As a pastor and a long-time Christian, I should never be surprised at how God works, but I continue to be amazed at the providence of God’s action around me. In those moments I may think I know what is taking place, but it is only when I step back, look at what has happened, and ponder how it has happened, that I realize God has been in the midst of it all along. Let me tell you a story to explain.
On Sunday, I preached a difficult, but needed sermon on where we are as a church and congregation. As difficult as the sermon was, I felt led to say what was said. In saying those words, I was not sure of the reaction or response, so I was apprehensive standing in the foyer as I greeted the congregation.
The initial reaction to the sermon was mixed. Some were very cordial with their words and some appeared to be moved by the message. And, as I would have expected, there were some that were not so moved and felt I was out of place in saying what I said.
After talking with someone at length following the service, Gretchen and I were later than normal in leaving the church. As we prepared to leave, I saw what appeared to be two boys with their bikes just outside the front sanctuary doors. Going out those doors, I asked how they were doing and just thought they were resting in the shade. In truth, they were doing more than resting. They were using an outside electric receptacle to recharge their phones. Thinking there was no issue with what they were doing, I casually said some small talk and left.
Stay with me, because this story is beginning to move and fill some interesting blanks!
Generally speaking, when I come into the office on Monday morning, I am greeted by Bette Thetford, as she processes the Sunday offering. On this day, I did not bring any donuts, so I jokingly began by telling Bette that it was her turn to bring donuts. From there we began talking about the Sunday offering and Sunday worship attendance. And without knowing it at the time, we talked about an incident that I would later see as a sign of God’s work.
Bette related how a person came into the church office after worship and handed the ones counting the offering in the office an additional check. This check was a rather nice amount and was designated for use with to be used for those coming to the church in need and other church use. Wow! What an unexpected gift! And what a surprise after a sermon where one point had been on our failure to meet needs.
This surprise came on top of an offering, which came before the sermon, that was better than our normal first Sunday offering. So the surprise gift and the offering total came to about $9,000. Wow again!
As Monday morning progressed, I stepped out of the office, to meet and visit with Chris, our Youth Director, about some matters. Upon returning to the office, I was told that someone had brought a check to the office with the words, “This is my church offering for the year. I had forgotten about it until Pastor Danny’s sermon yesterday.” And this was no small offering check. Wow again!
As the day continued, I found myself needing to run an errand before the afternoon was over and attending the Stephens Ministry meeting. In walking out to my pick-up, guess who was there? It was none other than the kid from Sunday morning that was charging his phone again.
Realizing he was older and not the “kid” I thought he was, I decided to spend more time with him. So we started to talk.
Sometimes when you hear a person’s story you stand in amazement of what they say or where they have been or what they have accomplished. As I asked the various questions and Jonathan filled in the various blanks, a picture began to emerge of a man struggling deeply to put his life together. And for me, it was another wow moment!
So here I am in this “wow moment,” and I am thinking, from a sermon on Sunday, with a point about our church’s responsibility of responding to the needy in our community, to finding one of those individuals on the church doorstep. And now I begin to wonder and ask, “What is God up to?”
There is no way I can leave this man to only charge his phone. There is no way I can drive off and just wish this man well and say I will be prayingfor you. Be it circumstance or providence, this man needs a helping hand. So I reach into my pocket and give him all the bills on me, which was about twelve or thirteen dollars.
His reaction is like I had given him a million dollars! Handshake. Big smile. This is all great to see and a wonderful response from the one receiving, but as he is reacting and responding, all I can think of is I am not doing enough. I need to do more. So I excuse myself, go back into my office, and return with some additional money that I was keeping for use on something else, but this was the bigger need.
If you thought a small amount would get a positive reaction, well, think about a forty dollar reaction. This brought hugs! But the story does not end here.
I shared this entire story during the Stephens Ministry meeting and that group began to mention other things that could be done due to the circumstances of the situation. Some of those items have already been initiated and others will follow.
At this point, I am not sure where you are, but I hope you have followed this story to this point. If you have, I think you will find a picture that includes several things happening. First, you will see God working in our midst. You will see God touching the hearts of many people. Second, you will see God putting into place situations where those hearts will touch other hearts. Third, because hearts have been touched, you will see the lives of people being changed.
Now, I invite you to step back and look at this story from a different view. Look at this story as a church, that by its giving, has caught up on all the past due bills, has paid all the conference missional giving to date, has established a fund to assist those in need, and is a different church today because of how it has responded – responded internally and responded externally.
In looking and thinking about this story and how God has worked in our midst, I can only imagine what the second chapter will be. Remember, this story to this point ends on a Monday. What will God do on Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday? Will hearts keep touching other hearts? Will the door-steps find others waiting? To be honest, I can only smile as I think about what God will do to continue this story.
Church work day this Saturday . . .
This is a gentle reminder that there will be a church work day this Saturday, beginning around 9:00 am. There are lots of things that need some attention, such as windows, gutters, kitchen, all exterior grounds, etc.
If you come to the church work day and you do not see your pastor it is because he will be attending a Discipleship Seminar in Killeen. I signed up for this Friday and Saturday seminar when I thought the work day would be on May 2. The work day was moved to the current date and I was stuck. Sorry to miss this opportunity to work beside you.
Coming Events . . .
As we move into the month of May, it signals things that are not that far away. Some of the coming events need your prayerful attention. As an example, be in prayer for our Annual Conference that will be meeting in early June. This event sets the tone for our Central Texas Conference, so be in prayer for our Bishop and the rest of the clergy and lay people attending. Michael Miller and your pastor will represent you there.
Also, be in prayer for the youth mission trip that will come in June. At this time, we have about five youth and three adults that will join churches from Hubbard, Coolidge and other communities to do work in Eagle Pass. As you pray for this group, do not forget the group going to McCurdy the following week. They have a longer drive and will be doing God’s work in New Mexico, so keep them in your prayers.
Being blessed more than I deserve,