Sunday, January 29, 2006

Desperate Dreamer

Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his mind was troubled and he could not sleep . . . The king asked Daniel, "Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it? Daniel replied, "No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain the mystery he has asked about, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries."

I have dreams . . . the kind that happen while I sleep. Do you? I can rarely remember the dreams I have, but sometimes I can, and wonder what they meant. I also have dreams when I am wide awake. Sometimes I carry those dreams to bed and I cannot sleep. I suspect the latter were the kinds of dreams that Nebuchadnezzar had.

Events take place in our lives that elicit dreams. Some dreams tease us -- little things happen and we wonder if they portend something greater. We begin to dream, "Will the many little events one day coalesce like mercury into something grander?" For pastors, it may be as simple as whether or not an opportunity to talk to an audience of fifty will open doors to speak to five thousand. When God saved us, He called us into an adventure as big as Him. A healthy faith prompts us to dream, "Is this the beginning of something that will grow to be God-sized?"

Other dreams torment us. How so? We wonder if the endless little events that make up our lives portend a lifetime of miniature events. We ask, "Are my dreams pipe dreams? Will they shatter into even smaller dust-sized particles?" For pastors, it may be as simple as whether or not an opportunity to talk to an audience of fifty will be the last opportunity to speak to anyone! An unhealthy faith prompts a chaotic spiral that turns dreams into the nightmare of a question, "How could we possibly step into an adventure as big as God?"

The future is a mystery, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. In the end, we are desperate dreamers -- desperately dependent on God.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Advancing The Kingdom: A Man's Challenge

Men need a challenge. I mean a challenge. Not another event or duty that does nothing to call them up-and-out into the purposes and things they love and were created for. There is a pattern in Scripture. The pattern goes like this:

God calls a man -- Men received a direct call of God, or a call to follow God, by one who already was. Think of some of the men God called: Abraham, Isaiah, Gideon, John the Baptist, Peter, Paul, John. Think of some the other men who were called by another man who was already following God: Moses called Joshua, Elijah called Elisha, and Samuel called David. There are others.

God gives that man His message -- Think of the message. It was God's message, but they were captured by it. When they proclaimed it, it took others captive too.

God’s man with God’s message creates a movement -- Those men were movers and shakers in their world. Lone footprints were soon trailed by hundreds of others.

God’s man—with God’s message—creates a movement—that leaves a monument -- A testimony to God’s presence. The outcome of their risk outlived them; they left something behind.

We are on the threshold of a movement of God. God is calling men out and into His purposes. What started as “chance” meetings, then a prayer meeting around a fire pit in Juniper, Georgia, led to a gathering of ten men to plan Call of the Wild. Looking into the future, God is advancing His kingdom in an exciting way.

In “06” we are going to join Life Impact Ministry to present COTW to the area churches. We are making a concerted effort to invite other men into the adventure.

We are also following God’s lead to partner with Life Impact Ministry in planning a spring and fall COTW for “07”. Our goal is to max out each event with 350 men.

Beyond all that, we are shaping a dream to develop a boot camp. We want to train men to go back into their churches and fight for the hearts of other men. This boot camp will develop new leaders and allow leaders already in place to go a little deeper and dangerously in their Adventure with God. We hope to find 25 to 50 men out of COTW to meet 4 times a year for extended training. God is providing everything we need, as only He can. I can't give you all the details now, but when I can, I believe you will be dumbstruck by God's activity!

Advancing the Kingdom: Men Wanted (part 1)

When you look closely at our men’s ministry at Morningside you will see: Men Connecting Relationally, Men Igniting Spiritually, and Men Battling Strategically. Those goals are set to reach a greater purpose, which is to Advance the Kingdom of God.

Advancing the kingdom is our purpose, because Jesus Christ referred to His mission with that metaphor more than any other. Jesus began his advance declaring “I have come to build a kingdom!” He introduced His purpose using a masculine term. Then He called men, first, to join Him on that adventure. He called men, because God has put into the hearts of men a desire to do great things.

For the most part, churches have lost the final image the world will see of Christ. Revelation 19 describes Christ (and his followers) as a warrior -- the King is returning to reclaim what Evil had stolen. There are volumes of statistics to confirm that Christ’s church has lost the interest of men. Somewhere along the road His church hit a tipping point. Following Jesus meant becoming a passive and gentle “lover” only. Somewhere along the road -- His church became a place that repelled the masculine image Jesus so clearly established. Somewhere along the road -- Christ’s church “laid down the sword and picked up a daisy.” Theologians may not have recognized this -- men did -- and they left.

