Saturday, September 15, 2018

Holy Disruption




Have you ever had a holy disruption?  Let me define it for you...
Holy:  set apart, dedicated to God, sacred, spiritual. 
Disruption:  an intense breaking away, the act of breaking or bursting asunder. Intensive force. 
So a Holy Disruption is a breaking away prescribed by God, being set apart in an intense breaking, or (my favorite) an interruption by God for His purpose.   

A holy disruption can rock your world and begin in a very negative way!  I think of Joseph being sold into slavery or Esther taken into the harem.  But it could also involve the supernatural such as Moses seeing the burning bush or Saul being blinded by a great light. Interestingly, there were several holy disruptions where women were told they would become pregnant with promise—Sarah & Mary.  Holy disruptions are life-changing and usually affect the rest of your existence. 

I want to encourage you today. Your world may have been rocked by what appears to be a catastrophe. But what if it’s a holy interruption which will result in God fulfilling His purpose through you?  Joseph didn’t know he would rule the nation when he became a slave. Be still.  Give thanks.  Look for God’s purpose for your life in this thing.
  
“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 
I Thessalonians 5:18

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Sheep



We are all like sheep and we have one Good Shepherd who paid a great price for us. But as God appointed pastors as under-shepherds, I thought it would be good for us to understand the nature of sheep.(Remember...we are one!)
  1. Sheep are the only defenseless animal alive—which is probably why God chose to compare us to sheep. We need the defense of the Good Shepherd. The only defense sheep have is to flee and huddle together to protect themselves from predators.  You very much see the “mob mentality” in a herd of sheep. 
  2. Sheep are followers. The young are taught to follow the elder sheep. Usually one ram rises as the leader of the herd. He will butt the heads of other sheep to demand dominance. In fact, he sees the shepherd as a sheep to be dominated.  A Shepherd never turns his back on a ram and children should never be allowed in a pen with a ram.  The shepherd must convince one sheep to go where he wants it to go—and then the others will follow.  
  3. Sheep have poor depth perception. They have great peripheral vision which allows them to stay aware of predators around them. But many will fall off of a ledge because they can’t differentiate light and shadows. One shepherd tells the story of losing 400 sheep because they followed one after the other off of a ledge. After all...they are followers. 
  4. Some sheep tend to wander.  Sheep have no homing skills.  They can’t find their way back once they’ve wandered off. The shepherd must go looking for the lost sheep. Many sheep have been found dead in remote places because they couldn’t find their way back and were killed by a predator. 
  5. Sheep produce wool all the time.  The more it’s cut off, the more it grows. Fruitfulness is inherent in sheep. 
  6. Sheep are picky eaters.  They won’t eat junk food. They eat grass and prefer fresh grass.  
  7. Sheep have excellent hearing. They quickly learn the voice of the shepherd and are responsive to his voice.  They also recognize the calls of their enemies and quickly circle up to protect themselves. 
  8. Sheep display an intensely outgoing social instinct that allows them to bond closely to other sheep—especially to related flock members. 
  9. Males will physically challenge one another for social rank and breeding privileges.  Ewes tend to stay in their maternal groups for life, whereas rams may form unstable relationships—even remaining bachelors who quickly lose interest in one another.  
  10. Sheep are the only animal which make no noise when they are slaughtered.  

