Author Archives: Mr. Marker

Dinner and a Devo

Misfits are always Welcome

We (Nancy and me) had been invited to attend an after service social for ministers only, that was going to take place at the home of a high ranking church official. Being the introvert that I am, I struggled with the idea of going, but I overwhelmed my anxiety about the whole thing and we went. When we got there, we were greeted by the lady of the house who told us to make ourselves at home. After that initial welcome we were left alone. Apparently everyone else there knew each other well. They had gathered around all the big tables and were having what seemed like the time of their lives. There was loud laughter and conversation all around.

We looked around for a place to sit and there was nothing available except for a little table for two that was located in a hallway around a corner and out of view of the other rooms. We sat down there and remained there for probably 45 minutes. No one approached us or attempted to include us in any of their conversations. It was really quite awkward. We knew this was a place where we didn’t fit. So, while everyone was busy enjoying themselves, we quietly slipped out.

Although this was not a fun event to live through, that little “party” actually helped shape me when it comes to my style of leadership. I remember how bad I felt as we left that night and I promised myself two things: 1) I will never put myself through that again, and 2) I will always try to be aware and make sure this never happens to anyone who comes to the church I pastor.

Hear this…at Landmark, EVERYONE is welcome and EVERYONE belongs. Now, it’s one thing to say that and another to live it out. The purpose of this devotional is to remind us to always be on the look out for the misfits who walk through our doors and to intentionally make them feel included. Even if that means losing our place in line or giving them our chair.

It’s easy to get caught up in our own little confined space and forget to notice anyone who is not at our table or in our comfort zone. But we must never forget that at one time WE were the ones who didn’t fit in. If someone hadn’t take the time to notice and include us we would have walked out the door.

Matthew Barnett wrote in his book entitled Misfits Welcome:

Jesus loved working with rugged fishermen, prostitutes, and people whom nobody wanted. In fact, He loved misfits so much that He placed Rahab, a known prostitute, in His hall of heroes. David, whom He warmly called “a man after my own heart,” also made the list (Acts 13:22). The same man who committed adultery and orchestrated a murder plot known as a man after God’‘s own heart? This guy is in the ministry hall of fame? Yes, and it’‘s an amazing picture of just how much God loves us.

He doesn’t condone the mistakes in our lives, but often, when misfits realize that they need God for everything in their lives, it’s a glorious connection. A life so perfectly attached to God’s heart. Do you feel incapable? Then go ahead and pray sincere prayers. Those are ones that say, “God, I need You to show up because You are so much bigger than me.” Misfits tend to pray for things that require God to show up.

When you get to church Sunday, make sure you take the time to look around and meet that person you do not know. Speak to them and shake their hand. Who knows, you may have just saved their life.

How should the church respond to Ferguson?

Landmark, the church I am blessed to pastor, is a multicultural church. Although we have a long way to go, we are being intentional about truly reflecting the demographics of our community. Right now we are approximately 45% African American, 45% Caucasian, and 10% Other (for lack of a better inclusive term). I believe this is one of our greatest accomplishments. As such, I feel it necessary to address current cultural issues, especially in light of the events that have and are taking place in Ferguson, Missouri and other cities across America.

Far too often the church is silent on these issues, but sometimes silence speaks volumes. Why don’t we speak up? Maybe its because of the societal misconceptions associated with our respective cultures. Maybe we don’t want to stir the pot. Maybe we hope it will all just go away or maybe we just don’t know what to say.

Problems ignored rarely go away. It is only through appropriate interaction and open conversation that we can work together to bring resolution in potentially volatile situations.

The church isn’t (at least it shouldn’t be) like the world and thus, should not operate like the world. As the church, we should understand that we are disciples of Christ before we are anything else. As the church, we realize that we are all sinners in need of a savior and without grace none of us would survive. This is a cross-cultural truth.

