In my last post I made the comparison of running on a treadmill and running outside on a road. Both are beneficial, but they are much different. I compared these to our spiritual journey, basically saying that if we only run on a treadmill we never get the experience of running on a road with all its challenges.
I think there are great benefits to running on a treadmill. You can practice your running technique, you can keep track of you heart rate and have your time and exact mileage right in front of you. You can simulate hills and increase or decrease your speed with a push of a button.
This is just like going to church, doing a Bible Study, or taking a Bible class. We can learn the right way to live, we can learn about Jesus and the character of God. You can gain understanding of how to handle money, relationships, marriage, parenting, possessions, work and our relationship with Christ.
But what if you never go out and put this knowledge into practice? What if you always stay in your safe environment of church and just “learn more”. The danger here is that you start to think that you are better than the people out on the road. That the “world” out there is no good and not worth your efforts. That we should not be a part of the world, or get ourselves dirtied by the road. We can begin to become a little prideful and arrogant. We begin to feel safe and secure in our controlled environment.
God does not want us to live in a safe controlled environment. He is not a safe God, but He is a good God.
I believe God wants us to put what we know into action. He wants us to run in some road races, to climb some big hills and run into the wind. He wants us to run in cold weather and in the heat of the day. God wants us to get out there and make a difference. I don’t know what that looks like for you. Maybe its forgiving someone and reconciling a broken relationship. Maybe its going on a mission trip to another country. Maybe its helping and elderly person clean their house. Maybe its getting on a serving team at your church. How about increasing your giving to your church or helping out a family in need financially. It could be taking the time to start meeting with someone to mentor them and encourage them in their struggles. Our helping a single mom with diapers, food, fixing her car etc.
Start asking God how you can get out and do some mileage on the open road. Who can you reach out to and show the love of Christ too in a tangible way? When you do that you will grow by leaps and bounds. You will feel more energized and excited about making a difference. You will have some stories to share with other people. You become a road warrior.
Are you a treadmill warrior or a road warrior? I want to be a road warrior.
As some of you know, I like to run. I started last year and have been running in some local 5K’s. I am running in one this weekend in New Philadelphia. Most of the training I have been doing is running on the roads around my house. Usually between 2-5 miles at a time.
On Monday night I was working late, so I decided to run on the treadmill at work. As I started running I soon was reminded how different it is to run on a treadmill versus running outside along a road. I was in a nice air conditioned room with a big screen TV and a fan. I had a machine keeping my pace and elevation. The treadmill gave a little cushion as I ran.
When I am running outside, I have the heat and the wind to deal with. I have tar and road apples to dodge. I have hills and slopes and potholes. Running outside on a road is much different than running inside on a treadmill.
As I was thinking about all this it hit me that our spiritual life is much that way as well. If all we ever do is run on the treadmill spiritually, we never experience all that God has for us. Our treadmill can be going to church, going to Bible study or small group, even our personal devotions. All of those are helpful and good, just like running on a treadmill is helpful and good.
However, when you get out on the road and put your faith into action things are different. It gets a little messy, you have some unexpected challenges. You get stretched and uncomfortable. There are hills to climb, sometimes the wind is in your face and sometimes it is at your back. When you put what you have learned into action incredible things happen.
I believe God wants all people that consider themselves to be followers of Jesus Christ to get out and run. Be the person that makes a difference in someones life, by taking the time to do something. If each of us would do some road work every week, we could change our communities and our world.
Keep running on your treadmill, but get outside and run as well.
I started reading the book of Isaiah on Monday. In the first chapter there were a few verses that really jumped out at me. They are so simple and yet give us great direction and purpose in life. It starts at the end of verse 16 with a simple “Stop doing wrong, learn to do right!”. Sometimes when I am counseling someone or listening to someone I just want to say Stop doing wrong, learn to do right and send them on their way.
Is there anything you need to stop doing, because it is wrong? What are you doing to learn to do right? Do you know what is right and what is wrong?
It goes on to say this, “Seek justice, encourage the oppressed, Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.” There, in a simple sentence is a great way to approach life. read that over several times and ask yourself how you can put that into practice over the next week. If you are already doing this, it should be an encouragement to keep doing right, seeking justice, encouraging people, defending and pleading the case of the widows, single moms, elderly, disabled and children that need help.
