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I’m not in church anymore!

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009


I’m through with church.


Have you felt the way I have recently?  Has church become a drag instead of a joy?  Does it seem that going to church is just something you do because you have always done it?

Have you experienced painful church splits, arguments, division like I have?  Are there questions you have been afraid to ask like: what am I supposed to do with all of this?  What is the purpose of going to church? Do I have to agree with my pastor?

 

Just kidding!

 Actually I am in church everytime the doors are open.  Whenever the restaurant table gathers believers or each Saturday night when our fellowship comes together I am in church.  When I skype my friend in Perth Australia for over an hour or gather each day in discipleship meetings with other brothers, I am in church. When I sit with friends in a worship service enjoying a teaching or a time of celebration, I am in church. When my close friend and I spend three hours grappling over passages of Scripture, we are in church.  Wherever two or three have gathered, we are in church.


But, I found myself asking, “What is this all about?”  “Why am I here?” “Where does all of this lead”? “Why are we getting together?”  I began a new journey in life.


I have spent the last several years writing The Journey of Thomas and I hope it will be published soon.  I was reading through the introductory section of the book and wanted to share this heartfelt, God inspired journey of my own with you all.


It is my hope that each person who reads this book will be more motivated and more equipped to share with others the hope they have experienced through their relationship with Jesus Christ. If you are reading this and don’t seem to feel that hope today, it is my prayer that through reading this book, God will show you His awesome love that never leaves us or forsakes us. At the end of this book, you will find my own story of hope that began in my life many years ago.


It is my personal belief that one of the most effective models of sharing the Love of Christ with others is through authentic relationships. This kind of love comes out naturally as we hear one another’s hearts and value one another’s created purpose for life.


How I Started on the Journey


The Dream

In 2005, God began to work in my heart in a new way. He gave me a vision of a church building. This church was a square block style building with a foyer outside of its double entrance doors that was simple and more of a breezeway than a formal foyer.


As the doors opened up I saw people inside that were very busy. They were sitting in a variety of places. There were pews in the room but they were not connected to the floor and scattered about. They weren’t randomly scattered however. They were specifically placed for unique purposes.


There were people praying alone; bowing, walking, sitting. There were small groups of people praying together. There were people laughing in joyous fellowship. It was clear that the image I saw was that the pews were flexible and this room was designed for multipurpose use.


On the walls were stunning abstract sculptures. They were made of hand blown glass in ultra luminescent colors and so beautiful to look at. There was a cross hanging on the front wall that was made of the same hand blown glass. The blues, greens, oranges, reds, and whites were incredible and glistening with swirling brightness.


A man stood up front on a short stool. He was chanting out loud as if he were practicing for something. He had a black cleric’s robe on and there was a tailor that was hemming his sleeves while he stood there.


When I prayed about this vision, the Lord seemed to give me its meaning. He said that he wanted the pews loosened so that we would be free from a habitual existence within our gatherings. He wanted us to be free in our worship, our prayer, and our fellowship with each other. He made it clear that these people in their various activities were a pleasure to Him.


He said that the sculptures hanging on the walls of this room were works of art that exemplified the gifts He had given His people. These were callings, gifts, natural talents, spiritual gifts that were so special to Him that He wanted them displayed. It was to Him like a parent hanging a picture their children painted on the front of the refrigerator for everyone to see. He made mention that too many of His children had their gifts hidden away and that we were not celebrating each other the way He would like us to.


The Cross was the gift of His son to all of us and that it was similar to the others in that all of the gifts were given from the Father to be displayed, that was His gift to us.


Now to the chanting robe bearing man, God said he was representative of the history of the Body of Christ. There are traditions that we had lost as a Body and needed to try them on again and to be refit for them. He wanted us to reconnect to some of the traditions that represent our history and our family. He didn’t want us to forget them. This represented the stories, the lives and the accomplishments of others that brought us to where we are today.


My Response

After pondering that vision for many years now, I am more excited about being a Christian than I have been for some time. I finally felt that God was freeing me to be myself, to experience Him uniquely. I breathed a sigh joy thinking that my Father in heaven was really excited about my gifts and others as well. I have wondered if the dream was more for me than anything! God wants me to be free from the shackles of my own fears.


I spent many years of my Christian life sitting in pews and church buildings. I was relieved to think that there were many ways for us to celebrate our God with each other and it didn’t all have to be in straight rows facing the front or in buildings organized to facilitate church programs.


But something even more profound happened in my heart. For the first time in many years God inspired me to a renewed desire to reach the lost, the brokenhearted for Him.


I began to pray seeking Him for a plan. What did He want me to do with what He had shown me? So, for four years I prayed. I sorted through my varied responses some not so pretty to talk about. I began to wrestle with my vocational life. I had been in the same ministry for over 20 years and felt called to it. It was tremendously satisfying for most of those years but something started to change.


I’ve read through some books on “missional” churches, “organic” churches “house churches” and found some great inspiration through them but there seemed to be something still missing. Some of these books were tremendous and liberating in my heart but at times they left me feeling frustrated and critical. I had to continue working through that too. It seemed they were just another kind of church program that didn’t look that much different from where I had been.


God began to rock my world through adversity and relational challenges. I began to experience shifting in every area of my life. I had no idea how tough things were going to get for me and thankful that the Lord took me through it all gradually.


The Splitting Church

I was a part of a great organized church that went through a horrible and wounding internal breakdown where two thirds of the congregation left along with the majority of the staff including the Senior Pastor. Then I began to visit other churches sporadically almost feeling relieved that I didn’t attend an organized church every Sunday morning. I remember one Sunday sitting on my cool breezy front porch wondering if this pleased the Lord for me to just be quiet before him instead of going out to a church that day. I thought this surely was liberation from being bound to some church habits that had brought so much pain anyway.


I settled into a small Bible study group of about 16 people that were fast becoming really close friends. I started to ask the question about whether this would replace the larger organized church for me and others. Most of the time this weekly Saturday night gathering meant more to me than a majority of formal organized church services I had been to in the recent years. We met together every week, ate a meal and studied the Bible together, supported and encouraged each other with prayer and counsel. We surrounded each other at weddings, funerals, and hospitals. We ate meals together sometimes; I had spontaneous lunches with the men. I affectionately called it my church of 16 members and 12 regular attenders. What is the church anyway? I began to ask questions that I never felt the liberty to ask. I found it challenging to answer the question so often asked, “Where do you go to church”. I would squeamishly say, “Oh, my main fellowship is with our small group that meets on Saturday nights.”


As I looked around my city I found that our organized church wasn’t the only one going through splitting and internal breakdowns. God reminded me of a huge storm that occurred in Memphis where within twenty minutes trees had fallen all around town, telephone poles laying in the streets and electricity out for weeks for some. The word I received from our locals was that the majority of the trees that fell were rotten inside but we just didn’t see it. I began to ponder what had happened.


God spoke to me in response to this event. “I had to clean the garden from the rottenness that was inside the trees. I am sorry it was inconvenient for you all but it had to be done”.


I saw how this event was similar to what I saw was happening within our local organized churches. It became apparent that through the adversity of internal battles for control, God was cleaning my heart, challenging me to new growth and direction. He was also challenging others in the same say. Yes, it is inconvenient, but it has to be done. I also had to get honest about the fact that I had not really experienced true relationship with the majority of those I knew. I had however, experienced the habit of going to church and smiling with a hole in my heart longing for connection that was meaningful.


But there was still something aching in me. I found another organized church that seemed to have something special and I knew some friends who had been going there and said they enjoyed it. So, I happened to meet a couple at a home cookout who went there and they invited us to attend so we went the next day.


I resigned myself that maybe this might become what we needed and would enjoy. The new fellowship of Christians very quickly embraced us. I was invited to speak and share my gifts with the body there. The pastor was very supportive of me personally and spoke into my life with great encouragement. So we joined this church with the hope in our hearts that we would find a special ministry there and fellowship that was fulfilling.


