Tag Archives: Jesus

What Stories Do

This was sent to me in response to my last post. What a great follow-up to that idea. Thank you Lori.
The original story can be found here.

What Stories Do

by 

Almost overnight, my eight-year-old niece went from being a vivacious little girl who sang her way through life—as if she were singing the soundtrack of her own life the movie—and became a frightened, withdrawn child who spoke so softly you could barely hear her. It was as if she were literally losing her voice, losing herself. And then we found out she was being bullied at school.

Later, she told me that she thought she wouldn’t get in trouble if she tried not to be herself. It broke my heart, and I wished she had a book to read before school to hear what God says about her, not what those bullies were saying about her. So I thought I better write one—it’s called Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing, and it has become a book of hope for children.

Children look to us for everything. But in all that we’ve given children, have we forgotten to give them hope? Have we left them in despair, looking at what they should do but don’t? Looking at who they should be but aren’t? How, then, do we give hope to children?

By helping them take the focus off themselves and put it back on God where it belongs. By telling them truths such as these:

God holds the oceans in the palm of his hand. If he can hold the oceans, he can hold you. (p. 106)

If God cares for the tiniest sparrow— how much more mus t he care for you, his child? (p. 152)

If Jesus can calm a storm on a lake, he can calm the storm in your heart. (p. 181)

God sees not just who you are— but who he is going to make you. (p. 145)

We give hope to children when we tell them what matters most.

They don’t need to be told to try harder, believe more, or do better. That just leaves them in despair. Taken by itself, the moral code always leaves us in despair. We can never live up to it. We don’t need a moral code—we need a Rescuer.

When I go to churches and speak to children, I ask them two questions: First, “how many people here sometimes think you have to be good for God to love you?” They tentatively raise their hands. I raise my hand along with them. Second, “How many people here sometimes think that if you aren’t good, God will stop loving you?” They look around and again raise their hands.

These are children in Sunday schools who know the Bible, and yet they have somehow missed the most important thing of all. They have missed what the Bible is all about. They are children like I once was. I thought God couldn’t love me because I wasn’t doing it right.

How, then, do we help them? What can we do? We can teach children that the Bible is not about them.

The Bible isn’t merely about them and what they should be doing. It’s about God and what He has done. It’s not merely a book of rules telling you how to behave so that God will love you. It’s not merely a book of heroes that gives you people to copy so that God will love you.

Most of all, the Bible is the Story—the story of how God loves His children and comes to rescue them. And in spite of everything, no matter what, whatever it cost Him— God won’t ever stop loving His children with a wonderful, neverstopping, never-giving-up, unbreaking, always, and forever love. Are we telling children the Story—or teaching them a mere lesson?

My niece didn’t need another lesson. What she needed to know was that she is loved—with a wonderful, never-stopping, never-giving- up, unbreaking, always, and forever love. What she needed was to be invited into the Story. What she needed was to meet the Hero and become part of His magnificent Story. That is because the rules don’t change you. But the Story—God’s Story—does.

How, then, do we instill a love for God in children? Simply by telling them the Story—the Story of how God loves His children and comes to rescue them. By telling it well. Telling it faithfully. Telling it simply. Telling it without dumbing it down. Telling it without explaining it to death. Telling it without drilling it down into a moral lesson.

Stories don’t tell the truth confrontationally. They don’t coerce you. They don’t argue with you to believe them. They just are. The power of the story isn’t in summing it up, drilling it down, or reducing it to an abstract idea. The power of the story isn’t in the lesson. The power of the story is the story.  (Emphasis mine)

When God sent the prophet Nathan to King David (2 Sam. 12:1-4), Nathan didn’t confront David with a sermon about his sin but told him a story. David didn’t see it coming. The story got by his defenses.

That’s the thing a true story does—it doesn’t come at you directly and raise a wall of defense. It comes around the side and captures your heart.

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What if we are all wrong?

42% of the population in Maine is functionally illiterate. I heard that statistic from Keith Lawrence last night at a Southern Maine Church Planting meeting. That statistic hit me pretty hard. If we assume a population of 1.3M people in Maine, we end up with a staggering 546,000 people in Maine that will not comprehend what we teach, whether from the pulpit or in living rooms across the state. I would also make the bold statement that most pastors don’t care based on their actions. Let me make a case for a second.

A typical sermon includes 5-10 minutes of introduction where an illustration is used or a word is explained etc, to get the people ready to hear the message. This could be a witty little story about the CEO of a company who prayed before every meeting or a quick run down of the ways in which we misuse the word love. This would be followed by a verse by verse or even word by word explanation of the text. We explain the text for 15 minutes or so making sure we pull out the nuance of the Greek or Hebrew word used only once in this very verse. We follow all of this up with the climax of application where we give examples of what we can all do differently as a result. At the end of the service the pastor dutifully stands at the door of the church listening to all the people ooh and aah about the sermon. Most weeks however, there are always a few people who seem to never “get it.” Sometimes it comes out as a simple, “That one didn’t speak to me.” A more common explanation is, “I just don’t get much out of it.”

What is the first reaction? I know what mine was/is. “Well, they just don’t get it.”