Monday, August 27, 2018

A Shepherd



I decided to take another look at the natural job of shepherding after I heard of another pastor taking his life this morning to get some insight into the spiritual job of shepherding. What is happening?  Why has shepherding become difficult?  What has changed?   As I studied, I saw the following ten (or more) points.  I wonder if it doesn’t speak to the modern-day shepherd or pastor?  I’ll outline what I saw and leave you to your own conclusions.  
  1. Son.  A shepherd was usually the youngest son of the family who was delegated to the task of caring for the sheep. A farmer didn’t have time to move sheep from pasture to pasture—so he chose his young son to do it.  A certain age was not a prerequisite. The father chose his son to do the job when he knew he was capable and ready.
  2. Lonely Job. Being a shepherd, you were alone a great deal of the time. Shepherds were nomadic and lived set apart from society. They stayed with their sheep. In their alone times, they usually learned to play an instrument—for their own enjoyment (or worship) and to soothe the sheep. 
  3. They Led the Sheep. They didn’t drive their sheep—they led them with confidence.  If the sheep resisted, the shepherd would convince that one favored sheep who kept close to him, to lead the way and the others would follow.  
  4. Protected.  The shepherd protected the sheep from predators with his weapon.  He had lots of time to practice hitting a target as he watched his sheep graze. He was willing to lay down his life for his sheep.  If one sheep was missing, he would put the other sheep in a pen and go searching until he found the lost sheep. He loves all of his sheep!
  5. Guarded.  Many sheep paddocks were circular walls with one opening. After the sheep were in for the night, the shepherd would lay across the opening to guard the sheep. In this way, he became the gate.  
  6. Healer.  When the sheep got cuts from brambles, the shepherd would anoint it with oil to bring healing. If a sheep was injured, the shepherd would create a sling and carry the sheep. 
  7. The Shepherd Knew His Sheep. He gave many, or all, of his sheep names.  They knew his voice because he talked to them and played with them. Whenever several shepherds ended up at the same field with their sheep, they would each call their sheep and they would naturally separate because they knew their own shepherd’s voice.  
  8. A Shepherd Paid a Price.  The shepherd (or his family) bought the sheep.  It was an investment they didn’t take lightly. The shepherd guarded the sheep because they belonged to him. There was always a price to pay. 
  9. A Shepherd Provides Freedom from Fear, Tension, Aggravation, and Hunger.  A shepherd would go ahead of the sheep to a new field to make sure there were no predators and to prepare the field—to free it of any poisonous or harmful weeds.  The sheep could not rest as long as it was fearful.  There’s also tension between many sheep, or especially, rams.  So the shepherd would grease the heads of the belligerent sheep so their heads would glance off of each other as they hit one another.  Sheep can literally beat their brains to death.  Gnats, flies, and other insects would aggravate the sheep until they couldn’t rest.  So the shepherd would anoint the sheep with oil. 
  10. Lays Down His Own Needs for the Needs of the Sheep. The shepherd lives a life of self-denial. 
One thing I learned through my studies is that many families have to hire someone to care for their sheep.  They are called hirelings.  They have nothing invested and when predators come, they easily abandon the sheep.  Also as things have become more modern and there is less open land to pasture the sheep, fences have been put up to corral the sheep. Many modern shepherds ride the fences on horseback to check their sheep. The sheep no longer know their shepherd intimately.  
Another important thing a shepherd must do is first be a sheep and be led by the Good Shepherd. He must hear His voice and obey Him. 

*I highly recommend the book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by Phillip Keller

Tomorrow, I’ll talk about the sheep...

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Ask for a Priscilla & Aquila!



Paul arrived at Corinth and met Aquila and his wife, Priscilla. This couple constructed tents—just like Paul. Being a tent-maker in those days was much like being a house builder. Both had to understand the need, dimension, fitting things together, and quality construction—all things which helped in ministry.  Paul joined forces with this couple to make tents (even moving in with them) but he taught at the synagogue on the Sabbath. Within time, it appears that Paul was spending more time teaching than constructing tents—probably at the encouragement of his partners. 

It’s obvious that these three formed a strong bond. Conflict began to arise among the Jews over Paul’s teaching and they attacked him and took him before the proconsul who then told the Jewish leaders to deal with the issue themselves. The leader of the synagogue was publicly flogged for allowing Paul to preach. Eventually, Paul left Corinth for Syria—in the company of Priscilla & Aquila. 

Attacks against the preacher are nothing new. Many of the early preachers were martyred—because Satan wanted to stop the beginning flow of the sharing of the gospel. I believe as the return of Christ draws near, attacks on the preacher of the gospel are increasing. 

God once asked me to speak His message openly in a congregation and I obeyed. I was crucified. But guess who stepped up in my defense?  My Priscillas and Aquilas. The amazing thing about a Priscilla & an Aquila is that they don’t blindly defend YOU. They are a defender of the truth and will lovingly correct you, if necessary. 

Find your Priscilla & Aquila.  They will work hard alongside you.  They will follow you as you preach the gospel. They will even become strong teachers themselves!  Priscilla & Aquila taught Apollos the rest of the story when they heard him teach the teachings of John. Some scholars even believe Priscilla was the author of Hebrews. But most importantly, they will stand with you to defend the truth.  Every good warrior needs someone covering his back. Ask God to bring your Priscilla & Aquila alongside you. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Happiness



Since I’ve been in Borger the past few weeks, I’ve heard the same thing over and over from people there:  “You and Andy seem so happy in Groom!”  We are!!  Oh my goodness—are we ever!  There are several reasons and it’s taken me awhile to think about it and give voice to it. 