I was invited to share a teaching series with a small group there. I called it “The Tributaries of Grace”. I started out the series inviting the participants to focus this series on a person or people that they wanted to reach with the grace of God. This could have been a friend, a family member or someone they were having a difficult time with.


Something new came alive in my heart. I realized that through the years of ministry experience I mostly responded to healing and recovery for those who came to us. This had changed to looking outwardly into the lives of those who haven’t begun their own journey yet or were stuck along the road. So, there was a glimpse of a major change in my heart at that point.


During this season another very deeply invested part of my life became a huge challenge. The internal workings of the ministry I had led for over 20 years became broken, confusing and wounding. I tried every way I knew how to correct the wrongs. I prayed, sought intercession and counsel but things continued to worsen. The conflicts and distractions increased and I felt trapped in a place I had celebrated for so many years. I hated leaving my home every day to go to a place that was such a personal and corporate challenge for everyone. What was God doing? How could it be like this? It seemed no matter which way I turned I couldn’t find a solution.


I began to search God’s heart for some answers. This time I began to ask different questions than before. I pondered questions that would take me deeper than just asking what organized church to attend. God, what is Your church? Where is Your church? What does it mean to serve You? How do I fit into Your church? Who is Your church? God, where do you want me to be?


After a couple of years of tremendous heartache I left my position with that ministry in faith that God had something He was leading me to. One of the first answers He gave me was to free me from the ministry I led. It became very clear that God was allowing me to close the door on that season of my life and begin anew. I felt strongly that he wanted me to take all I had learned and experienced there and use it in a new way.


I began to adjust to being away from that ministry I finally let my guarded heart open to some extent within the church I had discovered. I began to feel released to step further into ministry there. But as I got further into the workings of this church there were rumblings of discontent and elder / pastor problems that seemed to have been developing over a period of months. One Sunday, we went through a painful confusing combustion from these problems within the organizational leadership. That day, there was a split and the elders and staff resigned leaving the pastor and about one half of the original congregation. I left on that overwhelming Sunday feeling lost and hurt realizing that many of my new friends were going different directions. It had happened again, now what. How many more times will we see this happen?


A New Beginning

Needless to say, I was swimming in discouragement and hopelessness. What will I do now? What is God doing? I surely didn’t want to attend any organized church the next week and decided to attach to our home group even more. I began to accept things as they were and received a peace from the Lord.


I became encouraged and freer than I had been in a long time. After a few months, I felt Him answer me in another very unique way. He said, “Watch for the Springs of Living Water to come up out of the streets and sidewalks of the city. Get prepared! This water is the Living Water as unto salvation. I am inspiring my people to come to me and I want my Body to be prepared to receive them but they will not be coming to the front doors of the organized church buildings, they will need you to go to them, to listen for their voices, to know them and care about them. Go out into the streets”.


Whoa! These many years of confusion and pain has brutally moved me to go outside the walls of the organized churches! Building by building God has seemingly jack hammered me loose from my own traditions, religious practice and patterns of habit! He changed my entire world.


I began to see His “church” was everywhere I met or gathered with followers of Jesus Christ. I saw that I was having church every day! My new church didn’t have membership other than to believe in Jesus Christ. I enjoyed lunches, spontaneous meetings in the market places of my life which became encouraging connections with the Body of Christ. I found that when I took my eyes off of the Sunday ritual I had allowed to become a habit and hallowed ground, I saw the Body of Christ everywhere I went.


I have seen a new thing develop in my life. I am, more than any time in my life, excited to see someone come to a relationship with Jesus Christ that is authentic, life changing and invigorating! I have felt my eyes perk up in a watchful manner to see if I can see what He sees. There are lost children out there, Lord? Where are they? Do you want me to go to them? Where will I find them?


I felt him saying, “You won’t find them inside the walls of the churches.” “Walk as Jesus did, in the highways and byways, in the world around you.” “You will find them there.”


Living Outside the Walls

Well, this past six months I have found myself in some really strange places. I have entered the world with weak knees, curiosity, and timidity. I am not prepared for this! I am uncomfortable in the world. It is too strange for me. I want to be comfortable, safe, and this isn’t a safe place.


I was reminded that we don’t live in a “G” rated world. This world is not my home! But, I am asked to enter it with my whole heart so as to be in it, but carefully so as not to become “of” it.


Wow, this is really exciting – and dangerous. I have been around people and involved in circumstances that were similar to my sin filled past but I had forgotten my old life long ago. I have heard language, seen behavior and gone places that many told me in the organized church I should not be around. I have lived in a white washed world sanitized in such a way that was to keep us safe from the world. What about the real grit of this world? What about getting our hands really dirty – for the Kingdom?


As I have gone through this journey of change, God has inspired me to write the Journey of Thomas. I have lived out the principles that laid the foundation for this series for many years in a very different setting. Now they seem to have become applicable in other settings that I am not sure I understood at the time. I certainly didn’t see this as I began to write the Journey.


Now that I have written the last session on Honor, I can say with excitement that it is my greatest hope that this will inspire the Body of Christ to turn their eyes outside the walls of the church to see what God is doing. It would be awesome if this material would prepare many for the harvest that God is preparing for His Church to receive.


I believe that one of the greatest tools of evangelism for our world today is our own story, our own life. We live in a world that hungers for connection. So many are living lives of aloneness, fear and shame that for some the only way they will come out of their prisons will be holding the hand of someone they trust though knowing they can relate.


The Journey of Thomas begins with honest self evaluation and along the way I hope the inspiring, grace filled, forgiving and restoring voice of the Living God will permeate our souls with desire for His children to come to know Him and to find maturity through authentic fellowship with other followers of Jesus.


Along the Journey, after God deepens our heart for Him, I hope we will have a Well of His Living Water to share with the thirsty souls around us that He reveals to us.


Are there going to be Springs of Living Water as unto salvation coming up from your streets and sidewalks? Are you prepared to receive them? Are your eyes fixed forwardly in rows facing the front of your church experiences? Or, are you beginning to feel the pews coming loose underneath your familiar places? Would you like your Father to celebrate your life on the walls of your fellowship? Do you want to connect to all the saints who have gone before you with wonderful stories of life and traditions?


Get ready for a rocky challenging ride. Be prepared for some things along the way that may confuse you; but God has a plan to move you closer to Him and closer to His heart’s desire for people to come to Him.


I found one of the answers to my question, “What does it mean to serve the Lord” was simple and straight forward. To serve Him is to serve His people with His message of new life, hope, and healing. He wants us to never tire of speaking of the hope that is within us. Will we walk the streets of our lives with our hands outstretched just like His were on the cross? Unafraid, unashamed, and ready to embrace, to hear, to value and honor, those we find in the fields.


Matt. 11: 28-29

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”


The Journey of Thomas is designed to answer to Thomas’ question; I don’t know where you are going, Lord. Show me the way. I would venture to say; you may find this question answered for yourself.

 

Life? Alone? In Despair?

Monday, November 30th, 2009


Shadowmanbyriver


Desolate, alone, no where to turn, despair…


So hopeless that taking his own life must have seemed like the only choice.


How does someone get to this place…we were heartbroken as we watched some 450 people came to say good-bye. They spoke of his life…A “Smile” that was contagious, a “Heart” that kept giving! The stories repeatedly testified of people, people whose lives were touched by this one man! One after another stood to bare witness of the man they knew…or thought they knew. He was a friend, a son, a father and a husband…


paul bearers 4


He seemingly, was a lover of life, people, family and the out of doors.


What went wrong?? How does one hide their despair from 450 people?



What could have been going through his mind?


There is nothing good about me…


If anyone were to find out…


No one would understand…


I am so ashamed…


I can’t ask…I just couldn’t take another rejection!


