Saturday, January 31, 2009

putting faith to work

This morning, Pantego Bible Church elders and their families arrived at Oakcrest Family Church (a supported Compassion agency of our church) and got busy. We worked alongside Oakcrest faithful folks pulling up carpet throughout their building, painting the exterior and organizing children's ministry classrooms. At noon, we threw burgers on the grill and shared lunch together. The hours drew us closer in deeper relationships and gave us an up-close look at this vital east Fort Worth ministry to the down and out. I am personally grateful for Fred Breese, PBC Elder Chairman, who has been leading the charge in this neck of the woods for many years. It's just another expression of how, in community, people are putting their faith to work!

Friday, January 30, 2009

the homeless count #2

Last night, Grant and I joined Stephanie Gillespie, Arlington police officer and Pantego Bible Church attendee, for the 2009 Tarrant County Homeless Coalition "Homeless Count." In one evening [all over the country], a team of volunteers canvasses their city looking for the truly homeless staying in temporary encampments, under bridges, behind buildings and near vacant homes.

First, we met a beautiful women, on the road to recovery, who has recently adopted a young boy (from another mother who is an addict) and is re-starting a new life. Susie was a picture of hope and a reminder that the Gospel of Jesus Christ can dramatically rescue a person from sinking sand.

Next, we travelled to the pay-by-the-day motels in east Arlington. Tenants, living under the shadow of a multi-billion dollar stadium are packed into 300 square foot rooms--sometimes 7 or 8 in a unit. From there, two teenage boys led us back into the dark woods to a little settlement of a tent, blankets, rain tarp and folding metal lawn chairs. Nobody home.

At a nearby park, we interviewed "Bob" who claimed to be a former white collar worker, now on the street because of unemployment. We talked to "Jimmy" about how accustomed he's become with jumping around the social services that keep him making it day to day. Through a toothless smile, he spoke of a dream of having a steady income one day. We passed by pimps and their call girls, street corner drug dealers, a couple living out of the trunk of their car and grade school kids too young and innocent to be playing outside at 10 o'clock when the temperature was below freezing.

As we approached the end of our night, we spotted a pile of blankets on the back dock of a warehouse. As we pulled closer, a head poked out from beneath the mounded cocoon. A fifty-something man, unshaven and a wild mane of hair, was clearly put out by the disturbance. I wrote "unresponsive Caucasian male" on my survey and we left him alone.

The unshakable truth from our evening ride is that people are ever-moving toward something. The motel misfits are "moving" each day just trying to make it to the next. Kids caught in the cycle of poverty are "moving" through life, perhaps looking across their classroom [the only structure to their life] and dreaming that they might have a home and vacations and cool back packs like the other day. The "Bobs" and the "Jimmys" of the streets are "moving" from place to place. Home is where they lay their head. They have the keep "moving" because movement is survival.

And Susie---the adoptive parent that started our adventure---proved that God can "move" anyone to new places. When His Spirit is on the move, He can move hearts and move obstacles and move the hopeless to higher ground. With this in mind, I am once again reminded that people matter. All people. The mentally incompetent who picks up trash in his shopping basket, the deceptive drug pusher, the child with lice and a shirt she has worn for a week, the prostitute who waves and winks, the man who sits on the sidewalk and tells us mostly half-truths. The homeless do count. They count to a God who numbers the hairs on their heads, the fears they posess and the days of their lives.

May God move me more and more to make the poor count in my heart too.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

lunch with Jesus

Though officially closed to pay homage to our "ice day," I decided to come into the office today. An hour later, I ventured out for lunch and exited Wendy's with a couple of chicken sandwiches. To make the loop back to the church, I had to pull through several parking lots and there I encountered Charlie.

As I passed him, my conscience kicked into overdrive. I circled down the hill and into the parking lot of a liquor store hoping that all my congregants were snugly at home and wouldn't see me idling there. Charlie made his way cautiously down the ice-covered sidewalk and stepped over the guard rail to make his way under the bridge. I hollered across the creek bed, "Hey, have you had lunch?" Like a cat hearing the can opener, Charlie came the half-block toward me and we introduced ourselves.

"I thought you were Gary," I said, referring to another fellow I met a month ago.

"Gary?" he said. "You mean 'Big Green'?" We laughed as he described the monstrous post-six-foot friend that also lived in his secluded encampment.

"Have you had lunch today?" I asked.

"No," Charlie answered, still unsure where this connection was heading.

I said, "Well, it's either Panda or Jack-in-the-Box. You choose."

Charlie's eyes lit up. "Panda of course!" Why would anyone settle on a burger when the opportunity for a 3-entree meal was offered? As he tossed his backpack on the front floorboard of my SUV, he added, "It's nice to know that there are still good people in the world."

Good? My mind raced quickly to Mark 10:18: “Why do you call me good?“ Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone." Funny thing is, Jesus, as God, could have easily claimed that virtue for Himself. But me? I occasionally stumble over good things. But I have such a long way to go to be "good."

Lunch was chow mien noodles, shrimp, orange chicken, ragoons, shrimp crispers, chicken egg rolls and Gatorade. If Charlie pointed to it, we packed it up for him. Then, I ordered my modest "Panda Bowl"---a meal portion foreshadowing the fact that I would have another opportunity to eat in 5 hours. It's something I never even have to think about.

Charlie has been on the streets, off and on, for 10 years. He was remarkably cogent and shared his story: growing up in Savannah, Georgia (I spent 3 years in Lithonia); joining the Marines at age 19; building tractor trailers at 23; plucking chickens at a Butterball factory for several months; married twice; two 20-something children. I laughed when he told me about "plotting" the coordinates for air attacks when he was in the Marines. "And, I was no good at math in school!" he said. "The thing about math is that you just can't know the answer. You gotta know how to get the answer. It's the formula that matters!"

