Sunday, April 30, 2006
Thursday, April 20, 2006
When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them, and the teachers of the law arguing with them. As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.
"What are you arguing with them about?", he asked. A man in the crowd answered, "Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.
"O' unbelieving generation," Jesus replied, "how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me." So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked the boys father, "How long has he been like this?"
"From childhood," he answered. "It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us."
"If you can?", said Jesus. "Everything is possible for him who believes." Immediately the boys father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"
When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the evil spirit. "You deaf and mute spirit," he said, "I command you, come out of him and never enter him again."
The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, "He's dead." But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.
It's a story of a father and his son. Neither are named, but I know the father, he lives in my skin.
There are two things I love about this story, both bring encouragement and hope.
One is that God hears my prayers even when my faith is shaky and my doubts are firm. He always stands ready to lift me up, even when I have thrown myself to the ground. The second is that God listens and acts on the prayers I offer on behalf of those who cannot or choose not to voice them on their own.
So to sum it up, I don't have to know God in fullness for Him to hear my prayers and act in my life and those I'm concerned about don't have to know Him at all for Him to be willing to impact their life. So bring your doubts, bring your fears and bring your friends who are confined to a mat. Bring them all before the Lord our God who is faithful to all in need.
Saturday, April 15, 2006
I had an experience yesterday, one that I have had many times before. My family is currently going through what I will just call a stressful situation. On my way home yesterday, I had a vision that always seems to pop into my mind when I'm dealing with something emotional. It's me sitting in the middle of my church. I'm not talking about during a Sunday morning service, but an empty church with me sitting by myself, not saying anything, not doing anything, just sitting in silence. Something about this vision brings me such comfort, a feeling that if I were there right at that moment, I would feel nothing but peace. Now, I know that being at the church building doesn't bring me any closer to God than I am when sitting in my car or at my house or anywhere for that matter. I know that God's fullness is with me everywhere and that the church is just a building where the real church meets. Gary, our minister often refers to our building as "just a box". I think that fits. It's a box of memories. That same box of old photos we all have in a closet somewhere that we pull out, ruffle through, pick one out and say, "Remember when...".
You see, that's the way our church is. It's not the "Sunday morning put your time in" kind of place. Life happens there. You can find a piece of history in every corner. I walk in the kitchen downstairs and remember my first visit to Oakhaven with my brother after working with him at the University. That same kitchen has been renamed "Jimmy's Junction", after a great man whom God took home a few years back. We talk about the great ribs he used to make for our annual corn roast, but he's remembered for so much more than that. Then we have "Truit tower", the silo that has been renovated into a prayer room and named after one of the founders of the church. It's probably my favorite place in the building to just sit and meditate.
If you put your ear to the wall in the auditorium, you can still hear the distant echoes of past songs sung in praise to our Father. If you reach down and touch the carpet, you can still feel the tears that have been shed in times of prayer.
I have known God all my life, but this box is where I let Him wrap his arms around me. My wife and I were baptized in that box, we were married there and our children were baptized there as well as my mother and father-in-law. I have had the privilege of praying for others there and have been humbled by others who have prayed for me.
Oakhaven Church is a pretty unique building, but the concept of what takes place inside isn't. I think it's what God desires in each of us as His church. As I picture myself sitting there alone in the church, I guess that why it gives such peace is because I have seen so much of God's handy work there. I've heard the stories of lives changed, seen the joy of answered prayers, felt the comfort of friends in times of need. It reassures me that we have a God who is bigger than us but loves us and chooses to walk with us and work through us to help each other.
I pray that you have a church like my church and if you ever find yourself in Oshkosh Wisconsin on a Sunday morning or a Wednesday evening, stop in, I'd love to meet you.
Dedicated to Gary Cleveland. My brother in Christ. Once again, I thank you for allowing God to use you as He has.