Thursday, September 27, 2007

Obligations

I want to work among you and see good results . . . For I have a great sense of obligation to people in our culture and to people in other cultures . . . Romans 1:13-14

Have you ever declined an invitation with the words, "Thank you for the invitation, but I have another obligation?" Did you really have another obligation? Did you feel a little guilty? Or, maybe you have even had someone "Do you a favor" in order to make you feel obligated to them (that's actually manipulation). You know what I am talking about.

Paul wrote to some people he had yet to meet, but felt a great sense of obligation toward. His was not the kind of obligation he could conveniently decline, but neither was it a begrudging obligation thrust on him by a manipulator. On the contrary, he could hardly wait to fulfill his obligation. He was itching to get together with these strangers, roll up his sleeves, and work among his new, multicultural friends. He wrote to tell them he would engage in only one type of activity -- activity which could only conclude with one kind of result -- good!

I truly believe that the same sense of obligation Paul lived with is placed in the hearts of those who have received new life through faith in Christ. It is the kind of obligation we sometimes sense toward people we do not even know. Down deep inside, we can't give up on the sense that God has a way to get us involved in their lives. He has set His love on them, and we are to look for opportunities for the introductions.

Ours is the kind of obligation that Jesus himself foretold. He said, "When the Holy Spirit is come (and He did at Pentecost), He will put in us an irrepressible compelling to tell the story of Jesus all over the place (Acts 1:8)."

Let me suggest something. Start this way with the gospel. Put yourself in Paul's place for a few minutes and think about what he said, "I want to work among you. Your cultural background makes no difference!" Like Paul, enter your day-to-day environment with a determination to invest in people, through actions and interactions, in a way which can only bring about one kind of result -- good.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Still Here

They changed the sign on the VIp Club (I don't know the significance of the small "p" in VIp). I'll not speculate. Anyway the sign now says, "Must be over 21. Dancers Wanted." I thought I might apply just to see their reaction!

At this time I am finding it hard to find time to write. My mind is full of things I want to say -- things God is teaching me. Soon, I will be laying some of it down in print. Mostly, my heart is just overflowing with joy.

I will be speaking at Christ Community Church for the next two Sundays. I will also be speaking at Golden Acres Baptist Church in Phenix City, Alabama on October 14. The last time I preached was in June. For me, that seems like a lifetime ago!

In my new assignment, I am taking the time to observe every facet of our ministry at Christ Community. Over the next couple of months I am going from ministry to ministry within the church, to get to know those whom I serve and serve with.

I will be going to Venezuela in late October. I will be taking a team there in January. We will be continuing the construction of a building for ministry to children, encouraging an established church, and helping with the start of a new church! Can't wait!

Enjoying the Adventure,

Bill

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Strippers Wanted

Yes you read correctly. Now you are probably wondering why in the world I would title a post "Strippers Wanted." Well, that is what the sign says on the marquee of the VIp Club located a little more than 100 yards east of Christ Community Church where I am now serving. Directly across the street is Memory Lane, also a bar. The buildings we meet in are not ornate. Truth is, they are pretty tired. A former car dealership ringed by even less attractive buildings.

Our neighborhood is a perfect place for God and His people to set up shop!

At Christ Community, my calling is to equip the body so that it can grow into and become salt and light and leaven. Sometimes the application of who we are will take us across the street. Over the next 18 months it will take some of us around the world to places like Venezuela, Greece, Bolivia, Hungary, India. In every endeavor the goals are: reaching all people; equipping God's people; releasing people to God's purposes. Ten percent of every penny that comes into CCC goes toward missions, most of it for boots on the ground and hands-on mission work!

Christ Community is a very diverse congregation: African American; Asian; Latino; Indian; Caucasian. Not only is it racially diverse, but you will also find blue collar, white collar, and some without-even-a-dollar workers. We have a first rate skateboard park for the skater community called Refuge; seventy-five to one hundred Teen Advisers meet here on Tuesday night; Friday night is the CORE (definitely out of the box)! The church is unusually committed to all day prayer through a ministry called CRAVE (feel free to join us any Thursday at noon). There is much more.

I wanted to give my friends an update on what Sandy and I are doing. Most important to us are the words Christ delivered to the church at Philadelphia, I know all the things you do, and I have opened a door for you that no one can shut. You have little strength, yet you obeyed my word and did not deny me. Revelation 3:8

In the end, that is all that is going to matter!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Living In Eternity

We are all one body, we have the same Spirit, and we have all been called to the same glorious future. There is only one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and there is only one God and Father, who is over us all and in us all and living through us all Ephesians 4:4-5

Starting Monday I will be worshiping with, ministering to, and receiving ministry from, a people in the body of Christ who are new to me. For the first time in my life I will be a pastor in a Free Methodist church. I grew up in a Baptist church, have started Baptist churches, and have always led Baptist churches. This is a new adventure that I relish.

