The Clubhouse

So, our local baseball club has started the season 0 and 23. Every game has been lost by default, mainly because the team refuses to come out of the Clubhouse. I managed to visit the Clubhouse after their 23rd loss and talked with a few of the players.

Rog said that this was his first year on 0628_clubhouse21any Club. He was really excited to get into the game, but some of the guys who had been around for a while “showed him the ropes,” so he’s following their lead. Rog admitted that before the third game, he actually left the Clubhouse and made it all the way to the dugout, but then he saw all the people in the stands, and the opposing team looked pretty formidable. He noticed he was the only one in the dugout, so he headed back to the Clubhouse to be with his teammates.

Doc was really talkative and a really fun guy to have around. He plays a lot of practical jokes, and gets the guys to open up and talk. Doc makes the Clubhouse a fun place to be. The problem is Doc’s more of a night owl, and he often doesn’t get home until its getting light again, so Doc doesn’t even make it to the Clubhouse at all some days.

Ruben has been around for a while, and has some injuries that cause him a lot of pain. The whirlpool and massage just do wonders for him. So he will often come in and get his massage and spend some time in the whirlpool then catch a bite to eat before heading home.

Tank tells me the buffet they put out for the team is fantastic! He said he has never had such good food with any other team, that’s why he loves this Clubhouse so much! He has the menu memorized every day, and helped me get a plateful of food like I haven’t had in a long, long time. The lobster tail was amazing, and the Death by Chocolate mousse was top notch. Tank admitted he’s put on a few pounds since joining the Club, but assured me it was worth it.

I visited with a couple rookies in the film room. They were studying film, and picking apart the opposing pitchers in the league. They were able to point out subtle little things that these other players that were doing that were all wrong – if they ever faced them, they would be able to read the unwitting signals opposing players were giving, and just tear them to pieces. But they both said they needed to spend more time in the film room before they even thought about dressing for a game.tumblr_lu7m4hmcsq1qaqgclo1_500

Management brought in the best coaches available, modern equipment, all the resources this Club could ever need to win. I was really impressed with every person in this organization – they have great chemistry on this Club! This is a Club that wants to win, that has one of the best Clubhouses around, great coaching. And some day, when they take the field, they will be awesome!

The local church is our Clubhouse. It’s where we go to encourage one another. To learn. To heal. To rest.

But the local church is not why we are here. There is a game to be played; a battle to fight. And it’s not against another team, it’s against the evil spiritual forces that oppose God and his people. We are called to attend our local church so we can charge out of the Clubhouse, get on the field, and have a “winning season.” We won’t win every game, but we know in the end, the championship is secure.

Jesus Christ, God in a body, is the reason we gather. He is the reason we go out into a hostile world and share the gospel with those who have never heard. Or those who have heard and not yet understood. Or those who have been predisposed against the gospel and need to see it lived out before their very eyes. If we stay in the Clubhouse, we have missed the reason we are on this team.

We don’t get people to join the Club by inviting them into the Clubhouse. We get people to join the Club when they see what the Club does, how passionate the Club members are about what the Club is doing (living a life of worshiping God). The Club only has any impact when it is out on the playing field, doing what they are intended to be doing.

Each Club member is welcome in the Clubhouse any time, but the Clubhouse is not the most important place in the Club’s life. The Club needs to study the play book, to understand the fundamentals of the game. The Club needs to work out, to exercise, to practice on their own so they will be ready. Sometimes the Club will have meetings where more extensive training and instruction is given. They are expected to attend these training sessions and learn all they can to be better players.

We have one life. When we are with Jesus for eternity, we will no longer be able to engage in the sport of bringing people who are spiritually dead the Good News that Jesus is LIFE.

So go to your local “Clubhouse.” Spend some time there. And then get out and play ball!

Originally posted Sunday May 10, 2009

WWJD or WIJD?

A few years ago, everybody was talking about WWJD. People were wearing WWJD bracelets and putting WWJD bumper stickers on their cars. There were WWJD tee-shirts and pencils, even WWJD Bibles.

