Tag Archives: church

Extended Family

Whether you are single or have a family of four, when you enter into relationship with God, you also enter into a family of believers. It doesn’t matter if you were looking for an extended family. You found one.

During the last several days I have spent a lot of time with my family. Wednesday night we sent one of our sisters off to Virginia to be with her family during a trying time. Like a family, we shared in her sadness yet we celebrated knowing her. We look forward to the next time we will see each other. Thursday night I attended Q Commons, a conference about improving the community we live in. Guess what! I met more of my brothers and sisters. My family continues to grow. Friday night I surprised my former church family by coming to their church Moon Festival potluck. The hugs and friendly greetings made me feel right at home. Yesterday morning I met my sister Sharon at the beach to watch her husband swim in a two mile race. We cheered on my dear brother as he crossed the finish line. Today I went to church where I got to celebrate God’s grace and mercy with even more family. I met new people, new brothers and sisters.

A church is not a gathering of people where you just go for a few hours to fulfill your religious duty for the week. It is a family that celebrates together, cries with each other, prays over its members, carries one another through the hard times, encourages, shares a meal, cares for its community. A family that no matter how many miles or how long it’s been since they’ve seen one another, they’re still family.

Time and time again I find that when I run into a fellow Christian on the street, no matter how long it’s been, you just pick up where you left off, and if you left off in a bad place, you move past it. It’s the way God transforms people, he helps us put our egos down and helps us cover each other with mercy and grace.

Thank a brother or sister for the ways they have supported you, appreciate you, loved you. It will mean so much for them to hear it.

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Finding Ways to Celebrate

We all know that life is like a box of chocolates. Not every chocolate can be as delicious as the next. Sometimes you bite into something that looks sweet, and instead it is bitter. Does it mean we stop figuratively biting into life? Or do we just spit out what’s bitter and keep on looking for the sweet stuff?

This last month has been a whirlwind of ups and downs, and I can tell by the forecast of life that it will likely continue. That’s what happens when you are moving. You are bound to get hit with something unexpected. What I have found to be helpful, is to celebrate the little stuff. Recently I counted how many churches I have photographed, and it’s very close to 50. To celebrate I had some of the photos printed on nice paper with my website on the back. They turned out very nice, but then I couldn’t decide what to do with them. Who would want a bunch of pictures of random churches? Probably the people that don’t find them random, like the people that actually pastor these churches. So this week I have written a letter to encourage each pastor, I inserted their photos into the addressed envelopes, and I have decided to pray over each one.

Now suddenly, my personal celebration of my photos has turned into a way I can give back, and when I give back, I feel like I can do anything. Think about it this way. Have you ever seen anyone looking all doom and gloom, but when you say hi they perk up a bit, maybe even say hello back? Do you know that feeling like you have just conquered the world? You made someone smile and it made your day and perhaps theirs as well. When we give, even out of our complete spiritual, emotional, physical, or even financial bankruptcy, we feel energized, encouraged, empowered. It changes your perspective, and can hold the power to change the world.

We will always have times in life when we feel totally at the end of our rope no matter how much faith we claim to have. I have felt that way at times lately even though I have so much to be thankful for. I have a wonderful family, an enjoyable job, great coworkers, supportive friends, a warm place to live, and a car to drive. That’s more than much of the world can say, but somehow I let Satan suck the gratitude out of life. Fortunately I believe in a God that is more powerful than that thinking, and he always pulls me out of the miry clay and sets my feet on rock (Psalm 40:2).

What can you do for others today to also help you remember your blessings? You may not have much, but I guarantee you have enough to help someone else.

A Walk to Remember

The thing about divine appointments is you don’t get a reminder call or a postcard in the mail like you do for dentist appointments. God just kind of springs them on you when you are seemingly unprepared and unsuspecting.

I was recently inducted into the all-exclusive Facebook page “30 Days of Hustle” created by the talented Jon Acuff. My friend nominated me to be a member, and after a short waiting period, in which I’m sure Mr. Acuff conducted a background check and office surveillance, I was approved. Since I tend to stick to a goal when there is some accountability, I decided to shoot for a goal that I have not been successful reaching on my own, photographing churches for a future project. I gave myself the lofty goal of photographing at least 25 churches within 30 days. On the same day (yesterday) my wellness exercise coach gave me the goal of walking after work for half an hour. I accepted reluctantly, but figured I could lump the two goals together and take photos while walking in the neighborhood.

Throwing on my sneakers I strutted out the door, proud of myself that I’m taking the leap on not just one goal, but two. As I photographed the second church I saw out of the corner of my eye a young woman hesitantly approaching the front door. I turned to her and asked, “Are you waiting on me?” “Uh, yeah,” she replied. “Do you know if it’s open?” I stood up from kneeling and pointed at the church across the street, “They are usually open on Wednesday. I’ll walk you over.”

