Posts Tagged ‘life’

This story has changed my life. I hope it changes yours!

“The Room” by Joshua Harris

In that place between wakefulness and dreams, I found myself in the room. There were no distinguishing features save for the one wall covered with small index-card files. They were like the ones in libraries that list titles by author or subject in alphabetical order. But these files, which stretched from floor to ceiling and seemingly endlessly in either direction, had very different headings. As I drew near the wall of files, the first to catch my attention was one that read “Girls I Have Liked.” I opened it and began flipping through the cards. I quickly shut it, shocked to realize that I recognized the names written on each one.

And then without being told, I knew exactly where I was. This lifeless room with its small files was a crude catalog system for my life. Here were written the actions of my every moment, big and small, in a detail my memory couldn’t match.

A sense of wonder and curiosity, coupled with horror, stirred within me as I began randomly opening files and exploring their content. Some brought joy and sweet memories; others a sense of shame and regret so intense that I would look over my shoulder to see if anyone was watching. A file named “Friends” was next to one marked “Friends I Have Betrayed.”

The titles ranged from the mundane to the outright weird. “Books I Have Read,” “Lies I Have Told,” “Comfort I Have Given,” “Jokes I Have Laughed At.” Some were almost hilarious in their exactness: “Things I’ve Yelled at My Brothers.” Others I couldn’t laugh at: “Things I Have Done in My Anger,” “Things I Have Muttered Under My Breath at My Parents.” I never ceased to be surprised by the contents. Often there were many more cards than I expected. Sometimes fewer than I hoped.

I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the life I had lived. Could it be possible that I had the time in my 20 years to write each of these thousands or even millions of cards? But each card confirmed this truth. Each was written in my own handwriting. Each signed with my signature.

When I pulled out the file marked “Songs I Have Listened To,” I realized the files grew to contain their contents. The cards were packed tightly, and yet after two or three yards, I hadn’t found the end of the file. I shut it, shamed, not so much by the quality of music, but more by the vast amount of time I knew that file represented.

When I came to a file marked “Lustful Thoughts,” I felt a chill run through my body. I pulled the file out only an inch, not willing to test its size, and drew out a card. I shuddered at its detailed content. I felt sick to think that such a moment had been recorded.

An almost animal rage broke on me. One thought dominated my mind: “No one must ever see these cards! No one must ever see this room! I have to destroy them!” In an insane frenzy I yanked the file out. Its size didn’t matter now. I had to empty it and burn the cards. But as I took it at one end and began pounding it on the floor, I could not dislodge a single card. I became desperate and pulled out a card, only to find it as strong as steel when I tried to tear it

Defeated and utterly helpless, I returned the file to its slot. Leaning my forehead against the wall, I let out a long, self-pitying sigh. And then I saw it. The title bore “People I Have Shared the Gospel With.” The handle was brighter than those around it, newer, almost unused. I pulled on its handle and a small box not more than three inches long fell into my hands. I could count the cards it contained on one hand.

And then the tears came. I began to weep. Sobs so deep that they hurt started in my stomach and shook through me. I fell on my knees and cried. I cried out of shame, from the overwhelming shame of it all. The rows of file shelves swirled in my tear-filled eyes. No one must ever, ever know of this room. I must lock it up and hide the key.

But then as I pushed away the tears, I saw Him. No, please not Him. Not here. Oh, anyone but Jesus.

I watched helplessly as He began to open the files and read the cards. I couldn’t bear to watch His response. And in the moments I could bring myself to look at His face, I saw a sorrow deeper than my own. He seemed to intuitively go to the worst boxes. Why did He have to read every one?

Finally He turned and looked at me from across the room. He looked at me with pity in His eyes. But this was a pity that didn’t anger me. I dropped my head, covered my face with my hands and began to cry again. He walked over and put His arm around me. He could have said so many things. But He didn’t say a word. He just cried with me.

Then He got up and walked back to the wall of files. Starting at one end of the room, He took out a file and, one by one, began to sign His name over mine on each card.

“No!” I shouted rushing to Him. All I could find to say was “No, no,” as I pulled the card from Him. His name shouldn’t be on these cards. But there it was, written in red so rich, so dark, so alive. The name of Jesus covered mine. It was written with His blood.

He gently took the card back. He smiled a sad smile and began to sign the cards. I don’t think I’ll ever understand how He did it so quickly, but the next instant it seemed I heard Him close the last file and walk back to my side. He placed His hand on my shoulder and said, “It is finished.”

I stood up, and He led me out of the room. There was no lock on its door. There were still cards to be written.

 

 

Do you have a mission statement?  I do. I know why I get up every morning.  This is what drives me.  This is what I’ve devoted my life to:

Romans 10:13-15 (NIV) 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

I found this verse when I was in junior high, but never really took it seriously until I was in high school.

