Monday, June 2, 2014

from my heart

The following is something I wrote after the mission team working on our new campus left.  I shared it with our church family yesterday morning.  It is personal in nature and applies to me, my family and our church family, but I believe this may encourage you.

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 

I walk in to this big 40-year-old building and see things that I have never seen before.  It really is incredible the ways it looks and the changes to this point.  Nothing less than a miracle or a touch of God’s hand.

There are pieces that don’t seem to come together very easy when reality sets in.  It is when I think about the connection God gave me to Himself and further to the church I get to serve that leaves me in awe.  It is not about me.  It is not about talent or ability.  It is about our gracious God of second chances.

How could a sovereign God choose me?  That thought comes in all different kinds of directions. 

How could he take me from the place I knew as home and was comfortable with and placed me in Virginia, and the part of Virginia we are in has a recent history unlike many other places of this century.  Economic unrest and the general lack of hope are rampant in our region of southwest Virginia, but God has a plan offering second chances.

Why did God choose me when all I really wanted to do was preach?  If you get right down to it, we are all alike.  Without the saving truth of Jesus, we are lost.  We are in trouble without Him.  But when I was 15 God saw fit to save me.  I need to remember that, and walking in this place I remember that fact.  One year ago we were able to buy this building.  It was a wreck.  It was full of discarded junk useless to most people.  It has been raped of what was most valuable.  Isn’t that where God found each of us?  We were without purpose and value.  We were, at least I was, full of sin.  But then God took what was broken and made it whole.  He changed my life.

How can God continue to choose me when I so often offend Him by doing my own thing?  I struggle with lust and pride.  I have bouts of depression and severe self-centeredness.  My thoughts go in ways that I am ashamed to confess, but I do confess and must be honest.  I am unworthy, yet my gracious God made me worthy, gave me a second chance and a third and a fourth.  Often I hear God say something like “watch this”, and then he does something I don’t understand.  It is all about Him.

He has taken me from a place where I was comfortable.  He revealed my pain.  He lifted my sense of worthlessness, and He gave me hope and purpose.

I am changed.  I am different.  Some say very different.  Through telling the story of The Community Fellowship even this week some have said we are crazy, and that my vision takes guts because we will most likely fail.

Hear me well.  I sit here thinking about the day we begin to use this building.  My first hope was that today would be that day.  That was my plan but not God’s plan. 

He is taking a place full of brokenness and preparing it to share life and share potential with others.  By removing what is wrong, God is putting in place what is right.  His way is life.  The enemy’s way and purpose is death.  That would be my death and yours.  Did you realize when you think that you have no purpose or no value that the enemy wins?  By thinking that way we miss the best and the purpose that God has for us.

My life counts for something in His book.  I am broken.  But He uses what is broken for His good.  I am struggling with sin.  But God uses what is simple and available to confuse or amaze those who think that they have it together.  Am I rambling?  I really do hope you are following these thoughts.

In this room one day in the future God will bring together people from all types of backgrounds.  There will be rich people, those who are middle class and even many who are very poor.  God will bring those who have never battled addiction and those who are deep in of some kind of addiction.  This place will be one that shouts “there is life for those who want it”, and they will hear as well “it is all about God”.

My prayer is that this broken life will bleed for Him.  Jesus bleed for me.  For my sin, my shame and even my depression, my Jesus died to set all of that and to set all of me free.  That word, FREE, takes on new meaning when God is sharing it.

CHANGE is about freedom.  The change that God brings in to our lives makes us new people.  That change is forgiveness and freedom from the penalty of sin.

I was blind but now I see.
I was lost but now I am found.
I was broken and now I healed.
I was set in my direction but God changed my path.
I was depressed but He gave me joy.
I had major holes in my life but He makes me whole.
I was weak and He made me strong. 

Don't get me wrong because I am not turning my sermons, my writing or this church or our new campus to being about me.  If that happens, help me step aside please.  But I pray even more that you will help me set Christ Jesus as the center.  Not only is He our cornerstone, but also He is our life.  He is our agent of change.  He is our speaker of possibilities.  He is our friend, our help, our healer and our God.

I pray for those who walk these halls, for those taught in the classrooms, for those who are served, for those who choose to worship here that they and we see Jesus.  I pray that our lives are forever changed.  I want to be changed.

Change is not easy.  Did you hear that?  Change is not easy.  The farmer has to deal with the weeds so his harvest can be as good as possible.  God desires to deal well with our lives.  His desire is our obedience.  His desire is for our change.

Change is brought by His hand, and change happens when we allow His hand to work in and through our lives.  I want that.  How about you?

God will change your life as He has changed mine.
God will forgive your sin as He has forgiven so many of us.
God will fill you with purpose as He has filled each of us.
God will take what you see as empty and fill you with greatness.

Why will God do this?  It is because He loves you, and He loves me.  God demonstrated His love to us by giving His son.  Jesus, His son, died for our brokenness and wrong.  God took what was right and gave that for our wrong.

Where do you stand with Him?  Has He changed your life?  Stop looking at God as some higher power ready to hurt you when you step out line, and start looking at God with His arms open wide ready to accept and love you right where you are and as you are.  But He will not leave you the same.  He will change your life.

Let Him change you.
Let Him fill you.
Let Him use your heart and your hands.
Let Him show you the potential that He gave you.
Let His words fill your heart and head and your mouth.

“Be the change that you want to see in the world.”  Gandhi said it.  I have spoken that to you the last few weeks.  Now do that.  When God gets hold of our lives, change happens, and others will see the change.  They might even be changed too.  That is what I desire.

So, Father, I stop right now and record this prayer as you made my heart overflow.  I am amazed at what you accomplished this week through 70 servants of yours who were so talented.  They gave their time, energy and even their money to serve you in our place.  They did what we couldn’t do on our own.  Thank you, God, for making this happen.  We trust you supply us with what we need.  You will provide the money to pay for the building materials.  You will provide the time, energy and completion of our new campus, but God, I once again cry out to you asking that you fill this place with people who need to see and experience your love.  Then I pray, Father, that you will fill your people at The Community with so much of your love that it overflows to others.  I am grateful for what you have done, and in humility I ask you Lord to use me, to change me and to infuse me with all I need to lead these people to experience you.  This is my prayer in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

I loathe false humility.  Fake people make me sick, but I confess that often getting real with you is painful.  Without Him I have to find something else to lean on.  With Him I must make sure I am empty and ready for what He wants.  By the way, I believe that all of this starts with humility.  We must be humble so that He can change us.  Is that what you want?  I pray it is.  I pray that He does change us.  And let it begin right here.

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