As we approached we realized that the church front doors were not, in fact, open, so we went around back. Finally we sneaked in through a propped door after the choir director told us it was closed. The young woman told me she had never seen a Christian church sanctuary. I explained the cross and why Christian churches generally don’t have statues or images of God in them, and that the Bible tells us that a church is a group of people who share the same belief in Jesus. I told her that she and I would make up a “church” if we both believed. Church is not about the building.

This conversation led to many personal, deep topics that she was struggling with. We laughed and shared about personal experiences. Before I knew it an hour and a half had passed, and day was quickly turning into night. As she gathered her belongings I asked if I could pray for her. Surprisingly she asked if she could pray for me as well, and then shared that she had never prayed. I asked if I could put my hand on her shoulder and she agreed, and as I prayed I felt the connection we had made and the Holy Spirit there in that church courtyard we had moved to. When I finished she said she wanted to try praying aloud for me. She gently placed her hand on my shoulder and started, “Dear God…” As she finished with “thank you” in the place of “Amen” we giggled and hugged each other. She shared that she was more at peace, and was happy we met. I gave her my phone number, and we walked out the gate together, an unlikely pair now bonded by this walk to remember.

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Hide and No Seek

When God created man he was free to do anything but eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Of course, we all know that they did eat from it, and then tried to hide from God. All too often we do the same.

I can think of 3 main reasons we hide from God:

1. We don’t want Him to see our sin. This is when we do the same as Adam and Eve. We hide because we are ashamed/guilty and afraid of the consequences. If you have been around kids you know this is often what they do. ‘I don’t want a spanking so I will hide under the table.’ Mom and dad are ripping them away from the table leg in order to properly discipline them. Why are we doing the very things we find so juvenile?

Lord, help me humble myself before you in confession and repentance (turning away from sin), that I may accept your grace and mercy to forgive me. May your Holy Spirit convict my heart of those sins I have committed but not realized, that I could confess and repent of even those. Amen.

2. We are afraid of our calling. If you’ve truly lived a life after God’s own heart he’s asked you to do some difficult things. I remember once I was at a conference of all pastors. I was the furthest thing from a pastor, but my pastor cared enough to take me with him that night. At the end of the service some of the pastors were going through the crowd to pray for each person. Suddenly a pastor stopped at me and placed his hands on my shoulders. He prayed in tongues so I wasn’t sure of what he said. Then he looked up and said, “God says… Does that mean anything to you?” At that moment I knew I had been healed from a condition I felt was destined to get worse.

Here I am in a crowd of people I don’t know. The service is ending. It’s late at night and people want to get home, and God calls me to go on stage and give my testimony in front of that huge crowd. I told God no, but just as the doors were opening for the crowd to leave I ran up to the stage and asked to speak. I faithfully gave my testimony, and I have been healed ever since. I don’t know why God called me to do that. Maybe it was to encourage someone in the crowd, or maybe it was just so I could hear myself say that God healed me. I will never know, but I am glad I had the willingness to obey instead of hiding from the call to share.

Lord, help me remember what you have already said to me. Let the Holy Spirit remind me of just how I fit into your plan. Help me except that my calling may seem impossible, but that it is also HIMpossible. I need not hide from what you know to be best for me. Amen.

3. We don’t know we are hiding. This past weekend I attended the BASS Convention at Redwood Chapel Christian Church in Castro Valley, California. I had the pleasure of hearing a message from Pastor Derwin Gray of Transformation Church, South Carolina. He said something along the lines of, if you are going to church four times a week you have to ask yourself if you are hiding in your church. God told us to reach the unreached and the Christ-less. So why are we hiding in church? It seems good to go to prayer meeting, Bible study, cell group, Sunday service, but when do you really reach outside those four walls to reach the brokenhearted, the needy, the abused? When was the last time you served someone outside your church, shared the Gospel through your actions, prayed for a coworker? God does not live in a building. When He talks about the church He is not referring to the building. He is referring to the people in the building who have the Holy Spirit IN them. In them. That means you can go out on the streets, whether it be in the inner city, overseas, or in your own neighborhood and live out the Gospel and make that your church.

I’m not saying to stop going to church. I’m only saying that perhaps Christians should change their perspective to see everywhere they go as a place needing God, needing the Holy Spirit, and since Jesus tells us the Holy Spirit lives in us, guess what, we get to it bring wherever we go. Let me say it again. Wherever you are is your church, is where you share the Gospel by your actions and your words, and where you give Him the glory. Notice Jesus did most of his teaching outside the four walls of a church. We find him teaching at a well, on a boat, at a home, (and yes) in a temple. Did He ever stop teaching?

Lord, how I want to step out of the safety of my church and into the mission field. I dedicate my time, resources, heart, and mind to the unreached and the Christless. Give me strength to face the unknown, the difficult questions, a cruel and unkind world, and live a life after Jesus, an extraordinary life where I can see your work unveiled. Amen.

 

If you are hiding you may as well give up because it just looks silly to God. It’s like hiding behind an open window. He is all-seeing, all-knowing, all-LOVING.

If you think of another reason people hide, or you would like to share your own struggle or triumph in this area, please leave a comment below.