Sneakers for God

In a beautiful passage in Romans 10 it says “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things!” quoting from Isaiah 52.  I’ve never been much of a foot fetish person so this has always sounded a little weird to me.  When someone brings good news I would expect at least to say something like, “What a beautiful smile,” or ”How nice to see your face,” but not something as apparently tacky as “Wow, Dude, you’ve got some great looking feet!”

This thing is, when someone goes out of their way to bring the reality of the Gospel to people, there is an intentionality to it.  Sometimes it seems to happen in a spontaneous random way, but if we all had to rely on random spontaneity to receive the good news, a lot of us would still be waiting around unblessed by the news that we can share resurrection with Jesus.   God and God’s messengers have to be intentional about it.  It is a dispatch sent from the heart of heaven and it gets to you by people who put their shoes on and bring it.  Whether we climb into a pulpit or go across the street to a neighbor or traipse out early on a Sunday morning to teach children, it is our literal or figurative feet that take us to that divine appointment.  Anyone who shares the gospel with people in any form is sort of like God’s sneakers.

A friend of mine named Carol has always taken her work for God seriously but herself not so seriously.  So I know I can get away with this analogy.  We’re not really celebrating her retirement from full-time ministry but we are expressing gratitude this week for her service in our midst – things like the way she’s been a good example of God’s sneakers around here.  Sometimes she’s been God’s sneakers running around to give sermons in three locations on one Sunday in the same church.  Often she’s been the sneakers of God going out of her way to bring the comfort of healing and resurrection to sick or hurting people both within and beyond our congregation.  More than once she’s been the sneakers that walked into a situation where her non-anxious presence helped conflicted, out-of-sorts church members sort things out and find themselves leaning into God’s grace more than before she entered the room.

None of us is called to steal God’s glory or the luster of Jesus’ Gospel.  Maybe its good we are not called God’s smile, or God’s voice, of God’s face.  But it’s always a good and safe thing to consider ourselves God’s sneakers.  Thanks for being a great pair in the time you’ve served with us, Carol.  We’re glad yours aren’t going to be totally hung up in some far away locker room just yet.  In the meantime let me just say to everybody else.  Let’s follow Carol’s example and get more ‘sneakerish’ around here.  There’s a lot more good news to share.

Let’s lace ‘em up and get out there.

Grace and peace,

Dave

We Actually Do Stuff Too

One thing I love about being part of a local church is that we don’t just talk about lofty principles and pious sounding platitudes about God.  Well, I guess I do plenty of that.  But I know and see a lot of people around here who listen  — yes — but who also actually do stuff.  They put food in bags five mornings a week; they do stuff like rock babies in their arms, sit and tell stories of faith to children, travel places to put real hammers to actual nails in order to fix up homes; they go out and sit by the beds of nursing home residents; they gather to send care packages overseas; and that’s just touching the surface of the ”concrete action-ness” of our faith.

We’re continuing to think about applying FranklinCovey’s Four Disciplines of Execution (think implementation) to the results of our Vision 2020 planning process.  The second discipline is to “Act on Lead Measures.”  Another way to put this is to “translate lofty goals into specific actions.”  After all, from reading Matthew 25 it certainly appears that when it’s all said and done and we appear before a just and merciful, loving God the first question he will ask us will not likely be, “Did you develop a really schnazzy, profound, and visionary business plan?”  What he will say is, “When you lived out your faith by actually visiting the incarcerated, caring for the sick, feeding the hungry, and clothing the needy you were doing it for me, and such concrete, specific action will be lauded in my eternity forever.”

Never forget that.

I am moved by the profound, lofty principles and goals of our faith: fulfill the great commission and commandment, do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God.  But I also love the “concrete action-ness” of our faith.  After all when you follow a guy who not only took a spear in his side and nails in his hands and feet for the world, but who also touched persons with skin diseases, washed people’s feet and even came back to fix breakfast for his friends – you can’t exactly expect to sit around and do nothing but think lofty thoughts.

We do stuff – not just to do stuff, but because it’s what the kind of God Jesus incarnated incarnates us to do.

If you can’t understand that last sentence, don’t worry about it.  Just keep doing stuff for Jesus and you’ll have gotten my point.

