Monday, March 31, 2008

A Farewell to Arm

Showed this photo at church yesterday while making the point that Satan can seem pretty innocuous . . . right up until the time his jaw snaps shut on me:
The photo comes from a National Geographic story with the lead, "Armed and dangerous." No, I'm not making that up.

Worry redirected

I was lying in bed last night worrying about our family finances. God and I have been having an ongoing conversation about money ever since we've become two-house homeowners. Even after selling one on land contract, I continue to fret while we dig out of the hole that dual ownership has left us in. Our chat went something like this:

Frank: "I know I need to trust you God."
God: "Uh-huh."

"I've already seen several ways that you're taking care of me this week. Unexpected income. A not-too-disastrous tax return."

"Not too disastrous? I thought you'd appreciate it a bit more."

"Oh, I do, I do. It's just that . . ."

"Just that what?"

"Just that, well, I never seem to have enough."

"That is because you keeping looking at your need instead of looking at your provision."

"You're right. I know that these circumstances are more about teaching me - teaching me humility. Teaching me responsibility. Teaching me discipline."

"And to trust."

"Right. Trust."

Still I continued to fret and stew. Then, and I'm not exactly sure why, I determined to set aside "my needs" and begin praying about other people and their needs. I prayed for my sons, that they would do well in school today. I prayed that God would make them better men than their old man. I prayed that He would make them into giants in the Kingdom, used for His glory and purposes.

I prayed for Tracy and Abby and the work that they're doing in Haiti. I prayed that they would be safe and protected from the evil one. I prayed that the lessons they're learning will stick with them and change their lives. I prayed for South Lansing Christian Church. I prayed for marriages that are hurting. Kids that are struggling. People who need healing.

I'm not really sure when I stopped praying, to be honest, because I drifted off to sleep. It was the best night of sleep that I've had in a long time.

When I awoke this morning, my financial woes are still there. I have to make a couple hard choices today. I think my credit rating will take a beating either way. Nevertheless, there is a sense of assurance that was lacking yesterday. A sense of hope. I don't know where all the answers are going to come from, and maybe that is the point. If I had all the answers, I wouldn't have to rely on the Father so much.

Self-reliance is a hard habit to break. Eventually, though, there is freedom in abandoning it.

Or so I am told.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Easter Reflections

Sunday was a great day at South Lansing Christian Church. The worship was inspiring. The crowd was big (684) and we took up a good offering (10% of which will go to bless All Nations Christian Church). Sunday was a great day for other churches, too.

Here in Lansing, Trinity Church baptized 33 new believers in their service on Sunday. South Church immersed several, too.

Northwest Haiti Christian Mission, where my wife and daughter enjoyed Easter Sunday, hosted 1400 adults and over 1000 children for their Easter dinner. That's Mrs. Frankly in the photo serving beverages to the Haitians.

Not everyone was blessed Sunday, though. I received this email from one hurting preacher:
Sunday came and went. With all the crap Satan has heaped around this church and the unwillingness of the leaders to shovel it away... I can honestly say that Easter fell short spiritually. People were whispering in corners...politicking...huddled in groups and would suddenly change topics as others came near. Church felt more like a country club annual meeting rather than celebrating ressurection Sunday. The early service was well attended...78 (one of my members wanted to speak in this service to allow me and my family to enjoy) and the second had 54. A good turnout for our church.
Tell me, Frankly readers, what was your Easter Sunday like?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Estrogen Free-Zone

Mrs. Frankly and the oldest of the three Franklies are in Haiti this week working with Northwest Haiti Christian Mission leaving the boys and I to fend for ourselves in Grand Ledge. Hopefully we'll survive our feminine free two weeks.

I received word late this evening that they arrived and are safe. You can view pictures of their team by clicking here. Here is a photo of Tracy and Abby along with Waldens, a little boy that Tracy sponsors. She is showing him a painting that Elvius, a Haitian artist painted for Tracy to bring home when she returns.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Moo Shoe Pork

The New SLCC Website

South Lansing Christian Church is rolling out a new website on Easter Sunday.

Frankly Speaking readers have the first opportunity for a sneak peek by clicking here. Do us a favor and root around in the site and then report back. Is it helpful? How can we improve it? Are there any "broken links" that need repaired?

Our goal with the new site is to provide great information, both for Southies, and for those who might be searching for a church. Thanks!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Praying for Pat . . .

Someone asked to pray for Pat Bisher yesterday at church. A member of our church, Pat is a sailor who is training to become a Navy Seal. Join in praying for Pat. And, in his honor, here is the first verse of the the Navy Hymn, Eternal Father Strong to Save.

Even the rocks cry out . . .

Yesterday I passed along something I learned from a Rob Bell sermon. There was a belief among the Jews in the first century that at some point a savior would come and would raise from the dead all the good Jews that had previously died. These righteous Jews would then follow him into Jerusalem where the city would become a place of peace, joy and prosperity that would spread to the ends of the earth.

Believing that Messiah would come from the east, down the Mt. of Olives, it became a favorite burying place for the Jews. [The photo on the right is a picture of the modern day Mt. of Olives. Notice the gravestones.] They called it, “the place of the great resurrection.” With their tombs so conveniently located, they could join Messiah's procession into Zion.

On the day of Jesus' triumphal entry into the holy city, Jesus was confronted by the Pharisees telling him to hush his disciples. He replied, “if my followers were to remain silent, even the rocks will cry out.” We read that and think, "Oh, isn't that nice, the rocks will start talking." The Jews to whom Jesus was speaking, however, would have understood Jesus to be making a backhanded claim to be Messiah - that indeed the tombs would open and the righteous, resurrected Jews would proclaim His praises.

