Series 42


One Needs the Other

The three of us intersected slightly off the busy path of our energized workplace. McClain and Dre each had a broom in their hands, as I turned the corner.

McClain often asks me unexpected questions—mainly about my writing. He started asking about my newspaper column—Inspiration Point. I said, “Maybe I’ll write one about you someday.” Then directing my question jokingly toward Dre, I said, “Do you think I could write a story about McClain and God?”

Without hesitation Dre responded, “Yeah, one needs the other.”

Now I’m sure what Dre meant was: “McClain needs God.” But later I pondered the idea, “Maybe it’s the other way around.” Maybe God needs McClain.

Or any one of us. Does God need us?

It’s hard to imagine. Seems sacrilegious to ask: “Does Almighty God actually need the rather-pathetic-on-a-good-day collective we call the human race.

The most famous verse in the Bible, John 3:16 is revealing on this matter: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

The key here is God’s love. 1 John says, “God is love.” Love is the main component of God’s character. In essence: “God equals love.”

1 John further says: “Whoever lives in love, lives in God. And God in him. In this way love is made complete…” Through us, God can completely be this God of love.

Years ago something vital was missing from life. Then the revelation of God’s love made my heart and soul complete.

And now, Dre’s casual remark, “one needs the other,” brought me a refreshing turn-around look at God’s love. While all of this in not total proof God needs us, it’s close enough for me to smile and think: “Wow! God needs me.”


When You Get Up Off the Floor

There was a little extra zest behind the “P” when he said, “I’m Pentecostal.”

I hadn’t asked Andre about his denominational affiliation. I had asked, “Are you a Christian?” His response made me smile. I sensed he was asserting his higher-octane version of our common faith.

I responded to Andre, “I’m a Pentecostal Lutheran.” I got the thumbs-up look, along with an approving toned, “Oh.” Kind of an accepting, verbal secret-handshake.

Andre didn’t ask about what I meant by being Pentecostal Lutheran. He might be surprised by my interpretation.

Likewise, I didn’t ask him either.

I do know a central thread of Pentecostalism comes from Acts 2: “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit (Holy Ghost) and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” This refers to speaking in tongues.

Also another experience I’ve seen at Pentecostal churches is typically called: “Being slain in the Spirit.” Considered a touch from God, coming through a Godly person; causing the other person to end up lying on the floor.

My point isn’t to agree or disagree with these. Or the numerous other facets of Pentecostalism. 

My all-time favorite high-octane Christian, the Apostle Paul wrote: “I affirm by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.”

We have to live in a way that grinds against our human nature…we die. 

When the intrigue of our church experience ends, which for some includes speaking in tongues and lying on the floor; how do we live? On Monday morning?  At school? At Wal-Mart?

Something Godly may have happened on the floor. At church on Sunday. If it did, take it out the door. The world needs to see less of us, and more of Jesus in our lives.

Die daily.


Theology Check

"God’s hand was upon it,” I told Bea. I was excited about an incredible auction I had won on eBay. I was thinking: “God answered my prayer from the night before.”

Now Bea is quiet. When she does speak, I listen. She pondered my excitement and then she said, “Was God’s hand upon it, if you hadn’t got the great deal?”

Deflating my bulb of exuberance wasn’t her intent. It was kind of a Pontius-Pilate-moment, when he asked Jesus, “What is truth?”

“Check your theology,” Bea added, “I check mine all the time.”

She made a significant and valid point. If I would have lost the auction, which would have been the opposite of what I prayed, there’s no way I would have told Bea, “God’s hand was upon it.”

The pattern we typically follow is: if something turns out the way we think it should, it’s good. It’s God. Yet it’s more difficult to see situations which seem totally opposite our desires and expectations as good. As God.

So what is truth? Theology check time.

Standing there talking to Bea, I cited James 1:2, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers whenever you face trails of many kinds.”

Pure joy...come on now, how many Christians actually do this?

Yet God has a reason for trials. A preacher I greatly appreciate, said, “Don’t waste a trial.”

This is why. Listen to the next two verses: “Because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

God knows, and so do we; going through a rough spot in life is one of God’s most effective tools in maturing us as Christians. Refining us.

“Consider it pure joy…” When God is molding you into being more Jesus-like.


Giving Jesus a Try

“I tried Jesus,” Tashia said.

I was concerned. She seems nearly devoid of any spiritual life. She confirmed my inkling: “It didn’t work out.” And Tashia, my cousin, whose sons are like my sons, wasn’t giving much gusto to her commitment.

Not all her fault. She had been enticed to follow Jesus with skewed expectations.  Near-instant upswings in her life situations were assured. So, when life continued to be challenging, she bailed on Jesus.

Many preachers lay out the peace-prosperity-happiness scenario in presenting the Christian faith.  But listen to Jesus:

“You will be hated by all because of My name.”

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

“A man’s enemies will be the members of his household.”

“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross …”

“If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you”

Ouch! Does this sound like Good News? Does this sound like an effective rallying call to a lifetime Jesus-commitment?

Jesus never preached, “Let the good times roll.” He preached, “Repent for the kingdom of God is near.”

Hated, peace-less-ness, enemies, deny yourself, persecuted, repent. Raise your hand if this is what you desire.

The Jesus-life has two edges. Yes, there will be joyous times—lots of them. But be prepared for the cross-cutting of life-challenges. Be prepared; these could surpass those of your pre-Christian years. Jesus wants followers who are totally committed to trusting in Him—bold, faith-filled, enduring commitments.

Jesus said: “In this world you will have trouble.” That’s a promise. Then Jesus added, “But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  When we follow in His footsteps, we experience troubles. And as we continue the journey, we overcome.

That’s a promise.


Don’t Ignore Andrew

Sixteen-year old Andrew was instantly likeable. He offered to volunteer for some heavy moving after my friend Brandon made a quick call.

His work ethic and attitude also impressed me. And then afterwards, as we sat at McDonald’s, told me something else which peaked my interest.

One Sunday, with no invitation or prompting from anyone, Andrew visited the church a block from his home. How many teenagers would do that?

I asked him, “So why did you decide to go to church?”

Andrew answered, “I just wanted to see what it was like.”

“What did you think of church?” I said.

Andrew responded, “It was kind of like the first time I heard Spanish.” He said it made little sense to him. I asked if he knew anybody or if anyone spoke to him. “No,” Andrew said, “I was just sort of there.”

He never returned.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “You seem to me to be well-motivated and well-instructed, quite capable of guiding and advising one another.  So, my dear friends, don't take my rather bold and blunt language as criticism. It's not criticism. I'm simply underlining how very much I need your help in carrying out this highly focused assignment God gave me, this priestly and Gospel work of serving the spiritual needs of the non-Jewish outsiders so they can be presented as an acceptable offering to God, made whole and holy by God's Holy Spirit.”

What’s he saying?

People inside the church are excellent at communicating and teaching each other. But there’s a higher calling!  Our job, assigned from God, is to get the outsiders to be insiders— followers of Jesus.

Bottom line: we’ve all ignored strangers and missed opportunities to serve their spiritual needs. Outsiders are looking for Jesus. Are we looking for outsiders?