Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Challenge ...

One of the things that I generally do when I visit a church as a guest preacher is to challenge the believers to to find one person in one week that they are reasonably sure that is not a fellow follower of Jesus and tell them these two statements: "God loves you," and "Jesus died for you."

I did that this past weekend in Blunt SD and also agreed to accept the challenge. The problem that I run into these days is that I rarely really see anybody that I really engage in a conversation (part of my introvert and isolated personality). In an attempt to fulfill my part of the challenge, I introduced myself to a neighbor that I often see as I am walking. We usually wave or great one another, but don't really know each other or have any kind of conversation.

The man was out with a couple of his sons, so I stopped and introduced myself. Although the family has lived there almost a year, he has just recently returned from the oil fields of North Dakota. Our conversation made its way to my asking where they went to church and they go to a nearby church that is pastored by one of my friends. Knowing my friend, they are already well aware that God loves them and Jesus died for them!

I'm going to have to find someone else!

Maybe I could solicit your help.
If you are a follower of Jesus and would like to help, all you have have to do is find one person that you are reasonably certain is not a fellow Christian and tell them these two simple sentences -- "God loves you," and "Jesus died for you."

That's it! You don't even have to engage them in any other discussion about it. Of course if you (or they) want to continue the conversation, please do. If you get stuck, just tell them, "Come and see," and invite them to church Sunday. Go pick them up and maybe spring for lunch afterwards!
You can even tell them that some guy on a blog you read asked you to do it.
Then report back here in the comment section and let me know that the deed has been done.

For those of you that actually encounter people during your day, it should be a simple task.

Right now, you might look up and see someone nearby. Just say, "Hey, I'm reading this blog and it says I should tell someone that God loves you and Jesus died for you. I just picked you so here it comes -- 'God loves you and Jesus died for you!' "

I'm counting on your help.

John <><

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Traveling On...

This morning's post is brought to you by the itinerant evangelist/gospel magician John.

The past few weeks have been busy from the ministerial standpoint. The weekend after Easter I was in Northwestern Missouri in the small community of Breckenridge. If you missed the relevant post, you can read it here.

The following weekend I filled in for a pastor at a church not far from home and this week finds me in the middle of South Dakota.

Wednesday I made the all day drive to be in Huron SD for their evening kids program. I am really encouraged by the work that Pastor Chet and his staff are doing there. The church has grown from being ready to close their doors when Pastor Chet arrived about 30 months ago to having around 50 kids on Wednesday nights and enough adult volunteers to work with them. Most of the kids that come for dinner and bible lessons come from families that do not attend church. The folks at Huron Baptist have made the kids of the community a priority and hold regular community events to draw the parents of the kids, as well. We had three kids make professions of faith in Jesus the night I was there.

After the program, a woman came to the front to tell me that her granddaughter accepted Jesus as Savior but didn't want to tell the pastor. She wanted to go home and tell her mom first! I assume that the mom was this woman's daughter. The daughter had been saved and baptized less than a year ago. I could tell that this woman's joy was more than she was letting on; that there was a lot of emotion that she was holding back. About that time, an older gentleman came up to thank me for coming. The woman told him about her granddaughter's decision. He smiled really big and said how happy he was for her and then did the one thing that the woman really needed (and I couldn't do for her) and he hugged her! That was when the emotion leaked from her eyes and tears of joy spilled down her cheeks.

Afterwards, I was thinking to myself about the day. I was up at 4:30 in the morning and on the road by 5. I had driven almost 700 miles to arrive (11 hours later) in time to take a walk, change and get to the church for the event. It was a long day...

...But I would do it again tomorrow if given the chance.
If God said to me, "John, I need you to get up early and drive all day to meet with people that you've never met. At the end of the day, all I can promise you is that you will get to see a grandmother weep for joy over her granddaughter's salvation. Will you go?"

What would you say?
What if He said you'll have to do that several times before you get to see that moment?
What if there were going to be many days and many long drives and no results before the one day when you get to see that grandmother weep those tears of joy?
Would it be worth it?

Trust me. It is worth it!

There were two other kids on that night and three more teens the following night in Blunt SD. It has been a long week and it is not yet over. Service tonight and tomorrow morning and then the long drive home tomorrow afternoon. I'm a little farther from home than the initial drive to Huron so it will be a 12-13 hour drive home. Even if there are no more professions of faith this weekend, the six that I've witnessed and the love of a grandmother will be enough to see me home and motivate me for the next journey.