•I chose to be happy. I remember on our way into Groom, I told God, “God, I CHOOSE to love these people and this place!”  I honestly thought it was going to be a hard adjustment—but the people of FBC and Groom made it easy. They are amazing people. After our first year here, I told Andy, “What if we’d missed out on knowing these people??”

•I’ve continued growing and changing since I moved to Groom. In fact, I’d say some of the most significant changing has taken place as I’ve come to understand who I am. But that couldn’t have happened without God plowing up the ground of my heart in Borger. Borger was the place where we grew up!  

•FBC Groom has taught us community. In a small church, it takes everyone to make something happen. And in a small community, you know everything that’s going on with everyone. After serving in a church of every size, I choose small. Relationships are so important and it’s so much easier to build strong relationships in small communities. (Which is also why large churches work to create small communities!)

•God is here. Of course...he’s everywhere!  And he wants to do something through all of us to impact the kingdom of God. We’ve never felt the significance of that like we do here. So much of our ministry we’ve only been able to see the results in hindsight. But we feel the urgency and excitement here.  Unity unleashes a limitless God!

Am I happy?  Absolutely!! I’m sure part of that is because I’ve matured. So much of my life I’ve struggled over “the next thing.”  I’ve finally learned to be content. And maybe the most beautiful thing is the connectedness we have with four different churches—Amarillo, Broken Arrow, Borger & Groom. It just feels like I’m in the perfect place physically and spiritually to see God do abundantly above all I could ask or think!

Thursday, March 29, 2018

A Dried-Up Palm Branch




A lady at Caprock has had this palm branch hanging on her door since Palm Sunday. As I’ve walked by it each day and watched it dry up, so many thoughts have run through my mind. All of those palm branches from the triumphal entry of Jesus were lying forgotten on the road as the week progressed. People’s emotions turned from exultant joy to being terrified, angry, or even murderous. 

But Jesus?  I think those palm branches were a memory he clung to. Have you ever had something sweet happen and immediately entered into a trial?  That happened to me in January 2018. My sister and I went to Pawhuska, Oklahoma to visit the Pioneer Woman’s store and tour her lodge. On our way home, we stayed in Oklahoma City and shopped at the outlet mall. We had a BLAST!!  We talked our heads off and just relaxed. Upon coming home, Andy’s family & I began the journey of my mother-in-law’s cancer. It’s been over two months of treatments, hospital stays, and rehab—with no end in sight. My mind keeps taking me back to that trip with my sister. What a gift!!  

I kind of think Jesus hung on to those waving palm branches as he faced the cross. Those palm branches weren’t a flippant thing—even though the people misunderstood. He knew he would become King after he paid for the sins of the world. Not just a king...the King of Kings.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Who Are They?




I’ve been caring for my mother-in-law who is in rehab. She’s there trying to regain her strength so she can resume chemo treatments. This particular rehab is a combination nursing home and rehab. Yesterday, God instructed me to SEE as I went to spend the day with my mother-in-law. I wasn’t sure what he meant, but I asked God to open my eyes to see what he sees. 

As I walked the halls and stopped to talk with several people, God began to open my eyes. If I could have seen these same people 50 years ago who are now shuffling, walking with walkers, wheeling themselves in wheelchairs, or sitting and looking at me blankly, I would have seen someone completely different. I would have seen young mothers hanging their clothes on the clothesline and cooking meals from scratch. I would have seen strong-backed men working on power lines, building houses, or working hard at a carbon black plant. I would have seen teachers, nurses, secretaries. I would have seen pastors, musicians—family men who loved to make their families happy, men who opened doors for women. I would have seen serious, lighthearted, emotional, fun-loving people—friends and neighbors. I would have seen leaders of thriving churches and growing communities. I would have seen heroes who survived a war and their wives who survived the separation. These people are a part of what is called the greatest generation; people with wills of iron. And they all have stories. 

One lady, who was a wonderful teacher, dresses smartly and walks the halls every day. She has no idea she is a resident—she believes she’s there to visit these people. I love her!

One man endured a life of highs and lows as a builder in a day when money was hard to come by. He lost his wife a few years ago but has sweet family who come to encourage him and meet his needs as he goes through rehab. He hopes to go home next week. 

One woman advises us all that she has Alzheimer’s. Her husband comes at 5 in the morning and stays until 10 at night just to be with her. He eats all of his meals there. Andy says it reminds him of the movie, The Notebook. 

And there are residents who only have the quiet visitors of memories in their minds. Their bodies are now tired and worn out and their minds frail. They are alone after a lifetime of giving, I imagine. Most long for home; some don’t even remember. 

If God asks you to SEE....look closely.