August and Everything After

Mark Johnston, Connections Pastor 

IMG_8608I hate cold weather. I don’t like snow, i can’t stand freezing wind, i hate just about everything about winter.

Now, i know, it never gets really cold here. I have a childhood friend who is crazy enough to live in Alaska. He posts Facebook pictures of his thermometer at -28 or some nonsense that in my mind says ‘i’m calling in sick today…and every day for the next three months.’

That’s just ‘Thursday’ up there…nothing out of the ordinary.

My wife, who used to brag about playing in icy cold West Virginia creeks when she was a kid, has succumbed to my cold weather complaining from November to February and has decided that she, now also hates the cold. (‘Mama’s come around to daddy’s way of thinkin’’ to rewrite the old country song.) We’re really making plans to retire to some coast somewhere—just to be warm year-round, walking the beach with a metal detector and trying not to get skin cancer.

But, as much as i hate the cold, as you know, the summers around here are just brutal.

June is bad, July is worse—bone dry, like opening the door to a pizza oven every time you go outside. Everyone kinda drags around, sweats and bears it best they can, knowing that at some point, usually in August, we get one day with a high under 90, and see a tiny sliver of the end in sight. Then we get ten more horrible days before the next reprieve. And right before you call the realtor to put the house on the market, September rolls around and we get one of those glorious days that makes you forget about how awful June, July and August were.

Ever go through a summer in your spiritual life?

Where you’re just not ‘in tune’ with the messages preached, the scriptures read, the songs sung—where it all just feels ‘dry’ for some reason. Where you want God to send some rain, or a bucket of ice water to splash you in the face, and He just…doesn’t.

For whatever reason, He doesn’t. Sometimes it’s self-inflicted, a secret sin that you’re trying to hide that keeps you at a distance from God. Other times you can’t pinpoint a reason, or a sin issue, but God just seems far away, and you’re stuck in the middle of a desert island with no refreshing coastline in sight.

King David went through those times, and thankfully for us, he wrote about them in the book of Psalms.

In Psalm 143 he says “I reach out for you. I thirst for you as parched land thirsts for rain. Come quickly, Lord, and answer me, for my depression deepens; don’t turn away from me or I shall die.” (ESV)

Yeah, sounds like David spent a summer in Texas, doesn’t it?

David doesn’t describe dryness, but distance from God in Psalm 13 this way:

“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?

How long will you hide your face from me?”

So, this feeling we have from time to time is nothing new. David, described as ‘a man after God’s own heart’ felt this way, and wrote it down for all of us to share.

But the inverse is also true: Psalm 68:10 says You sent abundant rain upon your land, O God, to refresh it in its weariness!” (The Living Bible)

In the Gospel of John in Chapter 7, Jesus knows that ‘dry spells’ are coming for his disciples. “On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 

So keep in mind, if you’re going through a spiritual summer right now, that drawing closer to Jesus is the answer. (If you read this blog often, or much time at spend time hanging around Stonepoint, you’re gonna discover that we believe that drawing closer to Jesus is the answer to everything.)

The problem for us is that there is no such thing as ‘Instant Godliness’ that we can pull off the shelf and mix up to quickly fix it all. It oftentimes takes work—time in the word, time in prayer, time with fellow believers who, believe me, have been through the same desert at some point in their lives, and would love to help you through it. That’s why we push community so hard here at Stonepoint—hard times, dry times are on the way—they’re part of life, and God never intended for us to go through this world without other people encouraging us and spurring us on.

Even in the drought, God is still who He says He is. There’s a cooling rain on the way, and everything after August is gonna be better…until the next summer comes along.

(And except for that stinkin’ Winter!)

 

Skill Set

Mark Johnston, Connections Pastor

I have a very, very narrow skill set.

If you’ve attended Stonepoint, you have probably seen it on display on Sunday mornings. I can play musical instruments and carry a tune…but that is seriously just about the extent of what God has gifted me to do with any high level of skill.