EXACTLY! They don’t get it. And instead of figuring out why, we do more of the same with better illustrations teaching them more about  Winston Churchill or Football than Jesus.

There are four levels of literacy accepted by most countries. Level 1 is the inability to read or write. This would be described as being illiterate. Level 2 is the ability to read very basic groups of words such as medicine doses and States/cities. Level 3 is the ability to fill out forms with a basic understanding of vocabulary. The ability to fill out a job application or other similar type of forms. These two levels are considered functionally illiterate. Level 4 is reading and writing comprehension. There are levels of reading comprehension however, and the basic rule is that a level 4 literate person could pick up a book written at an 8th grade level and understand it. This is the level at which most pastors in Maine preach at. Listen to sermons from all over the state and you will hear level 4 sermons. Sermons based on the information gleaned from not only research/theology books, but the very version of Scripture we read. What grade is your version written at?

If 42% of Maine is level 3 or below then you are correct, they DON’T get it. If 42% of Maine CAN NOT read at an 8th grade level, then why are we surprised when we hand them a Bible but they don’t seem to read it? I have been known to whack a bee’s nest or two in my day so it won’t come as a surprise for me to ask, “If the KJV is written at a 12th grade level, how many people are we saying that we don’t care about in our KJV only churches?”

So what needs to change? If we are going to try to reach the people of Maine by planting churches, what are we going to do about the 42% of people who will automatically be left out. I don’t want to shoot off a few flares then run away so my first answer is this.

When was the last time you told the gospel as a story? Was it the last time you substitute taught in Sunday School? When was the last time you started your entire sermon by just telling the story of the text in 5-10 minutes BEFORE you dig into the significance of each individual word. I am 100% guilty of this. I have preached to those seminary students in the seats while ignoring those who want to learn but just don’t get it.

I am not advocating that we simplify everything and go with felt boards every week, but I do wonder if we could take 30 minutes out of our week and craft a section of our sermon in order to reach more than 52% of the people who could walk into a service on any given Sunday. ( That was a long sentence but I’m not cutting it in 2 Tracy! ) Another reaction of yours could be similar to mine when I assumed, “I bet that number is lower than 42% in my church.” I bet I’m right, and I bet you are too! We designed it that way. We preach in a way to keep the 42% out.

Please take this information and be challenged to reach more people. This new information has certainly altered my mindset. I am note sure how it will end up playing out in my life specifically but if we truly want to reach Maine with the Gospel, we might need to rethink our delivery.

Selah

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The Morning After

Yesterday was not a dream. It seems that the whirlwind that was my April 5 is now gone. Dad is sleeping more peacefully and soundly then he has in more that 2 weeks. The people here at the Gosnel House are great as they care for the families and patients alike.

There were quite a few people in here last night and I know that my father appreciated it.

The question “why us” briefly popped up in my head last night after I was left here alone with my Dad. The Holy Spirit quickly answered with, “why NOT you?” Darrin Patrick quoted Elizabeth Elliot yesterday when he said, ” God will not protect you from anything that will make you more like Jesus. ”

When we view every situation as good or bad, we tend to leave God out of it. When God’s grace shifts our thinking on these matters, we see every situation as not good or bad, but as an opportunity to give God more glory for what He alone has already done.

My father showed me the importance of daily communion with God. He showed me the importance of a local church body. He is currently showing me how to ” go out on top ” by taking care of the things to be cared for and not focusing on self. Up until his last coherent moment, he was trying to make sure Mom was taken care of.

In the world that we live in, it is not often that a man like me can look back at such a constant role model in his father. For that I am grateful. God deemed it necessary to be born unto Donald L Coldwell and I thank God right now for that decision of God’s.

I love you Dad. Soon you will be free of all disease and will be in your new body throwing the many crowns you have earned at the feet of Jesus.

Selah

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It Isn’t Supposed To Be This Way

In case some of you don’t watch what’s going on with my Dad. Here is what I just posted on http://www.psalm20seven.wordpress.com

In the beginning Adam & Eve enjoyed perfect communion with each other and with God. The idea of cancer, death, sickness, or mourning was not found anywhere. Sin entered into the picture fracturing all of creation, and we live with these consequences daily. It isn’t supposed to be this way.

But yet, it is.

Dad is at peace.

How?

Grace.

Even though sin crushed our world, causing pain and suffering, yesterday we celebrated the defeat of that death. Romans 6:9 states that death HAS NO DOMINION over Jesus. Titus 3:7 explains that we became heirs along with Christ BY GRACE. Dad and Christ are heirs. Dad was adopted to become a child of God and lives looking forward to his next level of inheritance – ultimate healing. Do I pray that God miraculously heals my Dad tonight? – YES. Do I also believe that God, not wanting to see his creation destroyed, sent his Son Jesus to live a perfect life and be killed for it? – YES. Do I also believe that God raised Jesus from the grave, miraculously defeating death and allowing my Dad to get a taste of that? – YES. When my Dad dies, no matter when that is, it will be miraculous when he stands face to face with his one and only savior. Either way it’s a miracle.

