Monday, June 29, 2009

Good Monday to You!

This is an account of my efforts to put into action what I learn while reading the Bible, an account of my journey to become closer to God.

I received this message about a mom’s experience while serving in the garden for the home for adults with disabilities:

“Little did I know when my children and I planted seeds in little pots this spring that we would end up being blessed beyond just harvesting vegetables. Our intentions had been to put our seeds in pots on our back patio and have a "garden experience" over the summer. When we heard the announcement about the creation of a garden in one of the group homes, we decided that this would be where we could donate our plants, get the "garden experience" and help the residents.

I have been amazed at how much this experience has blessed our family. Our kids look forward to going each week and leave telling me how much fun they have had. They have grown out of their shells as they have begun to get to know each of the residents by name and communicate to them. They know each of their likes and dislikes better than me. We have had many in-depth discussions in the car on the way home after each garden experience. These discussions have centered on God's love for us and for others, how He has uniquely created each individual for His purposes, and why we are called to serve others. These discussions are what I have treasured most. Not only are my children seeing all the values a garden experience can bring, they are taking to heart the value of serving others for the cause of Christ.”

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what it’s all about!

I’m visiting this garden on the 8th and will share the story of my own experience with you after that.

I have finished reading Acts (loved it) and am still working my way through Psalm. I’ve decided to go forward from here reading the Bible in sequence rather than an old and new Testament each day; I’m fining it easier going now that I’ve been reading nearly six months. My, the number of questions that have been answered for me. I’m sure this will not be the only time I read the Good Book cover to cover.

Looking ahead this week – meeting with a home repair ministry tomorrow and will have that story up for you soon, then a day with Cameron, and finally, to work for my paying customers. I’ve got a few projects on my desk that need to be finished; yes, the Lord provides!

Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog, and please pray for me and my family. Now go out and hug somebody!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Fish and Loaves of Bread

This is an account of my efforts to put into action what I learn while reading the Bible, an account of my journey to become closer to God.

Finally, the story about Project Kids Eat:

I remember the summer days of years past spent in Vacation Bible School where I listened to such great stories as Jonah and the whale and Jesus healing the sick. These miracles made sense to my young mind; my mom could heal anything it seemed and I had watched Popeye survive an entire episode in the belly of a whale.

But there was one miracle I could never figure out – Jesus feeding thousands of hungry people with only a few fish and loaves of bread. That one was impossible, I concluded.

It was many years later when I came to understand that the purpose of miracles was to give evidence of God’s great love and power, and to inspire non-believers to become in awe of Him and then desire to follow Him. Of course, then, it finally made sense how Jesus could feed the multitude from almost nothing and still have leftovers. It was an act of love, but also an example of what God can do in your life when you turn to Him.

I was recently reminded of the miracle of Jesus dividing the fish and bread. It was the day I spent a few hours working with Davida Baker and her volunteers at Project Kids Eat.

When I walked into the school cafeteria I found a half-dozen men and women packing food. One group filled one gallon zip-lock bags with fruit, milk, cereal and Jell-o while the others packed small containers of spaghetti and wrapped bread sticks in tinfoil. I noticed a small boy helping his mom and dad fill the zip-lock bags. Altogether the labor was for today’s dinner and tomorrow’s breakfast for one hundred-fifty homeless school-aged children temporarily living in extended stay hotels.

Davida gave me a tour of the operation. I saw boxes and boxes of prepared breakfast biscuits and lunch sandwiches, countless boxes of cereal and cases of Jell-o, fruit, milk and juice. This inventory would be the two meals per day Project Kids Eat would offer the children Monday – Friday for the eight weeks of summer vacation.

But the food isn’t all that Project Kids Eat is about. Davida also showed me boxes of books, crafts, tee-shirts and toiletries which have been donated and are in turn given to the same children the group feeds. “These are things they need but which can’t be bought with food stamps,” she explained.

It seems that eight years ago Davida meet a homeless women with three hungry sons to feed. Davida began giving the woman food, and just as the fish and loaves of bread multiplied, so too did the number of people who needed food and the number of people who were willing to volunteer to prepare, package and deliver the meals, all under Davida’s guidance.

“We are going to three hotels today,” Davida told me, and then instructed me to begin helping to fill the cars that would make the deliveries. As we rolled carts piled high with bags of food from the cafeteria to the parking lot I asked the mom of the young boy why she had brought him along.

“I want him to have a heart for service,” she said. “I want him to learn to care for others from a very early age.” The boy’s name is Garrett; he is pictured here holding the sign. He is four years old. I deduced from the nearly constant smile on his face that he is taking this lesson and his parents’ example to heart.

