Monday, April 30, 2007

They Which Die In The Lord

I've just returned from a business trip to Orlando. During a portion of the time I was there, I found myself doing what nearly anyone who visits would do while in the area: standing in line at an amusement park.

What made this time different than any other was the phone call I received from Debbie, our church's secretary. She wanted to know if I had received the email regarding the death of Jack Booker.

I hadn't.

Everything surrounding me: time, place, sounds, smells, and the anticipation of getting on one of the world's best roller coasters, all broke apart and fell to the ground like so much shattered glass.

My friend and brother in Christ, Jack Booker, had gone to be with the Lord.

Debbie gave me all of the details she could, but it seemed that blood filled my ears, preventing me from hearing with any clarity, the words she was clearly speaking to me. My mind raced with emotions, memories and thoughts about what I should do. I had flashbacks.

"Hello preacher! How are you today?"
"I'm going to get you a copy of 'Last of the Dogmen.' It's the best movie ever made."
"Hey brother! I heard it was a good message today, but I don't know because I was asleep," he would joke.
"Lee, you are a blessing to this congregation and we are glad to have you." These were the last words Jack ever spoke to me.

After Debbie gave me a number to contact Genia who was at the hospital with Charlene, I began to ask myself what I was doing in Orlando. I needed to be home, to be with the people I've come to love, during this very important time. All I could manage was a phone call to let them know that my heart and my prayers were with them all. It felt inadequate. Very inadequate.

During the time I've served at O'Fallon, there have been three passings. Though I've been touched by them all, I knew Jack best and feel that we had a personal relationship. That makes this particularly difficult.

How do I feel?
What should I feel?
What do I say?
What should I say?
How do I care for the congregation?

I'm a "new hand" at this sort of thing, but I suspect you never become an "old hand" at it.
We've lost a dear loved one.

But medicine for me is medicine for others. And that which I know is this:
"...Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them." Rev 14:13

It is not mine to determine the worth of Jack's life, the quality of his walk, the quantity of his work or the sincerity of his heart. That is the Lord's domain. But I will say, that I found him to be a quality man, a tireless worker for the Lord, a constant encourager, and an example of Christian faith.

Though the sadness in our hearts is inevitable, we of like faith cannot help but to celebrate his life and his home going. As Christians, it is ultimately to what we all look forward and that, with great anticipation and hope. Jack has gone where we all want to go...into the hands of a just God.

So to my brother and friend,
"Farewell. I thank God for the brief time we had together, to walk along the path of this Christian journey, to run on the track of this Christian race, for the conversations both spoken and unspoken. I pray that we will again see one another. Rest well from your labors. Your work has truly followed you. You are already missed.

May the great God of Heaven grant you every spiritual blessing.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Virginia Tech

Brothers, Sisters, Friends & Friends I haven't met yet,

My heart, as are the hearts of many this morning, is filled with grief and overwhelming sympathy for those who experienced loss in yesterday's tragic shooting at Virginia Tech.

In times like these, many turn to each other, to religious institutions, to clergymen and ultimately to God for relief, for peace, for strength and most of all, for answers.

There are many trite answers that we as simple humans can offer. Some will blame it on this nation's disregard for God's teaching. Some will blame it on the home. Some will blame it on the world we live in today. Some will blame it on Satan.

The reality is that this is not new. Throughout history, tragedies like this have happened all over the world. Have you watched the news lately? These things go on around the world every day. Some how those of us in this country have come to feel that these things cannot happen to us. It's time to wake up.

Our mission, as Christians, is not to try to come up with immediate answers . Our mission is to meet the needs of those that are suffering. James famously asked that if we walk by and see those who are hungry, naked and lacking food and only offer the thought, "be ye warmed and filled" without supplying that need, what have we done? James 2:15,16

Luke 10:30-35 records our Lord's teaching about one who helped a victim of tragedy, described as being found half dead. Interestingly enough, it was people of God who refused to help. A Samaritan, one reviled by the people of God, had compassion on him and went out of his way to assist the victim in every way possible. Jesus asked rhetorically, "Which of these was a neighbor to him that was victimized by this tragedy?"

I mention these two passages to say that we of the church should be the first to step up and render aid to those who are suffering. People are much more interested in God when they have seen Him in the actions (outward manifestations) of His followers. This means that we must do more than think to ourselves how awful all of this is. There are many ways we can help victims of tragedies like these. We can pray, we can counsel, we can render financial aid. Depending on the circumstances and our individual abilities, we can go into situations and bend our backs, lend our hands and use our expertise even as we bend our knees. "As we therefore have opportunity, let us do good unto all men..." Galatians 6:10a

When we are obedient to God and do the sometimes backbreaking, heart wrenching work of sowing seeds of love and compassion, it has been said that He will add the increase. Meeting the needs of the many is just one more way that we will ultimately help to create disciples and expand the borders of the Kingdom of God.

Let us endeavor to let the world, especially those in acute need, see that there is a God, THE God, and let Him be seen in us.

May the great God of Heaven grant you every spiritual blessing.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The ABC's of Simple Christianity

Dear Welcome Visitor,

Thank you for stopping by. This blog has been set up for members and visitors alike to share and discuss all things pertaining to the advancement of God's Kingdom. I plan to include articles, bible studies, bible trivia, Q & A, and just about anything that will serve the needs of Christians as well as those considering their own walk with the Lord.

You are encouraged to participate with your thoughts, questions and other offerings. It is yet another way for us to build a community of believers through fellowship and communication.

We at the O’Fallon Church of Christ believe that, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,” 2 Timothy 3:16. It is from scripture that we derive our congregation’s vision and guide for all that we do personally and corporately:

"At the O’Fallon Church of Christ, our first priority and privilege is adoring God with all our hearts, souls and minds. Through His power we are building up the saints to spiritually mature in our own relationship with Him and each other, preparing ourselves to reach out to our community and the world with the goal of creating disciples for Jesus Christ through the sharing of the gospel of his love for all mankind."

We call this “The ABC’s of Simple Christianity.” Our vision springs forth from three basic components that we feel represent the totality of our responsibility to God and to each other.

Adoring God
Matthew 22:37-40 reveals to us that the greatest command we as Christians have is to love God with everything we have and everything we are. A close companion and even component of this command is that we love one another. 1 John 4:20 tells us that loving God is impossible without loving each other.

Building Up The Saints
1 Thessalonians 5:9-11 teaches us that God has provided salvation for those who accept it. This is only possible due to the most miraculous gift any of us can ever receive: the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It is with this knowledge, understanding and belief that we are to edify or build each other up.

Creating Disciples
Matthew 28:19 imparts to us some of the last words Jesus spoke before his ascension to the right hand of the Father. He instructed his eleven disciples to go to all nations and make disciples. We often refer to this as “The Great Commission” and count it among our most important duties as Christians.

The purpose for all things we do is to bring glory and honor, not to ourselves but to God. We hope, trust and pray that you will share in our vision and join us in our mission.

May the great God of Heaven grant you every spiritual blessing.

Yours in Christ,

Lee E. Lewis, Jr.

Pulpit Minister