Learning You Will Know the Power of Evil by Knowing the Power of Jesus

Knowing the power of Jesus comes with facing the powers of evil with him.

Jesus confronted evil.  He walked into its arena.  He passed through its favorite hangouts.

Jesus was so closely acquainted with evil that evil had no option but to be acquainted with him.

Evil knows Jesus.

An evil spirit in Acts 19 confesses, “Jesus I know.”  

Strangely enough, the same spirit doesn’t know a group of people speaking in Jesus’ name.  They are amateur exorcists.  They attempt to cast out demons using the command, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.”

The evil spirit responds, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are you?”  

The demon is like, “Oh really, you know Jesus, huh?  Then, why haven’t I seen you with him before?  What’s his favorite outfit?  What color are his eyes?  I would definitely recognize you if you know Jesus because I see him all the time.  Are you part of a new recruiting class?”

Fully aware this group of people don’t know Jesus, the evil spirit wages an attack.  It overpowers them and sends them running home in the nude.

You can’t fake knowing Jesus.  

Name dropping will not suffice.  You can’t hide having never spent time with him.  If so, you would know his favorite places to hang out.  Likewise, the people and spirits in those places would know you.

Jesus invites everyone he knows to follow him in facing the powers of evil.  He leads you in receiving and even suffering all the worst evil can throw at you.  Then, he brings you out “more than conquerors.

You have to go in order to know.

Going with Jesus allows you to know Jesus.  The places that Jesus takes you make it inevitable that you will also know evil.

Why?  Because Jesus came to overcome evil.  Jesus and the Holy Spirit empower you to do the same.

 

 

Learning to Choose the WHY Behind Church Christmas Events

LOL 2015You know church Christmas events.  Christmas Cantatas.  Children’s Christmas musicals.  Candlelight services.

Christmas events are a given in the church world.  Some are nostalgic.  Some are tradition.  Some are innovative.  Others should have been laid to rest a decade ago.

No matter the variety, every Church Christmas event should serve an underlying reason “why.”

Knowing the “why” is more critical than the “how.”  The “why” drives the “how.”

It works by default or by choice.  You can focus on the “how” without considering the “why,” but it operates the same.  An unspoken “why” will drive it all, whether it is tradition or convenience or finances.

The event serves a greater purpose when the “why” is intentional.

Not every “why” needs to be the same for every church.  

Several “why’s” can be good.  Not any one is superior to all others.

You simply need to settle on the one you believe in most.  Choose it.  Don’t let it choose you.  Then, serve the “why” with passion.

Choosing a “why” for a Church Christmas event will produce stories worth telling.  

Conversations will turn from performance evaluation to emotional connection.  It will become less about what you can draw from the event, and more about the impact it has on others.

I know because I have a story to tell from Highland Park Church‘s Christmas event called Lights of Lakeland.  In it’s tenth year, Lights of Lakeland is an event that attracts over 30,00 people.  But, it’s not about the numbers.  It is about the “why” of leading people to love God and love others.

Here’s our story.

A young family has attended Lights of Lakeland several years in a row.  It has become a family tradition.  The whole family gets together for it.  Grandma and grandpa, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, grandkids, and cousins attend.

Every year they look forward to the experience.  It’s one of those things that put them in the Christmas spirit.  You know, like your city’s Christmas parade or colder weather or Christmas songs on the radio or visiting santa at the mall.

This year will be different.  Since last year, one of the children received a difficult health diagnosis.  He is sick.  Really sick.  It isn’t safe for him to be in large crowds.  Lights of Lakeland is too risky.

Wanting to keep life as normal as possible for him, his parents try something.  They email our church with a request.  Could you provide a way for our family experience Lights of Lakeland with our son without the crowds?

Yes.  We can.  We will.

The email was our first interpersonal connection with this family.  The second was our children’s ministry staff visiting the boy and his family in the hospital.  The third was the night they attended our church for the first time.

They are not church people.  Meaning, they were not leaving another church to attend ours.  Church was not a normal part of their life.

They have decided to give it a try.  They want to know what this Church thing is about.  They are ready to learn about God’s love and Jesus and how it can influence their lives.

