Don’t Do This Alone

We do not have to do this work alone. Jesus sent his disciples out as partners.

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Part of the reason Jesus sends them out as pairs, aside from it being a customary Jewish practice at that time, is that without any other provisions he is making his disciples dependent on relational awareness. They had to learn teamwork. They got to hold each other accountable.

Most importantly, they were strengthened by the presence of another person. It is scary to go it alone, especially when we are doing things that make us really uncomfortable.

Snow Cones.

You might not know this about me, but I have fairly severe social anxiety when it comes to meeting people. This is especially true if I have to be the one who has to reach out and make the introduction. Some people told me that I would need to get over that if I ever wanted to be a pastor. I disagreed.

We don’t have to be good at everything, and I’m just really bad at making introductions. So, what have I done to get around that? I don’t go alone! I have someone else introduce me or I have them bring people to me and break the ice. Or, for some weird reason, when I’m in a group, I am brave enough to reach out.

CASE IN POINT: During VBS one year, we gave out snow cones outside of our main doors. Many kids playing the adjecent park came to get them. There were also a couple of adult guys passing by the one day. They took some snow cones and one used our restroom. There must have been at least 10 of us still standing there while they were eating their cones. I just began talking to them and asking questions about who they were, if they were part of the village, ect. Turns out, Mike and Nate actually live right around the corner from me in Boardman and were visiting their friend Chris who lives in the village. I would NEVER have talked to them if I had been alone.

I strongly encourage us not to try to do this stuff alone. Following Jesus was never meant to be a solo mission.

Changing the World Without Much

We don’t need much to change the world around us.

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We don’t need to be rich to be nice.

We don’t need to have lots of money to share what we have.

We don’t need to wait until we have a certain amount of money in our general fund to think big.

There is a video on YouTube where this young man gives a homeless person $100 as a social experiment. We can debate all day on the ethics of using people as unwilling guinea pigs in social experiments, but here is the point. Instead of taking that $100 and being selfish with it, that homeless man who had ratty clothes and had admittedly had nothing to eat in two days, he went to a grocery store and spent the whole amount on food. He then took the food back to a community of other homeless people hanging out in a park. AND HE PASSED IT ALL OUT only keeping a small amount for himself.

This man did not have a lot. He was in a position where he could have been completely selfish with the money and not one person would have blamed him. Yet, he took the little that he had and he shared it….he changed the lives of the entire homeless community…if even for a day.

We don’t need much to change the world around us…and we have more than many churches.

Loving Without Reservation

We should convince others that they have lives worth transforming by helping them cast out their demons, by healing them of their sickness, by loving them without reservations.

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There is a quote by Max Lucado that reads, “God loves you just the way you are, but he refuses to leave you that way. He wants you to be just like Jesus.”

So, how do we convince others they have a life worth transforming into the likeness of Jesus? We start by loving them just as they are.

We don’t tell them they need to change right off. Again, we show them what a changed life looks like.

We don’t tell them they are sick and need healing right off. We show them what a whole heart feels like.

And we don’t tell them that were they are is the wrong place to be. We live with them and love them where they are until they realize that there is something better in this world.

Prime example: I’ve heard about a halfway house that has been operating in my community for over a year now, but it just blew up on the community Facebook page a few months ago. Lots of people crying out that “those people” aren’t welcome in our community. We shouldn’t have a facility like that in our backyard.

I hate to break it to you, folks. But, our community has just as many people struggling with addiction as any place else. Instead of casting these people aside and saying, “not in my house,” we should be saying, “what can I do to help?” How can we help you back on your feet? How can we love you like we know God does? How can we help you love yourself like God does?

You see, it is only going to people and loving them like God does that they will ever internalize that love for themselves.

Maybe one of the reasons that we find it so hard to love others like God does is because we are not fully convinced that God loves us all that much.

We Must Show a Changed Life

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If we are going to have any credibility with the people outside of our particular social circles, then we have to show them that what we believe has truly changed the way we behave. This is as true of the church as it is with any where else in life.

For example, we can’t say we believe in a God of love and then turn around and act like jerks! I mean, we can, but then people are going to just think that our God is a big jerk. If we’re being completely honest, isn’t that how a lot of US think of God? For example, why does God allow kids to starve to death? Sounds like a dick move to me.

**Don’t worry! I’ll address #FakeGods in a later post.**

For now, let us focus on how following Jesus example should work. If we are a people that believe following Jesus transforms lives, then we MUST show it.

If we are people that believe that being disciples of Jesus means becoming more like him, them we need to show it. We are the only Bible some people will ever read and our lives are the only Jesus some people will ever encounter. THAT is how critical showing a changed life is.

We are not going to show change if we are not living change. At a minimum, we should be worshipping, praying, serving, and giving with each other all the time wherever we are. Those action are not reserved for Sunday morning. Those actions should be automatic reflexes of being alive in Jesus Christ!