Grace and peace,

Dave

Focusing Beyond Burgers

I have been thinking recently about how to apply FranklinCovey’s Four Disciplines of Execution in a distincitively Christian way.  How does this relate to Jesus?  The first discipline is to focus on the wildly important.

Jesus was a person of amazing focus.  Consider how in his temptations (Matthew 4:1-11) he successfully resisted the temptation to be merely relevant, or popular, or powerful (Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus) in ways that were inconsistent with his loving destiny.  Note too that he was always thinking in a Scriptural manner.

In Luke 9:51 Jesus set his face resolutely toward Jerusalem and everything he did along the way was consistent with the sacrificially loving deed he would there accomplish.  Talk about focusing on the always redemptive, wildly important!

Finally think about his response to the disciple brothers wanting top dog status in heaven.  His words in Mark 10:42-45 constantly call me away from whatever tangents I seem to get lulled into (burgers and plenty of others), and back into pursuing Christ honoring goals in a Christ-like manner.

What is wildly important for you?  Our congregation has determined that eleven specific goals relating to young people’s ministry, intentional faith development, and mission outreach are wildly important for us to fulfill our calling to make disciples of Jesus for the transformation of the world.

As we do so, may we borrow supernaturally from the scripture-saturated, resolute-faced, tangent-avoiding focus of Jesus.

I sure need that.  How about you?

Grace and peace,

Dave

Can You Imagine . . . ?

Reflections on Our Vision

Here at Smyrna Asbury UMC we have been trying to discern God’s vision for our local church for the next several years and know it has something to do with making the compassion of Jesus tangible in our midst.  We have developed eleven “Wildly Important Goals” (WIGs) relating to three ministry areas and are now working on implementing them utilizing the four disciplines of execution (Franklin Covey).

The first is to “Focus on the Wildly Important.”  The ministry areas we have determined to be vitally important include Mission Outreach, Intentional Faith Development, and Ministry with and for Young People.  Can you imagine…

… no unmet human need within a ten mile radius of our church building?  This would be something only God could accomplish, yet I am drawn by the tone and tenor of Matthew 25 to envision us doing whatever we can in cooperation with others to see that no one is left unclothed, no one unvisited, no one hungry, no one unloved.

… people drawing closer and closer to God and one another to the point they report regularly as in Luke 24 that their hearts were burning within them?  Ephesians 4:14-16 gives a “building up in love” reality that we are being called into.

… Christ-like character and relationships being forged in the lives of young people to such an extent that not only do they individually resist negative peer pressure but together they share a new, fresh blessing this community never thought possible?  As I ponder Matthew 18-19 I am moved both by the way Jesus welcomes young people into his arms and community of followers, as well as the deep wisdom and rich character qualities he makes available for all to experience.

Anybody want to be part of this vision?  I can’t wait to see what the next several years brings as we focus on these wildly important areas of ministry.

Grace and peace,

Dave

Who’s Future?

Ever sat at your kitchen table, head in your hands, wondering what in blazes you are going to do next?

I heard a sermon recently by Rob Bell on 1 Corinthians 1:1-9 especially looking at our destined identity in verses 4-8.  He asked this arresting question, “Are you going to be pushed into the present by (the mistakes and failures and destructive patterns of) your past, or pulled into the future by the promises of (our just and merciful, sanctifying through cross and resurrection) God?  Which will it be when your head is next in your hands over the table?

Coretta Scott King in her foreword to Standing in the Need of Prayer (New York: The Free Press div. of Simon & Schuster, 2003, p. xi) wrote of her husband:

For my husband, Martin Luther King, Jr. prayer was a daily source of courage and strength that gave him the ability to carry on in even the darkest hours of our struggle.

I remember one very difficult day when he came home bone weary from the stress that came with his leadership of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. In the middle of that night, he was awakened by a threatening and abusive phone call, one of many we received throughout the movement. On this particular occasion, however, Martin had had enough.


After the call, he got up from bed and made himself some coffee. He began to worry about his family, and all of the burdens that came with our movement weighed heavily on his soul. With his head in his hands, Martin bowed over the kitchen table and prayed aloud to God: “Lord, I am taking a stand for what I believe is right. The people are looking to me for leadership, and if I stand before them without strength and courage, they will falter. I am at the end of my powers. I have nothing left. I have nothing left. I have come to the point where I can’t face it alone.
Later he told me, “At that moment, I experienced the presence of the Divine as I had never experienced Him before. It seemed as though I could hear a voice saying: ‘Stand up for righteousness; stand up for truth; and God will be at our side forever.'” When Martin stood up from the table, he was imbued with a new sense of confidence, and he was ready to face anything.

