Presence is More Powerful Than You Realize
Devotion by Pastor Richard
It has been a very intense four weeks this past month. I have led two mission trips and have pulled off an incredibly successful VBS with our amazing church and amazing volunteers! There is no way I could do all of that without the help and commitment of strong and dedicated volunteers! Thank you to everyone who had some role in any of those events. Your support and commitment has not gone unnoticed.
One of the greatest lessons I learned was on the Middle School mission trip to Wilmington a couple weeks ago, and it was about how your presence can make all the difference in the world. Many times it is not what you do on these trips, but the impact you can have on a life or even a community by just showing up. Your presence is so important, and I know I have written about it before, but this summer was a reinforcement of its importance.
In Wilmington, my team was assigned to go and clean the backyard of a person who is on the Vigilant Hope missionary team. This gentleman has an amazing story about how God helped him get back on his feet after a life of facing one tragedy after another. His main focus is to minister to the homeless and drug addicted in the city. He had recently bought a house in a very poor part of town, and needed some young people to help him reclaim his back yard and to build some frames for a raised garden that would provide fresh vegetables for him and his neighbors.
The week before we arrived, he told us that two doors down was a drug dealer’s house. There was a violent event where shots were fired and some of the bullets went into the house across the street just above the couch, nearly hitting the homeowner. He called the authorities and turned in the dealers and by the time we got there, the occupants were moving out. As you might expect, the neighbors had been living in fear and were afraid to even come out of their homes.
Then we show up, a group of a dozen middle class kids making all kinds of noise and working incredibly hard on a stranger’s backyard. Before long, our homeowner noticed one neighbor sitting on their porch that he had not seen in a long while. Then another neighbor, a young woman, came by walking her dogs. After that another person walked up and asked us what we were doing and expressed that they were happy that we were there. What I learned was that our little group of noisy and hard-working teenagers actually made the neighborhood safer for the residents who live there. Our physical presence was impacting and changing the neighborhood. We were helping to build community and increasing the safety of the residents just by being there.
I have participated so many mission trips over the thirty years I have been doing full-time ministry, never has this idea of just our being present helped me to see the greater impact that we as Christians can have over the world. In so many situations, people and communities just simply need to know that they are not alone and that there are actually people out there who care for them, regardless of the differences between races or cultures. Painting a wall or cleaning a yard are important, but they are not the most significant work. In just a few days our presence in that Wilmington community made a significant impact. Can you imagine if the church just showed up? Never underestimate the impact you can have on someone just by showing up!
See you at church this Sunday! Just show up and impact another person!
Devotion by Pastor Richard
Last week I was cruising facebook, which can easily lead to very deep frustrations and discouragement with humanity. I did it anyway. Sometimes I just like to see how mean and ignorant people can be without a filter. At times it does drive me to prayer, which is a good thing, but I am sure God has to be more upset at humanity than I am. It is a good thing He is full of grace for us all!
While enjoying my plunge into the depths of human honesty and conviction on facebook, I did run across a meme my uncle has posted. It was a picture of an old car from the sixties and the caption read: “In my day, driving without power steering meant not having to go to the gym!” I thought it was great and so true! Then I thought, how many people under the age of 50 have ever driven a car without power steering? It did remind me of a story…
A few years ago when I served at my Florida church, we had a 55 passenger retired Trailways bus we used for trips. On one of our mission trips to the eastern hills of Kentucky we blew the engine. We were less than ten miles from our destination, crawling up the last of the hard mountain climbs to our destination and that poor old bus engine gave up the fight. She was dead on the side of the road. She was not headed back to the Sunshine state without a new motor.
Four months later we finally got the call from the Kentucky mechanic who had finally finished installing the new engine. It became my task to fly to Kentucky and bring our bus home. I flew to the nearest airport, which was still a two-hour drive to where the mechanic’s shop was. Someone from a church there came and took me to a place in the hills of Kentucky where I would never be able to find again! It was around 5 pm or so before I got behind the wheel to begin my one-thousand-mile journey home.
