I can really fool myself can’t I?

On the way to dropping my kids off at school this morning, I stopped to get gas!  I paid $3.37 a gallon – quite a bargain I hear compared to some parts of the country!  I didn’t really need gas but I’ve adopted a new view of filling my tank.  It hurts less if you only have to fill up a ½ tank. 

 

You see, I’ve always figured that since I pay for my gas with a debit card, I might as well run it out and fill it up once a week or when it’s close to empty.  That’s in contrast to my college days when I would only put in about $3 or $4 dollars whenever I absolutely had to (of course gas was just a little over $1 a gallon then).  Recently, I filled my tank up from nearly empty and it cost me nearly 70 dollars!  We leased our gas-guzzling SUV blazer a few weeks before Katrina hit and I’ve been sorry ever since.  Thank goodness our lease is up in a few months – I might be able to resume eating three meals a day! 

 

With my new philosophy though, it is only costing me about $25 to $30 each trip to the pump!  That is much easier to swallow!  I feel so much better when I leave the gas station…it’s almost the same feeling I had back in the early ‘90s when gas dipped to less than 70 cents a gallon!  The problem is when I go to reconcile my checking account, I’m still spending nearly $100 a week for gas!  So I’ve just delayed my pain from the pump to the computer desk and Quicken®

 

It’s kind of like sin…oh just a little gossip, just a little backbiting.  It really doesn’t hurt to flirt with someone who’s not my spouse.  It’s just one TV show that I shouldn’t really watch, just one website I shouldn’t open.  The problem with that philosophy is no matter how small, it all adds up to a life that is not being lived for Christ – it’s being lived to indulge myself.  If I’m not careful, I can really fool myself into thinking that just because it’s people who “know me” I can say those things about someone else or just because no one else is around, I’m not really hurting anyone.  Sin is sin is sin and just because I put it in small doses doesn’t make the long-term effect any less harmful.

Because of the Cross

I always sign my letters “Because of the Cross”.   It’s a simple little thought that I started signing early in my ministry, perhaps during college and have done so ever since.

 

In class yesterday morning we talked about the sacrifice of the Father and watched a powerful mini-movie – “Most” that depicted a father’s sacrifice of his son to save many.  Looking at John 3:16-17 and Ephesians 2 we talked about the sacrifice of God’s Son on the Cross and how that sacrifice gives us new life, full life – a life that is no longer ours but belongs to God.

 

Last night seventeen of us gathered at the Hirth’s house (thanks Hirths!) to watch – at the beginning of Passion week – The Passion of the Christ.  It’s only the 2nd time I have seen the movie, and for some there it was their first.  After the movie we shared in a moving time of worship and communion with one another.  We talked about Romans 5.  In verses 8-9 Paul writes “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from the wrath of God.”  Each blow, each whip or scourge, each nail and insult that was taken by Jesus, was taken because of me.  He took my sin and because of that I can now rejoice that he has become my substitute – that was supposed to be me there.  God’s wrath was supposed to be upon me…but Jesus took it.  What a reason to rejoice!  What an awesome time we had sharing, praying, rejoicing and communing together!!!

 

Our Western Cultural view has tamed the meaning and the picture of the cross.   We paint pictures of it and we wear it as jewelry but the cross was not pretty, the cross was not “in style”.  The cross was a shameful, horrible way to die – it was costly – it cost Jesus everything.  Because of it though, God looks at me (and you) through the blood of Jesus and says “It was worth it.”  I am reminded that the little saying “Because of the Cross” isn’t just a saying…it is my life.  My life is now because of the Cross.  My marriage, my family, my house, my car, my job, my strength, my money, my hope, my joy, my peace…everything I am, everything I ever hope to be is because of what Jesus did for me on that Cross.

 

It is my prayer that our youth group will continue to come to an understanding that living for Christ will cost them everything, but it’s worth it!

 

 

Because of the Cross,

Mike

 

 

 

Mike Brown

Youth & Family Minister

Lafayette Church of Christ

115 New Ballwin Rd.

Ballwin, MO  63021

636.391.6697 – office

636.394.2338 – fax

mike.brown@lafayettechurch.org

 

Pulling it all together

OK Lord what are you doing…for some reason I always seem to be catching up. When I finally “get” something – I go “you should have seen this years ago!” Well, it’s all culminating right now in this thing I call my life. Passion, sacrifice, responsibility, insight – a desire to live a life deeper in the Spirit. A call from “religion” to living for Jesus – there is a marked difference – I’ve always known that. Wonder what kind of “trouble” that’s going to bring?

My life has always seemed thematic. I guess everyone’s is. We all go through certain stages – I assume! My theme right now is “the poor”, spiritual formation (not necessarily the trendy kind) and care less what people “think” about me and just do what God has called me to do.

The chess pieces are being laid out. The Lord is preparing me for something…what is it? Not quite sure…I can’t even say that I’m ready…but I can say I’m willing. No better place to be than in the center of God’s will!

I Thought I’d Seen it All

This post was written December 12, 2005 but not posted until now for reasons I think you will understand after you read it.

As I write this, I know it will be a long time before I post it. Years maybe. But I had to write it down. It’s so sad, yet so indicative of mankind’s struggle with sin and our mind’s ability to escape the guilt.