Our men’s ministry is just that -- it is men’s ministry. It is not women’s ministry for men. We do masculine things, because we are fighting for the hearts of men. We are helping men discover the hearts God gave them. Men are answering His call to follow him! God is advancing His agenda. When men think of being a Christ-follower, we want them to go back to that metaphor -- God calling men specifically -- to lead the charge in Advancing the Kingdom

Thursday, January 26, 2006

"It's" Coming

For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15)

As a kid, a lot of my summer evenings were spent playing Kick the Can. Do you remember playing that game? Nobody wanted to be “It.” “It” had to hunt everyone down. Anyone who wasn’t “It” eluded “It.” When “It” caught up with you, you had to stand and wait for the game to end or hope someone would come to free you.

With the kick of the can we would all scatter. In a cloud of dust, I would bolt for a hiding place. In one game, I went streaking around the corner of a house; the fading sun revealed a nearly perfect circle hollowed out around the base of the bamboo-like Jack-in-the-Beanstock. The hole was just the right size to hide a 12 year old boy. I remember thinking “It” would never find me there. I dove in.

Within seconds, my bare arms, legs, and neck began throbbing with pain. I was covered with bees! I don’t remember how many stings I got, but I do remember looking over my shoulder at the new hole in the beanstock -- in the shape of a 12 year old boy!

I surrendered to “It,” abandoned the game, and headed for my house. When I got there, my mother came to the rescue. She concocted a plaster out of baking soda and water and covered all the stings. The next evening the sting was gone -- I was back in the game.

The apostle Paul reminds us that when death comes “It” stings. But as we pass through death, God removes the sting. God moves us to a place of victory; we go to a place where there will be no more stings -- we are rescued. Never again will we have to face “It!”

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Praying With Woody

Like every Sunday morning I preached twice. I concluded chapter one of Romans. As I said in an earlier post, it's a tough chapter. The chapter opens with foundational teaching on the gospel and then moves on to the wrath of God against sin. The late Donald Grey Barnhouse and I agree, it is a chapter that we would just soon skip over. The commitment to preach the whole counsel of God's Word will not let me. To be honest though, plowing through that section leaves me pretty tired by morning's end.

I had some lunch with my wife, daughter, and friends and then went to visit one of our families who had just lost a brother, son, and husband yesterday. The visit was brief, the founding pastor and wife of the church I now serve showed up. Brother Jimmy is going to be doing the funeral. I left the family in good hands.

As I headed back home my cell phone rang; a call from my wife. A young couple who attends our church off and on had called the house looking for me. They needed me to come to the ICU, the wife's uncle was dying. I arrived at the family room and the family rushed to up to me. In rapid fire succession a lot of different opinions regarding Woody's spiritual condition were directed to me. They wanted me to pray with him.

The man I would pray for had lived a life style that did little to nurture a long and healthy one. His illness was directly connected to years of destructive choices. The doctors were working on him, and I had to wait until they were finished. They made it clear that my visit was to be brief. I stood by his bed with several family members and prayed with Woody. I led into the prayer by reminding Woody that he could make my prayer his prayer.

As I prayed, I called out to God on behalf of a man that needed God to touch his physical body. My prayer reminded Woody that we all need God to heal us from our sickness of sin. I told him how to call on God, and the provision for our sin that was made possible through Jesus Christ. Woody groaned through several phrases of the prayer. I do not know what transacted between him and his Savior.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Keeping It Together

As the story goes, Bill Gates was sitting in a university classroom when he was hit with a technological inspiration -- what resulted is Microsoft. General Booth was captured with a desire to form a religious organization to take care of the poor -- what resulted was the Salvation Army. D.L. Moody became burdened for orphaned and latch-key kids -- what resulted was the YMCA.

God had a plan for His church. As thousands of people responded to the message of the gospel, success brought obstacles. The early church became strained with the pressure to meet people's needs without favoritism. God had a ready response in mind; the church would choose men filled with the Spirit of God and the wisdom that comes with that filling. Those men would sift through the needs, help restore unity, and broaden the work of the church.