And, this year, mom and dad will be volunteering for Lights of Lakeland.

Choosing the “why” behind our Church Christmas event is writing a new story for this family, and many more.  A story worth telling.  

Learning Different Ways the Church Can Be the Hope of the World


TurkeyCommunication with Brooklyn (my wife) two of the past three weeks have primarily taken the form of text or FaceTime.  Normally I bemoan the downfall of society thanks to these electronic devices we carry with us everywhere.  Seasons like these help realize the value of modern technology.  Without it, I would be waiting for physical handwritten mail (what’s that, right?) to slowly make its way home with news of her travels.

Brooklyn is fulfilling a calling she received from God as a teenager.  She is living the reality of a dream God gave to her when she was sixteen.  God told her, “You will travel the world to care for women, children, and orphans.”  Twenty-one years later, she is doing just that.

Her most recent assignments have taken her to parts of the world whose timezones are 11 hours and 8 hours ahead of Lakeland, FL.  Long flights (like over 24 hrs long) and sketchy shuttle rides have taken her to destinations most of us can’t imagine.  Meeting her there were hundreds of pastors and young leaders from countries all over the world.

Through her work, I am learning different ways the Church is being the hope of the world.  In one message she wrote, “I held a Syrian refugee today.  I held hands with a pastor who takes care of 5,000 refugees.  I am getting closer to the places where God cares for the orphan.”  Beautiful.  The Church is the hope of the world in places we only hear about in the news.

Over FaceTime, she told me stories of the way this pastor and his wife care for 5,000 refugees.  Knowing the refugees come from situations of scarcity, the pastors’ primary goal is to offer security for their most basic needs.  They want to give each person in their care 20% more resources than they need.  With God’s help, they are doing it.

In an email message, she sent me a video clip of a young leader singing a worship song in the style of his own native culture.  The message she typed explained the video.  He is a leader who created one of the most popular TV shows to air in his country.  It was picked up by a network equivalent to our MTV.  It ran for 40 consecutive days due to instant popularity.  The name of the show is “Ask Me Anything About Jesus.”  

She also told me about a young youth pastor who passionately serves the youth in her country while enduring less than ideal circumstances.  Her husband initially came to her country on a work visa.  It recently expired.  This forced him to move back to his home country for an indefinite period of time until he is granted permission to reenter.  For months now, she continues to faithfully serve her calling to youth in one country while her husband lives in another.

Most recently, she sent me message saying, “I was prayed over in Arabic Today.”  Below that, she attached a picture of a large group of young leaders from several different countries.  Next to it, she inserted a happy, smiley face emoji.

Brooklyn is helping me learning how the Church can be the hope of the world in different ways.  It doesn’t all look or sound the same.  God’s imagination for God’s people creates endless expressions of hope in our world.  I pray God uses this awareness to give others the courage to embody the hope of the world in their own unique way.

 

Learning How You Can Feed 13 Students Who Need It

PrintOn Friday night, we hosted a concert to benefit a local organization whose main purpose is to impact the lives of children by ensuring each child spends every day free of hunger.  Why?  Nearly 2,000 students in our county struggle to secure food for the weekend.

The concert was held in our church gymnasium.  To enter the building, you would first pass through one of two sets of double doors.  Waiting for you was our ticket sales and will call.  With tickets in hand, you were directed to walk through another set of double doors either on your left or right.

Whether you you entered from the right or left, you walked into the same entryway space.  Located there was a table with information about kidsPACK.  Behind the table sat a kind, caring volunteer who could answer any questions.  On the table, you would find a booklet of packing sites and the number of schools and children they support.  One of such sites is Highland Park Church.

It shows a total of eight schools on the list for Highland Park Church.  To the right of each school is listed the number of students who receive a kidsPACK every Friday.  At the bottom of that column, a total number of students being supported is provided.  Seventy-three.  73.  Highland Park Church currently supplies seventy-three packs of food.  Awesome, right?  So, proud of our people for taking action toward caring for the needs of others in our community.

