Wanta buy a dead slave?

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Last week when we were looking at Hosea purchasing his unfaithful wife (I hate her name!) from the slave market I mentioned the price he paid was equivalent to that of a dead slave.

Since that message I have had a few comments like, “Why would any one buy a dead slave?” I admit fuller explanation is needed!

In Exodus 21:32, as the law is being explained to the nation of Israel, there is this verse, “If the ox gores a male or female slave, the owner shall give his or her master thirty shekels of silver and the ox shall be stoned.” (For the sake of clarity, keep in mind that being “stoned” in the context of this verse has nothing to do with anything one would inhale or otherwise ingest!)

So the price Hosea paid for his wife was the price that a slave owner would be paid as reimbursement for a slave that was killed by a bull. The point I was trying to make was that though alive, Gomer only fetched the price one would recieve for a slave that had been killed. The price paid for Gomer signified the value others placed on her — she was as good as dead. Yet, here was a man buying her not as a slave but as a wife! Can you imagine the talk on the street!

Any more questions?

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I have a GREAT job!

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Because . . .
I get to see how God is using our church from a vantage point that few others do. All the information and stories that come to are amazing. I only reget I don’t get to share them with everyone!
I get to see how God is working in the lives of individuals. Some stories are very private and probably will never see the light of day. Other stories are evolving — God is doing something over time and I have the priviledge to watch transformation unfold.
I get to talk to people about Jesus! I had a chance today to share with someone about Christ. I might never see them again, but I believe God will take my moment of faithfulness and use it as He draws this person to Himself.
I get to represent Crossing to others. When a person comes to the office seeking help I have the benefit to hear their story and often meet a need. I am not the one helping them. It is our church, I am only the representative.
I have the opportunity for my spiritual walk to be overwhelmingly blessed by so many people as I watch God at work in their life. I am challenged, convicted, encouraged, embarassed, and most of all, humbled by what I see.
I am the recipient of abundant grace from over 200 people that I worship with every Sunday!

Three Needs & How do you know when it is a real need?

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God’s opportunity + His Word + the obedience of His people = approximately $3000.

This past Sunday I told you about 3 requests for assistance we’ve received recently. Then we looked at 1 John 3:18, “let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth” and the result was just over $3,000 in donations to meet these needs. Wow! Crossing, you opened yourself up to God and allowed him to use you. When I spoke with one person that you helped, I explained your assistance like this, “We (Crossing people) believe all of us have a purpose and plan for our life on Earth. The essence of that purpose is to reflect the character and nature of God to the people we meet and become a part of our life. In some small way we hope the assistance we have given you helps you understand what God is like.”

Church, this past weekend you gave nearly $3,000 to meet the three needs I told you about in the service! That is so exciting. It is so great to see how God can and will use us when we open ourselves up to Him. God is honored by obedience and sacrifice. Let’s not let it stop here!

I have been asked what constitutes a “real need.” Currently we ask for verification of the need. Something like an eviction or utility shut-off notice. Certain situations are hard to verify, like the need for groceries or gas. We make it a policy to not provide cash or write a check to the person making the request. There have been requests we have not met.

We have not done in-depth investigation as to why someone is in need the first time a person asks for help. We attempt to verify the need through our discussion, how a person answers our questions and the documentation that is provided. But as we enter into a relationship with someone and become aware of decisions that obviously are detrimental to their financial stability the discussion of how to best help them takes a different direction. There have only been two occasions when a person has asked for assistance more than once. In each case enough questions were asked and documentation was provided to instill confidence about the request.

In December I met with Tom Hadderman to discuss how to formalize our process and give it more structure. We met again this week to review the draft documents and will meet again next week to continue the work on them. Other churches in our region have been very helpful by sharing how they handle benevolent issues. It is a work in process to say the least. The goal is to provide assistance and encouragement for folks who are in dire straights. There are many ways we can do that IF we have the people to put to the task.
The greatest need at the moment is to have more CCC people working with us on this ministry. If you are interested in learning more about the benevolent ministry contact me.

Thanks to those who have asked for clarification on this matter. I appreciate the attitude and heart behind your questions. The discussion helps to continue to refine our thinking and improve the way we assist people.

3 Hours w/ God was refreshing!

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This morning 30 or so of us gathered at CCC to spend 3 hours alone with God. Each of us found a place to ourself and then began seeking God’s face. Some of us used the guided reading that was provided. Others read what ever God had placed on their heart. The time went fast! At Noon we gathered in the Living Room and shared about our time with God. There was some good stuff shared! Really exciting to learn how God is working in each other’s life!