Tell the story!
God loves you.
Jesus died for you.

John <><

Monday, April 20, 2015

Writing Your Story

Each and every day, we get to write our story.
I don't know how your story for yesterday ended. I don't know how your story for today is shaping up. I do know that tomorrow you get to begin a new story--maybe more than one story.

Working? Going to school? Running errands? Spending a quiet day at home?

Think about the characters in your day.
Will there be a bully in your day? How will you respond?
Will there be a person in need? Will you help them?

Some of the characters in your day will make their regular appearances and fill their regular roles. Others may be new and unexpected characters. You have little control over the other characters in your day, but you have total control over the central character in your story -- YOU!

You can be a hero or a villain.
You can be productive or destructive.
You can contribute or you can be a taker.
You can be a somebody or you can be a nobody.
You can be the center of attention or you can be an invisible presence.

You can glorify your Maker or bring shame to His cause.

Plan your day well.
Write your story.

And if it doesn't turn out the way you want it to, write a better story tomorrow!

John <><

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Tax Day -- well, almost!

Today is April 14, the day before Tax Day!

It'll serve as tax day for me, though. I mean -- Why wait until the last minute? Right?
Later today, I'll send in my 2014 tax return with a little extra for my dear ol' Uncle Sam.

Although I hate that I have to send more than what was withheld, there is also the realization that our collective taxes provide for our way of life in the USA. I know that there is plenty of waste in our government. Believe me, as a federal employee I've seen plenty of it firsthand. I'd say the biggest waste of my tax dollars in recent years is paying the salary of my Congressman. He has done nothing that the party leadership hasn't instructed him to do. He is a party puppet without an original thought in his head.

Other than that and the wasted money over votes to repeal the ACA and investigations on Benghazi and other bureaucratic crap, we have a decent way of life in the US. Our military (even with its bureaucratic wastes) protects us and deters others from attacking us. We have decent roads, public transportation (in most cities) and a solid infrastructure.
And we have the means to fix the problems that government creates with the opportunity to vote in new leadership on a regular basis. (Why we choose to keep sending the same morons --from both parties-- back into office is beyond me!)

If you overpaid in your withholding for 2014 and are getting a refund -- Congratulations!
If you have to pay a little more -- I'm with you.

In either case, let's make our country the very best we can and put the people into office that will spend our money wisely (for a change).

John <><

Monday, April 13, 2015

Post Revival Report

It is good to be back at home!

Although 60 and breezy is a little cool for morning coffee on the deck, none-the-less I am sitting on the deck with laptop and coffee enjoying my Monday morning.

My trip to northern Missouri was a good one.

Breckenridge MO is a small rural town about 15 miles west of Chillicothe MO and may not appear on some maps. The sign entering the town says it has a population of 454. The entire school, K-12, showed up for the afternoon assembly -- all 55 students!

Several of them made it to the church on Friday night for the first of our revival services. SIX of them made professions of faith in Jesus and a couple of them are scheduling times to be baptized at the church! It was a pretty powerful evening.

Saturday also had a good turnout but the focus was more for the born-again believers to be about the task of telling their stories and sharing the message of "God loves you" and "Jesus died for you."

It was a bit of an oddity that the Sunday morning service was actually the smallest service in number of attendees. It was still a great weekend. We finished it up with lunch at the church and then I hit the road.

During the weekend, I discovered that I shared a few things in common with Pastor Tom. He is a bit of a coffee snob, likes baseball (although he roots for the other Missouri team) and is a lover of peanut butter! Before leaving, I was presented with a large jar of my favorite peanut butter (Smucker's All Natural, creamy) to take with me!

As is typical of my meetings, I challenged the members of the Breckenridge Baptist church to find somebody that needs to know about Jesus and tell them that God loves them and Jesus died for them.
If you are a believer, then I would offer the same challenge to you.

Sometime this week, talk to somebody that is lost and in need of a Savior and simply tell them, "God loves you," and "Jesus died for you."

It's simple and it's true.

John <><

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

I Surrender!