I must hide…


I feel hopeless…



These are thoughts many of us have had before…the lies that Satan plants in our minds. Our negative self – talk.


As I sat and observed this tragic occasion, I felt saddened at the people coming and going, watching their expression of bewilderment, grief, shock and silence! The truth was…People were crying out for a chance to listen, a chance to have a part in reversing the outcome. But that was impossible now. Questions were raised…why didn’t he call me? Why didn’t he trust me enough to confide? Feelings expressed… “I’m angry… I’m hurt…I’m so sad!” Honesty reigned, but yet many heads still hung in confusion and grief!


I’ve been looking at my relationships…Do I really listen? Do I see the body language?


Do I look beyond his/her words? Am I a confidant? Am I safe for him/her? Do the people I am closest to, feel safe with me. Do they trust me to be a confidant? Am I trustworthy?


There were many times when despair was also a part of my husband Roger’s life. He believed the lies as well. The lies that no one understood, that no one cared and that he couldn’t possibly be honest about his life, that he’d be rejected again.


I too, being in an unhappy marriage, didn’t want anyone to think badly of the man I loved. I didn’t think I had anyone I could tell that another man was paying attention to me. I believed I had no one I could trust with that information.


We both hid and continued in our pain alone. No one knew how messy our marriage was. So sitting through this service was very personal for us… both as a very difficult time to remember back to that life, but also as a time of awakening for us to not take our relationship or our healing for granted.


As I looked over and saw the tears streaming down Roger’s face, he reached over and squeezed my hand. I knew then that we were united in spirit, in our grief, our compassion for this family and in our gratefulness for what God has brought us through.


We may struggle at times with some of those same feelings, but we are confident in God’s love for us, our love for one another and the love of our families that has been tried and tested. When life’s circumstances seem difficult, we are not hopeless, because …


Psalms 37: 23 – 24: The steps of a man are established by the Lord; and when he falls, he shall not be hurled headlong; Because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.


There have been times, when I thought my life was out of control and this verse brought me peace. A counselor once shared with me that while driving along, he has reached over to hold the hand of his Heavenly Father. What a sweet reality! It’s a comfort to know that He is that close!


Lord Jesus, May your love penetrate us so deeply that others are moved by your presence, may they sense your love, and be drawn to You through us. Make us approachable, honest and open in our relationships, so that others feel safe. Help us remember that every relationship is divinely appointed by you. Make us aware of opportunity everyday to make a difference in someone else’s life. Forgive me for the times I have overlooked someone because of time, busyness, or my own selfish agenda.


Open the eyes of my heart Lord, to be sensitive to the needs of others and available when someone needs to be lead into your presence. Thank you for the privilege of placing the hand of a hurting person into yours…Amen


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I Don’t Trust You!

Monday, November 2nd, 2009


Trust

 

James 5:18-20 (The Message)

My dear friends, if you know people who have wandered off from God’s truth, don’t write them off. Go after them. Get them back and you will have rescued precious lives from destruction and prevented an epidemic of wandering away from God


A while back a very good friend had confessed that he had gotten himself tangled up in sin. I knew this wasn’t the first time and that he had been ensnared before. He was a part of a family that we had grown to love dearly. We laughed together, cried together, carried moving boxes together and considered each other close as if we were family. Actually, in Christ, we were.


As he spoke of more details concerning the situation I felt as though my skin was as white as a ghost. What would happen now! I asked myself if this meant that I might lose this friendship forever. Would our relationship survive such a repeated devastation? Our lives had become so close I wondered how many other ways we would be affected by this unfortunate circumstance.


Yes, this was all overwhelming to me but I felt compelled to stand by my friend because I knew his heart. He had a heart of love for God, for his wife and for his family. I knew he needed someone to believe in him but I kept thinking, “Can I ever trust him again?” Then I thought about the concept of trust and why I was so determined to have that question answered.


I Don’t Trust You!

We had decided to have coffee to talk like we had so often before. This time I found myself motivated by commitment and obedience rather than to spend time with a friend. I remember speaking from my heart out loud with him saying, “I don’t trust you!” I felt smug about my statement because somehow I felt I needed to take some kind of stand against his sin. I perceived I had to draw some kind line in the sand. I thought my statement would keep this in perspective. After all, I thought I had to be able to trust him in order to be his friend. But what did trust mean? How would it be applied?


Why did I have to trust him? I couldn’t control his behavior. I couldn’t control his repentance or his current or future choices. I could however chose to make healthy personal choices for myself so why was it so important for me to trust him? Sadness came over me again because I felt the potential loss of a good friend and wondered if we could ever be close again.


In my evaluation of the concept of trust I realized that much of my need to “trust” my friend had to do with my own personal needs and had little to do with him. I thought I had to be able to trust him so that I wouldn’t be hurt again. In the end, my need to trust was really a desire to control through my demands that he be trustworthy! It was all about me and I was trying to reach an impossible goal of manipulating my friend to behave so that we could have a relationship. I wanted him to mind his “p’s and q’s” and not repeat this again! I needed something from him as a friend and his behavior had threatened my getting what I needed in this relationship.


When I was sitting with him at a local coffee shop I looked at him and he was weak, sad, needy, and broken. He had always been so positive and encouraging. I was used to sharing my life with him to gain support for my own weakness and life struggles but this day was different. He had nothing to give me, he was empty. I made a decision that day.


I would need to look for others whom I could lean on and decided to give myself to my friend for his needs. I couldn’t share my needs with him because of his weakened state but I could listen to him and bear his burdens. He was doing everything he could to stay alive and make it through this current devastation. He needed me much more than I needed him. I had other friends and places for support. At this time, he had been abandoned by so many due to their responses to his circumstances. There were few available for him to lean on.


I realized that I no longer needed to trust him. This was so freeing for me to accept. I was able to release him to his own choices. I let him go to either succeed or fail but my life was no longer dependent upon him being good, or obedient, or safe. I drew some healthy boundaries around my heart so that he was free to live his life as he chose to.


That day, I chose to enter into his pain and share it with him. I made the decision to listen to his heart and to watch and wait for whatever the Lord wanted to do with him. It was between him and his Savior alone. I would just be his friend and cry with him in his pain, and rejoice in the restoration if that came about. I was hopeful that this would be the case but no longer demanding that it be so.


Well, hallelujah! Today, his life is restored. Our friendship is different. There are scars but there is also more peace and relief overall. We have shared the common bond of a battle for his life and he lived. If I encounter something terribly disheartening I hope there will be someone there for me who releases me to my Savior.


In a recent phone call my friend was deep in the middle of some more growth battles. This time they weren’t from bad choices, but from good ones. He had made further choices to enter into the risks of life to pursue his passions, his family, and his Lord. When he answered the phone he told me how much of a challenge the week had been. He described that he was in the middle of mud up to his knees in a cattle yard trying to get through the day. I let go of my properness and said to him, “it seems you are in a deep pile of sh%$#”. He began to cry then his sobbing turned into laughter.


We both got a good belly laugh out of our short phone call that day. Those tears and that laughter didn’t come from just the current circumstances but from a lifetime of living through terror and joy with Jesus. I don’t need to control  my friend’s behavior anymore because his life is in the Lord’s hands and so is mine.


Gal 6:1-3 (The Message)

Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day is out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived

 

Andrew – Like Jesus in another country

Friday, September 25th, 2009


Reaching Out Around the World

 

I recently met a man from another country through reading a magazine article written about his ministry. I am impressed with his commitment to reaching the lost and estranged with the Love of Jesus. He goes into gay bars in his city to engage in what ever the Holy Spirit is doing. He sends me weekly reports of what is happening so that I can pray for him and for those he is getting to know. As you read the excerpt below, you will notice that he does not put names, rather he puts initials.

 

For some this method of outreach may be controversial.  As I read Andrew’s weekly reports, I often get tears in my eyes as I think of the love he has for these people and the way he touches their lives in such a personal way.  We will not see this full picture until the other side of our lives.  But Andrew is sowing seeds of kingdom value for sure.