The truth is, it’s bothered me since that time. Not “bothered” like a fly you want to shoo away. Not “bothered” like the kid on the plane that makes you shift in your seat.  Not “bothered” like the hair in your mouth you find annoying.  I mean, “bothered” in a way that it haunts me.  It altered my life course.  It caused me to ACT.

First, I noticed the progression.  It starts with the result of someone being saved. But they can’t be saved unless they believe in Jesus. They can’t believe in him if they’ve never heard about him. They can’t hear unless someone preaches to them.  And if no one goes, how will they hear?  I knew early on that I wanted to be a “bringer of Good News”.  How many people fail to deliver the message?  How many people stay silent?  How many people never go?

2 Corinthians 5:20 (NIV) 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

Second, I noticed the power.  When the good news of Jesus Christ takes root in someone’s life, the result is transformational.  It turns wimps into warriors.   It changes criminals into crusaders.  In fact, did you know that most of the Bible was written by murderers, whose lives had been transformed by God? (Abraham, David, Paul) God is in the life-changing business!  In fact, Paul (ex-murderer) put it this way when he wrote to the church in Corinth:

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV) 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

He knew what he was talking about!  I am excited to be a part of an organization dedicated to creatively communicating the Good News!  I am proud to live it out loud as a Christ-follower.  In fact I hope that my life alone is able to speak loud enough.  St. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach at all times. If necessary, use words.”

A little commercial break…

Interestingly enough, the word “Gospel”, in the greek (Go-spel) means “Good News”.  That’s why the first 4 books in the New Testament are called “Gospels”. [The gospel of Matthew, Mark, etc.]  These are 4 different eyewitness reports of Jesus’ arrival, life and teachings.  Here’s how one historian Luke (a physician) starts his account:

Luke 2:8-12 (NIV) 8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

The angel was announcing the good news was that Jesus, the Messiah (Savior) had come.  God came to dwell among his people!  Coincidentally, the word given to describe one who shares the good news with others is the word evangelist = comes from the greek words “eu” = good; and “angel” = messenger.  Which means, when we share the good news of Jesus Christ, we are “good messengers”. We join in the same mission and carry the same message as the angels.  That rocks!

Finally, be careful when using this verse!  

a. It has radically altered my life course. I originally set out to be an English teacher and coach soccer at a high school.  Now, I pastor a small church in one of the wealthiest areas in America!  I’ve been offered management positions in corporate America from time to time, but I feel that God has me where He wants me.  Where will this verse lead you?  It’s led people out of the business world into vocational ministry. It’s led students to start a Bible study on their campus.  It’s caused a man to start an Accountability Group in hopes of reaching his whole Firehouse.  It’s caused a mom to rejoin the workforce as a nurse because she felt God calling her to reach that profession.  It’s caused an office manager to leave the US and start an orphanage in Peru with her husband.  It’s caused a mom to leave the workplace to spend more time with her kids. No matter where it leads your life, stay on course!

b. It will cause unorthodox practices.   I have two tattoos:  A Cross on my right ankle and an Icthus on my left ankle.  I’ve had these since college when I accepted God’s call to go into full-time ministry.  I know in the Christian community, there is some ‘controversy’ over the issue of tattoos, but before you’re quick to judge, I’ll tell you why I got them:  1. It reminds me of my God-given ability to excel in athletics.  I was fortunate enough to be blessed with the ability to run. I was a 3-year letter winner in track and cross-country in high school.  I won a National Championship in collegiate soccer, starting all 4 years at midfield.  I was blessed with speed and endurance. Many people are disabled, so I want to make sure I never take walking, running, playing sports for granted. I will always give Him credit for my success on and off the field.  2. It reminds me of my mission: to carry the Good News with me wherever I go.  “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

c. It will make your faith come alive.  Did you know that’s a guarantee from Scripture?  If you’re a Christ-follower and you’re NOT sharing the good news of Jesus Christ in some way, you are MISSING OUT.

Philemon 1:6 (NIV) 6 I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.

d. It requires a team effort.  You DON’T have to be a preacher or work on a church staff to be an EVANGELIST.  You don’t have to be outspoken to ADVANCE the GOSPEL.  God can use you just the way you are, right where you’re at to MAKE A DIFFERENCE and to share the GOOD NEWS.  Will you go?  How can they hear?

Statistics:  (according to Street Level Evangelism by Michael Parrott)

            99% agree that Jesus Christ commanded all Christians to advance the Good News.

Yet 95% of all Christians have never won a soul to Christ.

And 80% of all Christians fail to live a consistent witness.

            85% of unchurched people would go to church at least once if someone they know invited them.

Yet only 2% have invited someone to church in the past year.

 

I invite you to join me in bringing the good news.  Sharing the good news.  Being the good news.


What’s in a name?  Several years ago, I remember reading an article about the oddities of names linked with people’s professions.