Sometimes it is very difficult to stop doing wrong, it may be comfortable, enjoyable and thrilling. However, there are always consequences to our actions. God created us to know the difference between right and wrong. Sometimes doing the right thing is hard, but God rewards those that do right. Listen to verse 19 – “If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
Are you willing and obedient or resisting and rebelling? Is God calling you to do something, go somewhere, help someone, give something, give up something? Take a moment right now and ask God where you need to be willing and obedient.
One of my favorite songs on my iPod is Boston by Augustana. It came out in the summer of 2007. Here are some of the lyrics:
You don’t know me and you don’t even care
You don’t know me and you don’t wear my chains
I think I’ll go to Boston
I’ll think I’ll start a new life
I think I’ll start it over
Where no one knows my name
I think that I’m just tired
I think I need a new town
To leave this all behind
Cause you don’t know me and you don’t even care
You don’t know me and you don’t wear my chains
No one knows my name
If you listen carefully you can hear the pain. We all crave to be known, for people to know our name and to be accepted and loved. When that is missing in our lives we want to disappear, because we already feel invisible. Many people are feeling this way. Feeling lost, hurt, broken like no one cares. Even the smallest thing can convey to a person that they matter, that they are worth noticing.
If you are feeling like no one cares, it sounds intriguing to go to a new city and start over, however all of your baggage goes with you. It won’t be long until some of the same old patterns start popping up again. That is why it is so important to work through your conflicts, your hurts, your hangups and your bad habits.
This song is also a reminder to all of us to pay attention to the people around us. Are you interested enough in the people you meet to remember their names. Calling someone by name is huge. We all love to hear our own names. This is an area I can certainly work on. I have my good days and my bad days. Mostly we struggle with peoples names, because we are not really listening to the people we meet and really don’t care. We are usually too busy to take the time to get to know someone. When you get to know them, you remember their names.
This week try to call more people by name. Reach out and do something kind for someone. Make an investment in the life of someone you may not have noticed before. Maybe its the quiet guy at work or the elderly lady in your neighborhood.
Also don’t run from your baggage, face it and deal with it. Get involved in a small group, take the initiative to get connected with other people. Just like “Cheers” used to say on TV – We all want to go where everyone knows your name. Find a church that you feel is accepting and inviting. The really cool thing is that God knows each of our names, he never forgets.
Over the past month I have been challenged in multiple ways to examine what I really care about. It started when I heard this quote: “If you don’t know you can’t care”. How true is that? You are not going to care about something you don’t know about. You are not going to care about someone you don’t know.
So I started asking myself, what do you really care about? What do I think about all the time? What do you talk about? Where do I spend most of my free time? What do I make time for? Where do I spend my money?
It is very easy to live in our own little world and not care about anything outside of that. If we ignore the things around us like poverty, divorce, abuse, addictions, hunger and homelessness it does not just go away.
This weekend I went to our Free Methodist Annual conference. One of the reports was on how the Free Methodist church can reach out and make a difference with the poor, hurting and disenfranchised people around us. We heard many stories about efforts to make a difference. Food pantries, homeless shelters, food delivery, church in a local park in a poor neighborhood. It was exciting to hear that, yet I thought we can do more, I can do more. God has been working on my heart, breaking my heart for people in poverty, people struggling with addictions, people experiencing divorce and separation, families being torn apart. Those invisible people that are feeling abandoned and alone, hurting and hopeless.
I want my church, NewPointe, to be known as the church that cares, that takes the time to listen, that takes the time to invest in one person and one family at a time. Together we can impact our community in a profound and real way. It will take a new way of thinking and a new way of leading. I am praying and asking God to direct me in how we can make a bigger, longer lasting impact in peoples lives. Helping people become healthy, physically, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually. What do you care about? Who do you care about? What breaks your heart?
Last week I had the honor of hearing and seeing the vision for Starlight School in New Philadelphia Ohio. Last year NewPointe Community Church donated funds to all the area schools systems including Starlight. Starlight used the funds we gave them to purchase a “Smart Board” or white board. They use this as an interactive learning tool for the kids. I was able to meet some of the staff and got a tour of the facility. I left very impressed with the staff and leadership at Starlight. They are dedicated and passionate about helping children with learning disabilities. What a tremendous asset they are to our community. I hope we can continue to work with them in impacting families and children in Tuscarawas County.
