Get off your donkey

Are you familiar with the story of the Good Samaritan? I think most of us are. If you want to read it for yourself it is found in the New Testament book of Luke, chapter ten. We have heard that story, whether we have ever been in a church or not. We have seen it on the news sometimes—the Good Samaritan who stops to help out. What does it mean to be a good neighbor? Jesus tells this story: a guy gets beat up on a roadside, and Jesus, in an ironic way, puts an extra twist in it. He says to these Jewish people who were gathered together listening to Him teach: Here’s this Samaritan, someone who hates Jews and Jews are hated by them, he stops and he is the one who ends up being the good neighbor. The guy with the religious title, he passes right by him on the other side. The guy who is on his way to teach the Law at some school, he also crosses the street. We all know a Good Samaritan story, someone who stops to help someone at a point of need.

There are five things the Samaritan did that would be good for us to do if we are going to live an invested life on loan. The first thing he does is assist the person in a time of need. That seems pretty obvious, but look what that meant: He didn’t just pass as the others did. This guy had a schedule, he had an agenda, and there was some place he was heading. But he stopped, and because there was this need that presented itself—he didn’t start out his day by saying, “Boy, I hope I find some guy beat up, naked, bleeding and half dead on the road. That would make my day.” That was not how he started his day. But here he comes along to this man in need. What does he do—he stops and gets off his donkey!

And sometimes for us, when things happen by chance, when things happen because we have the opportunity, when a circumstance arises, or a person with needs bumps into us, we get to choose at that moment what we will do. And the truth is, there has been a good chunk of my life when I have found a way around that issue. I flagged someone down to help out, or reported it when I got somewhere else—I found a way to find someone else meet that particular need. Whatever it may have been—it isn’t always someone left for dead on the side of the road. Maybe it is someone who calls you, or someone you bump in to at work, maybe it is someone you recognize that has some issue going on. It is easy to get so caught up in what we are doing that sometimes we pass right by the needs that happen.

Getting out of our own way is more difficult than I care to admit at times. Sometimes what I am doing—my agenda, my schedule, my plans – almost always, or at least used to, supersedes the things going on around me in peoples lives. It isn’t that we aren’t good-hearted, we are just busy, aren’t we? Somebody will help out, and maybe we will too, sometime. When an opportunity comes, do we choose to get off our donkey and respond? Steve Sjogren, the pastor at Vineyard Church in Cincinnati, said it takes between 12 to 20 positive bumps—refreshing encounters with the Christians or churches—before people come to appreciate Christ, or God, or the church. Often times what you do in a simple act of service becomes a very positive bump for somebody, but so often we are too busy.

There are several other things this guy did but I’m not going to tell you what they were but I will discuss them on Sunday morning, March 29, at New Venture Christian Church. Or after 3/29/09 the entire message will be available on our website at relaxedchurch.com.

My Story

Let me tell you my story. My story really begins with my grandparents on my dad’s side. That’s as far back as I can remember. They lived on Main Street in Chester PA. The mention of Chester might make you cringe because Chester is the hood, at least today it is. It wasn’t that bad in dad’s days but it was headed in that direction. My dad never had any connection with church growing up. In fact he may have spent more time in the bar than the church. You see, my grandfather operated a bar in Chester and his mother earned some money for the family cleaning the bar.

I wonder if that might have contributed to one of dad’s brothers, Uncle Buddy, (sounds kind of gangsters), taking the direction he did in life. My dad’s name was John, but they called him Jackie. Jackie and Buddy. Buddy spent most of his life in prison serving time for attempted murder. I think it had to do with a botched robbery. I never did know all the details of what happened. I guess it was too sordid to talk about. That side was not a real upstanding group.

On my mom’s side, her parents lived on 8th Street in Chester. Main Street was 9th street. So they grew up just a couple blocks from each other.

My mom’s family, on the other hand, was Christians. Mom’s dad spent a number of years as a printing missionary in Burma. One of here sisters was born in Burma. They were always involved with God and church.

So mom and dad had their first date going to a church event. That was all new for dad but he didn’t mind because he wanted mom as his wife. So after a short courtship they were married at a very young age. Dad was 18 and mom was just 17. Within the first year the first child arrived.

One of the first things they wanted to do was get out of the city and maybe become farmers. So they packed up all their family belongings and the first of many kids and moved south down the Delmarva Peninsula to a little town called Frankford.

Dad’s first job was tending chickens for a wealthy farmer by the name of Asa Bennett. And their first apartment was a house attached to and built in the middle of a chicken house. That lasted for a year or so and another child when dad got a chance at farming. He purchased a 75 acre farm with a house, a tractor and several outbuildings and started tending the land. That only lasted a year or two when he decided farming wasn’t for him.