 

He is practicing the principles of The Journey of Thomas in his outreach.  He is honest enough with his own life and has confidence in who he is.  He listens to the heart cries of those he is getting to know and they feel respected and honored by their relationship with him.  It shows in their response.

 

Thursday Evening

 

Last night ended up both very cold and long. Sadly BA was drunk again, at least he was happy drunk. He proudly presented me with two raffle tickets he had brought for me and the family along with a telescope he had purchased himself and has been unable to use.

 

I turned up at bar at about 4:45 and had a bit of a chat with BG about faith. Andrew, my friend, turned up to join me at about 5:45 P.M. and soon he was chatting to KA, a lady (or transsexual) who I have never met and is about 6’6”.

 

Andrew also had a long chat with GR, who told me as I was leaving at 11:15 P.M. that he really like Andrew and thought he was a good bloke, he also said a heartfelt thank you to me for being there.

 

In some senses the night was fairly quiet until about 9. Andrew got to meet most of the usual suspects and we all talked about various issues.

 

A short plump lady walked up to me and told me she thought I was sexy and put her arm around me. She asked if I would buy her a drink as the bartenders had refused to sell to her as they thought she had drunk too much. I told her I was a priest (in Christ I am, I use it when convenient) and that I wouldn’t feel right about doing so. She then questioned me a bit more about what I had said and whether I was gay, she was convinced I was up until that point (she probably wouldn’t have been so provocative otherwise as she wasn’t heterosexual herself) and then said she really wanted to talk with me about some Christian stuff.

 

It took awhile to really have a good chat with her as she was very flighty. I offered to pray for her before I left. Well Andrew got away and I ended up sticking around til just before closing time as BE shared about her Christian mother and grand-mother along with her own desire to really live her life God’s way. She shared of her lesbian desires and the confusion they caused her and asked if there might be any help for her. I offered her my phone number and assured her that I would be willing to walk with her and pray with her further if she really wanted to live a consecrated Christian walk. I also shared that there were other ladies I knew who would also be happy to help her.

 

She talked of her sexual abuse as a child and her early attempts to try and gain the attention of female teachers when she was 8 and 9. We finally prayed and she was so receptive and desirous of God’s help. With many hugs and thank yous I finally managed to get away. The very next day, today, I received a text message asking when I could catch up with her and again thanking me for being willing to listen to her and take the time for her.

 

We still haven’t managed to key in a time suitable for her as she has some family and other obligations she needs to attend to. But again, please uphold BE in your prayers as she starts to look again to the God she trusted as a child. Pray that she will have the courage to keep on pursuing her healing and making the effort to push past the difficulties that will inevitably stand in her way as she seeks to meet with me again.

 

It has been an awesome week on a number of fronts, last night just capped it off. Sharon (my wife), previously during the week, shared with me a conversation she had with our eldest son who told her of how he was now joining his work-mates at the local pub after work where often they want to engage him in conversation regarding issues of faith. As they say, “Like father, like son.”

 

God Bless

Andrew

 

Please pray for Andrew.  Pray for protection, annointing, Holy Spirit intervention in the lives and souls of those he speaks with.

 

I’ve been thrown from the whale – back onto the beach!

Sunday, August 30th, 2009


John, what do you want? You cannot have it both ways.

 

Jonah 1:17; 2:1-10 – But the LORD provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights

 

From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God. He said: “In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry.

 

You hurled me into the deep, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me.

 

I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’

 

The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head.

 

To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you brought my life up from the pit, O LORD my God.

 

“When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple.

 

“Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.

 

But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the LORD.”

 

And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land

 

I can relate to Jonah!

 

I have been in the belly of the whale. This week has been one of the most challenging weeks I have faced in a very long time. Monday, my first day greeting customers with the intent of selling a car, started out with pretty good energy. By Tuesday I was experiencing a change of heart. Discouragement and grief replace my energy for the job I had taken. I began to seek the Lord while I was mowing my lawn. I poured my heart out to Him but, through the week of confusion, God hammered my heart. “What do you want John?” I have also been hammering God’s heart, ” You know where my heart is at God. How much freedom do I have to pursue my heart’s desire?”

 

The grief I was feeling went beyond what I have felt in a long time. As my wife and I were praying this morning, I said, “I sense that I am losing everything that is important to me”. Because of the heavy schedule and overwhelming commitment of this new job I have lost significant family time. I have lost contact with relationships that have become a strong support system for me. And not insignificantly, I am losing the mission the Lord laid on my heart. It has become severely challenged due to a lack of time and focus to put into it. I have experienced a significant number of hours each day standing on the sidewalk in front of the building praying and waiting for the potential of a buying customer. I felt trapped by the expectations and the reality of this kind of job. I felt lost in a world far away from my life calling and my heart’s desire.

 

When I entered the job at the car dealership, I did so quickly and had clouded eyes thinking that God was calling me to this to meet our financial needs and that He might have something in this for me that is important for my walk with him and for Grace Rivers. As I faced each day I had a different conversation with the Lord and actually I found that He was speaking to me in a fatherly way that I appreciated.

 

I had to evaluate who I am authentically. How did God create me and what is His calling on my life. I had no question about how I would answer that. Standing in front of the sales lot was certainly not energizing or fulfilling. I questioned whether or not I was just in an adjustment period and needed to stick with this since I started it. But my experience led to a deeper evaluation.

 

As I honestly looked down the road I could see that being at this job longer would not get better. I was fully capable of doing this job. I was slated for a department of sales that I knew I was capable of and would do so in a productive fashion. I had already made some friends and I knew that would help in this becoming more fulfilling. But as I honestly looked at the bigger picture I could see that the longer I was there, the further away from my heart I would be. I had to ask myself if I was willing to lose more of my heart and if God was actually saying He was changing my calling.

 

Oh, this is why I am feeling grieved. I was losing something. All that I have built up over the last year could be lost if I don’t get my butt up and accept the challenge that God has placed before me. He was asking me if I were willing to put the same energy into Grace Rivers that I would have to put into selling cars. I do not believe in my heart of hearts that God has placed me on this earth to sell cars. I would know that if it were true. He does give us the desires of our heart – He shows us what they are! I also have a responsibility to now engage my body and energy into that desire.

 

As I wrote in an earlier blog, a Wise Man, asked me what I had learned in my two weeks there. I didn’t have a full answer for him at the time but I believe God was truly speaking through Harvey Rosen. I learned how to step into this job that was clearly an open door, trusting God would lead me where He wanted me to go. I learned that there is potentially a kingdom value in everything we do. I learned that I can make a left turn going a different direction and how to trust God in that decision. I also learned that when I get a little way down the road I could make a u-turn and go back. I also learned that during that detour, God was present, available, and would take full advantage of the experience. I learned more about seeking God for my heart’s desire.

 

I am now what I believe is back on track but differently than before. I am motivated in a new way to seek something with all my heart. I am more trustful right now of God’s direction and of His plans for me. I also realize that I have some work to do.

 

I am more willing to be honest with myself, with my wife, others, and not the least, more honest with God. I am learning more about authenticity and transparency for sure.

 

My journey continues.

 

A Wise Man’s Question

Friday, August 28th, 2009


During my short stay as a car salesman I went through the week long process of internet training modules and interaction with managers and other salesmen.  I had entered into a brand new vocational experience. I discovered new people, a new environment and a totally new culture in every sense of the word. My mind felt the expansion joints discovering their limits.


One of the salesmen, Harvey Rosen, was sharing with me how glad he was to be working for this dealership. He mentioned he had worked for others but found this one particularly good to work with. I certainly felt more hopeful at that moment about the new method of gaining an income stream!


