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Can I Wear Your Sweater?

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I went back to school to finish my undergrad while my children were still in preschool. Night classes were a simple solution, but it meant some nights away from my children. So, during my breaks between classes, I would call home to say good-night.

My daughter was barely three years old and many times she would be upset that mommy was not there to tuck her in at night. I would remind her that Daddy was a good bedtime story teller and “tucker inner”.

My daughter would sigh and tell me, “But Daddy doesn’t smell like you”.

It is true that we each have our own fragrance. It seems to be as unique as our DNA. When we were first married, we had a dog who used to steal our socks. But she preferred to steal the ones that were dirty and smelled like us. I guess little children are sort of like dogs. I would come home at night and find my daughter wrapped in my sweater.

“It smells like you, Mommy”, she would tell me. Somehow my fragrance brought her peace and comfort.

St Paul calls Christ followers the “fragrance of Christ”. Christians are called to walk closely with God and clothe themselves with Christ. When we clothe ourselves with Christ, we smell like Him. And if we smell like Him, maybe we can help usher in some peace.

Therefore, let us clothe ourselves with Christ. Let us clothe ourselves with His compassion, kindness, gentleness, humility, and patience. Let the peace of Christ rule in your heart, and let us become the fragrance of Christ.

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You Say Good-Bye, I Say Hello

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There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven –  A time to give birth and a time to die;A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted….He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men. ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1,2,11

As a Church Planter, I have experienced some unusual things along the way. But none of the Church Planting books I read prepared me for today. Today I helped UNPLANT a church.

It was almost 2 years ago when our congregation (Plumb Line Community Church) began renting space on Henry Ruff Street. We had been meeting at the local YMCA. But the scheduling there became complicated and we needed to find a new location to gather for worship. So I started calling all of the churches in the area to see if we could rent space.

After many calls, we found a church that was holding their regular worship on Sundays at 2:00 pm. So we wondered if we might rent space at 11:00 AM. I know right? How crazy is that??

The people of Nativity United Church of Christ were and still are a wonderful congregation of God’s people. But, as happens to all congregations at some point, they had started to shrink in size. Some left, some became home-bound, and some went home to the Lord. And their numbers dwindled. Then, a year or more ago, their pastor left and they asked if I would lead their worship.

In December 2011, I began preaching for the people of Nativity UCC. So every Sunday for 18 months I have preached to a Nazarene New Start at 11:00 AM & a UCC aging congregation at 1:00 PM. One very contemporary, evangelical congregation. And one very traditional, reformed congregation. But all of them God’s people. All of them in need of a Savior, a Healer, a Counselor, a loving Heavenly Father.

Today, I preached my last sermon for Nativity UCC. They celebrated 57 years as a faith community. And tomorrow, they will sign papers to sell the facility to another congregation. They have been faithful to the Gospel and faithful to the Kingdom of God. They continue to be children of God tomorrow even though they no longer wear the badge of Nativity.

And their legacy will live on. It lives on in the lives of the people transformed by the Gospel. They ones who came to faith in Christ because of them. It will live on through the generous donations made to the local non-profit community organizations. And it will live on through Plumb Line Community Church. PLCC is the “other congregation” who will be purchasing their facility.

We will continue to worship at two gathering times. 11:00 AM contemporary worship and 1:00 PM traditional worship. And we will continue to advance the Kingdom of God in this community.

Today we said “Good-Bye” to a 57 year old faith community. Tomorrow we say “Hello” as they step across the threshold of a new faith community. But, together, we are doing God’s work from now until the Lord calls us all home.

Nativity UCC hear the words of your Heavenly Father, “Well done, My good and faithful servants. Well done!”

Keep fighting the good fight of faith!

The City

Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare[e] the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

26 The Lord said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

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I cannot tell you how many times I have read this passage over the years.  I have listened to sermons, Bible studies, Sunday School lessons about Abraham bargaining with God. And my perception of this passage has always been that God is just.  He will not treat the wicked and the righteous alike. He will spare the lives of the righteous.

But I read it new this time.  I read that God would spare the wicked for the sake of the righteous. God said He would not destroy the city on behalf of the righteous.  The wicked benefit on their behalf.

We know this is congruent with God’s character. God told Abraham He would bless the world through him. The world that rejected God would be blessed by the nation that followed God. Of course, the world would be blessed ultimately through the righteousness of Christ. And, while we were still sinners, rejecting God, avoiding God, Christ died for us.

Yet, I have never thought of transferring this passage to my life today. Have I considered, have you considered, that your faithfulness might save the city? Have I considered that walking in righteousness with God may benefit the one who rejects Him? Might God hold back His judgment for our sake and give the unrighteous a little more time?

It gives me a desire to walk more diligently in faith. It gives me strength to know my desire to walk in holiness is not simply for my benefit or my relationship with Christ. Rather, my faith can bless the unbeliever. My faith, my righteousness that came through Christ, is a blessing to others long before they ever believe.

Stay faithful and keep fighting the good fight of faith! You are giving someone another chance to believe.

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