The Church

PRAYER FOR HOPE: 30 Days, 30 Faces

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THE POWER OF PRAYER IS NOT IN THOSE WHO PRAY, BUT IN THE GOD WHO ANSWERS THEIR DEEPEST CRIES. At Hope Unlimited for Children we have seen God display His power in response to earnest prayer over and over again. Doors that would have remained closed have been opened. Hearts hardened beyond belief have changed. Children’s lives have transformed—and today their own children experience the benefit of our long-ago prayers. Next month we will begin 30 Days of Prayer for Hope. On each of the 30 days leading up to Orphan Sunday (November 8), Hope supporters will receive an email …

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A relevant church does not . . .

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This post originally published here on June 2, 2014. When I see followers of Christ disengage from the church, I start to worry. About them, yes, but more about the church. That is especially true when I hear them say they find the church largely irrelevant to what God is doing in their lives and in the world. Irrelevant. A really, really important word. I have to confess that I have not worked out all it means to be relevant, but I think I know it when I see it. I also know what it is not, and it seems …

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Lessons from an absent father

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Indulge me a bit here if you don’t mind, and perhaps we will stumble across an insight along the way. Dad would have turned 100 on September 2nd—tomorrow. I wish he were here to mark his centennial with his family, but instead he’s been an absent father — gone almost a quarter of a century, a victim of a physical heart not nearly as strong as his true heart. But perhaps in his absence, there has been some room made for growth of those he left behind. Dad was a typical small-town Baptist pastor, passionate about his faith, but not …

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Beyond the walls

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Watched an old Tony Randall movie over the weekend. Paul Douglas, playing farmer Pop Larkin, responded to his wife’s caution about a neighbor, Oh, he’s all right of a fellow.  He just hasn’t has learned that ‘Do unto others’ part yet. Probably true of a lot of us—and of a lot of our churches. We do a good job of looking like church and followers on Sunday morning, but how do we make sure it spills over into our week? How does worship become a lifestyle of following Christ? That can be a problem. Can we truly seek God for …

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The church (small “c” intentional) and “The Dones” (Part 2)

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Last week I introduced you to The Dones.  Good committed followers of Christ who have decided that the institutional church is largely irrelevant to what God is doing in the world and in their lives. So they walk away, not from engagement, but from their local church. They direct their lives, giving, and service elsewhere. I have been there, and I get it. I am not one who believes all ministry has to be done through a local community of faith. We are the Church, and the local manifestation of the community of followers does not have a particular hold …

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Why are “The Dones” done? (Part 1)

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About once a week or so, someone sends me an article about folks who are dropping out of church. I usually read them because this is a topic of real interest to me. I have a number of close friends who have, for the most part, walked away from church. Done with it. These friends are scattered across the U.S., know each other only as my friends, but the common traits are pretty remarkable. They have all become empty-nesters in the last few years; they are all successful; they all lead very busy lives. Any one of them would tell …

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A Busload of Hope

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I like the way this story ends. The buses at our City of Youth are absolutely indispensable. They ferry our staff from their homes to the campus, they pick up children from nearby favelas, and they carry our kids to the many off-campus activities—outings to museums and ballgames,  Saturday evening services at our graduate church, and monthly birthday celebrations at the mall. Without them, all of the extras that make our programs work are gone. A few months ago…  a devastating loss. We had sold both of our older buses, and with the help of a great donation from Princeton …

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Shapers

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A bit of a more personal note today if you don’t mind . . . Several years ago, I began to reflect on the people who had impacted my life. Some distantly… A friend from high school who was a star football player from a wealthy family (by our small-town standards) who took time to be friendly with every person. Some a bit closer… A Sunday School teacher who made time to take a group of 11-year-old boys camping almost every Friday night, but then insisted that we stand and recite our assigned Bible verses every Sunday morning; to this …

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The Face of True Religion

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Reading Micah 6 this week.  Really glad he is a minor prophet.  I don’t think we would have been friends. . . . what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? I like the formalities of my religion, the stained glass, the order of service, the readings, the hymns. Especially the hymns. First growing up in the church of the south, and then living within her embrace as an adult, I find meaning in the rituals of southern churchhood, both deep and sometimes mundane. From Wednesday-night …

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When Dirty Faith Gets Too Close to Home

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I think God must have read my book. He’s letting dirty faith get far too close to home. It is very easy to practice dirty faith while safely ensconced 5,000 miles from the kids of Hope. They become numbers and good stories, not hurting children whose eyes hold pain, and whose hearts understand a side of the world I will never fully comprehend. It is a safe faith because the dirt under my fingernails gets washed away on the twelve-hour flight back home. It is not ever-present, ever-pressing. I like my dirty faith to be clean. But then there is …

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