I don’t know if she had previouis mental issues – I am sure that she did but I don’t know that for certain. Seeing her in our security monitor, our church secretary came to my office and said, “I think you’d better come, I don’t think I’m going to the door right away.” It was barely 20 degrees outside. She came from across the parking lot. She had taken her shoes and socks off and walked through the deep snow that had fallen just a day before…as she neared the main entrance to the church building, she took off her pants and then her shirt – nothing else on underneath. There on our security monitor, at the main doors of the church building sat a young lady with no clothes on in a fetal position rocking back and forth. Then she stood up and began to lean against the glass and beat on the doors. (I am glad that pre-school is only on Tuesday and Thursday.)

Our secretary called the sheriff’s department and I called down to the young lady over the intercom. “Can I help you?”, I said not having any clue what her response might be nor what I would say after that!

“Yes,” she cried, “Yes, you can, I have come to the house of the Lord for I have sinned and need to repent.” With this she went back to the fetal position and began praying a prayer of repentance. With no regard to the cold, her bare body on the cold concrete.

I stood there, saying a prayer of my own, “OK Lord, we didn’t have a class on this at Harding.” As I began to think how we could get her in out of the cold without putting anyone in danger, the officer drove up. I went downstairs to help him and our secretary went to look for blankets, towels or anything warm to put on her.

We got her inside and clothed and I sat down with her in our sanctuary. We sat in chairs close to one another, I put my arm around her and she was still mumbling over and over, “I have sinned and I need to seek forgiveness”. While the officers were tracking down relatives, she and I began to converse – as well as one can with someone who is completely distraught. As I prayed to myself and tried to talk to her, she slowly became more coherent. After a few sentences, I began to realize that she had gone through an abortion (at least one) and the guilt that had overcome her had driven her to a state of mind with which she could not cope. All she knew to do, at the bare essence of her life (no pun intended), was to come to God, to seek forgiveness, to find hope.

We talked and prayed more and I tried to assure her of God’s love and forgiveness which to her becoming even more coherent and calm. After a while, her mother came and took her to the doctor. As they drove off, I continued to pray that The Great Physicial had already begun the healing process in her life.

I was reminded that no matter how much we try to cover it up with the pleasures of this world, we were made to be God’s. God’s Alone! When sin is in our life, we are seperated from God and that has a devastating effect on us. Although we may not react in the same way she did, this young lady is a reminder of what we are without God.

A New Chapter

Pulling out of our driveway in Indiana was a surreal experience. Having spent the week before making final preparations and packing essentials to make the journey to St. Louis, our bodies knew we were going but our minds were still catching up. Saying good-bye the day before to all the folks we had worshipped and worked with for the last 13 years and to our families had jolted us into reality. We had learned that morning that our house had sold as we finished packing the final bags for our temporary stay with the Gillespies. Many mixed emotions filled our minds and thoughts as we made our way down I-70. The prevalent thought that kept running through my mind was how God had made the path smooth for our transition. Everything had come together in a way that left no doubt He was in control. Although there were and are many unknowns still ahead, He has been at every turn to guide our way.

As we pulled into the Gillespie’s driveway, the sound I heard as I opened my car door was Kristie saying “Welcome home!” As we read e-mails, had phone conversations, ate in homes, worshipped with you Sunday morning and began our work here, the constant theme has been “Welcome home!” Thank you. Thank you for opening your arms to us and making this feel like home to our family.

We covet your prayers, not just during this time of transition but from now on as we have and will be praying for you. We look forward to getting to know each of you and pulling up our sleeves and working together in God’s Kingdom as we serve families and teens here at Lafayette.

Because of the Cross,

Mike and Lee Ann

My Fingers Hurt

Sometimes I try to hold on to things so tightly that my fingers begin to hurt! It’s like trying to drive in rush hour traffic in a city you are not familiar with. About 2 years ago, Lee Ann and I went to Los Angeles and drove from LAX to Anaheim during evening rush hour. YIKES – what an experience. Start…stop..start…stop…sta**..stop!..70 MPH to 10 MPH in 1.8 seconds! It was about an hour’s “drive”. By the time we arrived at the hotel, my hands and knuckles were aching from holding on to the steering wheel so hard, my shoulders were sore from being tense for a solid hour and my head was throbbing!

I do the same thing in my spiritual walk sometimes…OK…often! Rather than taking the cab, I tend to want to sit in the driver’s seat. Rather than enjoying the ride, I am fixed on the goal of getting to where I am trying to get! I hold on to things that aren’t really mine to hold on to! Get tense about things I really have no control over.

On that same trip, we took an afternoon and drove from Anaheim to Laguna Beach on the Pacific Coast Highway. What a difference! Smooth, relaxing…even though it was cool (65 in January everyone brings out their coats there) we put the top down on the rented covertible. We stopped at a little cafe for lunch, walked along the beach with our shoes off, held hands, spent some time talking to one another, listening to God together and just enjoying the momemt for what it was. That day is “imprinted” in my mind…that’s my “happy place” 🙂 (no I’m not crazy yet). I sure felt relaxed and refreshed in my relationships with the Lord and with Lee Ann. I wanted to stay there.

We had to leave to get to the airport a day and half later during morning rush hour…at least I still have my “happy place”.

What Was I Thinking?

I should know better…planning ahead…that’s when I always get into trouble. I just got my schedule laid out until next August ’06. I like order and plans – it makes me feel like I am in control. God has a great sense of humor and I think He takes great delight in seeing me lay out MY plans and then have to punt and scurry back to him for security and dependence. When will I learn that it’s just better there to begin with 🙂

Oh Lord, use me but whatever you do, don’t let go!