Life After 9/11

fullsizerender

Beam left standing in the form of the Cross

I realize we are past the 15th anniversary of 9/11/2001 and publishing this post may seem late. However, I beleive the timing is perfect for someone and I’m praying for the person(s) this is meant to encourage. For me, 9/11 it’s a constant reminder that I need a deep relationship with God. Last year I went to New York for the first time in my life and when I returned, I started this post. However, it has been sitting as a draft ever since. I knew when the timing was right, I would share. Here’s my experience and I hope you will come along with me.

Saint Paul’s Chapel was the only building that didn’t sustain damage on September 11, 2001. I recall hearing about this at the time but there’s nothing like seeing it with your own eyes.

It was my first trip to New York and I was so happy to see the city with my precious step-daughter, Chelsea. She invited me to come along on a work trip so we took advantage of the opportunity and went early for the weekend to take in the sites and see a Broadway play.

img_5025

The whole weekend was amazing! We started day one with a tour of New York City. It was a rainy and windy cold day. It was Fall which is something Texas doesn’t do well. Our tour consisted of bus and boat and it was fantastic! We saw many sites such as the Empire State Building, Flatiron Building, Rockefeller Center, Madison Square Garden, Statue of Liberty, 9/11 Memorial site and much more. Our tour guide, Bernice, was great! You could tell she loved her job and the city.

She shared wonderful details about all the sites and when she talked about 9/11, her story became personal. Seems like everyone has a 9/11 story if you were alive that day. However, her story really resonated with me and I want to share it.

Bernice had a dream the night before 9/11 of planes crashing into the World Trade Center buildings. She was scheduled to give a tour of the World Trade Center to a bus load of people at promptly 9:00 am on September 11, 2001. She called in to work and told them that she needed to cancel the tour and would not make it to work that day.

I don’t have to tell you what happened because you know the rest of the story of that horrible day. Bernice praised God for saving her life and others.

Bernice has had other dreams and learned to pay attention to them long ago. On another occasion she dreamed of leaving her apartment and being mugged and badly beaten. When she woke and left her apartment the next day, she was mugged and badly beaten. Bernice has learned something that some of us might want to think about. I believe she listens to God and this is how God speaks to her. He speaks to all of us and often times we are not aware or we choose to ignore.

God spoke to me loud and clear to me following that dreadful September 11th day. You see I had a relationship with God for eternity, but not a relationship for the here and now. The bible tells us that Jesus came they we may have life and have it to the full (John 10:10). The Common English Bible translation says “…so they could live life to the fullest”. I knew he wanted me to find a place to worship and grow in the knowledge of who he was, is, and is to come. That day was a turning point in my life and I sought God with all my heart. Looking back, I’m grateful for taking the next step toward God and can see why he was preparing me for a better life…a life with Him at the center of everything.

Nothing can shake the foundation set in place by the One who delivered me from sin and death. I’ve been able to endure grief, sorrow, pain, and loss because God is my strength. I’ve also been able to experience joy, grace, peace, love, and life because God is my strength.

I believe God gave us a strong message by the standing and unaffected Saint Paul’s Chapel during the 9/11 attacks. There’s no explanation for why that building is still standing as it is literally across the street from where the Twin Towers stood. God purposely preserved this chapel and for me, it’s a message of hope and eternity. Don’t wait another second to follow after God and may you respond to the call he has on your life.

Love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. Luke 10:27

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Compassionate Disciples Seize the Day!

compassion

Compassion always leads to action

I have to be honest, sometimes I don’t feel all that compassionate. I am on staff at Argyle UMC and part of my responsibilities under Congregational Care are to consider when it’s appropriate to help people with charity. When people come in to the church and need help (usually with financial assistance), I have to weigh the situation to see if it’s appropriate for the church to help. We have guidelines to help make the decision and sometimes I say yes and sometimes I say no. I pray every day for God to help me discern what He wants me to do and I take being prudent with church resources very seriously. I have to admit there are times when I can relate to what God said when speaking of the Israelites, he told to Jeremiah in chapter 15, “I am tired of showing compassion”. Sometimes I tire of the requests because there can be many and have to be very intentional to keep my mind focused on the task God has given me. It’s not always easy, but when I fix my eyes on God it gives me endurance to show compassion.

