faith has been a simple faith.  I am not much of a deep thinker and never have been.  I accept truth at face value.  I believe there is a God and I believe in God.  I know Christ came to earth and was crucified on a cross to pay for my sins.  I am not just challenged by others to understand things at a deeper level, but I am challenged by them to be deeper in my faith and understanding.  It’s not about the answers and we don’t have the answers to some questions, it’s about the whole grasp of truth and reality.  I have a simple faith and my life has been deeply involved and entrenched in the church.

At a young age I knew I wanted to preach.  I liked the idea of being in the pulpit sharing God’s word and encouraging Christians with the challenges of life and faith.  That desire was God calling me to a life of service in which I could also fulfill the strongest spiritual gift God gave me, caring and compassion.  I have spent days in hospitals with people and their families, spoken for a couple of hundred funerals including several tragic deaths (accident and murder victims).  Being a preacher has opened more opportunities to show compassion than when I ran a Coca-Cola route, or managed McDonalds and a Bible college snack bar.

Even though my life has been deeply influenced by and involved with Christians my life hasn’t always been pure.  Let’s just say, selfishness has crept in more often than I’d like to admit.  Teen lust, a little dishonesty, and even some theft were a part of who I secretly was and there have been moments in my adult life when one or more these sins had control.  Maybe that’s why some of the Godly and great things that have happened in my life took so long to come about; my sin delaying God’s response and God’s work in my life.

Here’s why.  I have had a personal relationship with the church.  The church as people!  The church as institution!  The church as nearly the whole of what Christianity is!  My relationship with God and Christ has mostly been through church and because of church.  Though a relationship with church is essential, when it replaces my personal relationship with God and Christ then it becomes more than it should.

Many times, too many to count, I have started and restarted to develop my relationship with God and Christ, but the cares of the world, the cares of family, the cares of church, boredom, lack of knowing how or where to begin or continue, or for whatever reason, my starts at a deeper relationship have fizzled out.  Maybe the reasons are because I have a simple faith, without the depth of knowledge.  I trust and obey.  Is that enough?  I know and am faithful.  Am I growing?  I read and study.  Will I mature?

My journey has involved thousands of Sunday school lessons and Bible Studies to teach and learn; sermons and messages to convict and empower my thoughts and emotions; conferences, camps, and many other encounters to ignite and fan faith into flame.  My parents, my grandmother, my teachers and professors, preachers and speakers, Christian friends, my wife, my kids, and many more are involved in my journey of faith.

Yet the first factor that has driven me to develop a deeper faith has been the troubling events involved in a church that is losing members and having to exercise church discipline with one who is causing dissention in the church, undermining people’s confidence in what they might benefit from in the church.  Seeing these weaknesses in the church I serve is also opening my eyes to the weaknesses in my own faith and life.

I John, Romans 12, Ephesians 4 & 5 and other passages are key Biblical teaching for spiritual depth and growth, obedience and conviction, conversion and completeness in Christ Jesus!  They are stretching my faith.  They are putting me in a position to relate to God and Christ beyond saving faith and simple obedience.

Here is how it is being applied in my life.  Various aspects of my ministry are changing.  I have been involved in preaching ministry, youth ministry, youth conference ministry, camp ministry, hospital and nursing home and grief ministry, counseling ministry, and a handful of others ministry aspects over the past 30 years but there is one opportunity that God has opened to me, ministering to a teen residential facility.  It’s sort of like a volunteer chaplaincy; working with teens that have been diagnosed with attachment disorder, emotional trauma and affect regulation leading to attachment issues.

Being a bi-vocational minister provided me the chance to be involved with these teens.  I only worked as a residential coach there for eight months, but I’ve been able to volunteer for the past two and a half years, developing Sunday spiritual times as well as providing spiritual counseling.  In the process I have encountered teens from various church backgrounds, Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, and Baptist.  There are teens that are Jewish, Mormon, Muslim, and one that claimed his religion was paganism.  There are also atheists and agnostics too.

