Monday, May 29, 2017

The "Love First" Challenge by Mike DeCamp

The “Love-First” Challenge

When I was a student in Bible College, every day we gathered for about thirty minutes of chapel, and usually one of the upper classmen would speak.  There was one guy who almost always focused his message around the topic of God’s Love.  As an 18-year old, I blew it off.  “Love again?  Blah, blah, blah.  I wish he’d talk about something more powerful!”

In the early 1990’s, Nancy and I were in a congregation where the lead minister began a series of sermons on what it meant to be “loving.”  He encouraged us to examine our interactions and measure it against whether what we were doing was the “loving thing to do.”  This was an odd message to my ears considering we were part of a pretty doggone legalistic ministry at the time.  Unfortunately, it was a short-lived theme.

Now, here we are in 2017, and there has been something bothering me for quite some time.  Something just didn’t seem to be right.  I’ve felt like we’ve been missing something basic, something important.  Still, I just couldn’t put my finger on it.  In the culture at large, Christianity seemed to be more of an irritant than an answer.  In our congregation, people are disconnected, lackluster, and even a bit disenchanted.

Are we not hardline enough?  Are we too hardline?  Is there some program we need to implement?  Is our music too contemporary?  Is our music too traditional?  Are we too much on the fence?  Do we need to focus more on the kids?  On the new adults?  On the young parents?  On the older folks?  Do we need to be more demanding?  Surely, there was a program—that’s our fallback answer.

Lots of questions, but no real answers.

Then, I picked up the book “Love First” by Don McLaughlin at ElderLink in April.

Ding, ding, ding!

What we have been lacking is a true focus on love that has been conditioned by God’s principles.  Let me share a few scriptures to make my point.

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together.  One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:  “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?”

Jesus replied:  “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  Matthew22:34-40

“A new command I give you:  Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  John 13:34-35

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”  Matthew 5:43-45a

Love is the basis of everything we do and everything we stand for as Christians, and yet, it seems to me that we pay these verses only lip service.  We have relegated it to a nice concept when in reality, it is supposed to be at the heart of our purpose and our mission.

Folks, every problem we have can be boiled down to a love issue:  I’m not loving you enough, or you’re not loving me enough, or we’re not loving God enough.

I don’t feel connected…  Not enough volunteers…  The leadership is aloof…  No one calls me…  We’re losing young families…  I’m too busy to get more involved…  We’re just not clicking as a group…  I don’t like the song selection… 

I could go on, but every one of those complaints (and more) can ALL be boiled down to a love issue.

Let me share one more verse with you:  1 Corinthians 13:1-3

If I speak in the tongues of men or angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Friends, if you distill that verse down to the base meaning, it says that if we as Christians do not cloak all that we say, all that we write, all that we tweet, all that we post, and all that we do in love, we are both empty within ourselves and quite irritating to the world around us.

I was so very wrong to blow this off as a young Christian, and I was wrong to only give it a cursory commitment as an adult.  It is time for me to change, and I am challenging all of you reading this to examine yourselves.  Change with me.  We need to love one another…the way that God intended.

I want to recommend Don’s book to the church.  You can order it from Leafwood/ACU Press, or on Amazon.  I have encouraged the elders and their wives, along with the ministry staff and their wives to read it, and they have agreed.  You should read it, too.  I think you will be hearing more about this in coming weeks.  Also, Don McLaughlin will be visiting us in August, so you can hear his thoughts first hand.  We will be having a combined Men’s and Women’s Breakfast on Saturday, August 5th.  Plan to attend.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Showing Up to Serve by Steve Faidley

Showing Up To Serve


Our Mission Integration Director, Glenn McDonald, serves as our “chaplain” at my employer.  Glenn is also a former minister.  He sends us a daily “reflection” to start our day.  It’s a reminder each day that God is with us.  It’s a reminder to integrate our values into what we’re doing.  It’s a reminder to think outside of ourselves.


Glenn recently offered up the following reflection:

Image result for empty restaurant

“A few years ago I arranged to meet a good friend of mine, a pastor on the north side of Indianapolis, for lunch.


We decided to try a restaurant well known for its savory Italian dishes. 


We walked through the front door at high noon.  Interestingly, there was no one to greet us.


Far across the dining room we could see a few tables of customers being tended by a single server.


Looking toward the kitchen, we could see three cooks.


They were standing motionless, looking at us plaintively. 


OK, I thought they were looking at us plaintively.


After five minutes the manager appeared.  He was deeply sorry, but he couldn’t seat us. 


Only one server had come to work that day, and she had her hands full with those who had already arrived.


My friend and I looked at each other.  We were both hungry.  So we walked across the street and ate at McAlister’s. 


It occurred to us that we had just experienced a living parable of God’s kingdom.   


The world is full of hungry people.  Cooks are waiting to feed them.


But there aren’t enough servers. 


Until the servers show up, not many people are going to be seated. 


Or cared for.  Or fed.  Or inspired to become servants themselves who will feed still others.


Do you want to do something spectacular today?  Something that will deepen and extend God’s reign on earth?


Show up and serve.”


I noticed two things in Glenn’s message:  the importance of relationship – he starts by sharing with us that the setting of this experience was while building relationship with another minister friend – and what it takes to serve. 


As we start a new year at Southeastern, I am challenging myself and all of my brothers and sisters here to improve our “serve.”  We have some exciting changes expected this year!  We have our building project kicking off this spring!  We expect to have our permanent children’s education minister in place!  We expect to have new elders working with us!  What more can God do with us if we open up to His leading and trust Him?


An upgraded building is just a building until and unless we are using it fully as a tool for the Kingdom.  A tool takes human hands to show up and put it to use – that’s our service in action.


Biblical education (children or adult) is the very best food for our souls, but it’s just knowledge until and unless we let it change our hearts and trust those teachings in building relationships with each other.   


We may have elders appointed to shepherd this congregation, work with the ministry staff and lead this body where God would have it to go.   But we are all tasked to take charge however we are able in our relationships with God, as an active, participating part of this body, and in leading others to Christ.


Our service in God’s kingdom is more than just showing up and filling a role or doing some work.  Our service to God is also being there for each other.  We serve by building relationships with each other.  We serve by supporting each other.  And it takes time.  This morning, we should greet each other.  We should welcome all.  But let’s all challenge ourselves at least once this morning to do more than exchange the usual, “Good morning!  How are you?” and take a little time to ask about and share what’s troubling us and what’s been a blessing.  Let’s start making it a habit to join others for lunch if we’re going out anyway.  Let’s plan ahead and invite others to join us for a meal at our homes.  We have small groups that can help us nurture our relationships, care for each other, and feed hungry souls.  Let’s engage each other in deeper spiritual relationships, tear down our walls of privacy, and share so others can pray with us and for us and take better advantage of our Almighty God’s power that he longs to use in our lives.


We should all be willing to serve the Lord by serving one another by giving up time, effort and space in our lives to share.  Some are well along in that journey.  Some are just beginning.  Let’s put aside judgement and fear and put on love and compassion.  Let’s all show up and serve each other.  And as we start 2017, our outpost of the Kingdom here at Southeastern will be strengthening our foundation to do amazing things for God!