Archive for May, 2011

29
May
11

Lifepoint Cares!

“But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.” – Matthew 9:36 (NKJV)

Before Lifepoint Church even had its first service, the prayer of its leaders was, “God send us the people nobody else wants.”  In other words, those who have been hurt and rejected and may believe no one cares…the ones who feel they are far from the reach of God.  Over the years that have followed it is apparent that God continues to answer that prayer in the manner it was prayed.  We see so many people each week entering the doors of Lifepoint who are suffering from life’s experiences and the world’s influence.  Many of them come here in a last-ditch desperate quest to find something that makes sense and they are finding the heart of Jesus here.  The Jesus they find is the same one who looked out over the crowds coming to Him in Matthew 9:36.  It is part of the DNA make-up of Lifepoint Church to be moved to act as we recognize people’s spiritual, emotional, physical, financial and relational needs for compassionate care.  We also recognize that in and of ourselves we can offer nothing.  We must point them to the One Redeemer who provides us with all we need and has healed all our hurts.  Lifepoint Care Ministry seeks to accomplish this by helping our partners through our vision statement, “Love God, Love Others and Serve the World”:

To Discover Their Calling to Care (Love God) – We believe that each and every member of the church as the Body of Christ has a special purpose and a particular calling from God to minister to the Body of Christ and beyond.  Our first task as a Care Ministry is to enable our partners to clearly hear the Lord pointing them to serve Him by caring for the needs of others.  As they discover this call, they are then moved to obedience and through their response they show their love of God.

To Develop Their Calling to Care (Love Others) – The Lord gives each one special gifts and skills through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.  The second task of our Care Ministry to  help our partners to develop those gifts to their fullest and then to release them to minister to the various needs of those to whom they have been called.

To Distribute Their Calling to Care (Serve the World) – It has been well stated that people “Don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care.”  At Lifepoint we believe that the best way to introduce people to Christ is to introduce them to His heart of compassionate care.  We do that best by serving them and lovingly introducing them to the heart of Jesus by ministering to their broken hearts.  As we serve the world through the love of Christ, our desire is that they will in turn start the process all over again and soon the Name of Jesus and His saving grace and mercy will be reknowned throughout the community we serve.  This will be done through the ministry of a variety of individual Care Teams designed to specifically meet people at the point of their greatest needs and pain.

Maybe as you have been reading this blog, the Holy Spirit is speaking to you and calling you to respond and become part of a Care Team at Lifepoint Church.  Perhaps you may even be receiving a particular call to lead one of these teams.  If this is true, then we ask you to sincerely and earnestly pray and ask God to be specific in His direction to you as to how and where you will best be of service.  Then it’s as simple as a phone call or e-mail to your Care Pastor, and I will be thrilled to assist you to Discover, Develop and Distribute your calling.

26
May
11

Addicted to Pleasing…God!

“For we speak as messengers approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News. Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts.” – 1 Thessalonians 2:4 (NLT)

“We are unwavering – We will not cater to personal preference in our mission to reach this city. We are more focused on those we are trying to reach than those we are trying to keep.” – From “The Point” of Lifepoint Church

Eleven years ago a personal moral failure left me faced with the complete collapse of everything that I believed in and made me who I was.  Hindsight being 20/20, I now know that the primary cause of my moral failure was precisely because I didn’t have a clue of who I was or who I was supposed to be.  So when someone told me who they thought I was, it sounded better than who I thought I was.  I so wanted to believe them that I totally abandoned, not only who I really was, but also who God said I was.  The collapse was so utterly devastating and complete that it left me devoid of any identity at all and sent me on almost a decade of searching for my true self.  The burden of guilt and shame that I bore, coupled with my ever-growing fear of people’s negative reactions to my failure sent me searching, not for my self, but for the self that people liked and accepted.  It is true that the definition of insanity is continually doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results each time.

My search took an upward turn, literally and figuratively, in October of 2006 when the intervening hand of God led me to a place and a people called Lifepoint Church.  It was there for the first time, that I found genuine acceptance, not for who I was, but for who they believed faithfully that Christ could cause me to be.  Here, no one cared where I had been, all they cared about was where the Lord was leading us together (Lifepoint and me) with Him.  What I found at Lifepoint was not the cookie cutter church I had always been accustomed to.  It was different!  They celebrated the fact that God had called them to be different!  And, this church pointed people to a Life in Christ that is different from what the world and even religion says that life is. And yet, in its distinctiveness, it affirmed the same profoundly imperative truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ I had always known in my heart and held dear.  My wandering heart had found a home!

