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Archive for October, 2009

SonicMatt Jeffreys is the pastor of Ridgeline Community Church in Temecula, California. He’s a young guy—hip, smart, and passionate about his ministry. I was having lunch with him at this meeting in Oklahoma City last week and he was telling me the story of what happened to him at the Sonic drive-in that just opened up in Temecula.

“My wife and I were kind of excited about the new Sonic,” he said, “because we used to go all the time when we lived in Texas. So, I pull up in one of the spaces, place my order, and while I’m waiting for my food to come I start tapping my foot to the music they’re playing over the speaker system. I don’t know what the song is, but I like it, and so I take out my iPhone, hit “Shazam” (an application that “listens” to music and identifies both the song and the artist), and it tells me what the song is. And then it (the iPhone) asks me if I want to download the song from iTunes (another Apple innovation that lets you buy music online for 99 cents a song). ‘Why not?’ I thought. And so I clicked ‘yes’ and the song began to download but it was taking, like, forever!”

And that’s when he noticed that the song had downloaded in less than a minute. It’s not like he was doing anything else. He was waiting for his food to come. But he had grown impatient with his technology for not being faster than it was.

Matt thinks (and I agree) that this is a symptom of the time in which we live, when anything less than instant gratification seems like too long to wait. When I asked his permission to tell this story he added these examples:

“Just this last week I found myself clicking my garage door remote over and over as I was getting closer to my actual driveway, trying to get the door to go up the very second the signal would reach. And I started pushing it well before I knew it would open. I guess I do that regularly, I’ve just never noticed until I started tracking the symptoms of ‘hurry sickness’ in my own life. It’s not enough that my garage door will open automatically, I want it to open FASTER. Pathetic.

“Also this last week, while going through the drive-through at Chick-fil-A in Temecula, I caught myself driving up to the window from the place where you order while the girl who was taking my order was still talking! She was just saying ‘have a great day & pull-up…’ but I was already on my way. I didn’t want to spend an extra 1-2 seconds while she finished talking. Again, pathetic!”

He concludes by saying:

“It’s definitely a different day in human history. Everything is so fast and easy, yet we’re more exhausted & frazzled than ever.”

Matt is being too hard on himself. He’s just part of a culture that’s been pushing us faster and faster, promising us more and more, and yet, as he says, we often end up “exhausted and frazzled.”

So what does Matt do? Every once in a while he asks his staff to turn over their iPhones and for 24 hours they all “fast” from the instant gratification of modern technology. They take things slowly, as they come, and try to rediscover the rhythms of life before the Internet, before the computer, and even before the 1950’s era Sonic Drive-In. They try to follow the stern command of Psalm 46:10:

“Be still, and know that I am God.”

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20311I mentioned in worship last Sunday that a $6 mosquito net will keep an average of two children in Africa from dying of malaria.  That means that $3 could save the life of a single child.  The question is: is it worth it?

T. Thomas, who has served as a foreign missionary with both the Southern Baptist Convention and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, is now heading up a non-profit called “His Nets.”  I heard T. speak in Oklahoma City last week, and he talked about asking a group of women in Ghana how many of them had lost a child to malaria.

Every hand went up.

“Now think about the church you serve,” he said.  “If you asked your congregation how many of them had lost a child to malaria, how many hands would go up?” 

None. 

That story, and that question, have haunted me in the past week.  Instead of spending dollars I’ve been counting lives.  Coffee on Tuesday was $1.85, or a little more than half a life.  Lunch today was a little more than $7, or just over two lives.  The fleece cap I bought this afternoon to keep my head warm while I’m backpacking in the Guadalupe Mountains?  Nearly seven lives.

I know there are thousands of good causes to give money to, and I’m not trying to get you to take up this one.  I’m just telling you how it has affected me.  I’m probably going to put a jar on my kitchen table and start collecting loose coins and bills, giving up a cup of coffee or two during the week (ouch!), or skipping lunch from time to time and using that time to pray for Africa.

I have two daughters.  Thank God, they are healthy and strong.  But what if they’d been born in Africa and I couldn’t afford a mosquito net?  And what if somebody in this country didn’t think it was worth $6 to send one?

God help us.

————————————-

Click HERE to download a free brochure from “His Nets”

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Snuggle_Buddies_by_DragonflyHeartSometimes everything just comes together.

It did this morning at community missions, down on the basement level of our building.  I try to go down there every Wednesday morning to greet our homeless neighbors and make them feel welcome.  I usually share a thought and say a prayer.  I don’t always know what my “thought” is going to be until it’s time to speak, but this morning everything came together. 