So they loped off two and a half acres of the farm for a house and sold the rest to Hurley and Mildred and moved next store with three children, by this time, where two more kids, of which I was one, soon arrived. That made five total. By the time mom was 25 she had birthed 5, all within a 6 year period of time. And there we lived for the next 40 years.
Dad decided to get into the chicken raising business for himself so he began to build chicken houses on that 2 ½ acres. I’m talking long, 250 feet chicken houses. By the time he was finished there were four, raising 36,000 chickens and five kids on 2 ½ acres. He also was employed by a couple different chicken producing and processing companies including AW Perdue for 30 years.

About 10 miles from the chicken farm was a Christian church that mom and dad began to attend. I don’t exactly know why they chose one so far away. Can you imagine what it was like in those days loading 5 kids and 2 adults in a car and driving to church dressed in your Sunday best? But we did, three times a week. And we always stopped at Winterbottoms Drug store, about half way on the trip, for a Sunday paper and a pack of wintergreen lifesavers that got passed around the car and the rest of the pack went into dads pocket for church time.

Dad had become a Christian by then and was raising his family to be Christians as well. And we pretty much followed his leadership until we hit the teen years. At least a couple of us took a major detour.

The detour I took as a teenager brought me before a judge on one occasion where upon he looked at me and said, “If I ever see you in this court again I will send you straight to Farris School for Boys.” That was like a prison for kids. Well I did end up in the court again a year later. I was so glad the judge had a short memory.

About that time in my growing up years we had a minister and wife at our church that I really connected with, Ted and Flossie. He was the one who had to sign my probation papers each month verifying that I was in church. Can you believe that was a requirement of the courts?

And it was at that time in my life that I began to do some serious thinking about what I was going to do with my life. And could I do it in Delaware with my current environment. I had been introduced to a little Christian college in Elizabeth city, NC, and I decided that I would go there a year just to get away from my friends and get some direction to my life. Well it was there that I met the wonderful Sharon Sawyer, and as the late Paul Harvey would say, that’s the rest of the story. Well, there is a little more to it.

I was the first person in my immediate family to go to college. Since that time seven of my siblings and close relatives have attended Christian college and five are in ministry leadership today. And my dad and mom, at the age of 58, sold pretty much everything they had and move to FL where he preached and pastured a church for the next ten years before moving back to Delaware to retire. Quite a change from his beginnings in Chester, PA.

You see, my life and my family’s life intersected with God at one point in my story and as a result it was never the same again. My life, and our entire family, was changed in extraordinary ways as a result of this intersecting with God.

Here’s what happens. You have a story, and you’re writing that story. God desires for his story to intersect with your story, and for your story to be changed forever. Who are you, really? What is your life? What is your story?

So my great grandfather was a bar tender and my grandmother cleaned the bar for income and my uncle was an attempted murder and spent half his life in the penitentiary and I made some really bad choices when I was a teenager and I could have continued down that same road. But that’s not my life because of God’s grace. Because of God’s grace, his story intersecting with my story, my life on loan from him, and it has never been the same since.

What’s your story?

Life Is Good

How would you describe your life? Would it sound something like this? “My life is good. I like my life. Oh, I’ve had some stuff going on in it that isn’t always so good, but I’ve been able to manage it. I’m happy with my life. I’m the master of my own destiny. I want to be the driver. I’m going to be the one who steers the boat.”

But what if your life could be better? What if you were created for a greater purpose, and somehow in steering the boat one way, you missed out on the greater purpose that God had intended for your life? What if your life could be better than it is? What if your life had real meaning and peace and grace and purpose? What if there was intentionality about your life and significance and satisfaction that was from God? What if this life that God has loaned to you was really used for him? What if somehow because you were doing okay, you missed that life?

What if that happened, even if your life is good? images1

What’s Your Story?

Did you know that you’re writing a story? You write a few pages every day…by the choices you make…and the characters you meet. God is writing an even bigger story. And your story is part of it. You only get one shot at this thing called life. You can live it for yourself…or you can serve others. You have no idea how long you’ll have to write your story. All that you have—your loves, your talents, your recourses, your opportunities—is from God, and he’s concerned with how you’ll use these to extend his grace to others.

Life consists of our

* Loves—passions, purpose, priorities, and values
* Intersections—how we connect with others’ stories
* Fortunes—recourses to help others write new endings to their stories
* Eternity—making a difference beyond life here on earth

For a month now we have been examining the foundation and direction of our church as we have learned how to become more of an externally focused church. Beginning Sunday, March 15, we will begin to explore how serving others creates opportunities for our stories to intersect others’ stories—and for lives to be changed forever.

Join us for part two of becoming an externally focused church. This part of the journey is called “Living a Life on Loan.” For online friends in other places, teaching on this subject is available at relaxedchurch.com under the online audio messages link. Or just click here for the shortcut. http://relaxedchurch.com/wmspage.cfm?parm1=57