It’s easy to miss something you’re not looking for!

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Did you take the test? Did you pass the test? Well, did ya?
Do you pass the test when you come to church on Sundays? Do you pass it when you crack the back of your bible to spend time with God? Do you pass the test when you go to your small group & your bible study? Do you know you are even taking the test when you are talking to co-workers, neighbors, family, the homeless, the drunk, the addict, the hooker, the down and out? HE is there IF we are looking for Him.
But when we go through the motions without a heart that truly is seeking God, we miss Him just about every time.
This week when you go to church or your small group or bible study, be aware. Go seeking to see, hear and experience God. As you interact with those ‘every day’ people, be aware. God could be there.

Knowing Jesus or Knowing About Jesus

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originally posted 4/10/08
I recently read a book called The Shack by William Young (see theshackbook.com for more about the book). I really liked the book. It’s a novel, not a “how to fix” this or that in your life or ministry book. But it really made me think about my life and begin to reflect about the most important relationship I have – my relationship with Jesus.

In the book, Jesus (Yes, Jesus talks to people in this book!) makes a comment to Mack, the main (mortal) character that has caused me to begin to rethink much of what I think, do and say.

“You mean,” Mack interjected a little sarcastically, “that I can’t just ask, ‘What Would Jesus Do’?”

Jesus chuckled. “Good intentions, bad idea. Let me know how it works for you, if that’s the way you choose to go.” He paused and grew sober. “Seriously, my life was not meant to be an example to copy. Being my follower is not trying to ‘be like Jesus,’. . .” (page 149)

What I have realized from that comment is that way too much of what I think, do and say is geared towards knowing about Jesus, instead of knowing Jesus!

My time in the Word is characterized by what I can learn so I can teach it or living off the self-righteousness that comes from checking “Devotions” off my to-do list.

My actions are pre-engineered to ‘look like Jesus’ instead of being an outpouring of knowing Him. Knowing Him should influence me so much that I act like Him because of His Spirit living in me and through me.

I have studied the Bible so I would have the answers a pastor is supposed to have. And the longer I reflect on what I say and do the more I am convinced that I know some stuff about Him but don’t know Him very well. It would be like reading books and articles and the thoughts of other people about my wife, but never really spending time knowing her! Yet, she is with me every day!

I feel really sad that I have spent so much time wasted on things about Jesus, but not enough time with Jesus. So I am beginning to try to rethink why I do things & say things – rethink the way I think about Jesus.

The first step for me is to move from approaching Him as a figure of the past and more like a person in my now, who lives in me and wants me to know Him.

Do you know Him? What has been most helpful for you to know Jesus? I would love to learn with you and from you!

A Spy Among Us!

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originally posted 3/11/08
I wanted to let you in on a little secret. We had a spy among us in our morning service on March 9th! I have a friend that has a job as a “Secret Shopper” in addition to her M-F, 8-5 job. You’ve probably heard of those services. A company will hire a secret shopper service to visit one of their locations and make a purchase, then evaluate the store based on a predetermined criteria.

Well, this past Sunday my friend “secret shopped” CCC! I gave her over 50 questions to use as her criteria for an evaluation. She arrived about 10 minutes early (that in itself is unique to visitors!) and found her seat. She sat by herself until someone else arrived so late that they had to take the first empty chair they could find – which happened to be next to our ‘spy’. After the service she toured our the SonCountry rooms and the bookstore and had a chat with our person stationed at the Welcome Desk.

In her initial follow-up email the report was not all roses! But, let’s wait for her complete report card later this week.

Do we get an “F” when it comes to greeting guests? I don’t think we get an F but I think we might be in the D+/C- range. God has blessed us with five new families that call CCC home and two more that have been hanging around but haven’t said they are making this their church home. So there is a lot of good going on – but room for improvement!

On March 2nd we had seven guests with us. We received contact info on only one of them None of them returned on the 9th. Why is that? Without contact info, we can’t ask them that question. But we can ask ourselves what do we need to do that would make their experience with us as positive as possible.

Be looking for some new measures in the coming weeks that will be seeking to help us in this area. Michael Marino and I attended a conference in NYC recently that gave us plenty of ideas to consider.

If you have thoughts on this topic please share them with us. Hilary (Clinton!) says it takes a village. I’ll agree with her on that point! To make our guests fill welcome is not the job of the ushers or the welcome desk. It is all our job. If you have ideas on how to improve this area, we would love to hear them.

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