I was watching people come in from outside, shaking the rain off their caps and jackets.  I knew that it wouldn’t be long before they start to come in shivering from the cold.  So when Brenda Andrews announced (confidently) that I was going to share a good word I began to tell them about David.

For four weeks now on Tuesday nights I have been telling the story of King David out at Westminster Canterbury, the elegant retirement community on Westbrook Road.  This week I was talking about the end of David’s life and how, when he was an old man, he just couldn’t stay warm.  “He would go to bed at night and shiver beneath his blankets,” I said.  “His bones would ache with the cold, his knees would knock together, and no matter how many covers they piled on top of him he couldn’t get warm.”

I could see people nodding their heads; they’d had nights like that, except they hadn’t had a bed to sleep in and not nearly so many covers.

“You may have read in the Book of Ecclesiastes,” I said: “‘Two can stay warm under the same blanket, but how can one stay warm alone?'” (Ecc. 4:11). 

I’m not sure they had read it, but I could see that it made sense to everyone in the room.  “Yes, two can stay warm under the same blanket!”  Some of them smiled at memories they would have been embarrassed to share.

“So David’s advisors suggested that they find the prettiest girl in Israel and let her try to keep David warm at night.  This idea pleased the king (Oh, did it?), and so they held a national beauty contest, going through every village from Dan to Beersheba looking for the prettiest girl in the land.  They finally settled on Abishag the Shunnamite, and from that night on (although the Bible makes it clear that she had no “relations” with him), Abishag slept in David’s bed and kept him warm.”

I don’t think most of the people at community missions had heard that story before, though it’s right there in 1 Kings, chapter 1.  They smiled at the image of the old king finally warm at night, and some of them must have wondered how they would stay warm when the winter winds begin to blow.

“The thing I love about David,” I said, “is that he was so human, so real.  He had been a great warrior—a giant killer!—but he got to be an old man who couldn’t stay warm at night.  He loved God and wanted to please him but he also made some terrible mistakes along the way and had to beg for God’s forgiveness.  Still, he was remembered as the greatest king who ever lived in Israel, and his story gives me hope.”

“If God can use someone like David, he can use all of us, can’t he?”

And they nodded, they really did. 

“Of course he can!”

 

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Oklahoma_CityI went to Oklahoma City last week mostly because of the guest list.  The invitation seemed deliberately vague: a group of some fifty Baptist ministers and missionaries were going to be talking about how to do missions in the 21st century.  There were some hints about “finding new ways” that suggested the old ways were no longer working.  I didn’t know what to make of that.  But as I looked down the guest list I began to think that a couple of days talking with those people would be worth the trip.

So I went.

I hoped that we would spend some time talking about the missional church and the idea that missions is no longer only “over there” somewhere, but also “right here,” where we are.  Instead we spent most of our time talking about how to send missionaries to other parts of the world.  I began to get the feeling from this mostly West-of-the-Mississippi delegation that they had been disenfranchised by the Southern Baptist Convention and disappointed by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, but still felt compelled by Christ to carry the Gospel to the world.  How would they do that?

One large church is already sending missionaries on its own.  An independent non-profit is sending missionaries to the world’s unreached people groups.  A number of the churches are doing groundbreaking community missions right where they are.  The consensus that emerged was that there ought to be some way to make all this information and all these resources available to any Great Commission Christian.  And in the 21st century context in which we live, we started talking about a website. 

Did you get that?  Not a denomination, not a convention: a website.  We decided that what we didn’t need was a top-down organization telling local churches what to do.  We’re Baptists, after all, who believe that local churches are autonomous—free to determine their own mission and ministry.  But we also believe those churches can do more together than they can alone, and if there were some way to collaborate online, well, who knows what might happen?

We talked about a site with the social networking genius of Facebook and the open-source, information-sharing genius of Wikipedia, so that churches interested in working in a particular area could network with each other, share stories and ideas, maybe even travel together.  There might be a whole category called “Housing the Homeless,” or “Sharing Your Faith Across Cultures,” or “Mosquito Nets for Africa.”  Suppose you end up in a chat room talking about how to help refugees from Nepal when they come to your town, or uploading video from a river baptism in Bolivia?

I don’t know what will happen next, but I do know I came home buzzing with ideas and thinking about how we might apply some of these same strategies to our work here at First Baptist Church.  At the very least, then, what happened in Oklahoma City is that I got excited about missions—again.

That’s not a bad thing, is it?

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I Get to Go to Work

October 26

In these difficult economic times I’m trying hard not to say, “I have to go to work.”  I’m trying to say, “I get to go to work.”  And on a day like this one I’m especially grateful that I get to go to work in a place that looks like this.  I took this picture from the sidewalk in front of 2709 Monument Avenue ten minutes ago.  And now? 

I’d better get to work.

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