I have a tendency to think there are times when all of us struggle to show compassion. Jesus tells us there are signs of the end of the age and in Matthew 24:12, Jesus says, “Because lawlessness will multiply, the love of many will grow cold.” I wonder if it’s possible that in the midst of so much terror and tragedy in our world today that we could become cold or numb. Honestly, it seems that daily we are waking up to another shooting or terror attack. It would almost make sense to put up a wall to protect ourselves of the daily violence happening in our world.

I don’t believe that we want to grow cold, but I could see us becoming numb and cold to the world around us simply as a way of coping. How do we keep that from happening when so much is going on around us?

How do we deal when another terror attack has occurred by those who hate Christians?

How do we keep our compassion for others and how do we honor what Jesus said when tells us to love our neighbor as our self when it seems our neighbor hates us?

Why is it important to be compassionate toward others?

What happens if we are no longer compassionate?

Well the good news is this…

Our God is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in faithful love and truth (Psalm 86:15) and because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail (Lamentations 3:22).

Could it be this is how we are set apart as believers in Jesus Christ? When we understand the compassion God had for us through sending his son Jesus, this motivates us to be compassionate toward others.

It’s no surprise that the Hebrew and Greek words translated “compassion” in the Bible mean “to have mercy, to feel sympathy and to have pity.” To be a compassionate disciple means you respond to the suffering and are motivated with a desire to help others.

Compassion always leads to action.

God took action showing compassion when He sent Jesus (John 3:16-17).

In the New Testament, we find Jesus exemplifying all of the Father’s attributes, including His compassion. Here are just a few examples:

  1. Jesus saw His friends weeping at the grave of Lazarus, He felt compassion for them and wept alongside them (John 11:33-35).
  2. Jesus was moved with compassion for the suffering of others and went to all the towns and villages, teaching, preaching, and healing every disease and sickness (Matthew 9:35-36)
  3. Matthew’s gospel tells us Jesus had gone to a remote place by boat and when he came ashore, the people were waiting (a huge crowd). He felt compassion for them and healed them before he divided up the five loaves and two fish to feed the 5,000(Matthew 14:14).
  4. Jesus had compassion on the crowds (Mark 6:34). When He saw the crowds as sheep without a shepherd. He had compassion for them, for they were weary and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he prayed for workers to send out into the harvest.

You see there are many people out there worn out and weary, they don’t know God and they are sheep without a shepherd. Maybe you are like the worker Jesus prayed for to send out into the harvest. People need to hear the good news that Jesus is the Great Shepherd who loves them.

When asked what was the greatest commandment, Jesus responded that it is to love God with all our heart, mind and strength, Then he added, love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:34-40).

Love your God with all our heart, mind and strength means you have to spend time with God developing the same character of compassion as God. Seek God in asking what He wants you to do and realize that compassion has to be nurtured and practiced. Start by spending time in the scriptures and praying, being in church worship and community with other believers. If possible, seek one or two people to meet with on a regular basis and talk about the scriptures. You would decide before the meeting what book of the Bible to read before the meeting. Admit to each other where you have failed or sinned recently. Remind each other of God’s forgiveness and grace. Then ask each other some questions such as “where have you wasted time this week?” We are calling this DNA (Disciple, Nurture, Accountability) teams. John Wesley called them “Holy Clubs”.

What does the second commandment look like when it says to love your neighbor as yourself? Honestly, that is not all that hard unless you are not in a good place due to depression or anxiety. Most of us, love ourselves pretty well so when we think about loving someone else like our self, we should be able to imagine it.