Therefore, we must live into Galatians 3:28 (NIV) that says, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

This statement was demonstrated in real time by the early church. It was made up of Jews and Gentiles (two cultures with stark philosophical, religious and cultural differences), united by the power of a life changing Gospel. Unbelievers looked through the “windows of the church” and saw free men in fellowship with servants and Jews eating meals with Gentiles. Everyone was on a first name basis and it blew the minds of outsiders to see such culturally and politically incorrect behavior. Centuries of social constructs were dismantled because of their mutual love of Jesus. Wow!

Today, we must still be defined by John 13:35 (NKJV) that says “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

It was the healing message of Calvary that gave them new focus and purpose. It was a message far more powerful and compelling than political talking points and cultural biases. It placed everyone on common ground where there were no big “I’s” and little “you’s.” The message of the cross leveled the playing field and it didn’t matter where you were from. It was God’s Kingdom that truly mattered and they were now full blown citizens of this new Kingdom.

Our response to crisis, any crisis, must always be a reflection of the center of our universe, Jesus Christ. This is what gets the world’s attention. As ambassadors of Christ to our generation what should we do? To find that out we need to look at what Jesus did. In Matthew 14:14 (NKJV) we find this:

And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick.”

Jesus did not preclude anyone based on ethnicity, color of skin, religious background or politics.

I do not pretend to have all the answers. I have no idea what it is like to be African American, Latino, Asian or any other culture than my own. The fact is we all have our own life experiences, good and bad, to deal with. We all have our own cultural struggles to face. Here’s the deal though. When I gave my life to Jesus, I gave up my earthly kingdom rights and gained Heavenly kingdom rights. Along with those rights came responsibilities.

Now, as His disciple, I don’t have the right to hate. I don’t have the right to be a racist. I don’t have the right to be a fearmongerer, a usurper, a gossip, etc. Those were my worldly rights but when I “switched” kingdoms, I assumed a new identity. Now I have the responsibility to love unconditionally, be a peacemaker and spread the Gospel. This means that I shouldn’t attempt to avoid the injustices of my environment and the societal conditions that surround me. As a matter of fact, it increases the desperation of my responsibility to spread the Gospel.

As long as we are alive on earth there will be injustice because the world is governed by the imperfect impulses of men. There will always be avarice and greed, hatred, racism, prejudice, and murder, all driven by an unhealthy push and lust for power. But just because its going to be that way, and just because the world reacts this way doesn’t mean that we have to participate in negativity. Nor does it mean that we can’t make a difference. WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE!

Read the Gospels. Read the Book of Acts. There you will find problems  occurring then just like they are happening now: murders, riots, religious and secular hatefulness, rogue government officials. You name it, it was there. But Jesus had a powerful impact in the middle of all that. And, when the church was born, it continued making such a difference that when they went to one place it was said, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also,…” Acts 17:6 (ESV)

So, how do we make a difference today? The answer is found in the words of Jesus:

37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’[d] 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’[e] 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Matt 22:37-40. (NKJV)

Let me conclude with this. Our responsibility is to exhibit an aggressive, godly love. To accomplish this, we cannot hide our heads in the sand and hope “it goes away.” True love means heartfelt conversation, not speeches. True love means that our sermons will be lived out and not just shouted. True love is politically incorrect more often than not because true love is filled with compassion, not pity. True love means cross-cultural dialogue with meaningful give and take. True love means making an intentional effort to understand our differences and working together towards a common solution.

True love desires to learn each others languages so we can communicate on level ground. True love looks past skin color. True love destroys walls of separation built over years of misunderstanding and ignorance. True love trips over itself to pursue peace. The world does not have a ‘fear’ problem, it has a love problem because ultimately, true (perfect) love, “…casts out fear.” 1 John 4:18 (NKJV)

So to my Landmark family I say, let’s not ignore the problem.  Let’s be a part of the solution. Let us earnestly pray for the Brown family, the Wilson family and for Ferguson, Missouri. At the same time we must understand that what is happening there is just a microcosm of what is going on everywhere. We can either exacerbate the problem or we can do something about it. We can make sure that right here, right now, right where we are, we are making a difference for Christ in our community.

We must pray for our nation and we must show the world Jesus. He is the answer!

**Special thanks to Natalie Bunner and Nancy Langford for their input on this post.

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