Friday, October 28, 2011

Signs, Church Signs, Dumb Signs

We have a church sign! It’s about 12 feet tall and it has three lines for messages. We like to put coming events or general info up there, but we also put the occasional inspirational message. But you have to be very careful with that.
Why, you ask? I hope you asked that anyway; if not go ahead and do that now...I’ll wait....
OK, Thanks.

Frankly, some churches make themselves just look silly, or ignorant, or even offensive at times with their signs.
People look at signs differently than church folks do. They can appreciate humor as good as the next guy usually, but some signs are just a little looney.

Among the humorous I’ve seen:
        Who ever is praying for snow, Please Stop!
        Come in and pray today. Beat the Christmas rush!
        When the restaurant next to a Church put out a big sign with red letters that said, “Open Sundays,” the church reciprocated with its own message: “We are open on Sundays, too."
        Walk-ins Welcome  (that’s on our sign-thanks Dave)
        Have trouble sleeping? We have sermons—come hear one!
Now that last one is a little curious. Did they intend to say the pastor is boring? Or that if you get right with God you’ll sleep better?

You see some signs maybe cute for members, maybe even inspirational. But to the unchurched they get a response like “HUH?”
        Honk if you love Jesus, Text while driving if you wanna meet Him
        Free Trip to heaven. Details Inside!
        Try our Sundays. They are better than Baskin-Robbins.
        Sign broken. Message inside this Sunday. Dusty Bibles lead to Dirty Lives
        Come work for the Lord. The work is hard, the hours are long and the pay is low. But the retirement benefits are out of this world.
        It is unlikely there’ll be a reduction in the wages of sin.
        Do not wait for the hearse to take you to church.
        Forbidden fruit creates many jams.
        In the dark? Follow the Son.
        Running low on faith? Stop in for a fill-up.
        When down in the mouth, remember Jonah. He came out all right.

You have to consider what the unchurched think when they see it. Down in the mouth? Jonah? I don’t think they’ll get it. Of course, if you WANT to have them think less of you and of Christ; But most people don’t want that. So some try to be “Trendy.” I’ve been guilty of that myself.
        Get off of Facebook and Get in the Good Book
        You have a friend request from -Jesus:
         Confirm                            Ignore
        God’s got an app for that
        If you don’t like the way you were born, try being born again.

First, people don’t like being told what to do, as if there is something morally wrong with being on Facebook.
Secondly, A friend request from Jesus? Really? A statement like “You sinned, Jesus has blocked you.” Would be more accurate, but NO, don’t put that on the sign!
Third, Actually Jesus doesn’t have an app for everything. This is one of those false promises like, “Come to Jesus He’ll make everything better.”
And these days there are folks who’ve never heard of being born again.

Upcoming events are a good thing to put on a sign, and they’re usually pretty safe.
But even then you should be careful:
        A singing group called “The Resurrection” was scheduled to sing at a church. When a big snowstorm postponed the performance, the pastor fixed the outside sign to read, "Resurrection postponed."

Then there are those pithy sayings, but think twice, will your neighbors think you’re rehashing old sayings because you are not real bright?
        People are like tea bags—you have to put them in hot water before you know how strong they are.
        God so loved the world that He did not send a committee.
        Fight truth decay—study the Bible daily.
        If you’re headed in the wrong direction, God allows U-turns.
        Looking at the way some people live, they ought to obtain eternal fire insurance soon.
        This is a ch_ _ ch. What is missing? -----> (U R)
        If you can’t sleep, don’t count sheep. Talk to the Shepherd.

Then there are the serious issues dealt with in a silly way.
        How will you spend eternity—Smoking or Non-smoking?

We always need to go beyond “What do the unchurched ‘drive-bys’ think?” And ask ourselves, “What does God think?”
Is God pithy? Is he ‘selling something’? I hope you answered No to both of those.

Now some of you thought while reading this, “But I don’t DO church signs.” Very true. But do you do bumper stickers? Do you email cute little things to a large group of people? (With, perhaps, lost and unchurched people in the bunch?) Or Tweet? Or do status updates?
Do you live your life giving off simplistic ideas of what you find important?

We need to be real; honest; and deeper than a bumper sticker. We need to live our lives among those who don’t know Jesus the way He did. He took their pains to heart. He didn’t sin with them, but he didn’t judge them. He did judge Pharisees because they wouldn’t judge themselves. But for some reason sinners – who knew they were sinners – like to be around him. Why is that? Maybe He just loved them.

Oh, Lord Jesus, it’s really hard to love some people. But I know you loved me in spite of myself, so it’s the least I can do, to love others for you.

That’s my prayer, what’s yours?

Clark D

PS Remember - "This is a ch_ _ ch. What is missing? -----(U R)"
Once I put on the sign:
“Its almost T__key Day!
What is missing? U R “

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A 9th Inning Blast

You know I'm not one that thinks that God favors one sports team over another. Right? You know I don't really think God hates Oklahoma Football. He never said, "Texas have I loved but OU have I hated."