How has this challenged me?  Along with the problems the little fellowship of Christians I minister with which is pushing me to develop the depth of my relationship with God and Christ, ministering to these young people who are struggling with mental and emotional problems and spiritual issues and development has forced me to understand my faith more deeply, seeking answers for questions I have never considered personally.  How to help the ones that have doubts about God find the reasonable and rational answers that can lead to faith in God, and the ones who are Christian but have a contemporary cultural aspect to their beliefs which differs from the Bible’s teaching, helping teens that are gender-confused learn what God says about them and his plans for them has broadened my need to know my Heavenly Father and my Savior more relationally.

One of the actual goals I set for my life has been that people will see the presence of God in me.  As of late I am learning that people are seeing God’s presence through me, especially among these teens.  If I know God, if I know Christ, and my relationship with them continues to grow, these teens, my church, and all the people I minister too will see God even more in my life.

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He Just Decided

It is totally interesting to me and sometimes baffling to me what happens in a person’s life that leads them to become a disciple of Christ.

The past couple of years, I have had more people come to me and tell me about their new-found or re-found belief, or at least their journey to belief that is a couple of steps from true belief in Jesus Christ.  It happened again on Sunday.

A young man came to me after the spiritual time and asked if he could talk with me.  He revealed that he had chosen to be a Christian.  I smiled and inside I’m doing back flips.  Then he gave a condensed version of his journey in and out and back into faith.  Tuesday, we visited a little longer and I asked him to tell me more of his story.

He had been a part of a Christian family, but because of the difficulties and troubles he has experienced in his life, he had given up on their faith.  It appears that their faith was not his own.  He went through a series of changes and beliefs, from doubt and skepticism, to disbelief, even considering atheism and Satanism.  But nothing answered his questions and fulfilled his longing to understand and be accepted in spite of his weaknesses, failures and the outside stuff that came down on him.

He listened as Cliff, and Brian, and Ben, and I have shared with him and the others from the Bible about the lessons in the Bible over the past few months.  He watched our lives and saw that we cared and were consistent in caring and sharing.  More importantly, he was impacted by another student who has taken hold of faith over the past couple of years and chosen to follow Christ.

I think he wanted to share this with me because he recognizes me as an authority figure.  I feel privileged to have him place his trust in me and want to let me know about and have me help him grow in his faith.

He revealed to me a sense of peace and contentment, even though he is experiencing the same crap he was before.  So we talked about Job and the crap he went through and his steady faith in God.  Job had questions, but he never wavered in belief.  This young man is willing to be like Job, faithful to God through the crap.

He is coming out of life that resists God and has uncovered faith and turned toward God and accepting God’s love and mercy and grace.

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No Reason to Sing

He stood up in front of the group and shared a very intimate and personal testimony.  He is a somewhat guarded man.  He doesn’t open his heart to very many people very easily.  But today there was a burning desire within him to open up to our church.

Here is what he shared.  He listens to Christian radio all the time (91.7, Spirit FM http://www.lifechangingradio.org/home.php).  But two months ago he turned the radio off because he didn’t feel there was any reason to sing anymore.  That’s hard. He is into music big time.  He plays piano and loves to organize music for the church to worship with.

The reason for this is that his wife in her early 40s has been diagnosed with cancer. . .  again.  5 years ago she suffered from breast cancer.  She had surgery and went a series of treatments which included chemo-therapy.  The doctors believed that she was cancer free.  She had exams every 3 to 6 months to watch for any possibility that the cancer has returned.

Than a couple of months ago, they found cancer in her liver.  After some run around with the doctors (doubt and unsure diagnosis) it was determined that it was the breast cancer that masticized to her liver and they found it in her lungs and lymph nodes as well.  And the cancer was already at stage four.

He shared his despair and that is what took away the desire to sing.

But a couple of weeks ago, his wife turned the radio on and a song came on (I’m sorry I don’t know the song or the artist at this moment) that pierced his heart and opened him to allowing God to reach and heal his hurt.

He has regained his joy and even if he loses his wife (who we praying for and supporting with love and hope) his joy has not been lost, but restored and now he can sing with all his heart and soul.

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