Harvey was helpful in other ways too. He was an older man who seemed very dedicated to his work. He was scurrying around each day with energy and sincerity about his job. Some people saw him as kind of a quirky guy, which he is, and kind of marveled at his part of the sales team being what it was.


After I had been there for about a week Harvey was sitting down outside on the bench and I sat down next to him. He looked at me with intense eyes and focused purpose. He said, “John, what have you learned this week”. I was shocked at the simplicity of his question and also shocked at the seriousness through which he asked it.


I said Harvey, I have learned a lot about the cars through the internet modules in Toyota University. He said, “That’s good John, what else have you learned?” He wasn’t going to take just one answer and through his questions, I searched my own experience.


I learned from Harvey more about not judging a book by its cover and not to take other peoples’ assessment of people for what they seemed to sense about someone.


It was at that point where my respect for Harvey went up tremendously. I found that maybe on the outside, Harvey was an older man with a slanted posture and a seemingly mumbling presence, but on the inside was as wise older man that maybe I could learn a lot from.


If nothing else, Harvey became one of the most sincere fellow salesmen I am working with. I believe it is his sincerity, commitment, and age old wisdom that helps him to sell cars. I would trust him!

 

The Journey of Thomas – My Own Journey – Truth

Thursday, August 13th, 2009


 

 

by John J. Smid

 

Job 20:20-22
Surely our foes are destroyed, and fire devours their wealth. Submit to God and be at peace with him; in this way prosperity will come to you. Accept instruction from his mouth and lay up his words in your heart.

 

 

My wife and I have gone through a huge transition during the last year and a half. When we made the decision together that I should resign from Love in Action-a ministry position that we had both invested our hearts and souls in over the previous 22 years-it was a major change for both of us, and even more so for me.

 

My Internal Evaluation

In the process of leaving I had to do a lot of internal evaluating; this required a lot of personal honesty and authenticity. I had to dig deep into my heart regarding my motives, my weakness and my strengths. It was imperative that I left with my heart as honest as it could be and to feel clear about my real motives regardless of what the circumstances at the time looked like. It was easy for me to vacillate at a very emotional level. For all intents and purposes it could have looked like I was leaving a conflicting situation in hopes I would find relief and a new beginning but that was not the real truth.

 

 

Five years earlier God had truly begun to change my heart. He dug around in there to see if my involvement with the ministry I was in included an idolatrous place in my life. I was certainly deeply invested. I had received much affirmation for what I had been doing all through the years but as I searched my heart I did not believe it was an idol for me in that sense of the word.

 

 

Something much bigger was happening and it was quite a move of the Lord. After I began to seek him for changes that I knew could unearth me from 22 years of investment, I found a new excitement, a hope in something that was quite different for me. This was the true beginning of Grace Rivers and I had begun a new journey for myself. I didn’t know what lay ahead but I began to wonder what it might look like. As I pondered these changes in my heart I tried to figure out a way to incorporate these new things where I was serving, but that didn’t seem to gain any momentum.

 

 

The Tearing Began

This is where the trials began. Things surrounding my connection with this ministry seemed to be shaking loose. Much of the shaking looked like the man on the roof with the pronged shovel tearing old shingles loose might look from the street. It was rough to go through and at times terrible to experience. But none the less, the ties began to break and I found myself losing my heart connection to the ministry.

 

 

After a couple of years of confusion, shock, misunderstandings, and personal and internal battles it became apparent that God was tearing me away literally one finger at a time while I struggled to hold on out of fear that I may not survive outside of where I was. After all, who would be interested in me? I didn’t have a college education and certainly the ministry I was serving was quite narrow in focus and often controversial. So, what would I have to offer another ministry or corporation? How would I make a living?

 

 

I also looked back over twenty years earlier. I worked for the Union Pacific Railroad for 13 years. It was a secure job with great pay and benefits. Many I worked with often wondered if they could survive outside of their job since it paid so well and their qualifications might not get them a job like that. So, I wondered the same thing. Where could I go to get this kind of a job. Maybe I have to stay here forever because certainly I couldn’t get this anywhere else. So, I felt trapped by my circumstances.

 

 

I realized that I had gotten to the same place in the ministry. Where would I go? Could I survive leaving this ministry position? I once again began to feel trapped by my circumstances thinking surely I couldn’t get this kind of position anywhere else. The deception in my own heart was a stronghold. Thinking I had nothing to offer another ministry or corporation since I was so “under qualified”. After all, I didn’t have a college degree or a resume’ that anyone would find useful outside of this narrow focused ministry I had been in for so long.

 

 

After another year of tearing away I got to the place where it appeared that I really had no option if I wanted to remain healthy personally and to leave before everything exploded internally. So, my heart had changed to the point where I began to ask the Lord to free me or I was going to go crazy. I got back to my roots in my faith where I prayed deeply and simply, “God, lead me out of here”.

 

 

Ok, I’ll Go Along With You God

Once the decision was made in my heart I did feel relief but at the same time the change had not occurred. In the meantime there was even more turmoil that was more challenging than anything I had gone through before. The last of the fingers had to come off.

 

 

When I walked through the decision I began to pray differently. “What do you have for me now God? Make it a surprise!” I didn’t want to contrive my future and truly wanted it to be built by Him. I wanted His best. If I was going to leave this 22 year investment then my future had to be His best. I hadn’t a clue what that might look like. I laugh now thinking that I might be able to contrive it anyway. With my history it wasn’t like I had this wonderful experience that would cause churches, ministries, or corporations to beg me to come to work for them!

 

 

Surprises? I want to know more.

God did in fact begin to surprise me. Week after week I saw this process like I was opening Christmas packages one at a time. I knew that whatever was in them would be good but until they were opened I didn’t know the content. One surprise after the other felt like dropping breadcrumbs that were leading me down this mysterious path of discovery. Day by day I released more and more of the past I had lived in, because I saw such wonder in the new challenges that were present and that lay ahead.

 

 

Today

John Smid will be selling cars. Talk about surprises! Who would have known 18 months ago that I would be working at a Toyota dealership? I didn’t ask for this. I never would have set my sights on this as an income stream.

 

 

As I adjust to the idea I am getting somewhat excited about it. There are many things about this job that fit my interests. The hours will allow some scheduling that coincides with continuing to build Grace Rivers and work on The Journey of Thomas. I look forward to working with some people again since I have been primarily alone in my office all year. I like the managers I have met so far.

 

 

Surprising to me, they saw my resume’ as a positive thing. “John, you completely fit the profile that we are looking for. We believe you will do very well with this job.” You mean my history and resume doesn’t disqualify me? You mean it is a positive? Well, there goes another lie I believed. It was cancelled right before my very eyes.

 

 

Honesty

The Journey of Thomas began in my life before I ever even thought of the idea. I had been building the concepts of Honesty and Authenticity on a very personal level. What am I feeling? What is really going on in my heart of hearts? If I had not been more personally honest I might have slammed a few people along the way from the deception if it had set in. During the process of the earthquake in my vocational life, I had to continually evaluate the circumstances and filter them through what I knew was really happening, rather than to blame my circumstances and expect the people around me to be what they were not.

 

 

Authenticity

If I had not focused on whom God created me to be I could not have trusted Him as much as I did through the process. As I rocked and rolled through the changes I had to keep coming back to who I was rather than what I had done. What makes up John Smid? What do I really want to do with my life? During this time I found that I had discovered a personal mission statement that really wasn’t new but had led me all through the years. While I was working in a narrowly focused ministry, a much more widely applicable mission was moving in my heart. This personal evaluation of my own authenticity saved me and others from a lot of grief for sure.

 

 

Transparency

Then, the idea of Transparency became a reality. Am I willing to say “Whatever Lord” upon my new life choices? Am I really willing to allow Him to surprise me? Is the element of surprise a positive thing? Actually it has been. Being willing to move wherever He wanted me to, added a wonderful journey to this last couple of years of my life. I learned that when I was flexible in my heart I could then ponder the mysteries of my future.