Goforth and Ketchem were police officers.  Will Deal was a car salesman.  Will Burn & Frizzle  were executed in Florida by the electric chair. Will Drop was a Montreal window washer died by accident.  Joe Bunt was a baseball player. Dan Druff was a barber. O’Neill & Pray sold church equipment.  Flick Ashe worked at a tobacco plant.  Dr. Cutright was a gifted surgeon. Beth Newhouse = real estate agent. P P Peters was a urologist.  And so on…

Names are significant.  In early history, a person was DEFINED by their name.  It carried deep meaning and stood for something, good or bad.

In some of the oldest parts of the Bible, we see names and their significance:

Genesis 21:5-7 (NIV) 5 Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac (laughter) was born to him. 6 Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” 7 And she added, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”

1 Chronicles 4:9 (NIV) 9 Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez (caused pain), saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.”

Isaiah 7:14 (NIV) 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel (God with us).

What does your name mean?   Have you researched your history? I was fortunate enough to have a namesake with a great story.  I was named after my dad’s best friend Dennis McKinney.  He was a missionary to the Philippines. He and his family started over 150 churches in the surrounding islands.  Unfortunately, Dennis was taken home to be with the Lord at the young age of 50, but his family continues their work there to this day.  That motivates me!

Because our first 3 kids were beautiful little girls, I decided let my wife name our daughters.  When we adopted our son, we agreed that I’d get to name him. I had several years to think about it, so I wanted to choose a name of Biblical significance.

We allowed his birthmom to choose his middle name and she selected “Josiah”. 

Here’s what the Bible says about him:

2 Kings 22:1-2 (NIV) 1 Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years. His mother’s name was Jedidah daughter of Adaiah; she was from Bozkath. 2 He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and walked in all the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left.

2 Kings 23:24-25 (NIV) 24 Furthermore, Josiah got rid of the mediums and spiritists, the household gods, the idols and all the other detestable things seen in Judah and Jerusalem. This he did to fulfill the requirements of the law written in the book that Hilkiah the priest had discovered in the temple of the LORD. 25 Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the LORD as he did–with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses.

I chose the name “Ezekiel”.  Here’s what the Bible says about him:

Ezekiel 2:3-8 (NIV) 3 He said: “Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their fathers have been in revolt against me to this very day. 4 The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says.’ 5 And whether they listen or fail to listen–for they are a rebellious house–they will know that a prophet has been among them. 6 And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious house. 7 You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious. 8 But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not rebel like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you.”

Ezekiel Josiah Bloodworth.  Wow! That’s a pretty lofty calling!  Our hope is not our son Zeke will feel the weight of the pressure of his name, but that he’ll be inspired by it. I want him to know that he is part of a great story and a rich history. He belongs to an awesome “fraternity” of believers!

But wait… there’s more!  Did you know that if you are a Christian and you go to church, your “names” also hold great meaning?

Here are some other facts about the names we carry:

1. The name “Christian” is significant. Broken down, it literally means “Christ-In-You”. Carry that name proudly.  Be inspired by it.  I hope we can live up to our name.  Jesus went to great lengths to give us that name, in fact.  Here’s what the Bible says about it:

Ephesians 1:3-7 (NIV) 3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will– 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace…”

Do you understand the gravity of this passage?  He “chose” us.  This says that before the world was even created, we were part of God’s redemptive plan through his Son Jesus Christ.  He “adopted” us. This means we “receive an inheritance (heaven) we didn’t deserve”.  He created us to “holy & blameless”.  Sin gets in the way, but God made a way for us to join him in heaven.  He has “freely given” us grace. We didn’t earn it. He gave it to us!  When you receive Jesus Christ into your life and unite with him in baptism, you are a Christian. Now let’s live like it!

2. Furthermore, even the name “church” is significant.  We get the name “church” from the greek word “ekklesia” which means “Called Out Ones”.  Wow!  Does that change your perception of the church? Our mission? What Jesus calls us to do?  People have a tendency to think that the church is a little group of huddled people meeting in a shelter trying to escape the bombardments of the world.  But Jesus had other ideas. Look at these passages:

Matthew 11:12 (NIV) 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.

Matthew 16:18 (NIV) 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

Do you understand the magnitude of that message?  The gates of Hell.  These pictures show that the church is on the offensive. The church is on the attack. The church has Satan on the run!  He is holed up in his castle, huddled against our bombardment.  He is fighting a battle he cannot win, against an army he cannot repel, in a war he will ultimately lose.  His days are numbered and he knows it.

If you’re a Christian and you go to church. Carry your names proudly.  You are not weak. You are not timid. You belong to the fiercest fighting force in the world. You belong to a leader with limitless love. You belong to a name with no fear!

Philippians 2:5-11 (NIV) 5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

What’s in your name?