Thoughts from Oklahoma: Day 6-The MARC of a Good Partnership

Today I served for the third day in the MARC in Shawnee, OK. The term MARC stands for Multi-Agency Resource Center. Sponsored and hosted by the American Red Cross, the MARC is a wonderful opportunity and place for many agencies to come together. Because of the stream-lined intake process, all of the agencies who participate can get clients through the process of casework more efficiently. The MARC here in Shawnee assists clients through this experience and helps them to begin to rebuild their lives. serving in Oklahoma.

The process here starts with the American Red Cross Red Line. The Red Line is staffed by highly trained Red Cross workers who help clients to record who they are and what happened to them. After the clients are evaluated and assisted by the Red Line, they are escorted by an ambassador through a quick medical check. Following the medical check, the client is escorted into the Resource Room where all of the partner agencies are present at various tables.

Here is a list of the agencies who have a presence at the Shawnee MARC:

  • The Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services
  • Department of Human Services
  • Catholic Charities
  • Red Cross Mental Health Assessment Team
  • Social Security Administration
  • Disabled American Veterans
  • Americorps
  • Christian Aid Ministries
  • Goodwill
  • Church of the Latter-Day Saints Disaster Services
  • The Society of St. Vincent de Paul Disaster Relief
  • Oklahoma Insurance
  • Legal Aid Services
  • Oklahoma Health Care Authority
  • Chickasaw Nation Health System
  • Southern Baptist Convention Disaster Relief

All of these agencies are offering a variety of services to help the residents begin the long process of recovery.

The MARC is a great example of agencies coming together for a common cause and making a difference in the lives of people. These people find themselves at one of the toughest moments of their lives. They have had most everything taken from them and their homes and lives bared for a national audience. These agencies come together to give them some relief and help to restore that dignity in a safe and secure environment.

“From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Ephesians 4:16 NIV).

Soli Deo Gloria!

Thoughts from Oklahoma: Day 5-New Recruits Joining the Army of Hope

In every fight or conflict, troops get weary and tired. Fatigue sets in and makes continuing more and more difficult. After someone has been serving for a time, it is time to bring in some new vitality and spirit. You need a fresh infusion of service and love.

Let me introduce you to Pam Wedel. Pam served today at the MARC (Multi-Agency Resource Center) in Shawnee, OK. Pam is relatively new in her volunteering with The Salvation Army. She was looking for an opportunity to help out! She says that this is a good time in her life to extend her circle of people that she serves and helps. A woman of faith, Pam has interviewed and prayed with many inidividuals and families at the Shawnee MARC. She is always there with a winning smile and a williing spirit! She makes everyone feel welcome as they come to the table to talk to The Salvation Army.

And, you may wonder what her reward is…let’s ask Pam herself…

 

Soli Deo Gloria!

Thoughts from Oklahoma: Day 4-Praise You in the Storm

One of the unfortunate things about disaster services is that there are times that while serving in a disaster another one can follow right behind it. And, although they are still assessing the situation from today's storms, we had one challenging night weather-wise here in Oklahoma!

Picture from Oklahoma skies on May 31, 2013

 

And I'll praise You in this storm

And I will lift my hands

For You are who You are

No matter where I am

And every tear I've cried

You hold in Your hand

You never left my side

And though my heart is torn

I will praise You in this storm

Casting Crowns shares this song with us. Even while we go through some of the most difficult time of our lives, we can still praise God for His faithfulness.

2 Samuel 22:3 NIV says, “my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior—from violent people you save me.”

We truly have a God who wants to protect us from all of the “storms” of life! And, even when a storm comes along, He is still there with us!

#PrayForOklahoma

Soli Deo Gloria!

 

Rescued from Opposition

God rescues the people in Red Sea

Scripture: Acts 16:16-40 (teaching text), Exodus 14 (historical narrative)

Theme:  Rescued from the opposition, second chance, new life

Besides the Israelites being delivered from the Egyptians, one of the most well-known stories of rescue in Exodus is the crossing of the Red Sea. In a clear demonstration of supernatural power, God defends and protects His people. What makes this rescue story even more amazing is that God rescues them in a really unique fashion. In other places in scripture, God strikes attacking enemies down, but not in this story. God defends His people, but He also uses this as a chance to teach His people something as well. It must have taken a lot of faith to step in between those towering walls of water and follow the path that God laid out for them.