There is one more number, though.  13.  Thirteen.  This is the number of students still waiting for their weekend food pack.  The reason:  there aren’t enough funds to cover the cost.  Each of the thirteen students need someone to commit to give $25 a month.  Twenty-five dollars is enough to supply 7 meals per student per weekend.

Maybe you’re wondering if this need is real?  If so, I would recommend you introduce yourself to a local school’s guidance counselor.  Ask them for stories.  I am guessing you will hear about students who can’t wait for free breakfast on Monday, who eat everything on their plate at lunch and ask their classmates for their leftovers, who can’t focus at the end of the day because they can’t stop thinking about where their next meal will come from before the next school day begins.

Matthew 25:40 (NRSV) Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.

Maybe you live in Lakeland and attend Highland Park Church, or maybe you don’t.  Either way, you can impact the life of a student by ensuring they spend every day free of hunger.

If God compels you to support a student with weekend meals, you can contact me for more info:  coylindsey@gmail.com

Learning What Bluegrass, BBQ, and Backpacks Have in Common

Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 8.47.43 AMEvery Friday morning students are called to the guidance counselor’s office at the end of the school day.  They take their backpack with them, ready to go home for the weekend.  It’s their little secret what happens next.  I’ll let you in on it.

A single food pack containing seven meals is inconspicuously placed in their backpack.  Why?  They can’t expect food to be waiting for them when they get home.  Their home life isn’t typical.  A permanent residence isn’t a luxury their family can afford.  They might be living in a shelter or a car or sleeping on the couch at a friend’s house.  Stability is tough to come by.

So, that’s the story on backpacks.  What about Bluegrass and BBQ?

If you know anything about either, you know they are like beans and cornbread.  If that analogy doesn’t jive with you, try one of these:  they are like peas and carrots or Jekyll and Hyde or Batman and Robin.  Bluegrass and BBQ just go together.  There’s really no reason to have one without the other.  Because, if you have one, your senses will crave the other.

Highland Park Church is keeping Bluegrass and BBQ together.  We are honoring their relationship.  On Friday, October 2 at 6pm we are hosting the best Bluegrass and BBQ you will experience anywhere for 2,000 miles.  Award-winning BBQ’ers will be preparing a meal you can’t buy at a restaurant. Iron Horse bluegrass band will be joined by special guest Crossfire to bring the house down with foot-stomping music.

As much fun as it will be, it’s about more than satisfying your senses.  We believe Bluegrass and BBQ should have one more thing in common:  Backpacks.  Bonding a relationship between all three can serve a greater purpose.  Our purpose:  feed as many hungry local children as possible by supporting kidsPACK with the proceeds.

Please join us.

Tickets are $25 online and $30 at the door.  Purchase them at www.hplakeland.com

Sponsor tables are $1000 and $500.  For more information on sponsoring a table, email coylindsey@gmail.co

Sponsor a table for your business.  Buy a whole table for your friends (8 people).  Bring your entire family.  Let’s fill more backpacks.

 

 

Learning You are Uniquely Positioned to “Let Justice Roll Down Like Waters”

Justice MovementIf you are reading this, then you are uniquely positioned to fulfill the prophetic words of Amos 5:24:  “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

Why?  Well, I guess it may not be true of 100% of you.  My conjecture is based on two assumptions about you.  First, you are a follower of Christ.  Second, you believe the Church is the hope of the world.

If what I am assuming about you is true, then you hold the potential to lead the greatest movement of justice our world has ever experienced.  You are in a unique position to do it.

I realize you may not feel like this is true in the moment.  You may feel limited in your abilities.  Or, you may go to church but not really feel like you fit in.  You’ve tried to serve with the Church before, but disappointment has been your dominant experience.  Now, you think or say things like:  “It takes too long.  There aren’t enough resources.  Nobody cares.  Most of the people are too old to start something new.”  

These points of contention certainly feel valid because sometimes they are true.  God wants to change your mind.  I want to change your mind.  Whatever story is playing out in your brain, God wants to write a new one.

