Burgers & Community

An old pharmacy “luncheonette” was my stop the other day driving back from a conference. It’s off the beaten path in Clayton, and beyond notice of tourist just two blocks over. While I was there, I watched, and listened. Memories flooded my mind from growing up near there. “Community” was happening right in front of me, and it was refreshing.

 Imagine the scene…servers greeting folks by name, terms like “Dear” and “Hun” used often, and a GREAT burger! It wasn’t a strategy; just their normal life. It’s who they are, and had the tourist known, they would have flooded in there. With the conference theme “Building Great Groups for Great Growth” fresh on my mind, I couldn’t help but notice the parallels.

 We were challenged to seek authentic community, and reach people. It sounds like elusive secrets, but it’s really not complicated. The formula is already available in scripture. Jesus modeled it perfectly, and charges us to do the same. Notice the common themes from the speakers:

 Alan Taylor, Minister of Education,First Baptist Church,Woodstock, GA drew attention to this:

 “…Jesus went about teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing…” Matt. 4:23 – The strategy Jesus used throughout was:

  • Reaching People
  • Teaching People
  • Ministering to People

 Bill Donahue of  The LeaderSync Group showed  Jesus leading groups into spiritual community by:

  • Creating Moments (washing the disciples feet – John 13)
  • Seizing Moments (turning Peter’s comments into a lesson – John 13:38)
  • Marking Moments (Instituting the Lord’s Supper – Matt. 26)

Dennis Pethers of Viz-A-Viz Ministries, Essex, UK shared about reaching people far from God, like those in England. He taught that Jesus was “among them & available”, based on John 14:1-26 where Jesus spoke and listened.

 At the end of the day I came back with a fresh vigor to look at our Lord’s example, and it sounds familiar. Recently, the little orange book, Radical by David Platt has convicted me lately to do the same. He points me back to scripture for the definition of my mission. That’s tough because my flesh resists, but I can’t argue with it. Authentic Christian Community involves looking to the one who designed it, Christ.   

What about the diner?  Well, I drove back down to the main drag, and saw the tourists…lots of them in “chain” restaurants. They were completely unaware they missed out on a GREAT burger served up with, “There you go Hun.” I suspect if someone had informed them afterwards, they would be very disappointed. So as we build authentic community, we need to make the effort to reach the “tourists”, so they too can experience Christ’s wonderful riches…and that sounds like Kingdom work to me.

Sand or Stone?

Green Energy, Tolerance, Social Justice, etc…sound familiar? They’re the noble causes capturing the imagination of a generation. The overtones are everywhere. As believers, what should our response be?

Well, pondering that, I recalled something from our beach trip. The kids were playing, and writing their names in the sand. Since they were at the water’s edge, the waves would come and wash the letters away. Quickly they would write again…same results. In so many ways, as a culture, that’s our plan.

Amazingly, the “Summer of Love” propelled millions to change the world, but our planet still needs “rescued”. Massive numbers of that generation poured into law school, education, politics, and various social endeavors, but yet here we are. The waves of time are washing away the names and the sand castles, but we’re not the first.

The ancients tried it too. Remember the Tower on the plains of Shinar(Gen. 11:1-9), and the quest to “make a name for themselves”. God confused their language, and now we call it Babel. It’s right there in scripture to behold, but I often speed by it as a “children’s story”, missing the powerful teaching. Truth is, we’re all inclined to work hard at making a name for ourselves, while ignoring obedience to God.

So what should we say about:

  • Social Justice? Mankind is born broken, and any attempt to address those ills apart from scripture is futile. The redemptive power of the Holy Spirit is the only remedy for broken lives, and hopelessness.
  • Environmental Issues? Stewardship-this is God’s creation. He’s charged us to manage it, but we’ve done a poor job. The planet doesn’t need saving, but the Creator deserves acknowledgement and worship. The truth of Genesis trumps any socialistic strategy for utopia.
  • Peace? There are no political solutions to the root causes of conflict, only postponement. The superlative message concerning peace, is personal peace through Christ.
  • Political Solutions? Make your voice heard, vote according to the leadership of the Holy Spirit, but trust no one to be the savior…we already have one.

I’m less inclined than ever to believe our leaders will make the right decisions. That thought can be depressing if I let it, but I’m choosing to stand on the Rock. His words are true, and His promises are unwavering. Sand is great for a beach, but poor for a foundation…ask the foolish man in Matt. 7:27.

Life Paraphrased…

Recently, I overheard my son reading a children’s book to himself. He knew all the characters in the story, and hit the major points correctly, but the details were off…way off. Since his reading ability is still limited, he basically uses the pictures and makes it up as he goes. He strongly narrates the good parts, while changing others to match his imagination. Sometimes he even skips whole pages altogether.

Listening to his “artistic license” I wondered, “Do I do that with the Bible?” Do I really live according to the scripture as written, or am I content with a “paraphrased version” of the Christian life? Am I an authentic disciple, or do I attempt to customize the Lord’s commands, and make it up as I go?

It’s true, there are passages of scripture I don’t understand, and hard truths I struggle with, but we’re called to follow. My prayer is to be a disciple, even when I would rather change the story, or skip pages. The good news is, Jesus promised to be with us (reading over our shoulder so to speak) and I’m so glad He is!

Spiritual Symptom Relief

“I just want to feel better…” seems like our modern approach to spiritual matters, as well as physical. Consider our “symptom relief” strategy to the common cold. Since we don’t have a cure, we struggle through with pain relief, decongestants, etc. while waiting for our immune system to do its work. If we’re not careful, we apply the same protocol to issues facing us as believers.

In personal/relationship “colds”, God’s word is the main ingredient for building a strong immune system. Many books offer temporary relief, but soon wear off, allowing the “symptoms” to return. Only God’s truth can bring spiritual health. His word is not only comforting, but also challenging. He calls us to repentance, righteousness, service, and spiritual fruit. In the process, our inner being is strengthened, equipped & aligned with His purpose. Looking for answers in His Word may not be the cultural choice, but it’s the right choice…and you may even “feel better…”

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