Posted tagged ‘Hebrew people’

Out of Shape Churches (Part 3)

April 23, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                               April 23, 2017

                             

Jesus’ words to his followers at The Last Supper have new meaning for me this morning. This morning my body feels broken. Don’t worry! I understand that the kind of brokenness I’m feeling is different than the heartache-filled brokenness of Jesus, but I am “feeling it” today!

I got on a treadmill yesterday and ran a couple of miles, and then did some weight-training. My hips and shoulders are having temper tantrums this morning! They are like the stiff wind that was blowing through our middle school track practice on Friday. Besides the 41 degree temperature, the wind blowing in the faces of our runners as they did 200 and 300 meter intervals around the track was biting! What do you tell a 70 pound seventh grader trying to sprint into the wind…and he forgot to bring his school-issued sweats with him? He’s thinking of a dozen reasons why what he is doing is stupid. I’m urging him on each set of sprints. A couple of our more manly coaches ran alongside the sprinters. There’s something about having a coach run with a student that causes the runner to grit it out!

I realize that today is “a quitting point” for me! Even as I write this I’m constructing my list of reasons as to why I should be “unmoved” this morning. Everything from “hip replacement”, to Sunday being a day of rest, to needing to catch up on my bible reading…as well as a few other excuses…are coming to my mind! My hips are warning me “Don’t go past this line or else!”

Years ago I ran the Chicago Marathon. At the 22 mile mark I “hit the wall!” Not literally! that’s just what they call that moment of decision. It’s when a runner is physically fatigued and mentally tired. I had cramps in both legs. I had to convince myself that I could go on, when my body told me to lay down and die! I took my inspiration from the people who lined the streets cheering the runners on..plus the embarrassment of the sixty year old woman who passed me by!

I take these recent and distant memory examples into my understanding of out-of-shape churches. Out-of-shape churches will without question face “quitting moments” in their journeys to wellness. Avoiding pain in the present will lead to debilitation in the future!

Here’s the thing! The uncomfortableness of the needed moves and decisions toward getting in shape have the enormous potential of keeping a church from seeing the long-term. It is the most tempting quitting point. It’s “the wall” moment, and it is “the wall” moment that causes churches to give up and stay unhealthy.

Rough comparison! When I was growing up and had to go see the doctor to get a shot our doctor would give me, the one who just suffered the agony, a sucker at the end of the appointment. It was a reward…and perhaps a way for the physician to ask my forgiveness for making me cry! In out-of-shape churches it would be like giving the kid a sucker and never administering the shot!

Churches are very good at avoiding life-and-death decisions. And even after deciding to move on, the lists of excuses continues to be constructed. Remember! If put to a vote the Hebrew people would have most assuredly voted to return to Egypt! Egypt was what they knew and were familiar with. The journey out of Egypt was the unknown. If put up for a vote they would have voted to return to bondage rather than walk towards the unfamiliarity of freedom!

That Biblical story is still getting played out in hundreds of churches today!

In a personal way, this morning my hips are voting to return to Egypt!

Petty Peeves In The Audience of God

March 26, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                 March 25, 2015

                                         

Yesterday was a pretty amazing day for this guy! Our third grandchild was born in the mid-afternoon. Carol and I were both able to hold her in our arms about an hour later. Our oldest daughter did well through the whole labor and delivery experience, and the other two grandkids spent the night with us. We’re blessed, we’re blessed, we’re blessed!

I’ve noticed, however, that people react different ways in different situations…especially when it comes to “church stuff.”

I speak as a pastor of 36 years, so I’ve seen a lot of things although I haven’t seen it all. A recent question that has made me ponder as my head lays on the pillow is what are those things that Christ-followers are concerned with that God couldn’t care any less about?

Put in a less eloquent way, what the things that we spend so much of our time backing about and bickering about that aren’t even on God’s radar?

The birth scene of our newest grandchild makes for a good, although let me stress…a fictitious example! What if the four grandparents present at that grand occasion starting bickering about who got to hold the baby more; or what if one of the grandmothers starting getting all upset because the new grandchild didn’t have on an outfit that she had bought for her? What if one of the grandfathers started complaining that the birthing room was on the east side of the hospital instead of the west; or the creamer for the free coffee was a generic brand?

Do you read what I’m getting at? The birth…this new life…is what is important, but the focus would have been shifted to some side show issue that would make good fodder for “The Real Housewives.”

The story of the Hebrew people being freed from Egyptian bondage has always intrigued me. God rescues his people. They are headed towards their promised land. What did God care about at that point? To save his people and fulfill his promise that they would reach the land across the Jordan. On the other hand, what were the issues that occupied the top of the people’s agenda? We need food…we’re tired of manna…we want meat…we’ve got too much meat…we need water…we long for the golden days of slavery.

The fact that God has saved them from bondage and from the Egyptians is no longer high on the list of discussion topics.

I wonder…have we really changed much since then? What are the issues that church people are willing to go to fisticuffs over that yawns about?

I’m biased, I know, but I think a couple of things that he is intimately concerned about include the word “Great” in their label…”The Great Commandment”…”The Great Commission.”

One involves how we treat one another and the other involves the words of hope that we carry in our hearts about salvation now and forever.

I think God is concerned about how we treat one another, or mistreat one another…or how we allow others to mistreat others. He’s concerned over our tendency sometimes to avoid being the hands and feet of Jesus.

I think he’s concerned about the loss of being storytellers of faith…telling others about our love stories with Christ, the difference he has made in how we live and love. I think he’s concerned with how infrequently we “go into”, and how much we stay put.

What is important to God seldom seems to involve a meeting where minutes are recorded, or a vote is taken that leads to winners and losers.

But now I run the risk of including my personal petty peeves and trampling over the purpose of the past few hundred words. We must always keep asking the question of our ministries and our lives. What is really important, and what keeps me from seeing what is important.

As I held my new granddaughter in my arms yesterday I wasn’t thinking about how high the price of the latte was that I had just purchased in the hospital espresso cafe’! All I was thinking about was how blessed I am! Holding a baby who is just entering into her second hour of life tends to make you react like that!