Series 28


The Water Before Baptism

“Hi Rick, I’m getting baptized.” I recognized the caller.

It was Cindy, a regular customer for years at my wife’s store. I knew her because of my Saturday mornings working there. Many times while standing at the counter, she poured out life-challenges she was trying to deal with. At times I would steer our conversation towards God as an antidote to her stress.

She was very adept, at that time, of quickly steering the conversation away from spiritual considerations.

Cindy always liked books. And even the day she shared her baptism news, she said, “Do you have a book on baptism?” My wife’s store carries books. But for the first years of our acquaintance she picked up non-faith based ones. She maintained her stiff armed resistance to God.

Her life continued to be a struggle. Then occasionally she either picked out on her own or requested a Christian book on a certain subject. I don’t know the details, but she connected with a pastor in town. Down the road a few months, she started attending church semi-regularly.

Cindy began talking, looking and acting different. And I would hear her referencing: “My pastor.” Or, “My church.” She would also speak of other people affecting her spiritual journey.

It was obvious something was happening inside of her.

The Bible says: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth…God who causes the growth…now he who plants and he who waters are one.”

Cindy’s life is a beautiful example of these verses. A person being influenced by many people, even authors, as she’s nudged towards meeting Jesus as her Savior.

In the big picture: God’s doing the work. But, this scripture describes what each one of us can have the privilege of being. “…God's fellow workers.”

Great job! There are always openings.


Church Fun

“But it’s not fun like Crestview Church” Jeff said. This was the church both Jeff and I formerly attended. He had moved away. I moved on to another church. Jeff still occasionally attends church, but it’s missing the fun.

Two weeks later I attended Crestview Church to hear a guest speaker.  Ken Glaiser preached a no-holds-barred sermon— “Finish what you start.” If you were listening even half-heartedly, he poked you someplace. Pointing out how too many Christians bail out when the fun ends or challenges arise.

The preaching caused me to inventory my God-life.

When Ken finished, the church’s Pastor prayed a somber, heart-examining prayer. Opening his eyes, a big smile reflected a sudden countenance shift. He then asked Ken to end the service with a rousing, up-tempo song. Quickly adding, “Who said church can’t be fun?”

The Apostle Paul said: “I have worked much harder, been in prison…flogged…exposed to death again and again…beaten…stoned…three times shipwrecked…known hunger and thirst…been cold and naked…” He adds: “Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.”

So was Paul, one of the greatest churchmen of all ages, having fun?

Yes…he was.

To him having fun was not about serving the unholy trinity—me, myself and I. Paul’s fun was about serving the Holy Trinity—Father God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.

Paul was tapping into the higher reality of fun, of satisfaction, and of success. He later concludes: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

True church fun engages when the power of Jesus Christ rests upon you. Transforming your life and the people in your sphere of influence to live more like Jesus.  The downside? You must be weak. And then Jesus’ power becomes your strength.


The Raccoon That Loved Me

I’m not fond of raccoons. But there was a raccoon that fell in love with me. Kind of…

At our local landfill, the routine is to drive up an elevated area and discharge trash into the dumpster below. They’re huge—seven feet deep. Looking down into the nearly empty container, I spotted a coonskin cap. Suddenly it moved. A real raccoon.

Instantly the raccoon stood up on its rear legs reaching upward with its paws. Childlike; reaching, pleading, longing for help, a rescuer…a way out.  This raccoon was trapped in the smooth walled dumpster—its coffin. It kept reaching towards me.

Emotions shifted my typical thinking from: “Nuisance.” To: “Poor, adorable, helpless raccoon.” So I piled my trash in a corner as high as possible. The raccoon climbed upward.  I reached down with a box, giving the critter its final boost to freedom.

Instantly the raccoon dashed across the asphalt into the adjacent woods. No, “Thank you.” No glance back. Goodbye love.

I stood there thinking: “Wow, that’s just the way so many people treat God.”

A friend of mine said as she was going through another series of life-calamities: “I’ve been talking to God a lot.” Every time she gets in trouble. And God has bailed her out repeatedly. Then like the raccoon, she dashes away, no looking back…so much for loving God.

Jesus said, “Come to Me all you who are weary and burdened.” Maybe trapped at the bottom of a life-dumpster. “Come”; then Jesus promises: “I will give you rest.” And one of the things I love about Jesus, He will accept us back no matter how many times we’ve dashed away.

Need His rest, His rescue? Jesus is reaching out.

This time, don’t dash away. Don’t be a raccoon. Stay with Jesus. Thank Jesus. Love Jesus.


Harry Gets Saved. Part 1

I spotted Harry a few stores down waving both arms.

Harry was a stranger, trying to get my attention. The first words out of his mouth were: “I need the Lord and I don’t know how.”

When God places a situation like this before you, you don’t want to mess up. Now is the time to efficiently take Harry through a handful of Bible verses and then lead him in a sinner’s prayer. Get him saved. Right? Seize the moment.

I don’t see it that way. Jesus said: “No one can come to Me unless the Father (God) draws them.” Jesus also said: “The Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin and of righteousness and of judgment of sin, because they do not believe in Me.” The vital work is out of my hands. Only accomplished by God, the Holy Spirit and Jesus.

Of course I have responsibilities. So I was doing my best to sense the Holy Spirit’s leading.

“Have you ever been to church?” I asked. The finish line is Jesus. But where is Harry’s starting point? He sporadically attended church thirty-five years ago, saying: “I don’t understand.”

It seemed wiser to talk with him again. We agreed to meet two nights later.

But what if he doesn’t show up?  Remember, God’s doing the work; there’s more work to do. And a no-show usually indicates someone unprepared to make Jesus their Lord. Most importantly, God is the starting point. As the Bible says: “Don’t you know that the reason God is good to you is because He wants you to turn to Him?” God’s passion is to establish genuine relationships with humans.

For Harry to complete his connecting-to-God-getting-saved circuit, he must submit his life to Jesus. Let’s help Harry to that finish line. Not drag him over.


Who’s a Missionary?

“Where’re you moving to?” Al asked. I’ve heard this question countless times since the “For Sale” sign went up in the front yard. “Just outside of town,” I replied. “Oh, I thought maybe you were going to the mission field,” he said. I assured him I wasn’t.

Well, actually I am moving to the mission field. So why did I lie to Al?

I knew what he meant. Am I moving to some far off foreign country to serve God among the native people as a missionary? No, I’m moving five miles closer to town. And my reason is to serve God among the native people. To be a missionary.

Do I qualify? What does the Bible say?

Actually…nothing. In the fourteen Bible versions I checked out, not even one mention of the word missionary. Hold on. I just found it in the fifteenth version. It appears once: “We who are on missionary assignments for God…” Missionary—someone with an assignment from God; with a mission to complete.

I qualify.

So do you.

And most Christians know the Great Assignment which Jesus gave us just before He returned to Heaven. Also known as the Great Commission: “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature...”

God has made us all unique. So He offers nearly endless ways to complete His assignment. You can go to Outer Mongolia or you can go to the mall. You can preach by shouting through a megaphone on a street corner or nearly whispering, holding an elderly person’s hand near death. Preaching is also the written word—another world of possibilities. Most importantly, do you know any creatures? Any people who need to know the Good News of Jesus? If so, you have your field assignment.

You’re a missionary. Go…