I rode with Davida. Shortly we pulled into the parking lot of an extended stay hotel where I saw dozens of children ranging in age from toddlers to teens sitting on the curb. We were expected. When we stopped, opened the back door of the van and the smell of spaghetti wafted out, the children began to form an orderly line. They knew the routine. Hug Davida first and then take a bag of food, one for each child. After the food was distributed, several children returned to the van and looked through the boxes for a book or two. All the children were appreciative and polite, and more than a few shouted “See you tomorrow” as we drove away.

“Yes, we are feeding hungry children,” Davida remarked, “but we are also hugging them, loving them, reassuring and affirming them. That’s the part that means the most to me,” she said. “I just hope that little bit of kindness goes a long way.”
A few bags of food remained in the van. Before I could ask her what would become of it, Davida pulled into a trailer park. “There are a few elderly people living here,” she explained, “as well as a few families that can barely make ends meet.” We made three stops before heading back to the cafeteria empty-handed.

Again I was reminded of Jesus feeding the masses. No, Davida and her team of volunteers are not performing miracles, but one can’t argue the fact that they are demonstrating God’s love through their daily acts of kindness and service.

Yes, Davida, I believe it goes a long, long way. It certainly did for me.

Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog, and please pray for me and my family. Now go out and hug somebody!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Bitten

This is an account of my efforts to put into action what I learn while reading the Bible, an account of my journey to become closer to God.

Here’s another piece I wrote for the church bulletin in an attempt to steer people to the Community Outreach blog (I don’t think I’ve already posted this):

Perimeter Church began with a desire to see God do an unusual work in the city of Atlanta. Its vision is to see the entire city brought into an encounter with the Kingdom of God. We believe that to be a successful and Christ-centric church we must demonstrate our faith in both Word and Deed.

It is through our great theology and great worship that we celebrate the Word. Hearing the Word is often all that it takes to move a non-believer toward a relationship with Christ. As well, many Believers become more committed in their faith as they absorb the lessons given by our teachers, and as they too spread the Word among their family and friends.

But then some of us are natural born doubters. We must see to believe.

That is where Deed comes in. For the doubter, it is in the doing, even the witnessing of others doing the work Jesus called us to do, that one begins to understand, embrace, and emulate the many examples of mercy and caring given to us by our Lord.

And that is where Touched by Service, the new Community Outreach blog, follows close behind Deed. Touched by Service features inspirational stories about the work of our many ministries and our ministry partners. These stories tell of the mission and work performed by each ministry, of the passion and motivation of the people who serve, and of the smiles of gratitude that come to the faces of the people in need who are somehow served by the ministry and its volunteers.

As Christ followers, we believe that reaching out to our community where we live, work and play is a way of life. Loving people the way Jesus loves people means serving them and pointing them to the One who can meet all their needs. Touched by Service is both our venue for sharing these heartwarming God stories, and enticing you to become involved with a ministry if you haven’t already given your heart to one.

We hope that for some, reading will be as effective as seeing.

Please visit this blog often to read true stories of how God has used members of Perimeter Church and others in our community to help grow His kingdom.

Cameron got himself into a little trouble so was unable to accompany me yesterday to Rainbow Village. To my surprise, Jill went with me instead! We worked for nearly three hours moving boxes to the new office of this ministry and had a great time together. She enjoyed it enough that she’s now thinking about going with e tomorrow when I work in the garden for the group home for adults with disabilities. I’m beginning to think my wife was bitten with the service bug!

I also had my first meeting with my first care receiver through the Stephen Ministry yesterday. I’d appreciate your continued prayers for Cameron and your prayers for me as I try to be of service to my care receiver.

If all goes well today I’ll finish the story about Project Kids Eat and will have that for you to read tomorrow.

Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog, and please pray for me and my family. Now go out and hug somebody!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Day After Dad's Day

This is an account of my efforts to put into action what I learn while reading the Bible, an account of my journey to become closer to God.

I had the great pleasure of seeing Meagan and Linley during the weekend as part of my Father’s Day celebration. Linley is doing great at the camp in VA and Meagan is excelling as a UGA Bulldog! We’re pictured here at brunch yesterday.

My take away from church yesterday was this sentence that came after the baptisms that occurred; the Teacher was reminding the parents of their duty to be faithful themselves if they are to hope their children will fill their lives with Christ: “You can’t take them where you’ve not been.” Amen.

