Latitude of Gratitude

“Was no one found to return and give praise to God…?”  This quote is from a telling story about human nature found in Luke 17:11-19.

In this story Jesus heals 10 men of leprosy by telling them to go and show themselves to the priest.  As they go they are cleansed of the disease.  Only one man returns to thank Jesus.

How common is that today?  I am not talking about miraculous healing of leprosy.  I am speaking about ingratitude.  We live in a culture in which people rarely take the time and put forth the effort to be grateful.
I wonder it is ingratitude, laziness, or business.  But whatever it is, it is not good. 

Here is the reality about being thankful and grateful…

Gratitude requires latitude.

What does that mean?  You are going to have to cover some ground to say, “Thank you.”  It is going to require some effort on your part.  In reality what we do to say “Thank you” is not a repayment.  It would never be enough.  It is simply a gesture of respect and appreciation, but it requires effort and time.

Take the time to cover the ground and go back and say thanks.  Put forth the effort to look people in the eyes and appreciate what they have done for you.  Take the time to write a thank you card (not a thanks email).

Cover the latitude required to give gratitude.

below is a little story of recent gratitude in my life and for Fellowship Church if you would like to read on.

This past Sunday, I went to Istrouma Baptist Church to say thank you.  Never will a slide show and a 5 minute presentation repay what Istrouma has done for Fellowship through they years.  From the fact that they hired me 11 years ago this week and set me on this journey start Fellowship.  It could be for the baby shower they threw for Daniel when we knew less than 20 people in this city.  Or the times they helped us pull off events in the early days.  Maybe it was when they bought land on our behalf.  Or perhaps when they put some money down on our building loan.

This time it was because they forgave our church a debt.  We still owed Istrouma for the property behind our building.  This debt was big.  ($300,000).  It was in the way of us moving forward and expanding as is needed.  (Fellowship is going to 3 services this fall to keep up with growth and starting a second campus with hopefully a 100 people in January).  And still the land was needed but the needs to build and pay back were more than we had.  Istrouma approached us with the offer…and we are grateful…very grateful.

So take the time to tell people thank you.

Istrouma, “thank you…for everything!”

Yes…was and still is the answer

This past Monday (May 21) marked 15 years to the day that I asked Wendy to marry me. (Our anniversary is January 3.) I am going to use our date for a little marriage insight.
For that date I took her to a prayer garden. I read some Scriptures about marriage. Got down on one knee. And asked her to marry me. I had gotten both of our parents and my sisters to write us a letter to read. We read those. We wrote one to ourselves and God. And we went out to the Monroe Steak House to eat.
This past Sunday, I tried to recreate the date a little. We went out to a beautiful garden in Baton Rouge that I had never been to in 11 years living here. It is the Windrush Gardens at the LSU Rural Life Museum. A friend came out took some pictures of us. I even used the same Bible to read a passage and make Wendy a promise. Then we went out to eat at Outback Steakhouse.
It was a good night. A great way to remember. And a good way to take some pictures that make me look better because my wife is so stunning in them everyone forgets to look at me. (I have included a few.)
If yes is and will always be the answer…it is because you choose to say yes when no one is looking and the stakes seem to not count.
Marriage is not an easy deal…the passage I read Sunday calls it a profound mystery. But it is a great mystery. It is fun to figure out. It is at times difficult to work out. But it is always worth it. But you have to remember the answer is yes not when you are posing for some pictures or planning that special occasion. You have to remember the answer is yes when the laundry needs to be folded and the kitchen needs to be cleaned. You have to remember the answer is yes when you disagree about money…or at least the use of it. You have to remember the answer is yes when you are tired but your spouse could use some attention and some time.
The answer is still yes because you say yes not only when all is still but when life is crazy and wild.
Wendy, thanks for the yes. Thanks for the years. And thanks for the many yeses that have filled them. You might be a profound mystery, but your still my favorite read.

Safety or Save Me…choose

“God is not cruel, but He is not lenient. He is true; but He is not safe. He is unchanging; therefore we must change.” (Wayne Cordiero in Leading on Empty page 29)

He is true; but he is not safe. Is that true?

Does this type of life sound very safe?

“Whoever finds his life will lose it but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Matt. 10:39

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Prov. 3:5-6

Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. John 15:20a

The problem most of us have with the truth…the real truth…is that it is not safe. Or at least not our version of safe. Our version of safe always comes with one stipulation…we are in control.

Many people turn to their own personal version of Jesus seeking safety. There is no salvation found there. Salvation is not found in safety; it is found in absolute abandonment.

Jesus has not promised you safety nor prosperity…He has promised you eternity.

But you can’t choose both.

Sunday Recap

Here is a recap of the sermon Sunday. Acts 8:26-40. The story is about Phillip and his experience in sharing the Gospel with an official from Ethiopia that was going home after worshipping in Jerusalem.

Basically, this is the gist of the story. An angel tells Phillip to go the Gaza Road. Once there the Spirit leads him to run next to a chariot. In the chariot this Ethiopian is reading out of Isaiah. Phillip asks if he understands. He says no. Phillip gets in the chariot and rides with him and tells him about Jesus Christ starting with that prophecy from Isaiah. The Ethiopian sees some water and wants to be baptized. Phillip baptizes him under the water and as he comes up, Phillip is teleported by God to another place.

Here is the main point…
Hear the Lord…Head out.
Head out…Hear the Lord.

When you hear from God, do what he says. When you do what he says, you hear more from God…at least that is how it typically works. This is a principle from a narrative not a law from instruction.

There are two types of callings and two types of obedience for Christ followers. General call and general obedience. Specific call and specific obedience. The principle…typically you must be generally obedient to the general call of Scripture before you will hear a specific call from God.

One of the biggest obstacles people have in living faithfully is that too many believers believe a lie. People somehow believe that God always provide specific calls to general obedience. He does not. Phillip did not have to stop and pray about whether he should share with the Ethiopian the Gospel. Jesus told us to “Go and make disciples of all nations…” The call already exists. Does the obedience?

So, basically, quit doing nothing until God tells you something specific to do. Do what he generally told you to do and he will get more specific as you go. You will never know the specific until you are faithful with the general.

Probably the point that I have heard repeated back the most is this one…

You will never know the depths of your giftedness until you walk in the shallow waters of obedience.

I will flesh that out more in another blog this week.

Also we announced the move to 3 services in August. God is doing great things at Fellowship.

Show yourself a Man

This quote is from 1 Kings 2:2. In this passage David is leaving his son, Solomon, final instructions on how to be a king. It starts with be strong and show yourself a man and leads into observing the ways of the Lord. I wonder what young Solomon thought it meant to show himself a man? Perhaps he was confused on this and that is why he ended up with over 1000 wives and concubines. I don’t think that is what was meant here, but we can confuse such things easily. The instructions that continue in this passage are a grave set of instructions for a young king with a lot of promise. Promise that is not really because of him. Promise that is because God made a promise to his Father. A promise that if your descendants will follow me you will never lack a king on the throne of Israel. What promise…what potential. Promise and potential always come with responsibility and stewardship. Israel’s kings and David’s descendants squandered that promise that potential running after other gods. Will you waste yours? (I hope all you Fellowshippers out there plan on being here Sunday. We will be discussing some needed decisions to squander promise and potential. We are in the place we are in because of faithfulness, but the influence we desire in this community will be the result of continued stewardship and responsibility. See you Sunday.)