Your engagement with the Church is the force that can change the injustices in our world.  It is what sets you apart and make you unique.  The Church will not only have your passions and abilities, but it has Jesus’ passion and God’s divine abilities.  Think about it.  If followers of Christ everywhere played this role, it would create a collaboration of millions of people tapping into the power of the Holy Spirit to redeem what’s broken.  The transformation of entire communities, cities, and even countries becomes possible.

The Church is the hope of the world.  You are the hope of the church.  All that’s left is for you to believe it and act on it.

If you are ready to “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream,” a good place to start is joining the Justice Movement.  The Justice Movement is a collaboration of Jesus followers around the world serving together to build bridges and break cycles.  It is a voice for compassion and justice in the world.  It amplifies the voice of the weak and responds to their needs.  It’s an education.  It’s an event.  It’s a celebration of liberating power of Jesus in our world.

It doesn’t matter when you start.  It only matters that you do.  But, why wait any longer? Join today by clicking HERE.

Learning to Act as if Then is Now

In a leadership talk, Andy Stanley makes reference to an phrase he encourages his team to work by: “act as if then is now.”  It is a gentle nudging to work ahead of the curve.  Don’t wait to make changes when you get there because by then it will be too late.  Whatever you can imagine for the future, do what is required to make it happen right now.

He speaks of the phrase in the context of work, whether corporate or church.  I see the potential value for both worlds.  I will even implement it in my own work as a pastor.  But then, I heard echo of this concept in the Bible.

Philip is the wrong kind of Jew.  He belongs to the group of Jews called Hellenists.  Hellenists are second-rate Jews in relation to the Hebrews.  Hellenists grew up outside of Palestine.  The Hebrews living in Palestine believed themselves to be better Jews.

As you can imagine, conflicts easily broke-out.  One such case was the equal distribution of food to widows.  The Hellenists’ widows were being neglected.  So, in Acts 6:1-7, the decision is made to appoint seven men to overseer the matter.  All seven were Hellenists, one of which was Philip.

Philip was chosen by the apostles to serve this one task, so they could focus their attention toward prayer and scripture.  Preaching was not in the job description.  God had other plans.

God’s calling on Philip’s life transcended a food pantry.  The Holy Spirit moved Philip to preach the good news of Jesus in Samaria.  Many believed and the Church was born in Samaria.

Philip receives word from God to journey down a specific road.  While on the path, he encounters an Ethiopian Eunuch reading the scriptures.  At the Spirit’s leading, Philip strikes up a conversation with the Ethiopian Eunuch.  An opportunity opened for Philip to share the good news about Jesus.  As a result, the Ethiopian Eunuch asked to be baptized.  Right there, right then, Philip baptized him.

Here’s the deal.  The law of Israel strictly forbade a eunuch from becoming a convert to Judaism (Deuteronomy 23:1).  The Ethiopian Eunuch must have known this, as well as Philip.  They both also must have been aware of the promise found only three chapters beyond wha the Ethiopian Eunuch was reading.  It is written:

Do not let the foreigner joined to the Lord say, “The Lord will surely separate me from his people”; and do not let the eunuch say, “I am just a dry tree.”  For thus says the Lord:  To the Eunuchs who keep my sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give, in my house and within my walls, a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.  Isaiah 56:3-5 (NRSV)

By baptizing the Ethiopian Eunuch, Philip is declaring the day of the fulfillment of this promise.  He is acting as if then is now.  The future promise in Isaiah is that someday eunuchs will be included with everyone else who loves and obeys God.  In the meantime, everyone is waiting for that day.  Philip doesn’t wait.  He acts as if the promised future is in effect now.  He doesn’t wait to get there.  He brings there, here.

In the Bible, you find promises of a new day.  A day when the poor are made rich.  A day when prisoners are released, blind receive sight, oppressed go free, and our world is made whole.  Jesus declares, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21, NRSV).

Heaven is a beautiful image for tomorrow that Jesus initiates in the now.  The expectation isn’t for us to wait until we die to experience its reality.  You bring it into the present by “acting as if then is now.”

Learning to act as if then is now changes the way you think, communicate, act, live,  and love.  It will seem strange to many.  Few will be disappointed in the transformation it creates.  Praying we all can learn together.