 

 

When my wife and I were on a cruise and had landed in Turks and Caicos in the Caribbean I had just begun to open up my heart to the Lord’s changes. I thought, “What would it be like to come here and start a brand new mission to reach the spiritual needs of this virtually bankrupt island?” My wife wasn’t so keen on the discussion but I was becoming free to begin a brand new life, walking in the freedom of the Lord using me, as I am, however He chooses to. Transparency had a brand new meaning for me and I was finally open to a new adventure.

 

 

The Truth!

Yes, I want to learn more each day to live in the truth because that is where I have found some of the answers to the question, “Where are you going Lord, and how do I get there.” It is a great place to be.

 

 

My Journey continues…………. Come along with me.

 

 

Application Principles

Having a more honest perspective on our life, our motives, and our potential can and will help to prevent relationship struggles and consequences. It will also help in our connection with the Lord. Seeing His perspective allows us to trust Him more fully.

 

 

I have often heard some refer to the added “beatitude” Blessed are the Flexible. Actually, “Blessed are the Meek” fits this quite well. Meek in this passage really means in its original language accepting God’s dealings with us as being good.

 

 

Being honest can help us to accept God’s dealings with us more fully and with less stress and outward manifestations of sinful responses. Honesty is good “preventive” medicine!

 

 

Prayer

Oh, father, I am so thankful for Your working in my spirit today. As I look back over the last five years I can truly be thankful that You saw a bigger picture than I could have imagined. In Your love and care for me You saw into the future something that I would truly enjoy and embrace even when it wasn’t on my radar screen. Help me to continue following You more deeply into the close and distant future.

 

PDF My Own Journey – Truth

 

The Journey of Thomas – Our Own Journey

Saturday, August 8th, 2009


 

by John J. Smid

 

Followers of Jesus Christ – Impacting our communities with the gospel!

 

As I think of the main purpose of The Journey of Thomas, I find myself continually coming back to what started all of this in the beginning. My heart changed a while back and a new burden developed for the lost, the wayward, those who are not connected to healthy fellowship or the Lord at all. I was comfortable in a ministry to Christians seeking God for a better life. I didn’t think so much about those who were lost assuming that was someone else’s burden and that God was taking care of that. When I thought about sharing Jesus with the world I discovered some adverse feelings.

 

Does sharing the gospel with others scare you?

 
When you think of talking about your faith do you want to run away?

 
Are some of your family relationships so tangled up that you can’t imagine talking with them about Jesus?

 
Is your schedule so full that you can’t take any more time out for those that seem to be lost?

 
Can you picture yourself building friendships with people who at one time were enemies to your walk with Christ?

 
Do you think sharing the gospel requires a lot of Scripture memorization and training in a specific program of evangelism?

 

Have you more often thought the gospel was for those called into evangelism?

 

 

I hope that as you read these questions, you already sense an awareness growing in you that the practical applications of the Core Values counteract these concerns. Perhaps you are already seeing how Active Participation, or being Non-judgmental, or practicing Transparency and Respect cause the underlying timidity in these questions to fade away. I hope that what is left is the truth that you have the tools necessary to be competent in personal evangelism. And in that truth, a growing desire to reach out to a lost and dying world.

 

As I have made further examination of these teachings, I see that growing in my life. Recently I was talking with a friend whom I hadn’t seen in a couple of months. As I shared my heart with her I found a passion coming out of my mouth. “We must get out of our church buildings and into the world!” The Journey of Thomas can help make that possible in your life.

 

In The World?

Several months ago a friend of mine accepted a position as a photographer for an independent movie project here locally. I offered to help him with his equipment. I thought it would be interesting to be involved and I went with a great deal of curiosity. As it turned out, this was a production about urban life in the “hood”. I was very uncomfortable at the beginning because we met in places that were unfamiliar to me and with people that I prejudged to be different from me. I remained quiet and just began to take it all in.

 

Very quickly I could see that God had something more in store for me. I began to experience kindness, acceptance, and overall friendliness from virtually everyone involved. I was humbled by their overwhelming acceptance.

 

Within a week God began to work deeply in my heart. I began to lose my preconceived view of these people. I still noticed a difference in color, but not as much of a difference in them. I felt free and open to speak and relate to those I might come in contact with in a new way.

 

Ironically-but not coincidentally-this was all occurring during the session I wrote for this book on Authenticity. I found that I wasn’t being very authentic with the people I was spending virtually every day with on the movie set. I felt convicted to go to share this with the Director of the film. I needed to be more authentic with him in order to share with him who I really am inside. My own personal journey was about seeing these people like Jesus does and to reveal myself to them. I found that my role there had less to do with the movie and more about the people and relationships. It became a challenging and yet encouraging experience.

 

I began to see my walk with Christ in a new way. I had been inside a lot of churches, heard many teachings, and shared rich fellowship over the years. Now I was experiencing my true faith walk quite a distance from those church walls. There was something very exciting about being in the “real world” God was revealing to me.

 

Looking Outside Our Walls

Can we serve Jesus fully if we remain comfortable within our own buildings? Will the Great Commission be fulfilled simply by inviting people to church? If we put more of our effort on how we greet visitors than reaching the lost, we are likely to attract many more “church jumpers” than new believers in Jesus Christ.

 

Our Journey-the one that you and I are being invited to-is about building relationships with those in the “real world”. Since these relationships will potentially be with people we are not used to being around, we need live a life more honest, authentic, and transparent. We need to become more actively involved in their lives, less judgmental, and protecting their confidentiality. We need to become more sensitive, respectful, and honoring of them as people!

 

What? You Want Me To Be a Friend of His?

Another part of my own journey began a few years ago. I was confronted with protestors standing on the sidewalk in front of the controversial ministry I was directing. They were picketing our youth program and were stirring a lot of media to action. They were also being antagonistic towards us and to me in particular. One of the protestors was filming the event to produce a documentary with a clear agenda to change what he believed was wrong.

 

After a few weeks had passed he requested a meeting with me. I reluctantly said yes, and went into the meeting with some hesitancy.

 

Once the meeting began I found him to be quite different than I expected. He was quite warm and engaged in an honest and transparent dialogue. He was very easy to talk with. I found he was nothing like what I expected him to be. His honesty was disarming and the conversation was actually comfortable. To put it simply, I liked him.

 

We have had many more meetings over the years.. We have enjoyed getting to know each other and he admitted to me that he found me to be different than he expected as well. We have shared with each other that we actually found a friendship that we appreciated.

 

Our relationship has taught us both a lesson. Don’t judge a book until you have read it! Yes, we have differences. But in the end, our differences are not the focus of our friendship. I have learned a lot from him. My life is richer from knowing him. He has opened my eyes to see the world very differently. I see Jesus’ calling on my life to see the world as a place where He wants me to be. He has called me to reach out, to be in the world around me while not being of it. And another special outcome from this is that the documentary he intended to be an expose’ on the ministry he was opposed to has changed its purpose. It has now become a documentary about two men from opposite points of view on something who developed a friendship.

 

I have several new friends now that are different than me and may not have the same spiritual or social convictions that I do, but I like them and learn from them. I hope they like me too.

 

None of these relationships would have been possible without an intentional application of the lessons taught through the Journey of Thomas. As his journey becomes our journey, we will learn to see others as Jesus sees them.

 

Springs Of Living Water, As Unto Salvation

 

The ravaging of the church occurs continually over doctrinal disputes, congregational splits, and denominational fracture. The unfortunate result is the undermining of the Body and distraction from the Great Commission. And yet there are springs of living water as unto salvation coming up from the sidewalks of our cities. The springs are full of life but many Christians are without the tools or experience to know what to do. How can we respond to the needs that are so apparent? I would suggest maybe we should look for people we feel inspired to get to know on a more personal level.