My new home not only allowed me to be who Christ declares me to be, it demanded that I be no less than that, to His glory.  Through their challenge to “Love God…Love Others and Serve the World” I slowly….gradually….with determination and faith, learned to understand and even enjoy the person Christ knows me as, and to accept the name and the purpose by which He called me.  Now, more than a decade after my long fall into despair, He has more than restored me; He has renewed me.  He has given me the true identity I always longed for, but could never find.  As long as He knows me that way, and He assures that is who I am, it does not matter what anyone else says about me or what they call me.  With this finally discovered new identity also comes a renewed mission, a renewed calling, and an UNWAVERING determination to respond to the Great I AM with all that I am.  Or, in the words of the Todd Agnew song:

“They called me broken, worthless, and a shame
They called me wasted, used up, and chained
But You made me Your child
And You called me Your own
Now they can call me,
But they’ve got to use my new name!”

– “New Name” © 2005 Integrity Music

13
May
11

Creating Care

We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created. For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels—everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment. And when it comes to the church, he organizes and holds it together, like a head does a body. – Colossians 1:15-18 (Message)

I’ve recently been challenged to accomplish a new task.  I have been asked to develop…actually to design a program that is distinctive and at least to some degree, unique to the group I am serving.  As I am embarking on this project, I’ve been looking around at some other models and examples and I have discovered that there are not many ideas out there that are authentically original.  For example, in the world of technology, I hear folks talking about the i-Phone and what a genuinely unique and original idea it was.  Now, while I do admit that it is beyond a doubt very different from anything we have seen before in the field of communications and computer science, it remains, nonetheless an outgrowth of an ever emerging already existing technological concept.

As I launch out on my new role at Lifepoint Church as her Care Pastor, I have to confess that I began by asking the question, “How is that church over there doing it?”  Now don’t get me wrong; there is nothing inherently bad about examining other successful models and “borrowing” from their effectiveness.  I mean, the bottom line is and should be, “How may we BEST care for people.”  Frankly, it does not matter to me that someone else thought of it first so long as the people given into the hands of our church receive the maximum amount of sincere love, and compassionate care.  Also, if something has the greatest efficiency in accomplishing that goal, it doesn’t even matter if it’s “always been done that way.”  Honestly however, something in me is saying, “Don’t settle for what’s good enough or what seems to be working well for that church or organization or programmed method.”  If I am going to accept that no idea is truly original and I am going to seek inspiration from another source then I want to go to the BEST!  I want to receive guidance, direction, counsel and advice from a true model source of originality and success!

The Bible tells us in Genesis and other places in Scripture that our God created and made absolutely everything that has been created, ex nihilo, or “out of nothing.”  We also believe that before anything else existed, God existed as the one and only uncaused causer of all things.  This One God exists infinitely in the persons of Father, Son and Holy Spirit and that at the time of His choosing He came into His own creation in the visible bodily form of a man named Jesus.  In Jesus, our God displayed… made known… made visible, all of His concern, His mercy, His grace and His supreme, unconditional love for the pinnacle of His creation…humanity.   “This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.”

In terms of caring for others, how arrogant would it be to imagine that we might have a better idea, or conceive of a better plan, or develop a better program than the One who originally designed and perfectly modeled LOVE?  As one of Jesus’ disciples, Matthew was an eye-witness to His earthly ministry to people, and he wrote this example describing his Lord’s heart: “But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.”  In the original Greek the phrase “moved with compassion” literally means that Jesus had a physical reaction of inward pain when He saw the state of suffering of the people before Him.  It made Him sick.  It made Him sick enough to move beyond sympathy to action.

There’s our model!  There’s the idea!  There’s the original plan!  JESUS!  God’s best idea of all of how to show that He really cares!  Our job is not to tell people what their problem is or even to fix their problems for them.  Our task is to compassionately care that they are hurting, they are suffering, that they are “weary and scattered, like sheep without a shepherd.”  Our responsibility is to live and walk and listen to and follow The Shepherd and as we do to wave our arms in the air to other sheep and say, “HEY!  Over here!  Here He is!  This is our Lord and He has extended an invitation to bring our burdens to Him!”  If we really care, we have to help others hear His invitation, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”  Pointing people to Life…Pointing people to Jesus!  That’s how we show that we really CARE!