What does that mean?
When countries are at war with each other and one surrenders, what does it mean?
When a criminal is in a battle with law enforcement officers, gives up the fight, throws down his weapons and comes out with his hands up in the internationally recognized "I surrender" pose, what does it mean?

According to it means:

1   to yield (something) to the possession or power of another; deliver up possession of on demand or under duress: to surrender the fort to the enemy; to surrender the stolen goods to the police.

2   to give (oneself) up, as to the police.

3   to give (oneself) up to some influence, course, emotion, etc.: He surrendered himself to a life of hardship.

4   to give up, abandon, or relinquish (comfort, hope, etc.).

5   to yield or resign (an office, privilege, etc.) in favor of another.

So why do I ask this question on this day?

I ask because of all of the media publicity about religious freedom and the rights that we have, particularly as Christians. Yes, religious freedoms should apply equally to all of us, but it seems that it is the Christian groups that are making the news these days.

When I think of religious freedom, I think of being able to worship the way I choose and to live life according to a set of principles in which I believe. If, according to my beliefs, stealing is wrong, then I shouldn't steal. If  being unfaithful in marriage is wrong, then I should remain faithful to my wife. If being gay is wrong, then I shouldn't live a gay lifestyle.

If I am a business person, I should conduct my business with honesty and the moral character that reflects my personal beliefs.

Serving somebody that has been convicted of stealing, doesn't make me a thief. Providing product to a person that is divorced due to an unfaithful marriage doesn't make me and adulterer; and doing business with an LGBT person doesn't make me gay. Denying services to these people is not a reflection of Christian beliefs; it is a reflection of self-centered "I don't like those people" thinking.

And perhaps, you have the right to do that -- but let's not call it religious freedom. Let's just call it what it is -- bigotry.

Most evangelical Christians believe that when we surrender to Jesus; we surrender our will to Him. We give up our ways and begin to imitate His ways.
We don't have to sin to serve sinners.
Jesus came to us while we were sinners!

Jesus travelled through Samaria and talked to a Samaritan woman that was of poor reputation.
She was a Samaritan.
She was a woman.
And she was divorced (several times) and living with a man.

Jesus did other crazy things that were considered unbecoming to the religious establishment. He had dinner with tax collectors. He touched lepers. He healed on the Sabbath. He showed compassion to the very least in society.
And then, He went willingly and innocently to the cross to pay for the sins of all of us -- while we were yet sinners.

It may be true that our grand country -- the US of A -- gives us certain religious freedoms, but our Savior does not.
As followers of Jesus, we have surrendered our will to Him. We have only His will.
Would Jesus serve those that are sinners?
He served me.
And if you are a Christian, He served you, too -- while you were a sinner. 
It didn't make Him a sinner.
He remained holy and pure and innocent so that He could be the perfect sacrifice for all of us that are sinners.

The only real task that Jesus gives us where others are concerned is to tell them the story; to tell them His story.
Tell them, "God loves you."
Tell them, "Jesus died for you."
Serve them with the compassion of Jesus.
Be Jesus to them.
We are the ambassadors of the kingdom to this lost and dying world.

If you are a follower of Jesus -- love Him by loving the ones that need to know Him, too.
If you are not a follower of Jesus -- know this:

God loves you.
And Jesus died for you.

John <><

Monday, April 06, 2015

Write. Something. Anything.

It's been a week since I've posted. I've felt in a bit of a writing funk lately.

Normally, writing is a way to express myself, in spite of being a bit of an introvert. I can write in the peace and quiet of my home and publish with relative anonymity. The few readers I have generally leave affirming comments and when I get dissenting opinions, it's not a big deal--just part of publishing on controversial topics.

However, lately I haven't felt up to putting in the effort to write. I went from posting something on one of my blogs pretty much every day, to not posting anything for a week...and this; this is just a little rant because I decided that I just needed to write...something, anything.

I probably won't even link this to my social media sights so even fewer people will read it. No worries, it's not much to read anyway.

I do have a short list of blog topics on which I can write, Maybe I'll start on that this month. This week will be spent getting ready for the upcoming Revival weekend and magic show. Then I have a week off before another revival trip. I'll work on writing something more significant in the coming days.

On the bright side of things...
It's baseball season and the Cardinals are off to a great start with their win over the Cubs on opening day!

Life is good!

John <><