It was important that those called to preach/teach God's Word, and spearhead prayer (godly leadership) not be deterred from doing so. Fast forwarding two thousand years, my place in the body is to lead in similar fashion as the original twelve at Jerusalem. In God's economy, deacons fill a vital role for me to do so, and for the church to remain healthy. When Paul wrote to the church at Philippi, he began his letter with these words:

To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philippi 1:1-2)

The office of a deacon is not a result of the brilliant inspiration of men. Deacons are men who have responded to one of the purposes for which they were created -- helping saints and overseers keep it together in a Christ honoring fashion.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

From Sunrise To Sunset

The sun rose and today's Adventure began with an early morning Men's Bible study -- 6:30. The study revolved around Matthew 18. We had the privilege to live it -- not just study it in a sterile environment -- a brother who sinned against us was seeking and found reconciliation.

By midday I had answered what seemed like a hundred phone calls and e-mails. I won't go into detail, but I am sometimes amazed at the broad range of situations I respond to in a given day. That's not a whine -- it is a testament to God's grace.

I passed on lunch and chose to ride my bike. The route I took reminded me of my day. At times the road was a little bumpy -- sometimes it was smooth. At time the road twisted and turned --sometimes it was straight ahead.

Just before sunset I went to visitation hours for an 85 year old saint. The dear woman her loved ones knew had long departed -- now her earthly dwelling will leave, also. The family recognized a mercy of God; the atmosphere was one of joy.

Sandy reached me on my cell phone and asked me to meet her and Meagan at the Olive Garden. The women in my life filled me in on the Adventures their day held -- all is well. I spent the rest of my evening doing the things I love -- some reading and some writing.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

A Knock At Our Door

A loud knock on our front door woke-up our son, and inspired a barking frenzy in our dog. Sandy, still in her robe, wrestled the dog under control. Josh came out of his bedroom and answered the door. Outside stood two Columbus policemen.

"Are you Joshua Shorey?"

"Yes, I am."

"Do you drive a 91 Sentra?"

"I did until I sold it last summer."

"What did you do with the license plates?"

"I only had one. I turned it into DMV."

"Well, your plate is out there."

"How could my plate be out there?"

"Do you know either of the men who escaped from the Russell County Jail?"

"I don't know. What are their names?"

End of conversation. The policemen turned and left. Somehow, two escaped murderers had a license plate that used to belong to our son.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Sunday

This morning both worship services and Sunday schools were well attended. In the early service, a grandmother and grandfather brought their granddaughter forward during the invitation. The young girl had received Christ as her Savior at AWANA. She wanted to make her profession public, and follow the Lord in baptism.

This afternoon my bride and I went for a bike ride. We rode for just over an hour on country roads. We pedaled by an impressive horse ranch whose board fences seemed to go on for a couple of miles. Inside their perimeter were some horses wearing clothes -- and some that weren't. We figured the more expensive horses were wearing the coats. The afternoon was beautiful, and the exercise was a great way to decompress.

After the ride I settled down for my usual preparation for next Sunday's message, made a bunch of follow-up phone calls, checked on my mother and father in Maine, and responded to some e-mails. Sandy is editing some poetry, Josh is at work, and Miss Meagan is with one of her many friends. Another day of the adventure comes to a close.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Headed For The Hill's

I got an invitation from Bob Hill to go hunting and fishing in Alabama. The Hill's have a cabin and lake that sit amid 80 acres. The weather didn't cooperate, so the hunting and fishing weren't what we are used to. I only saw 3 deer and I have yet to figure out how to catch fish in the Southeast. The two Jims and Bob caught a few fish, but nobody got deer.

I fished for a couple of hours, hunted in the morning and evening, and used the remaining time to do some reading and follow up on pastoral duties. The phone coverage kept fading in and out, so I got to do a lot of walking around trying to find reception. I got a little uptight trying to get in contact with one of our men hospitalized in Hawaii with a possible heart attack. He is doing fine; it was a false alarm.

Last night, the wind was blowing 15-20 miles an hour, but the sunset was beautiful. The sky rolled out a palate of yellow, orange, pink, and purple. As I sat in my tree stand watching for a deer, a big hawk perched in a tree looking for a meal. Both of us came up empty. This morning, a little buck came out to the food plot and half-circled around and behind me. For 30 minutes I watched the little guy meander around, stopping from time to time to grab a bite to eat. Next year he will have 4-6 points.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Tree Frogs And Frozen Trees

It is the tenth day of January. The temperature hit 70 degrees today. I stepped outside shortly after 8 p.m., and could hear the ringing sound of tree frogs. A black sky was above me; a thin layer of clouds obscured the stars. The air was still warm. I love it.

