Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Preacher gets on a bus...

A friend sent me this story. It tells a great truth about being successful in working for Christ:

A preacher from out-of-state went to a church in Houston, Texas to begin a new ministry. Some weeks after he arrived, he had an occasion to ride the bus from his home to the downtown area. When he sat down, he discovered that the driver had accidentally given him a quarter too much change.

As he considered what to do, he thought to himself, 'You'd better give the quarter back. It would be wrong to keep it.'

Then he thought, 'Oh, forget it, it's only a quarter. Who would worry about this little amount? Anyway, the bus company gets too much fare; they will never miss it. Accept it as a 'gift from God' and keep quiet.'

When his stop came, he paused momentarily at the door, and then he handed the quarter to the driver and said, 'Here, you gave me too much change.'

The driver, with a smile, replied, 'Aren't you the new preacher in town?'

'Yes" he replied.

'Well, I have been thinking a lot lately about going somewhere to worship. I just wanted to see what you would do if I gave you too much change. I'll see you at church on Sunday.'

When the preacher stepped off of the bus, he literally grabbed the nearest light pole, held on, and said, 'Oh God, I almost sold your Son for a quarter.'

I think this is a scary example of how much people watch us as Christians, and will put us to the test! It makes me fear that personal failings will hurt our work as missionaries.

On the other hand, there is a great flip-side. When we pass tests like this, allowing God to change us, God may work through us to bring about change in others, their communities and their churches.

The story suggests there is a "Win-Win" strategy for evangelism. It might be summed up in a slogan like: Building Better Churches by Becoming Better Christians.

Let's try it and see if it works!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Non-Suicide Surprise

I was preaching Sunday and saw a man lingering around the front door of the church with a big smile on his face. I recognized him as Mike, a man who I had helped 3 years ago when he was struggling and in danger of committing suicide. I had invited Mike to church, he promised he would someday, but never did.

I motioned for him to enter and he came in. Mike said, "Pastor, Today I am keeping my promise." I stopped my sermon and introduced Mike to the church. After the service, we had a time of food and fellowship and spoke to Mike. He had a church bible under his arm and said, "The Bible really is interesting, isn't it? I would like to learn more about it." I knew Mike was raised in New York and could read in English better, so I took him aside and gave him an English bible and a mini-course on how and were to start reading.

Mike left the church Sunday with a bible tucked under his arm and a big smile on his face. It was encouraging to see the visitation we did three years ago made for positive and surprising results so many years down the road. It encouraged me to see our efforts in the past were not wasted, but continue working changes in the lives of others while we were unawares. It also makes us hopeful that other good things are on their way right now!

That smile Mike has on his face was contagious. I saw that it spread around our church. I still have mine!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Big Change in 2009?

I found a great picture of a totally destroyed Dog Training Video Program that had been given as Christmas present to a dog owner whose dog obviously needs it. It made me wonder if the dog said to himself, "I am NOT going to be trained! No! No changes for me this year!"

I hope we deal with change better than that. We might have to. We saw a sign, literally, a sign, that may mean a change for us this year.

Last Sunday, a lady in our church said, Hey! Look! There is a "For Sale" sign on the church!

I went out and looked. I saw a sign on the left front corner and then saw another on the top right corner. We learned that the owner had some reverses and hopes to sell soon.I prayed for a sign from the Lord regarding our church this year. I got two!

We talked about this with our church members and the conversations more or less said one or the other of the following:

A. Better to jump than be pushed. Let's find a place and leave when we can instead of when we have to. Who is going to come to a church that has a "For Sale" sign on it!

B. We have a good deal here. They might not ever sell this place. And if they do, we can save money till then and have enough to get a better place.

Please pray with us. We see the wisdom of moving but the banks want a 20% down payment for property down here in Puerto Rico and our church has eight thousand in the bank. We would need twenty thousand for a down payment on a moderate home we might be able to make into Church later. There is a great ex-tavern that we would love to get, but it is $500K. It seems way out of our reach.

We have faith, but Jesus said that a builder should also make sure there is enough to finish the job before he starts. (Luke 14:28). We will keep checking to see how much help comes in. Maybe help is on the way right now.

So...Change or stay the same? We may have to graciously deal with a big change this year, ready or not. We hope we will found ready.

Luk 14:28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Family time

One hard part of being a missionary is being far away from family. Our newly married daughters, Bethany and Rachel cheered us up a lot by bringing their new husbands, brothers Abe and Max Kennedy to spend Christmas and part of the New Year with us down here in Puerto Rico.

We went to church together, then took the ferry to Old San Juan and later hiked in the rain forest, but mostly we played board games, ate Christmas cookies, watched old movies, ate more Christmas cookies, opened presents and played with them (we made a video of our dog Cookie with a new camera) , and then had some more Christmas cookies.

The kids have flown back to Pensacola, Florida and we are now eating Grapefruit, but it was fun while it lasted!