For the first time in over 25 years I will not be the lead pastor. Instead, I will be focused on developing missions and evangelism. Christ Community is a church plant that hasn't forgotten where it came from. Supporting and starting new churches in Columbus and around the world and advancing the kingdom, are in the DNA of lead pastor, Keith Cowart. With the grace, goodness, and wisdom that God alone can provide, I will be supporting my pastor's God-given vision and my new church family's desire to learn more of what it means to be salt -- light -- leaven.

As Christ's church we are one body, we have the same Spirit, and we will all spend eternity together because we have been called to the same glorious future! What a great privilege it is to begin living now like we will in live eternity!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

We Made It!

We arrived in Columbus shortly after five o'clock this afternoon. We left Maine about 27 hours earlier and drove straight through. This morning we got to see the sun ease its way over the Blue Ridge Mountains -- what a sight! God's glory is everywhere.

My brain is too tire and muddled to write much at the present, but I do look forward to sharing the Adventure with my friends. God has met Sandy and I continuously and through many different avenues: Old friends, creation, His Word, and a host of different ways. More later.

Enjoying the Adventure,

Bill

Monday, September 3, 2007

Over The Horizon

Tomorrow morning we will be in Bermuda! The voyage over has been nearly perfect: Food excellent; weather like the garden of Eden; no motion sickness for my bride; Bailey is in Maine.

As we slice through the wide open seas, we have stopped often to consider the One to whom all praise, honor, and thanks belong. What an imagination He has!

It is difficult to express just how wonderful our time together continues to be. Hopefully, Sandy and I will will be blessed with another thirty!

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Thirty Years In Bermuda

Three decades ago! It doesn’t seem possible. On September 10, 1977 Sandy and I exchanged wedding vows at Marsh Lane Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas. She was 19 and I was 21. September 10 we will celebrate our thirtieth anniversary! On Sunday, we will board the cruise ship Majesty, in Boston, and make way for Bermuda!

Many who know my wife would tell you that she looks like she is still in her thirties. Sandy is beautiful—inside and out. This, our thirtieth, has been a blessed and eventful year: Sandy finished a 4 year degree in 3 years, graduating Summa cum Laude from Columbus State University; she taught a semester of British Literature at Columbus High School; I resigned from Morningside; we are beginning a new adventure with our Savior at Christ Community Church; we are nearing the end of our first sabbatical.

God’s goodness and timing for the sabbatical takes our breath away. The first month our souls raced to catch up with our bodies, and when it did we had to go through the process of adjustment before the enjoyment. This last month has been a time of indescribable healing, peace, and recognition of the pleasure and sovereignty of God. Both of us are confident we have used this God given time the way He intended.

This is not our maiden voyage to Bermuda we were there for our twentieth anniversary. But this time every thing is so different as we prepare to leave -- we are so different. Peaks and valleys have only proven to give perspective, or burn away the dross. I am not sure you will fully understand what I mean, but Sandy and I see the weight and substance of God’s spiritual formation of the other. At our 30-year mark, all of life looks different.

Today we kayaked around the islands. Sandy glided with the current and paddled against it like she was born to water. Spotting an eagle in its perch, about 20 feet above the Penobscot, she quietly maneuvered until she was under it! After she watched it for a few seconds, it whooshed away on its 6-foot wingspan for the east bank. Around 5 this afternoon, I watched her pull in seven bass out by the big rock—one was over 3 pounds. This is the girl who grew up in Dallas, married a Maine boy, and followed him to Maine, BECAUSE she believed God was leading her and me--she still believes God is leading me and her -- a confidence many spouses never experience.

Friday morning, at 8:30, dad and I will cut down a big maple tree in his yard. Next summer it will be firewood for the cabin. Bailey is going to stay with my parents while we are in Bermuda, and my father wants to keep him permanently. My mother would disown me if I conceded. From mom and dad’s we will drive to Norton, Massachusetts and stay with our friends the Shannon’s for a couple of days. On Saturday we will rise early and drive to Boston and spend the day with Justin and Erika for the day.

Mark Twain said, “Everyone else can have heaven, I’ll take Bermuda.” Well, I wouldn’t make that trade, but for one week out of our life her on earth--it will seem like heaven!