11
May
11

Representatives of Care

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. – 1 Peter 5:7 (NLT)

Let’s be honest church.  If you didn’t have a relationship with Christ, and you were in a circumstance of genuine pain and some member of the local 1st Baptomethopaliancongreprebsygationalist Church said to you, “Jesus cares,” how might you respond?  It occurs to me that I might tend to answer with a somewhat cynical, “That’s cool….Do you?”  Now, that may seem like an unfair attitude, but the reality is, if Jesus really does care (and He does), how might they know that unless Jesus’ people care too?

Paul was having a little trouble getting First Church of Corinth to care about others as much as they obviously cared about themselves.  The Corinthians had a little “what about me” issue.  So, the Apostle wrote a couple of letters to them to have a “come to Jesus meeting” in absentia.  He wrote, “So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, ‘Come back to God!'”  WE SPEAK FOR CHRIST?  WHAT?!  REALLY?!

Ambassadors….representing Jesus.  So when we say, “Jesus cares” (and again, He does) as citizens of His kingdom and ambassadors of our King, may we not also say, “We care,” as in, “the Lord Jesus, and all of us in His church care.”  How can we present the words of our King and not also represent His attitude?  How can we represent His truth if we don’t believe it’s true?  And if we speak it and we believe it, how can we not live it?

So, let’s move from Paul to the often even more blunt and plain-spoken Peter.  The old fisherman wrote, “Give ALL [emphasis added] your worries and cares to God, for He cares about [for] you.”  Now let’s add all this up….  (1) We represent Jesus, whom we believe is God.  (2)  God’s Word says for hurting people to give all that they might worry and/or care about to Him (including their genuine suffering)…. why?  (3)  Because He cares about and for them.  This equation seems to indicate that hurting people can bring their worries and cares to God through His ambassadors….HIs representatives.   To quote the more contemporary, non-Scripture writing sage, Dr. Phil, “How’s that workin’ for ya [us and them]?”

There’s an old “tried but true” adage that says, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”  Jesus cares!  As His followers, we know that.  The world doesn’t really care that we know that.  They want to know that too.  The best way for us to help them know that is to show them how much He cares by showing them that we do too!  REPRESENT!

06
May
11

Stooping and Reaching…

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. – Galatians 6:2-3 (The Message)

They are starving throughout the world….  dying in places we have never heard of….  being persecuted in far away lands…. suffering in third world countries…. enslaved to addictions…. in the path of violence…. victims of war….  The oppressed are Asian and Latin and African and Middle Eastern… and they are American.  They are North Carolinians and Wilmingtonians.  They are strangers.  They are friends.  They are family.  They are us.

This Sunday many of us will gather in churches to worship and pray.  We will sing songs and hear sermons and we will hear about Jesus.  Some of us will sit on chairs and some on pews.  Congregations will come to little chapels, some to great halls, and some to homes.  We will wear fine suits and we will wear blue-jeans and t-shirts.  Some of our church services will be reverently traditional and some will be raucously celebratory.  But there will be one thing that all of our churches will share in common.  Someone, perhaps more than we might be comfortable with will come bearing burdens and pain.

They may not be noticeable.  Many of these people will wear a smile to cover their heartache.  They will be broken.  They will be lonely.  They will be betrayed.  They will be hungry.  They will be afraid.  They will be needy.  Perhaps there may even be some who are angry.  One thing is for certain….they will be there.  They are always there in our midst.  Problem is that far too often we are too busy to notice, or worse, we would rather not notice.

It is not necessary for most of us to board a plane and travel to distant countries to minister to those in need.  For most of us it will only be necessary to turn to the person sitting next to us in church.  What we need is not a call to the foreign field or a passport.  The call to care requires only that we open our eyes and see that sad expression (as brief and fleeting as it may be) on the face of the person standing right beside us.  It does not require a sermon from our lips.  Rather, it may only require a kind word…the gentlest greeting…an extended hand…a friendly smile.

Too busy for that?  Too involved?  Too good?  Don’t be deceived.  The person most in need of the love of Christ may be you.  Go ahead….. Stoop down…. Reach out!  It’s not as far as you may think.