Last week I was in Maine. On Tuesday morning it was 8 degrees! Three young men and I wandered and weaved through a stand of frozen trees. We started South, cut back to the West, to sit on the bank of the Penobscot River. Our eyes squinted against a brilliant winter sun; the only sound was silence. We loved it.

Tree Frogs! Frozen Trees!
A Black Sky! A Brilliant Sun!
I Love it! Don't You!

Saturday, January 7, 2006

Shattering Glass

When we arrived at the cabin, the river in front of it was still open. The water was at least 10 feet higher than summer levels. It flowed by us looking cold, turbulent, and deadly. Watching it go by at a high rate of speed, it seemed impossible that it could freeze over, but it did. The freezing was a fabulous event. As the temperature dropped, sheets of ice would come down through the churning water and begin to build up as it melded with the ice that formed along the shore. As the rafts of ice collided, they sounded like glass shattering.

All night long we could tell when islands of ice were arriving; the sound penetrated the cabin walls and reached our ears. Throughout the night we would go outside in the sub-freezing weather to enjoy nature's entertainment. We got a show money can't buy. Slowly the river gave in to the frigid temperatures, and when the rising sun revealed the river there was only a v-shaped slit of open water between us and the opposite shore.

Firewood and Filled Stomachs!

We arrived at the camp just before dark. Darkness falls early in the Northeast, 4:30 p.m. Our plan was to get some firewood from Ron and Angela's cabin, but the road was impassable. We could walk-in and carry it out, if necessary, but we hoped to find another source. We would need a lot of wood; the temperatures would drop to the single numbers.

My brother-in-law came to the rescue. He had a cellar full of perfectly dried firewood and gave us enough to get us through the night. He also told us that he had just talked to one of his friends, who wanted to get rid of some wood! The neighbor lived a mile from the cabin! We got through that first night, and the next day we went and loaded the back of the Expedition with wood. It would need to be split.

The guys got their first experience in splitting wood. They started clumsily, but were soon into the "swing" of it. By the time they were done, we had more than enough firewood for our stay and a good amount stacked on the porch out of the weather. My dad had given me a kerosene heater that helped a great deal. With the woodstove and kerosene heater going, I would guess we had the inside temperature up to about 46 degrees.

After we got situated we went to my mother and father's house for supper. My son Josh, sister, brother, a couple of brother-in-laws, along with two nephews joined us. Mom fixed a turkey, squash, turnip, potatoes, stuffing, gravy, peas, rolls, and cranberry sauce. We ate like kings.

Heading North with Dumpster Divers

On January 1, I headed North to Maine. I was not alone; three college students were with me. Other men have been to my sanctuary on the Penobscot River, and the stories that came back from their adventure created a yearning. My new traveling companions have been dying to go to my cabin.

There is a considerable difference between winter and summer in Maine . . .

The cabin is just that -- a cabin -- gas lights, wood stove, no running water, and an outhouse! I will tell you more about that later, but first I want to tell you about the journey there. We drove straight through to Greenbush, Maine from Columbus, Georgia; a trek just under 1500 miles. We stopped for gas and ate our food as we drove. We were on a mission!

I hold the three young men who traveled with me in high regard. They are extremely bright, adventurous, and committed to Christ. They all attend UGA, and I have already been to China with them on a very non-typical mission trip. You learn a lot about people when you are trapped in a vehicle for 24 plus hours.

I learned that they are Dumpster Divers.

Dumpster Divers? What is a dumpster diver? I will try to explain. These guys have developed a very profitable business by diving for blue cups in the trash dumpsters at Wendy's. Here's how it works. The blue cups contain a promotion from AirTran. For every 64 cups you can get a free round trip to any place AirTran flies. My boys dumpster dive and then sell the promo's on E-bay. They have made over One-thousand-three-hundred dollars selling blue Wendy's cups!

Every couple of days they put on rubber gloves, old clothes, and dig through the dumpsters. I will not go into detail, but there is a lot of stuff in a dumpster besides blue cups. They do their foraging after Wendy's closes, around 2 a.m. -- most of the time. The one exception was the Wendys we stopped at in Massachusetts, in broad daylight.

They got 24 cups!