Thursday, October 29, 2009

For Such a Time As This

There is something that has always bothered me about the world of sports. When an 18-year old kid stands at the free throw line in a key moment of a college basketball game, fans are allowed to scream their heads off. Onlookers, band members and cheerleaders can do all manner of distracting motions behind the basket. One particular team even has a very overweight fan who specializes in his shirtless gyrations to distract the opposing free thrower. But in golf, when a multimillionaire professional stands ready to put in his ball, there must be absolute silence. Even the TV announcers whisper. Does this seem unjust to anyone else?

In the world of sports, there are many defining moments. Fourth and goal. Match point. The final attempt. Bases loaded, bottom of the ninth, full count. An athlete's performance in these moments of truth defines how he or she will be judged for years to come. Bill Buckner had a long and distinguished baseball career, but today most fans only know him as the guy who let a ball roll between his legs in the sixth game of the 1986 World Series. On the other hand, Timmy Smith's pro football career was brief and rather uneventful, except for the night he set a Super Bowl record for rushing in 1988. As long as he lives, there will be Washington Redskin fans willing to buy him dinner.

But those are just games. In real life, the defining moments are much more important. They also come with less advance notice. There is no announcer standing by, solemnly intoning, "It all comes down to this..." We simply live our lives, and suddenly out of the clear blue sky, we find ourselves face to face with a life-changing decision, an eternally significant opportunity, or a seductive temptation. How will we respond in the moment of truth?

Esther faced just such a moment. She didn't seem qualified to be the savior of an entire race of people. Yet there she stood, with the weight of the world on her narrow shoulders. This Sunday, we'll find out how she responded as we look at Esther 4. And we'll discuss the characteristics you and I need to work on in anticipation of those key moments in our own lives.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Esther: God is Still God

According to an article in Reader's Digest, 15 people have attempted to go over Niagara Falls. 10 have survived. The most recent, Robert Overacker, died attempting to go over on a jet ski in 1995. Overacker died because his rocket-powered parachute wasn't sufficiently tied to his back (Ouch!).

You might be surprised to learn who was the first person to attempt to cross Niagara:

Annie Edson Taylor, a plump 63-year-old schoolteacher who claimed to be in her early 40s. She used a four-and-a-half-foot barrel packed with inflated pillows, a mattress, and an anvil (for ballast). Her ride was fairly uneventful, apart from the fact that she plunged roughly 170 feet over the falls in the middle of it; she was fished out 75 minutes after she'd gone in, bruised and shaken but alive. She reportedly told onlookers, "No one ought ever do that again."

I love that last line. Ms. Taylor has a point, you know. Why face an impossible obstacle if you don't have to? Unfortunately, there are some obstacles we all have to face. As people who follow a God we cannot see, we face some pretty steep, seemingly insurmountable obstacles to our faith:

1. We live in a world that seems to mock our values and beliefs.
2. We can't always see what God is up to in our moments of deepest need.
3. Often, the bad guys seem to win in this life.

This Sunday, we'll begin a new four-week series in the book of Esther. It's one of the most exciting stories ever told, full of intrigue and suspense, with an ending that no screenwriter could invent. But it's also the only book of the Bible that never mentions God's name. There are no overt miracles, no voice from the sky, no great "ah-ha" moments for our heroes, Esther and Mordecai. Yet even as they face the same obstacles we do, they learn that God is still God. I hope you'll be with us this Sunday.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Faith in Action ministry report

Sunday, October 11, we did something WBC has never done before. We cancelled worship and Sunday School in order to do ministry projects in our community. We called it Faith in Action Day. I must admit, I was a little nervous as to how it would go. It’s much easier to do what we usually do; new stuff is always a little scary. But I am so very proud of my church family and how you performed! Here’s a brief summary of our activities that day:

19 people helped repair the home of one of our neighbors. They replaced rotting wood, converted a back porch into a covered patio, replaced an exterior door and frame, cleaned up the yard, removed a tree and debris, and planted shrubs.

17 people served Braes Interfaith Ministries. Six people put away summer clothes at the Resale Shop to make room for winter, moved Christmas items into the store to sell, changed air conditioning filters, mopped, and vacuumed. Eleven people worked at the Braes Pantry, preparing bags of groceries for people in need within the community, vacuuming, disinfecting, and bringing files up to date.

18 people handed out water bottles with the WBC logo and information on them. They started out on the Braeswood jogging trail. When it started to rain, rather than quit, they handed the bottles outside places like 24 Hour Fitness and Walmart.

50 people did landscaping work at McNamara Elementary. They planted new shrubs, helped alleviate drainage problems, and transformed the outside science area. Principal Chenier sent us a wonderful thank-you note.

8 people went door-to-door near the church, praying for our neighbors. They handed out bags with a water bottle and a flyer about our church.

52 people prepared care baskets for the Women’s Pregnancy Center. These baskets, including baby needs and hand-written notes from our members, will encourage expectant mothers to choose life for their unborn babies.

56 people worked at Westbury Square. They did major exterior clean-up and planting. This was definitely our most visible project, as many people stopped to ask what was going on!
27 people led a worship service at Holly Hall Retirement Community. Our very own Steve Moore is Executive Director there, and he said the residents and staff are still talking about the great worship experience.

10 people ministered at Godwin Park, handing out lemonade, cookies and information about WBC.