The bus started up just fine and I was on my way. I pulled out, got on the road and was doing my best to navigate the curving back roads trying to find the nearest interstate. I probably was a hundred miles into my journey and I felt the steering get more and more stiff. I was not sure what was going on until I got near the last turn before getting on the interstate, and I missed the turn. Doing a U-turn in a fifty-foot vehicle is tough. Doing that U-turn with NO power steering is something else all-together! I had driven a car without power steering before, it was more difficult, but not that bad. It just took a lot more turning and a lot more muscle strength. Driving a bus without it is a whole different experience!
I eventually made it to Asheville, where I was planning to stop for the night. I do not exactly remember how I got the big old bus into the parking lot at the hotel after driving six hours with no power steering. When I stood up to get out of the bus, I felt like my arms must have looked like the cartoon character Popeye! I was so stiff and sore I was not sure if I could pick up my overnight bag and check in at the hotel desk. I thought that if I needed an injection that night that no needle would be able to penetrate my huge and stiffened shoulders! It really took more than I realized out of me that night.
So, I am a believer in power steering! What an incredible invention! I cannot imagine driving without it now. We all take it for granted. You know, I think Jesus is very similar. I remember the part of my life without Jesus, no power steering. I also remember the larger part of my life with Jesus, with power steering. Looking back, I would have never made it this far in life without Jesus giving me love, hope and direction. Life without Christ would have been like driving that beast of a bus without power steering. Sure, I could have made it through life ok…, maybe? But having Jesus as that source of power in my life sure has made everything so much better, and so much less difficult. The problems and challenges were just more manageable because of Jesus. Big arm muscles might be cool, but nothing compares to a rich life in Christ. Where does your power source come from? For many it is family, maybe it is a career or money. Someone else’s might be control over their life or someone else’s. I just know that my best life is when I am in sync with where God is leading me and when I am relying on Christ to get me there!
I do not recommend driving a bus without power steering! I do recommend a life trusting and relying on Jesus!
What was the best gift you received this past Christmas? Was it an expensive present? Was it something that was very thoughtful from a friend who knows you well? A great friend of mine gave me two cozies that had the logo of one of my favorite hockey teams and I use them every chance I get! Maybe your best gift was a little more intangible, like a note from a loved one or maybe you were able to spend time with family you have not seen in a while. For me it was great spending time with my step brother and his family that we do not get to see very often.
Gifts come in all shapes, sizes and varieties. They can be acts of love and kindness. They can be unexpected presents and presence. Sometimes the greatest gifts are just gifts of your time. Gifts are great, they are meant to build up another person. Gifts tell us we mean something to someone else. They are so important, and they do not always have to be stuff.
Do you realize that God gives us gifts? Sure, He gives us the air we breathe, sunshine, and yes even snowy wintery weather that allows us to take a break! He meets our needs and gives us the greatest gift of all, His Son Jesus! Yes, God is a very generous giver, and we can learn so much by recognizing and thanking God for all His precious gifts.
There is even more. God gives special gifts to all who believe in Him, we call them spiritual gifts. These gifts are special in the fact that their whole purpose for us to use and build up God’s Kingdom. In other words, these gifts He gives us allows and equips us to help each other participate fully in living out God’s call in our lives. I know of two friends whose gift is generosity and they are such a blessing to so many people. Our pastors’ have gifts they use every Sunday morning. I have gifts that help me to work with children and teenagers.
You also have gifts and they are incredibly important. We are starting several groups in the church that are focusing on discovering and using your spiritual gifts. I would love to see you begin to explore or deepen that part of your walk with Christ. When we as a body begin to use our gifts, incredible things happen! We are given the opportunity to accomplish things for God that we have not even dreamed of yet. Even if you are not a part of our congregation, there are lots of resources out there that can help you begin to see those gifts God has given to you and wants you to use to shine for Him!
Next week I will tell a story of someone who had a gift and was very practiced at using it.