Heal The World

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I can’t recall one healing miracle in the Bible where a belief that Jesus could do it was absent. Sometimes Jesus initiated the healing. More often, people went to or were brought to Jesus. In the case of the bleeding woman, she didn’t even ask for healing but got it just by touching Jesus’ robe.

The one thing all healing miracles have in common is that someone, sometimes many someones, BELIEVED that Jesus could and would make them whole again. They opened themselves up to ridicule, failure, and disappointment. They were full of fear, but Jesus tells them “go in peace and stay well” and “It’s all right. Don’t be afraid…JUST BELIEVE.”

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There is one danger here: It sounds a little like if a person doesn’t believe enough, they will not be healed. This is a dangerous idea because it puts our ability to be healed in our hands. God can heal us whether we believe it can or not. But Jesus never forced anyone to do anything nor did he force healing upon anyone.

It’s not the amount of our belief that will heal us. It is THAT we believe that we can be healed that tells God that we are open for him to work. This isn’t just a biblical idea. It works everywhere. The saying you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped comes from this idea. When someone doesn’t want to be helped, they are emotionally closing themselves off to the possibility, and our physical bodies will respond to what our mind tells it to be true.

So, opening yourself up to the belief that you can be healed is the first step.

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Jesus has the power to heal the wounds of the afflicted, mend the broken parts of us, bring light into our darkest places, and bring life from death!

Believe that God will touch the places that we never even talk about and heal those.

Believe that God will heal your broken marriage.

Believe that God will mend your estranged relationship with a family member or friend.

Believe that God will heal your wallet! No, God’s not going to make you rich, but God will teach you how to be a better steward of what you’ve already been given.

Believe that God will take a veteran suffering from PTSD, one who is on the brink of suicide and heal the psychological and emotional damage that most of us can never even imagine.

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Believe that God will heal your shattered heart if you’ve lost a person most precious to you.

Believe that God could take a self-harming, self-loathing, broken, battered, and lost teenage boy and turn him into your Pastor!

Friends, BELIEVE that God CAN AND WILL heal your community, you, me, and everyone who encounters Jesus Christ through us!

A Bit of How I Got Here.

One of the main questions I had to ask myself when deciding to write a blog was, “Why would a bunch of strangers want to read what I have to say?” I still haven’t come up with a great answer. Instead of worrying about that, I have decided to let you get to know me as much as this platform allows.

What follows is the first of what I believe will be many posts about my past, about who I am and how I got here. My hope is that in getting to know me you will read the other posts on this blog with a greater understanding of why I have come to the conclusions that I have.

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So…..here we go.

When I was 8, my parents separated, and I went to live primarily with my father because my mom could not discipline me.

When I was 10, my father died, and I was thrust back into my mother’s home. That was the first time I got a D on my report card.

When I was 12, my grandfather – the only other male role model in my life at that time – died of issues related to alcohol.

My mother remarried that year an Irishman with all the stereotypes that come alongwith it. Bythe end of that year, I had to start to learn how to take care of my sisters and I because alcohol and drugs had taken us off my parent’s radar. I got my first F thatyear.

At 13, I started dressing in a long black trench coat, carving words of hate and anger into my forearms, and listening to almost no one. I was introduced to the kid who would become my best friend that year as well as a teacher that would teach me how to love reading, but neither of them had hooks in me yet. I failed some classes that year.

In 8th grade, things at home were beyond horrible. Sometimes, there was no food to eat. There was always some kind of abuse going on. I didn’t escape it when I went to school either because I made myself a target by being SO different from everyone else and getting violently angry when people let me know it.

At the age of 15, I tried to hang myself, but my excess body weight and my lack of knowledge about the laws of physics prevented that from succeeding. FYI, if you think getting to the point where suicide is a good idea is the worst a person can feel, it isn’t. Realizing that you are such a failure at life that you can’t even kill yourself correctly is way, way worse.

Shortly after that, my best friend invited me to church. Oh, he wasn’t a Christian. He didn’t want to go anymore than I did. But, his parents wereseeking marital counseling at this church (which didn’t work btw), and he wanted to have someone to talk to during the sermons.

I sat outside of the sanctuary that first Sunday…I ended up going there for the next 4 years and giving my life to Jesus (sort of…not really) when I was 18.

Suffice it to say, God used that church and the people in it to start healing a broken, “Satan-worshipping”, angry, self-harming teenage boy.

I didn’t believe it could happen. But someone did.

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The pastor of the church, who is still a great friend and mentor to me, he believed.

The adults in that church believed the Jesus who led them to offer me food when I was hungry and a place to stay when things got too bad would heal my heart while they healed my hunger and safety needs.

The other teens might have believed harder than anyone that I could be like them: fun, passionate about friendship, a little weird, and on FIRE for Jesus.

They all believed that Jesus could heal me and make me whole again even if they didn’t always know how or when it would happen.