16 people prepared lunch for all the workers, plus delivered water to various ministry sites.

26 people served a meal to the homeless at The Beacon downtown.
52 people prayed for Faith in Action, our community, church and nation, in a prayer meeting in our sanctuary.

I also must thank the ladies who handled our child care, David Nance for taking pictures at all the ministry sites, and LuAnn Knoblauch for getting us our T-shirts at cost.

As you can see, we had a very productive day of ministry. Church members of all ages worked together to share the love of Christ with many facets of our community. Thank you, WBC, for being willing to do something new. More importantly, I thank you that you were willing to—for one Sunday—not go to church, but BE the church.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Faith in Action Day, this Sunday!

Our first-ever Faith in Action Day is upon us! This Sunday, October 11, we will suspend our regular Bible study classes and worship service so we can participate in a variety of ministry opportunities in our community. Twelve different groups of WBC members and guests will be serving the Lord. Instead of going to church, we’re going to BE the church. Since this is the first time we’ve ever done anything like this, there are still a lot of unanswered questions. So allow me to give you some answers to questions I’ve been hearing lately.

Where should I go for my ministry project, and what time should I be there?

If the leader of your ministry team hasn’t contacted you yet, give them a call today. If you can’t get in touch with your ministry team leader, call the office. Each team will have its own schedule, so make sure you know where to be and when.

I haven't signed up for a ministry project. What can I do?

Most of our ministry projects are full at this time. You can check the website to see which ones still have space. Of course, you can show up at any of the sites to encourage and observe, but there won’t be much for you to do, and it’s probably too late for you to get a T-shirt (although some of you may not mind so much—see below). There is still plenty of room in our prayer meeting, however. We’ll be gathering in the sanctuary at 10:30 to pray for all of our ministry teams, our church, community and nation.

What if we have bad weather?

Right now, the forecast looks excellent: Highs in the mid-70s with only a slight chance of rain. Even if it rains a little, most of our ministry teams will still be able to function. My advice is that, unless we have the mother of all storms Sunday morning, we all show up and see what we can do.

Won't we miss a week's offering?

Yes, we will. Our church budget is an ambitious one, and it will hurt indeed to miss one week’s income. But last year after Hurricane Ike hit, we missed all of one week’s offerings, and most of a second week. Yet the Lord provided amply. We trust that our faithful tithing members will continue to give faithfully, and that we will have all that we need to do what God wants us to do.

Seriously, white T-shirts? What were you thinking?

I get this question from many of our ladies, though they’ve all been much more polite than the question above. I must plead ignorance in this case. White T-shirts were totally my call. I chose them because they were much cheaper. LuAnn Knoblauch, one of our own members, is supplying us these T-shirts at cost, and that is a tremendous blessing. They look great, but I have since learned that many ladies do not feel comfortable wearing white cotton. I’ve learned my lesson.

Do we have to wait until 12:30 to eat lunch?

I get this one mostly from the guys. The short answer is no, we won’t stop you from taking a lunch break at 11, if you need it. But I hope you will all come to our lunch at 12:30 in the gym, either way. We’ll serve until around 1:15, then we’ll have a chance to hear reports from every ministry team. You don’t want to miss that.

What else can I do?

Pray for this day. Pray for good weather and for a great turnout from our people (over 325 WBC members have signed up, which is fantastic!). Pray that God would prepare the hearts of the people we will minister to on Sunday. Pray that He would use our efforts to open doors and establish relationships that lead to new life. Pray that this event would change us as a congregation, making us more concerned about our neighbors, more missional and outreach-focused. Pray that we would know the best way to follow up on what happens this Sunday, that it would not simply be a one-shot event, but the start of something really big.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

God With Skin On

In his Letters to a Young Evangelical, Tony Campolo shares a story from his youth about taking Communion:

Sitting with my parents at a Communion service when I was very young, perhaps six or seven years old, I became aware of a young woman in the pew in front of us who was sobbing and shaking. The minister had just finished reading the passage of Scripture written by Paul that says, "Whosoever shall eat the bread and drink the cup of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord" (1 Corinthians 11:27). As the Communion plate with its small pieces of bread was passed to the crying woman before me, she waved it away and then lowered her head in despair. It was then that my Sicilian father leaned over her shoulder and, in his broken English, said sternly, "Take it, girl! It was meant for you. Do you hear me?"She raised her head and nodded—and then she took the bread and ate it. I knew that at that moment some kind of heavy burden was lifted from her heart and mind. Since then, I have always known that a church that could offer Communion to hurting people was a special gift from God.

Our job as a church is to say to the hurting, ashamed and despairing people of our community, "It was meant for you! Take it!" The "it" of course, is not just a communion wafer, but what it represents: The sacrifice of Jesus for their sins and the presence of Jesus in their lives, bringing them eternal and abundant life. These days, however, such people aren't often likely to be found in a church. Instead, we have to live like missionaries, taking the love of Christ to them right where they are, rather than waiting for them to come to us. That's why we've been in this series, "How to Win Your Friends...Naturally" for six weeks. We've looked at different ways people in Scripture shared their faith with others. This week, we'll close out the series with a message about reaching people for whom words aren't enough. It will tie in very nicely with our Faith in Action Day the next Sunday. I hope I see you there...both Sundays.