People have been making music since the beginning of time yet it was not until recently that this song was written and released to the public. The song is Worn by Tenth Avenue North and it has a few lines that are speaking to me these days.

I know I need to lift my eyes up, but I’m too weak, life just won’t let up. And I know that You can give me rest, so I cry out with all that I have left.

Dad meets with the hospice nurse tomorrow afternoon and we pray that they will be able to come up with a plan of action that helps him. Please take this opportunity to leave a note here. If you have been wanting to send a note of encouragement and prayer but have been waiting, wait no longer.

 

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Church Planting Intern

In February of 2013 I accepted a position as a Church Planting Intern in Maine. This position is a one year contract where my responsibilities will cover a wide range of duties. Ultimately in the coming year I hope to catalog the year as I learn, study, and minister in this way.

The first book on my list to read this year was Church Planter by Darrin Patrick. This was a great primer to the seriousness and specific nature of a church planter. This book is divided up into three sections focusing on three aspects of a planter. The Man, The Message, and The Mission. Interestingly enough, it was the Preface that I remember the most. This is where Darrin details a prayer that he prays with his son that has me thinking of how I can pray specifically for my sons and daughters as they grow.

God, make me a man with thick skin and a soft heart. Make me a man who is tough and tender. Make me tough so I can handle life. Make me tender so I can love people.God, make me a man.

I want to create one for my daughters as well, frame them, and hang them in each bedroom. I have been challenged to be more purposeful in how I pray for and with my children.

Without going into great detail about every chapter I will say that Church Planter IS NOT a how-to book on plating a church. This is a gut check for any man looking to plant a church. It is a clear calling to the specific message of the saving power of THE Gospel of Jesus. At the end of each chapter there are very helpful questions designed to bring about introspection and in every case they worked for me.

As a CPI in Maine I do not feel called to plant a church right this second. What I DO want, is to help plant churches. This will end up looking like nothing I had planned, but I know that God has a specific plan for the coming year.

Please join me/follow me/encourage me as I take the next year and open my heart to God. Here is a promotional video for Church Planter from back when the book came out in 2010.

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Baby Steps?

My youngest has been singing ever since gathered worship this morning. Power, power, wonder working power; of course it’s the Sean Dutton version not your typical piano/organ combo. It makes me happy to know that she is paying attention but it also is quite scary. You see, I am pretty sure that it the first time we have sung that song since she has been staying out with us before Sunday school. This means that she learned something after one hearing.

What does this mean for me? How many times has she heard me apologize to her after acting selfishly toward her? How many times has she heard me pray for our family? How many times has she heard me tell L that I love her? How many time has she heard so many of the things that will teach her more about the Gospel than any of the different versions of Daniel and the lions den. What she hears from my mouth regarding God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Church, the Gospel…all these things matter much more than buying her the newest kids Bible, or sending her off to Bible class, or even when she gets older – shipping her off to Youth Group. We sometimes think in terms that would label this as baby steps but in actuality they are the very steps that will be with you for your entire life. If you ever get to a point that you do not need to do this, you have actually retarded your understanding as opposed to strengthened your understanding. Live the Gospel in front of your children.

Why does she need to hear this from me? I am her father. This comes with great responsibility as well as the opportunity for great blessing. If you can’t remember the last time you apologized either IN FRONT of your child or TO your child; consider that a reason to go do it right now.

Being a parent is not able being perfect, it’s about sharing God’s grace in your life with your children.

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Pros and Cons

There are many things that I would like to see happen in my life. Some are quite attainable with hard work (6-pack abs), while others seem a little out of reach (2010 VW Scirocco). Still I tend to think that with dedication and clear goals, I can figure out how things should work. When I come upon decisions to make, I get out the ole’ paper and pen in order to start my pro/con list. Seems pretty basic to do so, however I wonder if we use it in too many situations. I know that as for me and my house…we use it too much. Let me explain.

It is one thing to go over the finer points of a decision when you have the major decision-making ability in that situation: buying a car, renting/buying a house, taking a job…pretty straight forward stuff. What if you aren’t in the driver’s seat however? Without getting into a lot of details, it seems as though some things are happening in Laurie and my life that are changing the way we think about our time here on earth. Obviously the biggest challenge to our comfort was Laurie’s aneurysm. This was never placed on a pro/con list. I am pretty certain that the cons would have outweighed the pros and we would have taken door #2. Isn’t it funny how we try to make our pro/con list for things that we have no control over.

James 4:13-17 says: Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”-yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this and that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

I had a long conversation with God the other day about everything I thought would give Him glory. I was giving Him my pro/con list as if I was unsure if He had forgotten anything. Really? I am trying to convince God that such-and-such would be good for everyone including Him? How often do you do that same thing? How often do you lay out a good argument for something to happen when it isn’t even close to being in your hands? I know that there is a responsibility to be prudent when we do have a say…but ultimatey it is all the same. We go to God not with a pre-planned offering of what are lives could be; we go to Him with an offering of what our lives are and then He does with it what He may.

Lord, create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit in me. I look forward to what God has in store for us in the coming years. Everything has been taken care of up until this point…why would it change now?

-Cheers

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