 

A lady told me recently that her greatest burden was to reach the tattoo crowd. Well, I am not sure what she meant by her description of the people that she wanted to reach, but in her heart was a growing burden.

 

How will she reach the people she has a burden for? Are they going to come through the doors of a church? Chances are she will have to go to them. She may have to find a new hobby, a new club, or a new place to hang out. She may have to be willing to face ridicule or misunderstanding; it might not be comfortable at first. But I believe that as the grace of God empowers her to go where He sends her, she will find some great new friends, discover God’s purpose on her life, and build an incorruptible treasure in Heaven.

 

The Great Commission has to be in the streets of our neighborhoods and communities. It might be in a bridge club, or a hobbyist club. It might be at the PTA, or Neighborhood Association. You might find God calling you to play in a secular band, or audition for a community theater. Or, it might just be your next door neighbor that He calls you to serve with sacrifice of time or resources.

 

This is something I would love to see the Body of Christ move towards! So many organized churches plan a place whether they see it or not, that is a “bless me club” including a well organized sermon, entertaining highly technologically developed music, donuts, coffee, meals and programs for children and teenagers. But, will you find the lost there? Unless we are intentional about our pursuit into the world, we will find ourselves far too comfortable in our surroundings and a lost and dying world will be left untouched.

 

What would happen if we let ourselves get into the streets of our lives and gathered together for refilling, and to process our experiences? I believe we will find that Christ will lead us into the world if we let Him. As we become faced with our own life experience and that of our peers, we will likely need Christ desperately! Rather than protect ourselves in a church program, we can empower ourselves towards inspirational living. Imagine our churches replacing programs with preparation towards ministry, teaching us what it means to be in the world, but not of the world?

 

Where is Your Mission Field?

 

Another friend of mine is a DJ artist. He loves Electronic House Music. He had a gig at a local club and invited several of his friends to come. Wanting to bless my friend by showing my support of his talent and interests, I went. It was at a midtown club that was in my view, an unpleasant environment. The event was smoky, loud, and involved all kinds of people that seemed incompatible with this grandfatherly guy.

 

When he asked me later what I thought, I had to be honest and tell him that at first I couldn’t understand why he would be in such an ungodly environment. But after I evaluated my own life I thought about the movie production that was also very ungodly and smoky, and unattractive. But God gave me the grace to be there because it was about building relationships and reaching others with what I have experienced myself. I have experienced the love and grace of a forgiving God who cares deeply for my life. It is my desire to share this with others. I wasn’t of the world, but I sure was in it!

 

My friend has a tremendous burden for the people that come to experience Electronic House Music. They respect him and that is a mission field for him. I am now very supportive of his burden and pray for his outreach to be very successful!

 

Where is your mission field? Are you feeling a burden for a place where you might be called by God?

 

God is calling you to share His grace with others

 

A lady I know had a dad who owned a prominent gay bar in San Francisco. He was Jewish and the men whom he got to know from the gay bar would come into their home. She would ask her dad why he did that, knowing he didn’t agree with the practice of homosexuality. His response was, “Dear, we have our own standards that we live by but we cannot expect the world to know them or live by them. My responsibility is just to love and respect them”. This lady grew up to become a very committed and spirit filled Christian. It was a lesson in her life that drives her to this day.

 

Is it overwhelming for you to open your eyes to see the real needs right around you? You can close your eyes, but it doesn’t remove the need. It is easier for me to go to “church” and hear the nice music and to receive the friendly Sunday morning hellos and hugs from my friends than it is to go into the streets and expose my heart in a real world.

 

I believe the Journey of Thomas has the tools and principles that will relieve our fears, motivate our desires, and help us to keep healthy boundaries that will be necessary to reach the lost for Christ. I also believe it will alleviate some of the pitfalls that discourage us from reaching out.

 

I hope you will join the Journey.

 

Printable PDF – Our Own Journey 

 

 

© 2009 John J Smid

Please do not reproduce without permission

jjsmid@gracerivers.com

PO Box 382277 – Germantown, TN – 38183

 

The Journey of Thomas – Honor

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009


Romans 12:10
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.

 

We have gone through 8 other Core Values which bring us to Honor. We began with Honesty, and have ended with Honor. I think it is very interesting to see the “H O N” at the beginning of each of these book end topics of this series.

 

One meaning of the word Honor is to engage in “public esteem”. To honor someone is to reflect respect and value to them in a public fashion. In the King James Version it says “in honor, preferring one another”.

 

When we have learned how to be internally honest, to rid ourselves of false images and pretense, and opening our lives up to God’s plan and purposes; something changes inside our character. At this point we move into other’s lives more intentionally, becoming less judgmental with them and hold their lives with confidentiality.

 

From this point we move into learning how to love them sacrificially just because we are commanded to and therefore we value them as God does. We learn how to see things in their lives that are worth affirming even if we don’t agree with other aspects of their life.

 

I have experienced several times lately a natural movement towards public honor. When I have seen beneath the surface of a person’s life and find their human heart to beat just like mine I have good things to say about them when I tell others the story of our meeting.

 
I recently received this poem that sums up our series:

 

Shoes in church

 

I showered and shaved I adjusted my tie. I got there and sat in a pew just in time. Bowing my head in prayer as I closed my eyes I saw the shoe of the man next to me touching my own I sighed.

 

With plenty of room on either side, I thought, ‘Why must our soles touch?’ It bothered me, his shoe touching mine but it didn’t bother him much.

 

A prayer began: ‘Our Father’…. I thought, ‘This man with the shoes has no pride. They’re dusty, worn, and scratched. Even worse, there are holes on the side!’

 

‘Thank You for blessings,’ the prayer went on. The shoe man said a quiet ‘Amen.’

 

I tried to focus on the prayer but my thoughts were on his shoes again. Aren’t we supposed to look our best when walking through the door? ‘Well, this certainly isn’t it,’ I thought, Glancing toward the floor.

 

Then the prayer was ended and the songs of praise began. The shoe man was certainly loud and proud as he sang. His voice lifted the rafters and his hands were raised high. The Lord could surely hear the shoe man’s voice from the sky.

 

It was time for the offering and what I threw in was steep. I watched as the shoe man reached into his pockets so deep. I saw what was pulled out and what the shoe man put in. Then I heard a soft ‘clink’ as when silver hits tin.

 

The sermon really bored me to tears, and that’s no lie. It must have been the same for the shoe man for tears fell from his eyes.

 

At the end of the service; as is the custom here we must greet new visitors, and show them all good cheer. But I felt moved inside somehow and wanted to meet the shoe man.

 

So after the closing prayer I reached over and shook his hand. He was old and his skin was dark and his hair was truly a mess. But I thanked him for coming, for being our guest.

 

He said, ‘my name’s’ Charlie I’m glad to meet you, my friend.’ There were tears in his eyes but he had a large, wide grin.

 

‘Let me explain,’ he said, wiping tears from his eyes. ‘I’ve been coming here for months and you’re the first to say ‘Hi.” ‘I know that my appearance is not like all the rest’. ‘But I really do try to always look my best.’ ‘I always clean and polish my shoes ‘before my very long walk. ‘But by the time I get here they’re dirty and dusty, like chalk.’

 

My heart filled with pain and I swallowed to hide my tears. As he continued to apologize for daring to sit so near. He said, ‘when I get here I know I must look a sight.’ ‘But I thought if I could touch you then maybe our souls might unite.’

 

I was silent for a moment knowing whatever was said would pale in comparison I spoke from my heart, not my head.

 

‘Oh, you’ve touched me,’ I said ‘and taught me, in part; ‘That the best of any man is what is found in his heart.’ The rest, I thought, this shoe man will never know. L

 

ike just how thankful I really am that his dirty old shoe touched my soul. (author unknown)

 

Printable PDF – Honor

 

The Journey of Thomas – Respect

Friday, July 24th, 2009


Ephesians 5:21
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

 

Rom. 14:3
Let not him who eats regard with contempt him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats, for God has accepted him.