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The premise was that when you found yourself in a “situation” where you were not sure what to do, you simply asked yourself “What Would Jesus Do?” Then you would know exactly what to do! Very simple conceptually, and I really do think this slogan has helped many people make better decisions about significant life choices.

Is WWJD Consistent?
Problem is, WWJD never got me excited. There was something that just didn’t smell right and I could never quite put my finger on it. Until today.

WWJD? First of all, there is precious little we can do to find out what the historical Jesus of the Gospels was really like. None of us have ever met Jesus in the flesh. (Did he speak slowly? Did he have a good sense of humor? Did he look people in the eye when he taught?) What we know about Jesus is primarily from reading the four canonical Gospels, which in my Bible only take up 105 pages. We get very little additional insight into the “historical Jesus” by reading the rest of the New Testament. Much of the Gospels are filled with the actions of Jesus and the reactions of the people around him. There is nothing recorded about how Jesus made decisions – no “Seven Steps to Godly Decisions.” We just read of Jesus being thrust into incredibly complex, difficult circumstances and are amazed at his insight and wisdom in how he manages each situation.

Then there is also the fact that many of us have not taken the time to get to know Jesus very well. Most Christians will agree that we can meet with Jesus anytime through prayer and this should be a priority in our lives. But I’ve heard it said that if you want to humble a Christian, simply ask them about their prayer life. We boldly tell others we can know Jesus personally, but find we are so busy we simply don’t take the time. And when the going gets tough, that is when most of us rugged, independent westerners decide we need to take action – usually without talking to Jesus first.

And then, what is the “right” answer? When you ask a group of people What Would Jesus Do in a specific situation; you will often get as many answers as there are people in the room. The problem is that deep down we have a natural tendency to believe that God thinks much the same way we do. Many people’s image of Jesus is a mirror of themselves, or who they aspire to be. So to ask people with limited historical knowledge of Jesus, with little personal time with Jesus, “What Would Jesus Do” is leaving the door open to many, many different answers.

Finally, when we ask WWJD, what are we thinking about Jesus? Are we even thinking that Jesus is present? I fear that for many of us, the expanded version of WWJD is something like this: “Jesus was a great moral teacher, but he died a long time ago, so what might he have done if he were alive and in this situation?” Jesus was a great moral teacher and he did die nearly 2,000 years ago. But Jesus is not dead – He is alive! He is here now and will guide us in our difficult situations. But even though we believe Jesus is alive, we still often do not act as if he is present. What Would Jesus Do implies that we need to take it upon ourselves to figure out what Jesus would have done in this situation as best as we can based on what we know of him. Once we have figured that out, then we make a decision on whether we will choose to do what we think Jesus would have done. Then we buckle down and exert effort and discipline to do what Jesus would have done!

The Alternative – WIJD?
I once asked a friend why God keeps us here on earth. Since we continue to sin, and when we get to heaven we will no longer sin, wouldn’t it be better if God would take us home as soon as we come to faith? We then discussed how God chooses to continue to bring people to faith by working through his people – those who are already in the Kingdom. Each and every one of us is kept here with a purpose – to expand the Kingdom of God in our neighborhood.

What I have come to realize is that Jesus is still alive today. He is not on vacation, sitting at God’s right hand enjoying mangos and passion fruit, waiting for the his grand entrance at the Second Coming. He is active in this world. And Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, is working through those who have received Him. So the question is not What Would Jesus Do? but rather: What Is Jesus Doing?

The big picture here is: “Jesus is God crammed into a body, he is alive, he indwells me by his Holy Spirit and he is engaged in the current situation. What is it that Jesus wants to do, right now, through me?” This reframing of the context significantly changes our responsibilities. WWJD is an intellectual, analytical evaluation of a situation. Then we have a moral choice whether to do what our analysis determined is the right course of action. WIJD is a decision to turn to God in the moment, and ask him to act through us. It is asking to be filled with and led by the Holy Spirit so that our words and our actions are not our own, but rather guided by the Spirit of Jesus who lives in us. In this way we can be Jesus to the world around us.

So the next time you find yourself in a difficult situation (or any situation,) ask yourself: WIJD? What Is Jesus Doing – through me?

Originally posted sunday, april 15, 2007

Built it, but will they come?