I’m reading Psalm and Acts right now and loving it!

The photos I posted on Friday are from the time I spent with the Project Kids Eat ministry. I had hoped to have that story written by now so that I could share it with you, but after spending 18 hours in the car in three days, I was too tired to get to it yesterday. I promise to have it written before the week is over.

And then I’ll write a story based on today’s activities. Cameron and I are spending the first half of the day moving the offices of Rainbow Village, the homeless shelter in our area. He and I have three visits planned this week; two are ministry work and the third is an afternoon movie. We’re getting along great! Thanks for your prayers on that front.

In closing, let me share this great note I received during the weekend:

I bought your book "Why Daughters Need a Dad" for my son for Father's Day. I read it and cried like a baby - not for my son and his beautiful baby but because I realized how much I missed my own Daddy.

My Daddy died almost 15 years ago at the age of 84. He was the most wonderful man I ever met. I wanted to marry him at an early age but my Mother told me I couldn't because he was already married. I figured she was just jealous and that I would marry him anyway.

As my Daddy walked me down the aisle on my wedding day he told me I could always come home and I knew it was true. It was truly unconditional love. No matter what I did, I knew may Daddy would still love me unconditionally.

When Daddy died I suddenly knew I could never go home again. I knew there would never again be anyone else to take care of me the way he did. Fifteen years later, I still shed tears for my Daddy.

Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog, and please pray for me and my family. Now go out and hug somebody!

Friday, June 19, 2009

It's About the Children


On our way to VA today to see Linley so no time to write this morning, but let me leave you with these images of the two young boys I meet yesterday. Tune in Monday for the full scoop.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Simple Letter

This is an account of my efforts to put into action what I learn while reading the Bible, an account of my journey to become closer to God.

This is a condensed version of the story I wrote yesterday for Touched by Service:

It began with a simple letter.

One day a gentleman leading an Ohio prison ministry asked Jim to consider writing letters to inmates who had expressed a desire to be shepherded. Leary at first, he began writing inmates and soon discovered he had a heart for forging Christian fellowship with men who were is such bleak circumstances as prison.

Somewhat contrary to his expectations, Jim also discovered there were many Christians and seekers behind bars. One man in particular was a passionate Believer, he recalled. “Before it was over with, he was shepherding me.”

A few months after he began writing this inmate, Jim was given an opportunity to go visit the man. “After meeting him and being there worshiping with the other inmates I knew I was hooked,” he said. Wanting to become even more involved with the ministry, he moved from letter writing to become an active member of the prison worship team. Traveling to all the prisons throughout Ohio, sometimes departing at 4:30 in the morning and traveling five hours each way, he participated in worship services for the inmates, singing, preaching and praying for men behind bars.

When he moved to Atlanta fourteen years ago, one of the first things on Jim’s mind was where to get plugged into a prison ministry.

Beginning with one unit housing seventy-five men, Jim, with the help of two other gentlemen, Bob Fortin and Dan Fitzpatrick, now serves four units and three hundred men at the Gwinnett County Jail.

When Jim and his team arrive, fifteen or so prisoners in each unit will join one of the volunteers for ninety minutes of Bible study. “With only three of us in the ministry,” Jim explained, “we can’t get to all four units each Thursday. We have to rotate through the units, skipping one each week. Right now the jail administration is unwilling to let us bring in a fourth ministry volunteer, but we are praying God will change their hearts on that matter so that we can provide all the men with an opportunity for Bible study each week. I believe if we pray often enough and petition the Lord, the doors will open and we will be able to add one more volunteer. We need to take the Word to these men. So many of them are in the middle of very dark spiritual battles; they constantly ask me to pray for them.”

I asked Jim what keeps him motivated when those he shepherds could so easily be angry and hopeless, maybe even place him at risk.

“I’ve been there preaching or conducting a Bible study when all of a sudden one of the men will stand up, hold his hands in the air and tell me he wants to be saved. Other inmates who are Christians and I will lay hands on that one man and pray over him; we’ve even baptized men in there. I get to see God move among us.”

Although he, Bob and Dan have a heart for the prison ministry, Jim acknowledges it isn’t for everyone. The prisoners’ offenses range from DUI to murder. They range in age from the early twenties to seventy, and are serving terms that span decades to life.

“It can be a scary place at times. That’s why we want to start a letter writing ministry, so that anyone with the time to write a single letter can offer a little compassion to someone who basically has none in their life.” Jim turned and looked out a window at the blue sky, green grass and people walking past. “Imagine being in jail twenty or more years, your scenery and routine never changing, and then imagine how powerful it could be to receive an occasional letter that offers friendship and the love of Christ.”