Developing Skills

If you don’t believe me, come over to the house and look at the chicken run that my wife and i constructed a few years back. I mis-measured a little bit, and the whole top structure now rests precariously on a T-post that i wedged in the middle to keep it from collapsing. I bought a new wooden post to fix the problem, but the T-post is working alright, and i really don’t want to dig another hole and buy more concrete, so ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ right?

My dad was an airplane mechanic at one time, and was pretty handy around the house, although he and i did shoot water all over my kitchen working on plumbing one time, and singed a few holes in the bathroom tile changing out light switches on another occasion. My grandfather on my mom’s side was a carpenter, and basically built his garage in Oak Cliff by himself, but absolutely none of those skills found their way down the gene pool to me. I can barely hammer a nail into a board, and apparently can’t measure a chicken run.

In the big picture of things, it really doesn’t matter to us what it looks like, the chickens certainly don’t care, as long as nothing breaks in and eats them. And if you haven’t spent much time around them, i’ll let you in on a little secret, chickens are nasty and in reality, they’re just gonna poop everywhere anyway.

Maybe you’re one of those people who know how to do a little bit of everything, can fix stuff, work on cars, build things…or maybe you’re like me and basically just have one or two things that you’re good at. I believe everyone is good at something. God gives us each certain gifts, to use for the furtherance of His kingdom here on earth.

Romans 12:6-8 says this: “In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.”

That is a wide, weird range of skill sets, just like you and i possess a wide variety of things we are gifted in. One of the things we want to do at Stonepoint is to find people’s areas of Spiritual Giftedness, plug them into places where they can use those gifts, and equip them to do ministry in those areas. Basically give them the tools they need for the job, and see where God leads them.

Early on, we just needed warm bodies to plug all the holes in our ministry areas. Heck, my nine year old daughter and eleven year old son were helping watch smaller kids during the preview services because we didn’t have enough people. They basically blew bubbles and played with the little ones for an hour, and it helped. Thankfully, we’ve come a long way since then, and now they serve on the Worship Team.

Some people don’t like the idea of serving in church. They may think their time is so precious, or so limited that they can’t do anything to help out. But God is calling them to serve, has given them abilities and the church needs them to fulfill our mission.

Paul, in his letter to the Romans says it this way: ‘And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ’ (Romans 4:11-12)

That means ministry is not just something the pastors are supposed to do. It means all of us have a part to play.

At Starting Point, i use the example of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Every year, a hundred volunteers hold a rope to keep some helium inflated balloon of a cartoon character in line, going down the parade route. Everyone holds one rope. If one person fails to show up, or falls down, the other rope-holders take up the slack. But, let’s say twenty of them suddenly fail to do their part, everything goes to shambles…Sonic the Hedgehog or Hello Kitty crashes into buildings on 6th Avenue, rips apart and gives a generation of New York children, and those watching on TV an unhealthy fear of balloons that could last their entire lives.

That brings us to Stonepoint. What does holding a rope look like in Wills Point and Edgewood?

Can you greet someone with a smile? Can you wave at a car as it pulls into the parking lot, and maybe help get someone’s car out of the mud on a monsoon Sunday? That’s serving the Kingdom. If you’re the ‘behind the scenes’ type, can you help us run computers, or set up the hospitality area? If you’re an outgoing ‘people person,’ how about handing out T-shirts to first time guests for 15 minutes after a service, get to know something about them and maybe start building a friendship from the encounter?

Can you write? Bob Mayo wrote almost all the blog posts here. I get inspired a few times a year, but will probably never be prolific at it like he was. It would be great for us to have a fresh voice in the mix, sharing spiritual insights and what God is teaching them through His word.

Here’s the thing—once you figure out what your skills are, and you have the ability to use them for the Lord, work really doesn’t seem like work anymore. It’s a pleasure and a privilege to serve in God’s kingdom, for his purposes. It’s fulfilling our mission here on earth, and it will change the wiring in your brain and make you look for opportunities to do more.

Let’s define our skill sets, narrow as they may be, and find a way to use the gifts God has given us this year to make His name famous in our little corner of the world.

Interested in finding out what your spiritual gifts are? Take our spiritual gifts survey HERE.