Learning to Allow God to Give You Everything You Need

Who would you like to be in the story?  Choose your character:  (1)  A robber, (2) A beaten down, half-dead man, (3) An employee of the church, (4)  A hero.

I will assume you chose “hero.”  None of us would choose the “beaten down, half-dead man.”  I guess you might choose it if it meant you were Iron Man and you just saved the world.  An employee of the church?  Uhh, maybe.  It would depend on which church and what position.  I hope no one would choose to be a “robber.”  Though, I imagine there is a context where it would seem appropriate or even justified.

Reality is, most of us want to be the “hero” but identify with the “employee of the church.”  You see yourself as the one who should know how to save the day.  You hold the right beliefs.  You have morals. You know right from wrong.  Problem is, you don’t always follow through on your convictions.  You get it wrong sometimes.

The Reverend Dr. Sam Wells challenges you to see yourself as the “beaten down, half-dead man.”

Let me give you context.  The story goes like this:

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’  Luke 10:30-35 (NRSV)
The shocking part of this story, as told by Jesus, is the “hero.”  Jesus is throwing quite a zinger out there.  He’s calling some people out.  You would expect at least one of the two “employees of the church” to rescue the man.  They didn’t even acknowledge him.  They treated him like he had cooties, like a dead animal on the side of the road all swollen from maggots and smelling of death.
Feeling the impact of the shock in the story, you and I read it thinking about the role of “hero.”  You want to be the hero.  So, you check yourself.  Do I act like the priest and the Levite?  Do I walk past people who need me in their life?  How do I act more like the Samaritan?
With Dr. Wells, I think most of us would agree “We are not the Samaritan!”  The challenge comes in the character he suggests we are.  He writes:

 

We are the man beaten and bruised by the side of the road. We lack resources, we lack security, we lack everything we need to get to Jericho. We assume the priest and the Levite will give us whatever we need. They have their place, but they’re no use to us on this occasion. The one who offers us salvation is the Samaritan – the stranger, the enemy, the one we assume is out to get us, the one we look down on, the one we wouldn’t dream of living next to, the one we’ve never in our lives eaten a meal with let alone touched, the one who claims to worship the same God but whose religion we despise and whose race we regard as inferior.

This then is the context of engagement. It is not that we’re the affluent priest or Levite driving through the dodgy byways of our local downtown. As long as we read the story that way we will continue to find ever more elaborate methods to pass by the strangers who litter our path. The point is that we’re the man by the road. We’re the needy one who finds God gives us everything we need through the person whom our society, our economy, our culture, and even some of our churches have taught us to patronize, feel guilty about, ignore, or even despise. The gospel is not to scurry around busily making up for the scarcity Jesus so carelessly left behind when making a botched job of the kingdom of God. The gospel is to receive the abundance God has to give us through those the world sees only for what they lack, and thus to allow God to give us everything we need.  –The Nazareth Manifesto 

God gives us what we need.  The problem is, “we do not understand or use the ways God makes the abundance of grace available to us.”  God offers it to us in the lives of others, many of whom are overlooked by society.

You want to be the hero?  You may need to become the “beaten down, half-dead man” first.  Without the ability to embrace your place as one in need of others, you will not be in a position to receive what God wants to give.  You are looking for it in the wrong place, i.e. yourself, the powerful, the elite, the rich.  All sorts of unlikely heroes are waiting for the opportunity to offer you what you need.

Here’s the question:  If you are the “beaten down, half-dead man,” who is your hero?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learning How Prayer Leads to Justice: Sophia’s Story

A statement was recently made to me that “prayer changes things.”  

To be honest, I sometimes struggle with phrases like this one.  It’s not that I don’t believe in the power of prayer.  I do.  Praying isn’t a vain act.  God hears our cries and responds with grace and mercy.  My concern is less about God’s response to our prayers and more about about our response to God.

For me, prayer is an exercise in bringing our requests to God with the expectation that God can change things.  Prayer is also a conversation with God in which you exercise the humility to listen.  You speak with a desire to change things.  God speaks with a desire to change you, which oftentimes changes things.