 

The term “respect” can mean many different things for different people. Here are some definitions to help us enter into this subject on the same basis of understanding:

 

1. Esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability: I have great respect for her judgment.
2. The condition of being esteemed or honored: to be held in respect.
3. To hold in esteem or honor: e.g.” I cannot respect someone who does that”.
4. To refrain from intruding upon or interfering with: to respect a person’s investment or time.

 
I am going to use two definitions from the list above, number “2″ and number “4″. God has given an intrinsic value to each of us. To respect what He has created without judgment is to agree with God’s assessment of value to His children.

 

I would also like to call attention to learning to value one another through maintaining commitments and paying attention to one another’s time and resources.

 

Esteeming Actual Value

Respect is a practical way of esteeming actual value. When we were created, God spoke into our lives a value that is not negotiable no matter what the world says or does. Just because we were treated poorly or we’ve acted poorly this did not remove or change our actual value. By respecting others we are communicating to them that they are worth whatever God says they are without regard to what they’ve done or based upon the world’s perspective.

 

When I was on a television program with others that were outwardly contrary to my way of thinking I learned a valuable lesson about relating to them. One man in particular was very outspoken and at times rude and the audience was cruel towards him in return. I watched what was happening and found the words “respect doesn’t have to agree” enter my head.

 

I was reminded of Jesus going through extensive insults and abuse and yet there was a respect that came out of His life that was hard for me to understand. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”.

 

Rom. 14:1
Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions.

 

When I consider others that I might be tempted to disrespect in my own mind, I must admit that I do not always know or understand their history, their life circumstances, or their heart. How do I know what may be underneath their opinions? Without listening to them, I won’t.

 

I have all too often been mistaken in my outward assessment of where others are at. Maybe a person was appearing to be unconvinced of something I would deem immoral. It is entirely possible that they may be seeking for freedom and deliverance from a habit right at that time? Weak in their faith could mean they are on the same road I am, just at a different place along “their” road than I can see.

 

Respect for one another’s choices

I learned a valuable lesson in respect when our country went through a very challenging election in 2008. The country was divided over race, moral values, and certainly political concerns. How did each of us make a decision as to whom we were going to vote for? Each of us had our own reasons for our choice. I am certain that we could argue our own points that we would want others to agree with. Maybe we felt threatened by the differences that were at stake. But in the end, who is right? Well, from a Christian standpoint, God’s word tells us that He selects the person of His divine choice no matter what my opinion might be.

 

I heard that a close friend of mine, who happens to be African American, was going to attend the inauguration of Barak Obama in Washington D.C. After the event I asked him how it went. His comment was heartening to hear. He said, “John, it was all worth it when I saw the tears on my dad’s face”. So much went through my mind when I heard about his experience. I know nothing of how it feels to be African American in our country. I haven’t walked the path that so many have. I absorbed someone else’s experience in my heart through their words.

 

There are so many who had strong opinions about Obama vs. McCain. Their lives, their personal experiences, their values are something I need to respect. I would do well to listen to the roads they have travelled, the reasons for their convictions, and to hear their hearts regardless of which side they may have been on. My opinions are not any more important than anyone else’s. Yes, there are absolutes in God’s Word but there is also much room-as acknowledged in Romans 14:3-for personal freedom or conviction. Sometimes we just don’t know the bigger picture. In the end people have their own perspectives and we must respect their right to think and act as they choose.

 

Learning from difference

I found that I could learn a lot more about life if I would practice listening to others even if they disagreed with my position. Once I saw value in the differing opinions I saw them as food for thought and I began to learn. I heard someone once say that you learn from listening to your worst critic. I believe this can only be the case if you are willing to hear what they are saying with respect, and then you may find yourself growing in wisdom and in perspective.

 

Respecting one another has to do with pushing down our own pride and gaining a perspective for others that Christ may want us to see. Jesus loves everyone equally; He sees things in our lives and hears things in our hearts that we cannot always see and hear for ourselves. Respecting others will require us to see deeper into each other and look for what God sees.

 

Respect for authority

I remember sitting at a picnic table with some friends of mine. I was upset about some things going on in our church and was speaking negatively about the way our pastor was running things. My friends challenged me by saying, “John, God has not made you the pastor”.

 

I quickly did an evaluation of the truth of their words. I didn’t sit in his chair, his office, nor did I see things from his perspective. I was not right to assume I fully understood his reasoning for the decisions he had made. God had called me to respect his position, not because it was greater than mine, but because I was called to submit to his perspective, and that I didn’t know it all.

 

This didn’t mean that I was less than, or “underneath” him. Rather, there was an intrinsic difference between my view and his. When Ephesians 5:21 says to “submit to one another”, scripture is saying that we are not above or below one another, rather just different. We are called to understand this truth, that we each have different positions, different perspective and to submit to one another is to embrace this reality and not to push for our way being the right way.

 

Heb. 13:17
Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.

 

Respecting the authority of difference around us will be a blessing to all of us.

 

Respect for Wives and Husbands

One of the most interesting things I have experienced is the multifaceted interpretation of the biblical instruction for a wife to “submit” to her husband and for a husband to “love” his wife. To submit in this context is a willing subjection, not to be “lorded” over, rather to understand perspective. God has given the husband a mantle of understanding from his role in a marriage. God has also given the wife a mantle of perspective. A mutual submission here is an understanding of respect that will set us free! It is not designed to place us into bondage.

 

For a wife to willingly subject herself to her husband is to understand that he may see what she doesn’t. To choose to allow him to walk in the position of husband and to support what God has put into place by His design is to respect the role.

 

The husband on the other hand, is equally called to respect the role of “wife”. To grasp that God has also given her a viewpoint that is to be heard and embraced, not fought against and resisted as though there is a supreme authority in the husband.

 

Eph. 5:33
Nevertheless, let each individual among you also love his own wife even as himself; and let the wife see to it that she respect her husband.

 

Through Jesus’ eyes

An acquaintance of mine, Tim Miller, once said, “When you look into the mirror and begin to see more of Jesus, the mirror will turn into a window and you begin to see what He sees – hurting people needing our kindness and respect.”

 

We must also see that there isn’t a “pecking order” in the kingdom of God. There isn’t a hierarchy, or someone who is bigger than or better than someone else. There are some who are more talented than others, or who have a different type of responsibility but this doesn’t mean that others are less significant, less valuable or those who have all the answers.

 

When the man who is cleaning up the office speaks to the President of the company about how his job of cleaning would be made more efficient if some things were handled differently, it would behoove the president to listen because he isn’t the one mopping the floors each night. The Janitor therefore is to be respected for his perspective. At the same time, the president may have knowledge about the budget that the janitor needs to hear and submit to as well.

 

Respect for time

Another way to respect is to value one another’s time. I have known some people who are habitually late for things. I am not talking about the situation where an unforeseen matter comes up that causes someone to be late, rather the person who just doesn’t get up in time or dawdles around to make them late. Being on time is something that is really important if we are to respect one another. Being habitually late may communicate to a friend that “our” time is more important than “theirs” and therefore they can just sit at the restaurant and look at the menu until we arrive.

 

Have you made a commitment to do something for someone? Than do it out of respect. Have you made a promise that you would follow through with something? Than make it happen – out of respect.

 

Respect for yourself

Always remember to respect yourself as well. Taking care of ourselves in our health, our rest and personal maintenance all affirms to us internally that we are worth respect. Sometimes we don’t receive respect because we aren’t communicating to others that we respect ourselves.

 

Developing healthy boundaries, healthy relationships, and allowing God to remove unhealthy patterns of behavior will all say that we respect ourselves. Saying no when we feel the need or conviction to do so will say “I am worth taking care of myself”.

 

Matt: 22:37-39
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.

 

 

Printable PDF – Respect