Yes, imagine how powerful it could be to receive a simple letter that offers the love and mercy of Jesus Christ.

Yes, there is much a simple letter can do.

Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog, and please pray for me and my family. Now go out and hug somebody!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Speaking of...

This is an account of my efforts to put into action what I learn while reading the Bible, an account of my journey to become closer to God.

I had three radio interviews yesterday to promote my dad books for Father’s Day. Let this be your reminder to get your cards and letters in the mail if you aren’t seeing your dad in the flesh this coming Sunday. I’m seeing my daughter; Jill and I, along with her parents, are traveling to Athens to have lunch with Meagan so we’re having two Father’s Day visits at the same time. Jill and I are also traveling to Wise, VA this coming Friday – Saturday to see Linley at camp, so in effect I’m having two Father’s Day events – one with each girl, one right after the other. And, of course, I’m calling my dad on Sunday. Busy weekend!

Speaking of Sunday, Jill and I are taking a couple in the ‘hood to church with us on Sunday. This is such an easy step to take, inviting someone to go to church with us, yet one we’ve been delinquent in taking. I’m sure that now, as so often happens, after we do it once, it will be easier, even natural, to keep an eye open for those who don’t have a church home and then lead them to ours. Funny how the Holy Spirit works. Once you let Him in, He begins to sneak into all your crevices and shines a light in all the dark places.

Speaking of Jill, my dear wife has been a little slow in finding a place to serve. Well, I fixed that. My protégé Cameron is struggling with math, Jill is a math whiz, so, voila, Jill is now tutoring Cameron twice a week. My sweet wife rocks!

Please keep Cameron in your prayers. He is going through a particularly challenging time right now and needs all the support he can get.

Speaking of serving, I’m excited about a few things on my calendar. Yesterday I interviewed the two gentlemen who lead the prison ministry in our county and will have their story on Touched by Service very soon. Tomorrow I am spending the afternoon working in the garden of a home for adults with disabilities, Thursday I’m helping to bag lunches and then deliver them to homeless kids living in extended stay hotels in the area, next week I’m helping to move the office of a homeless shelter. I’m still working with a few people to coordinate getting an apartment complex in our area to accept refugee families from World Relief, Jill and I are beginning a book bag & school supply drive in our neighborhood next week (I knew once she got started she would love serving!), and I’ve decided to go to Leadership training for the Stephen Ministry. That should give me plenty of God stories to write for a while!

Speaking of God, our church is working hard to motivate people to serve this summer. To that end, I wrote something that was used in a handout listing serving opportunities, many of which I’m visiting in the coming weeks. Here’s what I wrote, feel free to use it if you have a place for it:

It is the lazy days of summer, the time to sit back, relax and not have a care in the world.

Or is it?

What if Jesus had taken a vacation from His work? Who might have remained lost if Christ had chosen to take time off and relax?

Let us remember those who cannot sit back and relax because in their lives every day is a struggle. Let us remember Jesus, his work and his sacrifice for us, and honor Him by serving others this summer.

Join us in the ministry of relief and evangelism. We encourage you to prayerfully consider how you can bring a little relief to someone who desperately needs it.

And finally, a confession about my reading of the book of Job: I’m having to read sections of it again and again. So much metaphor and so lyrical, it reminds me of classic Greek literature. I keep reading, but I think I need to find a study guide to help me get the most from it.

Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog, and please pray for me and my family. Now go out and hug somebody!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Battlefield

This is an account of my efforts to put into action what I learn while reading the Bible, an account of my journey to become closer to God.

We had a great service on Sunday, a continued discussion about Galatians 5:22-23 and the call to be unnaturally kind. Our Leader Teacher is making the point that anyone can be kind and good to other people who are kind and good, but the real work God asks us to do is to be kind and good even to those who are disdainful of us. To love the unlovable, to be benevolent to the undeserving, unappreciative and unreceptive, for to do so is to usher God’s Kingdom into the lives of those who don’t know Him.

To further drive home this point, we also reviewed Luke 6:35, “Rather, love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind even to ungrateful and evil people.”

This particular sermon was good for me because it answered a question I’ve been pondering for a week or more. I recently read of the dangers volunteers face every day working for an inner city ministry – carjacking, mugging, stabbings and shootings. Several volunteers have been hospitalized due to their injuries, yet most of them return to the ministry after they recover. I’ve wondered why; who wants to repeatedly put themselves at risk like that?

