Thursday, July 12, 2007

Dead Sea Christians

Last Saturday, we had the privledge of doing what we call a “monster” food outreach. We think of it in terms of a monster truck, a whole lot bigger than usual. We gave away more than 60,000 pounds of food, had a free garage sale and cooked more than a thousand hamburgers and hotdogs.

A lot of single moms and grand parents, who now have to raise their grandchildren, came out for several pallets of free diapers. Others came for the free haircuts from 7 professional hairdressers. We gave away more than 500 pairs of brand new shoes and thousands of dollars worth of new and used clothes, all in great shape. It was so much fun and we heard so many testimonies from very grateful people.

It takes a lot of money, a lot of time and a lot of hard work from a lot of giving people to make something like this happen. You might be reading this and wonder why in the world a church would do something like this, and that’s a question I love to answer. It is just as easy to answer why churches don’t make a difference in their community, as it is to answer why churches do, but let me show a picture that explains both.

Bodies of water
Over in the Middle East there’s a tear shaped lake, the locals call a sea. There are several things unique about this body of water and both are found in its very name. “The Dead Sea” is so full of salt and minerals that not a single fish can live in it.

Its 15 miles wide and over 50 miles long and from a distance its beauty is breathtaking. Once you get closer you find its safer to drink dirt then it is to drink from the Dead Sea. Its contents are more than 42% salt and otherwise toxic minerals and the water is so thick with it, you can’t even sink.

At 1300 feet below sea level it’s officially the lowest place on earth and there lies the reason it can’t support life. Because every other place in the world is literally “up hill,” water goes in and nothing goes out. The same water that carries in salt and minerals from the land usually carries out those same materials into other lakes, but not this one. This lake is an eternal geographical receiver and nothing flows out whatsoever.

I’m scared to death of being a “Dead Sea Christian” in a Dead Sea church. We give away more than a million pounds of food every year to people that may never help us in any way because we have so much life flowing into us, we had better have life flowing through us.

A lot of us Christians (and even churches) are positioned in life to continually receive. We take in and never give out. And just like that body of water, many of us have no life in us at all and some of our churches, while beautiful to look at, are more poisonous than life; giving because we only look to receive.

Just like the Dead Sea, you can’t get deep in those kinds of churches. They are full of shallow Christianity and fail to deliver up close what they advertise from far off. As said before, I am scared of being a Dead Sea Christian and confess that my selfishness has probably hurt more people than I’ve ever helped. It’s not something I’ve got a complete handle on, but a mark I am pressing toward by the grace of God.

By the time this is printed, I will be in India with my sixteen-year-old son, Benjamin. We will hanging out at our orphanage in Visakhaptnum and will also spend some time at the leper colony our church supports. Next weeks cup from the Brewer, should be one with a dash of curry in it. I hope to be able to write you from the far side of the world. Don’t forget to say a prayer for the Brewer and don’t you dare be a Dead Sea Christian.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Givin It Up

By his own estimate, Robin Agnew tried to quit smoking about 20 times. "I would quit for about four weeks at a time," said Agnew. "Then one day about 12 years ago, Agnew puffed a cigarette in a Baltimore Maryland Park, threw the rest of his pack in a trash can and never smoked again.

"I finally quit when I became a nurse. It was professionally incompatible," he said.
The Brewer himself used to live in Marlboro Country, but by way of the red sea I was delivered from the Pharaoh of Copenhagen and all things tobacco, back in 1994. It remains one of the greatest single victories of my life.

I had been a dedicated Christian for nearly nine years at that time and had walked right out of a lot of things that sent stronger people to rehabs. But I just couldn't live a life without a round can in my back pocket, even if I was living for Jesus. I learned how to do food outreaches with a dip of snuff in my mouth, and then found me some grace and liberty scriptures to quote if anybody didn't like it.

The truth of the matter is I wanted to quit but didn't know how. Every time I decided to quit it was like trying to land the space shuttle. My projectory would start off right but once the real suffering commenced, I would get off course and fall apart on re-entry.

Rude Awakenings

I would say a prayer, throw a full can of snuff out the window and pull over to buy a new one 10 miles down the road. I had to quit; I had to keep trying, because as Nurse Agnew once said, it was completely incompatible.

On the early morning hours of October 31st 2004, I awoke from a dream that properly motivated me to take my addiction very seriously. There's not any point in me describing it because most would say it was merely a nightmare, but I received it as a holy warning from a Spiritual dad that was taking me to the woodshed.

I got rid of every snuff can and cigarette I could find and to this day have not taken in a measurable amount of any form of nicotine. The last time I quit really was the last time I quit.
Thomas Edison once said, "Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try one more time."

Getting back up on the horse is just as important as the horse being broken. I hate bondage. I hate addiction and so does the Lord. I truly don't think that smoking or the use of tobacco is that big of a deal except that it simply is not compatible with the testimony of a Christian. Its bad for you and it's a bad testimony. I don't think smoking will send you to hell, but I do think it will make you smell like you've been there.

Across the Pond

Several years ago my wife and I were on one of our first visits to Uganda, East Africa. At a baptism ceremony in a fast moving river, about 50 new converts were about to take the holy plunge. Once the music started people began to celebrate and to my amazement the folks in line striped down naked! Their public display revealed a lot more than their faith in Jesus.

A few years later, that same Pastor was touring through Texas when he stopped to preach at my church, Open Door Ministries. He came in my office and said "Pastor Troy, there are people smoking cigarettes in the parking lot outside. Why do you not go out and confront them?"
I reminded him that I had been to his church several times and that he should be more concerned for the naked people in his church than the smokers in mine. I will take smokers over streakers any day of the week.

The bottom line is that Christ set us free not for us to be in bondage but for us to be set free. If you have tried hard to come out of some things and failed before, I encourage you to try again. Don't give up! Your life is worth fighting for. Addiction is incompatible with a victorious person like you. There is no point in being defeated by an already defeated devil.

Romans 6:18"Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness."

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