This weekend Some friends helped me move a lady and her three little children. It was a little rough on our backs, but the reward of helping someone in need was great. I love being the church to our community in practical ways. After we got her moved into her new place, we prayed for her and her family. I also invited her the NewPointe and she said she would be there. Here are a few pictures of our experience. A big thanks to Erich for letting us use his trailer.
This afternoon I spent a few hours helping a single mom move. Three other guys from my small groups at NewPointe helped. It took four pickups and a trailer. We took most of the stuff to a storage unit. We had to be very creative in packing the unit from ground to roof. We got it all in there some how.
We have helped numerous people move over the past few years. I think it is around 8-10 families. This outreach ministry allows us to show people that we care and is an opportunity to encourage someone that is going through a very stressful time. Moving is always a stressful thing and we try to help relieve some of that stress. We also try to pray with the person and invite them to church, if they are not already attending one.
Serving together as a small group helps to build community and friendships. The guys that I call to help are always glad to pitch in when they can. We have had some really interesting and funny experiences as a result.
I want to encourage you to look for opportunities to help people in need. There are a lot of people struggling right now. Even if you are struggling yourself, you can still find ways of helping and serving other people.
The local church should be leading the way in encouraging and helping people. At NewPointe Community Church we encourage everyone that attends to make a difference by serving, not only at the your church, but in your community and around the world. Freely giving your time to help others is a tangible way of showing the world we are Christ followers. They get to see Jesus with skin on.
I am passionate about reducing the divorce rate in Tuscarawas County. The rate of divorce in Tuscarawas County was 69% in 2006. That is up 5% from 2003. The rate for the state of Ohio is 55%.
What if I said we could cut that rate in half in the next 10 years. Would that get your attention?
There are proven ways to work at reducing the rate of divorce. The best approach is to pull the local churches, local government leader’s and other local leader’s together to form a strategy.
Part of the strategy would be to work at better preparing couples for marriage, offering marriage enrichment events and activities, mentoring and coaching troubled marriages, offering support groups for blended families and more.
If anyone is interested in being a part of a movement to lower the divorce rate, please contact me or comment. NewPointe Community Church is part of a program called Marriage Savers. Marriage Savers has done the research and put together a great program that is designed to bring a community together to make a lasting difference in families.
I am believing God is going to do something BIG in 2009. The local church can impact a community and change a community, if we work together.
I am on the board of the Greater Dover/New Philadelphia Food Pantry. The Food Pantry started this year by combining some existing church food pantries into one. The neat thing was how many local churches joined in this effort. We now have over 20 churches that are supporting this pantry in some way. Some provide volunteers, some provide food items and many give financially. The need for an organized local food pantry is greater than most people realize. There are many people in our community that have a very hard time getting enough food for their families. I have met single parents, grandparents and people that have lost their jobs recently. All are grateful for a local pantry to get emergency food items.
Over the past few months we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of people seeking help. I have noticed this at the Church as well. The Pantry had been housed in the Salvation Army Church in Dover. They had been running a food pantry, and agreed to allow the new pantry to use their facility and roll their pantry into the new one. The Salvation Army has moved into a new building and had offered space there, but we needed a larger area to grow and serve more people. I want to thank the Salvation Army of Dover for their generosity and help in getting this pantry going.
This past week we moved into the old Buehler’s building in Dover. The Church of the Harvest owns the building and was not using the back part. It has a loading dock and ample space to store food. Many volunteers worked hard to get the space ready for Friday’s distribution. The Church of the Harvest graciously has allowed us to move into this space. We are paying for the extra utilities and for the improvements and repairs, but no monthly rent.
The best way to support the pantry is by giving money or volunteering your time. They are able to buy large volumes of food from the Akron Food Bank for penny’s on the dollar. We recommend instead of bringing in food items, that people donate money.
Every Friday from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm we distribute food. We are expanding that to Thursday evenings in 2009 from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm. My wife Vikki and I went and helped serve on Friday. It was NewPointe Community Church’s turn to provide volunteers. I took some pictures to give you an idea of how the operation works. We served 150 families in two hours. People can only come once per month right now, so that translates into nearly 600 families a month that are being served food through the Greater Dover/New Philadelphia Food Pantry.