And then I listen to this teaching about unnatural kindness, and I get my answer. Those volunteers are doing just what Jesus did – he loved even those who drove nails into his hands and feet. This makes me think hard about the ministry work I’m doing. All of it is safe; all of it is for appreciative people. I haven’t decided yet I’ll move closer to the real battlefield, but I’m thinking about it.

Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog, and please pray for me and my family. Now go out and hug somebody!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Merely a Vessel

This is an account of my efforts to put into action what I learn while reading the Bible, an account of my journey to become closer to God.

Last night I was reading Acts and came to the part where it became clear salvation was for all people, not just the Israelites. I had been wondering when the Gentiles came into favor with God and now I know. I also read a Proverbs that said a head of gray hair is a crown of splendor signifying a righteous life. That was good news too!

I’m sure it drives Jill crazy when I blurt out “Listen to this…” and then read out loud a Bible passage from my daily devotional, but the way I see it, there’s nothing Dr. Phil or the Dog Whisper could be saying that is more important than what the Lord has had to say.

I attended a monthly Stephen Ministry supervision meeting last night and was blessed to listen to a speaker talk about Christian caregiving. He made a few interesting statements I want to share:

You are a temporary assistant to the work of the Lord.

In other words, nothing we do should bring glory to ourselves, but all glory should go to the Lord where it properly belongs.

Whatever happens to your care receiver is because the Lord was already at work in that person’s life.

Very similar to the one above, but also a reminder to us that there is always a Big Plan and we are merely components of that plan. No one is lucky or fortunate that we crossed their paths, rather we are each blessed that God meant for it to happen that way.

In God’s economy, nothing is wasted.

Yes, even awful experiences, disappointment, failures and pain and suffering are purposeful events. Ask yourself, if life were perfect here on Earth, what would be the incentive to live righteously in order to enter Heaven? God uses pain and tears to remind us that we need him, and when finally with Him there will be no more pain.

Your walk with God is a community event.

This reminds me of a sermon I heard a few years ago that although salvation may be a personal event, it was never meant to be a private event. What glory is given to God if your reaction to receiving salvation is to hide that fact? In all we do as Believers, it should be clear that we do it with joy and thankfulness to the Lord.

I’ve been asked to attend a week long training to become a Leader in our church’s Stephen Ministry. I’m thinking about it and ask for your prayers to help me decide what to do. I don’t mind the hourly commitment it will require of me, but being away from home for a week to attend the training is a bit distressing. In the last four years I haven’t been away from Jill for more than a single night at a time.

Cameron and I are spending the afternoon at the water park tomorrow. Man, twelve year old boys are in perpetual motion. In contrast, my joints are showing their age!

World Relief update – I think I’m going to be able to orchestrate an introduction between two churches with a heart for helping the poor find affordable housing, an apartment complex that caters to low income families, and World Relief’s newly arriving refugee families. If this works out, it would mean that I and others in our area who want to help resettle refugees will be able to do so.

I realize just now I said “I’m going to be able to….” My error. God is able to; I am merely a vessel.

Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog, and please pray for me and my family. Now go out and hug somebody!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

A Note from Sourcebooks

On Wednesday, June 10th at 2pm CT Sourcebooks will host its first Father’s Day Twitter Book Give-Away Contest! If you have a twitter account, you can follow Sourcebooks @Sourcebooks or by going to www.twitter.com/sourcebooks .

When: This Wednesday, June 10th at 2pm CT

Where: Go to http://bit.ly/1FSZ8O to see these titles and choose your book! But remember, you have to wait until Wednesday at 2pm CT to begin.

How: When we say go at 2pm CT on June 10th, click "Tweet this Book," fill in the blank (why you love dad) and post the message to Twitter. It's best if you prepare your tweet ahead of time!
We find the winner: The 1st and 5th person to "Tweet this Book" and say why they love dad will win the book of his or her choice! Make sure to "Tweet this Book" after 2pm CT to be entered.
The Contest Winner will be notified by Twitter direct message (DM) and will be asked for his or her mailing address so Sourcebooks can send out the prize!

More Give-Aways to Come All Summer Long
Throughout the summer Sourcebooks will have a different Twitter contest featuring Father’s Day titles and much more! So follow Sourcebooks on Twitter to stay in-the-know regarding contests, news and more.

Want to Sign Up for Twitter?
Want to participate in the contests but don’t have a Twitter account yet? It’s easy! Just go to www.twitter.com and create an account. Then visit www.twitter.com/sourcebooks and just click “follow.”