Now I know there are some who are such big Albert Pujols* fans that they might think God favors the St. Louis Cardinals. Well I'm a Pujols fan AND a Josh Hamilton** fan, but, and trust me on this, God isn't favoring either team based on favoritism. (I am open to the possibility that God may have a hand in winners and losers as part of His overall rulership over the universe.)

So what I want to point out really has nothing to do with these teams but with 9th inning saves in general. Thursday night of this week, the Rangers were behind 1-0 going into the last (9th) inning, in the World Series, or "Fall Classic" if you prefer. (I won't confuse you with the top or bottom of the 9th, that really confuses some people-I have No Idea Why.)
But in the 9th inning, at their last chance 'at bat,' they score two runs and won the game!

There were three Hebrews, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were their Persian names, who were going into the 9th inning behind, but instead of facing fastballs coming in high and hot they were facing Flames of fire high and hot. They didn't give up, they stepped up!

Job probably felt like he was behind 1000 to 1 in the 9th inning after losing his children, his wealth and having to listen to three so-called friends preach at him about how rotten he was day after day. But, he didn't give up like his wife told him to do.

And, of course, Esther and Mordecai, were behind by thousands or even millions when in the 9th inning she stepped up and swang for the fences. She needed to knock the stuffing out of it, go downtown with it, blast it into oblivion in order to win the day. What she didn't know of course was that God was giving her the perfect pitch, the perfect bat, and all the strength she needed to get the job done.

How do you know when you're in the 9th inning? When you know its all about over.
Either you're going to quit, or someone else is going to take you out of the game, or your going to die trying; but you know things can't keep on the way they are.
Well as Christians we know that even our death, in God's timing, and for His glory, is a victory. But we also know that now and then we get a victory this side of Heaven.
We see a soul saved, a person on death's door come back, a B+ on a final exam, and we know God has heard our prayers. He may have been silent for a long time but remember, even in the 9th inning, He is always saying Trust Me!

Keep trusting,
Clark D

*Albert Pujols, pro baseball player extroardinaire for the St.Louis cardinals; first baseman, slugger, all around good guy.
** Josh Hamilton,
pro baseball player extroardinaire for the Texas Rangers; slugger etc. etc.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Don't Think I Can't Communicate With You

Having been through the exciting yet often subjective world of Charismatic churches, I've grown leery (and weary) of people who have frequent leadings from God; especially when they appear contrary to scripture or just plain "out of someone's creative imagination."

However, I never want to sell God short on what He can do to impress Himself on mere humans. Even Charles Spurgeon once said that all the teachings or ordinances of the church can't replace the presence of God. They become like a sundial on a cloudy day. In other words, useless. Pretty strong speech for a strong reformed Baptist like C H Spurgeon. 

So with this mind-set I set myself up for God to move in my world and rock my consciousness!
And He did.

It was last night. At a Lord's Supper service out in the country in a camp setting. I and many other ministers and pastors worshiped together and then someone besides us administered the Supper.
It was a warm, blessed atmosphere, and I was pleasantly surprised how blessed I was to be a part of it.
I went forward picked a piece of motzah and a small cup of juice and headed back to my seat.

I ate the bread while climbing a couple rows up in this outdoor rock amphitheater, where people were spread out and few were sitting very close to another. As I sat I raised the cup to drink and  stopped short as a strangled cry rose up though my throat. I got a grip, got in control, telling myself that this service was more for the three young men who had joined our ranks in this learning group we were all part of. I was afraid if I made any noise I would become the center of attention, drawing focus away from Christ and these new inductees.

As I started to drink it happened again only this time it turned into a sob. It lingered and my shoulders and whole body seemed to be weeping.
I didn't know why.
Then I remember a story of Luther, when he was a young Catholic minister, saying his very first Mass. When he got to the words "This is my body", where the wine, that he held up in a chalice, would turn into the actual blood of Christ, he stopped and was immobile for sometime until he mumbled himself through the rest of the the Mass.
Later when asked what happened he said at that moment when the wine would be turned to blood he realised his inadequacy to hold the perfect innocent blood of Christ. That his dirty, sinful hands would hold the cup of God was overwhelming to him.

But there I was holding grape juice, knowing it was only grape juice and weeping because of my unworthiness to hold even that; much less handle God's word everyday. Or, to use my sinful brain to contemplate scripture and to use my sinful lips to proclaim it. I was just sobbing before the Lord.

Then it was as if the Lord was pushing me slowly but firmly down to my knees to worship before Him. I didn't see Jesus, I didn't feel His hand on my shoulder. I was just aware than in my heart I was weeping for mercy and grace had set me free. A burden seemed lifted. A sin removed. An oppression evaporated into thin air.

Then, as I was kneeling in my heart before the Lord, it was as if He said, "So, you don't think I can communicate with you?"
Part of me thought, "I never said tha!." But another part of me just said "Yes Lord, you can."

We don't decide when God will show up. We can plan, but God keeps His own counsel. Man proposes, God disposes.

Blessed Be His Name.

One other note, before the burden lifted off my shoulders, two sweet sisters came and prayed for me. Not to counsel or ask questions, just to pray as God did His business with me. Thanks!