In whatever destructive patterns, moral failures, lousy decisions you’ve been involved in or victimized by in the past; in whatever troubles you in your ‘head in hands over the kitchen table at 3 in the morning’ moments, may you also know the reality of 1 Corinthians 1:7-9.  May you also rise imbued with a new sense of confidence.  May you also by the toughness of trust be pulled headlong into the sanctified future God has promised.

Exactly how every kitchen table moment will end for any of us I cannot say.

All I know is, God is faithful, and because and only because he is …

… you and I can face anything.

Grace to you and peace,

Dave


Faithful God! Faithful Follower?

A few weeks ago I was watching the Philadelphia Eagles play the New York Giants on TV.  When the Eagles were down by something like three touchdowns in the fourth quarter I turned off the TV in disgust and did something else.  Later that evening my daughter mentioned that she saw on Facebook that the Eagles had won.  I couldn’t believe it and thought she was delusional, only to find out that indeed the Eagles had made an unbelievable comeback.

If only I had stayed with them I could have been treated to enjoying one of the most exciting games for an Eagle fan in recent history.  O, me of little faith!  I only hope I am a more faithful Christian, husband, father and friend than I was an Eagle fan that day.

Feeling duly chastened, I have watched the last two games of the regular season till the bitter end, only to watch my beloved Eagles lose twice.  Goes to show there are no guarantees of victory on any given day for a faithful sports fan.

The only real guarantee in life is that God is faithful to us.  “God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1Cor. 1:9).  God’s faithfulness and my promised destiny may not guarantee my faithfulness on any given day, but they sure should motivate it.

I plan to refuse to give up on the Eagles in the playoffs this year for as far as they go.  That is well and good, but what really blows me away is that we have a God who never gives up on us now and into eternity.  Never.

O Lord, go Eagles!  But please help me be a deeper, more faithful God-follower than I am a football  fan.  You certainly deserve that.  Amen.

The People Nobody Else Wants

Dave Humphrey, Pastor

I’ve mentioned several times in sermons and in conversation that from time to time I pray a prayer on behalf of our congregation and community – a dangerous prayer.  “Lord, send us the people nobody else wants.”  I’ve been praying this prayer off and on for about ten years.  I heard it used by a pastor in Florida and it just keeps coming back into my spirit every few months or weeks or days.

Not only have I seen beautiful answers to this prayer over the years in Smyrna and other places but it keeps teaching me things about the heart of God and human nature.  We’ve all felt, at least for a moment in time, like the one nobody else wants.  Some seem to have their whole lives defined by that identity.  Jesus was the despised and rejected one, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, for us.  I heard the haunting beauty of that again recently in a recording of the Messiah, right in the middle of all the glorias.

It can certainly be messy and irritating to be a community that figures out how to make room for everyone.  But when you serve one who was despised and rejected and somehow made it all worth it for all who would come to him, it becomes well — worth it.  Gloria in Excelsis Deo for the haunting beauty of the unwanted one who couldn’t find room to be born and who had to flee a dominated-by-evil-murdering-madman right from the get-go and yet who still, rather than rejecting and despising us – includes us.

Welcome, people, to the fellowship of the People-Nobody-Else-Wanted.  Nobody but Jesus (Galatians 4:4-5, Matthew 1:21).

Merry Christmas!

DAVE

Proverbs chapter 14 verse 31

Dave Humphrey, Pastor

I came across a great verse in Proverbs this morning.  It is chapter 14 verse 31.

The one who oppresses the poor

reproaches his Maker,

But the one who is gracious

to the needy honors Him.

Sure seems like Jesus expanded on this big time in Matthew 25.  Two images that I hope capture my attention every day from now to eternity:

an empty cross, an empty grave

sacrificial love, resurrection power

But where is Jesus?  Somebody once said something about the distressing disguise of the poor.  I just think he wants to do his thing in us and through us for others.

Blessings always,

Dave