Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Children of God

On Sunday nights I teach the High School boys at church. Last week I had a lesson stirring in my soul after reading Genesis chapter 4 and the account of Cain and Abel’s offering. Verse 4:5 says, “The Lord had regard for Abel and his offering but He did not have regard for Cain and his offering. Cain was furious, and he was downcast.” I couldn’t get the next verse out of my head. “Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you furious? If you do right, won’t you be accepted? But if you do not do right, sin is crouching at the door. It’s desire is for you, but you must master it.’”

What Cain was doing was going through the motions with God and became offended when God didn’t play along.  “Sin is at your door”, He told Cain. God could see the evil intent of Cain towards Abel and He was warning Cain that the murder he was tempted to commit would bring the curse of death and shame upon him, ending his life. “You must master it” “You must rule over it” Cain receives this clear warning and instruction by God; however in the very next verse he says to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.”

I couldn’t wait to deliver this message to our High school boys. It had changed my heart and I wanted to plant this seed in their heart too. Since the weather was good we had twenty youth walk to church. Nearly every kid who usually comes to church brought a friend.

After worship me, Tara, who teaches the girls and her helper Deborah loaded up in the van to go to Freddy’s. We have been “taking over” the ice cream shop on Sunday nights until the weather is nice enough to use the patio again.

We are really at an introduction level with these kids. By that I mean I had to stop the van before we left the apartment complex parking lot to explain that there would be no use of the “f” word, insulting anyone’s momma, or starting gang drama between here and the ice cream shop. They actually listened for the ride over.

I had the boy’s attention as we walked through the hand out for our lesson. I gave them some verses to memorize and we had a good discussion about how much easier it is to just give in to sin than to fight it. Their memory verse was, James 4:7 “Therefore, submit to God. But resist the Devil, and he will flee from you.”

Meanwhile, the girls were distracted by a fight brewing between two of the new girls. Tara had split up the group, but they continued to be disrespectful of the time. As soon as I parked the van at the church they jumped off and started fighting right in front of the church doors. Chad calmed the crowd and dispersed everyone back to their homes quickly. 

As I was driving kids home I thought about how Satan really hasn’t changed his tactics. He’s still pulling the same tricks. Just like Cain the youth received a warning from God’s word and turned in their next breath to say, “. . .come on down to the field.”

The good news is, Satan’s playing a losing game. After dropping everyone off, I parked the van at the gate and declared my refusal to give up on these girls, two of whom are pregnant. I refuse to give up on these young people, these children, these adults. God’s word is true for me and it is true for them and I believe it has the power to transform their hearts! Basically, I was putting the devil on notice.

Last night I got a call from one of the girls who was an instigator Sunday night. She wanted to know if I would take her to school this morning. I told her I would but the other girls she had been fighting with would also go with us. As they got in the car they apologized to me and to each other for what they had done Sunday night.

Over breakfast, the oldest girl started talking about all the things in her life that are making her afraid.  She’s pregnant, she was on track to graduate in May but has been skipping class, altering her report card and is in trouble with her probation officer. On and on she went. The other kids started snickering and making light of her problems until she shouted them down by saying, “How you gon’ disrespect me in front of the gospel lady!”

We made a list of all the things she’s avoiding and came up with a plan to work through them. As we pulled up to the high school this big bully girl started crying. She could hardly get the words out “Miss Anna . . .I love you. . . and I don’t even say that to my momma!”

Thank you Jesus for redemption. We don’t have to accept the same fate as the sons of Adam. We can be called sons and daughters of the king through Jesus Christ.

For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!” Romans 5:17

Thank you Jesus!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Go and Do Likewise

Yesterday I got to do something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. Chad and I were invited to share about what God is doing at Truth Baptist Church with the Village Baptist WMU group. Since we landed here in Oklahoma City I’ve wanted to get over there to thank them for helping our family during a critical time in our lives.

In 1995, When my mom and dad found out it would be necessary for them to move to Oklahoma City and be closer to the transplant center at Baptist hospital, a huge draw back was not having a place to stay in the city. Most people from out of town bring a motor home or stay in local motels. About one week at the Days Inn was all Mom and Dad could afford.

Mom, who has always been resourceful, decided to call and see if any churches in town still had houses open for missionaries to stay while on furlough. Without knowing any more about us than that we were a pastor’s family and had a need, Village Baptist allowed us to use their mission home indefinitely.

When Chad and I arrived at Village yesterday morning we were greeted by a retired missionary named Helen. As the rest of the group gathered and introduced themselves, I realized that almost everyone in this group had served on the mission field in some way. I felt at home sharing our stories. They, more than anyone else, understand the sacrifice and importance of planting a church in an apartment community with over 15,000 residents who are largely un-churched.

The problem we all have, and I believe it is our human nature, is that we want a clearly defined group who we are obligated to love and serve. In Luke chapter 10:25 a Pharisee came to Jesus and asked what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus responded in verse 26 by asking this expert of the law, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?” 27 “He answered, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 “You’ve answered correctly,” He told him. “Do this and you will live.”

29 “But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’”

What the Pharisee wanted was to make sure that he was following the letter of the law. It even says he was asking for clarification in order to “justify himself”.

Jesus answered by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan.

“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of robbers who beat him up, and fled, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down that road but when he saw him he passed by on the other side. In the same way, a Levite, when he arrived at the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan on his journey came to him, and when he saw the man, he had compassion. He went over to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and told the inn keeper , ‘take care of him. When I come back I’ll reimburse you for any extra you spend.” Luke 10:30-35

Yesterday, as I shared the story of how their church had helped my family not a single person in the room could remember us staying in their home. They weren’t sure whom the members of their congregation were who brought the huge holiday baskets and made sure the house was furnished with clean towels and linens. At the time, we didn’t necessarily fit into any of their programs and had nothing to offer in return; still they had compassion. However, this gift, which was insignificant to the life of their church, had a huge impact on me and on my family.

It was in this home that as a family we prayed and sought God for direction for our future. It was the place where God called us as a family to go back to Amarillo and start Citychurch.

I get asked a lot of times, why Chad and I chose apartment ministry. The truth is that our heart is not just for apartments. This just happens to be one of the greatest concentrations of hurting and lost people in our city. The reason why I can be at peace living here is because I’ve been poor, I’ve had to write papers in the dark because the electricity is shut off. We’ve stood in line at the food pantry to get groceries for our family. I’ve had to walk home from a lousy job because my car ran out of gas and watched someone I loved dearly be physically destroyed by a horrible disease. I understand first hand that those in need of rescue are seldom in flattering positions.

Looking back I can also remember all my “neighbors”; those who rescued us by showing mercy and compassion in our time of need. In verse 10:36-37 after telling the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus asked the Pharisee, “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”

“The one who showed mercy to him,” he said.

“Then Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.’ “

When I consider those who have blessed our family in times of need and whose friendship helped heal our hearts, when I think of the sacrifice of Jesus, it moves me to do for others what I can and minister to others His name. We must learn to obey the principle of this parable, which is to be less concerned with defining who our neighbors are and more concerned with whether or not the world around us considers us theirs.