It would have taken an equal amount of faith and courage to walk some of the roads that Paul had to walk. Following God’s leading to Philippi, Paul and Silas were about the tasks of their ministry. During their stay there, they encountered a possessed woman. She began to hinder their ministry to the point where Paul commanded the spirit within her to leave. This action caused them to be thrown into jail. While in jail, Paul and Silas praised God and sang hymns. God rescued them from their situation. But even while defending His people, God used the situation to lead others to salvation. This week, we will explore the story of Paul and Silas in Acts 16. We will discuss how God rescues us from opposition.

Outline:

  1. Staying strong
  2. Amazing deliverance
  3. Following through

Staying Strong

Acts 16:25 NIV – “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.”

Paul, Silas and Moses had something in common. Instead of moaning and complaining about their situation, Moses was encouraging his people and Paul and Silas were encouraging their fellow prisoners. When faced with opposition, they made the most of their respective situations. They did not take time to complain. They decided to commit. Instead of singing the blues, they sang God’s praises. They were staying strong.

The normal reaction for most people when faced with opposition is to blame everyone else in the situation and even the situation itself. We complain about the problem.  When faced with opposition, we have to be aware of not only the situation we are in, but also who holds that situation in the palm of His hand. Moses and the boys in Acts knew that God was with them even in their most difficult situations.

Amazing Deliverance

Acts 16:26 NIV – “Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose.”

Our God specializes in the unique and powerful. Whether it is a violent earthquake or the parting the Red Sea, our God is able! We talked last week that we couldn’t do it on our own. We need a supernatural God. The same is true in this story. God steps in and does something amazing in each of these situations. It might be a little different for each one of us. It might be a sudden change of heart in an enemy. Or it might be a second chance at a project at work. Or we receive that sudden flash of inspiration to solve a problem. God is still in the deliverance business. He is still looking out for His people.

You may ask yourself the question, “Why would God need to intercede in such an amazing way?” While I do not confess to know the mind of God, I like to think these moments of deliverance are God’s way of reminding me that He is still very present and very real in my life. We serve a truly dynamic, present God. Even thinking back to our conversion experience, not only did God offer us salvation, He gave us the need for salvation. His grace was so great that we knew something was missing in our lives in the first place. He could have let us wander in darkness, but He didn’t. He made a way! God could have left Paul in prison. This would not be Paul’s last time behind bars, after all. He would later continue writing to the new churches while in chains. But God chose this amazing rescue to showcase His glory—to show His mighty power. God wanted Paul to continue spreading the Message and that was what Paul was going to do. God made a way!

Following Through

Acts 16:30 NIV – “He then brought them out and asked, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’”

Both scenes could have stopped before their true conclusion. The people of Israel could have stayed on the edge of the Red Sea without setting foot on the sea floor. Paul and Silas could have easily slipped away during all of the commotion of the earthquake. Do you see the amazing difference in the conclusion of each story? In Moses’ situation, he was to go. And, for Paul and Silas, they were to stay. In each situation, these men of God chose to give God the glory for the deliverance. Moses led his people through the bottom of the Red Sea, which led to the destruction of Pharaoh’s army. Paul and Silas stayed in the jail and ministered to the jailer, which led to his salvation in Christ and eventually to his family’s conversion.

It is not enough to witness God’s deliverance of us from our enemies and opposition. We have to follow through. In doing so, God uses those situations to bring glory to Himself. We have to use the situation to bring glory to God. If we reconcile with an old enemy, do we share with them the source of that reconciliation? If we become successful at work, is it for our own glory or do we give the credit to God? If that inspiration comes to us, do we acknowledge the source or pat ourselves on the back? Moses and his sister Miriam led the people in a song after their deliverance in Exodus 15. In Exodus 15:2, they sing, “The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.” He is my salvation. He is my God. He is my strength. He is my defense. It wasn’t about what they had done, but rather what God had done for them.

Summary

Simply put, we are faced with opposition in our lives. Even so, it’s important to remain faithful and strong in the face of opposition. After we witness how God leads us through these obstacles, we must follow through with His plan for us and give Him the glory.

Do we want to be rescued from opposition?

This sermon is not complete. It is meant to encourage, inspire, and develop your thoughts on the topic.

Rescued from Our Past (Lent Series)

Lent_Rescued_Standard_Past_Main (1)People of Israel in slavery, not through their own actions

Sermon Series: Rescue (Lent Series)

Scripture: Ephesians 4:22-24 (teaching text), Exodus 1 (historical narrative)

Theme:  Rescued from the past, second chance, new life

The people of Israel find themselves enslaved to the Egyptians for over 400 years. The Israelites came to Egypt at the request of the king of Egypt during the time of Joseph. Verse 8 tells us that a new king has come to power who does not know Joseph and what he did for the Egyptians in the time of famine.

