Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Living Through Suffering

It's a tough month for me. At sixteen years of age I started having problems with allergies. After a lot of tests it turned out I was allergic to most things that grow. (Well, let's just say the list is long.) I took the shots to desensitize me. It didn't help. At the age of twenty-six I was told I needed to live in air conditioning and forget any outside activity. Later, I went to another doctor who started a new round of shots and told me I was "mostly" cured.

I've lived with my allergies for forty years. For six to eight months every Spring I suffer. And, for forty years I've asked God to heal me. I've faithfully trusted God to heal me on his time frame. I've considered the possibility that God has left me with the allergies so that, like Paul, I can declare that God's grace is sufficient.

This week I lost it. It's been a particularly bad week for me. My allergies have been at their worst. One night this week I couldn't breathe. My medication didn't seem to be working. And, because I couldn't breathe, I couldn't sleep.

So, I spent my sleep hours trying to breathe and wipe my nose. In between I prayed. No, I begged. I pleaded. I asked God why. I reminded God I had trusted him. That I had given my life to ministry for him. Then I offered an ultimatum. I told God I wanted him to either heal me or take me home.

The next morning I was still on this earth and still suffering. I made an appointment to see the doctor, who gave me a shot and prescribed a new medication. Things are better, but I'm still not healed.

That means I'm a little calmer in my prayers now. I'm still reminding God that I've suffered with these allergies for forty years and that I want to be healed. And yes, I'd rather be home with him than to suffer with the discomfort of my allergies.

Here's the thing that strikes me most. I was hurting and angry. Yet, I knew (and know) that God still loves me. My life is in his hands.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Evangelism vs. Discipleship?

As I was worshiping in a local church the pastor announced that he longed for the day when he baptized people every Sunday. My immediate thought was, is there water in the baptistry? After all, if one longs for the day for it to happen it seems to me that he should be ready for that to happen.

I suppose that some churches just are not reaching people for the kingdom of God because they are not yet prepared. They really do not expect it to happen and are not doing everything on their end to be prepared for it to happen.

However, no sooner had the thought come into my mind than another followed. The Spirit raised another question in my mind and heart. Why would the Father allow a church to baptize people into the kingdom if they were unwilling or unprepared to disciple them? Ouch!

You see, I don't believe that our calling is simply to make converts and baptize them. I believe we have a responsibility to help them grow in their relationship with the Lord. And, if we are unwilling to do that why would God ever allow us the joy of seeing others come to know Christ?

Needless to say, the Father has been speaking to me a lot lately about discipleship. Today He showed me that evangelism and discipleship cannot be separated. They go hand-in-hand. If we have a responsibility to share the good news we also have the responsibility to disciple those whom we lead to Jesus. My prayer is that I'll have ample opportunities to share Christ and lead others in discipleship, to grow in their relationship with God.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Church

It's seems like I've been involved in ministry forever. Early on I started out working with youth and moved to the education ministry. I went on to the pastorate and now I'm involved as a denominational minister. And, before all of that, I was raised in the home of a minister. So, I guess it's fair to say I've been involved in ministry all my life.

In the past few months I've been thinking about the current condition of the Church. I've got to say that it doesn't look all that good to me. You see, I've been involved, over the years, in all kinds of methods and plans to assist the churches in growing. In fact, I've done my part in leading some of the programs, traveling around the country. All of these methods and plans sounded good at the time. Indeed, for awhile they seemed to work. Churches reached people and things looked good. But in just a few months they lost steam and things returned to normal.

Sadly, churches today are still looking for the latest method, plan, or gimmick to help them grow. Just as soon as the latest idea loses its steam, it's on to the next great plan. To borrow from Shakespeare. There seems to be much ado about nothing.

I think we've done everything humanly possible, and that's the problem. We really haven't relied on the Lord. That's why the Church doesn't look to be in great shape to me right now. Perhaps it's time we confess that we've tried to do it our way and ask the Lord's forgiveness. Perhaps it's time to remember that Jesus said it is His Church and He will build it. What would happen if we would just allow God to do what only He can do in our churches today?