Wisdom. Pure wisdom. As a Christian, I know that Jesus is the "answer." Getting people to Jesus is equally important. It's seeing people like Jesus did, perceiving their need, loving the unlovely (aren't we all!?) and being Christ with flesh and bone to the world around us.

I invited Charlie to have dinner at our home tonight. The offer clearly made him uncomfortable. "I'd hate to put you out," he mumbled. His eyes shifting down to the restaurant floor.

"Charlie, I would be our highest privilege to have you as our guest. Think about it. At 5 o'clock, I'm going to come back to the parking lot and honk a couple of times..."

"I don't want to be rude, but I don't think I'll come. I'll be alright..."

"Charlie, please think it over," I insisted. "Five o'clock. If you're there, great. If not, we'll catch up with each other later."

Before I left, I gave him the two Wendy's chicken sandwiches still bagged in the back seat of my car. At least he'll have dinner tonight. And, I got to have lunch with Jesus today [Matthew 25:31-46].

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

out of bounds

As I continue to learn about the Down & Out of our community, I am coming across a variety of resources that put flesh onto the bone of poverty. You might consider checking some of these out:

An incredible, 1987 Life magazine photo essay on homelessness [NOTE: some strong language]

Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger resource that gives one perspective of the global issue

Fort Worth and Arlington Plans to End Chronic Homelessness

A timely collection of music from known artists to support compassion

Monday, January 26, 2009

the homeless count

I have continued to be personally challenged by all that I am reading and studying regarding the poor and marginalized in our world. Truth is, the more I read, the bigger the issue becomes. What I thought was a social topic actually proves to be economic, political, global and spiritual. I have been grateful for those who have accommodated interviews for me to learn more about showing compassion to those in need.

All of this is in preparation for a sermon series starting next Sunday, February 1, titled "Down & Out: Reaching Beyond to Our Neighbors in Need." I am so hopeful about each message and initiative that we will take on as a church to make a difference in our community.

To gain a bigger picture, I am excited to ride out with Stephanie Gillespie, PBC attendee and officer with the Arlington Police. This Thursday evening, Grant and I will join her for the Tarrant County Homeless Count. We will venture into wooded areas, under bridges and among vacant buildings to count and connect with those who won't be sitting on their sofa watching a sitcom this evening.

Please be in prayer for this series and all of our hearts and we learn more about what it means to "go BEYOND".

Saturday, January 24, 2009

you are here

I hope you caught each installment of George Lynch's explanation of his triptych "You Are Here"--a 3-painting series designed specially for Pantego Bible Church. Each 4' x 6' canvas is designed to illustrate a piece of our spiritual life pathway. We come out of darkness into the place where we BELONG. As we discover what it means to belong to Christ, His church and community, we move into the current of life-change. This is the place where we BECOME more like Jesus Christ. Through this life-transformation, we overflow into the world BEYOND. This is the place of personal mission.

You can catch George explaining each canvas under the "You Are Here" series archive at the Pantego Bible Church sermon site.

You can enjoy more of George's art at

Explore more about the spiritual pathway for your own life at

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

the habit of enjoying the disagreeable

As I continue to reflect on my previous post--leanring to resolve and reconcile conflict in relationships--I am reminded of a profound devotion by Oswald Chambers on May 14. You can read more from the late Chambers at

May 14th
"That life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh." 2 Corinthians 4:10

We have to form habits to express what God's grace has done in us. It is not a question of being saved from hell, but of being saved in order to manifest the life of the Son of God in our mortal flesh, and it is the disagreeable things which make us exhibit whether or not we are manifesting His life. Do I manifest the essential sweetness of the Son of God, or the essential irritation of "myself" apart from Him? The only thing that will enable me to enjoy the disagreeable is the keen enthusiasm of letting the life of the Son of God manifest itself in me. No matter how disagreeable a thing may be, say - "Lord, I am delighted to obey Thee in this matter," and instantly the Son of God will press to the front, and there will be manifested in my human life that which glorifies Jesus.

There must be no debate. The moment you obey the light, the Son of God presses through you in that particular; but if you debate you grieve the Spirit of God. You must keep yourself fit to let the life of the Son of God be manifested, and you cannot keep yourself fit if you give way to self-pity. Our circumstances are the means of manifesting how wonderfully perfect and extraordinarily pure the Son of God is. The thing that ought to make the heart beat is a new way of manifesting the Son of God. It is one thing to choose the disagreeable, and another thing to go into the disagreeable by God's engineering. If God puts you there, He is amply sufficient.

Keep your soul fit to manifest the life of the Son of God. Never live on memories; let the word of God be always living and active in you.

Monday, January 12, 2009

falling forward

Our Home Group is still reading Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas--a fresh and insightful book that challenges ideas we all have about relationships. Last night, our chapter 9 discussion focused on the intentionality of marriage and the inevitability of conflict along the way. The more I thought about those two ideas, the more I see their connection: My intentionality in my relationship with Tiffany will often stave off conflict. However, when conflict does arise, it's that same intentionality that carries us through to reconciliation.

Thomas calls this "falling forward." He uses the image of once jumping a wide creek bed. His friend warned him to remember to fall forward. In other words, if you miss the mark, be sure to fall toward safe ground, not backwards into the water. Similarly, couples must choose to fall forward as they attempt to jump the choppy waters of their relationship. The question isn't if we will occasionally fall short, but which direction will we choose to land.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

for the new year

In the post below, I mentioned that Tiffany was going to start memorizing a verse from a different book of the Bible each week in 2009. She has started a blog, WordAWeek, to invite others to join her and encourage them along the way. I'm going for it and I'd challenge you in this spiritual discipline.