This is from the book The Hidden Half, over 40 years old, but is such an excellent story, I had to post it!

Marilyn Laszlo is a missionary with Wycliffe Bible Translators. She told a story recently that summarizes the heart cry of the unreached people of the world.

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For the past thirteen years I have been working in Hauna, a little village which is 500 miles up the Sepik River in the heart of the jungle in Papua New Guinea, an island just north of Australia.

On the island of Papua New Guinea, there are over 700 distinct languages, most of which are unwritten. Actually, there are over 3,000 language groups in the world that have no written language. They do not even have an alphabet, much less any books.

That is the way it was in Hauna Village, home of the Sepik Iwam people. They had no idea that the words that came out of their mouths could be written down.

My partner and I were given training in linguistics and we began learning the language one word at a time by pointing to objects and by acting out concepts. Eventually the Lord gave us a team of fourteen translation helpers to work with.

When we started translating, I became very burdened about the older people in the village. The witch doctors were being left out. They are the most powerful men in the village and are always busy because there is always someone sick or someone dying.

My partner and I wanted to have these older men come from 6:30 to 7:30 every night, after we had translated that day. So we had our translation helpers go out in teams of two to each of the four clans in the village and get one older man from each clan to join them.

Every day these witch doctors or “spitters” came to listed to the Word of God. Their word for doctor is inkam hiiswoki, which means “the man who spits” or “the spitter.” If you have malaria the spitters take a sharp bamboo and cut your forehead where it hurts to let out the bad blood. Then they chew on a plant that supposedly contains a very powerful spirit, and they spit and blow into those cuts. This is the power that will help heal you.

We had translated a portion of the Gospel of Mark, chapter eight. As we were reading these verses we came to verse 23, the story of Jesus spitting on the eyes of the blind man to heal him. Now we have blind people in the village, but no medicine man has been able to heal them. So when we read this verse, the older men jumped up and said, “Wow! Why Jesus must be the most powerful spitter in the whole world!” From that day they started coming to church. They identified with this spitting man, Jesus, and wanted to know more about him.

As we translated and taught the people to read and write their own language, we became burdened for all of the unreached tribes around us. Hauna was becoming a shining light throughout the area as people started to hear about our work. One day a canoe loaded with fifteen people came for medical help. They spoke another tribal language and came into our house with the smell of their rotting sores and other diseases. I told them in the trade language, Pidgin English, that they must stay in our village at least a week so I could give them a penicillin series for their sores.

While they stayed with us they watched what was going on. They saw 200 people coming to school to learn to read and write their own language. They saw us write God’s talk ion the people’s language and listened to the Sepik Iwam pastors preach the Word of God in their own language.

When it was time for them to go home, the leader asked, “Do you think you could come to my village and put down our talk so that we might know about God, too?”

I had to shake my head and say, “I’m not finished here yet. I have several more years of work in this place/” I could tell he was very disappointed, and I promised that someday I would at least come to visit his village.

Several weeks later, we organized a party to find his village. When we got there, the leader was thrilled to see us. He called everybody to come and see the two white misses. As we were walking through the village I noticed in the center a new building, very different from their regular houses. I asked, “What is that building there in the center of the village?”

He said, “Oh, that is God’s house-that’s our church.”

“Your church? Do you have a mission here?”

“Oh, no, we have never had a mission here.”

“Well, do you have a pastor here – you know, someone that comes to preach God’s Word?”

“Oh, no, we’ve never had a pastor here.”

“Well, is there someone here in the village that can read and write Pidgin English who holds services in your church?”

“Oh, no! There is no one here that can read or write. And we have no books.”

I looked at him and said, “Then what is that building for?”

He said, “Well, we saw the little church in your village and our people decided to build a church, too. Now we’re waiting for someone to come and tell us about God in our own talk.”

I turned and started crying. I have never seen that kind of faith. Out in the middle of the jungle stands that little church, and today they are still waiting – waiting for someone to come and tell them in their own language about Jesus. There are thousands of groups just like them, waiting to hear the Word of God in their own language. They are waiting for you.

originally posted sunday, january 30, 2011