Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Stories in the Room

By: Adam McClendon
Adam is the Lead Pastor at Springhill Church and the Director of New Line Ministries.

The other day I had a luncheon with several other pastors.  Personally, I hate getting together with groups of pastors.  It normally becomes all about sizing people up and comparing churches.  Nevertheless, I was invited, and being reasonably new to the area, I decided to go. 

I pulled into the parking lot of the designated location, let out a sigh, and got out of the car.  Another one of the pastors met me as I entered, and we sat at a table together.  Before long, the table began to fill up until all eight men were there, and let it be known, I’m the youngest at the table by probably 20-plus-years.

Introductions were made and conversation began; however, none of the conversation centered on church.  It was delightful.  These men, much my senior, were witty, interesting, kind, attentive, and very diverse in their experience.  That last part is the one thing that stood out the most.  As I listened to the conversation, I found out that one man was a former Recon Marine and police chief who now served as a pastor.  Another man had ridden bulls along with a dozen other unique experiences.  One man was a thirty-plus-year veteran referee. 

Reflecting in the car on the drive home, I realized something.  I almost missed out on meeting these wonderful men.  I didn’t want to go, because I assumed it would be older, boring pastors who just wanted the status quo and to size up one another. 

The only thing I was right about was that they were older; however, that was the best thing about the meeting.  They had stories.  They had this rich background of life from which I could learn and sit in awe.  They had experiences that they were readily willing to share, and they loved Jesus.

Writing now, I realize that I’ve missed out on a lot of stories in the room.  I’ve spent far too much time in my life seeking to be known by others and not seeking to know others.  I gravitate towards those my age and below while unintentionally neglecting those older than me.  In doing so, I miss out on a beautiful depth of life and experience.  Looking back, I wonder how many lessons and friendships have been missed because I haven’t asked or, worse, I haven’t listened to the stories of the lives of the elder saints in the room.

These men are supposed to get together once a month.  I can’t wait to join them, because now I know that wherever they are, there are stories in the room.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Healing Power of Love

By Joanna K. Harris

Joanna Harris is an author and blogger with a tremendous passion for God.  You can contact Joanna here.  For more on Joanna and her ministry, check out her website here.  There you can also find links to her other blogs.

I had a rather strange dream last night. Well, most of my dreams are strange, but this one still has me thinking.

In this dream, as often happens in my dreams, I was involved in some sort of conflict. As the "bad" guys came toward me, I somehow knocked down the first man, even though he was huge and obviously strong. Then, suddenly, he became the one who stopped all the other bad guys. I was surprised, but grateful. 

Then he looked at me. In his eyes I saw a love deeper and stronger than I can describe. He didn't say a word, but I knew he loved me. And, it wasn't the same look as someone who is simply "in love" with me. It was a strong, solid love that would protect me at all costs, even sacrifice himself for me. 

I was stunned.

The dream moved on, as dreams do. But the other bad guys hadn't given up. They tried to get me by pushing some kind of wall over on me. I was trapped in a tiny space as the wall slowly lowered on top of me. I crawled through the little tunnel space, trying to get to the end so I could get out. 

My hand was barely at the opening, and the wall was almost crushing me, when I was pulled out by strong hands. I looked up into the same loving eyes as before. Once again he spoke no words, just looked at me with deepest love. 

That was the end of the dream. There was no resolution to the original conflict, just the knowledge that I was loved, and loved more deeply than I ever expected.

I'm very grateful for all of the loving people God has blessed me to know. I certainly haven't had a lack of love in my life. 

Yet, I think that love is a gift that needs to be received, not just acknowledged. Knowing that someone loves me is different than receiving their love with gratitude. 

I think part of learning to receive love is understanding the source of love. 

God is love. All love comes from Him. And His love is higher, deeper, wider, and longer than anything we can imagine (Eph. 3:17-19)! 

God's love for us is so intense that He actually gave His own Son, Jesus, to die for our sins (John 3:16) -
*so that we would no longer be God's enemies (Col. 1:21-22)
*so that we could be rescued from death, despair, fear, loneliness, darkness... (Heb. 2:14-15)
*so that we could find everything we need in the vast riches of God's love (Ps. 63). 

God's love is powerful! 

As we understand God's love better, I think we'll recognize His love expressed to us through others. And, as we learn to gratefully receive love from God and others, it brings continual healing - to our heart, mind, soul, and even physical body. 

When I got up this morning, I wasn't feeling well, but I pushed myself to fix some breakfast. As I sat down to eat, I remembered my dream. I saw again those eyes of love looking back at me. And I couldn't help but smile. 

There is something very powerful in believing that I am loved.

So if you haven't heard it in a while, I want to tell you right now - You are loved. 

You are valued.
You are cherished.
You are treasured.
You are delighted in.
You are fully known and fully loved by an awesome God, with a love that is far beyond anything you've ever imagined! 

Please receive His love with gratitude. Let it put a smile on your face and a song in your heart. Let it heal things you never thought could be healed. Let it strengthen you. Let it flow through you to others who need to know they are loved as well. 

"This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us." -1 John 4:9-10, 16a

"I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness." -Jeremiah 31:3


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Why Church?

By: Adam McClendon
Adam is the Lead Pastor at Springhill Church and the Director of New Line Ministries.

Why go to church?

This question is one with which many people struggle.

While not often verbalized, thoughts such as these emerge:
     * I don’t have to do to church to worship God.
     * I’m closer to “the man upstairs” when I’m out hunting.  That’s my church.
     * When I’m on the lake, I see the beauty of God’s creation and hear his voice so clearly.  That’s church for me.

But, these answers imply that God wants people to gather as the church exclusively to learn about him or worship him.  However, what if there was more? 

Here is a question many people do not wrestle with, “What has God designed to happen uniquely at ‘church’?”

One passage that provides insight into that question is Hebrews 10:24-25: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

The biblical author exhorts the reader to consider how to stir up other believers to love and good works.  The solution?  Meet regularly with one another, and in those meetings, encourage one another to be faithful in light of the immanent return of King Jesus.

According to this text, here is a key reason to gather regularly as the church.  Encouragement.

Believers can demonstrate faith in isolation (Heb 10:22).  Believers can develop hope when they are alone (Heb 10:23); however, acts of love require other people, and the church is called to stir up these acts of love by encouraging one another in light of “the Day drawing near.”

So, the church “Gathers to Encourage.”  Certainly, learning about God through the accurate preaching of his word (2 Tim 4:2) and worshipping him (John 4:20-24) are part of it, but encouragement is a key element that must not be missed.

This Sunday believers will be tempted to sleep in.  They will be tempted to just spend another weekend on the beach or at the game.  For those who regularly do this and neglect the meeting together of God’s people, they cause others to miss out on something.  Notice, the issue isn’t that they are missing something, but they cause others to miss something.  Their presence means someone is not there to encourage others, someone is not there to lift up the broken, minister to the hurting, challenge the complacent, all in light of the return of their King.  Believers should regular meet together to encourage others, because someone is going to show up that needs them.

What if, instead of seeking to get something, Christians gathered to give something?  What if they persisted in encouraging those that come on Sunday mornings.

Imagine what church might look like if believers adopted this biblical approach to meeting together?

The love and support that would fill church would become intoxicating.  It would eventually overflow into other areas of their lives.  It would change how they speak to their spouses and kids.  It would change their understanding of their purpose in this world and in meeting together.  It would signify a realization that everyone has a role to play.  They would become active participants and not passive receivers.

And, lives would be changed because of it!  People’s futures would be rewritten because the church took the time to care, the church took the time to notice, and the church took the time to encourage.