We all come from somewhere. We have family stories, choices we have made and past histories that bring sources of joy and sources of pain. When Christ comes into our lives, we can be rescued from that history. We can know a new life in Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17 teaches us that “if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come.” Ephesians chapter 4 tells that we are to put off our old self in favor of the new self. This week we will explore Ephesians 4:22-24. We will follow our life’s path from our “old self” to our “new self.” God can rescue us from our past.

Outline:

  1. Our old life
  2. Our second chance
  3. Our new life

Face it! We are all born into sin. Salvation Army Doctrine 5 ends by saying, “and that in consequence of their [Adam and Eve, our first parents] fall all men have become sinners, totally depraved, and as such are justly exposed to the wrath of God.” This sinful self can cause us, and those around us, a lot of pain. We need a “do-over.” When we were kids, if things were not going our way or if a situation was not going to work out in our favor, we would ask for a “do-over.” Some golfers still enjoy the option of the mysterious mulligan.  A mulligan is “when a player gets a second chance to perform a certain move or action.” Video games offer the opportunity to win and extra life or a 1-up. We all want the chance to try something over again and do it right. God in His infinite wisdom and love for us offers us a mulligan through salvation by Jesus Christ.

Our Old Life

Ephesians 4:22 NIV – “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires.”

What we are carrying – our baggage, our issues, our old lives – is holding us back. We cannot be who God wants us to be while we are still carrying around our “old self.” Scripture says that we have to put off our old self. This means we should put away, cast off, lay apart (aside, down), put away (off). It should be put away and never picked up again. It is no longer needed. Our past does not need to hold us back!

People might ask why someone would want to hold on to this “old self.” I think the answer is both simple and complex. Simply answered, we do not want to put it away because we are comfortable with it. We know what to expect. We can control it, or so we think. We cannot imagine ourselves without it. The complicated answer is that at some deep level we need it. It helps us to define who we are. We become dependent upon it.

Personally, I have struggled with my weight and physical appearance since age 15. It started simply enough. I went through a very stressful and confusing time in my life that led me to find comfort in something else – food. When times were tough, I ate. When times were great and I celebrated, I ate. My schedule and my world revolved around food. I knew where things were located because of their proximity to places I liked to eat. During a particularly low period of my life, I met with a counselor who said something that still rings true. I used food and my increasing weight as a buffer and a shield against things that I did not understand and could not control. [If this is not an appropriate illustration for you, please insert your own or feel free to use my story as an example.] Our old self and our sinful life can be spiritual weight that creates a barrier and makes us feel comfortable.

We need to put off and out away that sinful life, that sinful self that is holding us back. We do not need to carry it any longer and we do not need to pick it up once we lay it down.

Our Second Chance

Ephesians 4:23 NIV – “…to be made new in the attitude of your minds.”

It is going to require us to change how and what we think. Ephesians 4:23 says that we have to renew our minds. We need to reboot the way we act. We need a renovation of our heart and lives. This is more than words. It is also actions. It is more than intentions. It is also completions. It is more than being sincere. It is about being persistent. We cannot continue carrying around our past.  We also need to change the way we think in order to move forward.

Too often we focus on physical or surface-level changes instead of looking for changes at the deepest level. We fall into the easy trap of only looking at what is right in front of us. We deal with symptoms of the problem and not the problem itself. Part of this renewal process involves learning and growing from our past.

Some of the greatest examples of renewal for me are the stories from The Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Centers. Through these programs, beneficiaries are separated from the immediate physical binds of their substance abuse and are taught how to live beyond and without their addictions. It is not enough just to deal with the physical, financial, and family issues that surround addiction and abuse. You also need to deal with the choices that got you there in the first place.

Putting away our old self alone is not enough. We have to change our way of thinking and living. We have to change from the inside out. We have to learn from our past and grow beyond it.

Our New Self

Ephesians 4:24 NIV – “…and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

When we remove and put away the “old self” and renew the way we think, we need to replace it with something. We cannot just leave a hole there. We need a new self. It is the same thing with our understanding of being rescued from our past. Once we have grown beyond our past and have adjusted the thinking of our present, we need to put something else there. We need a new future.