In Luke chapter 10, an expert in the law asked, who is my neighbor. I think we ask this same question. Like God, who is my neighbor? Is it literally my neighbor, my coworker, my friend at school, the person I’m standing next to in line at Starbucks or the grocery store?

Jesus took that question “who is my neighbor” and told the parable of the Good Samaritan and how a man was on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho and how robbers stripped him and beat him up, left him half dead on the road. A priest and a Levite saw the man and passed by on the other side. Then a Good Samaritan came along and had compassion on the man and took care of him, he bandaged his wounds, put him on his own animal, took him to the hotel, then the next day, he gave money to the hotel clerk for the man to stay longer and said he would reimburse him for whatever the guy spent over what he gave. So who is our neighbor? Everyone?

God, who do you want me to love?

Everyone?

Those with a different lifestyle?

Different color?

Different culture?

Different country?

Different political views?

I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other. John 13:34-35 NIV

So when we love everyone that means people who are different from us, different lifestyle, different color, different politics, different culture, different values.

Understanding how important it is to reach others and being intentional about showing God’s love should move us to be compassionate disciples.

And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ. Ephesians 4:32

If you have not accepted the forgiveness of sin through Christ, then you are not going to understand how important it is to forgive others. I invite you to accept the forgiveness offered by Jesus Christ and start a new life with him.

Also, know that being compassionate may cost you something. It may cost you time which is a great commodity in the age in which we live. God may move you to a new place in serving or in mission. If you believe in what you are doing in following God’s call to compassion, you won’t mind giving up what’s necessary to follow Him.

Compassion always leads to action.

Imagine what our world would look like if we were all kind and compassionate toward others. We have to understand where people are that don’t know God, they are just doing the best they know how. I would like to challenge you to pray and ask God how you could show compassion to someone.

Robin Williams in the movie Dead Poets Society was trying to inspire and move his students when he told them, “No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world!!”

We have a legacy left for us by Christians who have gone before us? Some of them, because of their words and ideas changed our world. What would the people who are in heaven say to us if they could communicate with us? What if we could see from their perspective on how to do life here?

I think they might say something like this to us…

Carpe diem brothers and sisters in Christ!

Seize the day and go live an extraordinary compassionate life in the Lord Jesus!!

 

WWJS…What Would Jesus Say?

If Jesus wrote a letter to your church, what would He say?dreamstime_s_8627999

This question was presented in a lecture recently and I have not stopped thinking about it since.

WWJS…What Would Jesus Say?

Would Jesus tell your church to return to it’s first love, persevere in suffering, refuse to compromise, hold on to sound doctrine, wake up, keep you from the hour of trial to come, or admit you are lukewarm?

In the book of Revelation, John writes to the seven churches. In these inspired writings, Jesus speaks to the churches and offers commendations and corrections to put them back on the path to righteousness and life with Him.

The seventh church, the church in Laocidea, is the most troubling and comforting to me. Like most of the letters to the churches, there is bad news and there is good news.

The Bad News

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit (the word “vomit” used in HCSB version) you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.  I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Revelation 3:15-18

It feels like Jesus is speaking into this time and place. We are so consumed with self and wealth that nothing else seems to matter. The church in Laocidea is the “selfie” church. Wow and how true of our times! I wonder if people were really honest with themselves, how many people believe they don’t need God. Things are going pretty good and when things are going pretty good, we are good. We don’t need religion or a relationship with God because “we got this”. We seem to make enough money to live in nice homes and drive nice cars, fund our children’s wants and needs, and fund our own wants and needs. We may give a little to the church or charity but not too much because we need to make sure our bills and needs are met. This “selfie” attitude and lifestyle is really nothing new just seems more prominent and accepted these days.