Sophia prayed for change.  She listened to God.  God used her to change things by doing justice.

It is a story of a first-year high school student who attends a Nazarene Church.  It is her journey to drastically change the lives of mothers and their newborn babies.  It starts like this:

Hospitals in Ghana will allow pregnant mothers to have their babies and give any necessary medical care, even when the mothers come to the hospital without cash. But the hospitals have come up with various ways to retrieve money for medications used and other bills. The unfortunate part is that in many hospitals in Ghana North, the newborn babies are detained at the hospital until the parent is able to pay the expenses.

Irresponsible husbands put their pregnant wives in this hard situation by never showing up to the hospital to clear the bills. Sometimes young girls are impregnated by men who refuse responsibility. Such girls sometimes find it difficult to pay bills after delivering at the hospital, and their babies are detained until the family or mother is able to raise funds to clear the debt.

One day Sophia, a first-year high school student and a member of the Dusbuliga Church of the Nazarene, visited the hospital to pray with the sick people as she usually does every Sunday after church….

To read the rest of the story, click on the link NCN News.

Sophia’s story teaches us How Prayer Leads to Justice.  She prayed for change.  She listened to God.  She let God use her life to change wrongs to right.

Thank you Nazarene Compassionate Ministries for sharing stories like Sophia’s.  May our prayers lead us to do more justice in our world.

 

Learning Together: A Movement Takes Time to Build Momentum

Justice MovementEvery movement begins with that first move.  As each move connects to the next, momentum begins to build.  Eventually it becomes a magnetic force attracting anything close to its path.

God made the first move in Brooklyn’s heart 20 years ago this month.  She was a student attending Nazarene Youth Conference in Phoenix, AZ with 7,000 other teenage Christians.  Her first move was a single step toward the stage in response to God’s call on her life.

She hasn’t stopped moving since.  Move after move, step after step have accumulated over two decades in her life to create a whole new movement.  The Justice Movement.

This week at the same youth conference where the Spirt first moved in Brooklyn in 1995, a  new movement is born.  It took time.  It didn’t happen over night.  But, it’s here.  A move led to a move led to a move led to a move…and now it’s a movement of God’s justice in the world.

Enough of my words about it, you should hear it from the words of Brooklyn.  She writes:

I’m sitting in a dark hotel room, it’s 6AM and I can’t sleep. Not because teenagers are running through the halls (they actually are and my youth ministry ears consider it white noise), not because I’m nervous (excited may be a better word), not because I’m jet lagged (surprisingly), but because today we get to announce that our movement is official.

Tonight at a giant party, I get to speak at Nazarene Youth Conference 2015 during a regional event and announce that IT IS official. Keep your eyes on the Twitter feed tonight at 7:30PM EST. I’ll be ‘scopin’ and tweeting the announcement. @thejustmove @brooklynlindsey #NYC15LOU

Welcome to the move, the just move. Ah, I can barely type it. Insert: Tears. Laughs. Tears. Elation. Laughs. Tears.

JUSTICEMOVEMENT.COM
I’m stoked to get to share a site that gives handles to movement that’s already been born in the hearts of teenagers around the world. They’re already changing the world. We’re just making it more personal by strategically linking up with them as the Church, as partners.
The goal is to give youth leaders, parents, and students tools and information to be able to launch into a deeper knowledge of compassion and justice. If you’re a parent or a ministry leader you will be able to help kids continue to develop their birthright (compassionate living) in a place where they are uniquely positioned to work for justice best—the Church body.
The prayer is that the Justice Movement provides ways for youth, families, groups, and congregations to be involved TOGETHER. It’s unique focus will yield globally accessible educational materials, event packages, and hands-on challenges. Each will be customizable for your context. Every resource is free for you to access and use. (This makes my low budget youth minister heart so happy.)

Annnnnd, it’s available in FIVE languages. English, French, Korean, Portuguese, and Spanish (be still my heart, dreams come true, I can’t believe that I get to type that.) …

There’s more.  If you want to read the rest of Brooklyn’s thoughts, click HERE.

Who knows, maybe God is moving you to join this movement?