From losing weight to battling addiction to turning a business around, most people can see the problems in the past and get help to make the internal changes necessary for true rescue.  Because true rescue is, after all, going a new way in the future.  True rescue is not picking back up the problems of the past. Verse 24 of Ephesians 4 offers that new choice, that new future. We can “be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” The Israelites were rescued from Egyptian slavery. God took them on a journey to “retrain” the way they thought. The secret to God’s rescue is that He gave a new land, a land flowing with “milk and honey,” a Promised Land.

Trips to the dentist are one of my least favorite activities. I will confess to having a few cavities in my life. When a dentist deals with a cavity, the first step is always to clean out the infection. From drilling to cleaning, a dentist does not want to leave any infection behind. The slightest bit of infection can compromise the integrity of the tooth in the future. After removing the infection, the dentist then prepares the area. They prepare it for the next step. Most good dentists also reeducate the patient in ways to prevent the infection from happening again—which includes good dental hygiene.

There is a final step. After the infection has been removed and the area has been prepared, a filling is placed in the opening. A filling protects the sensitive inside of the tooth and protects the overall structural integrity of the tooth. It helps keep it strong—inside and out.

Our “new self”, fashioned after Christ, is the filling that keeps us strong, inside and out. God provides us a new future and promise in Him. Not only are we rescued from our past, but we are given a new future. True rescue!

Summary

The people of Israel had been born generation after generation, for over 400 years, into a slavery that was not of their own making. They were there in that place because of who they were and what they were born into. We, like the Israelites, have been born into slavery—slavery to sin. We did not create it. God rescued the Israelites from their bondage to the past, retrained and prepared them, and gave them a new future, a Promised Land. God wants to rescue us from our bondage to sin. He can help us renew our minds and attitudes. He has a new future for us.

Do we want to be rescued from our past?

This sermon is not complete. It is meant to encourage, inspire, and develop your thoughts on the topic.

This sermon series with accompanying graphics and videos was featured on The Salvation Army Ministry Toolkit here.

Being a Good Model

Leadership, as a concept, is easy to accept, but in practice is difficult to maintain.

From Scripture, David is a leader who embodies the practices of modeling the way, inspiring a shared vision, challenging the process, enabling others to act, and encouraging the heart. A great passage of scripture emphasizing these characteristics of leadership is found in 1 Samuel 20. Here in this passage we find David’s relationship strained with Saul which in essence is challenging a process. Saul was the anointed king of Israel who had not followed God’s commands. David was to be the successor, not Saul’s son. But, within that tension, there is a great friendship with Jonathan, Saul’s son that speaks of a shared vision and enabling others to act. 1 Samuel 20:16 NIV says, “May the Lord call David’s enemies to account.” Jonathan is accepting the enemies of David as his own. In accepting David’s leadership, Jonathan is participating in that vision. David has modeled the way in his leadership through his faithfulness to Jonathan even considering the tension within the family.

It is sometimes easy to know what to do, but to have the courage to follow through with it is the mark of a leader.

Finally, the encouragement of the heart is found in 1 Samuel 20:41-42. Here we find David and Jonathan acknowledging that they were going to be separated but that they still remained friends and family. A telling fact in this last exchange is the phrase, “but David wept the most.” (1 Samuel 16:41b). As the leader, David knew how difficult this was going to be and wanted to offer as much encouragement to strengthen Jonathan throughout the friendship. Then, David left. He had to leave. For the sake of their friendship, for the sake of his future, David knew that he could not remain and would have to carry on. Once again, we find David making the “hard choice” and modeling it for his friend.

It is sometimes easy to know what to do, but to have the courage to follow through with it is the mark of a leader. As a leader, I have often found it difficult to lead people during difficult times because of the cost that I knew would come. This part of the reading has encouraged me to take the time for the encouragement, the sharing, the enabling. Personally, I jump very quickly into the modeling and challenging and I do not often take time for the complete process.

Bibliography

Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2004) Christian Reflections on the Leadership Challenge. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Special Church Welcome

Special Church Welcome

We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, gay, filthy rich, dirt poor, yo no habla Ingles. We extend a special welcome to those who are crying new-borns, skinny as a rail or could afford to lose a few pounds.

We welcome you if you can sing like Andrea Bocelli or like our pastor who can’t carry a note in a bucket. You’re welcome here if you’re “just browsing,” just woke up or just got out of jail. We don’t care if you’re more Catholic than the Pope, or haven’t been in church since little Joey’s Baptism.

We extend a special welcome to those who are over 60 but not grown up yet, and to teenagers who are growing up too fast. We welcome soccer moms, NASCAR dads, starving artists, tree-huggers, latte-sippers, vegetarians, junk-food eaters. We welcome those who are in recovery or still addicted. We welcome you if you’re having problems or you’re down in the dumps or if you don’t like “organized religion,” we’ve been there too.