What I didn't pass along in my sermon were Matthew's words in Matthew 27. Writing about Jesus' death, Matthew records,
Then Jesus shouted out again, and he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain in the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart, and tombs opened. The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead after Jesus' resurrection. They left the cemetery, went into the holy city of Jerusalem, and appeared to many people. (Matthew 27:50-53, NLT, italics my emphasis.)
Wow! Jesus is Messiah!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Pleasing Papa

And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you? He requires only that you fear the LORD your God, and live in a way that pleases him, and love him and serve him with all your heart and soul. And you must always obey the Lord's commands and decrees . . . for your own good.
Deuteronomy 10:12-13 (NLT)
There is a difference, I think, between trying to please my father and merely trying not to disappoint him. I grew up with a great dad. He invested his time in his family. While other dads were bowling or going to the Lion's Club, my dad was with us. Other dads drank the weekends away. My dad worked at the factory in Ft. Wayne, and then came home to farm - an activity which he did with me at his side.

He was also incredibly encouraging to me. Countless times dad told me he was proud of me. He rebuked me from time to time, yet he was never insulting or sarcastic. He disciplined me, but rarely ever raised his hand - even though he should have at times, perhaps.

I grew up not wanting to disappoint him.

Once, right after Christmas break, I was walking out of school on my way to the school bus. I had received a new fountain pen in my Christmas stocking. A girl in my class, who was generally disliked only for having had the misfortune of being born with a cleft palate, was walking ahead of me wearing a brand new white coat that she had received that Christmas. I flicked my fountain pen at her coat leaving a speckled trail of blue ink from hem to collar. Funny at the time? Sure. But not so much at 10 P.M. that night. I couldn't sleep until I told my dad what I had done. He made me call the girl's mother and make it right. Why the pains of a guilty conscience? Not as much over what I had done to the girl and her coat, but more because I didn't want to disappoint my dad.

There is some merit to approaching God that way. Certainly I don't want to disappoint Papa. Nevertheless, the obedience that he desires goes well beyond the negative reinforcement of wanting to avoid angering or even disappointing God. God wants us to please Him.

My friend, Greg Stauffer, once told me that he pictures his relationship with God this way: God in Heaven looks down on his child Greg, and every so often He says, "Look at Greg! Isn't that just the cutest thing he's doing?" Or, "Look at Greg, I am so proud of the way he handled that situation!" "Check out Greg mucking out the horse stalls. It cracks me up when he wrinkles up his nose at the smell!"

That is pleasing Papa.

No, I do not want to disappoint God. But I'm finding that, if not disappointing Him is my only motivation, it is often insufficient to deter me from the sin that I so frequently set my heart on committing. There must be, for me at least, some further motivation.

I think I am learning that the motivation is to please Him as well.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

National Preaching Summit

Just returned from the National Preaching Summit. What a great couple of days to be encouraged and to build my skills in preaching. Six great preachers taught us over the course of two days. Here are a couple of gems (taken out of context, of course):

“Some people brighten up a room just by leaving it.” - Jeff Walling

“Do people love to bask in the glow of your absence?” - Jeff Walling

“Build your cabin in the woods and then build a road to get there.” – Fred Craddock

“Do our churches look like the Amish? You love to take pictures of the Amish, but you don’t want to move in with them.” - Jeff Walling

“What seeker sensitive is to the church, global warming is to politics.” - Bob Russell

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Today's deer picture, brought to you by . . .

Jif. Choosy moms choose Jif. Did I mention that the adults are inching closer to the students in our battle for peanut butter supremacy at South Lansing Christian Church? The tally is:

Students: 2707 Adults: 1712

Oh yeah, the picture. Taken outside my window yesterday afternoon, just twenty yards away . . .

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Peanut Butter Meets Tim Lahaye?

Received this contribution today during the great peanut butter drive of 2008:

PS - The tally, as of 2:30 PM today is STUDENTS: 2371 ADULTS: 1371

Tuesday's ramblings

Bird sightings. . .
Saw the first Robin of 2008 today. There were five of them, actually, golden breasted beauties munching on the shelled corn I tossed out for the deer. Some time this afternoon the birds will have to compete with the five doe that come every day for their afternoon snack. There is something about a Robin sighting that makes me hopeful, that gives me the endurance I need to weather the final few weeks of winter. Maranatherma . . . come heat, come.

Babe sightings . . .
On the way to work this morning, while sitting at the corner of Pennsylvania and Miller, I looked over to see an older African-American woman fretting about her appearance. She turned her head this way and that, looking in the mirror. I wondered: is it her hair that concerns her? Is she worried about her wrinkles? She frowned as she peered into the mirror. So I tooted my horn and, when she turned my way, I smiled and gave her a thumbs up. She beamed. I hope my small gesture made her day a little brighter. I know it did mine.

Butter sightings (peanut butter, that is) . . .
Stopped by the South Cedar Kroger this morning and placed my peanut butter order for Sunday. The manager was slack-jawed. Between the folks who sent money in response to the Lansing State Journal article, and the generous post-service giving of the Southies, I collected over $600 this week. Oh, and there was another generous donor who chipped in. To find out how much you'll have to be here Sunday.

All said, this is starting off to be a very good week. Hope yours is, too.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Monday morning update

The story in the Lansing State Journal elicited amazing community support in our peanut butter drive. Even today people are calling to find out when and where they can drop of peanut butter to send to Haiti. And, yesterday, one of my own strategies was used against me. As I was welcoming the assembly to worship a procession of students came walking up the center aisle bringing with them over 1000 containers of peanut butter, including a LOT of single serving containers. It looks like the whole SLCC staff is going to take pies in their faces next Sunday morning.

I'll gladly wear a little whipped cream for the sake of hungry Haitian children. Here is the toteboard: