Sunday, October 29, 2006
Zion, our church just recently celebrated Reformation Sunday. Zion is known as the mother church of the Cleveland area. Therefore, we invited Lutherans from around the city to come and celebrate this important day in our history. It was a nice celebration where the Lutheran West Alumni Band played historic songs like A Mighty Fortress and Beautiful Savior. We also were blessed to hear the talented Lutheran West Chorale and Singers. These festivals are always nice to do.
The most amazing thing I experienced at this Reformation Service was meeting a guy named William. Will is about 6'2" 220lbs. He came over from the projects when his niece and nephews asked him to come to the special church service. After I met and talked with him I found out he was recently shot in the stomach. He was still bleeding, although he was bandaged. I prayed for him that his wound would be healed fast and that God would work salvation in his life. An interesting Reformation Day in the City.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Hopefully Words I will never hear, but who knows?
My wife and kids picked me up after our morning service and we went to KFC across from our church for lunch. It was a real nice treat; greasy chicken and mashed potatoes. In the middle of my second piece of chicken my family and I had the pleasure of hearing some woman going ghetto. She was told, "You're Fired!"
Ouch. She did not react in a civil matter, and yet the way she was fired was not very civil either.
Many people in the world have had to go through "a firing squad" at one time or another in their life.
But I cannot help but be reminded of my Biblical ancestors who had to endure "the firing squad for the purpose of God's word to spread like wild fire. For example, after the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7) the Gospel to all parts of the world. May our days under the firing squad bless us as the Gospel has.
Monday, October 16, 2006
At the end of tutoring A'Darius blew me over with this common phrase.
You have to understand, it is not common in a neighborhood where people expect everything for free.
The word is not used...especially from an 8 year old child.
We try to teach them. We go day to day teaching the children simple manners. "Say, thank-you, or you won't get this candy bar... Be sure to say please when asking for something."
Tonight I was teaching A'Darius some simple spelling words: Pet, Pick, Big, Touch, Nap. He received a high five every time he remember how to pronounce the word.
We also talked about the Easter Story. A'Darius and his friend, Muk, were intensely glued to the pictures and the Words of the Easter story. They thought Jesus had died and went to heaven. They didn't know He died and came back to life! They were amazed! They have begun to see why we call Him True Man and True God. They have begun to grasp why we get to live because He lives!
"Thank You" Lord Jesus.
Saturday, October 14, 2006
I saw this picture on the web and thought of how I use to jump around like a ballerina. [I was by myself of course]. In public I would resist. Resist...a great word. It is used in the Scriptures a few times. "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:7).
Resisting is something we are good at...Never mind, I am horrible at resisting. When there is something I want, I go for it. Unless it is dancing like a ballerina.
I remember one day setting a jar of candy on the stage during our weekly "Kids of the Kingdom" bible class. I gave a small devotion to the children about temptation and how we need to "resist" the urge to do certain things. I was going to challenge them to "resist" the candy jar for the next two hours.
Ok, I know that is not fair. That is like telling a dog to resist the food scraps you set in his dog bowl. But I wanted to see...I wanted to see the struggle and the anguish. I really wanted to hear the begging, "Pastor Mike, can we just have one piece?"
Believe it or not these selfish, me centered kids from the hood resisted. They didn't touch the jar. They pretended to walk up and sneak a piece, but everyone around urged them not to. They had a support system. We call that support system the community of saints, the Holy Christian Church.
Resistance is hard to do on your own. Yet it is possible in the company of friends. It is possible in the company of the saints. "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."
The second part of that passage is, "Come near to God and he will come near to you."
My struggle with resistance to sin is always conquered in the nearness of God. This nearness comes through Christ who has given us himself so that we may have life. Christ who has given selfish, and me centered people the ability to resist. May the Lord who loves you keep you in his arms, the arms of the the saints.
Resist...and if you are not resisting...maybe coming nearer to God is what you need. "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up" (James 4:10). Lift you like a ballerina!
Friday, October 13, 2006
Two years ago we began with 5 kids and 5 volunteers. It was our goal to get children reading and excited about school through Christian Centered education materials. Today we have about 25-30 children walking to the church on their own and getting to spend about an hour every Monday and Tuesday with a volunteer. But more importantly getting connected to Christ.
Our ministry is really about giving people Jesus. It is not about creating a program that is looked at in the city as the best as some may think this ministry should be. It is not about getting so good at what we start replacing people in the hood with suburban children with money. No it is about the Lost kids and their parents in our community. Some extra benefits may be raised grades, and growing close to an adult who cares about that child. But in the beginning and the end it is about Christ. My prayer is that what happens in the future is God pleasing and will bring people to Jesus.
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
I know a Barney Fife. He protects our church building. He wears his issued uniform and a revolver. He keeps his "beloved" church safe for 2 hours every Sunday. Just like Barney kept Mayberry safe.
One way he protects it is by making sure the church's front gates are closed.
I'm not from the city, but in the country gates are meant to keep animals in or out of a particular location.
The gates have been an issue for me the past 2 years. Everyone at Zion knows this. In fact it bothered me the 1st time I saw the church. The closed gates told me I was not wanted in this place. It was screaming...
"We do not want you to sit on our porch! Go to the church a block away with open gates!"
Maybe I should have listened like the others. Is anyone wanted? Does the church want me? Does God want me?
No matter the looks of the inside or outside of this building. No matter if there is a Barney Fife with a revolver pacing the smallest parking lot known to man. No matter...Christ wants you. Christ will never close the gates for those who desire the love of their Savior, Jesus. "Knock and the door will be opened." "Repent and believe!" Thanks be to God that the Holy Spirit is not like the Barney Fife that we all know. The Holy Spirit has torn down my reluctance to the Word and broke through the gates I put up. He tore down my cast iron gates and showed me His opened gates of beauty.
The Lutheran Hymnal has a beautiful hymn which speaks to this issue. It is the 1st hymn you find in the hymn book. The 1st verse reads...
Open now Thy gates of beauty,
Zion, let me enter there,
Where my soul in joyful duty
Waits for Him who answers prayer.
Oh, how blessed is this place,
Filled with solace, light, and grace!
May the Holy Spirit work in you to tear down your gates and show you His gates that have been opened through Christ, Jesus by way of the cross and the empty tomb!
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
I received this picture from my parents back in Abilene. This is my grandpa. He was the topic of discussion for many in Abilene on September 22nd when he ended up on the front page of the Abilene Reflector.
Gene was not a golfer. He is a farmer, a carpenter, a father and a husband. He is alive. He is close to 80 and has taken up golf; at least indoor putting. He is trying new things even though he has Parkinsons and now is living in a nursing home. He is alive.
Grandpa gives me an image of the area around our church. On the outside everyone is saying how horrible it must be to live in such an environment. The amount of suffering must mean that death is near. To support such a community of crime, drugs, and welfare mothers with our tax monies is insane. Sometimes you even hear from the inside, "Something is not right. How can I live down here. I have to get my babies out of this area. I want to die. I am dying." And yet here is a picture. A picture of struggle and success. A golf putt that goes in the hole. Alive!
Our Lord gives us the Victory. He has sunk the putt of eternal life. This is why we are in the city. We give the guarantee of eternal salvation. Not death...Now that is living.