If you blew all your offering money at the dog track, you’re welcome here. We offer a special welcome to those who think the earth is flat, work too hard, don’t work, can’t spell, or because grandma is in town and wanted to go to church.

We welcome those who are inked, pierced or both. We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down your throat as a kid or got lost in traffic and wound up here by mistake. We welcome tourists, seekers and doubters, bleeding hearts…and you!

Borrowed from Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Community!

tripping over me

Jesus, friend of sinners, we have strayed so far away
We cut down people in your name
but the sword was never ours to swing
Jesus, friend of sinners, the truth’s become so hard to see
The world is on their way to You but they’re tripping over me
Always looking around but never looking up I’m so double minded
A plank eyed saint with dirty hands and a heart divided
–Casting Crowns, “Jesus, Friend of Sinners”

Question: Are we standing in the way of others getting closer to Jesus? Are we standing in the way of other coming to know Christ?

Our story today talks about two people in a relationship or friendship. The Word tells us they are brothers, maybe not in the “flesh and blood” sense, but in the body of Christ sense. These were people who knew each other. They werenot casual acquaintances.

hands

We are encouraged not to find fault with a brother until we deal with what we are dealing with. Jesus is trying to make a point by referring to the problem in “our own eye” as a plank while our brother has only a speck, or a flake. Is it possible that our own problem is larger because it is closer to us? Is it possible that our own problem is larger because it is also compounded, or added to, by the issue of us judging someone else? Or, is it larger because it is just larger? Who knows?

Are we standing in the way of others coming to know Christ?

There are two kinds of “judgment” referred to in the Bible. This reference means not to take God place as judge. People take this idea too far and say that we should not tell the difference between right and wrong. That is not the point here. In fact, vv. 15-23 of the same chapter talk about judging about the truth and the teaching of false disciples. We are not to put ourselves in a place of judging a person’s life. This is not my job. This is not your job. That one belongs to God. Only God can live up to a standard that only He could judge by!

Secondly, the passages referring to “judging” or “discerning” others are almost exclusively internally. How can we judge someone who does not know God by a standard that they do not know? It is like testing someone on material that you have not taught them or they do not know.

Have we forgotten where we came from?

We used to be in the same place…apart from God. If that is you this morning, then you are in good company because that is whom this church is for.

This is a real problem area for those who are on the “inside.” If we are not careful we can become more enthused, in love with, and passionate about our churches than we are about Jesus.-Doug Rea.

This explains how Jesus could eat with sinners and tax collectors and outsiders and Pharisees and disciples and… and… He was here to show them the Way, not to point out where they were always going wrong. In fact, the time when Jesus is recorded as becoming the most upset about the actions of others was inside a church!

I am personally glad that Jesus did not spend all of His time with just those who agreed with Him. If He never reached out of His inner circle, where would we be today? If Paul had never carried the word to the Gentiles, a word that in most contexts almost means outsider, where would we be today?

Sometimes it is not what we say, but how we say it.

The song we listened to today (“Jesus, Friend of Sinners” by Casting Crowns) mentioned that there is a “world at the end of our pointing fingers.” There are families… There are people… There are situations that we don’t know anything about… There are God’s creations… at the end of our pointing fingers. Why make a situation worse by how we respond to it?

Don’t misunderstand me about this… You don’t have to act like someone else to love someone else. You don’t have to agree with someone else to love someone else. You don’t have to be like someone else to love someone else.

Spread too thin

brick wall
Courtesy of CreationSwap.com

For many months, and in some cases years, I have bemoaned and complained about my lack of focus and drive and productivity. I can feel the push to create and share but at times, it seems stifled. What is causing this blockage, this breakdown, in the flow of my mind and heart?

Romans 8:28 tells us, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

I thinking I am spreading myself too thin, because I am jumping from thing to thing to thing…looking for what I want, or in an extremely self-delusional way, what I think I need. I am going to spend this next year in a journey of self-discovery. I am not looking for what I want or need. I am going to look for what God wants and, without the added sense of ego what needs from me.

I have been called “according to His purpose” (emphasis and edit mine) and not my own. It should be about Him and not about me. It is my calling, but it is not my message. We confuse the fact that because the message is shared with us that we think we own it. It is simply not true. The message, the truth, the calling, the vision, the direction, they all belong to God and He through His grace shares it with us.

God, make me into what you want me to be!

Soli Deo Gloria!