I speak on this from a place I know well…like 25 years well. I knew I need a Savior when I was a teen. I prayed for Him to free me from sin and give me a place with Him (Jesus) in eternity. Then I went about my business for a number of years. For a long time, I would attend church on Christmas and Easter because that’s what you do, but I didn’t really commit to a regular relationship with God. Then I started attending more regularly but it was still a casual relationship. If I needed God, I would call out; otherwise I was doing pretty well. The funny thing about this is I was not only spiritually poor, but I struggled financially even though it looked like I had everything.

When 9/11 happened, I realized that this casual relationship with God was not going to cut it any longer. In some ways, people thought of me as spiritual because I would regularly attend church but really the truth is, I was just attending church and really only when it was convenient. Something changed for me on 9/11/2001 and I wanted to know God in a meaningful way and my spirit was restless and hungry for more. That’s when I really started attending church and reading the bible. I committed to a bible study and fellowship with other believers. I needed community and had a desire to serve. You see it all comes together when you really commit to God. When you submit to God, He changes everything starting with your heart.

The Good News

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Revelation 3:19-22

We don’t like to think about discipline but it is just what a parent does with a child. If you are a child of God, He will discipline you. So accept this love and discipline, be honest with yourself and repent. Jesus is waiting and if you will open the door of your heart and let Him in, He has a seat waiting for you.

Father, I pray whoever has ears, let them hear.

Amen!

God Can Use You

There was a man in Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment. He was a devout man and feared God along with his whole household. He did many charitable deeds for the Jewish people and always prayed to God. Acts 10:1-2

Cornelius was a good guy, yet he was a Centurion. Centurion’s were a vital part of the Roman army and their job was to lead men (soldiers). The reputation of the Roman army was not good. However, Cornelius was a man who did charitable deeds for the Jewish people and always prayed to God. Because of that, an angel appeared to him and said, “Your prayers and acts of charity have come up as a memorial offering before God.” Acts 10:4b

Did you know God can use you whether you know it or not. You may or may not be seeking God. You may or may not believe in Jesus.

Yet God can use you.

So you may be a good person who does charitable things for others and you may know there is a God and even pray, but don’t fully understand the whole Jesus thing. Good News! Neither did Cornelius.

While God was working in Cornelius’ heart, Peter had a vision. Through that vision, God showed him the foods Peter thought to be unclean and how they could be made clean by God (Acts 10:9-16). Peter didn’t understand what God was trying to say and was deeply perplexed according to the scripture. While Peter was thinking about the scripture, the Holy Spirit directed him to three men who were looking for him. The men were sent for Peter by Cornelius who also had a vision. Cornelius’ vision was to send for Peter yet he did not fully understand why. Now here’s where I think this gets really interesting.

God used Cornelius, a Gentile, as an example of someone who was not Jewish. Someone who could be made “clean” and adopted into the family of God and be a follower in Jesus Christ. God was preparing Peter’s heart before the visit when he gave him the vision of clean versus unclean food. He was showing him that He loves all people both Jew and Gentile and salvation is available for all.

So can God use anyone…at any time…in any situation…to bring understanding of who He is and His great love! Are you praying for opportunities to be used by God. I promise if you pray it, He will use you.

I saw the movie War Room over the weekend and left the movie feeling inspired. The message I saw throughout the movie was about prayer and God’s faithfulness. In the end, the message was clear about another point.

Mentoring.

If I am a follower of Jesus, I should be mentoring someone else who desires to be in a close relationship with God. There are plenty of folks out there who attend church who could be mentoring someone. There seems to be a plethora of people who desire a close walk with God but don’t know what that looks like. I get that and I was in that place for a number of years in my life. These people are the perfect candidates for mentoring.

On Sunday morning, I prayed for a person I could mentor. A few hours later, a young woman is in our sanctuary by herself. When I approached her to introduce myself, she tells me that it is her first visit to our church and that she is nervous. It was an opportunity for me to encourage her for coming and for me to sit with her during the service. We have scheduled lunch this week and I am smiling ear to ear as I wonder how God is going to work in this situation. Maybe this is the person I am to mentor.

What about you?

image