Archive for September, 2009

Lukewarm??

September 28, 2009

I don’t like lukewarm anything, especially bacon. I went to a breakfast buffet this week and the bacon was limp. I pointed this out to the waitress and said, “this is not bacon, it’s still pig!” The Bible tells us that God does not tolerate lukewarm believers – he promises to spit them out! (Revelation 3: 14-22)  While at the beach last week, I stepped on a catfish and its sail fin pierced my foot. The pain was terrible, the blood was running down my foot and I did not know what to do. A total stranger came over and checked on me. He went and got his first aid kit and doctored the  wound. He gave me Ibuprofen and then checked on me constantly through the day. He could have told me what I needed, given me the first aid kit and even promised to pray for me.

But he was not a lukewarm Christian. He was radical, committed and really cared. He demonstrated God’s love and I was convinced he truly cared for me and my needs. Too many Christians claim to love God and yet they are lukewarm, half-hearted and not committed to finish the race of faith. The problem is we trust too much in ourselves. This is really the problem in our present national dilemma. For too long we trusted in our banking account, our investments, our job, our government and in our plans and reams. Then the bottom fell out! Trusting in ourselves and things of this world always fails us. Yet the grace of God never fails us. People who trust in themselves clinch their fists, they hold onto their love, their money, time and energy out of fear that they will run out. When we give our hearts totally to Christ and place our trust in Almighty God we open our hands to the world, we share our resources, we reach out in love to our neighbors.

I don’t want to stand before Jesus and hope that lukewarm faith is enough. (I know it’s really not!) I want to go the distance and hear those longed for words, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of my kingdom prepared for you!” I hope you desire the same. You are loved.

To the Beach

September 18, 2009

I have loved going to the beach since I was a child. We would play in the sand, splash in the waves, fish in the surf, build castles and catch crabs at night with flashlights. My parents love the ocean and I have inherited this trait.

Tomorrow I leave for a week of vacation and sermon preparation for the next year. Meri and I will go to the beach without kids for the first time in 21 years! It seems strange and yet exciting. We will walk for miles just holding hands. We will eat seafood and watch the sunset. We will sit on the deck with our feet propped up next to one another and make a picture for our scrapbook – one of our traditions!

This year we will combine a little work and study. I will pray and plan for sermons for the next year and Meri will do a little real estate work by computer. Maybe this is how we cope with not having the kids! It’s also a good mix of refreshment and listening for God’s voice. I always seem to hear God loud and clear amongst the crashing of the waves, the wind against the sand and the chirping of the seabirds.

I plan to do a lot of fishing. I think of Jesus and his disciples fishing in the Sea of Galilee. This is where Jesus called the first disciples. This is where he walked to them on the water and told Peter to come to him. Peter began to sink and only survived by keeping his eyes on Jesus. The disciples had breakfast on the beach prepared by Jesus. He could cook, hold children, teach great stories, do miracles and save the world – yes, I will recall his power and grace in my life as I enjoy the beach and listen for his still, small voice.

Pray that I catch many fish, have some sunny days and hear his plan for my preaching. I can’t wait to get my feet in the sand and feel the splash of the waves!  Our God is so good….

9-11 Remembered…

September 11, 2009

I remember 9-11 as if it was just last year. I was at home working on a sermon when Meri called out that a plane had struck the World Trade Towers in NYC. I wanted to believe it was an accident. Then a second plane hit and it became obvious we were under attack. I stopped and prayed for the people in the building and for our president and military to have insight and wisdom with how to protect our people. Airports began to shut down. People who worked in the high rises of downtown Atlanta began to leave work. Parents began to go to the school to take home their children.

The phone rang and it was Tim, my associate pastor. People were showing up at the sanctuary for prayer and counsel. By the end of the day, we talked and prayed with over 200 people who were distraught, shocked, worried about loved ones and needing spiritual direction. The next night we had our midweek worship service. The sanctuary was packed with our members and many visitors. The president had now verified that terrorists were behind the attacks and I heard for the first time the name of their group, “Al Qaida, a group of Muslim extremists using religion as a front for a holy war against their enemies in the West.

The days and weeks that followed awakened in our country a loud cry and desire for spiritual connections. Our worship services were overflowing like it was Easter Sunday. We had to start new Bible studies for all the seekers who came our way. We treated our neighbors with more humility and concern. We prayed for friends and strangers alike. It seemed everyone wore a flag lapel pin or flew one from their house. Then in six months, it seemed that our spiritual antennas had gone back down. Worship crowds returned to pre-9/11 levels, Bible study registrations dropped and flags were put back in storage waiting for July 4 to come around again.

Looking back at 2001, are you any different? Are we a better people, a more thankful and patriotic nation? Have you learned that real security cannot be gained through military might and isolation? I value our military and am proud of the ways they have defended freedom diligently in the last decade. I pray for them everyday. Yet I know that my true freedom and security is found in my faith in Jesus Christ. He alone gives me the grace and hope that I need in this life and for the one to come.

Have you learned that our real enemy is the evil one who gives rise to movements of terrorism and killing innocent people in the name of religion or whatever selfish cause. The real enemy is the one we should protect ourselves from and we do this by trusting in Jesus Christ. For me, 9/11 awakened in me and I think many others a realization that this life is temporal and that spiritual things last forever. It also taught me that being a good neighbor should be my practice in seasons of peace and war; that innocent people suffer when evil uses men and women to promote its cause.

The people of God have a huge mission to demonstrate the love of God on every continent. We are called to do this through sending missionaries into lands where Christ is not known. To support them with our love, prayers and finances. We are called to go to our neighbors down the street, across this nation and into all the world and share the Good News of God’s love in Jesus to all people. This is our best weapon against tyranny, oppression and every form of evil that we contend with.

Hello world!

September 7, 2009

GDOS – why me?

Someone asked me why I would spend my off day at our Great Day of Service (GDOS). I was surprised by the question. Yes, this means I will give up my off day this week. Yes, I have a good excuse that I deserve a day away from the church. And yes, it’s not in my contract as a senior pastor. So why me at GDOS? Because I learned a long time ago that “leaders lead and leaders serve!” I know that I need to be one of the servant volunteers at GDOS – it is really a joy and privilege. I look forward to standing alongside people of all ages this Saturday as we fan out across this community and demonstrate just how much Jesus loves this community. This is the church at its best.

We will take the love of Christ into 30 locations where we will visit the lonely, repair roofs and porches, clean up yards and cemeteries, distribute food and medicines, build shelves, paint walls and a host of other servant acts that will make people smile and bring joy to the heart of God. Why me? Because it’s a blessing and a thrill to see the poor fed and clothed, to see the elderly loved and comforted, to know that a family will have a new porch or a roof that does not leak. Yes, I will be at the GDOS and give up my off day. I can’t imagine anywhere else that I would have a better time or feel more inspired about my life and our mission as a church. Leaders are called to serve and to lead by serving. Jesus said it this way, “Whoever would be great among you shall be the servant of all.”

 To me, this means that the chief qualification for potential, great leaders is a heart to serve the least, the lost and the lonely.

Come, serve with me and experience the joy!

Richard Hunter