Monday, June 08, 2009

I Know Better

This is an account of my efforts to put into action what I learn while reading the Bible, an account of my journey to become closer to God.

And Monday morning it is….

Let’s begin with Cameron news. He and I are getting along great! I’m still entertaining him by going to movies (saw my first X-Men flick the other day) and such, but have also begun to sprinkle in a little man training now and then. So far we’ve repaired his bicycle, made a Home Depot run, worked in the flower beds, cut grass, and Saturday I had him with me for seven hours as I worked with the Movers and Shakers. There were two other men working as well, and Cameron seemed to have a great time horsing around with us in between loading donated furniture and later, unloading it all at the storage center. I sure do hope I’m leaving him with a few positive lasting impressions. I like the kid, and I’m benefiting from his company as well, getting to know what it must be like to raise boys, and remembering my own time with my dad way back then.

I’m actually typing a bit slow today; my right arm is a little sore. It looks like I was stabbed in the crook of my arm with a blunt object. Not really, but I did give blood during the service yesterday and I have the bruise to prove it. I’m Type O so was asked to give platelets instead of whole blood. They didn’t tell me the catheter was as big as a No. 2 pencil. I was happy to see many other donors in line, so many in fact it took over two hours for me to be able to give. I suppose the crowd was because, there in church, we all knew of the life saving power of blood – the blood of Jesus, that is.

Speaking of Jesus, I posted a new story today on Touched By Service about the investment fund at Perimeter Church called Kingdom Investments. As I posted it I remembered part of the story was about introducing Christianity to the Arab world with our partner church in Cairo, Egypt. This story follows just after the two part story I posted about World Relief, which included information about the conversion of Hindus in Bhutan to Christianity (the Michael in the post just after this one). So I braced myself as I clicked “post.” Who knows what would happen next.

You see, I actually got hate mail related to the World Relief story. It seems someone took bitter exception to what they called my “mission to convert Hindu and Buddhist refugees.” I was challenged to show my “true Christian stripes” by encouraging non-believers to continue in their own belief systems, and even “facilitate” that worship.

Pardon my expression, but when I read that email I scratched my head and said, “What the Hell?” It is more Christian to let others believe in their own gods than it is to lead them to the one and only true God?

To be honest, I was empathetic with this person. I, too, used to believe that as long as you believed in some god, any god, you were good to go. I thought it was the desire to be spiritual that counted and it mattered not if you were Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, or something else. Just think holy thoughts and you were sure to go to Heaven.

That, of course, was many years ago, and certainly before I had ever made a serious attempt at reading the Bible.

Today, I know better. More on this topic through out the week.

Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog, and please pray for me and my family. Now go out and hug somebody!

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Michael

This is an account of my efforts to put into action what I learn while reading the Bible, an account of my journey to become closer to God.

This post is an excerpt from an article I wrote about World Relief. To see the entire article, visit www.touchedbyservice.blogspot.com

Often when reading the Bible, especially the stories of the Old Testament, I’m struck by how much persecution, even murder, there was over disparate belief systems. People of one faith in battle with people of a different faith, people of one faith being driven from their homelands by people of still another faith; these stories abound.

If ever I wonder if such violent religious persecution exists today, I need only to switch to the news to hear of the latest gunfight in the streets or bombing of a café somewhere in the Middle East to know that, yes, it still exists.

Even still, I sometimes catch myself thinking “that was back then,” or “that is over there,” and here in Duluth, safe in my home, I need not worry too much about religious persecution.

My eyes were opened recently one afternoon while I dined on a home cooked meal in the small living room of Michael’s apartment. Now a Christian pastor, he was born a Buddhist in Bhutan. He fled his country in order to save his life and those of his family. As a Christian evangelist, he was no longer welcome in his homeland.

I learned that Christians and people believed not to be of Bhutanese descent were forced to leave the country during the early 1980’s. In the next ten years over 100,000 people became refugees, fleeing to camps in Nepal and India.

In the video I saw where Michael’s family had once lived. Members of three generations crowded into a hut made of bamboo and held together with mud and rope. It had a thatch roof and a dirt floor. There was no running water, a hole in the ground served as a toilet, and meals were cooked over a small fire or on the single gas burner of a camp stove. Meals consisted largely of rice. Nearby the school house and church shared the same hut. It, too, was made in the same way as the living quarters. There were no desks or pews, only mats on the dirt floor.

These are the conditions Michael and his family lived in for sixteen years. They were forced to leave Bhutan because they had converted to Christianity.

Born a Hindu, Michael had never heard of Christianity until he was in his twenties, and only then after he caught a glimpse of a picture hanging in a tucked away place on a friend’s wall. It was a graphic image depicting Hell, he learned after asking his friend what the picture meant. His friend then offered to tell him about Heaven, promising Michael that if he came to believe in God, he would never see Hell.

For the next two years Michael and his friend met in remote places, hidden in tall grass or thickets of brush in the forest to evade being caught by the Elders of the community. There they talked about God and Jesus Christ. The Lord’s message spoke profoundly to Michael, and although he feared for his life, he eventually accepted Jesus Christ as his savior and was baptized by his friend. Thereafter, he went to work converting his family, then later a few close friends, and became so in love with the Lord that he overcame his fear and began to evangelize in his community.

Openly living as a Christian and passionately preaching the Word to Hindus and Buddhists, Michael came to the attention of the government officials who had begun the ethnic cleansing of Bhutan. He was given only a few days to leave the country or face imprisonment. He knew prison would mean his death, so he and his extended family left Bhutan for a refugee camp in Nepal.

Sixteen years later, they were relocated to Atlanta through the joint efforts of the United Nations, the State Department, and World Relief. Michael has since become a pastor and leads a small church attended mostly by other refugees from Bhutan.

Fortunately, Michael’s story ended well. It’s hard to think about how often others’ stories do not.

Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog, and please pray for me and my family. Now go out and hug somebody!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Christmas

This is an account of my efforts to put into action what I learn while reading the Bible, an account of my journey to become closer to God.

Are you thinking about Christmas already? We (the Perimeter Church family) are. I was asked the other day to help write a letter to members asking them to reconsider the true meaning of Christmas, hoping with it to move people toward compassion and away from consumerism. Here’s what we came up with:

“The story of Christ's birth is a story of promise, hope, and a revolutionary love. However, the remembrance of his birth, the celebration we know as Christmas, has lost its way.

Instead of spending the days and weeks before Christmas taking the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ to the poorest and lost among us, we throw ourselves into a state of shopping chaos. We endure grueling traffic jams, push our way through hectic crowds as we work our way down long lists, and too often spend an abundant amount of money on things that will soon be broken, too small, out of fashion, or put aside and forgotten.

We do all this because we’ve come to believe that to have a good Christmas means to wake up to a bounty of gifts beneath the tree. We do all this because we’ve forgotten that the season isn’t about us, but about Him.

And as we unwrap our gifts, we’ve probably also forgotten that somewhere not far from our warm homes, someone awakens in a cold home with little or nothing to eat. Without gifts, perhaps even without a Christmas tree.

Is this how we really want to celebrate the birth of Christ?

What if Christmas became an occasion to celebrate Christ’s birth in a way that would truly bless His heart and the thousands of people in our area who struggle every day to survive poverty?

Let us provide assistance to hurting people during the season that is the celebration of His birth. There is no better way to do that than to give of ourselves to others as He gave of himself to us. Join us in the ministry of relief and evangelism. We encourage you to prayerfully consider what God would have you do in the name of His Son.

(We’ll add something here about what to donate and where to send money)

Let us remember Jesus and His sacrifice for us, and celebrate Him by making our own sacrifices for others. Let us bless others as He blessed us.

Let Christmas change the world again, one household at a time.”

I don’t know what your church and community does for the least during Christmas, but if you are at all motivated to do something similar to what we will begin doing in November, feel free to use this letter to help you get started.

Last night I began to read the book of Job. I’m sure I will have many thoughts and questions about this dramatic epic in the coming days.

Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog, and please pray for me and my family. Now go out and hug somebody!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Seeing

This is an account of my efforts to put into action what I learn while reading the Bible, an account of my journey to become closer to God.

I’ve been honored recently to begin writing periodically for the church bulletin. My mission is to retell, in a shorter version, some of the stories I’ve written for the blog I write for our Community Outreach ministry. The goal is to motivate our congregation to follow the blog for the ultimate goal of motivating someone to become involved with a ministry. Here’s my first writing for the bulletin, an introduction to the blog:

Perimeter Church began with a desire to see God do an unusual work in the city of Atlanta. Its vision is to see the entire city brought into an encounter with the Kingdom of God. We believe that to be a successful and Christ-centric church we must demonstrate our faith in both Word and Deed.

It is through our great theology and great worship that we celebrate the Word. Hearing the Word is often all that it takes to move a non-believer toward a relationship with Christ. As well, many Believers become more committed in their faith as they absorb the lessons given by our teachers, and as they too spread the Word among their family and friends.

But then some of us are natural born doubters. We must see to believe.

That is where Deed comes in. For the doubter, it is in the doing, even the witnessing of others doing the work Jesus called us to do, that one begins to understand, embrace, and emulate the many examples of mercy and caring given to us by our Lord.

And that is where Touched by Service, the new Community Outreach blog, follows close behind Deed. Touched by Service features inspirational stories about the work of our many ministries and our ministry partners. These stories tell of the mission and work performed by each ministry, of the passion and motivation of the people who serve, and of the smiles of gratitude that come to the faces of the people in need who are somehow served by the ministry and its volunteers.

As Christ followers, we believe that reaching out to our community where we live, work and play is a way of life. Loving people the way Jesus loves people means serving them and pointing them to the One who can meet all their needs. Touched by Service is both our venue for sharing these heartwarming God stories, and enticing you to become involved with a ministry if you haven’t already given your heart to one.

We hope that for some, reading will be as effective as seeing.

Please visit this blog often to read true stories of how God has used members of Perimeter Church and others in our community to help grow His kingdom.

So what do you think?

OK, on my way to UGA to move Megan in her apartment.

Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog, and please pray for me and my family. Now go out and hug somebody!

Monday, June 01, 2009

For Ginny

This is an account of my efforts to put into action what I learn while reading the Bible, an account of my journey to become closer to God.

I like to share Ginny’s comments now and then because she always has a nice way of putting things in perspective. I received this from her the other day:

“One of the fascinating things about "Living the Word" is that we never, ever stop learning and growing. We never arrive at the place where we are perfect and have it all down. Some might find that a frustrating idea, but instead it keeps us in a constant state of openness and dependence on Him. The path towards "Christ likeness" is vibrant, challenging, costly and rewarding. We never run out of lessons!”

As always, thanks, Ginny, for you ongoing support!

Whew! Sunday was a long day. Jill and I took Linley to her summer camp. It is way up in the backwoods of VA, a fourteen hour roundtrip. As usual, Jill, my navigator, was asleep for well over half the trip. Next, we help Meagan move into her first apartment on Tuesday, and thereafter Jill and I are alone in the house for seven weeks. I’m looking forward to it! We love the girls more than anything else, but it sure is going to be nice to have so much private time together.

I just finished a story that will go on www.touchedbyservice.blogspot.com tomorrow and wanted to share a portion of it with you. I interviewed the Director of Development:

Greg: I’m thinking of the great stories in the Bible about serving and helping others in the way that Jesus did, but I can’t think of a single story about giving money. Can you?

Jon: I love 2 Corinthians 8 where Paul is talking about giving and the generosity of the Macedonians who gave well beyond their ability. Paul suggested that perhaps they shouldn’t give so much, that they should keep something for themselves for their own support. And the Macedonians responded, “Don’t rob us of our blessing.”

Greg: We really can find joy in giving, can’t we?

Jon: The true joy of generosity is knowing that you are blessing somebody, often in ways that you can’t even imagine. When you make sacrifices for someone else and you do it with the right heart, not for recognition or praise, you begin to understand how God blesses us so that we may bless others. When you share the fruit, you bring glory to God.

I’m telling you this as a lead in to an interesting thing that happened on our way home from VA. We passed two hitchhikers alongside the road; one was wearing a sign that read “We’ve lost everything but our Faith.” My first reaction was to think of the guys who wait at the exit ramps here in Atlanta pretending to be handicapped and homeless but are neither (busted by a hidden camera and investigative reporter). We did not stop to pick them up; it is far from safe to do so. And I wondered if it really was true that they’d lost everything.

Moments later I pulled into a gas station to gas up. While I was pumping, I saw the couple walking into the lot. I expected them to begin asking me and the others at the pumps for money. I wondered how I was going to respond.

To my surprise, they passed right by me and sat down in the shade to rest. It was then when I felt tested, and I knew what to do. I went over to them and asked if I could buy them a meal.

They thanked me graciously, but said “no.” I offered again, and again I was refused.

I don’t know why they refused, but I couldn’t help but wonder if God had denied me the joy of giving because giving wasn’t the first thought on my mind when I saw them alongside the road. Man, living the word can cause one a bit of consternation. I’m glad I have Ginny praying for me!

Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog, and please pray for me and my family. Now go out and hug somebody!

Trouble

So sorry; upgraded to Internet Explorer 8 and am now having trouble pasting text on the Blog. Will try to figure it out and return to posting as often as I can.